On Thursday, April 14 the City held a public information session about the Bridge Industrial warehouse project.
In case you’re not familiar: Bridge Industrial is proposing to build 2.5 million square feet of warehouse space in South Tacoma (Permit LU21-0125). This would be the 8th largest warehouse complex in the world and add 5,000 vehicle trips per day, paving over 150 acres of open space, and compromising the aquifer which provides much of Tacoma’s water.
This is a huge environmental justice issue.
This area of South Tacoma has, according to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department:
- a higher than average percentage of residents who are People of Color
- the second highest poverty rate
- the shortest life expectancy
- the most lung cancer
- the most heart disease
- the most mental health issues
Principal Planner Shirley Schultz described the permitting process and that they are looking at the Critical Area Development Permit (CAPO) and the State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) review concurrently. She told us that Planning Department Director Peter Huffman is the final decision maker in this process.
Heidi Stephens of the South Tacoma Neighborhood Council gave a quick pitch for their Economic Green Zone (link to pdf file) proposal, which the city is slowly processing, that would update zoning in this region and make projects like this impossible.
Bridge Industrial then gave a presentation trying to convince Tacoma that they are a wonderful company, their buildings are beautiful, their traffic impacts are exaggerated but their economic impacts are undoubtedly bountiful, and they they will be doing Tacoma a huge favor by paving over most of our last remaining open space. They claim to have no tenants, so building the 8th largest warehouse complex in the world is allegedly speculative.
The rest of the evening was filled entirely by spoken comments from about two dozen residents adamantly opposed to the project, as well as dozens more commenting in the chat.
Alejandro of South Tacoma said the area was already congested with traffic and polluted and asked “why can’t we have something like Point Ruston where [the contamination] was capped off? Why can’t we bring that to the South Tacoma neighborhood? Why can’t we bring a nice park instead of four massive big buildings?”
Great question, Alejandro. If the project proceeds, it will only continue the legacy of polluting near people of color and those with less money.
We have until April 21 to send comments to Principal Planner Shirley Schultz: firstname.lastname@example.org. Original, personal letters are always the best and if you prefer we have a handy form letter you can use as-is or modify.
There is also an change.org petition you can sign.
If you want to write your own, keep reading:
There are three things we wish to request:
- an environmental impact statement be done
- a health impact assessment be carried out
- a moratorium on all permitting within the South Tacoma Groundwater Protection District until it is appropriately updated and properly enforced, and the Economic Green Zone proposal is fully processed.
There are many reasons this warehouse proposal is not good for Tacoma, perhaps you could highlight one of these along with your personal story:
– The city is supposed to take equity into account when making decisions and to that end have created their own equity map for reference. This part of Tacoma is one of the poorest, most diverse areas of town with the worst health outcomes yet will be subjected to even more environmental injustice should this project proceed.
– The city has declared that they wish to dismantle racist systems yet if they allowed more polluting, industrial projects to be developed in South Tacoma, it would only be continuing the history of environmental injustice that has its roots in the racist redlining policies of the past (Redlining is the practice of refusing to provide mortgages, insurance, or other goods or services to areas deemed a poor economic risk, particularly when the residents are nonwhite).
– The warehouse project is estimated to create 1,400 diesel truck and 3,600 vehicle trips daily, with most trucks exiting Highway 16 onto S Union Ave, polluting the air horribly for that neighborhood. Council members already acknowledge that transportation is a leading cause of pollution in our city, so why would we want to increase it so much? In California, which has struggled with a booming warehouse industry, policies dictate that warehouses should be sited no closer than 1000 feet to homes to keep people away from truck emissions. These emissions are linked to increase health consequences – from asthma to bronchitis to cancer.
– The warehouse land is in the South Tacoma Ground Water Protection District which is designated as an environmentally (geohydrologically) sensitive area. We will rely on this groundwater more as the climate crisis unfolds and dries up the sources for the Green River. On at least one day of the year we have relied on this aquifer for 40% of Tacoma’s water needs. We need the South Tacoma Economic Green Zone proposal to go through and create better protections for our water by updating city policies.
State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) Triggers
– This act outlines which projects should require an environmental impact statement, and this project likely triggers at least five reasons:
- work occurring within critical areas and/or on lands with water
- construction of a parking lot for more than 40 vehicles (this site will have over 1200)
- construction of a building over 12,000 square feet (this site will have 2.5 MILLION)
- fill or excavation more than 500 cubic yards
- storm water, water or sewer utilities more than 12″ in diameter
Right now the city is saying an environmental impact statement from 10 years ago for a similar project is sufficient. We disagree.
– Proponents of the project will undoubtedly claim it will bring jobs to the area. Cities in California have not found that to be the whole story: “The growth brought some jobs, but research shows that many of the jobs don’t pay living wages, and poverty levels remain high in the region, particularly among Black and Latino communities.” Nobody knows who the tenants of the warehouses would be, and some unions are worried they will bring automation and threaten jobs instead.