Archived City Bulletins & Press Releases From 2004:
click on here to jump directly to each story/issue:
7. Response to U-District Chamber’s rant about the “bums” taking over the new benches on the ‘Ave’ - and other thoughts about conditions on the ‘Ave’. Yes there are problems on the ‘Ave’ but the buck stops at the door of Chamber leadership not the homeless! (Summer 2003:)
9. Council Votes to Delay South Lake Union Resolution One Week - You missed good political theatre! Vote delayed on turning S. Lake Union into Paul Allen's playground (for one week) - First they vote down a delay, then they vote for a delay.....I've seen it all now (Mon, 02 Jun 2003)
10. Councilmember Conlin Ignores Neighborhood Concerns - Sides with Paul Allen and gives his support to biotech rezones for South Lake Union (October 2003)
Lawsuit Blocking Rainier Vista Demolition Settled – Citizens Win Major Concessions!
"SHA Policy That Would Have Excluded Low Income Seniors from 1000 Senior Housing Bond Units is Suspended! Neighborhood and Resident Concerns Also Addressed!"
for immediate release - see below for contacts:
Friends of Rainier Vista, and the Seattle Displacement Coalition, and two residents from the Rainier Vista Public Housing Community today signed a binding agreement in federal court with the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA), City of Seattle and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) bringing to an end a lawsuit that recently halted SHA’s federally-funding HOPE VI redevelopment of the Rainier Vista Garden Community. According to the plaintiffs, as a result of “significant concessions” offered to the plaintiffs, the injunction granted recently by the federal courts blocking SHA's HOPE VI Redevelopment Project will be lifted. SHA’s demolition of the existing 481 housing units may now proceed as early as this Thursday but only under terms of this settlement assuring significant levels of added mitigation for neighbors, tenants, and housing advocates.
In a legally binding settlement filed with the federal courts, Plaintiffs have won significant concessions including Very low income tenants living on site at Rainier Vista won assurances that they will have the right to return to homes of comparable quality and size in the redevelopment, that rents in the on-site and off-site replacement housing will be held to no more than 30% of tenant income, that units will be targeted to families with household income of no more than 30% of median income, and that the density will be limited to 1010 units, and that a minimum of 310 of the new units would be public housing units serving very low income families.
While SHA made some of these above commitments earlier when they were incorporated into the Rainier Vista Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the city and SHA (signed October 2001). But, advocates and residents say that Rainier Vista MOA was not truly enforceable. As was the case with the Holly Park HOPE VI project, every time SHA wanted the City Council to amend that MOA reducing SHA’s requirements and obligation to replace housing, the City Council readily amended the agreement. Now, under this settlement signed today, it truly binds SHA and city, and all plaintiffs now can aggressively enforce in federal court all mitigation requirements
In what is perhaps the most unique feature of this agreement, the Displacement Coalition secures from SHA, a binding commitment to suspend for at least another nine months (Sept. 30, 2003) – all changes in rents, how they fill vacancies, and all other policy changes on units created under the Senior Housing Bond Program (SSHP). SHA was slated on January 21st to raise rents above very low income thresholds and deny access to poor seniors on all 1000 units even though this program was intended for this group when drawn up and approved by voters in 1981. The axe will not fall on low in seniors on January 21st now thanks to this settlement and we and seniors now have time a come up with alternatives that will save this program for the poorest in our city. SHA has also committed to working with seniors, the Coalition, and the City to come up with alternatives that will permanent guarantee access to this low income group.
Plaintiffs also secured a commitment from SHA to set-up a citizen advisory group that will have formal authority to make recommendations on all development/demolition/plans affecting 500 public housing units at Yesler Terrace – that last public housing project not yet destroyed or “HOPE Vied” by SHA, located just E. of downtown.
Plaintiffs also won provisions to enforce mitigations for impacts of construction on the neighborhood, to replace certain mature trees slated for destruction with large trees instead of small saplings, to study traffic volumes and plan mitigations at key intersections, and to create a Citizen Review Committee with representatives of neighbors, Rainier Vista residents, developers and the local business community.
The City will also pay all plaintiff’s attorney’s fees.
For more information contact
John Fox, Seattle Displacement Coalition, 632-0668, email@example.com
Carolee Colter, Friends of Rainier Vista, 723-4040, firstname.lastname@example.org
Houng Tran, NW Justice Project representing tenants on site, 464-1519
Coalition Bulletin: Millions in State, County, and City Funds Could Be Drained Away If Legislature Passes "TIF" Law Date: Mon, 03 Feb 2003 18:02:50 -0800
Pending "Tax Increment" or "Edge" Financing Is Opposed by Over 50 Community Leaders (See their attached letter for more details) –
“Taxpayer Dollars Intended for Basic Services and the State’s General Fund Will Be Taken to Pay for Private Speculative Development such as Paul Allen's South Lake Union Development Plans and Boeing's Plans in Renton. We’ll have to make up the difference with cuts in city programs or pay additional taxes.”
for more information, contact 632-0668 or e-mail us at this address
Please call or e-mail your legislators ASAP to urge them to vote against HB 1281
Literally millions of dollars each year could be drained away from our City, County, and State's General Fund to Pay for Corporate Redevelopment such as Paul Allen's South Lake Union Plans. Help us put a stop to this developer giveaway!
The Details You Need:
Under House Bill HB 1281 and it companion Senate Bill SB 5364 - pushed primarily by corporate lobbyist from the Seattle area such as Boeing and Paul Allen - local governments would be allowed to divert (or rather raid) ever increasing portions of their tax base for the primary purpose of subsidizing large corporate developer schemes. Under this 'TIF legislation', a city or county could draw boundaries of any size around whole neighborhoods, then freeze at current levels the amount of tax money from these areas that go into the general fund. Any additional tax collections in TIF districts for an indefinite number of years - for 15, 25, or more years, would be skimmed off and used to subsidize large redevelopment schemes such as Paul Allen’s current multi-million dollar plans at South Lake Union. In fact, that is primarily who this legislation is being drawn up to serve.
Worse, the bills also sneak in (as a pilot program) a set of provisions called “edge financing” to allow cities to increase sales tax rates. These increased sales tax rates would be implemented city-wide, not just within the TIF district, and could remain in place for up to 25 years to cover costs of redevelopment within the TIF district. All other neighborhoods outside the TIF district would pay higher taxes and receive nothing in return. To top it off, these added sales tax revenues would be accompanied by a commensurate reduction in sales tax revenues going into the State's coffers needed to pay for the state's basic needs such as transportation, education, and healthcare. Funds earmarked for the State coffers would be drained at the very time we are facing huge funding deficits.
Twice in the last 20 years, the Courts have struck down earlier versions of Tax Increment Financing, but the mechanism is extremely lucrative for developers seeking taxpayer dollars to fund their projects. Seattle taxpayers turned back an attempt to use TIF to pay for the Commons in the mid-90's and the Courts ruled unconstitutional an attempt to use it in Spokane in the mid-90's. It is inconceivable that the State would even consider such a mechanism in light of these constitutional issues and in light of growing budget deficits at the State and City level which would only go up as a result of TIF.
Below is a full copy of the text of the letter with signatories forwarded to all state legislators this afternoon: (only the Coalition is responsible for the alert posted above - everything below was signed by over 50 community leaders identified accompanying the statement) The material also provides more details you may need to know before you call your legislators. Please do so.
Coalition is responsible for writing - text below signed by over 50 community leaders):
Open Letter From Community Leaders to Our Legislators
Please Say ‘NO’ to “Tax Increment” or “Community Redevelopment” Financing
‘NO’ to Senate Bill 5364 and House Bill 1281”
“Our Taxpayer Dollars Intended for Basic Services and the State’s General Fund Will Be Taken to Pay for Private Speculative Development. We’ll have to make up the difference with cuts in city programs or pay additional taxes.”
As Seattle community leaders we are writing to strongly urge you to vote ‘No’ on passage of HB 1281 and SB 5364 to authorize use of “tax increment” or “community redevelopment” financing across Washington State. With passage of this measure, local governments would be allowed to divert (or rather raid) ever increasing portions of their tax base for the primary purpose of subsidizing large corporate developer schemes.
Under this TIF legislation, a city or county could draw boundaries of any size around whole neighborhoods, and then freeze at current levels the amount of tax money from these areas that go into the general fund. Any additional tax collections in TIF districts would be skimmed off and used to subsidize large redevelopment schemes such as Paul Allen’s current multi-million dollar plans at South Lake Union. Over time as more of a city or county’s lands are roped off and turned into TIF districts, more and more future tax revenues are drained away. In states where this funding mechanism is allowed, TIF districts have proliferated, sometimes draining away as much as 20 percent of a jurisdiction’s revenues. After these tax dollars are diverted, local governments are forced to either impose new taxes or tax increases or cut back on police, fire, housing, and human service programs
TIF’s supporters say that TIF encourages redevelopment in “blighted” areas where such growth would not otherwise have occurred (paid for by a portion of the future tax revenues generated by those improvements). In this way, it is alleged brand new taxes and jobs are created. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since the boundaries of a TIF district are not limited in size under the current bill, the experience in states allowing TIF indicates that localities tend to draw these boundaries large and amoebae-like reaching out to explicitly cover areas where growth is already planned and would have occurred anyway, with or without the improvements paid for by TIF financing. TIF improvements account for only a small amount of new tax revenues generated in these TIF districts, yet all new taxes generated by growth occurring anyway in these areas gets diverted from the general fund - for 15, 25, 40 years (HB 1281 and SB 5364 provide no limit on the length and term taxes can be diverted for TIF improvements). In fact, it is necessary to avoid blighted areas when using TIF because these areas don’t generate enough new taxes to cover the cost of TIF funded improvements.
