Urban Politics #65: Waterfront Hotel & Steinbrueck Park

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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.


Waterfront Hotel & Steinbrueck Park

The letter below was sent today (6/9/99) by myself and five other Council Members (listed below) to three City Departments. It asks them to concur with our belief that there are sufficient grounds for the City Council to review and approve or disapprove the proposed Waterfront Marriott Hotel to be constructed just north of the Pike Place Market. If it is built as currently planned it will block the view of Elliott Bay from Victor Steinbrueck Park.

My legislative assistant Newell Aldrich worked with citizen activist Irene Wall in reviewing the documents that lead to the developer receiving a permit to build this hotel. Through hard and diligent work, we have concluded that there is a direct and clear line of responsibility that flows from the City’s August 4, 1994 Property Use and Development Agreement (PUDA) with the Port of Seattle which allows the City Council to still influence the project.

The bottom line is that the City gave the Port street vacancies in exchange for a project (referred to as the Central Waterfront Project) that would result in some public amenities. However the project changed in a number of significant ways from what was originally described in the Environmental Impact Statement. We believe these changes, as noted below, merit a City Council review. The catch is that the PUDA agreement allows this review only if the three City Departments consider these variances to be “major changes” to the proposed project.

These departments report to the Mayor not the City Council, so we do not have any authority to direct their response. I expect that soon we will be meeting with them and possibly representatives from the Mayor’s Office to determine what can be done to protect the public view from Steinbrueck Park.

Copy of Letter

To: Daryl Grigsby, Seattle Transportation Department Jim Diers, Department of Neighborhoods Rick Krochalis, Department of Design, Construction and Land Use

From: Nick Licata, Peter Steinbrueck, Sue Donaldson, Richard Conlin, Tina Podlodowski, Margaret Pageler

Re: Port of Seattle Central Waterfront Project

We have recently received inquiries regarding the August 4, 1994 Property Use and Development Agreement (PUDA) between the Port of Seattle and the City of Seattle, relating to the street vacations and conditions for their transfer to the Port of Seattle for its Central Waterfront Project.

Section 1 (A) (page 3, 4) of the Property Use and Development Agreement reads:

“Any major changes to the Design Guidelines or to the proposed project, as determined jointly by the Engineering Department, Department of Neighborhoods and Department of Construction and Land Use, shall require further review and approval by the City Council of the City of Seattle.”

We believe there have been major changes in the project, and the subject of this letter is whether they should require a Council review.

As described in the 1991 Environmental Impact Statement for the Central Waterfront Project (page 2-30), the alternative selected by the Port of Seattle, Alternative F, which forms the basis for the 1992 Central Waterfront Design Guidelines (page 3), describes the uplands portion of the project to include 125 units of housing. In fact, 234 units of housing have been constructed in the form of the Waterfront Landings Condominiums. This represents an increase of 87%.

Alternative F also describes the uplands portion of the project to include 150,000 square feet of office space for the World Trade Center. The newly constructed World Trade Center contains over 230,000 square feet of office space. This represents an increase of over 50%.

In addition, Alternative F describes the uplands portion of the project to include a hotel variously described as having 300 or 325 rooms. The Shoreline Development permit requested by Wright Hotels calls for a 400 room hotel.

The September 1992 Central Waterfront Design Guidelines (page 30) shows an illustration of a 5-story hotel then contemplated north of the Lenora Street hillclimb assist.

The description of Alternative F includes a 450-foot lid over the Burlington-Northern tracks between Bell and Blanchard Streets, with a pedestrian plaza providing a connection between the uplands and the waterfront (Design Guidelines Attachment 1, Page A-10). It appears this is no longer planned for construction. Similarly, the “Lenora plaza” (Design Guidelines Attachment 1, Page A1-8) as designed, is much reduced from its initial description in Alternative F and as contemplated in the Design Guidelines.

I/We believe that individually and cumulatively, these changes in the project fit the definition of major changes to the proposed project that trigger a required Council review.

Do you agree that these are “major changes to the Design Guidelines or to the proposed project” per the language in the PUDA? Was the City Council ever contacted about these changes? In a preliminary check, we were not able to find a written record of communication to the City Council.

