How Tukwila fought Port of Seattle’s development plan in 1957

  • Wednesday, February 21, 2018 11:43am
  • Opinion

A recently discovered newspaper clipping saved by Helen Nelsen became the inspiration for my research into a forgotten era in the history of the little town of Tukwila and the Duwamish River Valley.

A report published in September 1954 revealed the Port of Seattle’s plan for development of farm land in the Duwamish Valley.

It would have significant negative influence on the river with the extension of the existing Duwamish Waterway all the way to South 180th Street, which included a 200-foot-wide channel and proposed industrial development.

The King County government had aligned with the Port plans and declined to support the residents of Tukwila and the valley.

Local communities joined with Tukwila and Mayor Charles Baker to oppose the destruction being planned.

Baker created a coalition and opposition to the plan, and it began to take shape.

John Strander, chairman of the Tukwila Planning Commission and future mayor, assisted in the process as they gathered residents to join in the opposition. In the summer of 1948, Tukwila annexed the first new area: Herman Anderson’s Golden Arrow Dairy. The annexation process proved to be a valuable tool in the prevention of industrial development.

In July 1956, Baker reported a business interest had purchased 250 acres of land just south of Tukwila and requested annexation to the city.

Allied Stores, a subsidiary of Andover Incorporated, had proposed an alternative to the Port of Seattle’s proposal.

On Nov. 26, 1957, the Tukwila City Council voted to oppose the Port plan and the following month adopted a zoning plan that would limit the development to commercial and light industrial business.

The Port of Seattle had received authorization from the state legislature in 1957 to levy a property tax to finance the Duwamish industrialization program.

On Oct. 22, 1957, a lawsuit was filed in Superior Court by 17 valley residents who had joined together as plaintiffs.

The plaintiff names included Helen Nelsen, Archie and Anna Codiga, Joe and Hazel Aliment, John and Louise Strander, Shannon and Lucille Houge, Paul and Beatrice Weiser, Harlan and Ruby Bull, the Harmses and the Listons.

They stated that they opposed the property tax levy as it provided funds to condemn property for private purposes which was in violation of the State Constitution.

The issue was related to the Port’s plan to use the power of eminent domain to take land from owners and then sell it to private individuals and corporations after preparing the land for industrial use.

In 1959, the Washington State Supreme Court concluded that the Port did not have legal authority to condemn and purchase the land under existing authority. The Port was never able to regain their power to make the industrialization plan happen.

With the plans moving forward for the freeways of Interstate 5 and 405, Tukwila was placed at the crossroads of commerce.

Allied Stores Corporation had already successfully built the Northgate and Tacoma Malls so plans moved forward for a Southend shopping mall.

After three years of construction, the Southcenter retail center opened on July 30, 1968, with 116 stores on a 30-acre covered area.

The 50th anniversary of the mall opening is this July.


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