Thursday, July 26, 2012

Library Levy


                                                                                    March 30, 2012

Seattle City Council
601 Fifth Avenue, Second floor
P. O. Box 34025
Seattle, WA 98124-4025

Proposed levy ordinance should hold harmless the existing funding of the Library, commit to increased hours and days of opening, and create a strong, independent, and geographically balanced oversight committee to ensure accountability

Dear City Councilmember:

Throughout our 66 year history, the Seattle Community Council Federation has strongly supported funding for the Seattle Public Library.  As you know, Council Bill 117425 is a proposed ordinance that would place before the voters a 7-year property tax levy of about $17 million/year. 

SCCF has not yet taken a position on the proposed levy, but believes that improvements in the levy ordinance are needed to make it most deserving of assent from the voters.  First, we suggest that C.B. 117425 be amended to commit the City Council not to cut the existing level of library support from the General Fund, and to increase the hours and days of the week in which the downtown library and the branch libraries are open.  As currently written, the proposed levy ordinance would allow the City Council to completely displace with levy funds the current level of General Fund support now provided to the Library, and not to make any increase in the hours or days of the week of being open. 

Without a City Council commitment to maintain General Fund support and to increase the hours and days of the week when the libraries are open, passage of the levy could leave the Library with no more funds than it has today, plus no assurance of continued funding when the levy runs out at the end of seven years.  Consider that although the 1999 parks levy provided operating support, when the levy ran out that funding was not fully restored from the General Fund, leaving Department of Parks and Recreation funding in worse shape than before the levy was passed.  

Our other concern is that C.B. 117425 does not include an oversight committee to ensure public accountability for spending of the levy proceeds.  We urge that the levy ordinance include a strong, independent, and geographically balanced oversight committee by use of the same language from Resolutions 29846, 29952, and 29997 that created the oversight committee for the Libraries for All bond measure.

Accountability for voter-approved levy and bond revenues via oversight committees has been central to voter approval of the bond and levy measures of recent decades.  Such committees have overseen not only the Libraries for All bond measure, but the Bridging the Gap transportation levy, Families and Education levy, Housing levy, and both Parks levies.  In almost all cases, the oversight committees were created by the ordinance that put the measure on the ballot.  Some of the committees have been more effective than others, but none have greater power, independence, or geographic balance than did the oversight committee for the Libraries for All bond measure. 

Taxpayers are more likely to approve a bond or levy measure if they know that spending of the revenues will be overseen by an oversight committee.  A strong, independent, and geographically balanced oversight committee is especially needed for the Library levy as it was for the Libraries for All bond measure because the Library Board has so much power but is not elected, and because of concerns that branch libraries will be sacrificed to the funding needs of the downtown library.  

The City Council created a public oversight committee for the Libraries for All bond issue shortly before the November 1998 election because the bond issue was being criticized for a lack of accountability in how the funds were to be spent.  SCCF urges the Council to be more proactive in this case by establishing the oversight committee in the bond issue ordinance (C.B. 117425), using the same language as was in Resolutions 29846, 29952, and 29997.  This letter was discussed, revised, and approved at the Seattle Community Council Federation’s March 27 meeting. 

                                                                                    Jeannie Hale, President
                                                                                    3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE
                                                                                    Seattle, Washington  98105
                                                                                    206-525-5135 / fax 206-525-9631

cc:  Mayor; City Librarian and Library Board

Friday, July 20, 2012

Federation meets Tuesday, Aug.24. 7p.m. - Property tax levy proposals on the August 7 ballot for the King County Juvenile Justice Center and the Seattle Public Library

Monthly Meeting –Tuesday, July 24, 2012, 7 p.m.
Central Area Senior Center, 500 30th Avenue South  98144
[This beautiful facility with free parking and unmatched view of Lake Washington is just three blocks east of
Martin Luther King, Jr. Way S. and one block south of S. Jackson Street]

Regulatory Reform

July 18, 2012
To: Seattle City Council

From: Seattle Community Council Federation, City Neighborhood Council delegates and other concerned citizens and organizations

Re: “Regulatory Reform” Ordinance

Thank you for listening to our concerns over the past couple of months regarding the“Regulatory Reform” package. We appreciate your help to date in making this legislation better. And while many improvements have been made, we still have a few concerns and hope that you will act responsibly to amend the legislation in order to correct remaining flaws. Because some of the issues are so critically important and can have longlasting effects, additional time must be taken crafting and reviewing the legislative amendments. We urge you to delay a vote at full council until amendments to this legislation are available for consideration.

