Guerilla planters’ protest Seattle City Light selling unused properties

Seattle TIMES 8-14-14


By David Ham


Cass Turnbull said she’s among hundreds of Seattle citizens petitioning Seattle city leaders to save unused Seattle City Light surplus land as green spaces.

“It doesn’t make sense and it seems wrong that people are making profits off of land that the city owns, and the city is going begging for green spaces,” said Turnbull, who is also involved with Tree PAC.

Seattle City Light is in the process of selling 22 of its unused former substations and other surplus land.

Three properties have been approved by the city council to sell; nine other properties are under review for sale by the city council, and 10 other properties may also be reviewed by the city council for sale at a later date.

A spokesperson for City Light said that since the properties were purchased with rate-payer money, state law says they have to be sold at fair market price.

“They have every right to sell it and they’ve gone through the necessary notifications,” said Arvin Vander Veen, who is the agent for one of the properties for sale at 80th and Aurora.

He expects City Light to get at least seven offers for that property that will sell at a minimum of $600,000.

“The market we’re in right now – multi-family – is creating a lot of demand. I mean, Seattle’s creating a lot of jobs,” said Vander Veen.

In protest, Turnbull said that concerned citizens are planting trees and shrubs on some of the properties City Light has listed for sale.

“I think somebody called them guerilla plantings or drive-by plantings. I don’t know who’s doing it but somebody cares enough to bring the plants over,” said Turnbull.

Councilmember Tom Rasmussen understands the importance of preserving green spaces in the city.

He said he is working with citizen groups to see if there’s a way that the city can keep the properties for public use.

The council will be considering a Statement of Legislative Intent on Friday.

According to meeting records, the item would: “identify potential inconsistencies or opportunities for improvement in the City’s current policies concerning the acquisition and preservation of open space and natural areas, especially as they relate to existing City goals such as those found in the Urban Forest Stewardship Plan and the Climate Action Plan; and  ii. make recommendations concerning the management and operation of an Open Space Opportunity Fund, including recommendations on how the OSOF could help advance City and community goals and priorities.”

“It also doesn’t make sense to ask the public to raise money to buy land that the city already owns. It’s just not right,” said Turnbull.

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