TIF is not some magical source of brand new revenue as its supporters pretend. There is no such thing. Government has just one source of money— our tax dollars. Tax Increment Financing is almost always linked to new bond debt—so legalizing TIF is like giving a new credit card to local government. Here in Seattle, we’re already saddled with millions in debt. But, just like when you get a new credit card, the bill eventually must be paid from the same pot of money – the general fund. TIF programs make paying the bills for generous developer subsidies the top priority for city funds—everyone else will have to wait in line.
Proponents of TIF say that its use merely freezes general fund tax collections at current levels. This year’s city budget contained severe cuts in social service and housing programs, yet total city spending actually rose by 2 percent. The spread of
TIF could make this sort of budget slashing an annual event.
As stated above, the current bill (HB 1281 and SB 5364) allows cities and counties to divert nearly all increases in future city tax revenues—property and sales taxes—generated in the TIF district to pay for redevelopment within those areas. The bill also sneaks in (as a pilot program) a set of provisions called “edge financing” to allow cities to increase sales tax rates. These increased sales tax rates would be implemented city-wide, not just within the TIF district, and could remain in place for up to 25 years to cover costs of redevelopment within the TIF district. Re-stated, the added tax revenues generated from this city-wide sales tax would be used exclusively to pay for those developer-hatched schemes occurring within the ‘TIFFED’ area. All other neighborhoods outside the TIF district would pay higher taxes and receive nothing in return.
Under the provisions of this pilot program, these extra tax funds for TIF districts will be offset by reductions in the sales taxes collected by the state. The state’s paramount funding responsibility is education, and this provision would mean less money for K-12 education and our underfunded state universities. Instead we wind up subsidizing projects like Paul Allen’s redevelopment of S. Lake Union that displace renters and small businesses. Do we really intend to rob our school children to pay Paul (Allen)?
While these specific provisions of the bill are presented as a four-year pilot project—including a cap on the amount of state tax revenues that can be diverted to TIF projects—it is clearly a mechanism that developers hope to expand in the future. And by capping the amount of state funds that can be removed annually under this test program – with corporate high rollers from Seattle who crafted the bill poised and ready to use it – it’s a virtual certainty that Seattle will get the lion’s share of state revenue destined for TIF projects. And, as a consequence, Seattle will suffer the most ill effects.
We cannot afford tax increment or community development financing! Please vote ‘NO’ on HB 1281 (and SB
(Names have been typed in with permission of signatories – any affiliations listed below are for identification purposes only and
do not reflect position of that organization)
John Fox, Coordinator
Seattle Displacement Coalition
The Rev. David Bloom
Juan Jose Bocanegra
Downtown Human Service Council
Former Chair King County Democrats
Ryan Vancil, Esq.
Bricklin, Newman, Dold, LLP
Friends of Rainier Vista
Center for Social Justice
Barbara Phinney, RN
American Federation of
Government Employees Local 3197
Paul Rogat Loeb, Author
Soul of a Citizen: Living with
Conviction in a Cynical Time
Margaret S. McClure
South Lake Union Resident &
Community Action Network
Free Speech Seattle
Community Action Network
Pike Place Market Neighborhood
Freedom Socialist Party
As a group
Mary Lou Barian
Harry B. Cornwell Jr.
A. Malaika Lafferty
More details on TIF and how it destroys municipal tax bases:
As currently drawn, HB 1281 (and SB 5364) amends and expands upon existing state TIF legislation approved in 2001. A city or county draws boundaries of any size and shape creating a “TIF” district. Then it sells bonds to finance redevelopment plans it wants to undertake or encourage in that area. Thereafter, all but 25% of new property taxes generated in that area normally going to the City and 100% of all new sales tax revenues generated within that area that would otherwise go to the City’s general fund are “diverted” and instead used to pay off the bonds. In effect, future tax revenues wind up subsidizing redevelopment plans for that given area.
To top it off, this bill also adds new provisions called “EDGE” financing that allow cities actually to raise sales tax rates city-wide to generate revenue exclusively for redevelopment within a TIF district. Taxpayers city-wide wind up footing the bill for distant improvements that do not serve their neighborhood at all. Worse, the amount of revenue generated from the increased city-wide sales tax to pay for the TIF redevelopment is then deducted from the amount of sales taxes the state would normally collect from that City. Precious limited state funds for state needs for up to 25 years are in effect diverted to pay for special interest driven projects in Seattle, Renton, and other larger cities with the expertise and resources necessary to package a TIF proposal while small cities and the rest of the state see reductions in the state’s coffers. Does this make sense at a time the State is desperate for resources to meet state needs?
Since HB 1281 places no limits on the life of the bonds, it means that for 15, 25, 40 years, forever – all these future sales and property tax revenues within the TIF district will be taken out of our city’s general fund. (As stated above, the bill does set a 25-year limit on the length of time a city-wide sales tax increase can be imposed with commensurate reduction in the state’s sales tax revenues over that period to cover costs of redevelopment in a TIF district - but no limit is set on the amount of time that increases in property and sales tax revenues can be diverted from within the TIF district itself to pay for redevelopment).
Once legalized, as we have seen in state after state, TIF districts proliferate as more and more of a city’s area is effectively taken off the tax rolls. In places like Minneapolis as much as 20 percent of their city’s general fund is taken to pay for developer schemes funded through creation of TIF districts. Cities depend on the property tax to cover about 25 percent of heir general fund expenses and their sale tax revenue to cover about 30 percent of their general fund expenses. Over time, as more and more increments of new taxes are pulled away to pay for large developers pet projects it becomes an enormous drain. If TIF had been implemented in ’95 as planned, here in Seattle, we could easily have seen as much as 10 percent of future sales and property taxes diverted from ’97 to 2002 out of our general fund and into the hands of developers like Paul Allen. That would have amounted to approximately 12 million in sales tax revenue and 15 million in property tax revenues taken from the general fund with 8 million of that total taken out of the 2002 city budget.
While TIF-funded improvements effectively generate some growth (and hence tax revenues), it’s not enough by itself to even cover the cost of the TIF improvement. It’s the taxes generated by other projects and growth normally occurring in the TIF District that pays the rest of that cost. Meanwhile, the growth that has occurred makes more demands on the city’s dwindling resource base. TIF simply depletes sources of tax revenue needed to address those impacts.
TIF’s by their nature are not used in blighted areas – blighted areas are too unstable to guarantee risk free investment by bond purchasers. They are areas unlikely to generate enough new tax revenues to cover the cost of the TIFF-financed improvements in that area, meaning Cities can’t guarantee the bonds that must be sold to support the TIF funded improvements. TIF’s are always used in growing areas and depend on capturing tax value that would have been generated anyway by other projects in these high growth areas. It’s merely a scheme designed to pass on the cost of growth to the public rather than paid for by the developers who directly benefit.
For example, Paul Allen owns 30-40% of the land in S. Lake Union in Seattle. He has grand plans for expansion of biotech industry in that area. That neighborhood and Seattle as a whole already are growing areas. He’s already receiving millions in indirect and direct subsidies from state and local government. The City has also waved numerous zoning requirements to accommodate his plans and sold him city land at rock bottom rates after upzoning that land to ensure he’ll maximize his return.
He wants to attract biotech to that area – an industry that already is receiving millions in state and federal tax breaks. Why should we pay an additional subsidy in the tens of millions of dollars (in the form of tax increment financing) for “improvements” to S. Lake Union aimed at encouraging his redevelopment plans. Our tax dollars are diverted to pay for these improvements, further saddling us (the taxpayers) with the cost of mitigating the impacts of all that new growth on our community. And, to top if off, as TIF Districts begin to proliferate in our city – we’ll have less and less in our city’s general fund to pay for it.
TIF is Unconstitutional:
Many acknowledge that the TIF law passed by the State in 2001 law is probably unconstitutional since there have been no less than two Supreme Court decisions over the last 20 years striking down earlier versions of the same law. (See especially
Leonard v. Spokane, 127 Wn. 2d 195 (1995)) This year’s bills (HB 1281 and SB 5364) amend the 2001 law allowing cities to subsidize large corporate development schemes in TIF districts – paid not only from increased property taxes but also new sales taxes generated in the TIF district. In addition, the law sets up a pilot program allowing cities to increase their sales tax rate city-wide using these new revenues solely for improvements in the TIF district. These changes do not overcome the constitutional problems associated with TIF and, in fact, compound them. The new bill will not stand-up to state constitutional muster because of the inherent inequity of the mechanism. One group of city taxpayers will see their increased tax dollars paying for basic services, schools, and other state and local needs while another group of taxpayers will see their increased tax dollars go for the likes of Paul Allen’s redevelopment plans. That inequity is what the courts have said violates equal taxation clauses in the State Constitution.
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The Story of the Lillian Apartment Demolition in South Lake Union – the “Seattle Way” of catering to special interests and why we need new leadership at City Hall Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2003 11:31:09 -0800
Developers can scream all they want about “over-regulation” and red tape down at DCLU. But in the case of the Lillian, the only excessive intervention we saw consisted of a systematic catering to Allen’s needs as well as a generous re-working of code requirements aimed at ensuring demolition of the building. Ms. Sugimura played a direct role in the handling of this case not only as acting director of DCLU but also in her capacity of deputy director in charge of code inspection – dual positions she has been handling since the beginning of 2002.
Here’s a little true story about DCLU and Ms. Sugimura’s handling of the Lillian demolition.
At a DCLU hearing held last Summer, 2002, DCLU code inspectors acknowledged they met with Vulcan representatives in April of 2002 at the Lillian Apartments when the building was still occupied. Videos of the building taken by residents at that time and submitted for the record show a decent structurally sound building with all systems in place.
One month later in May, 2002, after Vulcan vacated the building, DCLU undertook a formal inspection of the building. By then the interior of the building had been laid waste. Surrounding neighbors reported that they saw Vulcan representatives carting out heaters, refrigerators, fixtures, you name it, out of the building for at least a month prior to DCLU’s formal inspection. It was obvious to all that Allen’s contractors were moving quickly to gut the building in an effort to obtain a declaration from DCLU that the building was unfit for habitation thus clearing the way for immediate demolition of the building.
