Mayor announces ballot measure to pay for seawall replacement

(scroll down for info, links, reaction we’re adding after the original report)

(Graphic displayed at the mayor’s announcement)
ORIGINAL 9:55 AM REPORT: We’re at the Washington Street Boat Launch south of Colman Dock, where the mayor has just finished a news conference announcing he will ask Seattle voters in May to approve a property tax measure raising $241 million to replace the seawall, regardless of what happens with The Viaduct. He says current plans call for replacing the seawall in six years, and that’s too long – he wants it done in four. The 30-year property tax proposal will be on the May ballot if the City Council agrees, he says, and would require a 60 percent majority approval; he says it would equal about $48 a year for someone with a $400,000 home. McGinn showed a section of deteriorating seawall wood as a prop and said it runs the risk of failure even without a catastrophic earthquake. He refused to answer questions regarding The Viaduct/tunnel plan itself. He says the Council will be asked next month to approve the May 18 vote, and says he has had “positive” discussions with them so far regarding this proposal. The $241 million would not cover the entire cost of seawall replacement – the price tag would be about $50 million beyond that, he said, with about $30 million of that slated to come from the county. If the ballot measure is approved, McGinn said, it would take about 2 years to design the project, and about 2 years to build. How severely waterfront business and traffic would be affected, he couldn’t say. Side note: McGinn biked down here from City Hall (about half a mile uphill) and has now headed back – we’re heading back to HQ (via car) to add video to the story.

ADDED 11:23 AM: Some supporting documents are linked in the city’s own item on the mayor’s announcement – you’ll find the links (plus Seattle Channel video of the news conference) here. Here’s one of our clips, about a minute and a half, including his use of the aforementioned prop:

1:39 PM UPDATE: A statement from Governor Gregoire:

I congratulate the Mayor for his decision to seek early funding for the seawall portion of the Alaskan Way Viaduct project. I look forward to working with him and the City Council on this vital transportation effort.

41 Replies to "Mayor announces ballot measure to pay for seawall replacement"

  • tedb310 January 14, 2010 (10:26 am)

    Sounds like a good project. Is it required by law that this be placed on the ballot for voter approval? This what we elect our public officials to do, make decisions and lead, not just punt back to the public at large.

  • jiggers January 14, 2010 (10:57 am)

    No way the voters pass this.

  • I. Ponder January 14, 2010 (11:10 am)

    It’s still early, but I really like him. Very accessible. Wish you could see his face in the photo.

    • WSB January 14, 2010 (11:17 am)

      sorry IP, I was on the bench publishing the story (had already been covering on Twitter but I know not everybody’s out there) when he suited up to split. Adding video though, we all crowded in quite close to get the viaduct noise out of the mikes so you’ll see him there when I add a clip – TR

  • flynlo January 14, 2010 (11:15 am)

    Why isn’t there a Local Improvement District being formed to pay at least a part of this? It seems that the business’ and land owners adjacent to the seawall should bear more of the cost than a home owner in say West Seattle!

  • jiggers January 14, 2010 (11:20 am)

    I’m guessing you guys have a lot of money and can afford $48 more on your home. My bookie just informed me that he’s opening up the wagering lines at 10-1 that it won’t pass.

  • coffee January 14, 2010 (11:22 am)

    flynlo, its how taxes work. Just like the people who do not live in the area are upset that the state is paying money for our tunnel, or what ever its going to be, using their tax money. I am sure that people living in the Northgate area probably say the same thing, but its part of the city and it needs to be fixed.

  • flynlo January 14, 2010 (11:36 am)

    Coffee – note that I didn’t state that the Local Improvement District should pay the ENTIRE cost! I simply believe that the people gaining the most benefit from the project should have to pony up a little extra!!

  • CandrewB January 14, 2010 (11:37 am)

    I do not have a lot of money. But I do have $48 to pay for comonsense infrastructure.

  • Donn January 14, 2010 (11:47 am)

    Didn’t we have money allocated for this already under Nickels?

