Council discussions have begun on the South Lake Union Trolley and Mercer Corridor, contained on this page are the following (click on headline or scroll down):
1. Press Release: Paul Allen should pay for his own darn trolley
2. Important details on the trolley
3. Coalition statement to Council on trolley
4. Quick Response to the argument by proponents of the trolley that it is a good investment in public dollars and will return more taxes and jobs for Seattle and the region:
5. Changes to Mercer Corridor guarantee trolley tie-ups and vice versa
6. "Over 130 community leaders sign letter to City Council saying no city, state, or federal funds should be used for the South Lake Union Streetcar" (August 9, 2004)
7. August 16th, 2004, Coalition Bulletin: Update and Analysis of Council Committee Vote on the SLU Streetcar:
8. Update on South Lake Union Streetcar - Final Vote Monday June 27th 2:00PM:
"New Council Members Dilute Conlin-Licata Proposals so some City Funds can still be used for South Lake Union Streetcar - New bus service to our neighborhoods also remains at risk"
Paul Allen should pay
for his own darn trolley!!
- There's a half billion dollar backlog of neighborhood transportation needs and this is what the Council is doing with it's time and our taxdollars - figuring out how to help Paul Allen build his trolley to nowhere! Expect more cuts to human services next year to pay for it as well! Tell the council to vote 'NO' on any trolley or streetcar that requires the public to pay so much as one dime for it! Tell them to get back to the business of serving our community not Paul Allen. That's the message we must send to Council loud and clear - starting this week! Please call and leave that message with the councilmembers and get your friends to do the same (see phone #'s and e-mail of councilmembers below):
- An initial council assessment shows abutting property owners will realize $42 million in increased property values (conservatively) but under the Mayor's proposal, they'll be asked to pay only $25 million of the $45-$50 million pricetag. We'll pay the rest plus $1-2 million a year in operating expenses.
The next Council Transportation Committee meeting where the trolley will be discussed is July 27th, 9:30AM in the Council Chambers, 2nd Floor Municipal Building, 600 5th Avenue. They do take brief comments now from the audience but you must be there right at 9:30 or a little before to sign-in. Possible votes on the trolley right now are slated possibly for August or could get pushed back until September. return to top
phones and e-mails for councilmembers:
Important Details and Information You Need to Know About the South Lake Union Trolley and How Much It's Going to Cost You Under the Mayor's Proposal:
The trolley serves no regional or local transportation need but merely serves to enhance the value of Paul Allen's property and ensure his development plans for South Lake Union (at the expense of the Cascade community's neighborhood plan). Under the Mayor's propoosal he will present tomorrow, abutting property owners (primarily Vulcan Inc) will be asked to cover only 25 million of the 45-50 million dollar cost while the taxpayers will foot the remainder of the tab. Mind you...that does not include a yearly 1.5-2.0 million maintenance and operation expense. All but about 10 percent of that annual operating cost will be paid for directly out of the city's general fund. (Portland's trolley costs about 2.5 million to operate and fares/ridership pay for only 10 percent of that annual cost).
A month ago, using a common formula for calculating benefits accruing to abutting property owners, a council staffer conservatively estimated that abutting property owners (primarily Vulcan Inc) will realize an increase value added to their properties of over $42 million dollars. Yet, under the Mayor's proposed LID - they'll be asked to pay only $25 million. It's simply a giveaway to Paul Allen at the expense of resources our communities desperately need!
Keep in mind there is a backlog of over one half billion dollars in neighborhood transportation needs. Regionally, over $4 billion is needed. In the last three years, the Council cut our city's budget by over $100 million and $25 million more in cuts are planned for next year. Housing, Human Service, the neighborhood matching grant program, funding for basic services in our neighborhoods will all be sacrificed - meanwhile the Mayor is planning over $800,000,000 in capital improvements at taxpayer expense in South Lake Union - including the "trolley to nowhere" It would be obscene for the City to spend even one time on Paul Allen's trolley folly in light of these real needs in our city and region that must come first.
We will be putting out more notices and updating you on the council's deliberations on this important matter as
things progress (I hesitate to call it progress) Below is the Coalition's Statement - a portion of which was read into the record at the Council's Committee Meeting on July 13th. return to top
July 13, 2004: Before the Council’s Transportation Committee
Re: Use of public funds for the South Lake Union Trolley
The proposed South Lake Union trolley serves no regional or local transportation need but merely serves to enhance the value of Paul Allen's property and ensure realization of his development plans for South Lake Union (at the expense of the Cascade community's neighborhood plan). Under the Mayor's proposal presented today, abutting property owners (primarily Vulcan Inc) will be asked to cover only 25 million of the 45-50 million dollar cost while the taxpayers will foot the remainder of the tab. Mind you...that does not include a yearly 1.5-2.0 million maintenance and operation expense.
This estimate of the annual cost of operating the trolley is likely a low-balled figure, according to Councilmember Licata and several other transportation experts, who have compared Seattle's proposed system to other existing systems already operating elsewhere. All but about 10 percent of that annual operating cost will be paid for directly out of the city's general fund. (Portland's trolley costs about $2.5 million to operate and fares/ridership pay for only 10 percent of that annual cost. Because fare box revenues fell far short of expectations, Portland has been forced to eat another $450,000 per year in operating expenses for the trolley.) There also are indications that the Mayor's office is negotiating with METRO to have METRO assume the responsibility of operating the streetcar as is currently the case with the waterfront streetcar. As a City Council staffmember has indicated, this would come at a high price. Seattle would have to sacrifice an estimated 9000 annual hours of bus services as part of such an agreement.
A month ago, using a common formula for calculating benefits accruing to abutting property owners, a council staffer conservatively estimated that abutting property owners (primarily Vulcan Inc) will realize an increase value added to their properties of over $42 million dollars. Yet, under the Mayor's proposed LID - they'll be asked to pay only $25 million. It's simply a giveaway to Paul Allen at the expense of resources our communities desperately need!