Put in place at the request of the community over a decade ago, the City Council adopted regulations barring demolition of low income housing for parking lots and required developers to first obtain permits for a new development on such a site before demolition could proceed. This helped to prevent developers from knocking down low income apartments or prematurely abandoning them when they had no immediate redevelopment plans on the site – something that had become a pretty common practice in Seattle. It also gave communities and city representatives more time to convince an owner, like Paul Allen, that it was in their interest to save these valuable low income structures. The only way Allen could immediately demolish the Lillian was to prove to DCLU that the building was a hazard and uninhabitable. And the only way he could do that was prove that the cost of fixing up the Lillian exceeded 50% of the replacement value of the Lillian.
Code Inspectors waited at least a month after their first visit to the building before they went back in and calculated the cost repairs needed at the Lillian giving Allen time to remove systems in the building. Worse, when questioned at a public hearing held in June, Mathew Moeller, DCLU on-site inspector, indicating that at their April meeting at the Lillian, he actively assisted Vulcan representatives by identifying systems in the building that could be dismantled to obtain a declaration of uninhabitability and immediate order to demolish.
After DCLU’s inspection in May and after the community brought expert testimony to bear indicating that the cost of repairing the Lillian still was reasonable and far less than 50% of the cost of replacing the building – DCLU decided to go back in and do another inspection of the building. That inspection was not undertaken until three months later on August 16th after the owner had removed still more systems, obviously for the purpose of making absolutely sure that the building would be so damaged it met the formal standard of uninhabitability.
In spite of three months of this, experts from the non-profit community still were able to counter that the building could be made habitable at a cost less than 50% of its replacement value. When DCLU released their preliminary estimates, not only had DCLU overestimated costs of repairing the building, they had underestimated by at least a million dollars the cost of replacing the Lillian. They also had completely ignored overwhelming evidence that Allen brought in crews to wreck the building to boost the cost of repairs.
After pondering this issue for another 2-3 weeks, amidst considerable controversy, on September 6th, ignoring the community and Allen’s shenanigans in the building, Diane Sugimura formally declared that the building was uninhabitable and could be demolished. One day earlier, according to memos we obtained through a disclosure request, Ms. Sugimura had extended conversations with Paul Allen’s attorney and one of his lobbyists – a former City Council aid.
The Displacement Coalition was served via regular mail notice of the decision on Sept 9th. According to the land use code, we had 10 days’ from the “date of service….via certified mail” in which to file an appeal to the City’s Hearings Examiner. To confirm this, we spoke directly with three staff at DCLU who all told us that our right of appeal to an order to demolish lasted until Sept. 19th. We filed our appeal on the 18th. Allen’s attorneys promptly challenged our right of appeal arguing that the appeal period really began on the 6th and ended on the 16th, since the 6th was the date Sugimura’s decision actually was “issued”. I and another member of the Coalition responded with affadavits identifying the DCLU staffers who told us the appeal ended on the 19th. Vulcan then went to all three of these staffers (undoubtedly with Sugimura’s approval), and obtained written affidavits denying that they told us we had until the 19th to file the appeal.
On Wednesday, October 9th, the City Hearing Examiner officially rejected our appeal. A few days before that, DCLU went ahead (without notifying those of us who were on record opposing it) and issued the demolition permit and waived environmental review requirements that normally precede demolition permits. How they could issue the demolition permit while a Hearing Examiner appeal was still pending is not clear. On the 9th, after the Hearings Examiner’s decision and with a demolition permit already in hand, Allen began to assemble his wrecking crew and get equipment out to the site of the Lillian. By Friday, crews were busy preparing the building for demolition early Saturday morning. Not until surrounding residents saw the wrecking crew assembling Friday morning, were we alerted to pending demolition. Only after desperate calls to DCLU and the Hearings Examiner did we confirm that indeed our appeal had been dismissed. At no time, did anyone from DCLU alert us to this development. A desperate attempt was made that Friday afternoon by our attorney to stop the demolition but she literally got to the courthouse five minutes after the doors closed - too late for us to attempt to obtain a temporary restraining order. That weekend the Lillian was destroyed.
DCLU gave final clearance for demolition on Friday, knowing that we had not been notified and failed to stop the destruction of the building over the weekend effectively denying us due process and a right of appeal to court. According to the relevant sections of the land use code, any person may file such a petition within 21 days of issuance of the Hearing Examiner's decision. Yet, on Friday, DCLU gave final clearance (before we had even been notified) for demolition to begin over the weekend and long before this 21 day appeal period had expired.
According to the code, an extension of time for compliance with an order may be granted by the Director upon receipt of a written request ….or “The Director may, without a written request, grant an extension of time if in the Director's opinion such an extension is warranted.” Two members of our group had direct conversations with Ms. Sugimura made pleas to the Director to stop the demolition, outlining that our due process had been denied. We were ignored and the building came down over the weekend.
This wasn't just a simple case of the system breaking down - the system was openly and blatantly abused to serve one developer. And this was done under Ms. Sugimura’s charge and direction. We don’t believe this is an exceptional case. The department and Ms. Sugimura routinely preference developer interests over neighborhood and low income housing needs. One need only review her written comments offered to the Council as part of her current confirmation process. When asked to explain how DCLU can better address and prevent opportunities for demolition of low-income, she states:
“Providing and preserving low-income housing is an important goal for the City, but I believe it is primarily in the hands of the Office of Housing, the federal government, the developers and the citizens of Seattle”. …. DCLU has responsibility for administering and enforcing adopted regulations. However, other than for landmark structures, there are no regulations that prevent demolition of low-income housing…. Incentives for creation of more housing are much less risky and more likely to produce the desired results. “
It’s obvious from these comments that she conveniently chooses to ignore the very large role her department does play in regulating and controlling the loss of low income housing in our city. Unfortunately, she seems more interesting in accommodating demolition.
After the Lillian was demolished, the Displacement Coalition did file an appeal in Superior Court to force a remand of DCLU’s decision to issue a demolition permit but, obviously, this was somewhat after the fact. The site by then was a pile of rubble. Nevertheless, we hoped to make an important point, and drag the developer and city through a process that might force the city and developer to provide mitigation – money for replacement housing at comparable rent levels. However, our case was then summarily dismissed. We could have filed an appeal or gone to another court and raised other issues, but the cost of doing so would have been prohibitive. We dropped our court challenge.
We have learned that in the wake of all this, that the City has directed some of the Paul Allen’s Vulcan mitigation money into a Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) low income housing development slated for construction in Cascade. The project would provide low income units for homeless youth and be managed by the Denny Youth Shelter Program. These mitigation moneys were attached as a condition by the City Council for the sale of six parcels of city land located in South Lake Union to Paul Allen early in 2002. We also have heard that Paul Allen is considering donating additional funding for low income housing development in South Lake Union but as of this date, these rumors are not confirmed.
The community also has become better organized and continues to voice its concerns about the redevelopment of its neighborhood. However, they are taking on a steamroller of a political machine that currently had the ear of most of Seattle’s elected officials especially the Mayor. Mayor Greg Nickels, elected two years ago on a platform that included a call for more responsiveness to neighborhoods, the Mayor has proceeded to fully embrace Paul Allen’s plan for South Lake Union. He has also completely ignored the community’s neighborhood plan and development guidelines. The Displacement Coalition remains active in the area and is currently challenging proposed changes to zoning code in South Lake Union drawn up by the Mayor to accommodate Paul Allen’s plan to turn the area into the biotech capitol of the Northwest. This plan is aimed at accommodating five times the amount of growth called for in the neighborhoods plan and growth targets for this area through the year 2020. It would add 10 million square feet of office space and require over one half billion in added infrastructure paid for at public expense. The Coalition will continue to raise concerns until costs and other impacts are assessed and cost sharing mechanisms are put in place to ensure that Paul Allen and other developers pay their fair share of the costs accompanying this staggering level of growth.
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Low Income Housing and Small Businesses Directly Threatened! Future of the U-District is at Stake! Date: Mon, 14 Apr 2003 16:13:39 -0700
Mayor Proposes Lifting "Lease Lid" Allowing Unbridled U of W. Expansion into University District - Vote in committee as early as Wed. the 16th - full Council may Vote Next Monday - Call 'em Today!
While all our attention is turned elsewhere, the Mayor proposes doing away with important growth controls in the U-District defying years of community planning. Please call and tell your councilmembers to oppose wholesale lifting of the "lease lid" which limits U. of W. office and research expansion into the University District. In order to prevent loss of housing and minimize pressure on existing uses in the District, the lease lid was put in place over 20 years ago. Allowing for modest levels of University expansion into selected areas of the District, the lid strikes a degree of balance between neighborhood and U of W. needs. Neighborhood and housing advocates say some limited adjustment to the lid could be made for certain areas of the District so long as these adjustments respect existing community review and approval processes. But wholesale lifting of the lid as the Mayor proposes would destroy many dozens of low income units, displace small businesses, and wipe out a neighborhood planning process that took the community decades to achieve.
Lifting the lid would take us back to the days where community groups were at constant war with the U. of W. In addition to more housing losses, we could also say good bye to the unique mix of first generation ethnic and older establishments along the "AVE" that would no doubt give way to shi shi shops and high end businesses.
The mayor's actions challenge the credibility of the city’s entire neighborhood planning processes. In one fell swoop, the Mayor proposes to wipe away years of neighborhood planning and protections. This is exactly what he is attempting to do in S. Lake
Union - junking that community's established neighborhood's plan in favor of Paul Allen's massive plans for runaway redevelopment, and in Northgate - junking that neighborhood's established growth controls in favor of Simon Properties "max-out" redevelopment plan. In each case, low income housing and small businesses will be displaced and the taxpayers will be left footing the bill for tens of millions of dollars for brand new infrastructure needed to accommodate those plans.
