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                  Point of View

May, 2008 - Issue No. 26

Dear Friends,

Nearly five months into my responsibilities as Chair of the Parks and Seattle Center Committee I continue to tour parks, playgrounds and community centers. When I do, I invariably meet wonderful volunteers who devote many hours to the care and financial support of the parks and centers. 

One recent Saturday, I attended the "Community Green Ideas Fair" at Carkeek Park and spoke to the legendary Nancy Malmgren who has worked for so many years to protect and improve our environment. If you have not been to Carkeek, go now! It is an amazing forested park with Piper's Creek flowing through it to Puget Sound. A few days later I met with the tenacious Scott Shinn at Dahl Playfield to view the site of a new "skatespot" in northeast Seattle which will be under construction soon. 

Pipers Creek And speaking of volunteers, the Parks and Seattle Center Committee met with members of the faculty of the University of Washington's College of Architecture and Urban Planning to receive comments and recommendations on the draft Seattle Center Century 21 Master Plan. This distinguished group included Daniel Friedman, Dean and Professor of the College, Lee Copeland, Manish Chalana and Nancy Rottle. Their insightful and provocative comments were provided to the Committee on May 13 and can be viewed here.

The most powerful message for me was that today's Seattle Center was designed for the 1962 Century 21 Exhibition. The Exhibition was the mid-twentieth century view of "The World of Tomorrow". It was a statement of optimism for a future of high technology with monorails, gyrocopters and space exploration. The University faculty group urged the City to redefine its vision for the future through a design that demonstrates and inspires environmental stewardship with strong links to Lake Union and Elliot Bay.   

Thank you, Nancy, for your work for the environment and thanks Scott for your advocacy for the skateboarding community. My deep appreciation to the members of the University of Washington's College of Architecture and Urban Planning who reviewed the Seattle Center draft plan and who met and inspired us.

Best wishes,

Tom Rasmussen
Seattle City Councilmember
Chair, Parks and Seattle Center Committee

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Parks Levy Works For Seattles Voters

People frequently tell me about the importance of parks and community centers. It is amazing how much our parks mean to the people of Seattle. We hear from parents, from seniors and youth and community organizations that our parks and recreation programs are essential to their lives. 

The City Council is responding by developing a plan to ask the voters this fall if they would like to continue Seattle's Pro Parks  levy. The current Pro Parks levy will expire in December. The levy has made a huge difference to many neighborhoods. As our city becomes more dense and developed, Seattle has added 42 acres of parks because of the levy. The levy has funded new parks and the renovation of old ones. Levy funds often serve as seed money for donations from private foundations and businesses, and other government organizations. Here are a couple of examples of what the Pro Parks seed money has produced:

Counterbalance Park site on lower Queen Anne The Counterbalance Park, now under construction at Roy Street and Queen Anne Avenue, will cost about $1.5 million. This former gas station site will be transformed into an urban oasis because $300,000 from Pro Parks has generated over $1.13 million in private donations.

West Seattle will benefit from a new park at 48th Avenue SW and SW Alaska Street. The Pro Parks levy will provide $200,000, the state will provide $200,000, the Seattle Neighborhood Matching Funds program will provide $90,000 and the Friends of Ercolini Park are putting in many hours of work to help ensure completion of the park.

A citizens committee has been appointed by the Council to develop a levy proposal. The committee includes more than two dozen neighborhood representatives, environmentalists, and other Seattle leaders. Learn more about this committee and their work here.

The Council will also hold public meetings to ensure that we hear from as many people as possible.

The current Pro Parks levy has allowed many great things to be done for our neighborhoods and our environment. There are more neighborhoods that need parks and several community centers need major renovation to keep them operating.  

The Council will thoughtfully and carefully explore new parks and green space funding and will make a decision in July as to whether to proceed with a levy this year. We are committed to making sure that Seattle has the parks and the healthy environment the people of Seattle value, and whether this is the year to ask the people of Seattle to continue to make investments in our parks and environment.

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Open Space? Possible Property Tax Reduction? Who Knew?

There is a little-known state tax law which allows a significant reduction in the taxable value of real estate designated as an open space such as a recreation area, watershed, scenic view corridor or historic landmark/archaeological site.

Designated landmarks qualify for a 50% reduction and other eligible properties may qualify for up to a 90% reduction in the taxable value of the property. Once a year, property owners who have applied for the tax reduction seek approval from both the City Council and the County Council.

The program is called the "Current Use Taxation" (CUT) program. To be approved for the CUT program either the potential for additional development or use must be present, or the owner might provide public access or agree to other restrictions in return for tax reduction. Public access is encouraged but not required on preserved open space under this program.

Thornton Creek I had never heard of this program until I was informed that my committee has the responsibility to consider the applications from property owners inside Seattle. My guess is that there is quite a bit of property in Seattle that would qualify and that more property owners would apply if they knew about it. The Parks and Seattle Center Committee will hear applications on May 30, 2008 at 9:30 a.m. in the City Council Chambers. For additional information please contact my office at 206-684-8808 or watch the committee meeting on the Seattle Channel live on your television or on your computer.

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Street Trees FREE For Your Neighborhood

tree The City has a program to add more trees to the planting strips along our roads. Neighbors can organize and request the free trees. The City provides the trees, and neighbors share the work of planting and caring for the trees. Tree Fund projects are a great way to build a stronger sense of community and add trees to our urban canopy.

In order to qualify neighbors that represent a minimum of 5 households on the block can receive trees for planting strips on residential streets. If your neighborhood qualifies, the trees are delivered in the fall. To match the City's contribution of free trees, neighbors must organize the planting effort, provide necessary tools, and be responsible for watering and maintaining their trees.   Now is the time to begin organizing to receive the trees this fall.

To learn more about the program click here or call Eden Trenor at (206) 684-4520 or Judy Brown at (206) 684-0714.

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