1. Protect Neighborhood Commercial Zones.
• We appreciate that the legislation has already been amended in committee to ensure that 59
currently mapped but not yet enacted P zone overlays citywide would be reviewed before allowing any changes that would eliminate the requirement to provide ground floor commercial space in those neighborhood commercial zones.
• We remain concerned however that some areas are exposed that are not on the city’s P zone study list and therefore part of the legislation since these areas represent on a fraction of the neighborhood commercial zone areas citywide. In particular we feel the station areas around Northgate and Mt Baker do not have adequate P zone protections (understanding that Northgate will be studied soon as part of preparation for the station). This is contrary to policy goals of creating compact, dense walkable communities around light rail stops. Additionally, other areas do not have full P zone protections which may be contrary to adopted neighborhood plans. While we do not know what criteria were used by DPD to identify the initial P zone study areas, we would like to see some level of protections for commercial uses at street level to continue, if warranted, for areas such as those identified above.
• We suggest that as a safeguard against inadvertent omission of an area that now meets or will meet the criteria for a P zone in the future (but not yet identified by the 2005 Main Street Mapping initial study) the legislation be further amended to ensure that for the remaining NC2/3 and C zones where commercial uses were once required at street level , some process be developed for determining what is the correct land use pattern – i.e. DPD oversight of these “optional zoning” choices being afforded to the developer.
During the initial intake meeting with an applicant seeking to permit a single purpose residential use in any C1, NC2 or NC3 zone, the Department of Planning and Development should evaluate the blockface that includes the parcel(s) to be developed, and one blockface in each direction from the project site to determine if the area meets the criteria for a Pedestrian Overlay zone. If the area meets the rezone criteria, the project will be approved only as a mixed use project or as a single purpose residential project with City Council conditional use approval. The project could also be approved with the ground floor designed for conversion to a future commercial uses but with temporary live-work uses allowed for a period of 6 years.

2. Changes to SEPA thresholds in Urban Centers and Station Areas
• We strongly object to the changing of SEPA thresholds. While the rationale for this change originated when the construction sector was depressed as a means to spur development, we no longer face those conditions. SEPA affords many protections that, contrary to assertions by DPD, other review mechanisms and regulations do not fully ensure. The Maple Leaf Community Council has produced strong evidence of this. Since these changes are targeted at areas where there are often more poor or people of color, removal of these protections is a social justice issue.
• We understand that there are two scenarios being considered to amend the current legislation (which has raised the SEPA threshold from 30 units to 200 units). The first looks at resetting the threshold to 60, the second to 100.
• We believe that the threshold should not be set higher than 60 units in order to provide the greatest protections and rights to the affected communities. This is a doubling of the current SEPA threshold trigger. We ask that you support this amendment only if you find it necessary to raise the threshold.
• We request that requirements for notification found in SEPA today be added into the legislation. For example, the large white signboards that notify a community of a proposed project. Particularly since you recently enacted legislation limiting right of appeal to those who have submitted project comments, it is imperative that if you change SEPA thresholds that notification of Design Review be made prominent. The white notification boards are iconic and help provide that outreach.

3. Preserve appeal rights for renewals of Temporary Use permits.
• This legislation was introduced under the claim that the process to obtain a temporary use permit was
too onerous for uses like pop-up corner coffee carts, and renewals too expensive. Yet the vast
majority of temporary use permits are related to construction staging, construction trailers and
parking lots.
• The legislation has been corrected to address exemptions for homeless encampments and
construction uses. We would like to see further amendment to add temporary use parking lots be appealable on renewal.
• Temporary use parking lots, beyond 6 months, may be contrary to city policy objectives, and could be a burden on a community. Right of appeal rather than simple administrative renewal is important.
• A system where the application and first renewal is appealable but subsequent renewals are not is acceptable.