Keep in mind there is a backlog of over one half billion dollars in neighborhood transportation needs. Regionally, over $4 billion is needed. In the last three years, the Council cut our city's budget by over $100 million and $25 million more in cuts are planned for next year. Housing, Human Service, the neighborhood matching grant program, funding for basic services in our neighborhoods will all be sacrificed - meanwhile the Mayor is planning over $800,000,000 in capital improvements at taxpayer expense in South Lake Union - including the "trolley to nowhere" Its obscene the Council is wasting it’s time on this at all and it would be even more obscene for the City to spend even one dime on Paul Allen's trolley folly in light of these real needs in our city and region that must come first. return to top
Response to the argument by proponents of the trolley that it is a good investment in public dollars and will return more taxes and jobs for Seattle and the region:
Any increased tax revenue and jobs generated by development in SLU will be more than off-set by the staggering cost of public infrastructure the Mayor and Vulcan are demanding down there. Through our disclosure requests, we've document close to 1 billion dollars worth of plans and costs After one reads the Brookings study, the Council's own report, and several other pieces on the future of biotech, it is a pipedream to assume that SLU will realize that level of biotech, office and residential development projected by the Mayor and Vulcan. Note also that the biotech industry also has been granted millions already in tax breaks at the state, federal and local level - so how much does it really return in tax revenues anyway to the City (when compared to other economic development strategies using our tax dollars).
But assuming we do get 10 million sq. ft of biotech and office development and 20,000 new jobs - that's a one billion public investment for 20,000 jobs - at a price of 50,000 per job.. That's a per job subsidy rivaling a Halliburton contract. A reasonable amount of public investment per job by any standard is no more than $5000-$15,000 per job (See HUD and SBA standards)... Think of the jobs and taxes we could generate with these public subsidies if we used them in SE Seattle - an area crying out for development and jobs - or what we could do with these dollars for real transportation solutions, or to meet our backlog neighborhood needs. They're piecemealing all their plans in SLU so there's no one opportunity to scrutinize all of it and vote up on down on it. The trolley is one piece - the first piece - of a $250 million dollar package of transportation improvements - that also includes Mercer Re-working, Westlake, and Terry Ave. improvements. According to the Mayor's own studies, none of these improvements - do anything to reduce congestion...NOTHING.... They're being done to make the area more "pedestrian friendly" they argue and more conducive to biotech development. Once they get the trolley it's easier for them to get all the rest they are demanding. return to top
Plans for reworking Mercer come at a very high price - $200 million - and return nothing to commuters in terms of reducing congestion in that area - The trolley is going to get tied up in traffic when it crosses Mercer both at Terry and Westlake - Average speed: Less the 6mph
The "Mercer improvements" are actually geared toward enhancing the pedestrian environment in the area along the southend of the Lake - again nothing to do with reducing congestion. By the way, Paul Allen literally owns all that property along the Southend of the lake now on both sides of Valley (except for the area around the armory designated for the park and the Pong property along Fairview). A significant chunk of the 200 million plus Mercer Improvements are really going towards the narrowing of Valley for cosmetic, ie. aesthetic reasons. They plan to reduce Valley to two lanes (while widening Mercer to 8 lanes 4 each way). By diverting traffic off Valley and onto Mercer...that's what actually increases travel times through the area. An overpass for pedestrians also is planned across Valley to the park - an overpass linking Allen's properties to the park by the way. And there are references to a 1000 car underground parking garage running from Valley to Fairview (financed like the Nordstrom Parking Garage was with the City and Vulcan sharing the costs somehow - how does a parking facility of this size serve to get people out of their cars by the way). Also the widening of Mercer and narrowing of Valley will require the City to buy back portions of the property they just sold to Vulcan along Mercer in 2002 (no doubt guaranteeing them a healthy profit). Also, with this plan, Vulcan/Allen's properties will effectively be moved closer to the waterfront down there and linked more effectively with the park by an overpass (greatly increasing the value of his holdings).
All this is being done largely for aesthetic reasons. The problem is that a large chunk of the region and city's transportation dollars are going to pay for all this - over 200 million bucks (trolley and parking garage costs are separate as are the costs for Westlake and Terry improvements). The trolley by the way will have no dedicated lane for it and be placed in the street and also run along Westlake then turn onto Valley, then turn onto Terry for part of the trip back. Also, stop lights won't change to green for the trolley - can you imagine what this would do to the Mercer mess every time the trolley went back and forth across Mercer at Terry and Westlake. As a result, the trolley will crawl along at five mph or less. what will that do to ridership. Average speed of the Portland trolley is 5.7MPH...wow.... what a solution to our traffic woes. It's cute though. Dick Nelson a former legislator and transportation planner points out this area is already well served by buses. He says, why not turn one of those buses into a London style bus like some city's already do... that's gonna cost us millions less than a trolley and serves the same cutesy purpose. Also, to pay for 100 million of the Mercer "improvements", they've disguised that portion of it and inserted it into the Viaduct plan - they're calling it "north portal improvements".
From a design and aesthetic standpoint, some of these proposals have merit but when there is a such a shortfall of resources to meet area wide and city-wide and neighborhood needs...pouring so much into this one area only because Paul Allen says so is unacceptable. That's what's obscene. You know, there is 25 city staff across all departments assigned to the SLU planning team... that planning team has met 90 times since the summer of 2002. Nine million alone has already been spent just on planning for the transportation improvements down there. And neighborhoods in the Southeast Seattle area...can't get the attention of even one planner. This is what's obscene. At minimum, Paul Allen must be called on to foot a much greater share of the costs. By the way, when virtually every other municipality in the region is looking to or already using developer imposed impact fees to cover the costs of infrastructure their projects demand (and that ensure developers share in the costs), our city completely ignores this as an option. That's because people like Paul Allen and other big developers call the shots in this town.
"Over 130 community leaders sign letter to City Council saying no city, state, or federal funds should be used for the South Lake Union Streetcar" (August 9, 2004)
- 9000 hours of city-wide bus service could be sacrificed under a deal the Mayor wants to cut with METRO to have them operate the trolley
Given backlog of human needs with many homeless on our
streets and backlog of real neighborhood transportation needs estimated at over
$500 million we simply cannot afford a trolley that "merely is designed to
enhance the value of adjacent property owners, primarily Vulcan's Inc."
