Saturday, July 21, 2007

FEDERATION JUNE 28, 2007 Meeting Highlights

JUNE 28, 2007 Meeting Highlights

(These pages are based on the editor's notes --- they are not official minutes),

President’s Report:
The Federation sent a series of six letters to the appropriate officials:
(1) to the Mayor suggesting changes to the major institutions master planning process and the appointment of plan advisory committees;
(2) to the Mayor and Director of Transportation with a draft "Client Assistance Memorandum" to discourage the practice of allowing developers to encroach into street area with walls and fences thereby squeezing pedestrians on the sidewalk and to pedestrian and safety advocate groups about the SDOT practice;
(3) to the King County Superintendent of Elections for at least ten in-person polling places within Seattle when all-mail voting takes effect;
(4) to the City Council asking that notice be sent to the neighborhood community council and to abutters giving an opportunity to comment before painting or reconstructing roadways to displace parking for bike lanes;
(5) to the Planning Commission on incentive zoning as discussed at our earlier meetings; and (6) to congratulate John Barber on his selection to the Park Board.

Parks Strategic Business Plan:
Background: On May 3rd, Parks sent to the Board of Park Commissioners a memorandum, entitled "Strategic Business Plan," contained in our June newsletter, which called for "new and enhanced revenue sources and partnerships" to support programs and services, including re-evaluating services that are supplied by others, granting naming rights for donations, designating "certain parks or portions of parks as revenue generation centers and allowing revenue-generating activities" there, charging market based fees, and maximizing use and "rental revenue through marketing." It recycles ideas that Parks had proposed in a memorandum, dated May 4, 2005, for advertising in City brochures, private sponsorship of events, selling naming rights, upping fees, adding more concessions and game arcades, leasing to private entities, privatization, membership fees, and parking fees. The Federation had responded to the 2005 memorandum with a Policy Framework adopting basic principles for park use; rentals, concessions, for leases and for implementing them.

Citizen Comments ("C") during our discussion:
C-1: Start with our 2005 Policy Framework and update it.
C-2: This is immediate: Arena Sports is seeking Building 27, a large former hangar, at Magnuson Park, as a long-term concession for pay-for-play activities.
C-3: The City is declaring neighborhood parks to be "regional parks" so that it may convert them for tournament play and ignore local comment. It is putting in tower pole, high-intensity lights and artificial turf at neighborhood fields. Wherever either such lighting or artificial turf comes in, the other is sure to follow. Maximum "playable hours” takes both. "Playable hours" does not mean actual hours of use, but hours available for use. In contrast, King County bars high-level lighting from parks in residential areas.
C-4: Artificial turf is hotter on the ground than natural grass. Natural grass can regenerate; the artificial turf cannot be repaired and the whole has to be junked; it can't be reused or recycled. That violates the City's no-waste policy. Artificial turf made of ground up tires releases pollutants through "off gassing" with a distinctive smell. Dogs are not allowed. It traps cigarette ash and air borne dust. It can be like coarse sand to walk on after much usage. Bainbridge Island and New York City have adopted a policy against artificial turf.
C-5: High-intensity lighting is expensive to install, only lasts 8-10 years, and often draws power when the fields are not used, e.g. during downpours, time between play, and cancelled events.
C-6: Active users pay only about 15% of the expense when capital costs are considered. Artificial turf costs about $1,000,000 per field, and lighting costs about $600,000. Subsidizing a concessionaire is very different from helping after school teams or youth leagues. For example, concessionaires charge more for use during peak hours and that forces students into off-hours, yet crime prevention argues for having youth play field sports or work out in gyms during evenings , rather than hanging out on the street.
C-7: The business plan is vague. All sorts of privatization and sweetheart deals can fit under it.
C-8: A parks "enterprise unit" is almost unique to Seattle. Western cities are alert to opportunities for capturing revenue, but park administrators elsewhere abhor the idea of setting up a division just for commercializing and chasing revenue. A single-minded section like that lacks balance and its advocacy over time will diminish the mission of a parks department to provide recreational services for the public and an environmental ambience for the greater community. Making money has a way of trumping public service.
C-9: Parks is moving toward commercializing lower Woodland by Greenlake. Its high- lighted, artificial turf fields are fenced and reserved or scheduled to exclude casual use by the neighborhood., and there are plans for a skateboard facility. The outwash gas goes to Greenlake. The fields are empty on weekends.
C-10: Drop in sports and family picnic games head for natural turf. A different mix of grasses may do better at particular fields; parks standardizes the grass on its fields, but soils conditions and usage differ.
C-11: The Parks department charges $95 for evening use of a meeting room. Some [facilities] waive it for community council public meetings; some don't. The business strategy implies waivers will be harder to get.
C-12: Seattle Prep is proposing to dredge peat at Montlake Playfield and cover it with artificial turf and lighting; it will get priority usage in return. The Montlake Community donated the playfield to the City. Such a "preferred use" violates the spirit of the donation. C-13: Loyal Heights playfield was also donated in the plat, yet Parks put in high-tower lighting and artificial turf. It then called it a "regional playfield" and overrode community objections. The City Auditor came to a community meeting protesting about the Parks action.

