KFnet in T-Town

Aug. 19, 2009 at 8:25am

Sperry Ocean Dock Removal - Update w/Photos

Waterfront view improvement project

Update: Photos of the demolition

Originally posted 8/18/2009 @ 8:37am

The environmentally sensitive Sperry Ocean Terminal is being torn down. The old, creosote-soaked timbers are being pulled out by a couple backhoes that have been at it for the last couple days. They're making swift progress because, at least what I could see riding and driving by, about 30' of it was removed between yesterday and today.

Does this mean the time has come for a new dock, more ships, and more to complain about from residents atop the nearby bluff?

Previously over at KFnet and more "Sperry" via FeedTacoma search

comments [19]  |  posted under demolition, dock, schuster parkway, spurry ocean terminal, tacoma


by Nick on 8/18/2009 @ 9:25am
Ugh I hope not....

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 8/18/2009 @ 10:03am
Can't they turn the ships into condos. Or at least winch a couple of air stream trailers onto the deck and rent them out.

by MarkMonlux on 8/18/2009 @ 11:56am
I wondered if those ships ever moved.

by Erik on 8/18/2009 @ 12:06pm
Interesting. Thanks Kevin.

by KevinFreitas on 8/18/2009 @ 12:20pm
@Mark: Nope, the ships are still there. According to neighbors just up the hill they run constantly and deposit layers of soot on outdoor furniture and such.

It's a difficult area to photograph but I'll see if I can get any on my way home this afternoon. I'm not sure how much of the dock they've removed because, as you can see in the photo above, most of the brown mangled stuff between the tracks and ships is the old dock.

I seriously hope there wasn't a quiet agreement between Sperry and the City to allow them to dock more vessels there. Not that it shouldn't necessarily happen but because such a decision needs to be a very transparent one. Especially as we decide who we're voting for both today and in Nov.

by panachronic on 8/18/2009 @ 2:38pm
@ Mark and Kevin:
Both ships are taken underway periodically. If one is paying attention, one might notice that they reverse places at the dock from time to time.

Also, one or both of the ships were used during the run-up to both Persian Gulf wars. That's what they're for -- to transport equipment and matériel overseas.

by Erik on 8/18/2009 @ 2:48pm
Reference prior Exit 133 discussion



My initial take is : bad idea. This is not the Port. Tacoma is seeking to create a public esplande along the waterfront from Ruston Way to the Glass Museum with public access. Doubling the number of diesel burning ships here will make this difficult. Plus, it would add additional pollution and significant noise right next to a neighborhood.

From the Tribune:

The bright lights and loud engine noises coming from the two military ships docked along Schuster Parkway have become part of Patti Rietmann's daily routine.

She and other Stadium Way residents have gotten used to hosing soot from the vessels off their patios and and closing their windows to block out the noise.

That's why they are worried about a plan to make room for two more ships at the same dock on the Commencement Bay Waterfront.

The city is reviewing a proposal from the owner of Sperry Ocean Dock to tear down and rebuild the decaying pier system at 616 North Schuster Parkway and create a berth there for two additional vessels.

The two vessels docked there now, the Cape Island and the Cape Intrepid, are cargo ships in the U.S. Maritime Association reserve fleet. Each is about 600-feet long.


The stuff that belches out of those stacks is incredible, said Jonathan Phillips, chair of the North End Neighborhood Council. It sounds like an enormous train going by, except it doesn't pass by, it just stays right there.

Neighborhood council secretary Jerry Burch, who lives on Stadium Way, said that the boat's engines are run at full throttle on a weekly basis for as long as two days at a time.

The sound travels quite a ways and that's with what we've got now, Burch said. Imagine doubling. Additionally, the security lights surrounding the boats stay on most of the night, spreading artificial light onto nearby properties, he said.

It's like being next to a baseball field, Burch said. It's basically 24/7.

Sperry Ocean Dock owner Gary Coy says he doesn't have plans yet for what kind of ships would be docked at the new berth or whether or not they will be military vessels.


Our issue today is should this be an industrial area, or is it a residential neighborhood Rietmann said. Tacoma keeps talking about wanting to beautify neighborhoods, but simultaneously we are talking about adding these gigantic vessels.


by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 8/18/2009 @ 8:00pm
Show me a resident that has lived in the property overlooking the docks before the docks were built and I'll maybe have a little sympathy for them. This is a working waterfront, kind of hard to get too worked up about people living in their fancy houses with their fancy views if the docks were there before they moved in.

by L.S.Erhardt on 8/18/2009 @ 9:01pm
As long as BNSF, TEMCO and Schuster Pkwy exist in their current forms and location. that part of the waterfront won't be a yuppie Seattle-style waterfront.

by dolly varden on 8/18/2009 @ 10:35pm
Our waterfront would "work" a lot better if the "working" part was confined to the Tideflats and the other side of the Foss. Those ships need to go, and Schuster should be reconfigured to allow for a better ped/bike path between Old Town and downtown.