Community Leaders say benefiting property owners should cover the full cost of
Details and See Accompanying Letter With Signatories:
The Seattle City Council will vote in Richard Conlin's Transportation Committee this coming Tuesday 9:30AM in Council Chambers - 600 5th Ave - on whether to allow use of public subsidies for the streetcar and sacrific of bus service. Councilmembers Richard Conlin and Nick Licata have introduced ordinances barring use of city funds or cuts in bus service and a vote will be taken on these measures at that time. Other Councilmembers have co-sponsored their bills including Jean Godden, Tom Rasmussen and David Della. However, they are under intense lobbying pressure from the Mayor and representatives of Paul Allen's development company Vulcan Inc. who have been making literally near daily visits to Councilmembers to get them to back away from the Conlin-Licata proposals. This Citizen letter is being forwarded to underscore how widespread public opposition is within our neighborhoods to use of limited city dollars for this project. For more information contact individuals listed on the letter or call us at 632-0668.
Below is the full text of the letter with all signatories: Note, also as the letter indicates, any organizational affiliations listed next to signatories names are placed there for identification purposes only and do not necessarily reflect positions taken by those groups
Open Letter from Community Leaders Urging You to Say 'No' to the
Use of Any City or Other Public Dollars for a South Lake Union Streetcar
August 6, 2004
Seattle City Councilmembers
2nd Floor Muncipal Building
600 4th Avenue – 2nd Floor
Seattle, Wa. 98104
As community leaders from across this City, we are calling on you to say "NO" to the use of any public funds, including city, state, or federal dollars for a streetcar in South Lake Union. Specifically this would mean that the proponents of the trolley (primarily abutting property owners and their employees who are the exclusive beneficiaries of such a project) should be called on to pay the full cost including all construction costs and all annual costs associated with operating and maintaining the streetcar in South Lake Union. We also are calling on you to make it very clear to the Mayor that absolutely no bus service (either current or future service already designated by METRO) for Seattle's neighborhoods will be sacrificed or in any way cut in exchange for METRO assuming responsibility for operation of such a trolley.
The proposed South Lake Union trolley serves no regional or local transportation need but merely is designed to enhance the value of adjacent property owners, primarily Vulcan's Inc. Under the Mayor's proposal, abutting property owners in that area will be asked to cover only 25 million of the 45-50 million dollar capital cost through creation of a local improvement district or LID. The rest of the cost would be born by the taxpayers and consume millions in limited city, state, and federal dollars. Further, there would be a $1.5-2.0 million annual maintenance and operation expense. While about 10 percent of that cost would be covered by the ridership at the fare box, the rest would be paid directly out of the city's general fund or at the expense of bus service to our neighborhoods.
A month ago, using a common formula for calculating benefits accruing to abutting property owners in South Lake Union, a council staffer conservatively estimated that they would realize an increased value added to their properties of over $42 million. Yet, under the Mayor's proposed LID - they'll be asked to pay only $25 million of the cost. The Mayor's funding plan for the trolley is simply a giveaway to adjacent property owners at the expense of resources our communities desperately need!
Please keep in mind there is a backlog of over one half billion dollars in neighborhood transportation needs. Regionally, over $4 billion is needed. In the last three years, the Council cut our city's budget by over $100 million and $25 million more in cuts are planned for next year. Housing, human services, the neighborhood matching grant program, funding for basic services in our neighborhoods will all be sacrificed - meanwhile the Mayor is planning over $500,000,000 in capital improvements at taxpayer expense in South Lake Union - including funding for the proposed streetcar.
Currently there are 19 bus routes serving South Lake Union. As Council staff has reported, during peak periods those buses are operating with considerable unused capacity - over 3000 seats go vacant. Further, a trolley will average around 6 mph considerably less than a bus while operating at a cost at least 30 percent higher than a bus. On this basis alone, it cannot be said there is a need for this streetcar.
Proponents frequently cite Portland's trolley as a catalyst for growth and jobs in that city....yet there were already 20,000 residential units along the Portland trolley route before it was built and several thousands jobs. These densities were not created by the trolley. They were already in place and helped guarantee a level of ridership that cannot be matched in South Lake Union. By contrast, there are only about 1000 housing units near a proposed South Lake Union Streetcar. While office development including some biotech already is occurring in South Lake Union (without the aid of a streetcar), there are no concrete prospects for a dramatic increase in residential development that is needed to support ridership levels anywhere near those in Portland. Even at higher ridership levels in Portland, that city found that it had to double its annual subsidy to operate its trolley because they were taking in much less at the fare box than anticipated.
Portland's streetcar averages about 78 riders per hour where a South Lake Union Streetcar is projected at less than half that - a level of ridership also considerably less than buses now operating in South Lake Union. Additionally, a comparison of both the capital and maintenance costs of trolleys in other cities suggests very strongly that the planned South Lake Union trolley would cost considerably more than $50 million to build and more than $2 million a year to operate.
On any level, there is no justification for use of city dollars for a streetcar. Currently, there are at least 25 city staff across all departments assigned to the "South Lake Union Planning Team". That planning team has met 90 times since the summer of 2002. Nine million alone has already been spent just on planning for the transportation improvements including the trolley in South Lake Union. Meanwhile neighborhoods across this city, from Southeast Seattle to Lake City cannot get the attention of even one planner nor can they even secure a small "matching grant" to repair a few unsafe sidewalks or get that crosswalk needed to protect their children. Thousands go homeless in our city because we cannot afford adequate shelter or enough permanent housing.
It is for these reasons that we strongly urge you to put your foot down and say "NO" to use of any public dollars for a streetcar in South Lake Union. We simply cannot afford it and we need leaders at City Hall who are willing to say that and put their conscience and commitment to the community ahead of special interests. Thank you for your consideration.
