Protect Volunteer Park group appeals Seattle Asian Art Museum decision

A citizens group seeking to put up a major barrier to the $49 million plan to overhaul the infrastructure of the 1933-built Seattle Asian Art Museum and expand it 3,600 square feet into its home Volunteer Park is looking for public support — and funding — for its last-ditch appeal against the project:

On June 7th a hearing examiner will consider our appeal and we are preparing to provide as much expert testimony as needed to illuminate the threats to Volunteer Park and the museum building. The Protect Volunteer Park team has retained the prominent, environmental attorney David Bricklin of Bricklin Newman LLP. Thus far, our team has been donating their time and energy as well as the funds for months of legal counsel. We now need more financial help, so we can keep protecting the park from the museum expansion.

The appeal from the group calling itself Protect Volunteer Park asks the Hearing Examiner to require a costly environmental impact study for the project, reversing a decision from the city’s planning department.

The project is planned to begin construction by the end of this year has been designed to expand the 1933-built museum more than 13,000 square feet by extending the backside of the building 3,600 square feet into the park. The museum will add more display space to represent South Asia and India as well as fix infrastructure issues including a climate control system and seismic upgrades, while making the museum ADA accessible. In February, officials put the museum project back in motion after a brief pause.

While hearings in front of the examiner are open to the public there is no opportunity for public comment beyond the testimony of the appellant and the applicant.

Learn more about Protect Volunteer Park at For more about SAAM’s plans for expansion, visit

Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

31 thoughts on “Protect Volunteer Park group appeals Seattle Asian Art Museum decision

  1. I love how an EIS has been corrupted into a tool for legal threats. Shows how low NIMBYs will sink to stop the betterment of our City.

    • Calling us NIMBY is missing the point. It is the park. It is everyone’s back yard.

      The EIS process includes landmarked properties as part of the environmental impact to be considered. The law is clear: significant impacts to landmark properties require an EIS to assess the impacts.

    • johathan: calling you NIMBYs is exactly on the mark. it IS the mark.

      the incredibly small footprint of the expansion will bite into a completely unused portion of the park, though i am sure that your little neighbor klatch will put extra effort into picnicking in the shadow of the existing building to try to prove some false point.

      but in reality, that portion of the park is largely unusable. although on a hill, the drainage is terrible, so it is basically a dark, shady swamp.

      really, do you not want ADA access? do you not want a better representation of the amazing cultures that make seattle what it is? or…do you just not want construction in your neighborhood? my guess is that is the problem.

      ‘…The law is clear: significant impacts to landmark properties require an EIS to assess the impacts…’?!? wow. such a copout.

    • @Jonathan: It’s your park, it’s my park, it’s 700,000 other people’s park. You and your obstructionist group do not speak for the other 699,950 people in this City; it is no more or less your park than anyone else.

      And I am all but certain that you and your ilk are not in anyway concerned about the environmental or historical impacts of a small addition to an important museum, of which the Planning Department has already issued a DNS. You are abusing the EIS process as your last gasp opposition, very similar to the obstructionists for the BGT Missing Link.

      And like the Missing Link obstructionists, you will lose, which you all ready know, whether or not an EIS is required. Your only M.O. now is to have the EIS process costs taxpayers as much money and time as possible as your form of Mutually Assured Destruction. We can only hope if this goes to the courts, that a more reasonable judge is drawn for this EIS determination hearing than the Missing Link got.

    • Of course we want ADA access and the other necessary renovations which were approved by the voters in the Parks and Green Spaces levy. It doesn’t need a 50 foot box on the back to have ADA access.

      Another commenter mentions community-wide benefits. I hope you realize that the public benefits we get at this museum are a lot less than what the public originally signed up for (but public costs are the same; we are paying this private institution to use City property). More information at the web site:

      Others here have made personal comments about me. In turn I assume you anonymous commenters are among the 70 SAM trustees who are pulling out all the stops to push this expansion through the political process?

    • Jonathan…..just let it go, for god’s sake, just let it go. Don’t you have better ways to occupy your time?

  2. I am a frequent Volunteer Park user, and I support the expansion. I’ve read the opposition viewpoint, and I’m not convinced by their objections. In fact, I’m not sure I understand the significant harm to the land or to people.

    I do, however, see significant community-wide benefit from an expanded museum for very little park footprint. I’m disappointed this legal process will delay the expansion.

  3. What a bunch of bigoted neighbors preventing a museum from expanding to show more Indian and SE Asia culture. I wonder how their neighbors who are Indian or from SE Asia feel about this?

    You think they’d have an open mind living in Capitol Hill.

    And all the surrounding houses are $2 mil + yet they have the nerve to ask for financial support?

    • Your uninformed prejudice is overwhelming…. Wonder how their neighbors who are African, N Asian and S. American feel about it.

  4. I am frequent Volunteer Park user and a 20+ year Seattle resident. And I oppose the expansion.

    A museum requires lots of windowless walls and good access to transportation, meaning cars. Thus, having one in a park, where ideally no cars should be allowed, is not a good idea.

