(WSB photos by Patrick Sand)
11:38 AM: The achievement gap among Seattle students is “unacceptable,” Mayor Ed Murray has just told a gathering at High Point Commons Park’s outdoor amphitheater, starting the official announcement of the Seattle Preschool Program. Materials provided to us and other media reps say they’ll go to voters with a four-year property-tax levy to raise $14.5 million a year, costing “the average homeowner” $3.63 a month. It will be “voluntary for providers and participants and will build toward serving 2,000 chlldren in 100 classrooms by 2018.” Otherwise, “the moral cost is too high,” declared the mayor. More to come.
11:48 AM: “Every child in our city deserves a fair start … in life,” says Councilmember Tim Burgess, after being called by the mayor “the godfather” of the proposal. He says this would pay for full-day preschool. The announcement notes, “The program will have the ultimate goal of serving all eligible and interested 4-year-olds and all 3-year-olds from families making less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level in Seattle.” The classrooms in which they would be served would “be provided through a mixed-delivery system, with classrooms offered by Seattle Public Schools and community providers.” SPS Superintendent José Banda speaks shortly thereafter, saying the district looks forward to being “a partner” in this, and that he expects this will make Seattle “a model” for the rest of the country.
Asked about asking for yet another tax, the mayor acknowledges that “there’s a risk” but also says that if this helps bring a brighter future for more Seattle youth, “it’s going to save us money.”
A few more points:
*Free tuition for families earning less than 200% of federal poverty level
*Sliding scale for families earning more than that, “with at least some level of subsidy for all families”
*”Ongoing, independent evaluation” promised for a “feedback loop” to shape the program as it continues
12:02 PM: Event wrapping up; we have it on video and will add when uploaded. If you watch TV news, you’ll see something about it tonight, as it was a full-scale regional-media turnout. Next step? The council will have to vote by early August to get this on the November ballot. Details here.
ADDED: Our video of the entire event:
Followup: What $ would YOU use to avoid Metro cuts? West Seattle Transportation Coalition launches its pollMay 15, 2014 at 10:44 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 61 Comments
The poll mentioned in our coverage of Tuesday’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting has just launched: WSTC is looking for your opinion on funding sources you think the city should consider before a final decision on how to avoid Metro cuts. The poll will be open until Tuesday morning; find it here. Ahead, the WSTC’s announcement and explanation:
— Marcee Stone (@bluecella) May 15, 2014
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
A visit from U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott was top-billed for Wednesday night’s meeting of our area’s largest political organization, the 34th (Legislative) District Democrats, but endorsements stole the show.
Atop that list, the 34th DDs gave their blessing to the August ballot measure that will seek to set up a Seattle Park District, though one pre-vote speaker warned that elected officials should “explain it better” before ballot-casting time arrives.
They also made endorsement decisions in judicial races, with some of the candidates on hand, even an appearance by newly appointed State Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu, who arrived at the meeting after her endorsement vote, and thanked the group:
— 34th Democrats (@34dems) May 15, 2014
Other endorsees included Congressmember McDermott, who spoke for a few minutes shortly after the meeting began. Introducing him, 34th DDs chair Marcee Stone-Vekich suggested everybody go look up the video clip of McDermott “swinging a fish in the halls of Congress” with Stephen Colbert. We found it:
Mayor Murray, Superintendent Banda, Council President Burgess coming to West Seattle to announce Seattle Preschool ProgramMay 14, 2014 at 7:45 pm | In High Point, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 29 Comments
Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle Public Schools Superintendent José Banda will be back in West Seattle tomorrow morning for a big announcement – what’s expected to be a tax levy to raise money for universal pre-kindergarten in Seattle. They will announce what’s described in a media advisory as the “Seattle Preschool Program proposal” during an 11:30 am event at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center, joined by City Council President Tim Burgess (who has been a leading advocate of the proposal), State Rep. Ruth Kagi, and State Department of Early Learning Director Bette Hyde.
6:09 PM: Want to talk with a city councilmember about how your money is spent – and will be spent? Now until 8 pm, you have a prime chance at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in North Delridge. Three councilmembers are here so far for the Public Safety/Civil Rights-focused workshop looking ahead to the 2015-2016 budget cycle – Nick Licata, who chairs the budget committee; Tim Burgess, who’s the president of the council; and Bruce Harrell, who chairs the public safety/civil rights/technology committee. Tom Rasmussen, the lone West Seattle-residing councilmember, is said to be en route. (Added: He arrived around 6:30.) The presentation hasn’t started yet, but we’re told it’s fairly short, and then it’s your turn to talk. More to come.
6:19 PM: City budget director Ben Noble is leading the presentation. He explains that right now the process of making the next budget plan is “in the executive phase” – departments send in their proposals this month and next, then the mayor reviews them over the summer, and a proposed budget goes to the council this fall. The current city budget is $4.4 billion; utilities and transportation spending comprise more than half that. But, Noble explains, most of the decisionmaking focuses on just $1 billion of that $4.4 billion – the “general fund.” More than half of that, in turn, goes to public safety – $576 million in the current cycle, says Noble. (Some of the information he’s presenting is on this two-page doc from the city website; we’re promised a copy of the slide deck, to come; ADDED – here it is.) Of that, a bit more than half – $289 million – goes to SPD. $175 million goes to SFD.
