By Ralph Nichols
A letter written on April 3 by then-King County Councilmember Dow Constantine – this one sent to Ron Sims, who was still county executive at the time – affirms Constantine’s apparent support for preserving Puget Sound Park.
Constantine, now the new King County Executive, informed Sims that he could not “support the Sustainable Communities and Affordable Housing proposal until Puget Sound Park is removed from further consideration” or conversion to housing.
Located at 1st Ave. S. and SW 126th Stree, the park is in the unincorporated area of North Highline that is to be annexed by Burien early next year.
“I was dismayed to see this parcel listed along with several other non-park properties being prepared for conversion to housing use,” Constantine wrote Sims.
“I have previously stated in writing that I would not support any conversion proposal for any portion of this park that did not have the support of both the North Highline community and the city of Burien, which is pursuing the annexation of the surrounding neighborhood.
“As the city of Burien has registered its formal opposition and the community appears adamantly opposed to selling all or part of the park, it should be removed from the proposed ordinance.
“Parks have immense value to their surrounding communities, and replacement of this park property in this immediate neighborhood would be difficult at best,” he continued. “Replacement at a site elsewhere in King County is, of course, wholly inadequate.
“I do not feel that the conversion of public parks to housing sites is appropriate Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ and, if this legislation is introduced, I will take immediate action to amend it to protect this neighborhood park.”
Before becoming county executive, Constantine represented Burien, North Highline and West Seattle on the county council.
On April 13, Puget Sound Park was removed from consideration as a project site for the Sustainable Communities and Affordable Housing program.
¨Noting he was ‘pleased to learn’ this action,” Constantine added, “our public parks – both active and passive – are valuable assets to their surrounding neighborhoods and King County that must be preserved and enhanced whenever possible.”
When the King County Council adopted the Sustainable Communities and Affordable Housing ordinance on Sept. 14, Puget Sound Park was not included as one of the properties for conversion.
Nevertheless, Constantine’ immediate predecessor, former county Executive Kurt Triplett, attempted to negotiate a backroom deal for the sale of Puget Sound Park to the King County Library System (read our previous coverage here).
Burien city officials learned about Triplett”s attempt to sell Puget Sound Park just days before the city council was scheduled to set March 2 as the formal date for annexing much of the North Highline unincorporated area – and just days before Triplett left office.
The city council subsequently put the setting of an effective date for annexation on hold – and city Manager Mike Martin declared in the wake of that revelation that annexation won ‘t happen until Burien gets this park as part of the deal.
In his monthly report to the King County Library System board of trustees prior to their regular meeting on Nov. 24, library system director Bill Ptacek said, “As reported earlier this year, the County reached out to KCLS with an offer to sell various parks to KCLS so that they could be maintained and kept open.
“One of the parks, Puget Sound Park, is in the area that recently voted to annex to Burien. The Park¦ would be a good location for a new Library in the area. KCLS has agreed (in principal) to purchase the developable portion of that property. The County still hopes to turn over the Park portion to the City of Burien if and when it completes the annexation process in March 2010.”
One unconfirmed rumor suggests that if the library system took ownership of the park, it might consolidate the White Center and Boulevard Park libraries in a new facility at that location.
Frank Abe, Constantine’s director of communications, told The B-Town Blog earlier this week that before taking office, Constantine asked Triplett not to take action on selling Puget Sound Park.
One of Constantine’s first actions as executive will be to sit down with all parties to discuss the future of the park to “figure out what’s best – especially for the people of Burien,” Abe said.
Here are links to download and read PDFs of Constantine’s letters regarding Puget Sound Park: