MAKING IT WORK
Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin
The purpose of this newsletter is to provide information, inspire involvement, and make things work in this great city.
July 2, 2006, Volume VIII, Issue 6
AGREEMENT WITH MUCKLESHOOT TRIBE ON CEDAR RIVER WATERSHED
On Monday, June 12, a series of historic issues between the Muckleshoot Tribe and the City of Seattle were resolved when the City Council unanimously approved funding for the Cedar River Settlement Agreement. This agreement enhances the protection of natural resources in Seattle+IBk-s Cedar River Watershed+IBQ-an important goal shared by both sides.
The proposed Agreement was reviewed extensively in my Committee, including a public hearing, and we concluded that it strengthens protection for fish, establishes a greater certainty for the region+IBk-s water supply, supports exercise of tribal rights reserved by treaties and paves the way for future cooperation. The Agreement allows both parties to go forward with the goal of preserving the watershed+IBk-s natural habitats.
In 2000, the federal government accepted the proposed Cedar River Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), under which the City of Seattle was issued permits to operate its water supply and hydroelectric facilities on the Cedar River. In return, the City agreed to meet its obligations under the Endangered Species Act to maintain specific water levels for the benefit of fish, plus a number of other conservation measures to meet the goals of protecting salmon and the ecosystem of the 91,000 acres that the City owns and manages in the Cedar River Watershed.
In 2003, the Muckleshoot Tribe challenged those federal permits, concerned that the HCP did not provide as much protection for salmon as the Tribe sought. The City, the Tribe and the federal agencies agreed to negotiate to mediate the dispute. Mediation not only addressed this concern, but led to an agreement that resolved a number of other issues related to the rights the Tribe reserved under existing treaties and their effect on the City+IBk-s operation of fish runs. The resultant Agreement strengthens and deepens the relationship between the City and the Tribe, and commits both parties to further future cooperation.
In addition to resolving the law suit, which allows the HCP and the permits to come into effect, the City also received tribal recognition of the City+IBk-s water rights in the Cedar River, which guarantees that the City can use Cedar River water and operate its system for perpetuity. The City also resolved an outstanding liability for past damages to fisheries.
In return for these, the City agreed to guarantee long-term flows in the Cedar, and agreed to place a portion of the City+IBk-s water rights into trust for use only for fish flow purposes. The City also made a settlement of cash and property to the Muckleshoots to settle past liabilities. And the City and the Tribe agreed to protocols supporting the exercise of rights to hunt and gather in the watershed that the Tribe reserved under treaties. Both sides agreed to plan and fund a ten year wildlife research program in the Watershed and to protect water quality for the region and continuing water conservation efforts.
The City of Seattle was one of the earliest jurisdictions to propose a Habitat Conservation Plan to comprehensively protect and enhance environmental protection for a large area that supports endangered species. With this comprehensive Agreement, the City has now brought the Muckleshoot Tribe into a full cooperative relationship in achieving these conservation goals, and negotiated a respectful mutual arrangement for ensuring Native American treaty rights.
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TOXICS CLEANUP IN SOUTH PARK
On Tuesday, June 27, Port of Seattle Commissioners voted to propose to clean Terminal 117, located in the unincorporated area of King County adjacent to the South Park community, to meet the standards for reuse for residential, commercial, or park development. Terminal 117 is a Superfund site, contaminated with PCB+IBk-s.
The Port had originally proposed to clean the site only to the level required for industrial use, and this proposal was accepted by the USEPA. However, the South Park and Georgetown communities, organized as the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, launched a vigorous campaign to convince decision-makers to respect the community+IBk-s long-range plans to integrate this area into South Park and do a full cleanup.
Working with the community, I was able to secure the signatures of all nine Seattle City Councilmembers on a letter supporting the community+IBk-s position. We noted that the draft plan bases the land use determination on King County's industrial zoning for the parcel, but that the City Council is currently reviewing the area including the T-117 parcel for annexation into Seattle. We further noted that the area borders City designated commercial and residential zoning, is immediately adjacent to the designated South Park Residential Urban Village, and that the South Park Neighborhood Plan contemplates the possible rezoning of industrial land for commercial use. We also expressed our concern that the remedy selected for this site must protect the Duwamish River from contamination by residuals that may be left behind if the draft proposal was adopted.