(Organizational affiliations listed below are for ID purposes only and do not necessarily reflect positions of those groups – only the individuals are signatories)
John V. Fox, Coordinator
Seattle Displacement Coalition
K. L. Shannon, Community Organizer
Community Coalition for Environmental Justice
Fremont Neighborhood Council
Land Use Committee Chair
J. Richard Aramburu
Jenny Lawson, Head Organizer
Faye M. Garneau
Mary Pearson Chong
Seattle Displacement Coalition
Jules James, Eastlake Shopkeeper
Seattle Displacement Coalition
John F. Dolan
Chair, First Hill Neighborhood
Seattle Religious Leaders Task Force:
Rev. David C. Bloom
Rev. Paul Benz (Director Lutheran
Public Policy Office of Wash. St)
Rev. Bill Kirlin-Hackett (Interfaith Task Force
Bill Hallerman (Archdiocesan Housing Authority)
Flo Beauman (Archdiocesan Housing Authority)
Rev. Pat Simpson
Rev. Amos Landry
Rev. Steve Grumm
Carla D. Saulter
Christal Wood, Community Activist
Director Gotham Communications
Maureen Bo, Puget Sound Alliance
For Retired Americans
Allen Cohn, Puget Sound Alliance
For Retired Americans
Dick Burton, PHD
Philosophy Prof. Seattle Central CC
Seattle Senior Housing Advocate
Lowell D. “Wally” Walton
VP SSHP Advocates II
Chris Gordon Owen
George P. Hickey
Alvin M. Sion
A. Malaika Lafferty
Edyth C. Koch
David M. Westphal, Master Brewer
Madness Brewing Unlimited
Mary Lou Barian
Real Change News
Pat Stambor, Community Activist
William H. Ferguson, Longtime Seattle Resident
Community College Instructor
Colleen Dooley, Treasurer
Cascade Neighborhood Council
April Thanos, General Manager
Food Fresh Express Inc.
Kate Villarreal, Community Organizer
Community Coalition for Environmental Justice
Dorian K. Doe
John F. Dodd
Green Party of Seattle
Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness
Mary Ann Sun
"New Council Members Dilute Conlin-Licata Proposals so some City Funds can still be used for South Lake Union Streetcar - New bus service to our neighborhoods also remains at risk" - Some restrictions on use of city funds were imposed but loopholes mean millions in City funds are still at risk needed to meet neighborhood and human service needs in our city
Didn't the voters just toss out three incumbent city councilmembers and replace them with a set of brand new ones? You'd never know from their vote on the trolley
Tom Rasmussen, Jean Godden, and David Della all assured us during the last election they would bring change to City Hall, stand up to the Mayor, and above all say "NO" to special interests. Unfortunately, at yesterday's City Council discussion and Committee vote on the South Lake Union Streetcar what I saw was more of the opposite. A bit discouraging needless to say when you consider these three owe their seats to the majority of us voters disgruntled with business as usual and the increasing degree to which City Hall plays insider games and curries favor with special interests.
Alas, Jean Godden, David Della, and Tom Rasmussen were taking their cue yesterday more from the Mayor's office and Vulcan lobbying teams who heavily lobbied all of them over the last two weeks. With Drago looking on like a doting parent, they teamed up with her to water down Richard Conlin and Nick Licata's proposals that would have outright barred use of city funds for construction and/or operation of the streetcar or the sacrifice of bus service to Seattle neighborhoods. What was finally approved was a measure allowing the Mayor to come back later to the Council with a plan that could include tapping city money "from new sources" at least for operation and maintenance of the streetcar and would also allow the sacrifice of "new bus service" needed for our neighborhoods to help cover trolley operating expenses. The term "new sources" and "new bus service" were not defined and consequently could mean just about anything a majority of councilmembers say it is. It means millions needed to meet neighborhood needs, human services, and a backlog of city-wide transportation needs are still at grave risk of being routed to this trolley.
Under the measure that was approved yesterday, it does appear to bar use of city funds at least for construction of the trolley - a restriction the Mayor and Vulcan could not succeed in overturning. However, the Drago-new councilmember alliance succeeded in watering even this down by adding language allowing the city to use the proceeds from the sale of City land in 2001 to Vulcan for trolley operations. Also, an attempt was made to replace Licata's proposed special LID assessment study" (which may help ensure that abutting property owners pay the full cost of trolley construction) rather than the Mayor's
"Zone termini" method caps property owners LID payment at $25 million of $45-$50 million dollar construction cost. However, the Committee wound up with language allowing study of both approaches with a final decision to be made later as to the preferred approach.
Next Monday, the full Council will likely ratify what came out of Conlin's Committee. The measure also releases $2 million in funds the state earmarked for the trolley so the Mayor can continue to drain away limited public dollars at least for continued planning of the streetcar. This action by the Council does not give final go-ahead to the trolley or any specific funding package. Those decisions will be made later by the council. Instead of once and for all settling the matter, it means we will be back fighting this battle later - and likely several times - since the Council did not set conditions outright barring use of public funds nor did it bar outright the sacrifice of neighborhood bus service.
At least we now know more of the Mayor and Vulcan's grand scheme. We know they are out to get their hands on limited city revenue and neighborhood bus service. The door remains open to redirect to the trolley any remaining part of the 20,000 new bus hours METRO promised to the City in 2002 not yet actually put into service or any future service beyond that. Also, the Mayor has a plan to raise parking meter fees at least in South Lake Union and divert them from the general fund to pay for the trolley's operation (even though this has become an important source of general fund monies). He also has a plan to create some kind of enormous "growth fund" for South Lake Union. The growth fund likely would be huge and operate like an informal tax increment district wherein all or most future tax revenues coming from South Lake Union, instead of going into the general fund, would be dedicated to the trolley and to pay for the rest of his SLU agenda including the re-routing of Mercer and Valley streets and for creation of their grand Terry Avenue/Westlake reworking. (We also have seen city documents indicating the Mayor, with Vulcan's help, have been exploring creation of a separate transit authority, like Sound Transit, and empowering it with its own taxing authority. This probably would require state legislative approval but I'm not certain. Goodness knows what else they have up their sleeves)
While Steinbrueck, Licata, and Conlin did their best this week to hold the line on use of city funds and decried the notion of giving our dollars away to something like the trolley, the Godden, Della, Drago, Rasmussen team succeeded in punching large holes in restrictions on use of city funds. At least, the Mayor and Vulcan have to work around some restrictions and they have to come back another day for final votes on the trolley and other elements of their grand plan... We live to fight another day gosh darn it even though the Vulcan-Mayor machine moves inexorably forward. (The Mayor's press release triumphantly highlights this fact while the City's press release vainly asserts it's taken charge of the process. I'm not so sure. That will be determined in the future which way the new councilmembers fall and right now they're falling more to the special interest side at least with respect to these critical South Lake Union decisions affecting our entire city's future)
And, sadly, what was not in question at all even among even those seeking to bar use of local funds, they all agreed that it was OK to tap millions in limited state and federal dollars for Mr. Allen's "Streetcar to nowhere". This is all being done despite quality research from the Council's own staff clearly demonstrating that the streetcar serves no real need, costs much more than bus service to operate, and would drain away millions of limited city, state and federal dollars away from what is needed to address the region and city's real transportation needs - estimated at four billion dollars regionally and one-half billion dollars city-wide.
