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Ballard Interbay Planning Leaves A Lot to be Desired

BISLogoThis below letter has been sent to the City of Seattle, it is related to the recent Ballard Interbay Study project that the City involved a number of Magnolia leaders and other interested parties in.

It refutes and challenges the underlying premise that the City tried to put forth, mainly that there was some advantage for Interbay, Magnolia, the public that lives and works in these areas in participating in this exercise.

It is based on the first release of documents I, Elizabeth Campbell, have received pursuant to a public disclosure request of March 29, 2013 for documents related to the Ballard/Interbay Corridor Study and on the publicly available record for that project. The basic request for documents I made is as follows:

“This public disclosure request is intended to produce information about the genesis of your efforts related to the [15th Avenue NW rezoning study and any precursors or offspring to it, what has occurred related to it, where it is intended to go, and who is involved in it. The below requests are both specific and guiding, and not intended to any way limit this request.

“I am requesting the entire set of documents related to this study/plan/public outreach effort, from its genesis, i.e. from its earliest time to current date, today [March 29, 2013].”

I followed those first paragraphs of my request with more particulars about what sorts of documents, about what sorts of elements of the project documents for might be released.  I set out details/prompts that I believed would both assist you and prompt a complete disclosure.  The public disclosure request I made however was for “the entire set of documents” related to the study etc.  That does not appear to be what I received.

The comments below are either a reiteration of my public disclosure request of March 29th,  new public disclosure requests, or observations about the nature of this Ballard/Interbay rezone project.  The comments and requests are all based on the public record and documents released to date.

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A.  Present Situation – Questions About How Study was Conducted, Purpose and Need of Study, Study Outcomes and Lack of Comprehensive Planning

On September 12, 2012, Patrice Carroll, Senior Planner for City of Seattle, presented the Ballard Community Council with a briefing sheet related to the 15th Avenue Corridor project.  According to Patrice’s response on September 14th to Eugene Wasserman government relations agent for the North Seattle Industrial Council, the boundaries for the study area had not been set, but generally 15th Avenue NW between Market Street to the north and Prospect Street to the south was to be the corridor.

On April 8, 2013 the City informed what appears to be a set of participants in the working group process for the Interbay part of the study, from the Queen Anne, Ballard, and Magnolia communities, that the City had already come up with a set of preliminary recommendations regarding land uses and zoning for the Interbay Phase 1 study area.

However, it is clear from the documents I have received that in most respects the recommendations are in fact close to the final decisions, that a rezone is to take place in Interbay, that it has already been decided by the City, that this is based on the City having a predetermined outcome in mind when it started the study and all that is left are some minor tweaks in the coming months.

This conclusion is based on the fact that the documents indicate that the “preliminary” “recommendations” are to have been sent to the City Council by May 15, 2013 – according to Patrice Carroll’s email of March 12, 2013 – “We will continue to detail and assess recommendations, including a SEPA review, and send legislation to Council in Fall 2013.”  While we can do the semantics of “preliminary” and “recommendations”, essentially the performance record of the City is that planning activities such as this Ballard/Interbay corridor project and staff recommendations basically establish the final outcomes from these planning processes that have so-called public outreach elements in them.  After that the public is left with little recourse to change things.  This unfortunately appears to be “another one of those things”.

1.  This email raises another request for disclosure, and that is for the documents that ultimately went to City Council, along with all communications both before and after they were sent, between DPD, SDOT, the Legislative and Executive departments, and even between staff/consultants and any elected officials, as of even date, June 26, 2013.

2.  I am requesting the documents for all of the public meetings held up to today’s date, June 26th, including the sign in sheets and comments from the public, as well as all public, business, or organization comments about the Ballard Interbay Corridor Study through the same date.

There is also a reference in an email from Patrice on February 26th to Esther Handy to an attachment – “some info for our briefing on Thurs at 1:30 PM”; not only is the attachment not included, but neither are any of the completed briefing materials which are covered by my public disclosure request.

According to this same email the next phase for this corridor study (which is really a rezone project and not a “study” per se[1]), the next phase in Ballard is to take place in “this spring”.  However that study, that is supposed to be part and parcel of the Interbay study, is to be coordinated with the Ballard Transit Expansion Study and the Ballard Partnership for Smart Growth funded by the Office of Economic Development.  It is further stated that the goal and timing for the Phase 2 study is to “…refine and finalize the land use corridor study area and scope of work by fall”, and then the meetings etc. with the “study group” from Ballard are to be undertaken and completed.

