1. Earlier this month, Fizz had the news that the city had delayed the planning for a Local Improvement District (LID) to help fund the $1.1 billion makeover on the waterfront. An LID raises taxes from area property owners —based on enhanced property values from local projects—to pay for those projects.
The LID, initially booked to raise between $250 and $300 million, has stalled over legal questions (such as the murkiness of having the city take credit for property value increases associated with building the tunnel—a state lift) and over the Bertha fiasco.
A new memo (obtained by Fizz) from an LID steering committee representing more than 100 potential members of the planned LID, while formally supportive of the idea, flags some additional issues to local property owners.
First, memo authors Jack McCullough of the Downtown Seattle Association and Colleen Pratt of the Building Owners and Managers Association make it clear that the planned improvements around the waterfront itself will not be enough to tax a broad swath of property owners that stretches far beyond the confines of the current project. (The broad geographical scope of the LID was already an issue back in 2007, as Erica reported at the time; and a more recent version of the LID proposal has been complicated by the fact that the tunnel-boring machine is stuck, as Josh noted last month.)
LID assessments on property owners must be supported by clear and tangible benefits to those properties from the LID investments in the Waterfront Project areas. Investments in the waterfront promenade alone, or for small hill-climb improvements near Western and First Avenues, will not provide broad benefits throughout Downtown. The Waterfront Project must include capital investments that provide connections deep into the Downtown. In addition, assessments must be proportionate to the benefits received and cannot be so large as to pose an unreasonable burden on individual owners.
Second, the memo is skeptical of the city's ability to manage the new waterfront from a public safety and maintenance perspective:
Given current deficiencies in the management and operation of public spaces Downtown, we need a new model for operating the Public Spaces of the Waterfront Project. A detailed and sustainable management, operations, security and maintenance plan for the Waterfront must be established prior to formation of the LID. It must be a new approach. ...
Participants expressed significant concerns regarding the City’s current ability to successfully manage and activate existing Downtown parks. Property owners noted major safety challenges within existing public spaces in Downtown. There is nothing in our current experience to suggest that the operations sand maintenance of the waterfront park could be a success. We do not believe that serious efforts have yet been undertaken to address this critical issue.
The property owners say one thing that would help convince them the city is more serious about maintaining the space is more money: "An operations and maintenance financing plan for the park has yet to be fully developed by the City. $3.5 million in annual maintenance funding was included in the August Metropolitan Parks District ballot measure approved by voters. However, additional funding will need to be secured to fully fund operations and maintenance of the additional new public space."
Third, property owners, evidently already feeling snubbed by the city's waterfront planning process, say they won't move forward on the LID without more transparency and direct engagement from city hall:
Given that this will likely be the largest LID proposed in the City’s history, it is important for the City to devote significant time and resources to engage property owners within the proposed district in a comprehensive evaluation of the proposed benefits and assessments. ...
To date, there has been no transparency regarding the proposed LID process. Our view is that the LID cannot succeed, and that support of property owners will not be forthcoming, without a comprehensive and deliberate process that provides full information to property owners well in advance to any LID decision-making process. ...
The committee met with the City Attorney’s Office, but very little information was shared by the City attorneys that were present.
The memo concludes with a summary of outstanding questions which circle back to the problems that delayed the LID from the city's own POV in the first place—the Bertha bungle and the city's inability to claim responsibility for property improvements from work done by the state. The conclusion includes the following bullet points: "Tunnel construction costs and segregating viaduct replacement project benefits; Project cost overruns for assessments collected."
The final list of outstanding points also reiterates downtown property owners' concern over the geographic parameters of any LID by making it clear that any property enhancements need to be specific. Their lead bullet point of outstanding questions: "The general versus special benefits."
Footnote: The co-author of the critical memo, DSA member Jack McCullough, is a partner at McCullough Hill Leary, the same developer advocate that is challenging the city's new "Linkage Fee" proposal to make developers pay into a new fund to build affordable housing and suing the city in federal court over the city's current development fee program.
The LID is the biggest outstanding funding source for the waterfront revamp. It's about 25 percent of the project.
2. The battle between this fall's competing preschool measures, Prop 1A and Prop 1B, continued to play out at the Legislative District level this weekend.
North Seattle's 46th Legislative District considered both measures on Sunday. The pro-1B camp (1B is a funded, city-backed plan to subsidize preschool slots) was asking for an affirmative endorsement. The pro-1A camp (1A is an unfunded union measure to increase preschool teacher pay and set training standards) was asking the district not to take a position.
The Prop. 1 A folks, represented by state Rep. Gerry Pollett (D-46, N. Seattle) and a Montessori school worker, carried the day.
The Prop. 1A folks, represented by state Rep. Gerry Pollett (D-46, N. Seattle) and a Montessori school worker, carried the day. The motion to endorse Prop. 1B, represented by City Council member Tim Burgess, former council member Peter Steinbrueck, and school board member Sherry Carr, only got 40 percent—and failed.
So far the Prop. 1A campaign, which is being backed SEIU 925 and the American Federation of Teachers, is winning the LD battle overall (if, in fact, you believe, they really don't want an endorsement themselves and aren't simply settling for a neutral position because a 'Yes' vote is out of reach). To date: The 37th (Southeast Seattle), the 36th (Ballard Queen Anne), the 11th (parts of South Seattle), and the 32nd (a sliver of North Seattle) have all voted against endorsing Prop 1B.
The Metropolitan Democratic Club also rejected the Prop. 1B pitch for an endorsement last week— as did the King County Democrats.
Meanwhile, the the 43rd Legislative District (Capitol Hill, the University District) and the 34th Legislative District (West Seattle)—along with the King County Labor Council (oddly)—have endorsed Prop. 1B .
The pro-1B side—backed by Mayor Ed Murray and seen as an establishment measure with "ed reformers" in their corner—have also rolled out recent endorsements from United Way of King County and the Boys and Girls Clubs of King County on top of not-so-establishment endorsements from lefty group Solid Ground.