The Tukwila City Council on Nov. 6 authorized city staff to move forward with the acquisition of land to build several public safety buildings, including fire stations, a justice center and a public works facility.
The ordinance approved unanimously by the seven-member council directs the city to condemn the properties through eminent domain as allowed by state law. The action could affect 24 businesses registered with the city.
“It is our intent to negotiate in good faith with property owners towards voluntary transactions,” said Rachel Bianchi, the city’s communications and government relations manager. “We are in discussions with the affected property owners and businesses, and everyone has been notified of this potential action.”
Last November, voters approved a $77 million bond measure, which the city will use to rebuild three fire stations and construct a justice center to house the city’s police department and municipal court. The construction of new city shops for the public works department will be paid for using enterprise funds, with the other half coming out of general revenue.
Fire Station 51, 444 Andover Park East, will be relocated to Southcenter Parkway and South 180th Street on a site the city previously acquired.
During the past several months, the city looked for locations for two other fire stations, the justice center and the public works shops. A Public Safety Bond Siting Advisory Committee, made up of residents, business representatives and council members, recommended the proposed sites to the council after studies, open houses and other public feedback.
The committee recommended Fire Station 52, 5900 S. 147th St., be built on land already owned by the city just north of the 6300 Building on the City Hall campus on Southcenter Boulevard. The station will also house the headquarters for the department, which is currently in Station 51.
The recommendation for Station 54, 4237 S. 144th St., is that it be built at the former Star Nursery and Landscaping site, 13916 42nd Ave S. That property is for sale.
The fire station locations were selected based on a city-commissioned study by FACETS Consulting.
“We were always committed to siting the fire station in a data-drive way so that we could have the equitable response times throughout the city,” Bianchi said.
The recommended location for the justice center is on Tukwila International Boulevard at South 150th Street. The site is made up multiple parcels of land owned several different people. There are 20 businesses on the properties.
The public works shops are slated for property between Tukwila International Boulevard, South 112th Street and East Marginal Way near the Duwamish River. Four businesses are on the properties.
Business owners express concerns
More than 100 people attended the Nov. 6 City Council meeting when the council discussed the locations for the buildings. About 20 people, including businesses owners, Siting Advisory Committee members and residents, gave public comment regarding the locations.
Will Gillespie, who served on the advisory committee, said selecting the locations was a difficult decision.
“We did think about business owners that were going to be affected by this decision,” he said. “These are needed facilities, public safety facilities, for our community. They have to be placed somewhere, and we had to think about response times, crime rates in the city and how it would affect the best positive outcomes for the future of our community. All these things being considered, we feel pretty strongly that these are the right locations for these facilities.”
Tawfik Maudah, the owner and managing operator of Bayview Motor Club on Tukwila International Boulevard, is one of the businesses that will have to move to make way for the justice center.
Maudah said he and fellow business owners were surprised by the city’s choice of the location and were disappointed they didn’t receive more notice.
The city mailed certified letters to property owners and notified business owners by hand delivering letters or sending them through regular mail.
“We were caught by surprise, unprepared, and to be honest with you, we are scared, and we don’t know where to go from here,” Maudah said.
He asked the council to reconsider the location of the justice center, adding that moving would be a hardship for the affected businesses that serve Tukwila’s diverse immigrant and refugee populations.
“If there is no way to reconsider the location and no way to give us more time, we would like to relocate as a group of businesses in one location together because this is how we survive together,” he said. “It is more like a small shopping center, a one-stop shop. Our clients, our customers, they come there to fix their phones, to buy phones, to buy groceries, to transfer money, to buy a car and so many things. We all benefit from the presence of everybody there, so we would like to be, if we have to move, we would like to be in one place, one location, all together.”
City staff plans to work with affected businesses, and, if possible, help them to find new locations. Businesses will be able to stay in their current locations for at least one year, Bianchi said.
Property owners get benefits under the threat of eminent domain that they wouldn’t get otherwise, Bianchi said.
“For instance, they are not subject to Washington state excise tax under the threat of eminent domain,” she said.
Councilman Dennis Robertson said it was important for the city to move quickly on selecting locations for the new facilities.
“Time is important, because in the last 30 years, we haven’t built any new fire stations,” he said. “We didn’t build a public safety facility, and we certainly haven’t done much in the way of public works facilities. However, the city has changed dramatically in those 30 years. It has grown. We need to do something. It is time to do something.”
The longer the city waits, the more costly the projects will be, Robertson said.
“This is as hard a decision I have had to make in the last 22 of the last 30 years (he has been on the council). But no matter what site we pick, we would still have had a room full of people sitting here,” he said. “That’s why we created the process. That is why so much time and effort and money went into the process. That is why we are so careful, why we had a citizen committee to look at it. … The process was a good process, as good as could have been.”
The city will continue keep the public apprised of the progress on the projects, which it aims to have completed in 2021.
An open house about the projects is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Water District 125/Valley View Sewer office, 3460 S. 148th St., Tukwila.
For more information on the public safety bond projects, visit tukwilawa.gov/public-safety-plan/.