Urban Politics #28: Reflections

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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.



  • Reflections
  • Staff And Volunteers
  • Downtown Library Site
  • Neighborhood Branch Libraries
  • Citizen Input On The Library Bond
  • Pine Street Garage



I had hoped to publish Urban Politics weekly but as I find the constituent, community and staff flow of memos and requests, (about 30 pieces of mail a day, plus an equal number of emails), I realize now that UP may more likely go bi-weekly.

 Also, I have tried to conduct some of the more in-depth research that I had previously done as a citizen. The most recent example being my offices work on the Football Stadium EIS. I’m continuing to look at the Pine St. Garage report that was issued from the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission.

One would think that it should be easier now that I’m in office to do this type of investigative work since I should have more access to city documents and staff. Problem is that there are also more pressing concerns to deal with so that I cannot focus on just one or two issues at a time as I have in the past.

Staff And Volunteers

I’m fortunate to have three excellent staff to help with research, administrative and constituent work. For those who may not have received an earlier Urban Politics I’ll list their names and their relative areas of interest. We do try to be flexible enough so that we can pitch-in and help out each other as immediate demands are made.

Lisa Herbold, (lisa.herbold@seattle.gov), is in charge of my schedule and staffs my Cultural, Arts and Parks (CAP) Committee. In addition she handles most park and neighborhood issues South of the canal. She is also working on housing and the postering issues, and Sandpoint/Magnuson Park.

Newell Aldrich, (newell.aldrich@seattle.gov), is in charge of our office s information retrieval systems, and handles most of the work coming out of the Utilities and Environmental Management Committee, like the Cedar River issues. In addition he handles most park and neighborhood issues North of the canal. He is also working on teen dance and cabaret issues.

Frank Video, (frank.video@seattle.gov), who works part time, handles Seattle Center, Seattle Arts Commission, Public Access (including channels 28 and 29, and the city s Website) and coordinates our Words Worth poetry reading at the beginning of each CAP meeting. He also handles most the issues that do not neatly fit into any of the above categories.

Also, Ruth Van Voast, Dave Albergine, and Kris Tsujikawa have come in and volunteered. We would like to have others stop by and help us out too. If you can spare a 2 or 3 hour period of time once a week for even just a month, send an email and we’ll get back in touch with you.

Downtown Library Site

The Library choose 3 final sites for their proposed new library: 1) the current site, 2) the vance block site, bordered by Stewart and Virginia, and 8th and 7th Ave. s 3) the newslane site on 1st Ave. across from the market.

The newslane site will is the worst site for several reasons. Among them being that Samis, who is the major owner of the property, wants to be the developer and include a residential tower that they would own on the site. This would limit the amount of space available for the library. It would also eliminate the possibility of having competitive bidding on the development, which I strongly favor. I think we should have a design-build competition requiring those competing to submit models for public review.

The vance block offers a large amount of space and could probably be purchased at a reasonable price. It s also within two or three blocks of the underground bus tunnel stations and the new 1,275 parking stall Pine St. garage that the City will lease at a pre-arranged price. Since we are overpaying the developers for the garage, why shouldn’t the city require them to purchase 200 daily parking spaces in the garage for the new library s use. This would enable library users free parking in the garage 7 days a week. The cost of building a 200 parking space garage is about $5 million. This amount could be shaved from the bond issue.

The current site saves the public the cost of purchasing land, but we incur relocation and leasing costs while the current library is being torn down and a new one built. Estimates for these costs range from $11 million to $18 million. Estimates for purchasing the vance block could range from just under $20 million to just over $25 million.

Neighborhood Branch Libraries

City Librarian Deborah Jacobs seems to have listened to the need to seriously improve the branch libraries. She is proposing 3 new branches, Northgate would get one but it doesn’t look like Sandpoint will. The total number of branches would go up to 25, in comparison Vancouver, B.C. has 21 branches, Denver 20, and San Francisco 26. Seven other branches would be located in new facilities. Overall, the preliminary figures that are being tossed out show that the amount of the proposed bond allocated to the branches increases by over a third, while the amount set aside for the central branch remains the same.

Citizen Input On The Library Bond

The library board and the mayor officially release their proposed bond this Friday, March 13th at noon. The proposal will then be presented at 5 public meetings from March 22nd to April 8th. For times and locations call the Central Library 386-4636.

According to resolution 29416 the City Council should have its final vote on an ordinance to place the bond before the voters at least 4 months before election day. If the bond issue is to go on the November 10th ballot, June 29th would be the last City Council meeting for that vote to occur. That gives the library board about 3 months to distribute the proposal to the public, receive comments and make any final adjustments to it before the Council vote. I would think that would be a sufficient amount of time, given the number of meetings that have already been held throughout the city on the proposal to date.

The one problem with waiting until 6/29 is that the vance block site is also under consideration by the Federal Courts as a proposed site if the City does not agree to sell the current library site to them. Conceivably they could snatch that site from the City before 6/29. However they only have about $17 million for land acquisition, so it might not be enough to purchase that site.

Pine Street Garage

Council member Peter Steinbrueck has been asking a lot of questions of the City s Executive Services Department regarding this project. By piecing together a number of documents provided by the City and the County Assessors Office, Steinbrueck could only come up with $34 million for building the garage. The City agreed to lease the garage from the developer $73 million. The $34 million estimated construction cost is disputed by at least one other COUNCIL MEMBER, but only the developer (Pine St. Development) knows for sure. In the interest of public accountability an outside audit of this project s finances could determine a realistic and accurate amount that was actually paid on construction costs.

Meanwhile, the Friends of Westlake s attorney, Richard Aramburu, has written the City s Dept. of Construction and Land Use, requesting that the city receive $22 million from the developers for proper consideration of the parking spaces that they should be required to provide under the Seattle Land Use Code for their Pacific Place Project. Such developments must provide parking spaces under the code, but this project intends to use the attached garage, which will be a publicly owned facility, in order to meet the project s parking requirements.

Aramburu argues that without the payment the City s lease of the garage from the developers violates the Article VIII Section 7 of the Washington Constitution which makes clear that no gifts of public property can be made except to the poor or infirm. The effective set aside of parking spaces in the garage for the project s use constitutes a public gift to the project.

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