At last Saturday’s city-organized forum focused on the two southeastern West Seattle sites under consideration for a possible jail for Seattle’s misdemeanor offenders (WSB coverage here), city reps mentioned this study was about to be released – and now it’s out: Whether a high-rise jail would be more efficient and cost-effective than a low-rise jail (which is what the city has been pursuing, and why it’s been focused on 7-acre sites like the two in this area). We’ve just started reviewing it – but it appears the answer is “no” – a high-rise jail would cost more. Read the full study here. ADDED 1:05 PM: Here are the main points, excerpted from the report, followed by (added at 2:42 pm) a comment from the city on “what’s next”:
From the report’s overview:
The analysis of the difference in cost between a low and high-rise jail that follows is based upon 440 beds on either a seven acre or one acre downtown site. As will be demonstrated in text and tables, the high-rise facility requires 10.4 more staff; is $906,000 more costly to operate on an annual basis; and (without parking) costs $17 million more to construct. With parking cost considered, the high-rise facility could cost $26.0 million more than a low rise jail. Factoring in land acquisition costs difference between a low and high-rise facility adds another $11 to $25 million in costs to the high-rise option.
From page 7:
While a number of the factors are obvious, such as the difference in the site square footage and the total building
square footage, other factors that impact either operations and/or costs are worthy of note.
1. A one acre site can only accommodate three, 64-bed housing units per floor while a seven acre low-rise site
can accommodate all seven housing units on a single floor. As noted in the operational cost analysis,
approximately 10 more staff is required for the multi-level option.
2. With three housing units per floor stacked on top of a two level support core, the one acre high-rise option is
seven levels or 98 feet high while the low-rise option on seven acres is 28 feet high.
3. The ideal configuration for a jail site is a square or a rectangle where the length of the site is no more than 2
to 3 times the width (i.e., a rectangle). If the building within these parameters exceeds this aspect ratio (1:2-
3), the building becomes so elongated that the distances from one end to the other can generate movement
and staffing inefficiencies.
4. The low-rise option has 30,000 less square feet of building faÃ§ade than the high-rise, but the high-rise has
only 20% of the roof area as the low rise. Both have capital and operational cost implications.
Using the 440-bed facility as a test case, the one-time capital and project cost difference without parking included is
$17 million greater for the high-rise option. In staff parking is included, this one-time construction cost difference
increases to $26 million. Annual operating cost increases by approximately $906,000 for the high-rise option. Finally,
the land acquisition difference is significantly higher for the high-rise option, ranging from $11 â€“ 25 million in
additional costs to acquire land in the Central Business District (CBD) than in non-CBD locations.
We’ve got messages out to the city to find out what happens next with the study, and to the Highland Park Action Committee, which is leading the local fight against the West Seattle sites and has expressed support for a high-rise jail. 2:42 PM UPDATE: We heard from the city regarding “what’s next, now that this study is out” — here’s the response from policy adviser Catherine Cornwall (who spoke at last Saturday’s forum):
The next steps are for staff to study the report — it contains a lot of information — and share it with City policymakers. They’ll need to weigh the cost differences along with all the other information we’re collecting, such as community input, environmental information that will come from the SEPA process, etc. We’re almost a year away from a decision, and we have many balls in the air — a possible joint venture with other cities, a possible regional solution led by King County, or
a Seattle-only jail. It’s too soon to say where we’ll end up.
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