This is all to result in more “preliminary recommendations” that will allow for Comp Plan amendments as necessary by May 15, 2014; with a legislative process through the summer of 2014, and legislation to Council by Fall of 2014.  The curious part is, if the Ballard-Interbay study is considered to be part of a connected transportation/business/residential corridor, which the study title alone denotes, how is it that this project is being done in two phases such that the Interbay “phase” is essentially complete and sent off for legislative review and action now, and then a year later the Ballard “phase”, which is informed by two entirely different studies[2] will be ratified with legislative action a year later?

This doesn’t make sense.  If Interbay is indeed part of the corridor it does not seem reasonable that it is treated in such an autonomous fashion including without being informed by the Ballard portion of the study; which is in turn to be informed by two other studies!

It is not logical that the urban and transportation planning, zoning changes, the transportation projects which are being undertaken as a result of the planning (the Ballard/SLU streetcar connection), most of which, if not all of which is in Ballard, but which affects in many critical ways the Interbay and not to mention Magnolia and Queen Anne areas, are proceeding independent of anything that is planned for Interbay; or that Interbay, Magnolia, and Queen Anne are being planned for in a legitimate way.

It is not logical to have already come up with planning and zoning regulations for Interbay, to seek to enshrine those in Comp Plan or legislative actions this year when they are not informed by the future planning for Ballard etc. that is to go on later this year and throughout the next under the aegis of the “Ballard Interbay Land Use Corridor Study”; the results of which affects Interbay, the 15th Avenue NW and Elliott Avenue corridor, and the surrounding neighborhoods.

As per Patrice’s email – she stresses this point that it is very important that the Ballard portion of the study be integrated into the other two study/projects in Ballard, however she apparently has no concern about integrating Interbay into the Ballard portion of the study – but more importantly, what she is proposing and carrying out is disjointed transportation and urban planning.  This is not comprehensive planning at all.

Patrice makes the same point in another email on March 9, 2013 – “As for our planning work in Ballard, we are adjusting our schedule so we can better integrate our work with the following two projects…Sound Transit Ballard Transit Expansion Study…grant from Office of Economic Development to the Ballard Chamber”

This is a most important question.  Why isn’t the Interbay portion of this planning and legislative activity being put off, as Patrice stated that the Ballard planning needed to be put off?  Why isn’t the schedule for Interbay being adjusted until the complete planning parameters for the corridor are a known factor so that there is a cohesive, integrated planning effort coming out of Phase 1 and Phase 2, as per the inference by the title of this project the City has embarked on, in its own words, the Ballard-Interbay Land Use Corridor Study, and as per the “phase” designation – “1” and “2” – two parts of the whole?

Furthermore, even one of the individuals involved with the Interbay work group effort, Bob Beebe, brings up this fact to Patrice about the lack of comprehensive and integrated planning, and that it is supposed to be a corridor study.  As far back as November 14, 2012, he objects to the bifurcation of the Ballard-Interbay project.  Mr. Beebe states in his email to Patrice that not only is splitting up the Ballard and Interbay areas into distinct processes going to add “delay and uncertainty to the outcome”, but he also states – “I believe this working group was formed in the 1st place as several zoning/land use issues, all located along the common Elliott and 15th corridor, were referred by the Council to find common and logical resolutions.”

This leads to further discussion about comprehensively planning for Interbay (and Ballard) as that relates to the Ballard/Interbay rezone project.  The City’s statement of goals for the Ballard/Interbay project sets out that the area to be planned for is “an approximately three-mile corridor along Elliot Avenue W and 15th Avenue NW from Interbay to Ballard”.

According to the emails and the public record however the majority of planning review effort went into the Dravus and 15th Avenue NW junction.  This included a moderate area within a short distance to the east, west, north, and south of the junction, clearly related to what is referenced in the project documents as the “Focus Transit Station”.  After that it appears from the record that a small amount of effort went into a cursory planning effort with an ambiguous planning outcome for the Armory parcel.  This is virtually the end of the story for the Interbay planning and study effort.

Despite the apparent lack of in-depth review of the southern area of the Interbay area, and despite the apparent lack of in-depth review really about wholesale rezoning a fairly large swath of the industrial properties, City staff have produced and are now pushing the City Council to adopt recommendations that not only add another layer of use onto those properties (for which I might add there doesn’t seem to be either a compelling case or evidence that it is either desirable or necessary) but also appears to have unilaterally added another 20’ of height allowance to that zone, from 45’ to 65’.  Again without benefit of evidence that this is all necessary or needed.

