Seattle Community Council Federation meets Thursday, September 24, 2009, 7 pm
Newsletter Re July 23 and August 8 2009 Meetings
Dialogue with Timothy Gallagher, Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation
Opening Statement: The City is moving ahead with carrying out the $146 million levy passed on November 7, 2008 as explained in a brochure, entitled "Parks and Green Spaces Levy." Bids are coming in at less than estimates. Scheduled for 2009 are providing synthetic turf at Lower Woodland Playfields; renovating Bayview and Bhy Kracke playgrounds; work on Queen Anne Boulevard; Magnuson Park schoreline and entry improvements, and developing the Northgate Urban Center Park; Renovating Atlantic Street, Brighton, Little playgrounds and Jefferson Park Improvements, including a skate park. Also improvements to South Ballard and Commodore Way. The Seattle Parks Foundation is offering to assist neighborhood groups on parks projects.
Questions and Answers (C=Community Representative; G= Tim Gallagher)
C : The brochure shows "Renovate to improve and address safety issues at Montlake Playfield." Montlake is a natural peat bog. It's wrong to put artificial turf there. Droppings now permeate the turf and fester.
G: The Department has had 25 years experience with artificial turf. The turf laid 25 years ago had lead in the dye; the newer ones don't. To take in enough lead to exceed federal standards, people would need to eat a meal of the turf and they don't. The Department rakes the turf and collects leaves, pellets, and gunk. The big benefit of artificial turf is its durability. People can play about 3 hours longer and 350 days per year on it. Teams prefer artificial turf to sand or mud fields. The Department keeps natural turf where there are no night-lights. It is doing testing with artificial turf at Magnuson Park.
C: The literature shows that synthetic turf is made from rubber tires and has hazardous materials in its pellet base. The Washington Toxics Coalition found lead in the pellets. Health professionals say it is a serious concern for children and may activate allergies. It can cause cancer that first manifests years later. The turf has a crumb rubber filter that has to be replaced at added cost; the filter serves to hold the "grass" upright. Fast play kicks up the crumbs into the air.
G: The manufacturers say that it is not a health hazard. The product has passed state and federal safety standards.
C: Will an environmental impact statement be done?
C: Will you look at the scientific material if we send it in? G: Yes.
Bell St. Boulevard:
C: The newspaper (Seattle Times) reports that Parks will spend levy funds to convert a portion of Bell St. into a Boulevard. However, Ordinance 123027 appropriating $2.5 million fails to convert that segment of Bell St. from "commercial street" to "park, drive and boulevard purposes" and does not acquire the rights for that change of status from the abutting owners. Previous boulevard ordinances did both. All it really does is make the segments green streets and put maintenance under the Parks Department. Parks needs to complete the process or forego using levy funds.
G: The neighborhood wants a boulevard rather than the traditional park. It was not the intention to affect any commercial business activity there.
Regionalizing neighborhood playgrounds:
C: Without neighborhood input and often over strong neighborhood opposition, Parks has been putting up lights, seating, and artificial turf on neighborhood playfields, and by doing so, changing the users from nearby residents to organized athletics.
G: There is a national trend to "regionalize" parks and go for organized activity in order to get more usage. There's a tension there. Such an upgrading does not make a playfield "regional." "Regional" as used by the department means a large park that draws users from throughout the City even if no activities were scheduled there, e.g. Seward and Discovery. It prefers to classify parks by "city" vis-à-vis "neighborhood." .
C: Discovery Park is the only park truly a natural area. Natural areas are shrinking in other parks. The constant nibbling adds up to significant losses that can't be replaced.
G: Some want an off-leash area for dogs at Discovery Park. To preserve natural areas, the Department needs to designate them as such. It is creating a classification system.
C: The Department needs to go out into the community and ask its opinions. It now seems to solicit only the opinions of organized groups. In adopting its policy plan, it made nuanced little changes that favored special interests.
G: The Department is completing a demand study. Walking is always on top. It is looking a demographics (e.g. age, race, sex, ethnicity), participation rates by groups, likely demand in 20 years, facilities (e.g. for seniors, pools), health and fitness needs, youth crime and teen programs etc. It will draw up a plan for 10 years.
C: Are Tennis Courts included?
G: There are 65 -- 3/4th of them are lighted. It's part of the study.
C: Outdoor basketball courts?
G: It has one and that's crowded.
C: Put hoops up in parking lots for after hours use like some churches and boys' clubs do.
Bitter Lake Reservoir:
C: People would like to walk around the Bitter Lake reservoir.
G: The Department is planning to adjust the fence to allow it.
Pedestrian Master Plan:
C: The Executive Summary shows trails, but lacks an action plan for parks.
G: The Parks department was a minor player in the Plan. It is doing its own.
C: The adopted Magnuson Park Plan is not being followed. What will we see in 10 years?