Motion passed to send a strong statement about City parks opposing privatization and corporatizing and to update our Policy Framework for submission to appropriate City authorities, and also to appoint a committee to report back at our July meeting.
The Chair appointed volunteers Gloria Butts, Renee' Barton, Lynn Ferguson, Geof Logan, and Chris Leman, with Doris Burns to get a copy and chance to comment before the meeting.

Alaskan Way Viaduct:
The Maritime industry, business associations (Aurora Avenue Merchants Assoc., SODO Business Association, North Seattle Industrial Association), industry (CityIce Cold Storage, Pacific Fishermen Shipyard), unions (Office & Professional Employees, Sailors Union, IAM District Lodge, Seattle ILWU, Boilermakers Union) and community groups (Ballard District Council and Admiral Community Council) wrote to the Governor and key legislators supporting an elevated replacement or retrofitting of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The Viaduct moves 110,000 vehicles every day of the through traffic and connects Ballard, Magnolia, Queen Anne, and Fremont with West Seattle and Delridge. It is the main way of commerce for maritime industries and the port and replacing it causes the least economic disruption. The City authorized a study of the surface option at a cost of
$8,000,000. The supporters of the surface option are mostly downtown developers, downtown interests, and anti-auto environmentalists.

Elements of a Pedestrian Master Plan:
To get the Pedestrian Master Plan advisory committee started in the right direction, the meeting reviewed a draft of elements for inclusion into the plan

Zoo Garage:
The Phinney Ridge Community Council will be filing an appeal under the State Environmental Policy Act and the Land Use Code from the City's grant of a Master Use Permit for the (710-stall) zoo garage to the Hearing Examiner. DPD requires that the community association first apply for a Code interpretation, which requires a deposit of $2000. The community questions how the City can allow such a large garage in a single- family zone, which strictly limits the size of garages. The Zoo claims approval of its master plan made a de facto rezoning. The Zoo is commercializing its grounds. Or instance, it plans an "events center" like a large banquet hall, a retail store to sell goods, a coffee shop, and a change to the west entry. People will be able to go to the store and coffee shop without entering the zoo.

Motion passed for the Federation to join in the appeal and authorize appropriate letters in support of the Phinney Ridge Community Council.

2007 City Council Candidate Questionnaire:
The Federation prepared a questionnaire with 34 Yes-No questions. Responses will be posted at the Federation website, htttp:// Questions cover:
• City Council procedures; an elected Comptroller/Treasurer;
• reconfirmation of the Police and Fire Chiefs every four years;
• creating an independent ombudsman;
• release of City Attorney opinions;
• on-line publication of official notices;
• public access to public records;
• renewal of the parks and open space levy;
• commercialization of parks;
• restoring the funding of the Neighborhood Street Fund in the Bridging-the-Gap Levy reallocated by SDOT;
• using Levy money for residential streets; the practice of using regular tax moneys for discretionary spending and using special levies for basic services such as streets, police, and fire;
• requiring permits for tree removal;
• the White Center annexation;
• condemnation for private redevelopment;
• up-zoning single family neighborhoods;
• restoring requirements for setbacks and open space;
• impact fees for transit and open space;
• increasing the categorical exemptions to exempt larger projects from environmental review, design review, and appeals to the hearing examiner;
• using the grassroots model for updating neighborhood plans;
• and state legislation letting the State and King County impose growth goals on Seattle.

Waldo Hospital:
The Landmarks Preservation Board voted against designating the former Campfire Girls site on 15th Ave NE in Maple Leaf as a Landmark, although the Boards own staff had recommended designation. It was built as Waldo Hospital and for decades provided osteopathic medicine in a woodsy setting. The Board scheduled one hour for its hearing., then gave the developer 59 minutes to make its appeal from the staff recommendation and the community one minute to speak in favor of it. It voted immediately afterward and did not take time to review exhibits and papers submitted at the hearing.
The developer will save only 6 of the 80 magnificent trees. The Campfire Council had rejected an offer of a buyer willing to save the trees and the building.
The Maple Leaf community is seeking a full environmental impact statement on the project. It cites air pollution from demolition (dust, lead paint, asbestos) that may settle in the adjacent Roosevelt reservoir; impacts to underground springs and drainage to Thornton Creek; loss of a significant urban forest among other issues.

Motion passed authorize letters asking for a fair and balanced process from the Landmarks Preservation Board and for an ordinance amendment requiring the Board to conduct a fair process, hearing from the applicants as well as developers.

South Lake Union Plan:
The Cascade Neighborhood Association got the neighborhood plan to recommend that the City "explore" various elements it advocates. The developers got firm recommendations

Appreciation to Benella Caminiti:
The Federation authorized a letter of appreciation to Benella Caminiti who moved to Lake Stevens. It's like an Oscar for lifetime achievement. Ms. Caminiti championed the public trust doctrine over shorelines and tidelands and her lawsuit helped get it embodied into Washington law. Through another lawsuit, she made plans for development of Discovery Park subject to environmental review processes. She was a leader in the fight to save Lawton Elementary School from a proposed closure. Her research skills and dedication are legendary. Congratulations, Benella!

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