For a generation and more, the 9.4 acres of land in this photo on Olympia’s westside were covered with trees. This is a strip of land between an area developed in the late ‘90s and the tax-generating Auto Mall. This stand of mature trees ensured that heavy rains would be absorbed into the soil, breathed oxygen into the air, buffered a neighborhood from the noise and lighting of an “Auto Mall,” sheltered birds and homeless people and promised to go on doing that as the globe warmed.
Until a developer applied to build single-family homes on the property. Because we have a system where money is trump, and where governing institutions have their own interests, the city collected $120,465.70 in permit fees from a Delaware corporation—with no caveats about keeping any trees. Not one tree. Which green are you for, indeed?
Along with the loss of these trees, the SW neighborhood stands to lose a dedicated bike-pedestrian path that they fought for successfully since the year 2004. The plan for the new development is to funnel cars out via Fern St (substandard and overcrowded today) and what will no longer be the bike path, but another sacrifice to the primacy of the automobile.
What is this destruction of land and community for? In the context of an affordable housing crisis, the City approved the construction of 56 luxury houses priced at an estimated $450,000 each, with two-car garages and no public transit. They did this over the formal opposition of the SW Olympia Neighborhood Association and the additional opposition of 147 neighbors filed as “parties of record.”
Is it possible to imagine a more morally and environmentally bankrupt set of plans contradicting all our elected officials’ rhetoric about neighborhood involvement and promotion of pedestrian friendly sustainable communities?
Aerial photo inset by Yvette Hall