Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee: landmarks and Pike Place Market

The Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee met this afternoon to receive a report from the Director of SPU, to approve three historical landmarks, and to discuss changes to the Pike Place Market Historical Commission.


Meeting details (including legislation on the agenda)

Committee chair Sally Bagshaw and Committee member Kshama Sawant were in attendance. Bruce Harrell was absent.

SPU Director Ray Hoffman gave a report on the reservoir levels.  After the heavy rains of the last few weeks, things are looking much better. The Tolt River reservoir went from being 50 feet below full to 20 feet below full in the last three weeks, and that’s where they want to be (they leave it under full so that they can help to buffer flooding during heavy rains).  The other reservoirs are in similar states. Hoffman praised the residents of Seattle for their response to the voluntary reductions of water usage over the summer. The prediction for this coming winter and spring is that we should not see a repeat of last winter, though the El Nino system will probably result of a mountain snowpack around 75-80% of average. Committee chair Bagshaw asked Hoffman about whether water bills will go up because SPU’s water consumption revenues were down so much. Hoffman replied that SPU maintains a reserve account to balance down-revenue years like this year, so they don’t expect to raise rates.

In the first public comment session, the owner of a property that SPU wishes to buy or condemn objected to that, and raised concerns that SPU’s stated use (parking) would violate the zoning of that property.

The first order of business was an ordinance to authorize the acquisition or lease of the property mentioned above. SPU staff presented their justification for needing to relocate a drainage and wastewater operation to this site (short answer: SDOT shares the old site and is crowding them out, and SPU has outgrown the space it currently occupies there). They intend to use the new site as a yard for 105 fleet vehicles (i.e. orange trucks): not just parking them, but also washing and maintaining them, as well as facilities for the employees who operate and care for those vehicles and space for storing gear.  SPU’s appraisal of the property valued it at around $10 million; the owners asked $16 million.  They are also investigating leasing the property instead of purchasing or condemning it. Bagshaw and Sawant both approved the ordinance to move out of committee for the full Council’s approval on November 30.

The second agenda item was an ordinance to declare a piece of property in Lake Forest Park surplus and authorize selling it. Bagshaw described efforts by groups who have contacted her to preserve it as open space, so she is amending the ordinance to delaqy the sale by 7 months to give those groups time to come up with the means to purchase it.  The committee approved her amendment and subsequently approving the ordinance for full Council approval.

Next up: designating three properties as historical landmarks:  the Pacific Science Center, the Schoenfeld Building, and Town Hall Seattle.  The ordinance summary pages (linked to here) have detailed presentations on the buildings and their history. The committee approved all three landmark designations.

There was a quick discussion and approval of an easement to a property in Renton that would allow for access to a new residential subdivision under development.

Finally, the last item of business relates to the PIke Place Market Historical Commission, and changes about its structure and membership that were instigated by Council member Licata. (Council members Licata and Godden joined in for this item of business) In a separate public comment period, the current Chair of the Pike Place Market Historical Commission raised concerns about the transparency of the process and asked that the final version of the ordinance be reviewed by the Commission before final approval. Other speakers (including from Friends of the Pike Place Market) also noted that the process on this ordinance seems rushed (changes were made as late as this morning) and there hasn’t been sufficient time for public review — and that it’s unclear why the proposed changes are needed. The details of the ordinance has been in negotiation with the Friends of Pike Place Market and the Pike Place Market Historical Commission, but by all appearances miscommunications have been frequent: between the city staff and those two organizations, but also within each organization. Clearly all parties are frustrated. At the committee meeting there were few detailed complaints about the current draft of the ordinance, though representatives of the organizations could not speak on behalf of their boards. Bagshaw’s conclusion was that there have been few substantial changes since September, and  those that have happened are in response to comments from those two organizations, so she feels comfortable in moving the ordinance out of committee to the full Board’s consideration. She also noted that Licata’s term in office ends soon, and his staff that has been working on this will also be leaving, so she feels the need to move it forward before the institutional history is lost. The committee moved to adopt the ordinance (as amended to incorporate feedback) and sent it on to the full Council.