The following is a letter from Michelle Mood, a resident of South Tacoma where a 2.5 milion square foot warehouse complex is proposed. Here are the facts about this project from the City.
Dear Members of Green Tacoma Partnership,
We are writing as residents and homeowners in Tacoma’s Oakland-Madrona neighborhood. We have just received notification on February 8, 2022 from Shirley Schultz, Principal Planner of the City of Tacoma, regarding the Barghausen Consulting Engineers’ application for Bridge Industrial to construct 2.5 million square feet of new industrial use buildings in the Tacoma city current unused space (Parcels 022024-1001, 022013-1131, 1130, 4004, 4800, 4011, 278301-0110, 1011, 0090, 374000-0149, 0086, 0181, 573500-1020, 0130, 0140). We therefore are addressing you, the members of the Green Tacoma Partnership, to act on your stated goal of “sustaining… natural green spaces throughout Tacoma,” and to stand against this ill-advised and unjust proposed industrial development on almost 150 acres of grasses, four wetlands, and a stream, sitting on top of the natural aquifer that provides Tacoma with 40% of its water.
There is no doubt that the proposed development would be very damaging to our neighborhood and harmful, even prejudicial, to those of us who live there. There are, after all, serious environmental justice issues at play here. As you no doubt know, South Tacoma is the poorest part of Tacoma, with the lowest income, the highest mortality rate, and the very worst air quality. Oakland-Madrona itself is a poor predominantly BIPOC neighborhood already woefully short on green space. Indeed, one of our largest current open spaces is the Mullen Street Landfill, Recovery and Transfer Center! So, we really need more green space, for our health, our well-being and the welfare of our children. What better way to honor those needs than to this space and create a green space for residents of the neighborhood? A short sidewalk with some stairs down the hill behind the Tacoma Public Utilities building would easily accomplish that goal.
And the proposed industrial park would make a marvelous eco-industrial space that would be better for Tacoma. It abuts a hill that is currently a haven for a variety of native mammals and birds, and is rich in wild plants for forage. If you look at the enclosed attachments (from Google Earth, one closeup and one zoomed out) you can see how little green space we currently have, and you can see what has happened to the section immediately south of the proposed building site – it is wholly barren of trees or flora of any kind. If this new construction goes through, the one remaining area in our neighborhood that could be used for greenspace will be taken over by industrial sprawl a la 20th century, not a 21st century eco-industrial.
And such development goes against everything relative to sustainability that the City of Tacoma claims to value. As you know, the City currently has many initiatives and offices related to environmental issues, and this proposed construction would compromise, forestall, or violate many of those initiatives. For example, the city is only just now completing its Watershed Prioritization work (Phase Two of its Urban Waters Protection Plan). To start an enormous construction project before Phase Two is completed is unwise at best, and simply unworthy of the City of Tacoma: we need to know the information about urban waters and watershed before we pave over a huge area of the city. And while the Tacoma also has a Stormwater Management Plan, it is not clear if that office has been notified of this construction. Just looking at the local storm water drainage system is it obvious that the proposed construction is below a steep hill, down which water rushes down during storms. Converting 125 acres of this open land into 2.5 million square feet of buildings and paving material would have a disastrous effect on the ability of the region to absorb water, and thus further compromise Tacoma’s already stressed watersheds. And when we consider the evident effects of climate change on Tacoma’s weather – remember the ferocious “atmospheric rivers” of the past several months, paving over yet more of the neighborhood seems foolish at best.
Citizens have mobilized to create the South Tacoma Groundwater Protection District and to propose a South Tacoma Green Economic Zone. The City of Tacoma Planning and Development Service’s own Planning Services Division is on record as having no concerns about it. The Planning Commission has a two pronged timeline for addressing the proposed amendments to the city land use codes to create a South Tacoma Green Economic Zone (as noted in Draft Minutes of Tacoma Planning Commission meeting, Wednesday, January 19, 2022, 5:00 p.m). And yet the Planning and Development Services of the City of Tacoma is already fast tracking approval for the Bridge Industrial production — 2.5 million square feet of construction that would disrupt four wetlands and one stream, and cover about 125 acres in paved land, right in the middle of the proposed South Tacoma Green Economic Zone. It is imperative that the Bridge Industrial proposal be delayed until the South Tacoma Green Economic Zone is settled by the City of Tacoma Planning Commission.