More details below:
The Mayor's call for a wholesale lifting of the lease lid represents a direct attack on the physical and social character of the University District. The lid was established over 20 years ago as a result of endless land use battles between the neighborhood and the University. Enlightened councilmembers and others from throughout the community signed off on it at that time, including U. of W. officials. Until now all parties have assumed that the lid or some version of it would remain in place indefinitely - perhaps adjusted as time required but never eliminated. Before the lid went into effect, hundreds of low income housing units were lost and there was a constant and on-going threat to all other uses in the District. The lid allowed up to an additional 500,000 square feet of new office space and directed most of that new development into the industrial area S. and W. of campus. Even so, some housing continued to be lost over the last two decades - too much. But, the heart of the University District as least was spared due to the lid.
Without a doubt, a total lifting of the lease lid would lead directly and indirectly to the removal of existing low income housing. Older lower density apartments located in commercial as well as higher density residential zones would be lost. Lacking a right of first refusal law or other preventive land use measure, these traditionally lower priced units would be especially susceptible - more so than they already are - to conversion, demolition, and speculative sale. And of course when this happens, it will translate directly into more homelessness in our city and especially right here in the District and on the Ave. How ironic… the same folks from the Chamber of Commerce who scapegoat the homeless and blame them for all that is wrong with the Ave. are the biggest cheerleaders for a policy that will exacerbate the problem.
Various neighborhood activists have correctly pointed out that lifting the lid will only add the District's traffic nightmares and accentuate the jobs-housing imbalance. But few have mentioned that in all likelihood, this proposal will also convince that clique of large property owners who now control most of the Ave. to hold out as some already are for even higher rents on office and retail space. This would lead at least in the short run to even more vacant store fronts and without a doubt it would spell doom for the few remaining longtime businesses and the rich mix of newer first generation ethnic establishments that have become the mainstay of the Ave. But don't expect blame to fall back on those who lifted the lease lid and jacked up the rents…not when we all can point a finger at the homeless and blame them for all our problems.
I'm always amused at how easy it is for the big guys like Paul Allen, and the University to get their proposals to this body and circumvent years of community planning when residents must wait years just to get a stop light or only a minor change in zoning that benefits their community
It took nearly two decades of neighborhood energy and intense struggle with the U of W. often spilling over into large scale and very costly land use disputes - to forge a comprehensive neighborhood plan that now guides University expansion. Central to that planning was adoption of the lease lid, which more than anything, the lid has provided some semblance of peace and predictability for all the parties. It helped strike some balance between the University's insatiable appetite for land and the very real needs of surrounding communities. A revisit or selective adjustment to the lid consistent with existing community processes would likely bring some level of neighborhood approval but a whole sale lifting of the lid will most assuredly take us back to those days of case by case, development by development, all out war. In one fell swoop and with almost no analysis or assessment, the Mayor has called on the City Council to wipe away years of neighborhood planning, just as the Mayor is proposing to do in Northgate and in South Lake Union. As I see it, with this decision and decisions the City Council will soon be making in Cascade and Northgate, the credibility of the City's participatory processes and its credibility with all of Seattle's neighborhoods are what's at stake here. Don't be a party to the Mayor's plan. Don't drive a stake through neighborhood planning. Vote against the Mayor's removal of the lid.
Call you Councilmembers today! For more information, contact 632-0668
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Press Conference Called: Community & Housing Groups Respond to Mayor's Trampling of Neighborhood Plans in S. Lake Union, Northgate, and U-District Thurs. Join Us May 1st 11:00AM Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2003 21:46:33 -0700
You are invited to a press conference this Thurs. 11:00AM May 1st: All community groups and housing advocates are urged to attend to show your support! (Please circulate this flier, if you would like off this list let us know at this address)
Join Us to Protest Mayor Nickel's Trampling of Neighborhood Plans in S. Lake Union/Cascade, Northgate, and the University District.
Mayor seeks to do away with key growth controls in Northgate and U-District, and will ask for over $600 million dollars in public funds to accommodate Paul Allen's Plans for South Lake Union at the expense of resources we need for our neighborhoods. The City's neighborhood planning process is being directly challenged and ignored by our Mayor in these three communities. Community growth controls that took years for these areas to develop that preserve both the physical and social character of their neighborhoods (while still allowing for reasonable levels of growth consistent with the growth management act) are simply being ignored - thrown in the trash bin.. Low income housing and small businesses will be lost as well. If it can happen to these three areas, it can happen to your community. All Community and Housing Activists are Urged to Attend to show your support. Rep's from many community/housing groups will be on hand to present their response (see below for list) so do please join us.
Time and Place: This Thursday, May 1st 11:00AM, 1215 Thomas at site of Cascade P-Patch (just across street and N. of Immanuel Lutheran Church in the Cascade community) - Go directly two blocks W. of the REI Building in the Cascade area which is immediately N. of downtown and directly W. of Freeway.
Groups participating in this press conference include representatives of Northgate community groups including including the Thornton Creek Alliance and Citizens for a Liveable Northgate, University District Community Council, Laurelhurst Community Club, Seatle Community Council Federation, Seattle Displacement Coalition, Cascade Neighborhood Council, and groups from SW Seattle, SE Seattle, and Representatives of several other groups from throughout the City will also be on hand. Please attend to hear the community's response to Nickels usurpation of the community planning process. For more information, 632-0668, or Matt Fox at 527-0648.
Neighborhood and Housing Groups to Speak Out ! Please join us! More details:
Our immediate focus will be to on the Mayor plan to roll back years of community planning and growth controls in the U-District, Northgate, and S. Lake Union. Within the next two weeks, the City Council will take up the Mayor's proposals calling for removal of the lease lid in the University area and removal of Northgate's General Development Planning Requirements. These growth controls allow for reasonable levels of growth while protecting both the physical and social character of these areas. The Mayor also will soon be asking the City Council to authorize funding in excess of 600 million dollars in order to accommodate Paul Allen's plans for an additional 10 million square feet of office space in S. Lake Union – a level of growth 5 times the amount that is called for in that community's neighborhood plan. Allen's plan calls for five times amount of growth anticipated in the S. Lake Union Plan! The amount of public subsidy per job in S. Lake Union will amount to over 40,000-$50,000 per job, well above what the fed's conside a reasonable dollar/job ratio! What about the neighborhoods? What about preserving low income housing?
Councilmembers Licata and Conlin have raised concerns about the Mayor's actions and called on him to subject his plans to review by citizens in these communities as is called for under the Comp plan. The Mayor is effectively ignoring years of neighborhood planning and community participation and his actions constitute a direct threat to the integrity of the city-wide neighborhood planning process. Will the long hard careful work of citizens be overturned as soon as something comes along that the city government, i.e, our Mayor likes better. People who participated in the planning process were led to believe that their work had meaning, and that the plans would be honored. The plans all accounted for some degree of growth but within the context of the reasonable limits and targets growing out of a community process. Not all these plans went far enough in ensuring the neighborhoods interests were addressed but they do provide some measure of protection for community values. Ignoring these plans would be a breach of trust on the part of the city government that we must do our best to prevent. Please join us!
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Testimony: Please vote against the Mayor's Plan to lift the "lease lid" in the U-District 04/10/03
John Fox, Coordinator of the Seattle Displacement Coalition. But I'm really here today wearing two hats…one as the coordinator of the Coalition and the other as a 12 year University District resident and homeowner whose office has been located in the University District for 16 years.
The Mayor's call for a wholesale lifting of the lease lid represents a direct attack on the physical and social character of the University District. Without a doubt, it would lead directly and indirectly to the removal of existing low income housing. Older lower density apartments located in commercial as well as higher density residential zones would be lost. Lacking a right of first refusal law or other preventive land use measure, these traditionally lower priced units would be especially susceptible - more so than they already are - to conversion, demolition, and speculative sale. And of course when this happens, it will translate directly into more homelessness in our city and especially right here in the District and on the Ave. How ironic… the same folks who scapegoat the homeless and blame them for all that is wrong with the Ave. are the biggest cheerleaders for a policy that will exacerbate the problem.
Others from the community have pointed out that lifting the lid will only add the District's traffic nightmares and accentuate the jobs-housing imbalance. But few have mentioned that in all likelihood, this proposal will also convince that clique of large property owners who now control most of the Ave. to hold out as some already are for even higher rents on office and retail space. This would lead at least in the short run to even more vacant store fronts and without a doubt it would spell doom for the few remaining longtime businesses and the rich mix of newer first generation ethnic establishments that have become the mainstay of the Ave. But don't expect blame to fall back on those who lifted the lease lid and jacked up the rents…not when we all can point a finger at the homeless and blame them for all our problems.
It took nearly two decades of neighborhood energy and intense struggle with the U of W. often spilling over into large scale and very costly land use disputes - to forge a comprehensive neighborhood plan that now guides University expansion. Central to that planning was adoption of the lease lid, which more than anything, the lid has provided some semblance of peace and predictability for all the parties. It helped strike some balance between the U-s insatiable appetite for land and the very real needs of surrounding communities. A revisit or selective adjustment to the lid consistent with existing community processes would likely bring some level of neighborhood approval but a whole sale lifting of the lid will most assuredly take us back to those days of case by case, development by development, all out war. In one fell swoop and with almost no analysis or assessment, the Mayor is asking you to wipe away years of neighborhood planning….Just as the Mayor is proposing to do in Northgate and in South Lake Union. As I see it, with this decision and decisions you will soon be making in Cascade and Northgate, the credibility of the City's participatory processes and its credibility with all of Seattle's neighborhoods are what's at stake here. Don't be a party to the Mayor's plan. Don't drive a stake through neighborhood planning. Vote against the Mayor's removal of the lid.
I'm always amused at how easy it is for the big guys like Paul Allen, and the University to get their proposals to this body and circumvent years of community planning when residents must wait years just to get a stop light or only a minor change in zoning that benefits their community.