How much in the SPD budget goes to items related to the Department of Justice settlement? asked local community activist Pete Spalding. Hard to break that out, city staff said; Councilmember Harrell picked it up by saying, “You’ll hear different numbers,” noting that it’s led to the creation of new units, for example, such as Force Investigation (which was launched by now-Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Steve Wilske before his assignment to the local precinct, by the way).
6:43 PM: Questions so far include how budget items relate to, for example, SPD officers’ union and contract. Councilmember Harrell offered the example that the council might budget money for, say, body cameras, but if they weren’t written into the contract as a change of terms of employment, the money might sit there unspent, though “we’d find a way to use it,” Harrell added. West Seattle Be Prepared‘s Cindi Barker asked how much of the city budget goes toward preparedness; city staffers said they’d look it up. We have to move on to another meeting – but again, if you have questions/ideas, drop in at Youngstown, 4408 Delridge Way SW, until 8, and tell city reps about your public-safety-budget priorities (or send them via e-mail – lots of contact info on the right side of this page).
It’s been a recurring theme lately – the money that local government gets from you already, the money it’s asking for beyond that, and how that money is being and would be spent. Tomorrow night, West Seattle is the site of a meeting entirely about how the city spends your money. It’s the last in a round of city-budget workshops looking ahead to 2015-2016 spending; this one has a special focus on public-safety (police, fire) and civil-rights programs. So especially if you have an interest in how those programs are funded – this meeting’s for you. It’ll start with a short presentation and then move into conversation, with City Councilmembers there. Also planning to be there: Reps of the Seattle Privacy Coalition, whose spokesperson Jan Bultmann says is joining with the Human Rights Commission “to request funding for a formal privacy review process.” They’ve drafted a letter they plan to make available tomorrow night, spelling out why they think it’s time to have a process like that in place. All are welcome at tomorrow’s meeting, 6-8 pm at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center (4408 Delridge Way SW). Want more details on the process? Go here.
Money for Metro: King County Executive Dow Constantine says he’s creating ‘clear path’ for cities to buy more transit-service hoursMay 12, 2014 at 3:58 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 33 Comments
King County Executive Dow Constantine has just outlined a three-part plan regarding Metro‘s future, ranging from a way for cities to avoid service cuts within their borders, to a way to counter the claims that Metro doesn’t spend its money wisely, to a way to figure out how to improve customer satisfaction.
First, Constantine said he remains “fully committed to a regional transportation solution.” And he says a statewide package remains “desperately needed … but doing nothing while we wait on Olympia” is not an option. So, he says he’s “creating an enhanced Metro program for cities … to have a clear path for” buying additional hours of Metro service. He says this is intended as “a bridge” until a permanent funding solution is found: “Until the Legislature acts, I cannot ask cities to accept cuts that they are willing locally to prevent.” He says this won’t prevent the first round of Metro cuts this fall but if cities choose, might be able to hold off subsequent rounds. (The four West Seattle bus routes slated for “deletion” aren’t scheduled to go away, for example, until September of 2015.)
He says he’s also calling for “new transparency” in how Metro spends and is run, to “clear the air” and “get the right information” to people to refute a perception that Metro doesn’t spend its money well. He says Metro’s costs are 99 cents per mile, while the industry standard is 98 cents per mile, and “growth in Metro costs is now well below the national coverage, 19th out of our 30 peers.” Constantine says he’s calling for a financial audit of Metro’s reserves and capital-spending plans. He says Metro spends cash on buses rather than go into debt.
Exec calls for peer review and financial audit of Metro's operations, and establishes new Customer Service Panel to make recommendations.
— Dow Constantine (@kcexec) May 12, 2014
And he says he’s forming a new customer-service panel to find out “how to make the experience of riding Metro, even better.”
The first part of his announcement would seem to pave the way for Mayor Ed Murray‘s expected announcement tomorrow of a Seattle-only tax-increase proposal. Voters in the city approved Proposition 1, though it was defeated countywide because of a strong “no” vote outside the city; that was pointed out by City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who was among those joining Constantine at the news conference that has just ended.
4:13 PM: Here’s the full county news release. And Mayor Murray’s office has just sent word that his announcement is set for 9 am tomorrow.
5:18 PM: And carrying over the footnote from our earlier item previewing this story – you’ll be able to follow up on the county news today and the city news tomorrow morning, by hanging out with the West Seattle Transportation Coalition tomorrow night.
Election 2014: Final Prop 1 results; looking ahead to I-118; mayor to announce ‘proposal to save Metro’May 6, 2014 at 5:29 pm | In West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 27 Comments
The final results are in from the April 22nd vote on transit/roads-money Proposition 1:
No – 239,834 – 53.95%
Yes – 204,734 – 46.05%
The county says that’s a 39 percent turnout – a bit more than the predicted 38 percent. The final precinct-by-precinct breakout is out too
(not mapped yet), earlier than expected. (Added 9 pm, a map by Oran Viriyincy, who gave us permission to use it – you’ll have to grab it and drag it to get West Seattle centered up, and from there you can zoom all the way in to your precinct – mouse over a precinct to see its vote results:)
(back to original report) Earlier breakouts showed Prop 1 would have won if it had been a Seattle-only vote, which has heartened supporters of what is now Seattle Initiative 118, a property-tax increase to raise money for Seattle bus routes. They have four weeks to gather enough signatures to get it onto the ballot, and today they announced a list of endorsements, including West Seattle’s two state House reps, Rep. Eileen Cody and Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon. If they get enough signatures, they’re aiming for the November ballot, which still could leave enough time to stave off planned bus cuts; for example, the four routes that Metro says it will “delete” in West Seattle are not proposed for that “deletion” until September of next year.
