More details on the Waterfront LID Agreement

This afternoon the City Council got a briefing on the waterfront LID agreement that the city negotiated with property-holders in the proposed LID assessment area, as well as other updates on the Waterfront Park project. Here are some key new learnings beyond my writeup last week.

Alaskan Way and Columbia Street, up to 3rd Avenue, will be a key transit pathway between downtown and parts south (including West Seattle and South King County). The plan is for the transit pathway to open earlier than the rest of Alaskan Way.

During the entire construction period (through 2023), two lanes of traffic will be open in each direction in a temporary roadway along the waterfront — which will be important for the businesses along the waterfront.

Property owners in the LID area have the option to pay up-front or finance the LID assessment over 20 years. The state and city also have various deferral programs available for seniors and the  disabled, low-income residents, and those experiencing economic hardship.  Council member Gonzalez asked city staff why they opted for deferral programs rather than exemptions. Marshal Foster of the Office of the Waterfront explained that under state law, only three types of property may be exempted from a LID:

  • federally-owned properties;
  • housing authority properties;
  • agricultural properties (of which there are none in the LID area).

When the Mayor was asked two weeks ago how the city was covering the shortfall created when the LID was decreased from $200 million to $160 million, she said that the city had found additional capacity from its commercial parking tax revenues. More details are now available on where the additional funds are coming from. First, commercial parking tax funds will cover debt service for about $7 million in additional bonds capacity. Second, the city will contribute an additional $10 million (in total) of Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) revenues.

The total project cost was also reduced by about $5 million. The savings came from reducing the number of “kiosk” buildings along the waterfront from 5 to 1. In this context, a “kiosk” is a one-story building used to vend food and beverage or for some other kind of interaction with the public. Foster stressed that there will still be park activation at the locations where the kiosks were removed from the plan; it just won’t require a building.

Foster also elaborated on the reasons for officially designating a Park Boulevard along the waterfront. First, it establishes it as park property, which allows parks-restricted funding such as the Metropolitan Parks District to be used on non-park elements of the waterfront. Second, it facilitates enforcing a clear, consistent code of conduct, as there will be no question as to jurisdiction or what rules apply. Foster said that designating a Park Boulevard is not an unusual activity, with the most notable current on in Seattle being Lake Washington Boulevard.  Notwithstanding the Park Boulevard designation, the street and sidewalks will be open 24 hours a day, while the rest of the public waterfront will follow regular park hours: 6am to 10pm.

There will be publicly accessible bathrooms along the waterfront park area. One central one will be staffed; there will also be “Portland Loos” spread around. Park visitors will also be able to use the bathrooms at Colman Dock and Pike Place Market.

Today’s briefing was the Council’s first discussion of the LID agreements (there are three in total). A second discussion will be held on January 24th, and they may be voted out of committee at that point. If they do, they will go before the full Council for final approval on January 28. Assuming that happens, once the Mayor signs them into law there is a 30 day formal protest period for the LID formation (which should just be a formality given that 51% of the property ownership is signing on to the protest waiver agreement). After the protest period, there is another 30-day period for legal challenges to the LID formation. Assuming the LID survives that, the city expects to finalize LID assessments in the fall, with a period to follow where property owners can challenge individual assessments. The City Council would approve the final LID assessment roll in 2020, and the assessments would begin shortly afterward.

and someday in 2023, if all goes well, we will have this to enjoy: