Morning Fizz

Climate Change and Parking Changes

Caffeinated news featuring a big day at yesterday's land use committee meeting

By Josh Feit May 6, 2015

Caffeinated News

1. Yesterday's City Council Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee meeting played host to two extraordinary phenomena. One: city council president Tim Burgess and council member Kshama Sawant—whose professional relationship has been strained (to put it lightly)—were in full agreement, opposing the Port of Seattle's plans to host Shell Oil Arctic drilling rigs at Terminal Five. Additionally—get this—Burgess was cheered on by the unlikeliest of crowds: lefty environmental activists. They were pleased with Burgess (and the rest of the committee) for supporting committee chair Mike O'Brien's resolution calling on the Port to reconsider the lease.

“This false dichotomy of the environment versus jobs is not what this [resolution] is about,” Burgess said. “The issue of drilling in the Arctic affects all of us." In response, the anti-Arctic drilling crowd, sporting
 red T-shirts reading “Shell No” (one Shell opponent had a stuffed-animal polar bear strapped to a backpack), gave a solid round of applause.

More than 20 speakers testified during public comment, though despite the cheers from T-shirted environmentalists, not all of the public testimony supported O'Brien's resolution. Local maritime industry advocates and labor union representatives decried the resolution and the council's potential overreach into Port affairs, as they tried to highlight the economic benefit workers and Seattle stand to lose if Foss Maritime, the company that's leasing to Shell, were to be turned away.

“When an independent board makes a decision, whether it's a city, or a county, or a port, other collective bodies need to respect their authority and their decision,” Eric Johnson, executive director of the Washington Public Ports Association, said.

Joshua Berger, a representative from the Washington Maritime Federation, called the council's and mayor's response to the Port of Seattle lease “hostile,” saying that it undermined the “decision making” of ports across the state.

And David Gering, executive director of the Manufacturing Industrial Council of Seattle, said the city of Seattle is dependent on oil via tax revenues, making the resolution somewhat hypocritical. And he told PubliCola: “What I think is problematic is one government telling the other 'you can't take that revenue but we can.' They [the City of Seattle] get a huge volume [of tax revenue] out of the federal and state sales tax on gasoline that goes into so much of our transportation infrastructure.”

For their part, the environmentalists condemned the global consequences of Arctic drilling. 

"Within 100 could be drilling for oil in Alaska," said Greenpeace activist Mary Nichol. "So it's actions like this, even if symbolic, that are really important to show that the public is standing against Arctic drilling. And you can't make this stuff up. Shell is trying to profit from climate change. They're trying to profit from a problem that they created in the first place. I'm definitely in favor of keeping Seattle a working waterfront but not at the cost of frying the planet."

At one point, a crew of local veteran activists, the Raging Grannies, broke into an anti-Arctic drilling song while unruly council antagonist Alex Tsimerman danced behind them.

The meeting came just a day after mayor Ed Murray announced that the city's Department of Planning and Development said the Port would be violating its current use permits if oil rigs were to dock at Terminal Five.

“No matter how many jobs we create, and no matter how many businesses we encourage to grow, the future will be not only dim down the road, it will be nonexistent [due to climate change],” council member Nick Licata concluded. “At some point, each of us [elected officials] has to make a decision as far as where we are going to draw the line.”

The committee unanimously approved the resolution, which will go before the full council this coming

Josh Kelety contributed to this report.

2. Not quite as sexy, but also in play at yesterday afternoon's council committee briefings (and also related to climate change): parking!

DPD director Diane Sugimura and Seattle Department of Transportation transit division director Paulo Nunes-Ueno presented a set of recommendations to the land use committee that seemed counterintuitive—require less parking in order to solve demand for parking.

"Requiring more parking," Sugimura said, "doesn't necessarily resolve the congestion problem in our can actually make it worse."

The joint DPD-SDOT recommendation included: promoting "shared parking" or "right-size parking" (which encourages residential and commercial buildings to make garage spots available to each other—the data showed that 35 percent of spots actually go unused), requiring building owners to provide Orca cards, and updating the "frequent transit zone" definition which could  minimize parking requirements by using average bus times and multiple routes in transit hubs.

Nunes-Ueno, talking about a "car light" lifestyle—and hyping his personal garage full of bikes—said that things like the increase in service from last year's bus measure (there will now never be a wait longer than 15 minutes for the C Line, for example) would dovetail with the DPD-SDOT recommendations to limit parking requirements.

The data also showed that despite the current city rules allowing new developments in transit areas to go parking free, 75 percent of new projects (219 projects totalling 19,000 units) did provide parking—equaling an average of 0.55 spots per dwelling unit.

3. In case you missed it: Check out yesterday's Cola "One Question" with Kshama Sawant. In response to some sexist reporting in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, we asked Sawant if she was feeling "hostile."

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