ADDED 7:21 PM: After The Stranger reported that Mayor Ed Murray asked a legislator to pull his support for I-118, the mayor’s office tweeted that Murray is getting ready to announce his own plan:
@dominicholden the mayor is putting forth his own proposal to save metro later this week.
— SEA Mayor's Office (@OfficeofMayor) May 7, 2014
Mayor Ed Murray has just gone public with his minimum-wage-increase proposal. The City Council will start its review on Monday; meantime, the full details are in this news release from the mayor’s office. The toplines:
Small businesses (businesses with fewer than 500 employees) will reach a $15 per hour minimum wage in seven years. Also established is a temporary compensation responsibility of $15 per hour to be met within the first five years, which can be achieved by combining employer-paid health care contributions, consumer-paid tips, and employer-paid wages.
Large businesses (businesses with 500 or more employees, either in Seattle or nationally) will reach $15 per hour in three years. The wages of employees who receive health care benefits will reach $15 per hour in four years.
The proposal will be heard by the council’s Select Committee on Minimum Wage & Income Inequality on Monday (May 5th) at 2:30 pm. It’s already drawn opposition from the group 15 Now, which (as reported here two weeks ago) proposes a city charter amendment phasing in $15 over three years, less than half the phase-in time of the mayor’s plan.
Create a Park District to raise more money for Seattle Parks? Council approval today means you’ll vote in AugustApril 28, 2014 at 7:46 pm | In West Seattle news, West Seattle parks, West Seattle politics | 26 Comments
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
A month and a half after Mayor Murray came to Hiawatha Community Center to announce the proposal to create a Park District to raise extra money for Seattle Parks and Recreation in the years ahead, it’s ballot-bound.
That’s because, during their meeting this afternoon (archived Seattle Channel video above), the City Council voted unanimously (8-0, with West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen absent) to send it to voters.
This will replace – now and into the future – the more-recent pattern of sending ballot measures to voters every few years, levy or bond, to raise extra money for Parks. Most recent one was the five-year Parks and Green Spaces Levy approved in 2008. It was set to raise $146 million over six years, ending this year. Before that, the Pro Parks Levy approved by voters in 2000 raised $198 million over eight years.
But this time around, city leaders decided to go for a permanent way to raise extra money, instead of a fixed-term levy. The Park District would be accountable to the City Council, sitting as its board, but would have its own taxing authority. As laid out in this memo, councilmembers want the Park District to raise about $48 million a year for the first six years, 11 percent less than the $54 million the mayor had suggested. So what about the money Parks gets from the city budget now? According to the mayor’s website: “The City will continue to use City revenues to fund Parks and will continue to allocate a minimum of $89 million per year of General Fund revenues (2014 level of funding) to support Parks’ services and facilities unless the City Council by a three-fourths vote determines that a natural disaster or exigent economic circumstances prevent the Council from maintaining this level of General Fund support.”
Meantime, here’s the bill councilmembers passed to ask voters whether they will approve creation of the Park District.
In public comment before the vote, they heard from several critics who expressed concerns about accountability and about the fact that unlike the levies, citizens won’t be voting on how much they will be taxed – they will be instead voting to give the Park District taxing authority. One critic suggested few citizens had heard about this and accused the council of being “in an insulated bubble.”
Councilmembers disagreed with that. They also said an “interlocal agreement” between the city and the proposed district – set up in a second bill they passed today – would increase accountability.
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, who chairs the Parks and Neighborhoods Committee, said it would help solve the problem of Parks’ huge unfunded maintenance backlog, estimated at more than $260 million, because 60 percent of the money raised would be spent on that. She said that over three years of trying to figure out what’s next for Parks funding, she had looked at and listened to thousands of comments.
Councilmembers Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant both acknowledged the Park District proposal wasn’t perfect, but considered it to be acceptable.
Councilmember Sally Clark described it as a tool to be used “without the council going all evil and using it for unintended purposes.”
Mayor Murray said in his announcement last month that the Park District would be able to tax up to 75 cents per $1,000 assessed value. The slightly larger funding package he was supporting at the time would have used about 42 cents of that authority, so the one the council is supporting would be a few cents less than that. After today’s council vote, he issued a statement saying the principles of his proposal “remain intact.” The mayor’s website has Q/A with more details on how the district would work.
If you’re a Seattle voter, you will be part of the final decision in the August 5th election.