G: The Navy is doing clean up. The Department is setting up an advisory committee of users, the University, and neighborhoods to replace the Communications Committee. It will have 9 to 13 members and a Park Board representative and it will be operating by the end of 2009. Magnuson Park has had a long series of plans. The objective is to get all interests at the table and reach a consensus. Many uses are already there -- the Cascade Bicycle Club, Mountaineers, etc. It has to have commercialization to maintain the big buildings. The tower of the Fire Station can serve as a viewpoint, but fixing the whole structure to code will be too expensive. The problem may be how to limit the people who want to be there. In San Francisco, the groups coalesced into a foundation to work together. Citizen organizations are often a pain to work with, but Parks needs them to get an independent view. Otherwise, government may lapse into a Russian view where "We do what we like, they like what we do."
C: It's been poorly treated these last ten years. The City needs to get state and federal funding and to assist that, to get the district listed on the state and federal historic registers.
G: The application is due August 14th. City officials are looking at it closely. There may be some hidden costs. So far, it looks okay.
C: At the Communications Committee, citizens just got to listen to lectures by parks staff. The current Stakeholder Committee has community representatives at all its meetings; but, the tenant users just show up when their own use is discussed and miss other meetings. All have to attend meetings for the San Francisco model to develop.
G: It also needs representatives for the City as a whole.
Outsiders' Use: C: Groups from outside Seattle dominate the use of some City park facilities. A check of reservations shows many suburban groups including some that use a city resident for a contact, although most live outside.
G: About 20% of the rental is non-residents. If the City tried to restrict their usage, the suburbs would retaliate.
Metropolitan Park District:
C: Is it being explored?
C: How will the $15,000,000 in the Levy's Opportunity Fund be spent?
G: Any balances left after completing other projects also go into the Opportunity Fund. Current plans call for dividing the Opportunity Fund so that all areas of the City get some funds. The Levy Oversight Committee is looking at projects for the 2010, 2012, and 2014 budgets. The Parks website (http://www.seattle.gov/parks) discusses the Opportunity Fund. Projects have to be ready to go and have a strong community support.
C: The levy brochure shows $ 30,000,000 for acquisition. How is that going?
G: The Department is making offers based on appraisals. Parcels are popping up, but some have mortgages greater than their assessed values and likely an evaluation by an appraisal. The Department cannot pay more than the market value. The City also has conservation futures money. Revenues from the real estate transfer tax are down. The City bought part of the former University Heights School and Crown Hill School; the rest was acquired for other purposes. Federal Economic Stimulus moneys may not be used for parks, swimming pools, or casinos -- all are considered entertainment.
G: The Americans with Disability Act requires access in all new facilities. Older buildings do not need to be retrofitted. The new Rainier Beach Community Center will meet the standards; the Bitter Lake Community Center does not need to be retrofitted.
Motion passed to authorize a letter to the Superintendent explaining the process used by earlier ordinances to convert commercial streets to "park drive and boulevard purposes" and the necessity to acquire abutters' rights. Park and green space funds may not legally be used for landscaping streets unless the use of the streets are so converted and the rights are condemned. Calling a street a boulevard does not make it such nor does beautifying it with a median or shade trees. A park boulevard has to have a servitude for pleasure walking or driving and restricts commercial uses. Ordinance 123027 falls short.
Motion passed to authorize a letter to the Superintendent submitting literature and website references on the hazards and problems of using synthetic turf for his consideration as invited in response to a question of a community representative in the paragraph captioned "Toxic Turf?" above.
Meeting Highlights - July 23, 2009 (These highlights are based on the editor's notes, they are not official minutes. Statements are approximations.)
The Planning Commission and the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) recommended rejection of all amendments to the Comprehensive Plan that were made by citizen groups, including the proposal of the Federation on light pollution. The Planning Commission and DPD both said that it should be rejected because it set up a working group to carry out the policy statement; Council staff said other means are available. They also rejected requests for amendments to the plan to provide for open government and public disclosure supported by the Federation.
The City Auditor published her report on the District Council system on June 22nd, which found that:
(1) Taking policy positions by District Councils on City issues undermined their primary purpose of networking and problem solving and led to divisiveness;
(2) The City's involvement in district council governance, especially in promoting diversity, contributed to conflict; and (3) The City is not carrying out some of its responsibilities. It recommended that the City should: Clarify whether the district council system should pass down information or "offer policy opinions."
[Ed's question: why not both?]; Rename "district council" as "neighborhood council;" Provide more guidelines; Set standards for ranking projects, Define the City's role in their governance and conduct of meetings, Condition City support on compliance; Specify City support; and provide for retention of records. Some cities only help organize neighborhood councils; others provide each district council a substantial appropriation ($37,000 each in St. Paul, $300,000 in Portland; $500,000 in Honolulu; $1.5 million in Minneapolis.) An appendix contains reviews. Those from South East Seattle reflect a conflict between those wanting district councils to be conduits for informing citizens about City Hall programs and those who also want to pass grass roots opinion up the City chain.
The Federation sent letters to the City on amendments to the enabling legislation for residential parking zones and on the Pedestrian Master Plan, and to the Hearing Examiner on amendments to the Children's Hospital Master Plan.