The draft proposal to clean up only to meet industrial use standards would cost about +ACQ-6 million. Because waste oil from a nearby City Light facility contributed to the contamination, the City of Seattle has some financial liability for the cleanup. Meeting commercial/residential standards will double the cost of the cleanup, which could result in additional liability for the City of Seattle. However, even though this decision could cost the City, the Council believes that it is the right decision for the long-term health of both the community and the environment.
Full credit is due to the Port Commissioners for reversing the Port+IBk-s position. We believe that the Council+IBk-s letter played a significant role in convincing the Port to do so, and we look forward to continuing to work cooperatively with the Port Commission on this and other similar issues in the future.
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SR 520 BRIDGE REPLACEMENT PROJECT MOVES TOWARD DECISION
While much attention has been focused on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the SR 520 project is arguably much more significant as a transportation issue. SR 520 carries more than twice as many people as the Viaduct, and is a critical connection between Seattle and the Eastside. While the seismic vulnerabilities of the Viaduct have been widely publicized, SR 520 both shares similar vulnerabilities to earthquakes and is also subject to wind and storm damage. The region must make a decision on the preferred alternative for replacing the SR 520 Bridge this year, so that the engineering and fund-raising can be completed in a timely fashion.
The key question that the SR 520 project faces is how to create a network of strong and healthy communities with great mobility both within and between them. Neighborhood residents are also users of transportation corridors, and this mobility is an integral part of the quality of life for most people. However, any transportation corridor like SR 520 does have greater negative impacts on adjacent communities, who may benefit from ease of access but disproportionately pay the price.
The old idea that transportation corridors like SR 520 funnel people into the city in the morning and out in the evening is particularly not applicable in this case, where it is clearly a two-way street for commuter purposes, as well as for recreation and other purposes. It is the poster child for the core concept of the region's Vision 2020 plan, of a series of urban centers that include both Seattle and the suburbs, protecting our farms, forests, and wilderness areas beyond the growth management boundary.
The region has been considering what to do as the SR 520 floating bridge approaches the end of its useful life for almost ten years. Many alternatives have been reviewed and rejected, from replacing it with a tunnel to building a new bridge connecting Laurelhurst and Kirkland instead. For a while, there was a push by some Eastside representatives to expand the bridge to eight lanes, but Seattle representatives argued, and WSDOT agreed, that this would simply dump tens of thousands of automobiles onto Interstate 5 and other streets in Seattle, and would lead to massive traffic jams.
An option for replacing the bridge as is, with only four lanes, is included in the EIS, along with several versions of a six lane alternative, with the additional lanes dedicated to transit and HOV. The six lane alternative adds considerable capacity for moving people across the lake without significantly increasing the number of vehicles. Even though there would be no more automobile capacity, the new bridge would still flow more smoothly because the transit and HOV are moved to the new lanes, and the addition of shoulders would greatly reduce congestion caused by vehicle breakdowns (estimated to cause about half of the problems in the current configuration). A bicycle/walking path is included in all alternatives.
The key question with a wider six lane design would be how to minimize negative impacts on Seattle neighborhoods and key environmental areas such as the Arboretum. In order to address this, the City, with the assistance of the state legislature, convened a Local Improvement Committee two years ago to develop mitigation plans for neighborhoods surrounding the SR 520 corridor. This year, the City has taken this a step further by convening a Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC), including representatives of the nine neighborhoods adjacent to SR 520 as well as the two major institutions (the University and the Arboretum). The SAC has been working hard to understand the impacts of SR 520 and to come to some agreement on specific acceptable changes and mitigations that would make the project workable.
The City Council+IBk-s Committee of the Whole on SR 520, which I Chair, has been reviewing plans for the corridor this spring. This summer, we hope that the SAC and the Council can converge on a preferred alternative that is designed to come as close as possible to meeting the needs of the transportation system and of Seattle+IBk-s neighborhoods.