Post-election last week, you’ll recall, King County leaders announced the official plan for Metro bus cuts to cover the money gap that the voted-down ballot measure Proposition 1 was intended to cover. At the time, they promised nighttime meetings to answer questions about the proposed cuts. Locations and dates have just been announced for three meetings – one in Seattle, one in Bellevue, one in Renton. According to the county announcement, “Each evening meeting will include an open house staffed by Metro to provide specific details about the changes and answer questions.” Here’s the schedule:
· Tuesday, May 13, Union Station, Ruth Fisher Boardroom, 401 South Jackson Street, Seattle
· Thursday, May 15, Bellevue City Hall, City Council Chambers , 450 110th Avenue NE, Bellevue
· Tuesday, May 20, Renton Pavilion Event Center, 233 Burnett Avenue South, Renton
5:30 p.m. sign in/open house; 6:00 p.m. public testimony
The county is not planning live streams from the meetings, but says video will be available online and via cable the day after each one. The cut plan is expected to be voted on by the County Council next month, and cuts/changes would be rolled out starting next September and continuing in phases through September 2015.
ADDED 12:56 PM: We doublechecked with Councilmember Joe McDermott‘s office to see if there would be any other hearings in Seattle. Response: “There will also a public hearing when the measure goes to the Full Council. Most likely, this will be on June 2nd at the regularly scheduled council meeting from 1:30-4pm. This meeting will be at the King County Courthouse.”
4:23 PM: “Yes” on Metro/roads-money Proposition 1 gained a bit of ground in the second round of results just released but “no” is still leading, now by nine percentage points. Current tally:
No – 224,441 votes, 54.51%
Yes – 187,324 votes, 45.49%
5:22 PM: County leaders have issued a news release saying that they’re now making plans for Metro cuts. County Executive Dow Constantine is quoted as saying, “We gave the voters a choice, and presented a proposal for saving Metro Transit and maintaining our roads. They have chosen a reduced level of service, and we will carry out the will of the voters. Tomorrow I will transmit legislation to the King County Council to reduce service by 550,000 hours and eliminate 72 bus routes.” The County Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment committee will have public hearings on the plan before taking final action by the end of May. The draft version of the 550,000-hour reduction is in our election report from last night.
Even before the second vote count comes out this afternoon for Metro/roads-money measure Proposition 1, a new ballot measure is in the works, says a group calling itself Friends of Transit, seeking a property-tax increase to be used only for bus service inside the Seattle city limits. The announcement received via e-mail:
Friends of Transit today announced it will file an initiative for the November 2014 ballot that would save bus service within Seattle city limits. The measure could raise up to $25 million a year for the next six years, enough to reverse most cuts to King County Metro routes that serve Seattle.
“Seattle will grind to a halt if we don’t act fast to save buses,” said Ben Schiendelman, founder of Friends of Transit and proponent of the ballot measure. “Seattle voters want better transit. We will not rest until we have reversed these cuts and begun making the investments we need to provide Seattle with the transit system it deserves.”
8:13 PM: Tonight’s results have just been made public for Proposition 1, the Metro/roads money measure, and it’s 55 percent no, 44 percent yes. More to come.
8:28 PM: This is the only vote count we’ll get tonight, with another to come tomorrow. The details, from the county website:
No – 200887 votes, 55.28%
Yes – 162508 votes, 44.72%
In addition to your thoughts in the comment section, we’re watching for other reaction around the net. Metro is a county service; from King County Executive Dow Constantine:
Dow Constantine "the voters have spoken" , not rejecting metro, rejecting this proposal to fund metro. pic.twitter.com/HvAKj1MsQf
— Alison Grande (@Alison_Grande) April 23, 2014
9:09 PM: So what happens now? The vote-counting usually takes a few weeks. If the measure is indeed defeated, the West Seattle-specific cut list would have to be reshuffled, because it included an extra cut that was averted two months ago, when the state agreed to continue providing “mitigation money” related to Highway 99 construction for at least another year. (And that was BEFORE Monday’s news that the Highway 99 tunneling machine won’t get moving again for almost a year.)
Metro did recently make a slight reduction in the number of service hours it said would be necessary if no new funding became available – 550,000 instead of 600,000; that draft revision included this route-by-route table.
It leaves more routes unchanged than the original proposal, and would be phased in between September 2014 and September 2015. Still on the list of routes to be eliminated: 21, 22, 37, 57. Route 113 was on the deletion list in November but is on the “would be unchanged” list now.
Four more hours to get your ballot in for the Proposition 1 (Metro/roads money) special election, and if you’re not mailing it, the ballot-dropoff vans in West Seattle and White Center will take it for free. Above, Taylor and Benjamin were on duty at the West Seattle Stadium van when we stopped by around noon; they already had received more than 150 ballots in two hours at that point. The other nearby van is in Greenbridge, 8th SW south of Roxbury. P.S. The other voting option is an accessible voting center – explained here; three locations – Renton, Bellevue, and Union Station downtown, also until 8 tonight. (Tonight’s round of results will be made public shortly after that, and we’ll have them here as soon as they’re available.)
IF you haven’t yet marked and returned your ballot – just one issue, Proposition 1 for Metro and roads money – you have two more days; it’s due Tuesday night (April 22nd). Last-minute campaigning continues – dozens of “No on Prop 1″ signs turned up along West Seattle arterials overnight; Prop 1 supporters say King County Executive Dow Constantine plans to campaign for it tomorrow morning at the California/Alaska RapidRide stop in The Junction before catching the bus to downtown, where he and Mayor Ed Murray plan a 9:30 am rally in the Benaroya Hall lobby.
Whichever way you’re voting, you can either put a stamp on your ballot and drop it in the mail, or you can drop it off – no stamp required – at the West Seattle or White Center ballot vans 10 am-5 pm tomorrow, 10 am-8 pm Tuesday. (There are dropoff locations elsewhere – maybe one close to someplace else you’ll be – locations are listed here.)
A member of the group 15 Now, supporters of a higher minimum wage, filed a proposed city-charter amendment today. It would go to voters if they gather at least 30,000 valid signatures. Here’s how they summarize the proposal:
On Jan 1, 2015, the minimum wage for workers at big businesses will be raised to $15/hour and raised each year to adjust for inflation.
For small- and medium-sized businesses and non-profit organizations, the minimum wage will be phased in over three years starting with $11/hour on Jan 1, 2015.
Small- and medium-sized businesses are defined as having fewer than 250 Full Time Equivalents, the standard set by Seattle’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance.
No training wages, no lower wages for tipped workers, and no “total compensation.”
Increased worker protections against wage and tip theft.
“It’s absolutely crucial that Proposition 1 pass,” King County Executive Dow Constantine told a get-out-the-vote gathering at the Senior Center of West Seattle this afternoon. It’s been one year since Metro general manager Kevin Desmond issued a warning of cuts to come if the State Legislature didn’t come up with a funding solution; they never did, as Constantine noted again today. Added City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen at today’s event, “We’ve done everything we can in Olympia” to try to get help, and none was forthcoming. So now it’s in voters’ hands, he, Constantine, and County Councilmember Joe McDermott – all three West Seattleites – reiterated, and they urged supporters to talk to their friends and family to make sure they vote, since a one-issue springtime special election might be ignored otherwise, with ballots potentially languishing in stacks of junk mail.
Our video above includes the entirety of what they said today; April 22nd is the deadline for voting – by mail or by dropbox/van.
With ballots due one week from Tuesday, the campaigning will be intensifying this weekend, and we have word of two pro-Proposition 1 rallies in West Seattle in the next three days:
-Tomorrow (Saturday, April 12th), 1 pm, Senior Center of West Seattle: King County Executive Dow Constantine, County Councilmember Joe McDermott, City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen are expected at Move King County Now‘s rally. All welcome, from those with questions about the ballot measure to those already planning to doorbell for it and in need of campaign literature and a list.
-Monday (April 14th), noon, South Seattle College (WSB sponsor): Councilmember Rasmussen and State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon are headlining what SSC says is a student-organized rally titled “Save Our Metro,” planned for the Clock Tower plaza (inside Brockey Center if the weather is bad).
We haven’t received word of any local anti-Prop 1 events so far; email@example.com is the address for any and all event announcements, on this subject or others. April 22nd is the deadline for ballots to be returned.
Right after the alley-vacation vote, the City Council Transportation Committee launched into what might have been the marquee item on any other day – the updated city Bicycle Master Plan. You can see what the West Seattle section of the plan calls for – what’s envisioned in the future, though timetables and funding are yet to be determined, by going here. (One notable feature: A western West Seattle neighborhood greenway, along 45th SW between Admiral and Alaska.) During discussion, Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said she wanted to include a reassurance that neighborhoods “would be listened to” when implementation time comes for its components. Councilmember Mike O’Brien called it “an amazing plan … ambitious, for sure.”
(TOPLINE: Five councilmembers voted in favor of the alley vacation at today’s hearing; final vote expected at full Council meeting on April 21st)
(Photos/video by WSB’s Patrick Sand)
9:35 AM: Just under way at City Hall – the City Council Transportation Committee meeting that will include the “alley vacation” request for the 4755 Fauntleroy Way (aka The Whittaker) development. You can watch the live Seattle Channel stream by clicking “play” in the window below:
(EVENING UPDATE: The archived full-meeting Seattle Channel video is now embedded above)
The meeting will start with public comment, about this and the meeting’s other big item – the updated Bicycle Master Plan. After that, 4755 Fauntleroy is the first item on the agenda. We’ll update live as it goes.
(Added: WSB video of the entire public-comment period)
9:42 AM: Public comment is under way. The committee’s chair Councilmember Tom Rasmussen is calling alley-vacation commenters first, then bicycle plan. First commenter, Deb Barker, a co-author of the letter/supporting documents we published last night, including criticism of the public-outreach period. Second, Joe Rogoff from Whole Foods Market, the only announced tenant for the project so far. He says opponents have mischaracterized the project’s truck-traffic potential. He also says, “Whole Foods Market being singled out as a tenant does not seem right to me” and notes there was no union outcry when non-unionized Trader Joe’s went in nearby. Third commenter, identified as Rebecca, who says city policy discourages alley/street vacations if they don’t benefit the city’s transportation system and thinks this should be denied. Next, a man identifying himself as a land-use attorney representing a commercial real-estate group. “Adding density to the region is critical,” he says. “… Especially dense new development near transit lines.” He says developers are starting to avoid alley vacations because they are such a hassle, and says that’s bad. Next: Steve Williamson, who says he wants the committee to vote no but if anyone chooses to vote “yes,” to explain what they believe is its public benefit. He, like Rebecca, says research has shown only one street/alley vacation denied by the council since 1998. And he says “development policy … is one way to address income inequality.”
