Urban Politics #26: School Bond Issue & Sport Fields

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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.



  • School Bond Issue & Sport Fields
  • The New Vancouver Bc Library
  • Dsa Comes Through For The Hygiene Center
  • Cap (Culture, Arts & Parks) Committee Meeting


School Bond Issue & Sport Fields

Parks Board members have said that they want to make sure that the funds allocated from the passage of the recent school bond issue for upgrading athletic fields gets done on a schedule on par with building improvements.There has been some concern that building improvements might be done first and the field upgrades delayed.

Some fields, like those located at Sealth H.S. in West Seattle, have been earmarked for a long time for community use, provided the funds could be made available to the community. In particular it’s important that the City and the School District work together to assure that the rehabilitated fields not be perceived as the domain of the local school’s principals and coaches.

There is an opening on the Parks Board due to John Little leaving. The Mayor appoints and the City Council approves all appointments. Although there is no obligation for the board seats to be geographically based, 3 of the current board members are from West Seattle. A new member might be sought from the North End, where there is currently one, or from the Central Area, which is where John Little lives. People interested in being appointed to the Board should contact the Mayor’s office (mayors.office@seattle.gov).

The New Vancouver Bc Library

On Saturday, CM Peter Steinbrueck and I, along with members of the Seattle Library Foundation Board and Friends Board Members, visited the Vancouver BC library which opened in May 1995 for a cost of $100 million, including a 21-story government office building.

It houses about the same number of books as the Seattle Library and occupies 300,000 square feet. The top two stories of the library are currently leased out to the city government with the expectation that they will be converted tolibrary use when needed.

Although neither a site nor a design were finalized, a $34 million bond issue passed with 70% approval. An international design competition was held and the final design incorporated a six story Coliseum-style structure incorporatingretail shops in a large atrium space insides the building but outside thelibrary and a plaza outside the building. The public responded positively with library attendance doubling to about 8,000 visitors a day.

Relevant Points From The Vancouver Experience:

The Vancouver public was informed of and invited to share in every stage of its planning and design. Similarly the newly Chicago Library went through a similar popular review of competing designs. These experiences stand in contrast to the process of selecting the Seattle Symphony, which Roger Downey writing in the Weekly (12/20/95) described as “more marked by backroom arrangements than open meetings, by design fait accompli rather than soliciting public comment.” Lesson: let’s not tie the design of our future library to one developer.

The location of Vancouver’s library was not smack in the middle of the retail core, as would be the sites 1st Ave. or the Bon Marche Parking Garage. However, residential development was scheduled adjacent to the new location. Lesson: look to a site that has pedestrian traffic, but it need not necessarily be shoppers.

Since public transportation was not initially available, Vancouver did have an immense parking lot included in it’s construction. Their sky-train (simila rto what our elevated light rail might be) has stops at least three blocks away. Lesson: either public transportation or parking should be made available.

Vancouver’s library incorporates multiple uses, government offices and restaurant/retail space, while not compromising a strong architectural statement for the building. Lesson: retail space or even housing could stimulate pedestrian traffic and serve library visitors as well.

Although Vancouver did not have to throw away books, like the San Francisco library did when it moved into a new space, the library is still cramped for space and it has higher operations cost to contend with. Consequently, there is a charge for meeting rooms, pretty stiff costs on over due books and charges for some other services as well. Lesson: be prepared to take into account increased operations costs.

The library bond did pay for one other branch library, which will serve a large regional function. However the bond issue did not include upgrading the other 20 some branch libraries, some of which are only 2,000 sq. ft. Funding the branch libraries was originally scheduled for a second bond issue, but the economy headed south so there is nothing scheduled at this time. Lesson: don’t count on future funding for anything not in the bond issue.

Dsa Comes Through For The Hygiene Center

The Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) sent a letter to the City on 2/2/98 stating that they will give $250,000 to support the development of a hygiene facility for men in the Julie Apartment building at 9th Ave. and Virginia Streets. They will also give another $50,000to support developing hygiene facilities at the Josephinum, the First United Methodist Church and the St. Regis Hotel.

The money is contingent on the City working with DSA to complete a Human Services Strategy for Downtown. And one is certainly needed with the several new public buildings on the drawing board. There is also a required guarantee that a hygiene center or similar services will not be developed at the Glen Hotel, where they were originally planned.

Cap (Culture, Arts & Parks) Committee Meeting

The CAP Committee meets this Wednesday at 2PM. Only one briefing scheduled. It’s on the Vine Street Urban Crack, which is planned to be a type of artistic water flow down the street past the Belltown P-Patch. Don’t know a whole lot more, but looking forward to finding out.

Keep in touch…

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