|Private landowners may face regulation of large-scale projects||Good neighbor nominations sought|
|Proposed SPD cuts threaten public safety||Transitional housing program to lose 65 percent of city funding|
|Ships arrive Dec. 1||Loss of aid car puts lives at risk|
The ordinance, tentatively called the Large-Development Disclosure Ordinance, was initially drafted by city councilmember Nick Licata. It attempts to redress longstanding complaints from community groups that private developers often don't pay their fair share of public infrastructure improvements and mitigations made necessary by their developments.
In a letter to the community groups, Licata noted that large-scale public projects such as the Washington Park Arboretum and major institutions such as the University of Washington are required to file master plans. It is through these master plans that the adverse impacts of development are effectively mitigated, he said.
"There is no such process required for large, multiparcel private projects," Licata said. "This results in an incremental permitting process and incremental measurement and mitigation of development impacts."
Licata's draft ordinance would require private developers to prepare and file a document similar to, though not as complex as, a master plan. Called a "development disclosure plan," it would remain in effect for a period of 10 years.
Elements of the plan include a map of the relevant property, the estimated dates of development or redevelopment, a list of potentially adverse impacts and the measures that would be taken to mitigate such impacts, and a traffic and parking management plan.
The ordinance would apply to developers of properties-contiguous or not-totaling five or more acres within a one-eighth-mile radius. Examples of such properties include the University Village Shopping Center, Paul Allen's holdings in South Lake Union, and the Greenwood Shopping Center on North 85th Street. (The Northgate Shopping Center, which comes under a separate regulatory agreement, is specifically exempted.)
The advantage for developers is that once their plan is accepted, their liability for mitigating adverse impacts is strictly limited to those impacts identified in the plan. In other words, the ordinance removes some of the uncertainty of the costs of development for developers.
In doing so, it attempts to strike a balance between those who would like to see a stricter ordinance (requiring something closer to a master plan for private developments) and those (including the Department of Design, Construction, and Land Use) who say that any such ordinance will discourage investment in Seattle.
Responding to Licata's letter, LCC President Jeannie Hale welcomed his attempt to draft an ordinance that satisfies both citizens and developers.
"We have been confronted with piecemeal development year after year at University Village with little effort by the developer to address the transportation infrastructure needs, traffic safety, increased traffic congestion, or the environmental impacts upon surrounding communities," she said. "While the current proposal does not go as far as the requirements that would be imposed by development of a master plan, it is an important step in the right direction and a good compromise."
Hale said the requirements of the proposed ordinance are only marginally more onerous that those already imposed on developers by DCLU and the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).
"University Village has already undertaken traffic and parking studies in conjunction with its garage project that is currently under construction," she said. "It has worked with King County on transit and transportation-management issues and involved the community in its parking task force in the past.
"In our view, it would require minimal expense and time to expand this effort to undertake the type of traffic and parking management plan that would be required under the Large Development Disclosure proposal."
"We understand the difficulty you face in closing the $60 million budget shortfall, but we believe cuts to public safety should not be considered," President Jeannie Hale and Crime Prevention Representative Pat Wright told city councilmembers.
Under the 2003Ð2004 budget proposed by Mayor Greg Nickels, 27 sworn police officers and 54 police-department civilians would lose their jobs. In addition, the Community Service Officer Program would be eliminated entirely.
But the level of staffing in the Seattle Police Department is already well below that of other cities of similar size, Hale and Wright said. They pointed out that in 2000, Seattle had 224 officers per 100,000 residents, or 27 percent less than the national average.
A decrease in the number of officers threatens the safety of those officers because of the unavailability of adequate backup, they said. They added that it also reduces response time and ultimately impacts public safety.
Hale and Wright called the Community Service Officer Program "an effective and efficient use of funds." The officers handle juvenile runaways, as well as abused and neglected children, and they check on the well-being of the elderly and other vulnerable people. They also provide crisis-intervention services and assist people in finding emergency housing.
"If funding for this program is eliminated, these much-needed services will not be provided because police will not have the time to do them," Hale and Wright said. "To reinitiate the program in future years would mean large training and start-up costs."
Under the mayor's proposed 2003-2004 budget, SPCHA would lose 65 percent of its city funding. In dollar terms, the city's contribution would drop from $259,000 to $90,000.
Bob Rench, SPCHA director of operations, said the cuts represent 41 percent of the association's total operating budget. "We will be unable to offer anything but the most basic and essential services to our housing programs and the community at large," he said.
The cuts are especially surprising in light of the fact that in 1993, the city pledged to support transitional housing for homeless people at Sand Point to the tune of $500,000 a year. That pledge was critical in obtaining ownership of the property from the federal government.
It also was critical in obtaining public support for transitional housing. Many community groups (Laurelhurst was not one of them) initially opposed the project, fearing the impact of homeless people on their neighborhoods.
Such fears have largely dissipated in the intervening years, as SPCHA has acted quickly to address community concerns whenever and wherever they have surfaced. However, the threat of reduced funding for SPCHA makes some neighbors uneasy.
Rench said the organization had received no intimation from the Mayor's Office as to the extent of the proposed cuts. "We had been asked to provide preliminary budgets for 2003 and 2004, and our 2003 budget included a 20 percent cut, to $207,200," he said.
"For us, it is unfathomable how the Mayor's Office could so drastically discount the value of SPCHA," Rench said.
LCC President Jeannie Hale agreed. "The Sand Point Community Housing Association provides quality services to residents and accountability to the city and surrounding communities," she said. "With this history of success, it makes no sense for the city to retreat from its earlier commitment to provide funding."
Hale said the SPCHA cuts are totally out of line with those proposed for other city departments, agencies, and services. Noting that the association has "consistently acted responsibly in its budget requests," she urged city councilmembers to restore funding at the level requested-$207,200.
The event, sponsored jointly by the Parks Department and area community organizations, will take place Sunday, Dec. 1, at 5:30 p.m. It will feature the lighting of a bonfire and luminaria, as well as the visit of the ships. Refreshments will be provided.
The cuts would decommission Aid Car 17, stationed in the University District, which responds to resuscitation calls from all over the city's north end. Fire Engine 16, stationed at Green Lake, also would be eliminated.
Aid Car 17 is currently the only aid car stationed north of the Ship Canal, President Jeannie Hale told councilmembers. She said that if the budget cuts go through, north-end residents would have to rely in critical emergencies on aid cars coming from Capitol Hill or downtown via Montlake Boulevard or Northeast 45th Street.
"A delay of several minutes could mean the difference between life and death for a heart-attack victim," Hale said.
She also said that decommissioning Engine 16 would make other north-end fire stations responsible for covering larger geographical areas. Inevitably, this would lead to longer response times for fires.
"Delays would mean that a house fire could become a multihouse fire, particularly in areas of higher density and where there are multifamily units," she said.
"We have a commitment to fire fighters who routinely put their lives on the line and a duty to citizens to adequately protect lives and property," Hale said. "This commitment must be reflected in the budget."