9:54 AM: The commenters continued with supporter Josh Sutton, who says that if this project doesn’t go forward, another developer could move in with something worse. He says this project “has passed every step of the Seattle development process along the way … You have all you need to make a decision today.” Next, Jim Guenther, who says, “The train’s pulling away from the station and the only people on that train are going to be the developers, the City Council, and city staff.” He says opponents “have no problem with Whole Foods” and point out that they offered alternatives to the developers who, he says, “said no.” He lists four conditions he thinks should be required of the developers, including making half of the mid-block connector pedestrian-only, and “meaningful plazas” on the site. Next speaker, John, says, “I’ve had so many conversations with people about Whole Foods coming to West Seattle … (people) want WF to come here.” He contends, “The voters in West Seattle really, really want to see this happen.” He’s followed by Patrick Keating, who says he’s “here to talk about the traffic impacts … Currently (the crosswalks and bus stops) in the vicinity are difficult at best.” Next, Richard, who says, “A lot of this has turned into some bizarre union thing vs. non-union, Whole Foods … (but) this is really about the development of the property there. I don’t know if you’ve been down there but the place is a cesspool … derelict buildings, graffiti, the alley in question isn’t even an alley per se, it’s two streets cut off by dumpsters.” The next commenter, Kurt, says he got involved with a group of project opponents because he thought they were concerned about overall West Seattle development, but learned they were only focused on this project, and only on opposing Whole Foods being part of it. He says he supports the project. Final commenter is Dave Montoure, who says he wants to clarify that the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce, for which he serves as past board chair, supports the project. He says he hopes the committee will vote today. He’s the last commenter on this project – next, four bicycle-plan commenters, so there’ll be a break in our coverage.
10:17 AM: Now, the official agenda item.
Councilmember Rasmussen recaps that discussion and presentations were extensive on March 11th so the city staffers are here mostly as “a resource.” Beverly Barnett, who is the city’s point person for reviewing street/alley vacations, speaks first. She goes through the process and says that the city’s default is supposed to be “retain right of way … so when people (bring in proposals), we do feel there’s kind of a ‘hump’ for them to go over.” The more-problematic ones, she says, never get to the council because of so much advance discussion. She says if there’s a vote today, it would be on whether to grant the alley vacation – which means, the right for the developer to buy the alley land at fair-market value – “as conditioned.” (The documentation are all in the items linked to the agenda and was also included in our March 11th coverage.) City staff is going over the list of meetings at which the project was discussed; Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said she was concerned, but it sounds as if it’s been thoroughly discussed/presented. Councilmember Tim Burgess asked Barnett if this went through the standard vacation process. Yes, she said, although it’s been “more,” she added. He asks if it was circulated to city departments to see if there are any objections; yes, she replies, and says the developer met with departments including SDOT and Seattle Public Utilities to review elements including the design of the “mid-block connector” through the project. Luke Korpi of SDOT elaborates on that, saying “various alternatives” were explored, and that they felt they had finally arrived at the best version, which features a pedestrian walkway “separate from vehicle traffic, truck traffic.”
10:36 AM: Korpi says SDOT is “comfortable” with the final version. Bagshaw says she is still concerned about people getting from the project to the newly purchased park land across 40th SW. (There’s been controversy over whether SDOT would allow a mid-block crosswalk there; the West Seattle Triangle Plan calls for one.) Korpi says traffic engineers want to wait until after the project is finished to see how traffic patterns shape up, how the park is developed, etc. The developer is reported to have said that they will “participate” in making that crosswalk possible, and Bagshaw says she would like to make sure that is on the record somehow. Councilmember Mike O’Brien asks why, since Triangle Plan called for pedestrian-only midblock connector here, it’s OK for vehicles to be part of the one through the project. Korpi says they evaluated whether it would meet the goals of the plan, and SDOT determined it would. “So why was the letter of the neighborhood plan not achievable?” O’Brien asks. Korpi says it was deemed preferable for this project to have three access points for vehicles – Fauntleroy, 40th, Edmunds – to reduce pressure on Fauntleroy in particular. Councilmember Sally Clark says she supports getting the developer on record as helping pay for the future crosswalk. Rasmussen now moves for conceptual approval of the alley vacation and is second. Discussion ensues: He says the tenant is not part of the consideration, per city law; one critical point, he says, is whether the public will “lose alley function” with granting of a vacation, but he says that will not happen with this plan. And he quotes the Design Commission as saying that the plan with a midblock connector will “better meet the need … than the current alley … which is petitioned to be vacated.” He says that reviews indicate traffic will not be worsened at the area and that there are other benefits, such as wider sidewalks and an added bicycle lane, so he concludes “the public trust in the right of way” would be served. He also says that leaving the current alley configuration in place would not serve the goals of the Triangle Plan. And he notes SDOT did “not make a recommendation” regarding approval or denial, but did suggest conditions if the council chooses to support it. “My conclusion is that the public benefits are strong,” he concludes, and says he supports approval.
