Is asking for a donation the same as charging a fee? West Seattle Junction parking lot owners allege lease violation

(WSB photo, October 20, 2018)

A new skirmish in the ongoing fight over the future of the West Seattle Junction Association‘s free-to-shoppers parking lots. We’ve reported on the WSJA’s donation-seeking efforts to help cover the cost of dramatically increased rent. Now the lots’ owners, the consortium known as West Seattle Trusteed Properties, have served WSJA with a notice saying the donation boxes put up at the lots in October violate the lease, and giving the merchants’ organization 10 days to remove them or “vacate” (as in, give up the lots).

The paperwork headed “10-Day Notice to Cure Lease Defaults or Vacate” was shown to WSB by Junction Association executive director Lora Radford. It alleges three violations – that soliciting donations equals charging for parking, and that the donation boxes and signage were put up without “prior written consent” of Trusteed Properties. Radford said WSJA consulted its attorney and does not believe the donation campaign is a lease violation. The association was planning to send a response letter to Trusteed Properties, whose secretary Tyler M. Johnson signed the notice, dated January 4th but received Monday. Radford says they will stress that they don’t believe the donation boxes are a violation, but will request retroactive permission anyway.

WSJA says its rent this year – due largely to a property-tax increase that’s passed through under lease terms – will be more than $245,000, almost triple what it was in 2016. Ten separate parcels owned by Trusteed Properties comprise the four lots (three on 44th SW, one on 42nd SW). For more backstory on the rent situation, see our coverage from last March.

54 Replies to "Is asking for a donation the same as charging a fee? West Seattle Junction parking lot owners allege lease violation"

  • TOMTOM January 8, 2019 (2:25 pm)

    Ahhh. Developer outrage. They’re poor and hungry, just trying to get by. They want to fill up the junction with building’s-which will fill up their pocket’s. They shouldn’t worry, they’ll get their way. They ALWAY’S do. Want an example? When the mayor announced she was assessing Business and condo owner’s for building a park when the viaduct comes down-saying parks INCREASE values for those around them(????) the KIRO TV reporter showed a shot of an empty parking lot. A developer owns it and will be building a 200 MILLION high rise. The city is only assessing him on the empty lot-not the 200M building. Waiting to hear that the developer didn’t get a wink wink.

    • Marietta January 8, 2019 (3:14 pm)

      @tomtom- they can’t assess a building that doesn’t exist- it’s just a parking lot! I think you’re winking at yourself. 

    • Steve January 8, 2019 (4:08 pm)

      Did developers not build the existing beloved Junction buildings and housing? Did developers not build the car storage facilities in question? What’s the deal with the  hatred of this occupation? It seems obvious to me that 100+ new homes for human beings to live in is a better use of land than a surface lot for people to occasionally store their empty automobiles. 

      • NW January 8, 2019 (6:11 pm)

        West Seattle and Seattle in general is becoming over populated so I personally would prefer it be parking lot and I know I am not alone.

        • AJ January 8, 2019 (6:53 pm)

          What ‘NW’ said!!!

        • Deftones January 8, 2019 (9:16 pm)

          Also ageee

        • CAM January 8, 2019 (11:54 pm)

          By simple square mileage and population per square mile, West Seattle is in no way overpopulated. If you are looking for something which the majority of the city is overpopulated by I would refer you to single family residences. There is no other major city out there that has the percentage of single family homes (particularly within a short distance of the downtown core) that Seattle has. 

          • WSAngst January 9, 2019 (10:37 am)

            Not everyone wants to share walls.  There’s a reason I live in West Seattle and not Capitol Hill.  Unfortunately, the developments in my neighborhood without adequate parking are going to cause me to move.  

          • CAM January 9, 2019 (2:55 pm)

            Whether you want to live in an urban environment or not is not directly related to whether or not the city is overpopulated. 

  • CMT January 8, 2019 (2:50 pm)

    They would love to get out of the lease so they can sell off the parking lots.

  • Michael Waldo January 8, 2019 (2:55 pm)

    So, the property owners VS the retail renters? With the high rent the owners charge, can’t they compromise on the charge to the business owners?

    • Peter January 8, 2019 (3:52 pm)

      This isn’t a matter of rent, it’s a matter of property taxes, which Seattle voters and the state legislature keep raising. Just being honest about who is responsible here. It is incorrect to blame the property owner for the increased expense.

      • The King January 8, 2019 (4:47 pm)

        This really is very simple, by way of voters, gov’t and appraised value my personal property taxes have doubled since 2014. I can’t imagine the owner of this lot has had their taxes reduced somehow in the same time frame. Imagine if the original head tax had passed, along with the $15 min wage, mandated sick leave and B&O tax to name a few dog piled onto small business. It would be the end of the junction as we know it. 