    The space behind the current SAAM is as swampy as the rest of the park when it rains. It is not unused because people go there for serenity and to enjoy the huge trees. It is darker than the rest of the park, which is largely owed to the museum.
    An expanded SAM would get very close to the giant trees and would take away from their beauty (as seen in the picture above). An expansion will make the space behind the museum look even darker and more out of balance than it already is.

    As a consequence, in addition to not supporting the expansion, I suggest a complete removal of the museum. Something akin to the old Olmsted Brothers pergola should be re-erected in its place, which will reconnect the “unused” back with the rest of the park (See: I also suggest to only allow service and special-permit vehicles access to the park.

    An expanded SAAM should ideally be constructed in a place with few or no trees, such as downtown, and with good connection to transportation and parking.

    • So let me get this straight. You’re saying since there aren’t enough buses that go directly to the park, that the museum shouldn’t be here and, in fact, no asian museum should be here.

      This is so amazingly ridiculous. It’s not even an argument that’s valid since there is plenty of public transit within walking distance of hte park. Go find a business you love that is being run out of town or demolished, and please actually help sustain something that is being threatened.

    • Your suggestions are ludicrous. SAAM is a beautiful, historic building with an important art collection, and it adds greatly to the overall value of Volunteer Park. Some parking is necessary for those who come from other neighborhoods to access the park.

  5. The public will pay for an expansion that will be used for lots of private events such as parties, weddings, receptions, fund raisers and the like. With the new shell going in and the expansion, the park’s open space is shrinking.

    • the expansion will be used way more for public events, as always. as for the private events…people pay to have those. and that generates more money to run the place.

      ‘…the park’s open space is shrinking…’?!? are you serious? have you ever actually looked at the size of the park, compared to the size of the bandstand and the museum? even if each structure were doubled (which they will not be), you would hardly be able to notice the difference in park open space. together, they make up a tiny fraction of the over all park.

      please, please, someone go for the slippery slope fallacy, where we are told that once the museum expands, then macdonald’s, jamba juice, and starbucks will move in.

      because they won’t.

      because that is silly.

  6. when can I apply to build my own retail business in Volunteer park? I promise to make if free half the time, then quietly eliminate that. Then I’ll apply for an expansion so I can make more money in your park. Lots of free parking, no competition and ‘permanently” protected green space all around me. I’ll get it passed by telling everyone how great my store will be and how “under-used” the park is.

  7. Kids. Do the MATH. You have INFINITELYI bigger issues to spend you time and effort on. This is a SILLY over NOTHING. This part is 48.3 acres, or 2,104,068 SqFt. This expansion is 3,600 SqFt. How much of the park is the museum taking then? Is it 50%? No. Is it 20%? No. Is it 10%? No. Is it 1%? No. It’s 0.17% of the park.

    You’re FIGHTING OVER 0.17% of the park. And not because someone wants to put in an oil finery or seal clubbing factory but an ART MUSEUM which is ALREADY THERE. For CRYING OUT LOUD this is the silliest fight EVER. We have REAL issues to fight, like Donald Trump, genocides, starving children, Syria, we’re still in Iraq and Afghanistan. Having an existing wonderful culture art center expand into 0.17% of a park is a SILLY SILLY SILLY SILLY fight.

  8. The civic benefits are so large, and the physical impact is so small, and the Nimby arguments are so weak, one wonders what is really behind this resistance. Money?

    • It is against the law the Seattle people voted in Initiative 42. How is this a weak argument exactly? You should know what you are talking about before you start spewing out non sense.

  9. So, I was out for a walk in the neighborhood wandering through Volunteer Park on this jaunt. I decided to wander around to the backside of SAAM to see what it was everyone wanted to protect. What architectural features it held compared to the classic art deco entry. What I observed was a large gray wall more reflecting of a penitentiary than the palace of art provided by the main entrance. Yes, there is a bay window scabbed on, but nothing classy. I like the proposal to open up the east side of the building and make it look more like a place where art is exhibited and celebrated rather that a place that looks like art is incarcerated.

  10. hello!,I love your writing very a lot! share we keep up a
    correspondence extra approximately your article on AOL?
    I need an expert in this area to unravel
    my problem. May be that’s you! Having a look forward to peer you.

  11. Superb blog you have here but I was wanting to know if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics talked about here?
    I’d really like to be a part of group where I can get opinions
    from other experienced people that share the same interest.
    If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Bless you!

  12. I’m cuгious to find out ᴡhat blog platform
    yoս have Ƅeen utilizing? I’m having some minor security ρroblems with my lаtest website and I’d like to find
    ѕomething more risk-free. Do уou have any suggestions?

  13. We absolutely love your blog and find nearly all of your
    post’s to be what precisely I’m looking for. Does one offer guest writers to write content
    to suit your needs? I wouldn’t mind writing a post
    or elaborating on most of the subjects you write related to here.

    Again, awesome website!