11:02 AM: Councilmember O’Brien, vice chair of the Transportation Committee, says he’s voting no. He thinks, for one, a grocery store could be placed on the Fauntleroy side, and he likes the fact that if the site were developed without an alley vacation, it would mean more housing units, and he says those are needed. Overall, he says he is not convinced there is enough public benefit, and the midblock connector concerns him the most – whether it has enough pedestrian orientation. He says he doesn’t think it’s possible to “put enough conditions on it” to make the vehicle traffic and pedestrian interaction work well enough. Councilmember Licata – who is an alternate member of the committee – is asking more about the connector. “It doesn’t seem to work in terms of just a pedestrian area,” he said, without “destinations on other side of the sidewalk … I don’t get who this is serving.” Rasmussen explains, “This is a very, very large site, and without a pedestrian connection, people would” have to walk up to and around the site on Alaska and Edmunds, “so it serves a very practical function.” Licata is not convinced. Next, Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who says she’s been to the site and a “vibrant development” certainly is in order, but she still wants to see the jobs question considered – just because that hasn’t been part of the review process “doesn’t mean we should keep doing it the same way until the end of time.” She points out that this would be in an area with several other grocery stores and that she believes they are all unionized (editor’s note: not Trader Joe’s) and that she will vote no.
11:16 AM: The vote is “divided,” Rasmussen announces (5 for, 3 against, we’re still confirming how it shook out since it’s a voice vote), so it goes to the full council on April 21st. Five votes is a majority of the council, so if no one changes, that means it will be finalized then, and supporters are in a jovial mood outside the chambers. The committee now goes on to the Bicycle Master Plan – you can continue watching the meeting in the live window above. We’re hanging around until the end to be sure we have clarification on who voted what and what happens next.
11:55 AM: Just spoke with Rasmussen’s legislative assistant Brian Hawksford:
-The no votes were O’Brien, Sawant, and Licata.
-The only councilmember who wasn’t here was Bruce Harrell; so, the yes votes were Rasmussen, Bagshaw, Godden, Clark, Burgess.
-”Divided” vote means that since it was not unanimous, a report must be prepared by council staff laying out the points that were made, and that is why the final vote is delayed a week, and scheduled for the second meeting after the committee vote instead of the first one.
-Even though the committee itself is just three members, the rules allow any councilmember to join in the proceedings of any committee (including voting) at any time.
ADDED 2:25 PM: From e-mail, reaction from Getting It Right for West Seattle, which had sought to have a Community Benefit Agreement required before the alley vacation could be approved:
Transportation Chairperson Tom Rasmussen’s approval of the biggest megaproject of its kind in West Seattle is another illustration why it’s time for the city to modernize its definition of what constitutes a public benefit. The city council should consider the public’s priorities, such as compliance with neighborhood plans, public transportation, family wage jobs, affordable workforce housing, and more. It should no longer be okay to sell public property to developers and businesses who don’t meet Seattle’s community-oriented standards. We thank Mike O’Brien, Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant for voting no on this project.
ADDED 10:08 PM: We have replaced the original cameraphone photos included here as we reported – crowd at top, council midway through – with two clearer images by our photographer. We also have replaced the original “live video” window with archived Seattle Channel video of the entire meeting, and also added the backup video we recorded while there – broken into two segments, the public comment, and the actual agenda item/discussion/vote.
What happens to the medical-marijuana industry when recreational-marijuana stores start opening? Our area’s largest political organization, the 34th District Democrats, invite you to come hear from an expert panel – and ask questions – this Wednesday. 34th DDs chair Marcee Stone-Vekich – who elaborates on the subject here – says the panel will include Rep. Eileen Cody, King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, and Liquor Control Board chair Sharon Foster.
Another topic of import – Seattle Parks funding, and whether voters will be asked to approve creation of a Metropolitan Parks District; City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw is scheduled to talk about that. Also on the agenda, members are expected to vote on endorsing the re-election of Rep. Cody and her fellow 34th District legislators, Sen. Sharon Nelson and Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon. The meeting’s at 7 pm Wednesday (April 9th), The Hall at Fauntleroy (9131 California SW).
Ballots arriving for April 22nd transportation-money vote; West Seattle, White Center will have ballot drop vans againApril 2, 2014 at 5:04 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 13 Comments
King County has mailed ballots for the April 22nd election, so yours might even have arrived already. Proposition 1 for Metro and road money is on the ballot countywide. Here’s the text you’ll see on your ballot:
The Board of the King County Transportation District passed Resolution No. TD2014-03 concerning funding for Metro transit, roads, and other transportation improvements. If approved, this proposition would fund, among other things, bus service, road safety and maintenance and other transportation improvements in King County cities and the unincorporated area. It would authorize the district to impose, for a period of ten years, a sales and use tax of 0.1% under RCW 82.14.0455 and an annual vehicle fee of sixty dollars ($60) per registered vehicle under RCW 82.80.140 with a twenty dollar ($20) rebate for low-income individuals.
Should this sales and use tax and vehicle fee be approved?
You can read the official pro/con/rebuttals here. As usual, it’s a mail-in election, but if you’d rather drop off your ballot in person – and without a stamp – here’s where to go, including ballot dropoff vans in West Seattle and White Center on April 19, 21, and 22. Same locations as last time – West Seattle Stadium (info/hours here) and Greenbridge (info/hours here).