While watching our council debate the trolley issue I could only think of the old story of the passengers re-arranging the deck chairs while the ship went down. Countless hours of staff time and planning at all levels of government, over nine million in tax dollars already wasted just on planning for the streetcar and other South Lake Union street "improvements" (that their own studies say will do nothing to reduce congestion). Our mayor and other electeds at the state and federal level are exhausting Seattle's chips with the Fed's and at the state level just to get money for the "trolley to nowhere" while our transportation system continues to deteriorate. Twenty five key staff from all departments and countless consultants and analysts meeting weekly (100 times in the last 2 years) to assist Vulcan realize their South Lake Union dreams...meanwhile our neighborhoods go without and the homeless crowd our shelters. We still need change at City Hall!
Displacement Coalition Bulletin #45:
(please circulate) May 1, 2005
Special benefits study shows South Lake Union property owners will rake in 70-80 million in increased property values if streetcar gets go-ahead but they refuse to pay more than $25 million of the cost.
- Limiting property owners contribution while passing
much of the cost on to taxpayers apparently is OK with the Mayor and most
Councilmembers. And guess who gets the lions share of that increased value?
Yep - it's Paul Allen! Let the Mayor and Councilmembers know what you think
about this one.
You may have missed this amidst all the bruhaha around the Mayor's release of his downtown land use plan, but on Tuesday the results of a special streetcar benefits study were presented to the Council's Transportation Committee. The consultants carefully examined each property in South Lake Union and concluded that if the streetcar is built, the likely total increase in property value realized by all owners in the area was between 70-80 million dollars. Despite these lucrative numbers, property owners in South Lake Union have made it explicitly clear in testimony before the council and in backroom meetings with the Mayor and Council, that they flatly will not pay more than $25 million of the trolley's $50 million plus cost. Once built, the trolley will also require over $2 million a year for maintenance and operation. The Mayor has been quietly discussing with METRO how this might be paid for - by trading away future bus service for Seattle in return for METRO taking over operation and maintenance functions of the streetcar.
Word is down at City Hall that most councilmembers will join the Mayor in approving this giveaway. Under the Mayor's plan, over $12 million of the streetcar's $50 million construction costs will be covered from federal transportation revenues. These are limited transportation resources that otherwise could have been earmarked by the City to pay for some of our ailing bridges, road and mass transit systems serving our neighborhoods. There is a backlog of such projects that will take over $500 million to address but the Mayor prefers to prioritize use of the city's precious transportation revenues for Paul Allen's trolley and Allen's $200 million plan to re-working of the Mercer Corridor (a plan that their owns studies show will do nothing to relieve congestion).
But here's the icing on the cake. In their presentation before the Council's Transportation Committee, the consultant said that the overall benefit amounted to on average 2% of current value across all the properties in SLU with the amount ranging from a low of almost no increase for some properties (usually those furthest from the trolley route) to a high of as much as 10% for owners of other properties. She also of course said that those properties in closer proximity to the line were the ones that in general realized the greatest return - that 10 percent increase in value. Well gee....guess who owns nearly all of those properties nearest the trolley route. Yep ..you guessed it: Paul Allen. Meaning that he's going to get the lions share of that 70-80 million in increased value.
The Council will soon be making a decision on whether to approve the streetcar for South Lake Union and who will pay for it. Whether bus service will be sacrificed is also up in the air. You might want to call or e-mail councilmembers and let them know what you think of this added giveaway to Mr. Allen. The Mayor deserves special thanks for this deal as well of course.
John V. Fox 632-0668
Update on South Lake Union Streetcar - Final Vote Monday June 27th 2:00PM:
Vulcan Attacks Licata's Attempt to Restrict Use of Future Bus Service for
the South Lake Union Street Car! (See Vulcan form letter attached below)
While the Council is likely to release funding for the South Lake Union Street Car on Monday, they may back away from a committing future neighborhood bus service for trolley operations Only your calls will make the difference Testimony before hearing from some of you also is needed.
Below I've attached a form letter drawn up by Vulcan Inc (with likely help from the Mayor's office) trashing Councilmember Licata's attempts to limit use of our future bus service for the Paul Allen Street Car. Vulcan is asking their supporters to sign and forward it to Councilmembers. Facing the possibility that Nick Licata's amendment will pass on Monday, Vulcan is fighting back...and mudslinging in the process. They literally want it all - not just our tax dollars but our bus service. Unless we get lots of calls from you folks going into Council (and right away) giving your support to the Licata amendment it could go down to defeat. Councilmembers Steinbrueck and Rasmussen voted in Committee for Licata's amendment and rumor has it that Licata has found at least one more councilmember to support him for Monday's vote in full Council. A fifth vote is still needed. Over 9000 hours of future bus service are at stake and likely more would be sacrificed when cost overruns and shortfalls in trolley fare box revenues inevitably lead the Mayor to divert still more bus service hours to street car operating expenses. Licata's amendment requires full consideration of future neighborhood bus needs before considering diversion of any bus hours for the trolley.
We urge you to call Councilmembers today. Help us counter the Vulcan barrage. Call 'em and urge em to:
1. Support the Licata amendment...but go even further....tell all councilmembers to say 'No! to the use of any future bus service hours for Paul Allen's Streetcar in South Lake Union
2. Oppose the use of any current or future city, county, state, or federal funds for Paul Allen's Street Car in South Lake Union. The ordinance does not prevent use of general fund dollars for the trolley either despite claims to the contrary and any federal, state, or county tax dollars taken (not "dedicated" to use their euphemism) for the trolley means millions less of these limited dollars to over a $500 million backlog of transportation needs in our neighborhoods!