        • Bob F Forrest January 8, 2019 (5:53 pm)

          Small businesses that have always given WS it’s character, can no longer survive in “progressive” Seattle.  No longer a lovely city of neighborhoods, Seattle is rapidly evolving into a giant socialist commune.

          • hightide January 8, 2019 (10:55 pm)

            What? Would you care to explain how what you typed is not gibberish?

          • SUE Luke January 14, 2019 (4:21 pm)

            How I wish we were all socialists! Sadly, we’re not.

      • Cecile DePanfilis January 9, 2019 (12:53 am)

        While taxes continue to increase yearly , I doubt if the property taxes triplled since 2016. Local small businesses have a difficult enough time competing with online & mall businesses now without making it more challenging. 

        • WSB January 9, 2019 (1:22 am)

          The information is all public, right there online.
          The Junction lots are 10 distinct tax parcels.
          I don’t have time right this moment to do this for all 10.
          Sampling just two – at the north and south ends of the 44th SW-fronting lots .. we have:
          *A parcel appraised at $520K for tax year 2016 and appraised for tax year 2019 at $1.75 million.
          Tax year 2019 bills are not online yet but the tax for 2016 was $4940 for that parcel. For 2018, it was $12,865.

          *A parcel appraised at $403K for tax year 2016 and appraised for tax year 2019 at $1.36 million.
          Again, tax year 2019 bills are not online yet, but this parcel’s tax for 2016 was $3,827 and for tax year 2018, $9,884.

          • 935 January 9, 2019 (7:16 am)

            01/09/19 – 07:11WOW @ WSB that is some great reporting! Hopefully it will help the readers of this blog and many others, as well as the “oh let’s go ahead and raise proprty taxes AGAIN” voting bloc to see their voting record has consequence….It may not be the person per se….But eventually the “tax lavishly” idea will catch up – and by then everybody will hurt.Thank you again for that wonderful display of fact.

          • bolo January 9, 2019 (2:12 pm)

            Admittedly I am math challenged but apparently the increased taxes were not majorly from increased tax rates but from the steep increases in the property values, which the owners should be extremely happy with overall.

  • justme January 8, 2019 (3:07 pm)

    Whoops, never trust a lawyer that says, “It seems to not be in violation.” Asking permission would have clarified this in the first place. Disappointing.

  • Chris January 8, 2019 (3:43 pm)

    We wonder if a “go fund me” deal would be legal or work in this case?    This parking lot would be a loss to many – seniors, and more.

  • Chris January 8, 2019 (3:46 pm)

    We wonder if a “go fund me” deal would be legal or work in this case?    This parking lot would be a loss to many – seniors, and more. It is sad that the lots’ owners are putting up a fuss for something so needed there.   Suspect if money was collected for them, it would be different.There has to be some legal fund raising way to help keep these parking lots.

  • pdid January 8, 2019 (3:47 pm)

    Pretty clear overstep by the owners. The Junction Association is a 501c3 – they can solicit donations freely. 

    • AMD January 8, 2019 (6:20 pm)

      They’re allowed to require tenant permission before adding new signage.The “donations are the same as fees” thing seems like a stretch, but they are well within their right to be irritated by the signage.  Is it that hard to just ask beforehand?  

  • KBear January 8, 2019 (3:48 pm)

    I don’t understand how the WSJA think that they could ever sustainably fund their parking lot rent through donations. Besides, they’re essentially asking people to pay to park so that others don’t have to. This is going to end one of two ways: Either the Junction businesses are going to pony up and absorb the cost of the higher rent to maintain their free parking, or the free parking will go away. And if the free lots go away, guess what’s going to happen to the parking fees at the remaining pay lots.

  • flimflam January 8, 2019 (4:28 pm)

    maybe the district council member can help if she isn’t to busy grandstanding in NYC?

  • TJ January 8, 2019 (6:32 pm)

    Our council member doesn’t want the parking lots. She wants stacked boxes there, which means more tax revenue. It is private property, so the owners can do as they wish. But reading comments and listening to our incompetent politicians, it seems like there is a race against time to builld some magical number of housing units that will make it affordable here. Truly affordable housing would be built outside Seattle, where there are parking lots galore to develop. Remember, the bar for high rents (return on investment) is set, and prices are dropping. I know first hand that large investors are already leery speculating out now with that in mind, and signs the economy is slowing. Building is going to slow down

    • Jort January 8, 2019 (7:36 pm)

      Correction, TJ! It isn’t Lisa Herbold, it was the citizens of West Seattle, when they created a “neighborhood plan” back in the 1990s, who said they want stacked boxes there. The reason they did this is because they believed that all upward housing growth in the city should be contained within tiny slivers of land known as “urban villages.”Now, instead of distributing growth among all of our single family zoned land, we concentrate most of it into these tiny, little “urban village” patches. People shouldn’t be surprised when the value of that land goes up — it’s the only land we can grow on! And Seattle’s growing! :-)  

