Urban Politics #43: So-Long Summer Bash


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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:

  • So-Long Summer Bash
  • Memorior – Seeing Red In Italy
  • Convention Center Vote
  • Hearing For A 60 Day Rental Notice

So-Long Summer Bash

Friday, August 28th, from 5:30 to 8:30 at PRAG House, 747 16th Ave. East (corner of 16th East and East Aloha) there is a benefit for Nick’s City Council Office Fund – for getting more things done!

$25 donation appreciated, but your presence is what really counts! Kids welcome, Food, No-Host Bar, Free Henna Tattoos and Poetry – of course!

Call the office at 684-8803 for more information or if you would like to help out!

Memorior – Seeing Red In Italy

I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder and turned to face a middle aged, red haired woman. It was my first day in Italy and I was sitting at a café in the Galleria Vittorio Emuanuele II, the grandest arcade in Europe, ten times larger than Seattle’s Westlake Mall.

A moment before I had been talking to an American couple, who was visiting Milan for the first time, but confessed that their favorite city was Bellevue, Washington.

“Did you have a dark bag next to your chair?” she asked with a British accent. Her concerned expression pumped up my heartbeat.

I swung around and quickly glanced down, where I had set my day back only a few minutes ago. What a fool I had been. When I had begun talking to the couple, I had swiveled my back towards it. Now it was gone, along with my passport, my credit cards, my cash and my Lonely Planet Guide to Italy.

As my heart sank like the Titanic, the woman threw me a lifesaver. “He took off in that direction,” she said pointing toward the exit crammed with tourists, shoppers and office workers a hundred feet away.

“And he was wearing a red shirt,” I heard her yell as I sprinted across the marble floor toward the mouth of this cavernous steel and glass structure.

Problem is I’m colorblind. But I can detect stronger shades and colors from duller ones, even if I’m not sure if the color is correct. So I looked for something dark and thought I caught a glimpse of what could have been a red shirt just melding into the crowd flowing out of the building.

By the time I stood outside, it had absorbed into a world of streets and piazzas jammed with even scores of people, all scurrying about. To my left was an immense piazza that bordered the famous La Scala Theater. To my right was a narrow road that appeared to be an entrance to a maze of even narrower streets that branched off from it.

I choose the piazza and ran to the center of it, hoping to get a full 360-degree panorama. Like a radar beam I swept the vicinity for traces of the enemy target – the one red shirt that would hopefully stick out, like a ship on the horizon. But I had no such luck.

With each passing second, the culprit was retreating further into Milan’s labyrinth of alleys, streets and piazzas. My heart was racing even though my body felt as heavy and motionless as the statues that lined the piazza.

I figured I had one last chance. I turned on my heels and took the other option – the narrow street that reminded me of a highschool hallway packed with students between classes.

In a frantic rush, I rudely pushed my way through the crowd. I was on a mission to find that red shirt. Then to my left opened up another piazza. But this was a smaller, quieter one than the other. And it was empty but for one lone figure, far at the other end, who was not more than a step from disappearing around the corner. And he was wearing that same “red” shirt that I had initially spotted, what seemed like an eternity ago.

He glanced back over his shoulder and from it dangled a black bag of some sort. He looked directly at me and I could sense that he was trying to determine if I was pursuing him or if I had seen him. I played the innocent tourist and stood still looking around at the medieval buildings that ringed the piazza. I tried to look like I had not a care in the world. I knew that if I started to run after him, I’d surely loose him again in the maze of streets that lay beyond that next corner.

He casually turned and in the next step disappeared from my sight. I bolted across the piazza in his direction. Miraculously, half way across it I noticed a police officer standing guard outside one of the buildings. Speaking in a torrent of English gibberish I implored him to join in the chase. He got my drift and joined in the pursuit as I raced ahead.

Luckily the thief was still strolling along when the police officer’s shouting caught his attention. He looked amazed to see me and the local authority only a few feet away. He then quickly dropped by my pack, raised his hands and gestured as if to say, “He’s your stuff back, I’ll just be going peacefully now.”

I retrieved my pack and the Police Officer explained to the culprit that he’d have to come back to the station with him. He was a well-dressed man in his forties and like many Italian men he wore a nice pair of loafers. But he insisted that he needed my property to pay for a bad tooth, as he pointed to a molar. His teeth looked better than mine did. He said he was a working man, but the tool kit of wire cutters and a sharp knife that hung from his belt belied any innocent trade.

He was booked, I spent a couple of hours filling out forms and repeating my story to a stream of friendly, non-English speaking officers. I learned my lesson: never let go of my pack. And I suspect for the thief it was: never wear red again.

Convention Center Vote

At the Full Council meeting this past Monday, August 10th, the Council approved the Washington State Convention Center’s Conditional Use Permit for their expansion. The vote was 7 to 1, with Richard Conlin absent.

I voted against the approval. I felt, that while the Convention Center had made a number of positive changes to their plan upon the request of both neighborhood groups and Council Members, they still could have done more to mitigate the immense impact that the Convention Center’s expansion will have on the Capitol Hill, Pike/Pine and First Hill Communities.

The Center is roughly the same size as the Kingdome, and it will be next to the densest populated communities in our city. I believe that the City had the ability and the responsibility not to issue the conditional use permit until the pedestrian character of these communities could be protected.

The Center did agree to coordinate their Traffic Mitigation Plan with their private co-developers, which is critical to lessening the impact of traffic congestion in this narrow corridor. They also agreed to avoid demolition activities in the evening and to contribute up to $20,000 for improvements in the adjacent Boren Street Park.

But these were all unilateral concessions, which were not agreed to by representatives of the three Community Planning Committees who had been asking for a more significant mitigation package. They argued that the Center’s impact on their neighborhoods was similar to that of the professional stadiums to the International District and Pioneer Square. In comparison, each stadium was contributing over a million dollars for mitigation measures to these communities.

City Council, through Richard McIver’s Transportation Committee, will now review and vote on the Center’s request for street vacations. About two blocks of overhead street space will be taken up with sky bridges, decorative canopies and a truck ramp.

Issues concerning the visual and design impact of the Center still need to be resolved. Since the Convention expansion is no longer a “quasi-judicial” matter that had been appealed from the Hearing Examiner, the affected communities and the Convention Center will now be able to directly lobby Council on these matters.

Hearing For A 60 Day Rental Notice

Peter Steinbrueck’s Housing Committee will hold a public hearing on August 26 at 4:30 in the City Council Chambers on legislation proposed by Peter and I, to amend the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance to provide for a 60 days written notice of rent increases that total more than 10% of the previous rent over the past 12 months.

This legislation is critically needed since rental vacancy rates are less than 2% in many Seattle neighborhoods. Currently, when renters receive substantial rent increases they have only 30 days to find a new home. The existing tight housing market makes it very difficult to find a comparable rental unit in the same community. An additional 30 days will at least give renters a better chance of being able to find nearby housing.

Keep in touch…

 

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