Urban Politics #194: Monday’s Votes On…

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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.



  • Civic Center Public Safety Building Site
  • Parking Requirements For Multifamily Buildings
  • Comprehensive Plan Amendments

Monday’s Votes On:

Civic Center Public Safety Building Site

The Council voted on a proposal for the use of the Public Safety Building site, Resolution 30769. The proposal, sponsored by Council Members Drago and Steinbrueck, calls for using two-thirds of the site for open space, with the northern third set aside for private development.

I proposed an amendment to consider using the southwest corner for housing. ÊThe wording of the amendment read:

“The City will also consider development proposals that include a residential component on the southwestern portion of the site. Under such an alternative, the City would be seeking design approaches that protect view corridors from City Hall and reserve approximately thirty percent of the site for a civic open space. This open space would be located on the southeast portion of the site.”

I think that an open space across from City Hall and the County Court House, would be more likely to be pedestrian friendly if it had affordable housing abutting it. But in order to get that housing, the open space would have to be reduced. I felt that a reduced open space but one that was more likely to be active and to be used by residents into the late evening was a better design that having a large one with few if any residents living next to it.

The amendment failed by a 6-3 vote, with Council Members McIver and Rasmussen supporting my proposal.

Earlier, when the Council passed the Civic Center Master plan in 1999 I had proposed an amendment to sell or lease the Public Safety Building site, subject to open space and design considerations that would have pursued the same objective as my amendment this Monday. That amendment lost by a 5-4 vote. (see UP 64)

As in 1999, when I cast the lone “no” vote on the overall ordinance, I believe that the Council should limit our public costs on our civic center where possible. This is particularly important since the Council is using non-voter approved bonds (referred to as councilmanic bonds) to build our new civic center campus. My amendment would have reduced the maintenance costs for the open space and would have generated more revenue to the City than the proposal that passed the Council.


Parking Requirements For Multifamily Buildings

The Council unanimously passed Council Bill 115173 which modified the parking requirements for multifamily uses and SEPA mitigation authority within the First Hill Urban Center Village, University District Northwest Urban Center Village, the Pike/Pine Urban Center Village, and the Capitol Hill Urban Center Village. In essence it reduced the number of parking spaces required for some new residential construction in these neighborhoods in the hopes of providing more housing units and at lower costs than if the developer had to provide additional parking spaces.

I felt that the bill as it came out of Council Member Peter Steinbrueck’s Urban Development and Planning Committee had addressed a number of concerns regarding the potential negative impact on neighborhoods if there was a significant reduction in parking availability. However, some constituents had contacted me about the possibility that this legislation might encourage the demolition of lower income housing without replacing it with units with comparable rents.

Consequently I crafted an amendment that would allow the City to monitor the impact of this legislation on the existing affordable housing market. It read as follows:

“The Executive shall assign a department to survey whether, over the 2 year period following the effective date of this ordinance, there has been a measurable trend of lower rent units being eliminated and replaced by higher rent units in developments that provide parking under the terms of this ordinanceÉ”

Although Council Member Peter Steinbrueck supported it, the discussion on the dais demonstrated that the rest of the Council would not. As a result rather than having it defeated, I withdrew it and offered to work with Council Members to draft and resubmit a resolution that could address this concern.


Comprehensive Plan Amendments

The Council passed 8 to 1 (McIver) Resolution 30766 which identified proposed Comprehensive Plan amendments to be considered for possible adoption in 2005 and 2006. The legislation dealt with a number of changes in the Comprehensive Plan, which guides the City Government in determining what types of development should occur in different parts of Seattle.

CM David Della introduced an amendment to hold off for one year the section of the resolution, which would have allowed non-marine industries to move into the “North Bay” section of the Interbay industrial land that the Port of Seattle owns. I and CM Richard Conlin and CM Tom Rasmussen, supported this amendment because of our shared concern for preserving the marine industry in Seattle. The amendment failed on a 4 to 5 vote.

I then introduced another amendment saying that any future land use changes in North Bay would allow the community most affected, which is the marine industry comprising of companies and unions, to participate in any proposed land use changes before they are adopted by the City. They would do this through the amendment process for altering the BINMIC Neighborhood Plan. BINMIC is the acronym for the group of manufacturing and marine businesses that occupy the industrial zone areas between Queen Anne and Magnolia and north to the ship canal.

The amendment read as follows:

“The final proposed amendment shall be consistent with current Comprehensive Plan policies, such as those in the BINMIC Neighborhood Plan, or shall propose modification to those policies to maintain consistency, and those modifications shall be adopted no later than the proposed North Bay amendment.”

It passed unanimously. Consequently, I voted for Resolution 30766 knowing that the marine industry would be at the table should there be future discussions about changing the land use codes for the North Bay.

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