An option proposed by Seattle community groups would involve changing the configuration of the Montlake interchange by moving that interchange to the east of the Montlake cut and creating a new bridge that connects SR 520 to Pacific Street south of Husky Stadium. This idea, called the Pacific Interchange, makes transit connections work by bringing transit to and from the eastside directly to the planned Sound Transit station at Husky Stadium. It also reduces the footprint of SR 520 over Portage Bay by three lanes. Through bypassing the Montlake Bridge, it dramatically improves the flow of traffic north of the Montlake Cut, which is principally bottlenecked by the limited capacity and occasional openings of the current Montlake Bridge. It can also be built without taking any houses from any neighborhood.
The Pacific Interchange option also has some problems. It increases the size of the footprint over the Arboretum by shifting the interchange to the east. The height and design of the bridge connecting to Pacific would have to be carefully designed to avoid view impacts. The University has also expressed concerns over the loss of potentially developable land south of the Stadium and about some increase in traffic on Pacific and Montlake adjacent to the University, although the models show that traffic flows much more smoothly.
The SAC and the Council will look for design/mitigation ideas that can maximize the positives of the Pacific Interchange and reduce the impacts, or will look at other alternative ways to design the corridor through Seattle. The few other design ideas on the table do not look nearly as promising as the Pacific Interchange, but it is possible that there may be options that are workable. Our goal should be to have performance criteria and ways to monitor them, and to design to meet these criteria. Our deadline is this fall, when a preferred alternative must be selected to move the project forward.
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BED AND BREAKFAST ORDINANCE
In the month of July, the City Council will take up legislation that I am sponsoring to encourage the development of bed and breakfasts in Seattle neighborhoods. The legislation clarifies the status of bed and breakfasts in single family neighborhoods legalized under an ordinance I proposed in 2003 and resolves a law suit over the issue.
The City Council first proposed land use legislation to make bed and breakfasts legal in Seattle in 1987. Although there had been a number of bed and breakfasts established in Seattle prior to this, their legal status was in doubt. The 1987 ordinance proposed to allow them in both multi-family and single family neighborhoods, but there were a significant group of residents who opposed sanctioning bed and breakfasts in single family neighborhoods. This opposition was strong enough that the Council actually prohibited them, grandfathering in only a few that were already in existence.
In 2003 I was approached by a constituent and asked to sponsor legislation that reopened this issue. After working with neighborhood activists who had concerns, I was able to draw up an ordinance that did legalize bed and breakfasts, but that limited them sufficiently enough that there was little opposition.
Unfortunately, one of the first establishments sited under this law wound up in conflict with a few community members, and in violation of some of the more restrictive parts of the ordinance. Consequently, I have tried to refine the ordinance to make it clearer and resolve these issues.
Under the new ordinance, bed and breakfasts will be permitted outright in single family zones provided that they meet certain criteria for operation and siting. Core requirements would include things such as the owner living on site, having plans to encourage transit use and limit parking impacts, and respecting quiet hours. There is also a dispersal requirement which would prevent having bed and breakfasts come to dominate particular blocks, and a requirement that the bed and breakfast be based in an existing home, which can be renovated but not replaced by a whole new building.
With these provisions, the new legislation should resolve the outstanding issues, provide adequate protections for neighborhoods, and still encourage a reasonable number of bed and breakfasts in Seattle.
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If it is feasible to establish a market to implement a policy, no policy-maker can afford to do without one."
-- JH Dales
"Everything is interesting if you look at it deeply enough."
-- Richard Feynman
Citizen participation and engagement are critical for maintaining democracy -- fostering it is a key task of elected officials. It's my hope that this newsletter will inform you about issues, inspire you to get involved, and that together we can make things work better in this great city. Please send me your feedback, so we can keep things lively, interesting, and useful. And please forward it along to friends who might be interested. You can get more information or send me feedback through the City Council website at http://cityofseattle.net/council/
Your Seattle City Councilmember
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