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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.
- Lower Viretta Park
- The Power Of Seinfeld
- The Uwajimaya Project
- “Business Meetings” Kaput
- Council Member E-Mails
- Subscription Instructions
Lower Viretta Park
There have been a series of good developments this past week regarding an encroachment type issue in Viretta park. In 1903 Viretta Park was dedicated to the City by the adjoining property owner without a driveway going through the park s lower north end quarter. Ten years later the original donor asked for an easement to allow for one. A permit was granted on a yearly renewable basis. As time went by the driveway became paved and a fence was later erected on park property cutting off public access to another portion of its land.
Friends of Viretta Parks, including neighbors C.B. Carlson and Bill Baillargeon, pushed the City to have the driveway and fence removed. Initially an offer was made by the owner of the adjoining residence to swap some land to allow the driveway to remain. The owner would get to keep the fence where it was and the city would obtain land for the park on the other side of the driveway. In sq. ft. the city would actually come out ahead.
This was the situation when I became chair of the CAP Committee. On paper it made sense and I was inclined to approve the compromise . But after receiving a number of calls, I did the right thing and took some time on the weekend to visit the park and see for myself what the objections were all about.
The visit proved to me the importance of making on-site personal observations. The land that the city would be obtaining would have been virtually inaccessible and indistinguishable from the residence’s property.
Working with the Parks Dept. I recommended that the City request that the fence be moved unless the driveway was. This would have created some hardship on the property owner since it would have meant that the park s property line would be very near his residence and he still would have had to dig up part of his driveway.
The owner met with the friends of the park and reached an agreement that would keep the fence where it was and move the driveway. This arrangement results in no net gain or loss of public land. But more importantly, the integrity of the park is improved and the amount of publicly accessible land is increased.
Port Terminal 18 – Votes
Council Member Richard McIver amended the ordinance vacating streets on Harbor Is. (Terminal 18) which will allow for the Port of Seattle s $300 million development. The amendment eliminated the no-cost provision of street vacations to the Port from the City as a condition for final passage of the ordinance. The City Council voted unanimously in favor of the amended ordinance.
Gary Grant, Port of Seattle Commissioner President promised to get fellow Port Commissioners to agree to this arrangement. At their May 12th meeting, Commissioners Page Miller and Clare Nordquist did sign-off on the new agreement. Port Commissioners Pat Davis and Jack Block were absent.
Council Member McIver and Port Commissioner Grant deserve credit for working together in finally ending those provisions of the Central Waterfront Agreement which have been the source of friction betweenthe Port and the City. From now on the Port of Seattle will be paying the City for any street vacations that it needs for future developments.
The Power Of Seinfeld
Last Thursday I was to attend a meeting of Volunteer Parks Off-Leash Area dog owners to review the city s current efforts to locate another OLA on Capitol Hill. I have received many emails from concerned dog owners on this matter so I know that it is an important issue.
I worked late in the office that evening and decided to stop in midway during their meeting to let them know that the Parks Dept. was making some good progress. I arrived at Meany School and searched around but there was no crowd inside. In fact there was no one.
I finally found a custodian and asked about the meeting. “Oh, there were only a few people who showed up so they cancelled the meeting. They thought it was because of the last episode of Seinfeld being on tonight.” I guess it’s easier to fight City Hall than Seinfeld.
The Uwajimaya Project
Tomorrow the Transportation Committee will hold a public hearing (sometime after 2 PM) on Uwajimaya s petition to vacate South Lane St. between 5th Ave. South and 6th Ave. South.
The store will be moving and expanding and creating a grand new development including 172 new units of market rate housing in the International District. Lane St. will be vacated and mostly replaced with an open pedestrian mall. On the other side of the street will be a 136 stall parking lot. Additional parking under the structure will bring total parking to 360 spaces.
The Interim Community Development Association has been very supportive as has been other groups and individuals. The Police and Fire Departments have said the closure of the street will not impede their services.
But some opposition has surfaced. A thick stack of petitions was dropped off today from members of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce as well as other residents and businesses opposing the street vacation. They contend that it does not serve the public interest. Although some individual architects have also expressed some concern about design elements of the project, Allied Arts has not taken a position nor from what I can tell has any other organization expressed opposition to the project.
I requested that the Transportation Com. put off a vote and the Chair, Richard McIver, has stated that no vote will be taken until the next committee meeting, two weeks away.
Margaret Pageler will be chairing the meeting Tuesday and has said, “My intention is to take public testimony and to ask the proponent to respond in two weeks to the key concerns raised by these groups. The response might include design modifications, clearer explanations of intent, or other actions.”
“Business Meetings” Kaput
The City Council’s Business Meetings have been renamed Council Briefings . This was the last of the Council Rule changes that the City Council had under consideration this year.
The role of this traditional Monday morning meeting had drifted away from dealing with simple business like matters, like purchasing supplies, to a broader briefing session where each Council Member briefs the Council on their immediate past and upcoming activities. Staff also give short briefings on upcoming legislative issues. The meetings are more informal (no votes are taken and attendance is not mandatory) than the Full Council Meeting which takes place later in the afternoon at 2 PM.
The meetings are open to the public and they are televised. And they must be more interesting than the Full Council Meetings, because the P.I. and Times reporters always show up and they usually don’t for the afternoon meetings.
Local Gas Tax Option
The P.I.’s Sunday editorial might provide the needed momentum to convince the King County Council to put this gas tax option on the fall ballot. With King County voter approval, the County would collect and keep 2.3 cents in tax on every gallon of gasoline sold here. Right now, 40% of the gas tax collected in King County funds projects outside our county.
County Council Members Greg Nickels (Democrat) and Rob McKenna (Republican) are pushing for Council action. To round up support, they are enlisting the support of suburban government officials by agreeing that the money collected will be spent on a prior approved list of priority projects.
I campaigned last summer against an increase in property taxes to fund street improvements because I believe that the users of roads should be directly taxed for those improvements. A gas tax is the best way to do that. City Council passed Resolution 29672 last December urging the County to place this measure on the ballot. The City cannot levy this tax, only the County can. Since then, the Council and the Mayor have again requested this action.
The City stands to receive up to $6 million a year in much needed revenue for making street improvements to our major arterials. This is six times the annual tax revenue that the Port’s $300 million dollar Harbor Is. is projected to bring into the city.
This revenue stream would benefit both suburban commuters and city residents by making improvements on Aurora Ave., Lake City Way, Rainier Valley and the Spokane St. Bridge. But getting the King County Council to vote on it is not a done deal. For one thing, even some City Council Members are shy about pushing for a vote this November because it will be on the same ballot as the Republican-led Legislature’s proposed statewide transportation package. As the P.I. notes, this state measure “will be of no help to cities and counties, even if it passes.”
I believe that the voters can evaluate each measure on its own merit and determine which provides the better deal for them. If you want to see our street conditions improve join, me in urging Mayor Paul Schell (firstname.lastname@example.org) and County Executive Ron Sims (email@example.com) to lobby the County Council to act now. We cannot expect next year’s state legislature to solve our transportation funding problems when we are not willing to use the Local Gas Tax funding mechanism they have given us.
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Posted: May 18th, 1998 under Arts and Culture, Budget and Economic Development, Government, Parks, Transportation, UP
Tags: Chinese Chamber of Commerce, city council, Dog Off Leash Area, Gas tax, Parks Department, Port of Seattle, Port Terminal 18, Transportation committee, UP, Uwajimaya, Viretta Park