    • WSB January 14, 2010 (12:15 pm)

      Followup to the “do they HAVE to ask voters?” question – I asked mayoral spokesperson Aaron Pickus, who replied, “It is a property tax bond and must go to the voters for approval.” I am also asking the Q about the Local Improvement District. Regarding whether money for this was allocated under the previous administration, I believe the city had committed to paying for it but hadn’t previously identified the funding source. This story from the city budgeting process last fall seems to say as much – bonds were discussed as one way to do it.

  • mark January 14, 2010 (11:52 am)

    I have $48, not a problem

  • Sage January 14, 2010 (12:13 pm)

    Hey, there’s not an electric assist on that bike. What’s going on?

    • WSB January 14, 2010 (12:35 pm)

      Sage, good eye. Independent journalist Johnathon Fitzpatrick and I were chatting after almost everyone else had left – he is a bicyclist (came in from Edmonds for the news conference) and mentioned that was the first time in a while he’d seen the mayor without that sort of thing. Is an electric assist something you can add to any bicycle? I have not been on two wheels in a million years.

  • Donn January 14, 2010 (12:32 pm)

    What I would like to see on my tax bill is all the little $$ that we are spending on this project and that project and what is going into the general fund, what is the county share, city share, etc. Getting a bill for $3,000 doesn’t allow the homeowner to understand what his money is spent on.

  • sam January 14, 2010 (12:46 pm)

    I haven’t been paying closer attention, but I thought the “beauty” of the tunnel option was that the project itself, and its disruption would include the seawall replacement. if they are going to start the seawall replacement first, or early, that means that the seawall and viaduct projects are really separate ? seems like this would all just prolong and extend the headaches from all the construction.

  • sa January 14, 2010 (12:47 pm)

    How often has Seattle ever failed to support a tax proposal that was for something real? Bag and espresso taxes don’t count.

  • mark January 14, 2010 (12:47 pm)

    I think Sage was making fun of His Honor. The electric assist is considered, um, for sissies that can’t climb hills….

  • lazybeard January 14, 2010 (12:58 pm)

    It seems to me that if the tax would pass, is that the mayor will then really fight for the not-tunnel replacement since he can divvy up the majority of funds for the seawall.

  • Al January 14, 2010 (1:06 pm)

    Info on electric bikes. A good option for some people.

  • Sean January 14, 2010 (1:14 pm)

    Yep, feel like this is maneuvering for some major tunnel obstructionism if this passes. Hope not though.

  • Lura Ercolano January 14, 2010 (1:29 pm)

    As far as I remember, the early tunnel discussions, that had a six-lane tunnel below the current viaduct location, did indeed include simultaneous seawall replacement. The pipe dream was that the city could get out of the cost of seawall maintenance by somehow getting the state to pay for a 12 billion dollar project.

    The current 4-lane tunnel plan actually has the tunnel well away from the waterfront. I’m not sure it is even planned to be below sea-level. So, no, digging that bore doesn’t do a single thing about addressing the seawall problems, as far as I am aware.

  • DownOnAlki January 14, 2010 (1:38 pm)

    It sounds like it isn’t just $48 – I thought I read that it is a 30 YEAR property tax proposal at $48 per year – and everyone thinks that our property’s value won’t be assessed with an increase year over year?

    • WSB January 14, 2010 (1:39 pm)

      that’s in our story. It’s $48 a year. If I don’t have the “a year” in there I will add. – TR

  • DownOnAlki January 14, 2010 (1:39 pm)

    I couldn’t edit my previous comment as I kept getting an error – but to add:

    I am not saying I am against fixing the seawall, but please don’t make it seem like it will *only* cost each property owner a straight $48.

  • DownOnAlki January 14, 2010 (1:41 pm)

    Tracy/WSB – I did see that in your story – thank you – but some people commenting made it sound like they only had to pay $48 – I just wanted people to understand that wasn’t the case.

    • WSB January 14, 2010 (1:43 pm)

      Sorry about the comment-editing problem. Our developer is working on it right now. P.S. for all in this thread, the governor’s had a short statement, not much in it but added it to the story, as we will do throughout the day with anything else that comes in. We also have a request for comment out to West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who now heads the Transportation Committee – although I see via Publicola that the council is supposedly at an all-day retreat elsewhere on the waterfront so not sure how soon he will be reachable – TR

  • voodoo January 14, 2010 (2:21 pm)

    If you’ve ever taken the Underground Tour you will understand the importance of the seawall, not just to the immediate waterfront area. It pretty much keeps all of downtown Seattle from sliding into Elliott Bay.