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Response to U-District Chamber’s rant about the “bums” taking over the new benches on the ‘Ave’ - and other thoughts about conditions on the ‘Ave’. Yes there are problems on the ‘Ave’ but the buck stops at the door of Chamber leadership not the homeless!
Brian Ramey's critique of Theresa Hugel's rant about "bums" taking over the new benches on the Ave. is pretty good. I agree with him that part of the solution lies with adding more amenities and attracting more people to the Ave. It also means addressing issues like University expansion (by limiting it), loss of affordable housing, and displacement of existing small businesses and shops due to excessive rents and other market forces. The problems small businesses face along the ‘Ave’ is only marginally related to the presence of street people - everyone's favorite whipping boy.
The U-District Chamber crowd is by no means representative of all businesses in the District. In the first place, they fail to represent many of the existing small businesses in the area and seem in fact to view them as a detriment, especially the newer first generation immigrant shops and restaurants. Even the older longtime small businesses needs are not well addressed. Most assuredly, lifting the lease lid will spell doom for many of these businesses. These are folks that give the Ave character and diversity and even a "24-hour" quality but the Chamber types act like they could care less.
The Chamber's interests obviously rest with larger property owners, the newer "shi shi"and brik a brak places, chains, and of course the University of Washington. For at least the last decade (and really as long as I can remember), the Chamber clique has continued to scapegoat the homeless, young people, and street community, especially during times when the economy is flat. Storefront closures have more to do with excessive rents and large property owners willing to wait for tenants who will meet their excessive terms. That's especially true now with street improvements nearing completion and the possibility that the City will lift the "lease lid" allowing unbridled office expansion into the neighborhood. Why offer decent terms now when you harbor the notion that you can jack up rates still higher a few months from now.
The Chamber's obsession with the homeless (i.e. getting rid of them rather than addressing their housing or social service needs) has itself been responsible for delays in efforts, improvements, and marketing that could have helped U-District businesses. Typecasting and labeling the homeless is an obsession for this group and they are constantly exhausting energy, time, and resources that otherwise could have gone toward genuinely important and common community goals. The improvements we now are seeing on the Ave for example have been postponed for over a decade or more. Where was the Chamber when the Rice administration made a clear decision to direct city resources to other neighborhood business districts and to explicitly postpone completion of improvements to the Ave (first identified as needed over 25 years ago)?
Throughout the 90's, the Chamber busied itself convening meeting after meeting for the sole purpose of berating the street community. They were busy pushing the no-sitting law and crowding around and even applauding police precinct commanders who promised they'd get tough, including one who said he yearned for the good old days when "I could just beat the crap out of 'em". They were pushing "no-sitting" laws and passing merit awards out to fascists like Mark Sidran and of course taxing themselves in order to add private security forces to the area. All this only did one thing - it has only served to further alienate the street population and drive a deeper wedge between rich and poor in our community.
In spite of a survey of businesses in the District completed in the mid-90's indicating that their biggest problem was high rents and an absence of adequate marketing for current businesses - the Chamber has addressed neither of these concerns over the last decade. They haven't had time. I don't even see the little train in the window of the computer store or decorations and lights at winter time along the Ave. Just a few tattered wreaths tossed over street lights that haven't worked in years. In fact, for the last three years or so, during the winter months, the sidewalk from 43rd -47th has had virtually no lighting.
I remember going down and standing in front of the Rite-Aid store at 5:00 PM last winter (close to where that soul was shot and killed by a police officer (rightly or wrongly) a few days earlier. I could have been standing in a dark tunnel. One wonders if such a tragedy would have occurred had there been proper lighting. What if the Chamber had chosen instead to join forces with residents, social services, and the street community years ago and demand improvements from the City on time and when they were first promised. The Chamber still prefers to spend its time scapegoating the poor and planning strategies to curb panhandling. What an incredible waste of time.
Any dumpiness I see on the Ave has to do with deferred maintenance, the lack of lighting, lack of marketing, lack of fun events (especially in off-seasons), a lack of evening activities (thank goodness for the U-Bookstore, and the small immigrant shops and restaurants that choose to stay open late). Why doesn't the Chamber hold a special event once a month, where all businesses stay open until 9:00 on Thursday evening for example and combine it with art and literature events like they do in Height-Ashbury - a place that has more than its share of street folks but the place is crawling with business, shoppers and night-time activity. These are issues and problems we all need to address but it also reflects a big failure on the part of our local business cognoscenti. It's called misplaced priorities.
Rather than wish for U-Village or Bellevue Square, lets bring rents into line with what this community will support and most of all, lets embrace and yes even market (rather than constantly downgrade) the rich diversity and youth culture that is so much a part of this community. As Mr. Ramey has said, the place to start lies with solutions that bring more people to the "Ave" rather than those which drive away folks and the businesses that are already here. Compare the attitude and actions of the U-Chamber to its counterparts in Fremont and Ballard.
The U-District Chamber crowd cannot get off their kick - blame the homeless - blame the bums which ironically has only served to stigmatize the district. They are their own worst enemies. While there certainly are problems with security in the district, these issues have been grossly inflated. Neither police data nor direct experience (my own and many others) supports the notion that the Ave. is any more dangerous than most business districts in the City. In 15 years of working here and 10 years of living here, not once have I felt unsafe in the U-District.
Perhaps the large property owners that form the nucleus of leadership at the Chamber will never understand it. But the U-District will never become another shi-shi U-Village (thank god). As long as there is a University next to the University District - the Ave. will be a center of alternative and youth culture. It will always be a unique mix of young and old (there are a lot of older folks I see every day on the Ave by the way), rich and poor, student and non-student, office worker and the guy on GAU, and a mix of black and white. That's been the case since I was a teenager in the 60's and spent time on the Ave and then as a student and now a worker and resident. It will never be the exclusive domain of students in letter sweaters wearing beanies and and office workers in suits and ties? That is its strength not it's weakness.
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Important Neighborhood "Summit" Sat. May 31st - Displacement Coalition Urges You to Attend! D ate: Fri, 23 May 2003 14:26:27 -0700
Attention Displacement Coalition Supporters - We urge you to attend this Neighborhood Summit May 31st Sat. 10:00AM - 1:00PM at the Lake Union Armory (see below for details) - No other issue is so important to the future of low income housing and the distribution of wealth in our city than the issues addressed by this summit!
This upcoming neighborhood summit is about neighborhood planning and the right of neighborhoods to have a real say in development that affects them. But the Mayor's trampling of neighborhood plans will also lead to the wholesale destruction of low income housing, gentrification, homelessness, and a growing rift between black and white in our city. No other issue right now is so important to the distribution of wealth and resources in our city than this one. (Displacement Coalition responsible only for comments contained above)
Neighborhood Planning Community Summit May 31st: A Summit to Unite Neighborhood Activists and Volunteers—Protecting and enhancing the integrity of neighborhood planning under the Nickels Administration.
“The results of our 10 year Neighborhood Planning efforts must not get left behind. Residents must continue to have a meaningful role in the development and public policy decisions affecting the physical and social character of our communities."
Date: Saturday, May 31, 2003 Time: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Registration & Refreshments at 9:15 a.m. Place: South Lake Union Armory 860 Terry Avenue North (at Fairview and Terry behind the Burger King near the Mercer Mess) See below for more details:
An Event Sponsored by The Cross Town Coalition and the Seattle Community Council Federation with the participation of the Seattle Displacement Coalition and representatives of numerous other community councils city-wide) For further
information or to register for the Summit, contact Jeannie Hale at 206-525-5135 or mailto:email@example.com or Lisa Merki at 206-982-9775 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
More from Displacement Coalition Explaining Why Our Supporters Should Attend This Summit on May 31st : In recent weeks, Mayor Nickels has tread heavily on neighborhood plans in several of Seattle's neighborhoods. In his quest to accommodate large developers like Paul Allen in S. Lake Union, the U. of W. in the U-District, and Simon Properties in Northgate, the Mayor has quite literally ignored years of neighborhood planning and turned his back on the right of community's to have a real say in the future of their communities. The Mayor's actions threaten not only the physical character of our city, but the social character of Seattle. Quite literally hundreds and hundreds of existing low income housing units in older lower density apartments and townhouses our threatened with demolition, conversion, abandonment, and higher rents due to unbridled growth that could result from the Mayor's wholesale removel of growth controls and neighborhood planning tools.
Contrary to those who would dismiss community council's as NIMBY's, they are our first (if not only) line of defense against the wholesale destruction of our existing affordable housing stock. Gentrification, more homelessness, displacement of longtime residents, pushing poor people and people of color into pockets of poverty in the Southend and outside of the City - these trends will only accelerate if the Mayor has his way and neighborhood plans are swept aside. There are few other issues right now more important to the distribution of economic and political resources in our city than this one. Come and meet your neighbors and fellow activists and help us turn back Nickel's unbridled giveaway to the corporate sector. (Displacement Coalition opinions only in above two paragraphs)
Full text below of announcement of summit from sponsoring groups:
Neighborhood Planning Community Summit:
"Integrity, Engagement and Collaboration in Demanding Times"
* A Summit to Unite Neighborhood Activists and Volunteers—Protecting and enhancing the integrity of neighborhood planning under the Nickels Administration.
“The results of our 10 year Neighborhood Planning efforts must not get left behind. Residents must continue to have a meaningful role in the development and public policy decisions affecting the physical and social character of our communities."
– Cross Town Coalition
Date: Saturday, May 31, 2003
Time: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
(Registration/Check-In/Refreshments at 9:15 a.m.)
Place: South Lake Union Armory
860 Terry Avenue North
(at Fairview and Terry behind the Burger King near the Mercer Mess)
Join neighbors throughout Seattle at this FREE event to learn how you can impact neighborhood planning and/or make a difference in your neighborhood and your city. Learn about the history of neighborhood planning and current obstacles to implementation of the plans. Featured guests include: Seattle City Councilmembers Nick Licata and Richard Conlin.