The City Council has under advisement the Mayor's proposals for "Cottage Housing" (i.e. DADU's) in single family residential zoning. In South East Seattle, DADU's are really two story buildings in back and side yards. The owner/occupancy requirement is not enforced. Neighbors have no input in permitting.
Housing Levy: The Federation declined to take a position on the Housing Levy at the November general election. Many Community Councils were in recess or had taken no individual positions.
Children's Hospital (Childrens): The Hearing Examiner held a consolidated hearing on the Major Institution Master Plan and DPD's Revised Final Environmental Impact Statement. ("RFEIS") on July 14-15. Counsel for Laurelhurst, Peter Eglick, presented the community case effectively. City witnesses waffled under his cross-examination. Impartial observers said that Laurelhurst presented the better case. The decision will come in August. [Ed's note: The Hearing Examiner recommended that the City Council deny the proposed amendment to the Master Plan, but upheld the RFEIS. Children's Hospital is asking the City Council to disregard the Hearing Examiner's recommendation.]
Magnuson Park: The University of Washington is proposing to use part of the area acquired for educational purposes for student and staff housing. The approved plan limited housing to 200 units; Lorig Associates and the City are seeking to raise the limit.
Business Meeting, Federation Potluck, August 8, 2009
Sharples School: The Seattle School Board will name a new school after early Seattle educator Casper W. Sharples. When remodeled, it renamed Sharples Middle School after Aki Kurose.
Motion passed to send a letter to appropriate authorities supporting the naming.
Washington Coalition For Open Government (WCOG): The Federation is a support organization of the WCOG, a broadly based non-partisan organization intent on preserving and protecting the people's right to know in the conduct of the public's business. It has a website, www.washingtoncog.org and engages in public advocacy, files friend of the court briefs, sponsors informational seminars and forums.
Motion passed to contribute $100 to WCOG.
NOAA Lake Union Headquarters: The NOAA national headquarters has announced that NOAA will be moving its Lake Union activities to Newport, Oregon. Our U.S. Senators, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, the City, and others announced that they will oppose the move. Motion passed to join them in opposing this move.
Health Care Reform: Motion passed to support federal single payer health care. (4 for; 3 opposed, 1 abstained; and 1 not participating
The Seattle Times, Sunday, September 6, 2009, carried an obituary notice that JoAnn Storey had died on August 27, 2009.
Federation and Queen Anne Community Council stalwart JoAnn Storey had been active in the Seattle Community Council Federation for many years as a representative of the Queen Anne Community Council and took a leading role in the 1980's and 1990's in seeking to limit aircraft noise over Seattle and in opposing construction of a Third Runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. We greatly appreciate her contributions to our cause in attending a long series of meetings under the Port's mediation program, speaking out at public hearings, telling the community of the many adverse environmental impacts, and getting letters to the authorities. She will be sadly missed.
Josephine Ann Oass Storey, elder daughter of Alfred and Josephine Oass, passed away on August 27, 2009, in Seattle, WA. She was buried at Calvary Cemetery next to her husband of 47 years, Bernard J. Storey on August 31st. Born November 9, 1921 in Bremerton, Washington, JoAnn moved to Seattle where she graduated from the University of Washington in 1943 with a degree in Journalism. She was a member of Theta Sigma Phi, a professional journalism honorary, and Alpha Chi Omega Sorority. While attending the University of Washington, JoAnn met Bernard Storey, an engineering student. They married in Bremerton in 1948. While Bernard pursued his career as an engineer for Boeing, JoAnn was a journalist at the Seattle Post Intelligencer and Queen Anne News. As a journalist and community activist, JoAnn worked doggedly to resolve long-term legal battles in the Seattle area including the controversy surrounding the Interbay Golf Course and its driving range, relocation of the Interbay Animal Shelter, and protection of Seattle's Green Belts. JoAnn quickly developed a reputation for doing whatever it took to champion her cause, whether it was telephoning Seattle City Council members, going door-to-door to enlist the support of neighbors, or writing articles and letters to the editor for publication in the local newspapers. She was also a member of the Queen Anne Community Council, head of the Rental Home Owners Association (RHOA), chair of her Seattle precinct, and active in supporting fundraisers for local food banks and the Rotary Club. Through her community activism, JoAnn made many life-long friends in the Women in Communications, Neumann House, Sons of Norway, and The League of Women Voters. She enjoyed the friendships she cultivated through her hobbies including bridge, golf, entertaining, and gardening. But mostly, she thrived on family gatherings at her home on Queen Anne Hill and at her beach property in Normandy Park. She is survived by four children: John and Pam of Seattle, Melissa Storey of Bellevue; and Paul Storey of Sacramento, California. Also surviving are two grandchildren, McKinley and Jordan Storey of Bellevue; a sister, Virginia Steffensen of Chapel Hill, North Carolina; three nephews, a niece, and eight grand-nieces and grand-nephews.
Sign Jo Ann's on-line Guest Book at www.Legacy.com