All those arguments about development? Here’s THE meeting to go to; plus, Q/A with mayor re: growth controlMarch 31, 2014 at 11:36 am | In Development, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 27 Comments
(Equity and Wolff projects in The Junction, photographed recently by Long B. Nguyen)
The discussion – sometimes contentious, sometimes thoughtful – goes on. How much development is too much development – or is there no such thing as “too much development”? Do “growth targets” set in the past mean anything – considering, for example, the greater West Seattle Junction area is reported to be already past a future target, with major projects in progress and more on the way? When we talked one-on-one recently with Mayor Murray, he said one way to revisit that will be through the Seattle 2035 process that’s just launched. A West Seattle meeting is scheduled, one week from Wednesday. But before we get to those details – here’s the mayor’s 1-minute response to our question of whether growth should be allowed to expand seemingly infinitely even if so-called targets are passed:
Now, details of the meeting, one of five open houses citywide:
April 9th, 6-8 pm, at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center (4408 Delridge Way SW). From the city announcement:
DPD is hoping to reach out to different neighborhoods and gather comments on the Planning Alternatives that are currently under discussion. Comments can be submitted through April 21, 2014.
DPD is scoping an environmental impact statement (EIS) that will evaluate the City’s Comprehensive Plan update. The EIS will examine the possible impacts under three different growth scenarios.
Consistent with regional growth projections, all three scenarios assume the city will grow by 70,000 households and 115,000 jobs over the next 20 years. All the scenarios follow the Comprehensive Plan’s urban growth strategy that aims to concentrate most of the growth in the city’s designated urban centers and urban villages. The alternatives differ in how the projected growth would be distributed:
Alternative 1 would evaluate most of the growth in the six urban centers, in keeping with the regional plan of concentrating development in centers.
Alternative 2 would still project a lot of growth in the centers, but would shift some growth to the urban villages in order to strengthen those neighborhood business districts.
Alternative 3 would evaluate more growth in the urban villages that contain existing or planned light rail stations.
The Comprehensive Plan the City ultimately adopts could combine aspects of each of these alternatives.
DPD is taking comments on these alternatives and the topics to be covered in the EIS until April 21.
Even more information about the alternatives is here, as well as how to comment on them now (in addition to commenting in person at the April 9th meeting).
“I think we need to take a look at that.”
We heard that response a few times during our recent one-on-one interview with Mayor Ed Murray, including when we asked about a development-related issue that has roiled some neighborhoods around the city, including here in West Seattle: No offstreet parking required for housing built within a few blocks of “frequent transit.” That’s led to plans including the just-approved 6917 California SW 30-apartments, no-parking-spaces building whose land-use sign drew a frustrated scrawl last fall:
The no-parking (or handful-of-spaces) trend has been especially noticeable in the medium-sized projects lately, such as 40 units and 5 spaces at 4439 41st SW. But even as the city says “OK, there’s frequent transit, you can do it,” the transit agency – Metro – is warning of cuts. So, we asked the mayor, what does he think about the city allowing parking-free projects without being able to guarantee transit availability?
Previous installments in our Q/A with the mayor:
As-it-happened: 4755 Fauntleroy alley-vacation hearing, standing room only; vote delayed to April 8thMarch 11, 2014 at 9:34 am | In 4755 Fauntleroy, Development, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 76 Comments
(UPDATED 2:58 PM with archived meeting video; POST-HEARING TOPLINE: No committee vote until April 8th)
9:34 AM: We’re at City Hall for the alley-vacation hearing (process explained here, same as ‘street’ vacation) for 4755 Fauntleroy before the City Council’s Transportation Committee. Standing room only. Supporters are wearing purple stickers with slogans; opponents are wearing yellow stickers with slogans (photos added):
Live coverage ahead – you also can watch the stream via Seattle Channel (click “play”) in the window below (UPDATED 2:59 PM – THIS IS NOW THE ARCHIVED VIDEO OF THE MEETING):
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen has opened the discussion by playing a message on his voice mail – he got the robocall that project opponents sent around West Seattle last night. “It told me to call Tom,” he said, drawing laughter.
9:39 AM: First to speak, project opponent Deb Barker, who was the voice of the aforementioned robocall.
She is a community organization leader and former Design Review Board member. She says the public benefits in the project package are not enough. She talks about the setbacks and says the alley vacation overall will “waste public land for profit.”
Next, project supporter Sharonn Meeks, also a community-organization leader. She notes she was “involved in this project way before it began” – that included being on the Triangle Planning Group. She calls the site “a blighted grayfield.” She says scrapping these proposal would cost time and “an excellent developer.”
IF READING FROM HOME PAGE, CLICK AHEAD TO READ THE REST OF OUR AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE
Click to read the rest of As-it-happened: 4755 Fauntleroy alley-vacation hearing, standing room only; vote delayed to April 8th…
Tomorrow’s the day that Democrats from West Seattle, White Center, Vashon/Maury Islands, and the rest of the 34th Legislative District are invited to caucus – “the first step in the journey toward the all-important 2016 election,’ per the 34th District Democrats‘ official caucus call. Registration starts at 1 pm at the Evergreen Campus, 830 SW 116th in White Center (map). While they aren’t voting on candidates – too soon for that – the “first step” includes electing delegates to June’s statewide convention, and collecting resolutions and platform issues for next month’s countywide convention. (State Republicans are not caucusing this year.)
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