Urban Politics #59: Update On MPD Legislation


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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:

  • Update On MPD Legislation
  • The Convention Center
  • Arboretum Scoping To Begin
  • Added Activities Report

Update On MPD Legislation

The legislation amending the Revised Code of Washington on Metropolitan Park Districts (MPD) has passed both houses. The house version will be going to the Senate where two critical amendments still need to be made before a final vote is taken.

The first is one to limit the authority of an ex-officio MPD to contract only with non-profits for the operations of the Zoo and Aquarium. This would only impact Seattle and no other city. This change addresses one of the major criticisms of a possible MPD for Seattle. There was serious concern that a Seattle MPD could turn over the management of any public park to a non-profit. An earlier amendment prohibited an MPD from doing just that with for-profits. The City’s lobbyists have drawn up the amending language and legislators have agreed to support it.

The second amendment deals with the definition of parks and recreational activities. The current unamended MPD law has a number of definitions scattered about it, including one that provides for airfields. A state code reviser attempting to clean up the bill collected them and added a number of his own, which he considered to be possible activities. The unintended result was disastrous. Critics read the list and upon seeing stadiums in it, immediately saw the potential for funding future Mariner Baseball stadiums (which by the way is over budget by about $100 million).

A legislator stripped out the revisions and substituted the previous wording. The City supports that change, since assisting the Zoo and the Aquarium and parks in general was the objective, not building senior centers or stadiums. And hopefully the reference to airfields can still be deleted.

See Urban Politics # 58 (at web site http://www.seattle.gov/leg/licata/up00dex.htm) for more details on Metropolitan Park Districts.

The Convention Center

A final vote on the Convention Center is scheduled for April 5th in a Committee of the Whole meeting, to be followed by a regular City Council meeting. There will be no separate vote before the Transportation Committee.

Technically the vote is not for or against the expansion of the Convention Center. Instead the vote is whether to permit a street vacancy which will allow the Convention Center to build two 90 feet wide “bridges” over Pike Street and another that covers nearly all of 8th Avenue between Pike and Pine. The Convention Center also wishes to build a huge canopy over most of Pike Street between its two buildings.

Without the street vacancies, the Convention Center cannot expand. It must have the two bridges. Although the canopy is neither structurally nor functionally necessary for the Center’s expansion, their management has insisted that it is their signature piece. And it probably is, since the buildings themselves have little character beyond being two large boxes.

The debate on the City Council will probably not be around whether to approve the street vacancies, since to deny them would sink an already state financed and approved expansion. Rather, the debate is on what type of conditions to attach to the street vacancies to mitigate the Centers visual and economic impact on the surrounding neighborhoods and downtown.

The city has set a precedent for conditioning street vacancies to provide greater benefits to the surrounding communities when it did so with the Occidental Street vacancy that the Mariners required for their new baseball stadium. In that instance, the city required both traffic studies and economic impact studies to be conducted. These are similar demands that the Pike/Pine and First Hill communities are making upon the Convention Center.

In addition, the Mariners were required to provide additional pedestrian amenities to the International District and the Pioneer Sq. District just as the the Pike/Pine and First Hill communities are requesting a strengthened pedestrian corridor down Pike and Pine through the Convention Center’s area to the city’s retail core.

The Convention Center argues that they are out of funds for making any of these changes. However their canopy cost $3.5 million to build. If they did not build it, they would save most of that money and it could be used to provide the above amenities being requested.

The canopy serves no structural purpose, so its removal would not diminish the Convention Center’s exhibit floor space. And its removal would eliminate a huge (80 to 120 feet high) steel and glass structure that will obscure Capitol Hill’s view of the Sound, the Olympic Mountains and the Pike Place Market.

For more details on the Convention Center, see Urban Politics #57, at web site: http://www.seattle.gov/leg/licata/up00dex.htm

Arboretum Scoping To Begin, with assistance from Newell Aldrich

The Arboretum Botanical and Gardening Committee (composed of representatives of the City of Seattle, The University of Washington, and the Arboretum Foundation) have released a new draft version of the Arboretum Master Plan. Copies of the plan are available at all branch libraries and neighborhood service centers; it can also be seen at http://www.seattle.gov/parks/arboretum/cover.htm. A summary of the plan can be obtained by calling 206-684-4075.

An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process is underway. There will be a formal public process for determining the range of alternatives to be studied in the EIS; this is called “scoping”. A Draft Scoping Report is available, and includes alternatives. The draft Master Plan will be one of the alternatives considered in the EIS.

The public meeting on the EIS Scoping Document is scheduled for Wednesday April 7 from 6-9 p.m. in the Seattle Center Olympic Room; an open house will take place from 6-7 p.m. Public comments on the EIS scope will follow at 7 p.m. A public comment period is in effect through April 14.

The Draft Scoping Report can be seen at the above Internet address, and at all library branches and neighborhood service centers. You can send written comments on the Scoping Report to Seattle Parks and Recreation, Attn: Peter Marshall, 800 Maynard S., Seattle WA 98134, or by fax to (206) 324-7025, or by email to “peter.marshall@seattle.gov“.

The Washington Park Arboretum website, which includes information on the Arboretum Foundation, is at http://weber.u.washington.edu/~wpa/.

A coalition group, the Arboretum Park Preservation Coalition is a group that formed in response to the Arboretum Master Plan proposal. They have raised concerns about the Master Plan. Their website is at http://www.scn.org/arboretum/.

If you believe any additional alternatives should be included in the EIS, or have other comments, it’s important to give your comments. Following the public comment period, the Parks Department will make recommendations to the City Council on the scope for the EIS, likely in May, and the City Council will vote on the EIS scope, before the EIS begins.

Any changes at the Arboretum will need to be approved by both of the governing agencies: the Seattle City Council and the University of Washington Board of Regents.

See Urban Politics # 50 (at web site http://www.seattle.gov/leg/licata/up00dex.htm) for more details on the Arboretum.

Added Activities Report, with assistance from Newell Aldrich

Under the Washington State Administrative Code, establishments that serve alcohol and want to have live music or dancing are required to obtain an “added activities” license. The Washington State Liquor Control Board administers the state added activities license, and further requires an added activities license from the local government, such as the City of Seattle.

The Added Activities Work Group, formed by Public Safety Committee Chair Councilmember Podlodowski, has issued its recommendations on an added activities license for the City of Seattle. City Attorney Mark Sidran’s had earlier proposed a version of added activities legislation, which Podlodowski did not bring up for a vote. His version was considered too broad by a number of Council Members, including myself.

The work group’s proposal is simpler than Sidran’s. However, some issues remain unresolved, with more than one option considered in the report. For example, whether a club can remain open while a license suspension is appealed; whether businesses should be held responsible for disturbances in the vicinity of the clubs, such as public safety problems and traffic; and how noise issues should be dealt with. The issue of who is held responsible for disturbances outside the club, the businesses or the persons breaking the law, looks to be the most contentious.

Some club owners would like to be able to hire off-duty police to patrol the area outside the club in order to address problems outside their premises. Hiring of off-duty police has not been allowed for decades in clubs that serve alcohol, under Police Dept policy. The report recommends looking at this. Insurance policies for the clubs also do not provide liability coverage for actions of employees outside the premises of their business, and, they have no legal authority outside the clubs.

The work group’s report was presented Wednesday March 17 and draft legislation establishing city policy should be available by April 7. A public hearing will take place April 13 at 6:30 PM in City Council Chambers on the 11th floor of the Municipal Building at 4th and James. A vote will take place in committee sometime after the hearing.

Keep in touch…

 

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