Please make these calls before Monday's vote and the sooner the better. And we need some of you if you can to come down at testify before Monday's vote if you can! The vote is scheduled for about 2:00PM in Council Chambers Monday June 27th (5th and Cherry downtown, 401 Cherry). Also, we need some of you to come down and testify if you. Always before the final vote and right at 2:00PM the full council takes a small amount of testimony (2 minute maximum from each speaker who signs up), for or against a measure they'll be voting on. Vulcan is already lining up their crowd to be there so we really do need some of you to come down at testify. You must be there by 1:45 at Council Chambers to sign up and speak if not before.... please come down and do so if you can.....
Abutting property owners will realize a 70 million dollar increase in their property values according to a special benefits study and initial appraisal commissioned by the City Council... Vulcan Inc. get's the lion share of this increased value yet they are flatly telling the Council they will only pay 25 million of the cost in the form of a LID. We'll pay the rest including cost overruns, meanwhile there are 39 bridges in desparate need of repair included in that $500 million plus backlog of real transportation needs in our nabe's. This street car wouldn't even be given the slightest consideration by the council if it wasn't proposed and pushed by Vulcan Inc.... As the Seattle Times said in a June 5th editorial, this is not "mainly a transportation improvement. It is about jazzing up a neighborhood so that more people will want to move and invest there". As PI columnist Ted Van Dyke points out in today's paper "A generally supine Seattle City Council is backing a Nickels proposal for a Westlake Center-South Lake Union streetcar line, costing up to $50 million, to benefit the Vulcan venture. Nineteen bus routes already serve South Lake Union. They have a frequency and ridership exceeding that predicted for the streetcar and operate at 30 percent less cost per hour of service than a streetcar." See http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/229556_vandyk23.html
For more details on our position on the street car see our opinion piece in the current issue of the Capitol Hill
Times at http://www.zwire.com/site/tab7.cfm?brd=855&Nav_Sec=68024 or go to our website at
Council e-mails and phone #'s:
Below is a response to Conlin's and Godden's defense of their giveaway of public funds and bus service to Paul Allen's Street Car followed by a copy of the Vulcan Draft Letter they're getting their supporters to send to councilmembers:
Response to Conlin and Godden's attempts to justify the Street Car Giveaway from Councilmember Licata:
Message from CM Nick Licata
Since sending out my email encouraging citizens to contact the Council and the Mayor to support my amendment to the legislation that finances the operations of the South Lake Union Streetcar partially from future Metro Service hours, CMâ€™s Godden and Conlin have responded with emails that raise some objections to my position. Here are my responses to the points raised by Councilmembers Godden and Conlin in the emails that they have sent out. Also for a more detailed analysis please read my newsletter Urban Politics # 199 on line at
Godden: I must note Councilmember Licata's claim that the current legislation would adversely impact riders in Seattle's neighborhoods is inaccurate. Licata: I disagree. There are only so many service hours to disperse. This is a zero-sum game. If we take an inordinate number of hours and apply it to just one neighborhood, then the others will receive fewer â€œnewâ€? hours in the future.
Godden:The council's intent is clear: any SLU streetcar operations plan that diverts current hours from Metro services impacting other neighborhoods would not be considered. Licata: That is the Councilâ€™s intent. Please note that CM Godden refers to â€œcurrentâ€? hours, the proposed legislation would negatively impact â€œfutureâ€? service hours and that is what I have always been saying. That impact will make itself felt when either light rail or the monorail come on service, which could be by the end of 2009.
Godden: The executive proposal to use approximately 15 percent of the new Metro hours that would become available once the light rail and monorails come on line does not divert current hours from other communities, and is, therefore, consistent with the council's criteria. Licata: Again her focus is on â€œcurrentâ€? hours. And the impact is when â€œeitherâ€? the light rail â€œorâ€? the monorail come on line. Since light rail is planned to come on line about 2 years before the monorail, the 9,300 Metro Service hours earmarked for the SLU
Streetcar represents represents 33% of the new hours accompanying light rail. That percentage goes down to 16% when the monorail comes on line, expected to be in 2011.
Conlin: Councilmember Licata has proposed an amendment that would require analyzing the streetcar in comparison to other possible routes before allocating service hours to it. This analysis has already been performed, Licata: There has been no analysis on the relative ridership of the SLU streetcar versus the ridership of the lines that will be eliminated or reduced in frequency. The only analysis that has been done is the projection of the number of riders on the SLU Streetcar during its initial period (not defined by number of years) and when it is fully developed (again not defined as to what date that will be). The fully mature SLU Streetcar rideship is based on hoped for residential and job development in SLU but not any calculated projections. The Council had previously passed Ordinance 121565 which said in Condition 10 that new, incremental Metro bus hours could be used for the SLU Streetcar â€œâ€¦ as long as it is demonstrated that the use of those hours represent a responsible, effective, and efficient allocation of the Cityâ€™s share of Metro service hours.â€? I think my amendment is exactly in line with the Councilâ€™s intent.
Conlin: the South Lake Union streetcar is comparable to other bus lines. Licata: This is an assumption. We do not know if it will be or not. That is the purpose of my amendment: to evaluate it along with the cityâ€™s other transit needs. We can reasonably predict that the initial years of the SLU Streetcar will not be performing even close to the bus lines that serve SLU, especially Route 70 (Fairview Ave. North and Eastlake Ave. E. ) and Route 8 (Denny Way). The future ridership of the line is largely conjecture at this time.
Conlin: The project cannot realistically proceed without determining how to fund its operations. Licata: The SLU community, which will benefit most directly from the streetcar, could pay for the O&M costs through a Business Improvement Area (BIA). This is the approach that other cities have taken, such as Tampa, which also has a streetcar and was identified by the Mayorâ€™s consultant as a good model to compare with Seattleâ€™s streetcar. In addition, since we are only tapping ~30-35% of the special benefits that SLU property owners will experience via an increase in their property values (the property owners are proposing to pay only $25 million towards the capital costs while their special benefits could be as much as $80 million), there is definitely â€œroomâ€? to charge the property owners more, especially considering that the SLU Streetcar is more a development amenity as opposed to a effective and efficient method of transportation.
Conlin: No current neighborhood bus service would be
affected by the use of these future service hours for the streetcar line.
Licata: Again by focusing on â€œcurrentâ€? neighborhood bus service, the point
is missed that â€œfutureâ€? neighborhood bus service will be affected.
