Open Letter from Community Leaders Calling for Council Delay and Review of Pending Multi-Million Dollar South Lake Union Land Sale Involving City and Vulcan-Owned Properties 

(for more information contact 632-0668 or Signatories)


- And a call for hearings and re-establishment of the Public-Private Partnership Review Committee to review pending plans


April 26, 2004


Seattle City Councilmembers

2nd Floor Muncipal Building

600 4th Avenue – 2nd Floor

Seattle, Wa. 98104


Dear Councilmembers:


As activists and community leaders, it has recently come to our attention that the Mayor’s Office, Seattle City Light, and Vulcan Inc. are very close to completing a major land transaction involving millions in city funds and the sale of city-owned land in South Lake Union. Conversations we have had with City staff, and documents we have examined (including attached documents) make it clear that negotiations are nearing completion involving possible re-purchase by the City of some or all of the properties along Mercer only recently sold to Vulcan in 2001.  This transaction also appears to include an exchange of properties whereby Vulcan would transfer parcels now under its control to the City of Seattle for construction of a city light substation in the area.  Vulcan may also be given the right to joint use of the site where a substation would be located.


We are very concerned that the public’s interest is not being adequately represented in these negotiations and that decisions are being made prematurely and behind closed doors which will then be presented after the fact to the Council precluding an opportunity either for public comment or Council involvement in the process. 


In so far as these negotiations also involve re-purchase of sites along Mercer Avenue that the City only recently sold to Vulcan, we have reason to worry about significant losses that the City may be incurring due to this exchange – first selling these properties cheap only to buy them back at inflated values.  Given that re-purchase of these sites is only necessary if the City’s proceeds with the Mayor’s  planned 200 million dollar expansion of the Mercer Corridor, this also looks like an attempt to solidify these plans before they have been approved or even reviewed by the Council and before the public has had any opportunity to weigh in.  No such transfer or sale involving these properties should occur before completion of an EIS or Council approval of a Mercer Plan, and certainly not before the deal is vetted fully by the Council, the community, and the public-private partnership review panel.


We are writing to call on Councilmembers to play a direct and active role in the process of these negotiations in order to ensure that the community’s interests are fully represented.  As part of your role, we urge you to immediately insist on a briefing with the Mayor’s office and to hold public hearings, when appropriate, so the public may comment prior to the final stages of these negotiations. Also, as stated above, no agreement should be reached at all on any deal involving re-purchase of Mercer sites before EIS review and Council approval of a Mercer Street Corridor expansion. We also urge you to reconvene the public-private partnership review panel so that this body may have an opportunity to review and comment before these transactions are finalized.  This would seem especially appropriate given the amount of city funds and resources at stake in these negotiations and given the fact that this citizen panel formerly did play a role and commented on the City’s original sale of these parcels to Vulcan in 2001. 


We also understand that a parking garage for South Lake Union may also be in the mix and have provided documents to this effect suggesting that such a structure may involve joint Vulcan-City ownership and/or use.  We also have documents indicating one option being considered for the substation site would involve a partnership with Vulcan similar to the Nordstrom Parking Garage deal.  As you know, it was widespread public indignation over financial losses to the City accompanying the Nordstrom arrangement that prompted creation of the public-private review panel in the first place.  This is all the more reason why these South Lake Union deals should be thoroughly aired and weighed by the Council.


We have attached relevant documentation that we believe confirms these negotiations are occurring and likely reaching conclusion.  We urge you to look it over and please adopt the recommendations in our letter.  Thank you for your consideration.


Signatories Include:

(Please note that these community leaders are not signing on behalf of their community organizations.  They are signing on only as individuals and in some cases as members of the Seattle Displacement Coalition.  We have listed the community in which they reside and in some cases a city-wide affiliation but for ID purposes only.  Those with an asterisk next to their names also are members of the CrossTown Coalition Steering Committee) 


Mathew Fox     University District Resident *

John McLaren Displacement Coalition

Jeannie Hale    Laurelhurst Resident *

David Bloom    University District Resident

John V. Fox     Displacement Coalition *

Joe Martin        Displacement Coalition

Jan Brucker      Northgate/Licton Springs *

Carolee Colter  Southeast Seattle Resident *

Vishaka Smith  Seattle Resident

Christine Lea    Cascade Resident *

Joyce Moty      Mount Baker Resident *

Lisa Merki        Pritchard Beach Resident *

Gary Clark       Capitol Hill Resident *

A. Malaika Lafferty      Cascade Resident

Irene Wall           Phinney Ridge Resident *

Kent Kammerer   Ballard Resident *

Rick Barrett         Haller Lake Resident *

Phil Bereano        Southeast Seattle Resident

Salley Kinney      Seattle Resident

Candi Wilvany   Cascade Resident

Earl J. Bell         Univ. Heights Resident

Lloyd Douglas     Cascade Resident

Scott Species      Cascade Resident

John F Dodd       West Seattle Resident *

Matrea O’Hora   Cascade Resident

Curt Firestone     Seattle Resident

Ann Donovan  Capitol Hill Resident

Chris Leman    Eastlake Resident

Rich Hangartner  Seattle Resident

Susan Tillet         Seattle Resident


Attached City Documents (in order) supporting our concern and call for involvement by the City Council and Public/Private Partnership Review Panel:

Note we have added our own brackets to highlight key quotes in these documents related to pending land sales/swap, the status of a proposed parking garage, amounts of city funding involved, and other relevant material. Taken together these documents tell us that a land sale/swap is imminent involving possible re-purchase of sites along Mercer (where a City-Vulcan parking garage may also be created), and involving acquisition and possible joint use of a site where a substation will be located.  This deal (or deals) involve several million dollars worth of city funds and or land the City currently owns.  Documents we have found (see attachments 19 and 20 below showing City Light timeline) indicate that a purchase of a substation site is likely occurring now.  These documents also make it clear that negotiations over parcels along Mercer are also going on now and likely nearing completion. Also, these doc’s indicate a possible value of City Light’s purchase at 9-13 million dollars – well above a threshold for activation of the public-private partnership review panel.  The documents in order are:


1.  April 20, 2004, Matrix taken from last week’s Office of Neighborhood’s                             pp 1-3 

     website, see especially page 3 (top of page) POS 19 identifying “on-going”

     plans for parking garage and implementation of a plan for disposition of

     properties along Mercer.  Karen Tsao from Fleets and Services in charge.


