Mayor Jenny Durkan wants Sound Transit to study more alignments in the West Seattle and Ballard extensions.
The City asked for “additional study, problem solving, and refinements in West Seattle, Chinatown/International District, SODO, and mid-town segments” in a letter to Sound Transit signed by Sam Zimbabwe, the new director of SDOT.
Chinatown/International District (CID) residents have organized against a 5th Avenue South alignment, and West Seattle residents, particularly Youngstown residents, object to the amount of housing that would need to be demolished to build alignments that are currently under consideration.
The City blessed the results of the process so far in other parts of the line, writing that “in contrast, Sound Transit should feel confident that the final alignment selected in Ballard, Interbay, Uptown, and South Lake Union will be within the possibilities represented by the two Level 3 alternatives.”
Sound Transit structured the current outreach and design process to limit the amount of options submitted in the draft Environmental Impact Study (EIS) process, with the goal of opening Link lines as soon as possible.
Anne Fennessy, the City’s ST3 point person and a close ally of the Mayor, says that Durkan doesn’t want to delay project delivery, despite the request for more options. Fennessy said the Mayor has convened a multi-agency working group to expedite permitting and cut red tape on the City side.
“Sound Transit believes that identifying a Locally Preferred Alternative early may help expedite the project. The City still has concerns about Sound Transit’s alignment options in some parts of the city, including SODO, Chinatown/ID, and West Seattle,” wrote Durkan spokesperson Chelsea Kellogg in a follow-up statement to STB.
The Mayor has argued in recent weeks that the Bellevue EIS process should serve as a model for the West Seattle and Ballard extensions, despite the multi-year delays caused by Bellevue’s fraught design and public comment process. The Mayor’s office disputes that interpretation of the Bellevue comparison.
“The Mayor’s reference to Bellevue was that the City of Bellevue and Sound Transit were ultimately able to work together to come to agreement on a final alignment and cost-sharing agreement,” Kellogg wrote.
The Mayor and City departments also spelled out their cultural, environmental, and land use concerns in a 13 page memo following the letter. Notably, the memo calls for Sound Transit to design alignments, construction staging areas, and station locations with TOD and affordable housing in mind from the start.
The memo also asks Sound Transit to study whether alignments will displace communities of color through demolition of housing and cultural assets or gentrification. The memo says “the DEIS should evaluate potential impacts” to “potential physical, economic, and cultural displacement of residents and businesses, as well as potential racial disparities in displacement outcomes.”
The memo cites Youngstown and Chinatown-International District (CID) as particular areas of concern on the question of racial displacement and gentrification.