* Group I: Expand and refine existing review processes for Neighborhood Planning and other Council and Administrative
steps that must be taken to maintain and enhance the role of Neighborhood Planning
* Group II: The meaning of Stewardship: What is representation?
* Group III: Civics 101: Tools for Activists
An Event Sponsored by The Cross Town Coalition and the Seattle Community Council Federation with the participation of the City Neighborhood Council
For further information or to register for the Summit, contact Jeannie Hale at 206-525-5135 or mailto:email@example.com or Lisa Merki at 206-982-9775 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. Refreshments provided.
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Council Votes to Delay South Lake Union Resolution One Week - You missed good political theatre! Vote delayed on turning S. Lake Union into Paul Allen's playground (for one week) - First they vote down a delay, then they vote for a delay.....I've seen it all now! Date: Mon, 02 Jun 2003 19:42:34 -0700
It was certainly one of the most amusing performances I've seen down at City Hall in some time. In fact, I’ve not seen anything quite like it down at City Hall, at least not that I can remember in over 25 years of sitting in on Council debates. Here's what happened:
Compton, Pageler, and Drago all fought for immediate passage of the resolution to turn S. Lake Union into Paul Allen's playground. Before the vote, Licata and Conlin had toiled to get Compton to agree to add language to the resolution addressing some community concerns. Indeed some negotiated language was added into the resolution to address the need for "public involvement with all the stakeholders". In addition, a little more language was added about the need to refer to the Parson's/Binkerhoff Study and pay some more homage to the historic character of the community but all in all the resolution remained little more than a giveaway to Paul Allen. The measure still includes unqualified support for Allen's plans in S. Lake Union, pays no heed to the excessive costs and impacts on our communities, and gives its support to massive Mercer Corridor
Improvements and the allocation of 10's of millions of public dollars for a new substation, water, sewer, and other infrastructure. (When I get a e-copy I will forward the amended version to you all) Compton and at least one other councilmember in fact had no qualms about saying they were cheerleading for biotech in S. Lake Union.
After Compton spoke in favor of immediate passage - others objected including Licata, Steinbrueck and Nicastro. It was pointed out again that even if amendments were made it might be nice to let the community see and comment on them before they were passed. Conlin said he did not support delay in the measure because he was satisfied with the new language that had been added to the resolution earlier in the day as a result of a meeting he had with Compton and Licata (again however the amended language was mushy at best) The vote was 5-4 against delaying passage of the resolution (Will's, Steinbrueck, Licata, and Nicastro supporting delay). Conlin obviously was the pivotal player here.
They then moved into the discussion on the vote itself for or against the resolution. Steinbrueck and Licata continued to raise concerns - Nick saying the community needs to be more involved, Steinbrueck rebutting Pageler, McIver, and Compton's claims that this was only about jobs. “How can you stand in the way of jobs?”, they howled? Steinbrueck pointed out that since 1995 we have seen some 70,000 new jobs created in Seattle, but we've only seen about 13,000 housing units created. This was also about a jobs/housing imbalance and are we only making it worse. Judy said she was hearing two contradictory statements from supporters of Compton's resolution, "First one of you tells us this is just a resolution like others we've passed on this topic earlier and its not that important. Well if its not that important why are you in such a darn hurry to get it passed. Then another of you tell us that it is really important and must be voted on immediately as if something will be lost if we don't act now and before there is time for public comment. So which is it?" Heidi, somewhere in here, decided it was time to jump in and call for amended language calling for improved energy efficiency. After quickly approving that, they got back down to the business of arguing with each other.
Then things got really bizarre. Compton moved to amend his own resolution. He moved to add language to the public participation section that would explicitly bar the City from invoking L-52 (Comp Plan language explicitly calling for additional cost benefit analysis and community review when growth targets are exceeded as they are in S. Lake Union). Steinbrueck quickly objected. Licata objected. Conlin you could see was quite angry and so much as said so - essentially accusing Compton of breaking faith with himself and Licata when they sat down earlier and hammered out some compromise language (that neither supported nor opposed the L-52 process). In a nutshell, the Mayor's office got greedy. After Compton had met and come to agreement with Licata and Conlin...Mary Jean Ryan and Michael Mann of the Mayor's office apparently sweet-talked an unsuspecting (and uninformed) Compton into adding the language explicitly prohibiting implementation of L-52. Well, they overplayed their hand. McIver then jumped up and said "What's L-52....(Heidi said she wanted to know too but she was more polite when she askedt). Everybody looked around for L-52 language. No one had it. Mary Jean Ryan then snapped her fingers and someone from the Mayor's office went running for it. Peter said...this proves my point "we're moving ahead without even a clue about what we are doing". To prove that it didn't bother McIver, he then essentially said so what "this was about jobs and nothing should stand in the way of jobs"....and "Let's get this resolution passed" he bellowed..."If you don't want to promote jobs in S. Lake Union, come on down to my neighborhood". Richard...that's the whole point here. There will be even less money and less of a city commitment for your neighborhood after we pour 800 million of our tax dollars in S. Lake Union. What's going to be left for the Southend Richard?. How many more jobs could we have created in the Rainier Valley if we made even one-tenth the public investement down there that are making for Paul Allen in S. Lake Union?
Judy then pulled one of the nicest "fast ones" I've seen in a long time. Sitting next to Conlin, she moved for reconsideration and another vote on whether or not to delay the vote" Compton then sputtered that you can't do that..."didn't we already vote not to delay" Heidi and Peter pointed out if was perfectly OK for Judy to move for reconsideration since she didn't originally propose the earlier motion for delay. Conlin then announced he was going to support Judy's motion for delay and it passed by a five to four vote. The discussion came to abrupt end and was tabled until next week leaving mouths agape in the audience, even among reporters and us grizzled old activists. And I'd thought I had seen it all. Pageler was so irate she childishly accused the councilmembers of torpedoing jobs provoking even Drago to admonish her that the decision to delay had nothing to do with jobs...it was about whether or not to respect L-52. Drago of course was right (for a change), this was about the right of citizens to have a say in their own government and their own neighborhoods. It's also about the costs and who is going to pay those costs when growth overwhelms our communities.
I will try and get all of you a copy of the newly revised resolution. It's slightly better but still bad. But there is a chance now with the one week delay to improve it still more. Also, most importantly, there is now a chance to insert the L-52 process in this resolution - to actually require the City's departments to do a more thorough assessment (hell any kind of assessment will do) and to require involvement by the community as a pre-requisite for approval of infrastructure, use of our tax dollars, and the zoning that Allen/Vulcan is seeking in S. Lake Union. Conlin even said at one point...that's what he was now going to seek. If this is true it means Heidi could become a swing vote. Let's all call Heidi and tell her L-52 will make our city more energy efficient.
Call or write your councilmembers today especially Heidi, Conlin, Steinbrueck, Judy, and Nick. Urge 'em all to add L-52 language today!! Stay tuned for the next edition of "My Day at City Hall".
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Councilmember Conlin Ignores Neighborhood Concerns - Sides
with Paul Allen and gives his support to biotech rezones for South Lake Union
- This community activist's response:
and why the rezones should be delayed at least until their impacts are fully assessed and tools are built into the process
to ensure that developers share in the costs of this runaway growth!
In a recent written response to neighborhood activists concerned about Paul Allen's biotech rezones in South Lake Union, Richard Conlin - the neighborhood guy - has said that "on balance" rezoning South Lake Union to accommodate 10 million additional square feet of biotech development (and accompanying office space) will have "no significant negative impact" on our city. Conlin also says that reducing the parking requirements for biotech also "could be beneficial" to the community. Below is my reaction to Mr. Conlin's smooth dismissal of the costs and impacts of runaway biotech development in South Lake Union.
The full text of his letter follows my comments.
When arguing these rezones will have no significant impact, Conlin, has drawn verbatum from arguments made by the
City's Department of Construction and Land Use (DCLU). DCLU currently is fending off the Displacement Coalition's appeal to the hearings examiner of a decision by DCLU not to require a full environmental impact statement (EIS) for these rezones. These zoning proposals are on a fast track and are being rammed through by the Mayor and a platoon of former city officials now acting as lobbyists for Paul Allen. Unless the Coalition succeeds in requiring an EIS or we can directly convince the council more time is needed to evaluate costs and impacts of these rezones, the Council may attempt to vote on the proposals even before the year is out.
Conlin steals DCLU's rap - says rezoning for 10 million square feet of new development (equal to 6-7 Columbia Towers worth of growth) will have "no significant impact" on Seattle Specifically, these rezones would give biotech developments increased height, mass and bulk in South Lake Union while reducing parking requirements for this type of use as well. DCLU and Conlin argue that these zoning changes are simply a fine-tuning of the code and not an upzone as alleged by neighborhood activists. They say that these zoning changes won't alter how much total development (or floor area) that can occur within the existing zoning for the area. The rezones merely give greater preference to biotech and as such, simply replaces office development that would otherwise occur. Since there are fewer biotech workers inhabiting 1000 sq. ft of biotech space than the number of workers that would inhabit 1000 square feet of traditional office space...voila. Therefore these changes actually translate into fewer employees per square foot of development that will occur in the area anyway and hence fewer impacts such as fewer cars, less parking demand, less traffic impacts, less demand on our housing stock etc etc. With such silly logic, the Chamber of Commerce and Mayor should be on our side opposing these rezones because they mean less jobs for the area. But this is exactly the argument Conlin and DCLU are making.
These biotech rezones are not simply a finetuning of the
code in response to the "unique" features of biotech. The industry is saying,
the Mayor is saying, and staff are all saying that without these changes, the
area will not be developed as a biotech hub. There are reports and letters
galore from industry officials saying that indeed these changes are "essential"
to biotech - exactly the opposite of what Conlin says here. The industry,
Mayor, DCLU, many councilmembers (including Conlin I'm sure) are all
anticipating that an additional 10 million square feet of development will flow
from these changes with all its attendent impacts costs on our city and
neighborhoods. Sure some of this growth will occur anyway without the zoning
changes but they all fear that the great portion of this growth would go
elsewhere without the rezones.