The latter also seems a bit inexplicable given that there is pretty broad consensus in the community that now that the residential development at Dravus and 15th is much higher and intrusive than anyone thought it would be, here is the City without much more than some pre-framed meetings with pre-screened attendees dictating one more time – it intends to zone and approve plans for this area that allow more height and more intense usage, that at the same time will impede the flow of traffic to and from Magnolia.

B.  No Traffic or Transportation Study

Early on the issue of traffic congestion related to Interbay /Dravus, related to the study, was taken up, including at the first working group meeting on October 24 2012. The attendees were told at that meeting that part of the project would “…consider land use implications of transit enhancements in the corridor, such as Rapid Ride”. Working group attendees in return emphasized to City staff that “Traffic congestion is an important issue that should be included in the study. More time and resources may be needed to study traffic impacts.”

Attendees asked City staff, “What resources do you have to study traffic?”, the response was, “Funds are not available to conduct a new specific traffic analysis for the project. Existing studies and available data will be used to analyze traffic.” However, the City gave no thought towards the fact that existing studies for traffic were between five plus and seven years old; that they were for the an proposed hub urban rezone plan, and for what were then thought to be, a limited number of Dravus Street area residential projects and the Magnolia Bridge project respectively.

No thought either was given to the fact that a raft of zoning changes that would have substantive impacts on traffic in the Interbay area, and specifically on the three access point to Magnolia were to be proposed by this study effort, that it was all to be fast tracked for public approval, and ultimately recommended for adoption as a final City plan and policy.

Now the public is left with an outcome that all of this has been done without any legitimate traffic/transportation analysis element that should have informed the zoning change alternatives proposed by the City, that should have informed the working group’s and the public’s debate, opinions, and ultimate advise and consent function for the project.

More importantly, this is being done without any true comprehensive planning for these changes, not to mention, no evidence was presented as to there being a necessity for the changes being sought by the City.

To have comprehensively planned and “studied” the actual planning area would have meant and would mean that a much broader and in-depth planning action would have been undertaken.  The stated planning area not only includes the two localized areas mentioned above, but also takes in the business and residential areas south of Dravus and on to Elliott Avenue S., south of the Magnolia Bridge and terminating at Prospect Street; it also includes the areas north of Dravus, bounded by 14th Avenue W to the East, W. Emerson Street to the North, and the BNSF railroad tracks to the West.  However, based on the public record and discussions with working group participants the City put close to zero land or traffic planning effort into these other areas.

Comprehensive planning would include considering these things, what is the impact of significant changes on the border neighborhoods of the planning area, such as west towards Magnolia, east on into Queen Anne?  Everything has a ripple effect, but also, of paramount concern is the users of the east-west and north-south roads that are and will be affected by the City’s grand designs for these areas.  They must traverse through them and yet the whole question of transportation was dismissed with a sniff, “We’ll rely on past studies [many years old and many projects that have since come on later].)

The other part that is odd about the Ballard/Interbay rezone project is the apparent arbitrary establishment of the rezone project area in the first place.  According to the City’s maps for the project both the Interbay and the Ballard study areas are clearly planning islands within well established and legally binding Comp Plan planning areas; however they are not being treated as if they are part of one corridor as noted above.

Furthermore, the boundaries of the Ballard/Interbay rezone project areas, what are essentially sub-planning areas of the Comp Plan, are not even established in the rezone project such that they are adjoining each other, as they logically should if they are allegedly part of corridor – as the City stated repeatedly throughout the Ballard/Interbay documentation and in its meetings with the working group and the public.

A corridor contains all of the contiguous areas that make up that corridor, not this checkerboard version that the Ballard/Interbay project represents.  Making planning decisions that ultimately affect the entire corridor area (and the Comp Plan area) on the basis of discrete (cherry picked) planning areas of the corridor is a piecemeal approach that produces questionable, even illegitimate plans, and rezones!

Dividing a rezone project into multiple ‘actions,’ each of which may individually have an insignificant environmental, business, residential and transportation impact, but which collectively may have a substantial impact is irresponsible (or sneaky) and can be considered arbitrary and capricious.

Patrice claims in this same email that “we” need to “be sure to do this right”, but nothing could be further from the truth.  The City is not “doing this right,” and there are no true practitioners or consumers of best practices for urban or transportation planning that would agree that spot planning and spot rezoning, and disjointed studies, utilizing stale studies, a lack of studies even, can be considered to be good planning practices.

3.  Documents are requested that explain why Patrice/the City placed the planning emphasis on the junction at Dravus and 15th, with a secondary emphasis on the Armory property, to the exclusion of all other areas of the stated rezone project area.