Thank you for considering our suggestions.

Irene Wall
Phinney Ridge Community Council

Yusuf Cabdi
United African Public Affairs Committee

Tony Provine
Northeast District Council

Jeannie Hale
Seattle Community Council Federation

Chris Leman
Eastlake Community Council

John Akamatsu
Capitol Hill Coalition

Bill Bradburd
Seattle Neighborhood Coalition

David Miller
Maple Leaf Community Council

Monday, July 9, 2012

Minutes for May 22, 2012


Minutes for May 22, 2012
Meeting called to order at 7:02 PM.
Speaker: Steve Sheppard, Dept. of Neighborhoods.  He began with a history of the city going back to the 60's and how Seattle became a regional center after the 1962 World's Fair.  The functions of major institutions began to expand; UW and major hospitals began a rapid expansion into the 70's.  There were no zones specific for institutions; they would purchase land in adjacent zones which tended to be low rise.  The City negotiated with institutions as overlay; different rules would apply.  The City preferred upward growth, not outward. The City wanted a three way partnership and developed a master plan with the neighborhoods. with a redo every 10 to 15 years.  Look at the institutional needs and balance with neighborhood needs.  Most neighborhoods were less dense than other cities.
But there were conflicting interests. There was a need to protect the liveability of surrounding  neighborhoods but the City needs growth of institutions and jobs.  Institutions need certainty for growth.  This program and goals remained intact since the mid 70's. 
Major changes began in 1996 when the institutions came to the City with a strong argument; they can't effectively plan far into the future as they are hit with amendments to the plan.  They requested the nature of the plan be changed; develop height standards and review by that.
Today: Institution informs city it wants to develop a master plan and develops a concept plan.  A call is put out for people to be on an Advisory Council.  The notices go out in a half mile area around the institution.  There is a request for resumes.  There are usually 12 on the committee (can be from 6-12) with 3 or 4 alternates.  The City Council can expand the group.  The resumes go to Steve.  Each applicant is interviewed.  The institution recommends a list which goes to the Director of the Dept. of Neighborhoods who shares the list with Steve Sheppard.  Negotiations over who is on the slate: then present to list to Mayor and then to City Council.  Meetings can begin after the Mayor's approval with the understanding that City Council could make changes. 
Three groups are represented: staff, institution, residents but groups not always in sync.
1. lack of disclosure about plans and lack of end date
2. appointment process.  City Council in favor of wider representation.  Some conflicts around representation at Children's and Swedish-Providence.
3. Major changes in funding of major institutions; partnerships with private developers. Tussles around parking.  TMP-transportation management plan. How does the institution reduce single vehicle use & parking?  Every institution asks for more than the limited number; maximum is 135% of stated limit. (Yellow handout provided which provides excerpts from the Director's report on Code amendments)
Chris Leman: Regulatory reform developed in closed way; the parking issue did not involve the public.  DON learned about two months ago; he passed out copies of an email confirming this.
Betsy Braun (Virginia Mason) said they were developing a master plan and their transportation person was operating under the old parking limits.
Chris Leman said he hoped that Virginia Mason would stand with them at the hearing tomorrow.
Steve Sheppard: Right now plans are developed with CACs.
Jeannie Hale: Proposals are inconsistent with Master Plan. She expressed hope that "we can work together." Why did they drop having reps from CACs on the committees? There is no reporting back to the community if members are from other neighborhoods.  Neighborhoods originally chose reps unttil1996 when it was changed to City & City Council.
Steve Sheppard: They try to get representation from surrounding community but not taking from community organizations.  Attempts to bring the process in line with other Boards, giving more influence to City and City Council.
Betsy Braun: lessons were learned from Children's Hospital process.  VM has had good representation from surrounding communities.  There have been lively discussions and they had to go out and negotiate with the community.
Peter Steinbrueck: The process is best served with a diversity of representation and opinions.
Steve Sheppard: Always advises institutions to incorporate those in CCs even if adversarial .
