Laurelhurst Community Club                                                     

Serving 2800 Households in Seattle’s Laurelhurst Neighborhood

 

August 8, 2004

 

Letters Editor

The Seattle Times

P.O. Box 70

Seattle, WA 98111

opinion@seattletimes.com

 

RE:  Support a Compromise on the University Lease Lid

 

Dear Editor,

 

Your editorial of August 6 supporting elimination of the University of Washington lease lid demonstrates a lack of understanding of the goals of the 1998 City University Agreement.  That Agreement was crafted by the University and its neighboring communities over an 18-month period.  The Agreement was adopted by the City as a framework to balance the University’s need to expand to meet its needs while at the same time maintaining the livability and vitality of surrounding communities.  The lease lid is a modest measure to protect surrounding communities, while at the same time addressing the University’s off-campus leasing needs.

 Councilmember Licata has offered an alternative compromise proposal that substantially increases the allowable square footage for UW off-campus leasing—sufficient to meet the University’s needs for five to eight years.  This is in addition to the three million square feet of development authorized with the recent adoption of the campus master plan.  Should the University need additional space after a few years, that issue can be addressed with the City, the University and impacted communities working together.

 

Your editorial mistakenly states that the UW could not lease office space in the U District to allow easy access to the campus for faculty and students unless the lease lid is eliminated.  This is not true.  A substantially expanded lease lid will ensure that the University is able to lease off-campus for its various research needs.  There are also exemptions from the leasing restriction for projects that include a housing component and for patient housing.  This provides additional opportunities for University leasing.

 

Councilmember Licata’s compromise proposal will ensure protection of the small business community from displacement and higher rents.  It also addresses the critical need for retention of low-income and affordable housing in the area.  Finally, it seeks to maintain the diversity of character of the University District. 

 

We all support revitalizing The Ave—the Mayor’s goal.  But, an agreement crafted behind closed doors with no involvement of the impacted communities is not the right approach.  That’s why the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board found the City non-compliant with the Growth Management Act.  The GMA is intended to “ensure coordination between communities and jurisdictions to reconcile conflicts” in the planning process.  Despite the City Council’s efforts to address community concerns, it’s hard to reconcile conflicts when the University consistently refuses to compromise.

 

The University plays an important role in our local economy and provides many amenities to local residents and the City.  But, the University is unlike any other major institution in our City due to its size and potential to adversely impact surrounding communities.  The City, the University and the impacted communities, recognized this fact in the 1998 City University Agreement.  With elimination of the lease lid, the City would loose all of its leverage to address future adverse impacts resulting from University off-campus leasing.

 

What we need is a compromise.  Your editorial does not even consider this possibility.  We urge you to revisit the issue and at minimum, contact the impacted communities—something you failed to do before writing your editorial.

 

Sincerely,

           

Jeannie Hale, President

3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE

Seattle, Washington  98105

Jeannie Hale, President

3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE

Seattle, Washington  98105

206-525-5135 / fax 206-525-9631

jeannieh@serv.net