Laurelhurst Community Club
Pro Parks Levy Oversight Committee
100 Dexter Avenue North
Seattle, Washington 98109
RE: Opportunity Fund Draft Criteria
Dear Parks Oversight Committee:
The Laurelhurst Community Club Board of Trustees appreciates all of the time you have spent developing the Opportunity Fund Draft Criteria. As we mentioned to you in May, we do not believe that the draft criteria are consistent with the Parks and Open Space measure passed by the voters in November 2000 or Council Ordinance 120024. We do not support targeting 60% of the funds in the first funding cycle to three areas. Nor do we support criteria that would effectively exclude 40% of the city from applying to the Opportunity Fund. We offer the following comments.
Targeting: The acquisitions criteria targets $3M to three areas. While we recognize that these areas are in need of parks and open space, so are many other areas throughout the city as documented in the Seattle Parks and Recreation Plan 2000. We believe that neither the voters nor the City Council intended to target 60% of the funds in the first funding cycle to one and a half percent of the city. The ProParks Levy and the Council ordinance specifically state that high priority will be given to acquisitions in underserved areas as defined in the 2000 Parks Comp Plan. There is no mention of targeting. We believe that the Levy and Council ordinance contemplate an open, citywide competitive process for all areas underserved by parks and open space.
Exclusion of Areas without Neighborhood Plans: There is no mention in the ProParks Levy or the Council ordinance that the Opportunity Fund should be restricted to urban centers or areas with neighborhood plans. Guidance provided by the City Council and the voters in the measures passed states that high priority will be given to areas underserved by parks and open space as documented in the 2000 Parks Comp Plan. To us, this means that all underserved neighborhoods should be eligible to apply to the Opportunity Fund. You do include in your list of additional criteria that priority will be given to areas with a neighborhood or other plan. It is unclear how this these secondary criteria relate to your priority criteria, which seem to exclude neighborhood planning areas other than urban centers and those neighborhoods that were not afforded an opportunity to develop a neighborhood plan from applying.
Reference to Open Space Gap Analysis: As noted above, the measure passed by the voters and the Council ordinance states that high priority for acquisition and development projects is to be given to underserved areas as defined in the 2000 Parks Comp Plan. The Oversight Committee recommendations also reference the Open Space Gap Analysis. This reference should be deleted. The Open Space Gap Analysis divides open space needs into two categories--usable open space and breathing room open space. Underserved areas may be deficient in both, yet priority is given to areas lacking in usable open space. Because of the many needs in Seattle, this information may be helpful in determining priorities during the project rating process. The ProParks Levy and the Council ordinance, however, only reference the Comp Plan in terms of who is eligible to apply to the Opportunity Fund. Including the reference to the Open Space Gap Analysis restricts all of those underserved areas with breath room deficiencies from applying. We do not believe this is what the voters or the City Council intended.
High Priority: The Draft Opportunity Fund Criteria list four priority criteria. It is unclear whether applicants must meet all of the criteria. Based upon the targeting the Oversight Committee has done, it appears to us that applicants must, in fact, meet all of the priority criteria. The ProParks Levy and Council ordinance state that highest criteria is to underserved areas then next priority is to areas experiencing population growth. You appear to have given these priorities equal weight. We do not believe that this reflects the will of the voters or the intent of the City Council.
Second Priority: The next priority as stated in the ProParks measure and the Council ordinance is for acquisition and development projects for areas experiencing population growth, particularly those in urban center and urban village locations and those in Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Areas. In your second priority criteria, you have limited this to projects that are in or serve an urban village or a Neighborhood Revitalization Area, thus excluding all of the other areas with neighborhood plans and the 40% of the city that is not covered by a neighborhood plan. This is inconsistent with the measure passed by voters and the Council ordinance. There may be areas experiencing population growth that are not in urban centers or Revitalization Areas. Groups from these areas should be allowed to submit an application to the Opportunity Fund.
Maximum Award: You recommend that the maximum project award for acquisition projects cannot exceed $1M and for development projects $500,000. We believe these figures are arbitrary. The overriding consideration should be whether the project is located in an underserved area. Limiting the size of awards excludes the possibility of unique one-of-a-kind projects where substantial leveraging opportunities are available. You indicate that smaller projects will be referred to the Neighborhood Matching Fund, but as many know, that fund is often not an option. We also do not believe it is equitable to reserve $4M for acquisition projects and only $1M for development projects. This, too, is arbitrary and inconsistent with the measure passed by voters and the Council.
We hope you will consider the concerns of the Laurelhurst Community Club in finalizing the Opportunity Fund Criteria to ensure fairness, geographical equity and consistency with the will of the voters and the Council ordinance.
Jeannie Hale, President
Laurelhurst Community Club
3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE
Seattle, Washington 98105
525-5135/ FAX 525-9631
cc: City Councilmembers