Caffeinated News & Gossip

1. Watch for freshman state Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-46, N. Seattle) to introduce a Transit-Oriented Development bill in Olympia very soon.

We haven't seen a TOD bill since neighborhood activists, waving pictures of overcrowded Mumbai (seriously), shut the last one down in 2009. (TOD is the zoning theory that housing and retail should be built up around transit hubs.)

Farrell's approach—as opposed to the version in '09 that would have upzoned areas around transit stations, setting aside a mandated amount for low-income residents—is quieter: She wants to exempt government agencies such as Sound Transit from the current requirement that they have to sell their developable land at current market value.

Density advocate and Seattle city council member Mike O'Brien called the lack of development around Southeast Seattle light rail a "missed opportunity"; he has told Sound Transit he's disappointed to see vacant property around light rail stations in Southeast Seattle and wants Sound Transit to sell their land to developers. 

Farrell believes her bill will untie Sound Transit's hands.

Farrell believes her bill will untie Sound Transit's hands so that they can sell to low-income housing developers for lower prices if they want to.

2. A group of developers who sued the city last year over the terms of a lease for a building at Magnuson Park and the city of Seattle have reached a settlement, court documents reveal.

The developers sued the city after the city council, under pressure from community activists and some tenants, changed the terms of the lease to ban medical offices, demanded nearly $1 million in payments up front, and denied the developers up to $5 million in rent credits—changes the developers said made the $11 million project economically infeasible.

City Attorney Pete Holmes' spokeswoman, Kimberly Mills, told PubliCola, "The parties have agreed that the City will buy out Building 11 Investors LLC's leasehold interest, following the completion of work required for code issues and the planned occupancy by the City. The parties are in the process of finalizing their agreement, but there are still a number of issues to be worked out under the oversight of a mediator.  Once the agreement is finalized, it will be made public."

3. A new group of transit agencies and activists has formed to push for a major investment in transit as part of any statewide transportation package.

Although transportation funding of any kind will be a heavy lift this year (with education funding taking center stage after the state supreme court ruled, in the McCleary decision, that the state wasn't adequately funding public education), the group is nevertheless "putting a stake in the ground," in the words of Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick, asking for as much as $400 million a year over 10 years in new transportation funding; requesting new authority for local transit agencies to pay for transit; and asking the state to maintain its contribution to transit funding at the current level.

That level, by the way, is shockingly paltry: While the national average state contribution to local transit funding is 22 percent, Washington state contributes just two percent to transit. 

"The One Night Count isn't just a number.  It's about individuals who are suffering.  It's our job to make some noise."—Real Change director Tim Harris4. Real Change director and tireless social justice activist Tim Harris has his gong set up at City Hall this morning where he and a coalition of homeless advocates (along with some city council members who want to get in on Harris' agitprop) will take 5-minute turns banging the gong until the they've paid tribute to the total number of unsheltered homeless people according to the latest King County count. The count happened late last night.

Last year the count found 2,594 homeless people living outside while just 1,690 emergency shelter beds were available countywide.

In a statement issued yesterday, Harris said: "We don't know whether this year's number will be up or down from last year, but we do know that even one unsheltered homeless person in January is one too many. The One Night Count isn't just a number. It's about individuals who are suffering.  It's our job to make some noise."

5. Tonight, in the grudge match of the century, the Sacramento Kings play the Oklahoma City Thunder.