Daycare worries about proposed West Seattle light rail routes


Light rail service that will eventually connect West Seattle to downtown could improve transportation, but it might be damaging for one of the area’s large daycares.

SEATTLE — The long-awaited light rail service that will eventually connect West Seattle to downtown could improve the community’s transportation woes. But it might be damaging for one of the area’s large daycares.

Alki Beach Academy is a daycare with plans to more than double in size to licensed capacity for 300 children, but that expansion could be derailed by another one – Sound Transit’s effort to extend light rail service to West Seattle.

“We’ve been tracking the Sound Transit Project as long as they’ve been doing their planning,” said Jordan Crawley, the assistant director at the Alki Beach Academy.

Crawley said he has read through Sound Transit’s lengthy draft Environmental Impact Statement to learn about how the daycare might be impacted. He said the routes listed as Alternative DEL-5 and Alternative DEL-6 create the worst outcomes, requiring Alki Beach Academy to be demolished.

In an email, a Sound Transit spokesperson noted that the economics section of the Draft EIS states, “Alternative DEL-5 and Alternative DEL-6* would have the most business displacements. These alternatives would displace a business park, a health club, and other retail and local service businesses.”

“When two of the six alternatives would displace an entire commerce center that includes a large childcare center, you would think that some of that outreach would come down here, but none did,” he said.

Crawley said he has not had much communication with Sound Transit. In April, he was able to talk with the agency during a virtual meeting hosted by the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce. After that, he had one meeting with Sound Transit. 

He said he has been hearing a lot more from concerned parents who rely on the daycare.

“It is our support system. It is everything that we could ever ask for,” said Tim Tilbury, who has two kids.

The possibility of the daycare being pushed out of the Delridge area also worries Kanchan Schindlauer, who has two children.

“We couldn’t function. I couldn’t run a business. My husband couldn’t work full time without having the support they provide for us,” said Schindlauer.

It’s the kind of support that’s been hard to find. Data from the state estimates that only 37% of childcare needs are being met in King County.

“Try to get your kid into daycare. Try to get your kid into an aftercare program. Or try to get your kid into summer camp, and it’s no joke,” said Schindlauer.

But in the community, transportation has also been a source of trouble with the West Seattle Bridge out of service for more than two years. Sound Transit building a tunnel and starting light rail service is what many commuters have been calling for in West Seattle.

“It is needed, but I don’t know at what cost,” said Tilbury.

“Businesses like this need to be saved. These are businesses that allow the rest of the community to function,” said Schindlauer.

For the daycare, expansion plans are left in limbo as they wait to see which way the light rail route will go.

“Transportation has to come here. Our hope is just that when it does, we’re here to serve the community,” said Crawley.

Sound Transit said they will work with any displaced businesses and people once the project to be built is selected.   

“There are no caps for moving expenses that are actual, reasonable, and necessary,” said a Sound Transit spokesperson.

There is a cap on re-establishment expenses, which is outlined in the relocation handbook.

Seattle City Council will weigh in before Sound Transit’s board votes on a final route. 

That final decision is expected next year. Sound Transit wants to start service in West Seattle in 2032.

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