Besides the ways in which this proposed construction would overheat the area, reduce rainwater replenishment of the aquifer, and reduce greenspace, the construction also has the potential to put residents at risk of pollution. As an only partially delisted Superfund site, the cleanup relied on a permanent remedial solution used engineering and institutional controls to prevent exposures to humans and the environment. Historic chemicals of concerns in this soil include arsenic, copper, lead, zinc, carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (cPAHs) and Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Bulldozing the soil will create massive heavy-metal-laden dust as the toxic, untreated waste is mixed with 92 acres’ worth of one foot of soil to create a diluted soil that will be moved around as it is being placed under the construction. Air monitoring for the neighborhood is only proposed during the short period of time that the Superfund “hot zone” is handled; once it is mixed, the only air monitoring proposed is for workers, on nearby sensors only 4-5 feet tall. Dust blowing to the neighborhood seems inevitable.
And there are several other compelling reasons to reject this planned development. Tacoma also has a Passive Open Space Plan, working to restore and maintain open space, but such spaces already seem concentrated in the zip codes with the higher incomes, leaving Oakland behind (see https://www.cityoftacoma.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_6/File/cms/enviro/OpenSpace/GeneralMapUpdated10_21.pdf). The city of Tacoma has an Urban Forestry Management Plan as well, with the goal of the Urban Forestry Program to increase the tree canopy cover from approximately 20 percent (based on a 2018 analysis) to 30 percent in 2030. They say “This will be achieved by planting trees with help from partner organizations and community members and by preserving existing healthy trees” (https://www.tacomatreeplan.org/). What better way to safeguard the tree canopy cover than to seize this opportunity to preserve existing tree coverage, not increase industrial buildings, pave over more land, and create more carbon consumption? As the city of Tacoma website notes, “Adding… trees to neighborhoods is proven to help keep places cool during the hottest days, manage stormwater runoff, slow neighborhood traffic, provide mental health benefits, and so much more” (https://www.tacomatreeplan.org/). Yet, the current “20%” existing coverage is mostly far from the Oakland area of Tacoma (as you can see if you take a look at the attached Google Earth screenshots), and building more industrial facilities in the area will only worsen this environmental injustice.
Indeed, it is clear that this planned development ignores the stated interests of Tacoma’s residents. As you no doubt know, Tacoma’s Watershed Management Plan got community feedback from the 2019 Tacoma Tree Plan engagement, the 2020 Tacoma Community Survey and Biennial Budget engagement, and the 2021 Tacoma Climate Action Plan Engagement regarding the importance of preserving greenspace for all of Tacoma’s residents. This huge new development will therefore ignore and our citizens express desires to protect green spaces and safe places to walk, roll, or bike. And by paving over so much of the remaining grassy space in our already heavily impacted neighborhood, it will increase temperatures, decrease soil permeability, and violate Tacoma’s climate action plan (see https://www.tacomaurbanwatersheds.com/watershed-management-plan), a plan that is essential for the sustainable growth of Tacoma and the well-being of all Tacoma residents.
The City of Tacoma Planning and Development Services says they “partner with the community to build a livable, sustainable, and safe City by providing strategic, timely, predictable, cost-effective planning and development services with a culture focused on community engagement, customer service, creativity, accountability, and continuous improvement.” There is nothing livable, sustainable or safe about this proposed construction, and it will undermine its proclaimed goals of community, health, walkability, and sustainability (see the 2025 Strategic Plan). Building in this area would be unwise and unjust. We strongly urge you to reject this irresponsible plan.
For all of these compelling reasons, we will be organizing our neighbors to call for a public meeting to oppose this monstrosity. We hope and expect that you will support us in our opposition, and that you will assist us to draw up a better and more just alternative use proposal. We look forward to hearing from you within the next few days on this urgent matter. Time is short, and the welfare and future of our neighborhood, and indeed of South Tacoma, depend on action now.
We hope that the others cc:d here will also join in this vital discussion about South Tacoma’s future.
Tacoma, WA 98409
Note: Comments about this project can be directed to Principal Planner Shirley Schultz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 253 345 0879. A public meeting will be schedule March 31 or later and public comments will be accepted up to 7 days after that hearing.
There have been two articles about this issue, one in the News Tribune and one in the Tacoma Weekly.