4.  Documents are requested that reference any type of prioritization as to what the study area for Phase 1 was actually to be, where in the Interbay area the study manager was not to concern herself with, and even who she was to give preferential treatment to, who she was to disregard or give lip service to.

5.  Documents are requested that reference what part the North Seattle Industrial Council organization was to have in the study, including any greater weighting to be given for their opinions or interests related to whatever the outcome of the Ballard/Interbay rezone project is to be, and even for whether any other party was also supposed to receive some kind of preferential treatment – such as in the case of Amgen (see below).

6.  Documents are requested that define what a “focus transit station” is, and any documents that establish with specificity or in general what the underlying assumptions and plans (present and future) for transportation of every type along this corridor are to be.

7.  Documents are requested that clarify whether in fact the Interbay-Ballard corridor study is intended to be a legitimate planning for a corridor, whether the project is pursuant to a Council action, or if not, what is it pursuant to; and either way, how does the current project configuration, two distinct efforts that are now separated from one another comply with or does not comply with the underlying purpose and need for the initiation of this project?  Please note also – those documents should have been produced anyway because my public disclosure request clearly asked for the documents related to the initiation of the 15th Avenue NW corridor study project.  That would include documents that set out any event, person, or other item which prompted the Ballard-Interbay project (see public disclosure request #31 below).

8.  Documents are requested that contain subject matter that either examines or otherwise establishes that the Ballard/Interbay rezone project is even necessary, what the compelling purpose and need of the rezoning is, whether it is in conformity with the planning policies and decisions that are enshrined in the Comp Plan areas that surround the Ballard and Interbay study areas.  Documents would include but not be limited to those that answer the question how is the study and its progeny in conformance or not with the Comp Plan, what effect will these planning and rezoning activities have on what was previously and presently expected in the Comp Plan for these areas?

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C.  What is going on?  Explanations?

An outstanding question is why is all this going down the way it is, who is benefiting from this, because it certainly does not appear to be for the benefit of an existing local populace, residents, or the average small business located in the planning or adjacent areas.

Why despite the City’s claims that there is this broad study area, that it is part of a corridor, and it’s supposed to be pursuant to a comprehensive plan, in fact quite the opposite appears to be true.

What are possible explanations as to why the City would be doing the opposite of what it claims it wants to do – comprehensively plan for these particular areas in Ballard and Interbay?

Based on the project record, it appears that rezone and planning targets were really related to the area around Dravus Street and 15th Avenue NW and the area immediately adjacent to that; with a cursory nod to the Armory parcel in particular.  It also appears that another motive is behind the Interbay exercise.

There are two alternative and basic explanations about what might be really going on.  Both of these explanations rely on the fundamental theory that the Ballard/Interbay study is really a cover process in order for the City to accomplish a range of policy and plan changes for some agenda that it wishes to proceed with, without having to prematurely reveal that to the public.  Likely the ultimate City plans and agenda for Interbay and even Ballard are further down the road.  The other possible goal of the City in what it is doing at Interbay and Ballard is that it is in fact undertaking projects (its own and allowing those of other interests, such as Sound Transit and Amgen) to proceed, while at the same time delaying the point at which the City must either comply with SEPA or in the alternative, in the process of its “planning” and “studying”, undertake the projects in such a way as to avoid SEPA requirements altogether, or at the least, so the requirements are substantially diminished.

In other words the City is laying the groundwork for an alternative outcome(s) that are not being stated in the Ballard-Interbay study project, and in the process also may be accomplishing some objectives for non-City interests.  However, the City by such an approach is not held to any kind of public oversight or accountability standard by going about things this way, that this is all just one big planning exercise with no projects really being committed to.

This process of “planning” is a highly developed strategy, heavily managed activity that has a strong component that requires managing public participation in the “decision-making process”, public perception of the planning activity, that includes disavowing the public if necessary about what its role or rights are, that it does not have decision making status, that is reserved for staff back at City Hall, and especially this strategy controls any public opposition to the process, to the framing of the project, to the purpose and need of the project, or to the cost of the project.

It should be noted also that none of these theories of what is underfoot with the Ballard/Interbay study is mutually exclusive of each other.

