Councilmember Licata left office on January 1, 2016.
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Urban Politics #109: A Roundtable Discussion On Artists’ Spaces

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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

With assistance from my Legislative Assistant Newell Aldrich on this issue.

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.



  • A Roundtable Discussion On Artists’ Spaces
  • Open Space Gap Report
  • Breathing Room Space
  • Usable Open Space
  • Written Elements Of Report
  • Report Availability

A Roundtable Discussion On Artists’ Spaces

Join me this Tuesday, May 22, 2001,from 10:30AM to 12:00 PM at The Dome Room in the Arctic Building, 700 3rd Ave, at 3rd Ave & Cherry Street. (enter through the side entrance, off Cherry Street) for a discussion on artists’ spaces.

The questions that will be addressed are:

Are rents & property prices really too high or are artists just too poor? Why should artists be exempt from the rules of economic supply & demand? How are artists different than other low-income housing applicants?

For some time now, City departments and my fellow Councilmembers and I have heard these questions posed over and over again. The answers can be contradictory or unsatisfying, so I have invited a broad range of people to gather around a table to take a stab at answering these and other important questions on artists’ studios and housing.

Joining me at the table will be Seattle City Councilmember Judy Nicastro and representatives of the City’s Arts Commission, The Dpt. of Construction and Land Use, the Office of Housing, the Design Commission, the Office of Economic Development, King County’s Dpt. of Cultural Resources, the Dpt. of Neighborhoods, Allied Arts of Seattle, Artist Trust of Washington State, and developers of affordable artists’ spaces such as the Fire House Art Studios at Sand Point and the Tashiro Kaplan & Hiawatha Place Arts & Lofts projects.

The goal of this roundtable discussion is to focus on sharing knowledge on artists’ space issues and, rather than walking away with concrete solutions, walking away with a better understanding of the issues collectively so that more informed and effective decisions can be made individually.

Historically, the City has benefited from working artists who live and work in inexpensive spaces that others refuse. Cheap space allows artists to establish artistic and cultural amenities in otherwise neglected neighborhoods. The resulting small-scale economies and cultural activities attract pluralistic populations resulting in vibrant and healthy neighborhoods. But, times have changed. The lack of low-priced artists’ housing and work-space has become newsworthy. And although several public and private initiatives are planned or have been implemented recently to address this issue, many believe that more can be done. At this roundtable, we will hear from artists, policy makers, the public, and the private sector on their concerns and ideas on preserving and creating artists’ spaces in Seattle.

The public is invited to attend and to comment. I have asked those participating to bring with them handouts & other information on artists’ space resources and projects that people can take home. I hope to see you there.

For more information contact my legislative assistant, Frank Video, at 684-8849.

(Nick, here’s an updated UP for the open space gap report. Kate Kaehny told me the Parks webmaster just left, so it’ll be a week or 2 before they get it on the web, and they don’t have a URL. At the end of this draft I listed my e-mail address as a contact for people who want know when it’s on the web.)

Open Space Gap Report

When I became Chair of the Culture, Arts and Parks Committee at the start of 1998, one of the first things I asked for was a map on the adequacy of open space distribution in Seattle. The City’s Comprehensive Plan, and the Parks 1993 Complan both had standards for the distribution of open space (for example, according to the Comp Plan, residents of single family areas were supposed to have 1/2 acre of usable open space within 1/2 mile).

Much to my surprise, there was no such map. This meant it was difficult to assess what areas of Seattle were underserved by open space, and thus most in need. My office made some efforts to put together maps displaying open space, by using contours mile around park properties. Unfortunately, because of the lack of a clear classification system for Park properties, these maps, although a step in the right direction, were incomplete

When the Council passed the Parks Plan 2000, an update of the 1993 Complan, at my request it directed Parks to develop an inventory on areas where the City’s open space goals were met, or not. As a result, the Department of Parks & Recreation has released a very useful report on open space distribution in the City entitled “An Assessment of Gaps in Seattle’s Open Space Network”.

The report is designed to provide citizens and policymakers an easy to use guide for areas of the city that are underserved by open space. It should be useful to the Parks Levy Oversight Committee in determining where to spend the $10 million Opportunity Fund, and to citizens applying for grants through the Neighborhood Matching Fund. The report principally consists of maps in two categories: breathing room open space, and usable open space.

Breathing Room Space

Breathing Room Open Space: This includes all types of open space including parks, natural areas and golf courses, green belts, and non-City owned open space such as the Ballard Locks; not counted were Seattle Center, Seattle School District properties, and shoreline street ends.

The City’s goals for breathing room open space is 1/3 acre per 1000 residents as acceptable; 1 acre per 100 residents as desirable. The City is mapped by census tracts, and notes whether the census tract meets the desirable, acceptable, or deficient categories. Some anomalies result from this system, due to the boundaries of census tracts. For example, census tracts adjacent to Magnuson Park and Washington Park Arboretum are listed as deficient. Overall, however, it is a useful guide for the City as a whole, especially if viewed with the usable open space maps discussed below.

Usable Open Space

Usable open space is “open space that is relatively level, green, open, and easily accessible.” This includes parks in single family areas ¸ acre or more in size; parks that are 1/2 acre in urban villages (about 10,000 square feet) or more; boulevard with park amenities; Not counted were parks below the sizes listed above; greenbelts and natural areas; the Burke-Gilman trail; school district groups; University of Washington and state community colleges.

The Usable Open Space map uses green-colored contours around the boundary of parks to indicate the areas it covers within 1/8, 1/2, or 1 mile, depending on its location; sometimes there are multiple contours. The areas left blank are those underserved in open space.

There is a City-wide Usable Open Space map, and six more detailed maps done by the City’s six neighborhood sectors. These maps include dots indicating projects passed by voters in the 2000 Parks Levy. Areas such as Ballard, Northgate, First Hill, Capitol Hill, Central District, and West Seattle Junction, all contain projects that will fill in gaps in open space. In addition a gap in Columbia City will be filled with the Council’s approval of the acquisition of open space at Hitt’s Hill.

The maps don’t account for all elements of accessibility; for example, if you need to cross a busy arterial with small children, or are impeded by a steep slope, a park may not be easily accessible even if it is close by. However, as a general guide, it is very useful.

Written Elements Of Report

Besides the maps, the report offers a detailed explanation of the methodology used in the report, as well as written summaries of gaps in the six sectors; descriptions of current projects from the 2000 Parks Levy that will address gaps; and what gaps will remain.

Thanks to Ken Bounds, Kate Kaehny, Kevin Stoops, and Mary Mekkers of Parks for their work on this report; and Denise Klein, Elaine Eberly and Vicki Evans of the Geographic Information Systems branch of Utilities for early work on this project.

Report Availability

Parks has distributed the report to Seattle libraries and neighborhood service centers, and to the Pro Parks Citizen’s Oversight Committee and other open space groups such as Open Space Advocates, Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks, the League of Women Voters and Groundswell Northwest.

Parks also plans to make the report available over the internet; it should be on the web in a week or two. If you would like to know when it is available, please contact my legislative aide Newell Aldrich.

Keep in touch…

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