West Seattle business mapped for destruction by light rail, frustrated Sound Transit didn't offer early move

A group of small business owners in West Seattle are still in what they call ‘light rail limbo.’

The West Seattle Link Extension will run through businesses at 23rd Ave Southwest and Delridge Way Southwest, which would leave many of the buildings demolished.  

The cluster of business owners off Delridge Way say they haven't been offered help for an early move, despite offers to neighboring businesses during an early acquisition process.

The owner of Mode Music Studios says even after a walk-through with several city representatives last week, and commenting before a Sound Transit Board meeting on March 28, it's still not clear how the city or Sound Transit plans to help her.   

"Whether it’s a station or a track, Sound Transit is going to take us out," said Erin Rubin, owner of Mode Music Studios and Founder and Managing Director of Mode Music and Performing Arts.

"It’s kind of frustrating to have to seek a new space when it’s the last thing on my student’s mind," said Mode Music instructor Brian Spenser.  

At Mode Music Studios, Spenser's students make up the next generation of budding musicians. Due to the plans that have been unveiled for the West Seattle Link Extension project, around 520 of those students and 60 instructors like him know they will have to relocate.   

"We are going to be 10 years in May. At any point, anybody could have come in here and done the actual assessment that they were supposed to do within their documentation," said Rubin.

Last week, the Sound Transit Board considered a resolution for the early acquisition of 25 neighboring properties. A map showing some of those properties is posted below. However, Rubin says her business was left out, along with Ounces Taproom and Skylark Cafe.

"I was disappointed we weren’t part of the early acquisition, disappointed that we weren’t approached until our property was being drilled into for the environmental study.  I’m disappointed that there was never an individual assessment," said Rubin.  "It skips over us four businesses."

Rubin has spoken at the last two Sound Transit Board meetings, advocating for early acquisition of the property where she operates her business and an assessment of what it will take to move. 

"There are very few places we can go in West Seattle," she said during a public comment period at the meeting. 

 She's also asking for what she considers a long-overdue assessment of the impact on her business. 

"We will be taken no matter what route, wherever the station lands," said Rubin.

She also hosted a walk-through for city leaders and their representatives last Monday.

"We talked about the displacement of these businesses and what the future holds for us and what we need to do and what we need from the city and what we need from sound transit in order to make our move," said Rubin. "I invited board members and the mayor, and invited anybody who wants to talk to us directly, about how we are affected and what our experience has been." 

During the March 28 meeting, some board members did express concerns about moving forward without a concrete plan for the light rail in place.   

"Very concerned about condemnation before we have settled on a route," said Bruce Dammeier, board member. 

Mayor Bruce Harrell, who is also a board member, said the Office of Economic Development was fielding questions and concerns about the West Seattle light rail project proposal. He asked Sound Transit Real Property Director Faith Rowland for clarification regarding the benefits that tenants will receive if displaced.  

"We have two groups, as you described, property owners and the tenants. What kind of benefits are eligible for the tenants?" asked Harrell. "I do want to be clear on what benefits can be expected by tenants and when they might be able to access them."

"Once the board authorizes these acquisitions and FTA concurrence is received, we will send out a general information notice, and we will immediately do research to determine if we missed anyone followed by their notice of eligibility," said Faith Roland.


Some West Seattle business owners in 'limbo' due to light rail plan that would demolish their stores

A number of West Seattle business owners are reacting to a light rail plan that's slated to wipe out their businesses sometime within the next four years.

Unless things change for Mode Music Studios regarding early acquisition, Rubin says she'll have a long wait ahead before she can start looking for a new home for her students.  

"Without early acquisition, we can’t move until they say we can," said Rubin. " Sound Transit has no idea how many employees I have. They don’t know what it costs to build these walls. They don’t know what it’s going to take for us to move. They don’t know what kind of building we are going to need to relocate. Our displacement is all in the air, and they are not doing enough to support us."

The resolution "R2024-07" which included early acquisitions, was approved on March 28. It does not include the Mode Music Studios property as Rubin hoped.

Sound Transit responded to our requests for comment on the relocation process by stating;  

"Property acquisition typically takes place after the environmental process concludes. These early acquisitions still need approval from the Federal Transit Administration. With FTA approval, Sound Transit can begin working with property owners and tenants prior to the publication of the Final EIS and the Board selection of the project to be built, expected later this year."