Here's how much it will cost taxpayers and neighborhoods:
In anticipation of the growth these rezones will set-off, the Councils work agenda for next year, calls for taxpayers to foot the entire bill for infrastructure in South Lake Union estimated in the order of 600,000,000 - 800,000,000 bucks. Of that total new development spurred by these rezones, they anticipate that 35% will be biotech, 15% retail, and the remainder would be office growth that would accompany biotech and not otherwise occur without the biotech development. This is what Conlin and DCLU are trying to conceal. Without these rezones, land in this area would remain less developed, or rather it would continue to grow at a much slower incremental and more environmentally manageable rate. There would be over time less office space, less biotech and instead we might see the retention of more small businesses, and traditional industry. Obviously, the city's elites are banking on the growth these changes will stimulate, and they're planning to spend our tax dollars for the infrastructure it needs without an EIS, without proper review and opportunities for community input, and and without tools built in to ensure benefiting developers share in the costs and provide other community benefits (like decent wages, low income housing etc).It's funny - right after Conlin says that these zoning changes won't substantially increase development expected in the area, he turns around and says his biggest fear is "overdevelopment". Conlin has swallowed the party line hook line and sinker. His
statement that the reduced parking requirement "could be benefical" to the neighborhood is embarassingly out of touch given the parking nightmare that already exist in the neighborhood. Conlin says he's going to consult with biotech representative to get a better understanding of added parking demand...good lord does he think they are going to give him an unbiased opinion: "no problem here Mr. Conlin...of course us biotech developers don't need as much parking as everyone else". (In fact, DCLU relied entirely on surveys done by the biotech industry to conclude that parking demand in less in a biotech facility)
Conlin says he's doing all he can to accompany biotech growth with housing - but these rezones will only
exacerbate a gross jobs-housing imbalance that already exists in South Lake Union and displace existing low income housing:
Conlin says he's working to ensure adequate housing accompanies the added job development down there (now he's
contradicting himself again saying that these zoning changes will cause more growth). And when it does we must have more housing built in the neighborhood or we get an even greater job-housing imbalance. In fact, because these rezones give added incentive for biotech development in the area - it will drive up the value of land and render housing even more difficult to build in South Lake Union. We'll get more biotech and office development outcompeting residential development further exacerbating the job-housing imbalance. Right now down there, we have one of the worst jobs-housing imbalances in the City with 25000 jobs and only 1200 housing units. This imbalance drives up housing prices, and forces people to commute long distances translating into enormous traffic and transportation impacts. Now imagine doubling the amount of workers in South Lake Union over 18 years while we make it even more difficult with these zoning changes to build housing down there. If Conlin was sincere, he'd be saying.... "hold up here....lets first put mechanisms in place to preserve existing low income housing in the area and lets guarantee adequate rates of new housing development in the area before we give the greenlight to biotech growth."
With this recent letter supporting these biotech rezones (that give away the farm to the likes of Paul Allen), Mr. Conlin has once again shown his true colors. He's far from the neighborhood guy he purports to be.
letter from Richard Conlin:
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Richard Conlin" <Richard.Conlin@seattle.gov>
> Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2003 4:52 PM
> Subject: Re: Upzone of South Lake Union
> Thank you for your message concerning the proposed land use code amendments
> designed to encourage biotech development in South Lake Union. The Mayor’s
> decision not to do an environmental impact assessment of these amendments is
> currently under appeal, and the Council will not act on them until this
> issue has been resolved.
> The amendments propose the following changes:
> n allowing additional height, floor area, and roof coverage to accommodate
> mechanical equipment for laboratory uses;
> n adopting the height measurement technique used in the downtown zone, which
> measures from the street frontage rather than the low point of a property;
> n reducing parking requirements for research and development laboratories;
n revising loading dock regulations to provide for
centralized loading docks
> for buildings in ‘campus’ environments.
> This would not increase the amount of commercial floor space that can be
> developed, and thus will not increase the number of employees that the
> buildings will support.
> These amendments are not essential to biotech development in South Lake
> Union, as significant development is taking place under current regulations.
> However, biotech representatives indicate that they will increase the area’s
> attractiveness by providing for more efficient buildings that will optimize
> Since these proposals will not add zoned capacity, they will have limited
> impacts on development in South Lake Union – accelerating it, but likely
> actually reducing the number of employees that could be accommodated (an
> argument for reduced parking requirements is that there is a greater amount
> of floor space per employee). The additional height allowed may have a
> visual impact, but adding 10 to 20 feet to some buildings in zones that are
> already at 65 to 85 feet is of limited significance. The reduced parking
> requirements could be beneficial to the neighborhood if the calculations are
> correct. I have asked industry representatives to provide data on actual
> usage at existing biotech buildings to help gauge the accuracy of projected
> The primary risk is overbuilding, which could require building owners to
> reconfigure buildings for non-laboratory uses. These buildings are more
> expensive than conventional office buildings, and would likely not be
> competitive and potentially could be left vacant. Since the anchoring
> biotech uses include the University of Washington, the Fred Hutchinson
> Research Center, other well-established nonprofits, and several major
> companies, and since health care and associated biological research is
> likely to continue to grow in the future, there is a good chance that this
> problem can be avoided.
> On October 6, the Council unanimously adopted Resolution 30635, to study
> whether biotech-specific provisions should be applied to biotech regardless
> of location, and whether provisions about height measurement and loading
> docks have citywide benefit that should apply to any use. This addresses my
> concern that the proposed amendments favor South Lake Union biotech at the
> expense of other businesses and areas.
> On balance, I think these amendments have some useful benefits to biotech
> development, and are not likely to have significant negative impacts. If
> the Hearing Examiner finds that the impacts could be significant enough to
> require further study, I will review the additional information provided.
> The agreement to look at possible citywide applications addresses my major
> concerns, and I am currently planning to vote for these amendments.
> I will evaluate each element of proposed changes in South Lake Union as
> information is developed, and make a decision as to whether the public
> interest is served by the proposal. I am committed to working to ensure
> that adequate housing accompanies job development, that the jobs pay living
> wages, and that there is housing available for low and moderate income
> Richard Conlin
> 600 Fourth Avenue, 2nd Floor
> Seattle, WA 98104
> (206) 684-8805
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Coalition Bulletin: Mayor & Paul Allen's Forces Roll Over Council/Steinbrueck Lays Into Neighborhood Leaders Who Asked for Delay in Vote Date: Thu, 04 Dec 2003 19:37:22 -0800
Update on City Council Vote Yesterday Approving Biotech Rezones:
City Council Committee Votes 6-0 to Grant Paul Allen and Biotech Industry Greenlight in South Lake Union
- Only Licata
airs neighborhood and housing advocate concerns
- Steinbrueck was openly hostile to neighborhood concerns, calling them a "tempest in a teapot"
- Nicastro says if I had my way "I'd turn the whole area into one big highrise"
- Wills said "I think we should cut the industry's parking obligation even more"
- Pageler and Drago, who normally carry the freight for big business didn't have to because Steinbrueck did all their work
Yesterday, the City Council's Finance, Budget, and Labor
Committee (headed by Jan Drago) voted overwhelming to support rezones in South
Lake Union (6-0 in favor) paving the way for accelerated levels of biotech
development and an allocation of over one-half billion dollars in public funds
at the expense of resources we desperately need in our neighborhoods. Those
voting yesterday in favor the rezones included the three members of the
committee (Drago, Licata, and Steinbrueck) and three lame ducks - Nicastro,
Pageler, and Wills. While non-committee members don't normally attend other
committee meetings, Nicastro, Pageler, and Wills chose to drop by, perhaps at
Drago's request because she knew they would favor passage of the rezones. Either
that or the three of them wanted to assert their allegiance to big business one
last time and improve their job prospects in the private sector. In any case, it
was an overwhelming display of pro-Paul Allen, pro-biotech sentiment on display
Council Licata airs neighborhood and housing concerns:
Only Councilmember Nick Licata stood up for community
interests supporting the call for a delay in these rezones at least until there
was a complete and truly objective cost-benefit analysis completed. He lamented
the fact that five months ago, the council had been promised a completed
cost-benefit analysis but now were only getting a draft "benefits" analysis. He
also said the way this was done left a bad taste in his mouth. He noted that the
Council was rushing to take this vote ignoring the neighborhood's call for a six
month delay until an EIS could be completed and until the Council built
mechanisms into the process to ensure developers shared in the costs of this
planned growth. He noted that there was only one project on the drawing boards
that would be affected by such a delay. Something was fishy too about the fact
this vote would come so quickly on the heels of the Hearings Examiner decision
and be so closely timed to the release of a draft "benefits" analysis released
the day before. He took note of the fact that he had received many e-mails and
calls from folks out in the neighborhoods and that there was widespread feeling
that Allen was getting special treatment while neighborhood needs were being
When Licata found that he could get no support from other councilmembers for a delay in the vote, he then joined the five others and in the end cast his vote in favor of the rezone. While he chose to reflect neighborhood and public concerns (goodness knows that's a rare commodity at City Hall), I cannot say that on this one he chose to display the kind of leadership or courage I've seen him display on other occasions, such as his effort a few months ago to retain the U. of W. lease lid. Even though that effort was unsuccessful, he defended the neighborhoods position and did not cast his lot with the other side just because he couldn't find five votes. He went down swinging on behalf of the University District community, something I did not see at Wednesday's vote on SLU.
