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Celebrating the Resilience of Seattle’s Duwamish Valley

2020 Duwamish Valley Program Update & Progress Report

By Alberto J. Rodríguez (OSE) & David W. Goldberg (OPCD)

Resilient communities have called the Duwamish Valley home since time immemorial — from the fishing and winter campgrounds of the Duwamish Tribe to the first European settlers in the Pacific Northwest, up to the people living in it today. The neighborhoods of South Park and Georgetown are close-knit communities, home to nearly 6,000 people and numerous businesses and industries. Yet these communities have experienced inequities for years, and both climate change and COVID-19 have magnified existing health, economic, and environmental disparities. 

Since 2016, the City of Seattle’s Duwamish Valley Program has been working to create real positive change in the Duwamish Valley and build a more equitable and resilient city. Through collaboration with community organizations and residents, we are working to advance a new model for how city policies and programs can address health, equity, and climate change for our residents and businesses in the Duwamish Valley. But, as you might imagine, things got a little complicated in 2020.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to our local government, ranging from budget cuts to staff emergency response redeployment and more. We are extremely proud of the work we did and for our nimble response to ensure Duwamish Valley stakeholders were connected to and benefitted from the City’s COVID‐19 relief and response efforts. Despite encountering many obstacles and delays due to the pandemic, the Duwamish Valley Action Team (DAT) made progress on implementing the Duwamish Valley Action Plan. We would like to highlight the following:

COVID-19 Relief & Response:

In partnership with Villa Comunitaria, Concord PTA, and Georgetown community leaders, we were able to support 34 South Park and Georgetown families and individuals with rental assistance, utility payments, back-to-school expenses, and healthcare costs. In addition, we were able to provide technical assistance and/or four rounds of protective supplies and gear to 17 women- and BIPOC-owned small businesses in Georgetown and South Park.

West Seattle Bridge Closure:

Residents of the Duwamish Valley have been heavily impacted by the West Seattle Bridge closure because of all the detour traffic moving through the neighborhoods. Community groups have worked closely with the city to identify projects to help with the environmental and safety impacts, such as speed bumps and tree plantings to offset the increased carbon emissions. To date, the city has allocated over $3 million in transportation-related projects to help the South Park and Georgetown neighborhoods.  

Georgetown Flume Off-Leash Area:

The Georgetown Flume is a historic site that transported water from the Duwamish River to the Georgetown Steam Plant until it was decommissioned. The City and community partners are working to convert the land into a new community asset. The eastern portion of the site will be developed into a new off-leash area, and the western portion will be developed into a shared use path for those walking, biking, or rolling between Georgetown and South Park. Learn more about project from our colleagues in the Parks department.

8th Ave. S in Georgetown:

The Georgetown community obtained a Neighborhood Matching Fund (NMF) grant to develop a conceptual design for Gateway Park North and the adjacent street-end park. This design achieved broad community support, including the abutting property owners. Through this design, the community installed voluntary conveyance swales on a portion of 8th Ave. S and the Port of Seattle committed to stabilizing the bank in 2021. The community also obtained a second NMF grant for additional design and has been very active at pursuing construction funding to improve the park and access to the park along 8th Ave S.

Affordable Housing in South Park:

Working with the Office of Housing and South Park community partners, new affordable homeownership will be developed in partnership with Habitat for Humanity. Additionally, the Office of Housing is in the process of purchasing two parcels for the future development of affordable rental housing (a first for the City!).

Supporting the Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center

With support from OPCD, we provided financial support to Duwamish Tribal Services to support the improve access to the Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center and programs, which will include an expansion of their parking lot.

Climate & Community Resilience Grant:

The Duwamish Valley Program applied for and received $600,000 in funding to continue developing and implementing the Resilience District concept. Funding from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will support the City with developing a Resilience District — a geographic strategy, inspired by global models, focused on adapting to flood risk and other climate change impacts as a key first step towards adapting to a changing climate, while taking a comprehensive approach that fosters community resilience.

And there’s even more!

We would also like to celebrate how the Duwamish Valley Action Team made great progress on all seven priority areas in the Action Plan, including:

In 2021 and 2022, many of these projects will go from planning and design to construction, so you will be seeing on-the-ground improvements. Additionally, in the next couple of months, we will be officially launching our Resilience District work and look forward to co-developing solutions with residents, industries, philanthropy, and other non-City partners that will have a positive effect on our communities’ wellbeing for years to come.

Thanks for your ongoing support. Here’s to a resilient Duwamish Valley!

Alberto and David