Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Seattle to sell old utility property to Port for noise buffer

by Matt Rosenberg May 16th, 2011

SUMMARY: After selling or otherwise disposing of 159 excess properties for $159 million between 1998 and August 2008, the City of Seattle has sold none since then although it has some 212 “property management areas” declared as excess and worth roughly $81 million. Under a city council bill expected to be approved this week in committee and soon thereafter by the city council, Seattle would begin anew the offloading of some of its excess properties, with the sale for $178,212 of the old Sunnydale Substation parcel it owns in Burien to the Port of Seattle, which will use it to fill out the buffer zone near the third runway at Sea-Tac Airport.

BACKGROUND: A recent annual staff report found the City of Seattle owned 212 excess properties worth roughly $81 million. Any excess property has to undergo a long, formal process including public comment and consideration of possible re-use by another city department, before it can be sold. A list compiled by the city (Excel spreadsheet) shows Seattle has sold or otherwise disposed of 159 excess properties between 1998 and 2008 for a total of $159.1 million. No excess properties have been sold since August of 2008. Under the council bill expected to be approved by a city council committee May 18 and shortly thereafter by the full City Council, Seattle would approve the first sale of an excess property since then.

KEY DOCUMENTS: Council Bill 117163, authorizing City of Seattle to sell Sunnydale Substation property in Burien to Port of Seattle; City Council Energy, Technology and Civil Rights Committee, May 18, 2011; Fiscal Note for bill, May 18, 2011.


  • Council Bill 117163 would authorize the City of Seattle to sell the former Sunnydale Substation at 15002 8th Avenue South in Burien to the Port of Seattle so the Port can extend its noise buffer zone near the third runway at Sea-Tac Airport.
  • The sale price for the panhandle-shaped lot is approximately 12,197 square feet and would be sold to the Port for $178,212. That amount is its appraised value minus a small adjustment to offset costs of environmental remediation the Port will have to perform.
  • By selling the property the city is able to generate revenue from it not otherwise available, and to avoid ongoing expenses of trash removal and vegetation management.
  • The property was originally sold to the city in November, 1958 for $4,305 by the Tenth Church of Christ The Scientist. The city built a 4 kV electrical substation there but it became outdated and the property unneeded after Seattle City Light converted to a 12 kV distribution network, and it was determined no other city department needed the land.
  • With the expected purchase, the Port would own all land surrounding the former electrical substation. The site is in close proximity to the now-vacant Lora Lake Apartments. Under a proposed five-party agreement, King County was to buy the substation parcel from the city as part of a larger redevelopment of the apartment complex for low-income housing, but the whole deal was scuttled when environmental testing revealed a $10 million cleanup cost for the acreage.

Sunnydale Substation parcel/City of Seattle

Matt Rosenberg is founder and editor of Public Data Ferret, a project of the non-profit Public Eye Northwest.

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