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Update on the Seattle waterfront Local Improvement District

By John Engber, Director, Retail Industry Coaltion of Seattle

On January 11, 2019, the S.R. 99/Viaduct closes for three weeks to complete the connections to the new S.R. 99 downtown Seattle tunnel.

After the Viaduct is demolished, work begins on the new Seattle waterfront. But how will Seattle fund it?

The City of Seattle intends to create a new Waterfront Local Improvement District (or “LID”). Property owners within the LID would be assessed on a per square foot basis to raise $200 million for waterfront redevelopment. The LID will be created so long as 60 percent of the property owners (the size of their votes based on their assessment) do not submit “protest letters” expressing opposition to the LID.

So far, more than 50 percent of the property owners have expressed their conditional opposition to the LID creation.

The assessment is not the same for all property owners. Properties closest to the waterfront will pay more, as will hotels. Here is an article that explores some of those details: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/seattle-negotiating-with-downtown-property-owners-over-200-million-tax-for-waterfront-project/

Right now, attorney Jack McCullough is leading negotiations with the City on a wide range of issues, including:

  1. Protection from cost overruns. Property owners do not want a second tax assessment if the City experiences cost overruns on the waterfront redevelopment.
  2. Public safety guarantees. Property owners want commitments from the City that it will ensure that the new waterfront park is a safe, attractive place for Seattle families and out-of-town visitors.
  3. Homeless encampments. Property owners want commitments from the City that the park will not be a new site for homeless camps.

If you own property in the LID – which stretches from Denny Way to Safeco Field and from the waterfront to Interstate 5 – you should seriously consider submitting a letter expressing your conditional opposition to the LID. You should also reach out to Jack McCullough to get looped into his negotiations with the City. Here is his email: Jack@mhseattle.com

Once the LID agreement (a “no-protest” agreement) is reached with the City, it goes to the City Council for approval. The City is hoping to secure Council approval by the end of November.

If the City Council makes meaningful changes to the agreement, property owners might choose to submit their protest letters, killing the LID. We will keep you informed of developments.

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