King County Executive Dow Constantine held a press conference at a Kent community garden to announce his proposed 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan.
“This community garden and the people who make it possible are testaments to our region’s ingenuity and resiliency,” Constantine said as he stood in the sunshine Aug. 27 at the Paradise Parking Plots Community Garden in Kent next to Hillside Church, 930 E. James St. “With the help of King County WaterWorks and King Conservation District, World Relief Seattle has increased access to culturally relevant food, decreased stormwater pollution, prevented urban flooding, created a hands-on educational opportunities for youth and strengthened connections in immigrant and refugee communities.
“This project demonstrates what we can achieve when we invest in community-led and science-based solutions that produce multiple benefits.”
The Climate Action Plan is a five-year county blueprint to cut greenhouse gas emissions by half, prepare the region for climate impacts and elevate the voices of frontline communities. The idea is to integrate climate change into all areas of county operations and its work with all 39 cities, partners, communities and residents. The proposal goes to the King County Council for approval.
The plan will guide actions to:
• Reduce countywide greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by the end of the decade
• Make buildings where people live and work greener to construct, maintain, operate and demolish while connecting them to high-capacity transit powered by renewable energy
• Launch the three million trees initiative, increasing tree canopy, accelerating land conservation and preparing forests for climate impacts
• Lead with equity and racial justice, including a new section of the plan focused on climate justice driven by the frontline communities disproportionately impacted by climate change
One strategy will make new and older buildings greener to construct, maintain, operate and demolish by updating building codes to make them consistent throughout the 39 cities and unincorporated areas. The plan also recommends actions that will connect more green buildings to the region’s growing transit and trail networks.
King County will also acquire at least 25 new green spaces as part of investing $25 million to improve access in areas that need it most by 2025.
There will be a three-part strategy to reduce car trips through sustained and increase use of transit, focusing almost all new development in urban area and developing vehicle usage pricing strategies that are equitable. The county, meanwhile, commits to reducing emissions by county-owned vehicles by 45 percent by 2025.
Kent Mayor Dana Ralph appreciated the recognition of the community garden, which has 50 beds and serves 50 families from 23 countries who grow crops at the site.
“I am so excited that the executive chose Kent to unveil this program and talk about the importance of the strategic climate action plan to all of our communities,” said Ralph, one of several speakers who followed Constantine. “These plans are science based and there’s data that drives them but what’s important to me is the impact that the plan has on our community.”
Ralph said she has watched the energy and passion people have put into the project to turn a empty parking lot into garden plots.
“This is a one of a kind project in King County and it is the model for all the work we need to do going forward with climate justice,” Ralph said about the project that draws immigrants and refugees from Kent’s diverse population.
World Relief Seattle, a Kent-based refugee resettlement organization, received $144,227 through King County’s WaterWorks Grant Program to help install large rain gardens at the church parking lot, which reduces polluted runoff and protects local streams. The gardens opened in 2018. King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division allocated $75,000 in funding.
“Refugees and immigrants – along with other BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) communities – are often the most affected by climate change and environmental threats, yet they have historically been excluded from policy discussions and structures that directly affect their health because they are not landowners,” said Tahmina Martelly, Resiliency Programs manager for World Relief Seattle. “This Strategic Climate Action Plan has the potential to finally correct that by promoting community-led solutions that repurpose neglected urban spaces to increase equitable access to culturally relevant food and greenspace.”
A drain system captures water from the church roof that is stored in four 4,000-gallon cisterns and provides 80 percent of the irrigation for the gardens.
“There is a lot of love that has gone into this project,” King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove said as he stood near the gardens. “It gives me hope. It is possible to turn this around. There’s an old proverb about no single raindrop believes they are responsible for the flood. Likewise it’s easy to feel that no single action is making a difference but collectively it’s projects like this and governments like King County partnering with cities like Kent and individual actions of citizens that gives me hope that we can turn this corner and fulfill our responsibilities.”