    • Jort January 8, 2019 (7:38 pm)

      Oh, and I nearly forgot to provide another correction to your statement! When you say that we should just develop only on the parking lots “outside Seattle,” … I’m afraid that’s a great big ole NOPE from State law! The Growth Management Act requires every city, including ours, to take responsibility for our own share of growth. If you’d like to attempt to work with the legislature to change the Growth Management Act into the “Put a Giant Glass Dome Over The City And Nobody Can Ever Move Here” Act, I wish you the absolute best of luck!  :-)

  • MAdDad January 8, 2019 (8:29 pm)

    Yes Make it harder for the lots to not exist.  Thats smart.  Many people shop in the junction because of the free parking.  I will not shop there if meters are placed or if the free lots go away.  They city needs to lower the taxes.  They give out deals all the time! 

  • KBear January 8, 2019 (9:09 pm)

    Folks, you are going to pay for the Junction parking one way or another, whether it’s direct fees, higher retail prices, or the extra time and fuel it takes you to drive to Strip Mall Land. At least the first two options keep your money in the local economy.

    • JVP January 9, 2019 (8:43 am)

      Stop it!  You have to sign an oath that you don’t understand econ 101 before moving to Seattle. How did you sneak in?

  • ted January 8, 2019 (9:11 pm)

    parking should be paid for by people who drive cars.  you’ve been enjoying a free ride for too long.  get used to it to paying your fair share.

  • Don Brubeck January 8, 2019 (10:24 pm)

    What KBEAR and TED said. The “free parking” is not free. It is paid for by the businesses. The businesses build it into their pricing and pass the cost on to their customers. All of their customers pay for the parking. More than half of Junction business customers arrive on foot, by bus, by bike or by carshare. Those customers subsidize the parking for people who park in the lots or on the street. It would be more fair to have the people who use the parking pay for the parking directly, just like in other areas in Seattle.

  • Bruce Barnett January 8, 2019 (10:50 pm)

    A couple of ideas:Couldn’t West Seattle Trusteed Properties develop the properties to make a lot more money and put in a parking garage so they could donate annual parking to WSJA in exchange for an annual tax deduction to write off on their income taxes?Maybe WSJA could stop encouraging driving with free parking and instead spend the money on a free shuttle to move shoppers between homes and stores during business hours?

  • dsa January 8, 2019 (11:20 pm)

    Obviously the owners want the JA out or the owners would not complain about donations.

  • CarDriver January 9, 2019 (8:19 am)

    I 2nd tomtom’s comment’s. The park isn’t built yet-homeowner’s are being assessed immediately. Why isn’t the developer also?  My issue with developers is that they don’t have to live(and pay)by the same rules we do. Why?

  • partofthesolution January 9, 2019 (8:26 am)

    Don BruBeck: just like medical coverage the healther folks help pay for the sicker folks, just like some folks use the library and some folks don’t but is paid for by everyone. it’s call being a part of society. your logic is why we can’t have nice things. 

    • KM January 9, 2019 (8:32 am)

      Libraries, education and healthcare are net positives for our communities, I think most people would say. It’s hard to say the same thing about cars in most situations, especially SOVs in cities. Subsidizing cars encourages their use, and guarantees our air will stay dirty and our streets unsafe.

      • Partofthesolution January 9, 2019 (12:08 pm)

        For small business at the Junction I think parking is important to there profit margins. So maybe it is a need. Free Public Parking benefits EVERYONE Some people use public libraries some Don’t but Everyone pays. Park is critical to disabled people who have limited income and can’t use the crappy bus system. But I guess the needs of these folks don’t count.

    • Rick January 9, 2019 (8:59 am)

      It’s just more of the never ending war on cars. It used to be vigorously denied. Now it’s “next question?”

    • newnative January 9, 2019 (9:13 am)

      Why would you include access to shopping and entertainment in a comparison to libraries and healthcare? The former is a want, the latter are public needs. 

      • partofthesolution January 9, 2019 (2:52 pm)

          What one person wants may be a need to others. For small business at the Junction free parking might be needed to help with there profit margins. Parking is critical to disabled people who have trouble getting around on the crappy bus system. but I guess those folks needs aren’t yours so you think it’s not needed. Free public parking benifits Everyone. Some folks use the libraries some don’t but Everone pays. Even if you don’t think it’s needed. it’s all about you of course 

        • Jort January 9, 2019 (3:23 pm)

          Most neighborhoods in Seattle, and it cities big and large around this country and the world, have parking lots that require payment. These same places also have disabled people. I’m confused, it seems like you’re implying that only way a disabled people can shop is if there is a large, free parking lot. If so — how do they shop in the thousands of other cities around the world where parking lots are not free for all users?