Conlin: Councilmember Licata has stated that his amendment would "distribute new bus service hours fairly across the City". This is not accurate: Licata: This is truly a technical point. To be specific, my amendment would â€œallowâ€? for service hours to be distributed fairly across the City. If the 9,000 plus service hours are locked into paying for the operations costs of the SLU Streetcar, then there will be no opportunity to distribute them to other neighborhood transit needs. My amendment provides for a fair evaluation of the streetcar vis-Ã -vis
other bus services and therefore allows for the fair distribution of service hours in the city.
Conlin: * The City does not decide the distribution of service hours * King County Metro does; Licata: Another technical point. Metro does decide on the distribution. However, the legislation approves of an â€œinterlocalâ€? agreement between the City and Metro that would tie the 9,300 service hours to the SLU Streetcar. Without that agreement, Metro would use criteria that it has set forth in the past which does not provide additional weight to just this one streetcar line.
Conlin: * The commitment to use these service hours for the streetcar only exists because there will be an interlocal agreement with Metro for that purpose; Licata: Not sure of his point. Mine is that such an agreement as defined in the legislation should not commit the city to a firm amount of hours to the SLU Streetcar until there has been an evaluation of its need in comparison to the transit needs of other neighborhoods.
Conlin: * Metro has no obligation or plan that distributes new bus service hours "fairly across the city". Licata: Metro does have criteria that while not using the term â€œfairlyâ€? does reflect a series of conditions that take into account transit needs of communities across the city and does not concentrate them in just one neighborhood.
Copy of Vulcan's Form Letter to Councilmembers
We urge you to support the Ordinance that already passed City Council Transportation Committee - Do NOT support Council Member Licata's Amendment, which will further entangle our city in more PROCESS and less PROGRESS.
The Seattle Streetcar will NOT take existing METRO bus service hours from other Seattle neighborhoods. The Ordinance that was supported in a 5-2 vote by the City Council Transportation Committee allows METRO (the proposed operator of the Seattle Streetcar) to use a portion of its 58,000 new service hours freed up in 2009 from the start of light rail and the monorail to help operate the Seattle Streetcar. These new service hours will also be used to support expanding bus service in neighborhoods across Seattle.
It is outrageous for Council Member Licata to instead suggest that private citizens should pay for both the capital cost AND operations of the streetcar. Property owners along the streetcar line are already paying a $25 million LID to fund construction of the streetcar - that is higher than any other streetcar LID in the country.
No other Seattle neighborhood has ever paid for the capital cost or operations of a public transportation system.
Forcing property owners to pay for both the operations and capital cost of the streetcar basically ensures that the South Lake Union streetcar will never get built and the system will never be expanded because no other neighborhood will be able to bear that burden. We believe this is Council member Licata's real goal.
Private property owners have been extremely generous in offering to pay more than half the cost of a PUBLIC transportation system. Council Member Licata is trying to take advantage of property owners, employers and residents that want to support public transportation in an unreasonable attempt to make them pay more than their fair share.
return to main page for more information on trolley and Coalition position return to top
Analysis: How Each Councilmembers Performed on Monday’s Street Car Vote
(see below): Council Votes 7-2 to Go-Ahead with Paul Allen's Street Car
* Licata's attempt to protect our bus service turned back by a 6-3 Vote
* Conlin Carries Freight for Paul Allen's Street Car in South Lake Union
* Compton takes another trip to Portland for Paul Allen. He's long ago given up on any commitment he made when he signed a settlement agreement with the Ethics commission to limit his participation in decisions directly affecting Vulcan interests
about Della and McIver? By giving such unqualified support to the SLU Street
Car and All Things SLU, how can David Della and Richard McIver reconcile this
stance with their professed concern over the fact that Southeast Seattle and
other communities of color don't get the attention nor the resources they
deserve from City Hall? Put simply, they cannot.
For more on how each councilmember performed see below:
Conlin Carries Freight for
Paul Allen's Street Car in South Lake Union:
On Monday the full City Council voted 7-2 to go ahead with what some are calling the "Paul Allen Memorial Street Car". Only Councilmembers Licata and Steinbrueck said 'no' to this 50 million dollar plus project. Despite most major media editorializing against it and an outcry from hundreds of Seattle residents and dozens of folks calling in to oppose it, millions in scarce city transportation revenues will now be sacrificed for this 1.3 mile trolley line designed to shuttle office workers, tourists, and residents into and out of billionaire Paul Allen’s glitzy new South Lake Union (SLU) neighborhood.
Keep in mind there are 19 bus routes now serving that area with more than ample capacity to meet that areas growth needs into the next decade. And buses operate at twice the average speed of a 6 mph street car with greater ridership and frequency of service and cost 30% less to operate. A recent special benefits study shows property owners abutting the trolley will reap a $70 million plus increase in property values yet they've flatly said they'll only pay $25 million of the cost in the form of a Local Improvement District LID. Paul Allen owns almost all of the land now abutting the trolley route by the way so he gets the lion's share of that take. To top it off, by a 6-3 vote the City Council also signed off on the Mayor’s plan o take revenue earmarked for new METRO bus service hours for Seattle's neighborhoods and divert them to cover most of the street car’s estimated $1.5 million annual operating cost. Councilmember Rasmussen, joined Licata and Steinbrueck in an effort to protect our city's future bus service hours but to no avail.
Councilmembers Godden, Compton, Drago, and McIver insipid in their support for street car
Councilmembers Godden, Compton, Drago, and McIver were insipid in their support of the Paul Allen street car to be sure (each gets oodles of campaign cash from the Vulcan crowd) but there really wasn't much they needed to say or do with Conlin doing the work. Despite Richard Conlin's touted 'neighborhood' credentials, he continues to champion most if not all of the Mayor's South Lake Union (SLU) Agenda. Conlin was as longwinded as I've ever seen him, mustering every bit of his often tedious intellectual style to try and pound Licata and Steinbrueck's opposing arguments into the ground. Conlin should have just come out and said it "What's good for Paul Allen is good for the rest of us".
Facing a tough re-election bid, apparently, Conlin has decided to shore up his support with downtown and corporate interests while hoping he can hold at least portions of his base in the neighborhoods. He's straddling a razor wire. And frankly in light of his performance on all things SLU especially his recent "leadership" on the Paul Allen Street Car, why should the neighborhoods care whether he gets the old heave ho at election time.... The least he could do is apply some of the watch dogging he's doing on the monorail to the SLU agenda for crying out loud.