2.  Feb. 2004 Minutes from City’s Interdepartmental Meeting #70) See especially         pp 4-5

     page 4, item 5.2 and 6.1, and 6.2 (in brackets) indicating negotiations underway

     for sale of Parcel 14 and other parcels along Mercer.  Also says that Vulcan

     “will begin working on this”.  These parcels are specifically the former city parcels

      sold to Vulcan in 2001 located along Mercer.  Note also 5.2  references meetings

      with property owners over possible sites identified for substation


3.  November 2004 city document listing SLU planning team members.  Doc’               pp 6-7

     identifies Karen Tsao in charge of “Parcel 14 negotiations and in charge

     of parcels 3, 4, 6, 7, 12, and 13.  This is work that is on-going. 


4.  Oct 27 2003 minutes of inter-departmental planning team indicating on-going                        pp 8-9

     negotiations and work on parcels 14 and other parcels along Mercer (see

     bracketed materials on p. 9 especially


5.  June 27, 2003 memo from Elizabeth Anderson of Public Utilities to Eric Tweit          p 10

     of SDOT saying that “the property trades being considered along Valley, Fairview

     and Boren are significant …” 


6.  April 16, 2003 memo from Mercer Planning Team to Eric Tweit of SDOT        pp 11-16

     (see especially bracketed material on pp’s 14 and 16) indicating planning

     for parking garage is on-going


7.  Sept 19, 2000 document from Sue Walsh of City Light.  Even back then                  p. 17

     there was talk of a possible City/Vulcan joint use of site to be purchased

     for substation


8.  Nov. 13th 2000 memo from Bob Klug SCL indicating “we talked about possible      p. 18

     co-location of the substation…inside Vulcan properties”


9.  Oct. 24, 2002 Meeting Notes from meeting between City and Vulcan                              pp 19-21

     representatives (see especially bracketed materials indicating plans for

     Vulcan City joint use and operation of a substation site also developed

     for Vulcan purposes).  Discussion here also of sites identified for purchase

     and development of this joint use project.  Vulcan playing instrumental role

     even ‘taking the lead’ on purchase of one of the sites


10. Nov. 20th 2002 SCL meeting notes indicating level of cooperation between City   pp. 22-23

      and Vulcan on purchase and development of a site for substation


11. Oct. 2nd 2002 memo from City Light discussing how joint use could work for                      pp. 24

      tax purposes – this arrangement is identical to the Nordstrom’s parking garage



12.  October 21, 2002 memo from Michael Clark to City Light indicating that               p 25

       they are investigating examples elsewhere of “multi-use” substations and

       how this could work in South Lake Union


13.  October 8, 2002 SCL memo (see bracketed materials), discussing the possibility    p. 26

       of using Nordstrom-Like financing model “Vulcan decide to help us acquire the

       property and build the substation as a turn-key project


14.  Thomas Carr memo to City Light showing how financing works under the          p. 27-31

       Nordstrom-Like model


15.  Dec. 3rd 2002 memo from Bob Klug of SCL to City Light team members          p 31

       informing members of the team of upcoming meeting with Jay Reich of

       Preston Gates, Cindy Evans (Howard S. Wright), and John Finke of National

       Development to discuss financing model for a joint use substation site.  John

       Finke was the consultant who packaged the Nordstrom Deal. 


16.  November 5, 2003 memo from Carol Everson to Alec Fisken and Michael Mann   p. 32

       informing them that Vulcan’s most recent land purchase was higher than expected

       “above the level assumed for SLU sub purchase…that might add something to

       the cost….we should be moving fairly quickly”.


17.  March 2004 PowerPoint presentation to City Council Energy Committee indicating   p 33-34

       indicating they are pursuing joint use on substation site.  See especially bracketed

       bullets on p. 34


18.  Summary of Council’s Bill approving original 2001 sale of it’s properties along        p. 36

       Mercer to Vulcan.  See bracketed para’s indicating that the City would come back

       later and engage in planning with Vulcan for a joint use parking garage whereby

       Vulcan would develop it and the city would have the right to lease spaces (at a cost

       of $30,000 per stall).  Note doc


19.  Nov. 4 2003 timeline obtained from City Light (see circled items) indicating that      p. 37-38

       in the 1st Qtr 2004 decisions will be made regarding future of land in SLU for

       future substation and early in 2nd Qtr “determine and secure land cost for SLU



20.  Handwritten timeline from City Light affirming that City Light is closing in on            p 39

       purchase of a site for substation


21.  Handwritten notes obtained in a disclosure request to Heidi Wills Office                  p. 40

       - a meeting in 2002 apparently between Wills and City Light rep’s

       indicating that purchase of a 60,000 sq. ft. substation represents one-tenth

       the cost of the substation (estimate at about 100 million dollars).  Also handwritten

       note at bottom of page say a $9-$13 million cost)



Two copies of all 40 pages of city documents referenced in this appendix and in order will be given to Geri Beardsley of the Council Central Staff as of 3:00PM this afternoon April 28th


Or you may review them by calling 632-0668


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