  • Maile January 9, 2019 (8:33 am)

    I work in the Junction. Small business. 34 years its been there. The last few years have been a struggle. Most of our customers count on free parking to get their errands done in the junction and shop at the same time. Not sure we could guarantee another year without it. With the construction always going on all around us it is the one sure thing our customers can count on. The Farmer’s Market every Sunday needs it too.  Maybe the donations should be for the other programs the West Seattle Merchants Association sponsors each year like Summerfest, Harvest Festival and all the other programs that make it quaint and a beautiful community to partake in.  Each business pays into the parking. Maybe change what donations are for.  Just a thought. 

  • Dan January 9, 2019 (11:36 am)

    The WS Trustees are a bunch of greedy A-holes.  This is a garbage attempt to force them out.  I would love a list of the trustees names so I can choose to boycott any businesses they still have a hand in.  I will continue to frequent as many People E owners as possi le but I will avoid any trustee family backing this action!

  • LoveWS January 9, 2019 (2:20 pm)

     I very rarely see this lot full, I live a couple of blocks away and walk by it all the time. Lots of yoga people and construction workers, it always seemed like a lot of wasted space, people tend to park in the lots behind the east side of the junction and on the side streets. I think they should build big boxy apts there, right in front of the big boxy apts on the other side of the street to block their big boxy views, then ugly could stare at ugly.

  • Victoria January 9, 2019 (2:45 pm)

    Excellent point Maile. Available parking (free or paid) is critical to the year round survival of small businesses in the junction the festivals and farmers markets as much as I love them are not.

  • Matt January 9, 2019 (5:09 pm)

    The property value/tax increases are interesting.  As WSB notes, the parcel (1495300125) located @ Alaska and 44th went from a land value of $546,800 in 2016 to $1.4M in 2018.  An increase of 156%.  Yet the two parcels located directly east, 1495300005 (Key Bank) and 1495300010 (Bin 41, Pharmaca, etc), which seem to be roughly the same in size, went from $835k to $884k and $1.15M to $1.21M (respectively, in land value).  That’s a combined increase of only 5% in land value.  Huh???  What’s the deal with that?!  I get that the parking lots don’t have buildings on them already, but is land value not a fair comparison, building or no?  I am beyond not an expert at real estate, but something seems fishy about that (although I’d imagine there must be some explanation that someone who knows more about property values can educate me on).

    • CAM January 9, 2019 (7:47 pm)

      It seems likely that the property assessor was bringing the valuation of the property into line with other surrounding properties. I can’t find it right now but there was some mention in one of the previous reports of this situation that indicated the junction had some agreement with the city or county about suppressing either the value of the property or the tax rate (seems more likely it would be the former) because they met some kind of exempt status. Maybe the owners of the lots do want to redevelop them or sell them and they asked to have the value assessed with that in mind. I don’t know. But the majority of the increase in the bill the junction association is facing is not related to tax changes. It is related to the valuation of the property. 

  • Rational Thought January 11, 2019 (1:56 pm)

    For all of you in support of the “war on cars” – WHERE IS THE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION THAT CAN HANDLE THE TRANSPORTATION NEEDS OF EVERYONE IN WEST SEATTLE?!?!? Waiting……And when you want to leave West Seattle and access the fabulous outdoors that surround our city and makes it a large part of the attractiveness of this region, WHERE IS THE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION FOR THAT?!?! What about the people who have small children and need to transport them to their various and myriad activities? To get them home from daycare and preschool? As for the supposed public transportation access for those with disabilities – they can only use public transportation when they can FIND ROOM ON THE BUS! And since the buses are already jammed full, when will that change?For someone who said that car drivers are being subsidized by others I have to ask – WHAT are you talking about?!? Car drivers pay GAS TAXES – which pay for the roads! Those of you who want small businesses in The Junction and elsewhere to survive had better come to grips with the fact that public transportation options in West Seattle and in Seattle generally stink and that it is exceedingly difficult for people to efficiently get to and from The Junction from other parts of the peninsula by bus if they intend to do more than a small amount of shopping. God forbid if one wants to shop for groceries that won’t fit in a personal rolling cart! Those of you who are privileged enough to have the luxury of working remotely or just at home need to stop insisting that everyone else, including most of the rest of the world who do NOT have that luxury, live the life that you are able to live. 

    • CAM January 12, 2019 (12:30 am)

      There are many people who don’t have the means to own or maintain a vehicle that use public transportation to do everything that you mention, including transporting their children, shopping, buying groceries, etc. It would be great if public transit was more accessible and I’m happy to pay taxes to cover that. And road maintenance is not fully covered by fuel taxes or license plate fees. Tax dollars are spent on maintaining the roads that come from many areas and logically, some of those people whose tax dollars are used to pay for road maintenance are not driving personal vehicles. 

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