There’s a lot more to the free-parking lots in The Junction than just striped asphalt without pay stations – Junction businesses pay special assessments to maintain them. This Friday, some proposed changes in the rules for those assessments, four years in the making, have the West Seattle Junction Association going before a City Council committee. After spotting the item on the agenda for the Finance amd Culture Committee, with WSJA director Susan Melrose listed as scheduled to speak to councilmembers, we talked to her Wednesday to find out more:
First – here’s the resolution that’s going to the committee, which is chaired by Councilmember Nick Licata. The committee hearing is the first step in a process that is to include a public hearing a month later.
The association is seeking three things, according to Melrose, all of which need City Council approval because the city regulates BIAs (business improvement areas) like the Junction Association: First, adjusting the boundary for the district in which businesses are assessed to help cover the costs of keeping the free parking. She says they’re adding the east side of 42nd south of SW Oregon, which was residential until the recently completed mixed-use building Oregon 42 was built; with ground-floor retail, that is now a business zone.
With expenses for the lots rising every year, says Melrose, they’re also seeking two changes regarding who pays what and when: First, they’re seeking to end “graduated entry,” in which businesses didn’t pay full assessment for their share until their third year – they weren’t assessed the first year, and were assessed only half the rate their second year. “No other BIA in the city does that,” Melrose says.
Finally, they’re proposing to remove the barrier for participation, so there would no longer be a minimum income level. The assessment is formulated based on income, Melrose explains, so companies without much revenue won’t be paying much, but, she says, “at least it’s helping”; they would rather make these tweaks than raise the rates. The BIA, by the way, contains 230 businesses, Melrose says.
Assuming this Friday’s meeting doesn’t result in any changes to the plan, the ensuing public hearing would be at City Hall at 2 pm on Wednesday, June 25th. As with most if not all council sessions, there is also public-comment time before this Friday’s meeting, which you’ll be able to see live via the Seattle Channel if you can’t be there in person.