    As for another property tax bond, I don’t know what to say. Didn’t we just vote for a hike to keep Pike Place Market from sliding into the bay?

    This seems like a more important item to me (and I make my living at the Market!), especially looking at the consequences of poor infrastructure in the face of a natural disaster (New Orleans in hurricane Katrina, the recent Haiti earthquake). I’m not sure where else this money could come from.

  • old timer January 14, 2010 (2:25 pm)

    My understanding:
    The ‘tunnel’ isn’t going in anywhere near the seawall.
    Up under 1st or 2nd Avenue is where it is to be.
    Nothing about the tunnel can be connected to the seawall under the new designs.
    The seawall needs replaced and for $2.00 a month, less if your home isn’t worth $400K, it’s going to make lots of visible work – a good thing in these times.

  • I. Ponder January 14, 2010 (3:09 pm)

    Is there no possibility of federal stimulus grant $ for this project?

    I just looked at the new tunnel alignment plan you linked to and it looks smart to me.

    • WSB January 14, 2010 (3:11 pm)

      The mayor was asked that, IP, and he said of course they would try … but didn’t sound terribly hopeful.

  • old timer January 14, 2010 (3:18 pm)

    Thanks WSB, I’m glad you have the energy and focus to keep track of this stuff.
    I still think the money ($4.00 per month, not $2.00 as I wrote earlier) would be well spent to fix a serious problem and to make visible work being done.

  • Brandon January 14, 2010 (3:27 pm)

    The Math; its $48 per $400k for 30 years. Its not just a one time $48 charge.
    Donn, I agree, it would be very interesting to get a detailed breakdown of all those charges on a property tax statement, not just the generic pie chart. Dow??

  • Brandon January 14, 2010 (3:29 pm)

    1:39 PM UPDATE: A statement from Governor Gregoire:

    I congratulate the Mayor for his decision to seek early funding for the seawall portion of the Alaskan Way Viaduct project. I look forward to working with him and the City Council on this vital transportation effort.

    “I am also thankful I won’t be the only elected official out begging for money from the tax strapped public.”


  • I. Ponder January 14, 2010 (4:51 pm)

    McGinn isn’t yet connected to the “rainmakers” (people who control the federal $) at this point, but he outta work on that. The country is awash in stimulus $ and connecting with it is part of the job of being a professional politician. I’d like to see 50% come from federal grants. That stimulus $ is already part of our national debt, so we will be taxed for it.

  • nmb January 14, 2010 (5:35 pm)

    Our city desparately needs this important life-safety infrastructure improvement. I’d be happy to chip in $4/month to help pay for this.

  • EyeLiveInWestSeattle January 14, 2010 (6:28 pm)

    Stop saying you will be happy to chip in $4 per month or $48 for this ONE thing! Start thinking about where your all your $3000 goes! You start chunking it out for all the things it goes to, and it gets very scary that $48 is going for this! Uh, the cost to me for the Mariner’s stadium only costs me .01 PER CENT on my sales tax!!! That ain’t $48 per year.

    Good Lord, stop taxing me to death for every little thing. I don’t give 2 sheets for this wall, since I have no reason to care… ah, but there are some who WILL care about that wall. It’s those that live there – the commerce. Tax them and leave home owners alone for a change.

  • mark January 14, 2010 (7:36 pm)


    I hear ya!! We pay far more in taxes to support the killing of innocents (ours and theirs) in Iraq than $48 a year!!! I only wish we had the ability to control where the money was being spent. That being said, I support fixing the seawall 100%

  • laurel January 16, 2010 (10:02 am)

    This guy is a snake.

  • SeattleJay January 16, 2010 (5:45 pm)

    “Discussions? I don’t need no freekin’ discussions wit nobody, I’se got alls the answers! & they don’t include highways, tunnels, viaducts, or cars in Seattle’s future!”

    — Part-time Mayor & full time cyclist Mayour Mcginn

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