Steinbrueck openly hostile to neighborhood concerns:
Councilmember Steinbrueck's stance and comments yesterday in committee can only be described as openly hostile towards the neighborhoods and community leaders who called and e-mailed him calling for a delay in the vote. Without referencing specifically who had sent them, he literally quoted from numerous e-mails he had received and noted they were coming from folks out in the neighborhoods overwhelming either opposed to the rezones or supporting a call for delay. He then explicitly ticked off several of their concerns either pooh-poohing them or in other cases expressing outright disdain for their arguments. Steinbrueck said this was not a Paul Allen giveaway and we should not be personalizing this (Allen owns 40-45% of the land affected by these rezones, with full council approval the value of his land will go up probably by millions of dollars, and Allen's got at least five former city officials working as lobbyists who worked hand in glove with the Mayor to craft the proposals themselves...good grief, he's the principle beneficiary).
Parroting arguments by the Mayor's staff and DCLU, Steinbrueck said these are only minor amendments, "the sky is not falling in" and the current code is prehistoric.."we're only adapting to the changing economy" (There are numerous ways of adapting the current code to the new economy and to biotech - instead of giving away the farm and outright rezoning the area. There is contract rezoning, bonus programs, special review districts - ways of guaranteeing community review, appropriate mitigation, and cost sharing on a building by building basis rather than simply giving away the farm as these rezones do. Of course these amendments also are central to the Mayor and Vulcan's plan to unleash 10 million sq. feet of development in SLU. The Mayor didn't hold a press event the day before the vote attended by 200 biotech employees, consultants and lobbyists because he thought the vote was insignificant) The Mayor knows this sink's the City's feet in the quicksand and commits them to allocations of several hundred million dollars in infrastructure. The Mayor rolled over the Council (including Peter) with these rezones and he's now better prepared to roll over them again, again, and again, when he demands tax dollars over the coming year for the Paul Allen Memorial Street Car, and the Paul Allen Memorial Mercer Corridor Reworking, and the Paul Allen Memorial City Light Substation, Parking Garage, and Park.....the list goes on).
Steinbrueck poo poohed our concern about the need for cost sharing mechanisms to ensure developers share in the costs. He said essentially "don't worry...we'll take these future decisions one at time and pay as we go" (whatever that means). He referred to the Displacement Coalition's e-mail raising concerns about the Hearings Examiner role in all this and then accused us of a "personal attack on someone he helped get appointed". (The Hearings Examiner failed to meet a 15 day deadline for making her ruling on our appeal of DCLU's decision not to require an EIS, then failed under the hearing examiner rules to notify the parties that her ruling would not be made within the prescribed time. There also is a credible report that she had inappropriate conversation with Jan Drago earlier this week, telling Drago she was "rushing" to get her decision made before the vote on Wednesday).
I have found that once Steinbrueck makes up his mind on an issue, he will sometimes get very aggressive with those who disagree with him. It is ironic that he views himself as an independent thinker taking principled and progressive stands. But what I too often see is someone who is too easily influenced by department staff, council staff, people carrying brief cases posing as experts who surround him every day and snow him with data and their view of the world. As in this case, he's prone to regurgitating arguments made by DCLU and Mayoral staff and then believing they are his own. This is what happens even to our friends when they win with 70 percent of the vote. They think they're accountable to no one and can arrogantly ignore constituent concerns. That's what he displayed yesterday. It was enormously disappointing.
At the very end of the meeting, Peter made sure he had the last word. With the smoke still rising from his littany of fiery criticisms directed at neighborhood concerns, and perhaps realizing he might have been a wee bit overzealous in his attacks, he thought he'd better remind folks that he was still an advocate for neighborhood planning. Six months ago when he still had a credible challenger running against him, he joined Conlin in calling for "L-52" neighborhood review before going ahead with Paul Allen's plans for SLU. Back then I believed him when he said he supported neighborhood planning. But not now and certainly not in South Lake Union or the U-District where he supported lifting the lease lid, or anywhere else where big business or the Mayor have big plans. (We'll soon see how he does out in Northgate)
Nicastro says "I think the area should be one big highrise":
I won't take too much space for this, but Councilmember Nicastro was so off-the-wall with her comments before casting her vote in favor of the rezones, I was forced to laugh quietly to myself at times. Saying the future of light industry and manufacturing is over...(tell that to the 200,000 or so folks who hold down such jobs right now in Seattle).... she then said the future is biotech maybe even nanotech and isn't this all "tremendously exciting". She reminded everyone that she is all for density and would just as soon see South Lake Union turned into one big highrise. Prior to the election, she had promised folks that even though she was a fan of density, she would at least stand up for mechanisms that ensured Allen and the developers would share the costs, but didn't even refer to this prior to yesterdays vote. Nor did the "rent control" activist take any time out from her biotech pro-density cheerleading to even refer to the displacement and demolition and higher rents that would inevitably accompany this growth.
Will's wants even few parking requirements for Paul Allen - she says that's the enviromental thing to do:
Of couse Wills was glowingly supportive of these rezones.
She was as insipid as I've ever seen her in her praise for Paul Allen's plans -
not surprising given the thousands of dollars poured into her recent campaign by
Allen's team. At some point, she then pulled out her enviro credentials and used
them to argue in favor of an even greater reduction in parking requirements for
biotech. Dropping the requirement from 1 stall per 1000 square feet of space to
1 per 1500 square feet did not go far enough. Her argument was that this still
showed too much of a bias for the automobile..let's give the biotech guys an
even bigger break...and that'll get more people to use mass transit. Can anyone
be this naive or is it calculated naiveté?
Already there is a parking nightmare in South Lake Union. Adding any additional level of office or biotech space down there (not to mention an additional 10 mil. sq. ft of it) will only severely exacerbate that condition. Perhaps this will force a few more SLU workers to take buses...but study after study shows a high percentage of workers still preferring the automobile. Too many of those folks choose to live on the eastside where there is little or no transit and no amount of social engineering is going to change that. The industry and DCLU both know that as well. Internal documents we found indicate that DCLU and industry representives, who worked together to hatch these rezones and the reduced parking requirement, are also planning a publicly funded parking garage in SLU. After dropping the industry's parking responsibility, they're gonna ask us to pick up a 70-100 million dollar tab for a parking garage...how's that for hubris.
Wills also overlooks the existing jobs/housing imbalance in SLU (with only 1200 housing units and 25,000 jobs down there, it is this imbalance that explains the traffic and parking nightmare there). On top of that, if you are going to double employment as these rezones are intended to do in SLU, it is an absolute impossibility to accompany that with any commensurate increase in housing in SLU let alone the 10,000 new units they claim are going to miraculously appear there. In seven years, we've had only 300 units built in SLU with another 300 in the works. That's it. So guess what Heidi....you're gonna get an even worse traffic and parking nightmare in SLU because you're simply trying to cram too much office growth into an area that inherently lacks capacity for accompanying housing. Too many of those workers won't find or won't choose housing in or near SLU. They'll commute longer and longer distances from home to work and that means more noise and air pollution, gas consumption etc etc.. That is a recipe for environmental degradation and a colossal waste of resources and energy given what it costs to transport people those increasing distances by car or bus. And Heidi's enviro solution to all this....reduce their parking requirement....my lord.
Pageler and Drago, who normally carry the freight for big business didn't have to because Steinbrueck did all the work.
There's really not much more to say here. Quite literally I
could see visable relief on the faces of Pageler and Drago while they watched
Steinbrueck challenge the concerns raised by the neighborhoods. For a change,
they weren't stuck carrying the freight for big businesses. It was Peter to the
rescue. And over in the corner of the audience...there were representives of the
Nickels imperial regime looking as smug as cheshire cats. Here they were getting
everything they asked for, handed to them on a platter by Steinbrueck - the guy
rumored to be a possible challenger to Nickels in two years. On this issue
Steinbrueck only proved that he can be easily manipulated and overrun by the
Here's my conclusion about all this:
What happened on this issue and this vote demonstrates the enormous disconnect between our elected officials and what we feel and what neighborhoods feel that needs to be done to make this city liveable, affordable, and more equitable. On the housing and homeless front, our friends on the council think all they have to do every year is stand up and defend spending for human services during the budget and promote a housing levy every five years - and that makes them defenders of the poor. On the neighborhood front... most of them will show up for a few neighborhood meetings and ribbon cuttings here and there, hand a few dollars out here and there for a street end park or street light or speed bump (of course we've got to chip in with our sweat equity too) while the bulk of city resources continue to pour downtown and now into SLU, and of course, they'll pay lip service to neighborhood planning and call themselves pro-neighborhood. It's a chimera .
When it comes to the big issues, like SLU, U-District, Northgate, the allocation of significant chunks of city resources to meet basic neighborhood needs, saying no to big ticket boondoggles that drain away needed resources for our nabe's, granting neighborhoods real control of land use and planning that affects those communities. Forget it. Meanwhile hundreds of people are uprooted every year from their homes to demolition, increased rents, conversion, speculative sale - many more times the number of units are losts to these forces than we can ever replace with limited levy dollars. Many more are rendered homeless by these forces than we can ever assist with limited human services funding. And of course the erosion of the physical and historical character of our communities continues. Small business needs are ignored or set aside (witness what's happening along Aurora and Lake City Way right now as the Mayor pushes a plan to speed commuter traffic through these communities to their downtown jobs - eliminating necessary parking that supports these businesses). Witness what Sound Transit is doing to small businesses along MLK Way. No one cares how lifting the lease lid in the U-District would hurt existing small ethnic businessess along the Ave as well.
With the exception of Nick Licata, I don't see very much willingness right now among the other councilmembers to do anything about these issues that are central to the health of our neighborhoods and the liveability or our city. Let's hope we see something in Rasmussen and Della. I don't think we can expect much from Godden. Heck, most of 'em are busy promoting these trends that contribute to that gentrification and displacement ala S. Lake Union, Northgate, and the U-District. Nothing will change until we have real leaders willing to echo the needs and concerns of communities and stand up to these forces.
- John V. Fox
for the Coalition
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