Morning Fizz

Sawant's Revisionist History

Troubles on 23rd Avenue, I-405, and in Wallingford.

By Josh Feit February 16, 2016

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1. File this one under: She was for it before she was against it.

At the request of city council member Kshama Sawant, a group of 23rd Avenue small business owners will be sitting down with council members, mayoral staffers, Seattle Department of Transportation staff, and Office of Economic Development staff during this morning’s weekly council briefing to detail how current construction is disrupting their businesses. SDOT is redesigning 23rd Avenue to calm traffic, make the street more pedestrian friendly, and give priority to bus routes—an upgrade the neighborhood has been requesting for years, but one that’s upending local shops right now.

Businesses along Alaskan Way such as Ivar’s got $15 million altogether in city aid during the recent seawall replacement construction and Sawant believes Central Area businesses, mostly minority owned, should get the same treatment. OED is giving the 23rd business association $102,000 to help with marketing, but not in direct compensation like the waterfront businesses got.

“I want the council and the mayor’s office to understand this is not a fringe issue,” Sawant told Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.

Casting herself as the hero now ignores history, though. Not only did Sawant vote yes during the council’s unanimous approval of the $65 million project in 2014, but she also cosponsored legislation for an additional $500,000 in 2015 and voted for an additional property acquisition at the southwest corner of 23rd Avenue and East Jefferson Street.

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None of that legislation included mitigation money. I've got a message in to Sawant.

2. In other city hall business, mayor Ed Murray is giving his third state of the city speech this afternoon at 2pm.

3. When they fired Washington State Department of Transportation secretary Lynn Peterson two weeks ago, the state senate Republicans cited I-405 tolling as a top grievance. (To be clear, they cited anecdotes not data because the data doesn't quite support their complaints.) 

Today, governor Jay Inslee is announcing “more than a dozen improvements being made to the I-405 express toll lanes to improve traffic flow and add capacity.”

The changes will likely include several projects WSDOT already had in the works under Peterson’s leadership, including: new, clarifying markers southbound at I-405 and Northeast Sixth, extending the access lane to the express lanes on northbound I-405 and SR 520, and lengthening access northbound at 160th to allow more merge time at SR 522.

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Less clear is whether Inslee will follow the lead of a GOP senate bill (passed out of the transportation committee and currently sitting in the rules committee) and a corresponding letter from Democrats organized by house transportation committee chair state representative Judy Clibborn (D-41, Mercer Island) calling on WSDOT to get rid of tolling on evenings, weekends, and holidays. Both the GOP bill and the Democrats’ letter happened prior to Peterson’s ouster.

It’s also not clear what Inslee means by “adding capacity.”

4. Erica C. Barnett had the scoop this weekend that most of the people applying to be on Mayor Murray’s housing affordability and livability agenda community focus groups to help shape Murray’s HALA plan (basically, to upzone or not upzone) “come from just three North End neighborhoods: Wallingford (22 percent), Greenwood-Phinney (17 percent) and Ballard (10 percent).”

The implication is nerve wracking for fans of density (and diversity) and the HALA grand bargain that swaps neighborhood upzones for a guarantee that developers will set aside 5 percent to 7 percent of new units (or an equivalent cash payment) for affordable housing.

Wallingford neighbors, though far outnumbered, spoke out against the upzones at Murray’s recent city hall forum where he promoted adding more housing to urban villages on the borders of single-family neighborhoods.

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