Ah, Lora Lake. We hardly knew ye. Last summer's affordable housing flash point fizzled with barely a whimper last week when the Port Authority issued a press release written by King County Housing Authority (KCHA) declaring their mutual agreement that the much vaunted deal to save 162 units of affordable housing in Burien is now dead of poisoning.
There will be no autopsy. But read on. Someone needs to call the coroner to see if Lora might be revived.
Apparently, levels of dioxin were found in the soil that exceed current residential standards. Testing and soil clean-up were performed in 1987 by the State Department of Ecology before the now doomed apartments were built, but, as the press release explains, things change.
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.At this point, the "homeless advocates" involved collectively shrug, throw up their hands, heave a deep sigh, and say, "Dioxin. Watcha gonna do? Can't poison poor people can ya?"
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.
Here's "homeless advocate" Sandy Brown, quoted in Jennifer Langston's recent Seattle PI article.
Sandy Brown, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church who led demonstrations and prayers to preserve the apartments, said he was disappointed with the outcome.
However, he agreed it doesn't make sense to spend scarce affordable housing dollars on cleaning up pollution.
But last year's controversy, he said, sent a clear message that government-owned housing serving lower-income residents shouldn't be bulldozed and not replaced.
"I think we're not going to see the same cavalier approach to (destroying) 160 units or so as we did in this case, so it's still a victory," Brown said.
Yo, Sandy. Way to grab victory from the jaws of defeat. I am totally inspired. Thanks for the prayers.
And intrigued at how similar your messaging is to Rhonda Rosenberg's at KCHA. Real Change reporter Cydney Gillis covered this story, and her notes contain a remarkably similar quote. "As a result of all this stuff that's happened, the Port has become more sensitized to the importance or regional need for affordable housing." The Lora Lake fight, she said "focused much-needed attention on the region’s loss of affordable housing."
It's nice to see so much agreement on the terms of surrender.
Should any of the fire breathing advocates who have apparently given up on this decide to take a closer look, here's a few questions they might ask.According to a Port of Seattle press release issued last February to announce suspension of the deal pending further testing, samples were taken at depths of seven and fourteen feet. Soil mitigation, however, only occurs two feet down. This, presumably is what happened when the site was tested and cleaned in 1987 prior to original construction.
So, why the sudden interest in finding deeply buried contaminants? It just seems odd. I'm not a scientist, but looking around on-line, it seems like soil testing usually focuses on samples taken at much shallower depths.
Also, there's the needing to have it both ways issue.
When one decides to demolish an apartment building due to dioxin contamination, one runs the risk of a class action suit by former tenants. This issue was addressed by Rosenberg in Gillis' earlier Real Change piece when the deal was first suspended.
"... the housing authority does not believe its previous tenants, who were evicted in June, would have been exposed, as the contaminants are believed to be sealed under Lora Lake’s concrete-on-slab construction."Let me ask a possibly naive question here. If the contaminants are sealed, and no one is exposed, then what's the problem? Unless, of course, you tear the place down.
So, why is the deal off again? Maybe I'm just shooting in the dark here, but it seems like these are questions worth asking. Serious activists don't always believe what they're told.