Lora Lake Agreement Called Off Due To Soil Contamination

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BURIEN – The Port of Seattle and the King County Housing Authority (KCHA) have mutually agreed to rescind their agreement for the sale of the 162-unit Lora Lake Apartments to the KCHA following the completion of environmental testing that revealed significant soil contamination at the Burien property.

The estimated cost to remove and dispose of contaminants and restore the site to the residential standard could potentially reach $8 million.  Cleanup standards for residential use are much more stringent than standards for industrial use.

“Despite everyone’s considerable efforts to preserve Lora Lake as much-needed affordable housing for the region, given these findings it is not in the community’s best interest to continue forward with this project,” said King County Housing Authority Executive Director Stephen Norman.  “We appreciate the Port’s cooperation in rescinding an agreement to purchase an apartment complex that would have been financially infeasible to operate as housing.”

Because the price tag to restore the property for use as affordable housing is prohibitively high, the Port and KCHA have mutually agreed to rescind their agreement obligating KCHA to purchase the apartment complex. The Port will also refund the initial $1 million payment for the property to KCHA.

“The primary concern of the Port Commission with Lora Lake has always been the need to find regional solutions to regional problems in the best interests of our community’s most vulnerable families,” said John Creighton, Port of Seattle Commission President. “The Port regrets this site is no longer the best investment to help address our region’s desperate need for affordable housing.  The Port is committed to returning this site to a productive use for our community, and stands ready to help our region respond to important housing issues.”

Earlier this year, the Port and the Housing Authority suspended the transfer of Lora Lake Apartments pending the outcome of further environmental testing at the site.  Prior to the Port and KCHA transfer agreement, the Port initiated the original testing of the property to inform future developers about site conditions.

The property, which is situated atop a former barrel cleaning facility that became an auto wrecking yard around 1950, showed soil contamination in just completed tests that are consistent with its historical uses. The site underwent a soils investigation and cleanup in 1987 in consultation with the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) prior to the construction of the Lora Lake Apartments by a private developer.

However, since that time, testing and clean-up standards have been made more stringent.  Results of the recent environmental analysis revealed soil contamination of dioxins and other contaminants that exceed current standards for residential use.

Though remediation will still be necessary, the lower environmental standard required for industrial purposes means eventual redevelopment for an industrial use, rather than a residential use, likely remains financially feasible.

What this basically means is that:

  • There’s no way that anyone will ever live there again
  • This entire thing started when 72 units were torn down the for the 3rd Runway
  • The future of the site is…unknown? (Yeah, right – from what we understand, the main intention has always been to tear down the affordable housing and build either a megastore or industrial/cargo facility)


  • The apartments have been vacant since July 2007.
  • The apartment site was used for commercial and industrial purposes from the 1940s to the mid-1980s.
  • The site was mitigated and the apartments were constructed and owned by a private developer in 1988.
  • In 1998, the Port purchased the property because one-third of the apartment complex was located within the runway protection zone of the new third runway at Sea-Tac Airport and would need to be demolished.  The Port provided relocation assistance to residents in 1999.
  • With delays in the airport project, the City of Burien, the Port, and KCHA entered into an agreement transferring the ownership of the apartment complex to KCHA and allowing the apartments to be reoccupied on a temporary basis.  The agreement called for the complex to revert to the Port by mid-2005.
  • In 2004, the agreement with KCHA was extended for another two years, with the apartments to be returned to the Port in July 2007, when residents were required to vacate the apartments.
  • In August 2007, KCHA was granted an injunction against the demolition of the apartments.
  • The Port and KCHA have been working since late 2007 to transfer the property back to KCHA.


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