Peter Steinbrueck: goal was to be representative of whole area.
Jeannie Hale: U Village should have master plan.
Janet Brucker said she was representative on Northgate group and felt it was broadly based.  She asked Peter Steinbrueck  how it came about?
Peter Steinbrueck said he wrote the process.  SC Chancellor led the process; he had credibility and has been written up nationally as a case study for effective representation.
Chris Leman said that 1996 was the expiration of  plans. Tended to be true dialogue at that time.
Kirk Robbins asked if there was a way a CC can receive communications if unable to get on the advisory council.
Steve Sheppard: Yes, just provide an email address.
Jorgen Bader: At the very  least, require that the community representative report back to the community.
Betsy Braun: Major institutional groups get together each year to discuss progress on plans and any issues.  Process is time demanding for volunteers; a burden.
Sonia Richter: I would like to focus on the future, not past battles with Children's. How do we proceed if unhappy with the plan adopted?
Steve Sheppard: This is a key element in the development of the 1300 block.  The neighborhood is not happy. Key issue is to know the representation; who is on the committee? Get good people to apply; develop a good relationship with the institution.
Chris Leman: Major institutions chose their own reps; communities should have the same process.
Jeannie Hale: Materials are not provided in advance even though there are complex issues. Children's did try but so many consultants.
Steve Sheppard: Institutions want a shorter process; so does the city. Compressing it creates problems but not really conspiratorial. Built in conflicts is cost and not wanting adversarial process.
DeCharlene Williams said she wouldn't vote on something she hadn't read ahead of time.
Betsy Braun: isn't time process mandated?
Steve Sheppard: Different issue; leasing on a building came up late; vote didn't happen.
Jeannie Hale: Make sure materials out ahead of time.  Issues in 2007 letter still appropriate.
Chris Leman suggested a letter restating the facts.
Ted Klainer: What is the genesis of this organization?
Chris Leman: the Federation started in the 1940's helping Japanese returnees. and expanded into a city wide group. The organization is interested in open government.
President's report: Jeannie Hale said the school district has discontinued allowing groups to use facilities after hours.  Ted Jonsson not being evicted; can live out his years in his studio/home.
Steve Sheppard thanked Chris Leman for his work on the artist's behalf.  CUCAC did write a
letter and Tom Rasmussen intervened. He urged all communities to get involved with major institutions and email him to be put on email lists:
Betsy Braun echoed Steve's urging. They are about to issue draft info on the VM website.  Meeting at VM tomorrow night.
Jeannie Hale reported that there is a 9 AM Seattle City Council vote on exempting 8 of the 14 major institutions from the parking regulations.
Chris Leman briefed the group on their face to face meetings with Council members (joint Federation & Neighborhood Coalition).  Burgess and Clark their last 2 to meet.  Conlin: striker amendment; would not give it to them.  No opportunity to read ahead.  Other CC members pushed for more time.
Bill Bradburd: Capitol Hill involved in this.  Irene Wall, Greg Hill and Nick Licata to propose amendments. 
Colleen McAleer reported that SR 520 design is proposing a Cable Stay design bridge at the West Montlake Park portion; it has taller towers and a busy look with more cables. Different design with shorter towers for the Portage Bay area.   (See attached documents.)

Round Robin: Yesler Terrace redevelopment should have a City Council hearing within the next few months.
MOTION: Rick Barrett moved that we write a letter asking that every low income unit (562) be replaced. Second: Chris Leman.  Vote: Unanimous.
Jorgen Bader said there is a meeting tomorrow evening at the Neptune on the Brooklyn Station name.  He also expressed concern about consolidating families in high rise buildings; buildings should be integrated.
Jim Erickson said the Advisory group was not segregating groups.
Kristin O'Donnell: redevelopment dependent on private developers.  They may not go for it; federal government backing out of subsidizing.
Chris Leman: The Advisory Committee is recommending mixed use buildings?
Jim Erickson: news to him that no longer mixed; go to the website.
Bill Bradburd: City Council getting briefings now
Diane Snell: Leschi has an Art Walk on June 9th from 11-4 PM.  She also introduced Jeff Floor, Leschi's recently elected representative to the Federation.
Meeting adjourned at 9:02 PM.