Controversial Tacoma warehouse proposal moves forward

The currently vacant site that developer Bridge Industrial is seeking to use for an industrial warehouse in South Tacoma. / Courtesy of Michelle Mood.
The currently vacant site that developer Bridge Industrial is seeking to use for an industrial warehouse in South Tacoma. (Courtesy: Michelle Mood)



The City of Tacoma hearing examiner has upheld the city’s decision to issue a development permit for a mega-warehouse in South Tacoma.

The permit decision was appealed by the Seattle nonprofit EarthJustice, on behalf of the South Tacoma Neighborhood Council and 350 Tacoma. The appeal argued that the city and developer hadn’t adequately analyzed the environmental impacts of the development, stating that therefore the city erred in issuing a Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance, (MDNS) and Critical Areas Development Permit for the project. 

In a hearing this summer, appellants’ and respondents’ witnesses went back and forth on various studies and analysis of environmental impacts. Appellants have said the city needs to complete an Environmental Impact Statement, under the State Environmental Policy Act for the project, to fully analyze environmental impacts. 

In his ruling, Hearing Examiner Jeff Capell said the appellants did not meet their burden of proof to demonstrate that the Critical Areas Development Permit was approved in error. In regard to the Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance, Capell said the city underwent thorough analysis of the State Environmental Policy Act checklist. Citing a recent decision from the state supreme court, Capell wrote that the process of issuing the MDNS might better reflect the values in the State Environmental Policy Act than an Environmental Impact Statement.

Since residents became aware of the warehouse proposal in early 2022, they have expressed concerns and a desire to further study the impacts this development could have on their neighborhood. One of the main concerns expressed has been exacerbating equity issues this area of Tacoma already experiences. 

People of color and low-income people will be affected the most if this project is built,” the South Tacoma Neighborhood Council wrote in a statement responding to the decision. “Our community takes pride in South Tacoma. We continue to be frustrated in the lack of investment by the City of Tacoma in South Tacoma, and the City’s willingness to greenlight industrial projects in an area already overburdened with environmental problems.” 

Tim Smith is a resident of South Tacoma, where the warehouse would go. He said he’s dismayed by the decision.

“I don’t think the hearing examiner really fulfilled his full role as the conscience of the city,” Smith said. 

The hearing explicitly did not address issues of environmental equity and justice.

Smith found the statement that the city had determined mitigation measures for significant impacts to the project to not address the biggest concerns he had. 

“The mitigation efforts were, in my view, minimal, and, again, weren’t structured to mitigate the most serious impacts, which were not considered as part of the decision,” Smith said. “You can’t mitigate decreased lifespan.”

Maria Lee with the City of Tacoma referred to a FAQ section on the city webpage in response to a statement from the city on the hearing. Bridge Industrial could not be reached for comment.