The Mayor announced yesterday that the city will retain the Myers Way parcels in Southwest Seattle that it had been looking to sell.
Public sentiment, particularly among residents of southwest Seattle, had been leaning heavily toward keeping the properties as open space and/or park space rather than sell it off to be developed. Council member Lisa Herbold, who represents that district, has also been arguing for keeping the property, and made a statement yesterday in strong support for the Mayor’s decision.. Open space is at a premium in the city, and particularly in that area.
The property was originally purchased in order to site the Joint Training Facility. But the City’s policy on land holdings is that it should not continue to hold land without a specific, stated purpose for that land — and none existed for the Myers Way parcels. According to the Mayor’s plan, four acres of the Myers Way properties will now be reserved for further expansion of the Joint Training Facility, while the rest will be open space and might be developed into park space in the future. Apparently that qualifies as a stated use, so the city policy is now fulfilled.
The remaining problem with the new plan is that the City Council and Mayor had planned on using Myers Way property sale proceeds to repay the $5 million emergency funding for addressing the homelessness crisis that was approved last November. The Mayor has not announced a new source of funding to cover that $5 million expense.
This is the second time in the last week where the Mayor has made an announcement without a plan for how to pay for it; the first was his proposal for paid family and parental leave, which will cost approximately $2.3 million per year. Given the pessimism that city budget director Ben Noble showed during his recent presentation on next year’s budget, the Mayor may be digging himself a hole.
UPDATE: On the question of how to repay the $5 million of emergency funds, Council member Herbold told me in an email this afternoon:
Last week in committee I proposed using proceeds from the Pacific Place garage sale for this purpose – with the understanding that since bond proceeds must be used for capital projects – it couldn’t be a direct swap. We will discuss allocation of those proceeds as part of the budget process. The Mayor has said he intends to propose a source for the re-payment of funds spent for the Homelessness State of Emergency as part of the budget process as well. I don’t know if he has another/different revenue source in mind or not.
An important (I think) point is that the City property disposition process – by resolution – identifies steps that must be taken *before* a decision is made to sell a piece of property. Public input is part of that process and that process had not even formally begun when the announcement last November was made that this would be the source of funds for the Homelessness State of Emergency work.