Conlin takes wrong course to bolster his bid for re-election:
What is especially troubling about Conlin's current stance is that he's very willing to fritter away our limited existing local, state, and transportation dollars on vanity projects in SLU then turn around and champion more special levies to pay for that backlog of basic transportation needs in our neighborhoods (now in excess of $500 million and climbing). Conlin is also supporting the City's current look at the use of tolls and unit pricing in the future as new revenue sources. Doesn't this sound familiar - use up our existing public tax dollars on frills that serve special interests when these dollars should be going in the first place to our neighborhoods? These same electeds will then waltz out to the neighborhoods, hold a press conference while glad-handing a few hand picked folks from the 'hood, and announce their next special levy to tax voters still more to cover these basics. I'm no fan of Tim Eyman, but this is the kind of stuff he thrives on and why voters even in liberal Seattle may finally draw a line in the sand when they're asked to support still more gas taxe hikes, the regional transportation package, and one more special levy after another.
Compton takes another ride to Portland for Paul Allen:
Compton, by the way, has long ago given up on any commitment he made when he signed a settlement agreement with the Ethics commission to limit his participation in decisions directly affecting Paul Allen. You may recall two years ago, while running for re-election, Compton took an airplane ride on Paul Allen's plane and attended a Blazers Game seated in Allen's special box and failed to disclose that fact in violation of city ethics laws. In a subsequent settlement with the Ethics Commission he agreed to abstain from all votes affecting Paul Allen's interests for one year. That one year period has expired, but the settlement also called on Compton to exercise his discretion and consider withholding his vote on all future Council actions where Allen's interests directly came in to play. So much for Compton and his use of discretion, he simply praised the SLU agenda and then voted for the street car that will very directly benefit Paul Allen. Interestingly enough, before voting,
Compton referred to a more recent trip "we" took to Portland to see "first hand" the Portland street car experience.... I wonder on whose dime he took that trip? Note also, Compton has received thousands in contributions from downtown, Vulcan, and special interests affiliated with Vulcan.
Della and McIver Support SLU Agenda even though it takes money away from southend
What about Della and McIver?
By giving such unqualified support to the SLU Street Car and All Things SLU,
how can David Della and Richard McIver reconcile this stance with their
professed concern over the fact that Southeast Seattle and other communities
of color don't get the attention nor the resources they deserve from City Hall
- put simply, they cannot. Neither Richard McIver nor David Della seems to
realize or at least they act like they do not....that the allocation of our
city's resources is a zero-sum game.... When the vast bulk of our city's
resources pour into downtown and South Lake Union and for a corporate agenda,
it directly translates into fewer resources for economic development,
transportation infrastructure, and other basic services in the rest of our
City. For fraction of the millions we are pouring into South Lake Union, we
could invest these dollars in our neighborhoods particularly in communities of
color and generate far more in taxes and jobs for our city.
And the investment would go directly into neighborhoods that need them where the jobs created truly meet the needs of longtime underserved folks especially working people and communities of color. Both McIver and Della can't have it both ways.
Long ago McIver made it clear where he stands on economic redistribution.... he believes if you give money to big business...maybe in the next decade or two it'll trickle out to the neighborhoods.... and as for the forces of gentrification now ravaging low income areas and communities of color…. McIver now acts like he's never heard of that process.
Della's turning out to be a trickle-down supply-sider kind of guy
By signing up for the SLU agenda and sending a sea of cash Paul Allen’s way, he apparently believes it will lifts all boats or is he just mouthing these tired nostrums to deflect criticism. I’m not sure. Regarding the SLU trolley Della tried to reconcile his support for it by telling his supporters in minority communities that this was the first step towards a city-wide network of trolleys. Della says he wants the CD and ID to be next in line for a street car. Tom Rasmussen also used this argument to justify his support for the SLU street car – saying even Fremont some day could get one. Sorry guys, it ain't gonna happen in a million years. These other neighborhoods don't have one of the richest men in the world to lobby on their behalf or a sycophantic Mayor to do his every bidding.
I can't count the number of times I've heard McIver complain about the fact that the Southend always is last in line for city dollars.... but then he turns around and buys off on phony promises by the Mayor and the Vulcan crowd that "you'll get your street car next." Neither the Mayor, or Paul Allen, or other corporate interests, or anyone else with real power down at City Hall care about bringing a street car to other neighborhoods. (It sure ain’t McIver or Della with the power - like most members of the Council these guys more often can be seen sniffing the political wind or taking orders from the Mayor and special interests at least when it comes to major issues affecting the distribution of wealth and resources in our city) It's the height of naiveté to believe that the SLU street car will spawn a revival of this mode of transportation in Seattle…and lord help us if it did for that matter. It would simply mean that still more of our limited transportation revenues are thrown down a rabbit hole at the expense of real mass transit solutions desperately needed in our communities especially communities of color. Street cars are toys not transportation solutions.
Steinbrueck, Licata, and Rasmussen:
On this trolley vote Steinbrueck and Licata were solid as rocks in representing the public interest. Licata spent more time offering nuanced arguments to defend his call to restrict use of the bus service. Given the lopsided vote, perhaps he should have just blasted away at the street car. Steinbrueck didn't hesitate to call it a colossal waste of limited resources. He also highlighted loopholes in Conlin's proposal allowing use of general fund dollars for the project despite Conlin's misrepresentation that these funds could not be tapped. Steinbrueck's only misstep was when he complained that some of the tax dollars going into the SLU street car instead should go for pedestrian improvements and bike amenities in SLU. Councilmember Steinbrueck ought to know by now that this will just give the Mayor and SLU lobbyists a ready excuse to come pounding once again on his door for still more of our tax dollars to cover these costs as well. Tom Rasmussen gets a smaller thank you for his willingness to join Steinbrureck and Licata in their failed effort to protect our bus service even though in the end he voted for
and uttered the same nostrums favoring the street car.
Another day another vote for Paul Allen down at City Hall:
Last Monday's vote on the street car was just another day and another vote down at City Hall. It' was business as usual within the beltway. At least we had Licata and Steinbrueck (who in the past has vacillated on the SLU agenda) standing up for us this time around. Ever Onward.