Seattle City Light Substation Issue

by Cass Turnbull

‘It’s not right’. That’s what I thought when I heard Seattle City Light was going to sell 35 surplus properties to balance their budget. The surplus lots are what are left of 150 electrical substations that became obsolete because of new technology in the 70’s. Today they are typically just an empty concrete pad surrounded by a fence, surrounded by some really nice, mature trees and landscaping. I thought, ‘If you just took down the fence and added a gazebo or a bench and you’d have a great, ready-made pocket park’.

I joined a Seattle Green Spaces Coalition, a group formed to Save Our Substations. We soon ran into a stone wall of laws, policies, seriously disinterested departments that said we couldn’t. We were told that legally the property had to be sold. The Parks Department said they didn’t have the money to buy them or maintain them. If we wanted them for greenspace, we’d have to buy them.  It’s even crazier, I thought, to ask the public to pay for land that it already owns, so it can be kept for the public good. Over the years some substations have become parks, some have become public housing, but most have been developed by private interests.

Seattle isn’t meeting its current open space goals. With 100,000 to 200,000 new people headed our way over the next few decades, I suspect the amount of open space per person will be much less. The privately owned open spaces are shrinking. Just look at the McMansions, the Three and Four Pack townhouses, and the apodments. They haven’t enough greenspace to put out a kiddy pool.

I keep wondering where the people living in all those monolithic apartment buildings will go to find something green. Where will the mothers go with their baby buggies, dog walkers go with their dogs? How will they know it is spring if they can’t hear birds or smell the lilacs. Will the kids in those buildings get to play hide and seek, build forts, climb trees, make snowmen, run? These little properties may not amount to much but they can provide solace for the troubled, respite for the weary. They can be place for the young to dream, and a place for the old and the infirm to sit in the sun. So I’m hoping that the City Council, courageously being lead by our friend, Tom Rasmusson, can find a way through, or under, or around the stone wall. Because we need all the open space we can get.


North Beach Substation 9407 19th Ave. NW; Loyal Heights Substation 7750 28th Ave. NW; Ballard Substation 6730 24th Ave. NW ; Monroe Substation 1405 NW 65th St.; Olympic Hill Substation 8032 15th Ave. NW (no longer surplus); Sunset Substation 3209 NW 65th St; Interbay Substations 2000 13th Av W & 3222 17th Ave W; Market Street Substation (excess) 2826 NW Market St; Leary Substation 1414 NW Leary St (currently a car dealership); Whittier Substation 7605 6th Ave. NW, with difficulty it was sold to Parks; Phinney Substation, 6109 Phinney Ave. N; Greenlake Substation 949 N 80th just sold 11-14-14


Arbor Heights Substation, 9450 34th Ave SW (excess); Ambaum Substation, 1006 SW144th Street (Burien); Andover, 2100 SW Andover Street; Avalon Substation, 35th Ave SW and SW Genesee Street (excess); Dakota Substation, 4918 SW Dakota Street; Dawson Substation (excess), 5211 47th Ave SW; Delridge Substation, 5601 – 23rd Ave. SW; Dumar Substation, 1605 SW Holden Street; Fauntleroy Substation 4520 SW Brace Point Drive; Glendale Substation, 2423 S 132th Street, SeaTac; Morgan Street Substation (excess) 4118 SW Morgan Street; Roxbury Substation (excess) 9370 52nd Ave. S; Wabash Substation, 5122 S. Cloverdale Street sold to Seattle Public Utilities; White Center Substation 8820 – 9th Ave. SW