In addition to changes in the overall configuration and sizing of structures, there are other apparent deviations from adherence to the Design Guidelines, which are germane to Council review of the Marriott hotel. A clause of the PUDA, regarding the street vacations pertaining to this project passed by the City Council in 1990 (p. 3) reads:

“Whereas, the reservations and conditions stipulated by the City Council were: (1) the Port must execute and record an agreement with the City pertaining to the use and development of the Property, including incorporation of the September 1992 Design Guidelines…”

Section 1 (p.3) further reads that:

“Development shall comply with the requirements of the City’s September 1992 Design Guidelines…and development shall also incorporate wherever possible the non-required, but recommended, provisions within the City’s September 1992 Design Guidelines.

Section 7.1 of the Design Review Recommendations for the Central Waterfront (for Virginia Street, page 31), reads:

“The Port shall maintain an upper-level view corridor from Steinbrueck Park to the Alaskan Way seawall. The view corridor shall be no narrower than the existing right-of-way. The view corridor shall maximize panoramic views of the proposed moorage basic, the historic seawall, Piers 62/63, and the Seattle Aquarium from Steinbrueck Park.” The accompanying illustration shows a clear siteline from Victor Steinbrueck Park to the Alaskan Way seawall.

It appears the proposed Marriott hotel is not in accordance with this recommended provision of the Design Guidelines. It is reasonable to interpret the Virginia Street corridor as including all of the view currently available from anywhere in Victor Steinbrueck Park. It appears this guideline was overlooked in review of the Waterfront Landings condominiums as well. The acoustic wall and the rooflines of the condominiums obstruct the view from Victor Steinbrueck Park to the Alaskan Way seawall, although that was a clear provision of the Design Guidelines. Views to the Bell Street Pier Marina are also obstructed.

We acknowledge that the review of the Marriott hotel by the Central Waterfront Design Review Committee resulted in some improvements. However, we believe the changes in the total Central Waterfront Project described above were and are “major”, and sufficient to warrant further Council review and approval.

Your ideas on how to proceed expeditiously with this necessary Council review would be much appreciated. We are happy to meet with you.


Cc: Mayor Schell

PS If you have any questions on this letter, please contact Newell Aldrich from Councilmember Nick Licata’s staff at 206-386-9011.

Magnuson Park Off Leash Area

Last month the City Council sent a letter signed by all 9 City Council Members to Ken Bounds, Superintendent of Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation regarding the Off Leash Area at Sand Point/Magnuson Park. There was concern that the design team following up on the recommendations of the Sand Point Blue Ribbon Committee (BRC) might substantially alter the intent of the Council as to the future existence of the Off Leash Area at the Park.

Resolution 29628, passed in September, 1997, by a 9-0 vote of the City Council and signed by Mayor Norman B. Rice. That resolution provides the following policy guidance regarding the off leash area at Magnuson:

Section 4. The pilot site at Magnuson (water access and boundary walk sites) will continue as an interim site until a plan is adopted for Magnuson Park/Sand Point and a permanent site is located within the park…. In addition to a water site at Magnuson Park, a new permanent water site at another location shall be considered.

In May 1998, Mayor Schell and I appointed the Sand Point Blue Ribbon Committee (BRC) to review the written plans for Sand Point/Magnsuon Park. Previous planning at Sand Point has developed through a lengthy planning process, with the City Council adopting the Sand Point Amendment to the Comprehensive Plan, and the Sand Point Physical Development Management Plan in 1997. These documents make up the approved Sand Point Reuse Plan. The BRC report, released on February 9th, clarifies the written program and provides guidance to your team in developing the park design

In its draft report the BRC recommends in part that the City “build the natural area as contemplated in the Citizens Plan, bringing back to life a magnificent lake, wetlands, habitat and streams”; the City undertake a Park Design process for the newly expanded Magnuson Park; “the Citizens plan should serve as the base plan or ‘core vision’ for the design “a range of issues be addressed in the Park Design process including an “Off-Leash Area Review.”

It was the Council’s desire to see each design alternative conform to the spirit and letter of Resolution 29628, by including an off leash area of equal or greater area to that which currently exists and including the water access promised in the resolution. It was also important to note that the current Magnuson Off Leash site is the only handicapped-accessible site in the City, an aspect important to capture in the new design.

We hoped that the clarification of the Council’s past actions would assist the design team in developing design alternatives for public review. The Council will probably review and give its approval to the final design by mid summer.

Keep in touch…


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