On Monday, August 1, the City of Seattle took the first step toward annexing a small area of South Park adjacent to the South Park Bridge, known colloquially as the ‘Sliver on the River’, by identifying a future Comprehensive Plan amendment that would designate it as Potential Annexation Area (PAA). The ‘sliver’ is surrounded by the Seattle community of South Park, and across the Duwamish from the Georgetown neighborhood. It has a few dozen residents and businesses, notably the County Line Tavern.
So why is this area not part of Seattle? Seattle proposed to annex it in 1965, as part of a plan to rezone the entire South Park community to industrial. Understandably, the then 1500 or so residents were not happy with that proposal, which was resoundingly defeated. Since then, the issue has languished largely because of the deterioration of the South Park Bridge – and the complexities of our American system of local governance.
The South Park Bridge is owned jointly by King County and the City of Tukwila, even though most of the adjacent land (except for the ‘sliver’) is in the City of Seattle. As the need to replace the bridge became evident, the City feared being stuck for the cost of replacement. City officials reasoned that King County had let the bridge decay, and should lead the replacement of the Bridge rather than foisting the responsibility off on the City. And there the situation lingered, as the bridge continued to fall apart.
A few years ago there was a breakthrough in discussions, when the City and County agreed to support placing the South Park Bridge replacement in the 2007 Roads and Transit package. If that had passed, we would have a new South Park Bridge in place, and the City would have proceeded with annexation. Unfortunately, it failed, and the bridge problem festered until it was closed for safety reasons, which galvanized City, County, and State to put together a package that funded the replacement (see my blog posts <add links>)
While this removes the major obstacle to annexation, there is still the question of who maintains the new bridge. The City will negotiate that with the County prior to proceeding with annexation of the ‘sliver’, but that is much more modest obstacle than the replacement project. We are confident that an amicable settlement can be reached.
The Council wants to make sure that this is given priority, and to signal our clear intentions to finally resolve this. That’s why we initiated the proposal for designation as a PAA.
That is, however, only the first step. The actual Comprehensive Plan amendment has to be formally adopted (in early 2012), and then the negotiations have to be completed with the County. Only after that can the formal annexation proceed.
Even though there are still a lot of hoops to go through, I am very pleased that the Council is taking the initiative to get this process started. The people of the South Park business and residential communities have gone through a traumatic time with the bridge closure, but have also been working hard and successfully with the City since the South Park Neighborhood Plan was adopted in 1998 to improve the neighborhood and build a stronger relationship between South Park and the City of Seattle. The City has responded with significant investments, including a new library and other actions to support economic and community vitality. It’s time we brought the whole community together in the City of Seattle so that we can take the next steps to make this great vibrant neighborhood even more vibrant in the future.