(And what "yuppie Seattle-style" waterfront are you talking about, Thorax? Public access to the Sound in Seattle is pretty spotty, and Tacoma has the opportunity to have better public access to the Sound than any other Puget Sound city. We're probably pretty close to achieving that goal, but it would be a pity to keep Old Town and downtown as poorly connected as they are. The current sidewalk along Schuster sucks. There's nothing "yuppie" about public access to a public waterway.)

by KevinFreitas on 8/19/2009 @ 8:26am
Just updated this post with a couple photos of the work taking place. Looks like they've taken a sizable chunk out of the docks so far.

by tacoma1 on 8/19/2009 @ 9:05am
Cities change, and neighborhood's evolve. The Tacoma waterfront has always been historically a working waterfront. Ruston Way used to be lined with sawmills where all the restaurants are now. To accept that the historical useage of a property remains the only use is not realistic.

That being said, this is private property. The only way that I think we can convert this property to a use more consistent with the neighborhood and current city land use values is to buy it, or do a land swap with property somewhere at the Port ot Tacoma. That would assume of course that the current owner by willing to relocate. Both options would be extremely expensive. I don't think that we have the financial ability to pull that off.

But, assuming we did..........if after acquistion of the property, the city rezoned it to be office space, hotel, whatever, we might be able to produce enough income to pay for the land swap. The height of the buildings could be a problem. Too low and the property isn't worth as much, too high, the folks that now have a view would not.

The end result would be worth it though. By connecting a pedestrian, bike path from T Dome to Point Defiance Park, we would have the best waterfront in the State, maybe the Country.

by The Jinxmedic on 8/19/2009 @ 10:17am
I second Crenshaw Sepulveda's remarks regarding pre-existing working waterfronts.

Next up on the plate - as long as we're at it let's eliminate the grain terminal and the railroad right-of-way from the Schuster Parkway area, too. And the veiws of all that industry on the tideflats is disturbing. Let's just move the port to Lakewood, and return the tideflats to it's pre-columbian condition. Oops, now the city itself is in the way.

(Just a little morning sarcasm, it goes good with coffee. :-) )

by Erik on 8/19/2009 @ 10:57am
Just updated this post with a couple photos of the work taking place. Looks like they've taken a sizable chunk out of the docks so far.

Nice Kevin.

BTW, I see that fencing has now been placed around th Joy Building by the UWT. Looking forward to seeing the renovation.

by tacoma1 on 8/19/2009 @ 12:00pm
@Crenshaw Sepulveda and Jinxmedic

The fact that this dock has always been there, and that the neighborhood has always been where it is at, doesn't mean that it is ok for them to coexist now.

When the neighborhood was built, and the dock was built, no one knew about the health hazards from toxic fumes. Today, we now that diesel soot is a likely carcinogen. We also know that the diesel plume settles in the neighborhood above.

People, our neighbors can get sick and die from this stuff. Their view is not a good reason to move these ships, but their health is. If moving this dock is impossible, maybe the city or the neighborhood can form a class action law suit and sue to stop the ships from idling at dock. Just an idea, I'm not a lawyer, maybe I've watched too much Boston Legal.

I also see a huge upside to connecting the walkway from Old Town to Thea Foss. That could only be good for our city. By beautifying our public walkways, we make our city more desirable to live and work in. Eventually we could possibly start having companies want to do business here, want to set up offices and headquarters in and around downtown Tacoma. They may even pay our city taxes................maybe.......Russell Investments would be excluded from that part of course........

by L.S.Erhardt on 8/19/2009 @ 7:37pm
By "yuppie waterfront" I mean one that is lined with nothing but high-rise condos.

I'm not opposed to skyscrapers or condos fundamentally, but when they obscure the shoreline completely, that's a different story.

by tacoma1 on 8/20/2009 @ 7:50am
Our air quality sucks. It's almost official. As we are a port city, ships idling at dock are a big contributor. The people that live above this dock have a legitimate complaint.


"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was poised last December to declare some or all of Pierce County as having a too-great density of small particles in the air -- essentially saying smoke particles and fuel fumes are too thick to be healthy."

by boearc on 8/20/2009 @ 8:03am
One of the interesting consequences of the Sounder Extension through to Lakewood taking Amtrak of the Schuster/Ruston stretch of track is the ability for BSNF to now stage more trains - and idling diesel engines - along these track areas creating a more intense industrial sound and smell to the Northend.

by tacoma1 on 8/20/2009 @ 8:15am
Whoa, that's a little off topic......but:

How do you know that BNSF will idle more diesel engines there?

If they do, can't the EPA, with their new regulatory powers shut them down?

Matter of fact, the whole air quality subject in T Town and surrounding Pierce County probably deserves its own discussion topic.


Although I have another home on the web I thought it might be nice to lead by example a bit and put this blog system up to the test myself.

So far, so good... Funny how I build web tools for other people that are far better than the one's I have setup over on KFnet.


Hey Clear Channel, Clean Up Your Crap!

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