Story & Photos by Scott Schaefer

Demolition has begun at the old Herr Lumber/King Buffet lots on SW 160th near First Ave South for a new, 16,882 square foot CVS Pharmacy.

The main building of the new business will be located where King Buffet used to be – 137 SW 160th – with the rest of the lots set for parking.

According to a construction worker, a very old and historic Sequoia tree (on the left in the photo below) will also be cut down:

Curious about this large, historic tree, we reached out to Highline Historical Society Executive Director Cyndi Upthegrove, who shared this information with us:

“I spoke a long time ago with one of the last remaining members of the family that homesteaded that property. She told me at the time that the tree had been planted in front of the original home. The family had a sawmill on Miller Creek back behind the (King) Buffet property. They did the original logging from about where 509 is now to Sylvester Road. The mother planted two sequoias that were brought from California in the front of the house and carefully tended them.

After the logging was completed the family platted the land, and sold it in parcels. She told me that the parcel that had the home on it had a Deed restriction in it that the trees had to stay. Back in the 70’s one of the trees – on the west – became diseased and was removed. The other one has had this ring of rocks around it for many many years, ostensibly to protect it. I had been told that the property had been difficult to sell because of the Deed restriction.

However, I have spoken with the city and they have told me that there is no sign of a deed restriction on the property – so perhaps an earlier owner had it removed. I am sorry to see the tree go. The City of Burien doesn’t have an ordinance to protect significant trees. Truthfully, that tree is worth more to me than an out of state pharmacy, but there is nothing to be done, except vote with my checkbook. CVS didn’t have to come before the Planning Commission for anything because the property was correctly zoned and they weren’t requesting changes. It will be interesting to see what kind of a neighbor CVS turns out to be.
I recall being told the tree was planted in the late 1800’s or very early 1900’s. I cannot tell you exactly. I don’t know that it is one of the largest, or oldest, but it does have a history that can be appreciated. Sequoias are not really common here and this one reflects early years of good care, though not recent good care. They live for a long time.

It’s too bad they cannot put a parking lot around it, rather than remove it.”

We also reached out to the City of Burien – a “Tree City USA” recipient for the last 13 years – and here’s what Community Development Director Chip Davis told The B-Town Blog:

“The City of Burien takes the retention of healthy, significant trees very seriously and has been working with the new property owner of this site since May of last year to mitigate the impacts associated with removal of the Sequoia tree. City staff have documented the Sequoia tree and will be providing the documentation to the Highline Historical Society for inclusion in their photo archives.

A publicly noticed Type 1 Land Use Review was conducted for the CVS Pharmacy last summer and the final decision was issued on September 16, 2013. In the building plans the owner identified the Sequoia as the only significant tree of the 60 trees located on the site to be affected by construction of the pharmacy building.

The owner has satisfactorily addressed Burien’s significant tree retention policies which require the retention of at least 5% of the significant trees currently located on commercially zoned project sites. All of the remaining significant trees are located on the southern portion of the site and will not be affected by construction of the pharmacy. As mitigation for the removal of the Sequoia, the owner will be planting a replacement Sequoia on the western property line and landscaping plans call for the planting of more than 60 Douglas fir, Maple, Crape Myrtle, Linden and Flower Pear trees in the new building and parking areas.”

Sons William (Bill), Gordy and their father Amos Herr in a photo taken at Burien’s Herr Lumber in the 1970s.

This site once housed Herr Lumber, and had previously served as a sawmill for many years prior to the family’s opening of the yard in the 70’s. It remained a working lumber yard until into the 1990’s, then sat empty until Diane and Lisa Herr opened a nursery in 2002.

As we previously reported, Herr Backyard and Garden Center closed in June, 2012.

The project is valued at over $2 million.

Here are some photos of the demolition work being done, taken Thursday, April 24, 2014 by Scott Schaefer:

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