By Jack Mayne

Sound Transit, wittingly or not, is attempting to take over the newly established Dick’s Drive-In on the east side of Pacific Highway South, technically in Kent but claimed also by the city of Des Moines just across Highway 99. The area under consideration is also the site of the Lowes Home Improvement store and numerous small businesses.

At the same time, Dick’s Drive-In is 65 years old today (Wednesday, Feb. 20)!

Maintenance Yard
Sound Transit wants to make the site of “early scoping for the Tacoma Dome Link Extension.”

“Not so fast,” said a letter to Sound Transit signed by Kent Mayor Dana Ralph, Des Moines City Manager Michael Matthias and Mayor Jim Ferrell of Federal Way.

Putting what amounts to a maintenance and work yard on the area “would be exactly counter to the goals of Kent’s Midway Subarea Plan and incompatible with Des Moines zoning which was modeled on and designed to complement Kent’s Midway vision and would render the visions” not viable, said the letter, which was sent in December.

Mayor Ralph said Kent is waiting for an Environmental Impact Study comment period to finish at the end of March. She said her city “will be submitting comment about how that site does not fit with the vision for Midway or transit oriented development.”

Once the comment period closes, Sound Transit staff will prepare a report and submit that to the board, Ralph said.

“We are hopeful they will make a decision to remove the property from consideration in May or June,” Ralph added.

In the letter to the transit agency, Ralph and Matthias said the two cities (plus Federal Way) have “been working closely with Sound Transit for many years now to prepare South King County for light rail and catalyze the transformation of this part of the Sound Transit district” and now it is “imperative” that Sound take the Midway area “clear guidance regarding appropriate uses as one of the topmost criteria” and “support efforts to rehabilitate a regional dumping ground into a regional success.”

That means the transit agency should “remove the site encompassing Lowe’s and Dick’s Drive-In” from the transit plans “and not pursue” through the review process.

In January, Dick’s Drive-In executive vice president and granddaughter of the founder Dick Spady, outlined concerns about the Sound Transit threat to the new restaurant by the potential of an operations and maintenance facility.

The Kent City Council in January passed an ordinance prohibiting transit operations and maintenance facilities on these properties and specifically allow them on the Midway Landfill site to the south.

Dick’s is 65
Dick’s Drive-In opened its first location on Feb. 20, 1954. An ad from that time trumpeted 19-cent hamburgers and “instant service.”

Sixty-five years ago today, the new burger joint opened on East 45th Street in Wallingford and changed the Seattle food landscape forever, said a story in The Seattle Times. At the time, Dick’s Drive-In advertised itself as “Seattle’s most unique and fascinating self-service drive-in,” offering burgers, malts and fries at “unbelievable prices.”

“Not much has changed. Well, except those prices,” the Seattle Times said, adding the “chain is so woven into our area’s history that it’s been the backdrop for a music video by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and the city seemed to enter a mourning period on social media when founder Dick Spady died in 2016.

Scott Schaefer

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