Urban Politics #17: Holly Park Demolition


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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.

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CONTENTS:

  • Holly Park Demolition
  • People
  • Seahawk And CMIT Opinion Polls
  • RTA Rethinking Capitol Hill Tunnel?

Holly Park Demolition

The City Council’s support for the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) plans to demolish all 870 low income units and replace them with a fewer number of units serving the very low income, is weakening. Although the Council passed a resolution back in December supporting the plan, questions raised by critics led Council Members Jan Drago and Dick McIver to announce at the 43rd Democratic District meeting that the plan should be re- examined. Two other council members, Tina Podlodowski and Charlie Chan have also made similar statements.

Critics, led by the Seattle Displacement Coalition (SDC), argue that the $180 million remodeling, the largest single low- income housing project that the city has seen, is misspending public funds.

There will be 470 fewer “hard units” available for the very low income and those units could likely be saved if the plan weren’t spending so much money on design changes of questionable need. In particular $40 million is earmarked for new sewers and roads. However, the main sewer lines were replaced 20 years ago and they should have a life of 70 years.

The design calls for redoing all of the curved roads and cul de sacs to a grid pattern to improve public safety. But according to southend civic leader Harriet Walden, public safety at Holly Park is not out of line with the overall southend, in part because a police precinct station is located a block away. Also cul de sacs could be converted to drive-throughs for a fraction of the cost. This was done in the remodeling of the low income Rainier Vista Garden Community, where no low income units were lost and the overall project cost was much lower.

These “infrastructure” improvements will tap the low income housing levy, which was to be spent building housing, or capital facilities money which comes out of the city’s general fund. In addition, rather than demolishing all of the housing units, why not renovate them? An Oct. ’95 SHA preliminary report looking at alternative development scenarios ran cost estimates, showing that renovation was 20 to 30% less even after adding 300 sq. ft. per unit.

Led by the SDC, a Design Forum will be held this Tuesday ( 3/25/96) from 6:30 to 8:45 at Univ. of WA’s School of Architecture (Gould Hall – SE corner of NE 40th and Univ. Way NE). John Fox, of the SDC, says that the Housing Authority had talked to the Dean of the U. of W. School of Architecture and tried to dissuade their participation in the forum. In addition SHA notified Operation Emergency Center, this regions largest food bank and one that serves Holly Park, that they would be losing their lease from SHA in 3 months. They were informed of this just after the Center’s Executive Director appeared in a brochure as a participant in the forum. A week before SHA staff had told him that the Center could expect to have their lease extended for another year. SHA will be participating in the forum and according to Fox will have more time than any other presenter.

People

Aaron Ostrom, former Ex. Dir. of Altrans and one of the five finalists for City Council Member John Manning’s vacated seat, is now working for the City of Seattle as a Senior Transportation Policy Analyst. He’s put off running for City Council to focus his energies on figuring out how to get more folks out of driving cars and into alternative modes of transportation.

Seahawk And CMIT Opinion Polls

Rep. Timothy Sheldon passed out copies of the poll conducted by Citizens for More Important Things (CMIT) to the House Democratic Caucus on Friday. The poll was taken of those who voted in at least 3 of the last 4 fall elections in King County. It showed:

1) 68.5% do not want their tax dollars used to subsidize pro sports stadiums.

2) 66.5% would vote against the proposed stadium plan for the Seattle Seahawks if public money was used to tear down the Kingdome.

Football Northwest goes to both party caucuses on Monday, 3/24 to make their pitch for getting the bill out of the legislature by April 3rd. Their poll showed that 89% of Washington registered voters said that the football stadium package is “the kind of measure that people statewide deserve a right to vote on.” They dropped the car rental tax and funding for school technology grants in their new proposal.

Gov. Locke will start playing hard ball next week to get his Democrats lined up behind the Seahawks. That leaves two key players with the power to stop the Seahawks bill from getting out of the state legislature: Sen. Majority Dan McDonald and Speaker of the House Clyde Ballard, who chairs the Rules Committee where a stripped down version of the bill is currently residing.

If you want to put a halt right now to public funding of a new football stadium email your message to Sen. Dan McDonald at mcdonald_da@leg.wa.gov and fax it to Rep. Clyde Ballard at 360- 786-7871.

County Lawsuit Against Intitiative 43

The CMIT initiative to ask Seattle residents if they want to stop the Mariner’s new baseball stadium by denying them a street vacation is being challenged in Superior Court by the Public Facilities District (PFD). Although County Council members initially said that the initiative would not affect the stadium’s construction schedule, they now realize that with the initiative having 120 days to collect only some 22,000 signatures, would not be voted on until fall – nine months after construction is to begin. The resulting court battles over this initiative and initiative 16, which CMIT had collected over 72,000 signatures, is cramping county’s ability to issue bonds and keep the PFD funded.

RTA Rethinking Capitol Hill Tunnel?

The Regional Transit Authority’s Feb. news bulletin, “Facts about…” said RTA will convene citizen committees to provide advice to them on light-rail plans. “One of the first tasks … will be to help RTA identify an alternative route… to the preferred Capitol Hill tunnel route…. The alternative route will serve as a back-up route in case the preferred route proves infeasible….” So, is RTA seriously considering putting light rail through Eastlake? Dennis Fleenor, media specialist for RTA, said looking at alternatives to the Capitol Hill tunnel has not had a lot of visibility beyond insiders but was specifically mentioned in an agreement reached with environmentalists during the summer of ’96. Problem is that the alternatives may not look very promising either. According to Fleenor the Eastlake Community is still “pretty angry about I-5 going through their area.

Dick Falkenbury, leader of the monorail proposal for Seattle, says light-rail trains through Eastlake would have to have a 15 mile an hour limit. Remember “light” rail still means you are talking about train cars that weigh at least 100,000 lbs. With that kind of inertial weight, the trains would take more than a city block to come to a stop. Since they can’t swerve out of the way of anything on their tracks, some nasty accidents are sure to happen. The other alternative of putting light rail on I-5 would probably never get politically approved since the Fed’s built the freeway and the State has responsibility over it. Maybe RTA should take a look at monorail if the tunnel through Capitol Hill runs into technical difficulties and increases its projected cost of $600 million.

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