This project management style for the Ballard/Interbay project by the City is totally consistent with the on-the-record and off-the-record attitude of City staff, officials – Council and Mayor included.  Recently their legislative statement has made a very public announcement that they have clipped their ties to the citizens.  The narrative in  the pending DPD Comp Plan Amendments 2013 Ordinance, that was written and released November 29, 2012, establishes that the City’s vision for Seattle is first, not the citizens’, and the City’s desire is that the city be considered and planned for primarily as a series of urban village enclaves as opposed to even urban villages within neighborhoods.  As per the pending Comp Plan ordinance:

“Seattle is prepared to embrace its share of the Puget Sound region’s growth. To ensure that it remains a vibrant and healthy place to live, Seattle has planned for the future of the city as a whole and for each ((neighborhood)) urban center and urban village that is expected to grow and change. The City will use these plans to shape changes in ways that encompass the collective vision for the city as identified in this Plan((of its citizens)).”

This is clear as day – “neighborhood” and a city plan that is the “vision of its citizens” have been summarily dismissed.  It couldn’t be clearer that this is more of the City divesting citizens of their rights to oversee what it is the City does, divesting them of any ability to promulgate visions and plans and expect that the City Council or Mayor will carry out the citizenry’s collective vision for Seattle, and be able to demand accountability from the City.

This appears to be both a harbinger of the future that the City has planned for Seattle – and its residents and its businesses, and as the public can see from the Ballard-Interbay study record, the reality.  It is all about what the City planning machine wants, and that is an institutionally and highly controlled and homogenous approach to the land, transportation, and by extension the social organization of the city.  The Ballard/Interbay planning is an extension of this attitude.

Many attendees of the public meetings for the Phase 1 part of the project and working group members remarked about this  – that they were being managed by the City staff, that they were being pushed to work on an outcome for the process that was predetermined by the City.

The City management style often included for example, dismissive tones in the City’s staff’s presentations to group members and to the public.  So dismissive in fact that the makeup of the Interbay work group was affected by several members choosing to absent themselves from meetings because their participation seemed to not really matter to the City; they saw themselves as mere checkboxes that the City could mark and then say to the public – “We vetted this plan with your community leaders”.

The City claims that its Preliminary Recommendations are a result of its Interbay Working Group exercise and the related public outreach meetings, however the same interviews with members of both groups and the record indicate that while there was “participation” by both groups in the process, that is not the same as their work with the City producing recommendations that reflect that participation, community values, or community visions for Interbay and the surrounding areas.

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D.  City Gets What it Wanted in the First Place?

 The City opened up its Ballard/Interbay study initiative with the claims that the purpose and need for the rezoning were to “analyze existing conditions and explore options for future land use along this heavily travelled, multi-functional route.  Our study will include proposed changes, if necessary, to the Seattle Comprehensive Plan or the land use code to support the vision [emphasis added].”  The City’s purpose and need narrative goes on to set out the goals for this project:

  • Clarify the desired mix and balance of land uses, both industrial (manufacturing, warehousing, and services) and non-industrial (retail, housing, and office)
  • Assess how new transit investment might increase demand for new mixed-use (retail and residential buildings) development
  • Identify where streetscape improvements might be needed to support future development.

Rather than an outcome that produced comprehensive plans and rezoning proposals for the entire Interbay planning area and with Ballard however, consistent with the stated purpose and need for the project, a very limited program for rezoning what appear to be for pre-targeted portions of Interbay was instead produced.

This is evidenced by the City’s Preliminary Recommendations.

The City launched this project by unilaterally proposing and presenting  three planning and zoning alternatives that it came up with.  It provided those to the Interbay Working Group as their only choices.  One was the no-change option, two, the “local production district”, and three, the Urban Village concept.

The no-change option predominately left intact the existing zoning for the Interbay study area,  the “local production district” alternative would usher what the City represented as a new and innovative industrial land zoning tool, that the City seemed intent upon establishing somewhere in Seattle, and the third option would result in most of the land north of Dravus Street, directly to the West of 15th Avenue NW, a portion of the Dravus area east of 15th, and a much smaller strip of parcels around the Armory Way end of Interbay being zoned as urban village, mixed use zones.

The latter two alternatives also proposed the establishment of residential blocks on the east side of 15th that would eventually displace business zoning or businesses along the corridor but create future demand for public transportation.

What “won” out was and is included in the Preliminary Recommendations is perhaps indicative of what the City’s agenda intended to produce.  The first objective appears to be met, setting the grounds for embedding the zoning “planning tool”, i.e., the production, distribution and repair districts (PDR) zone that the City wanted to experiment with, by designating major portions of Interbay for this zone designation.  This is consistent with both the framing for the zoning exercise that was presented by the City to the working and public outreach groups, and consistent with multiple statements by Patrice about the high desirability of the PDR designation for the Interbay study area.  The City by discouraging the support for the other two alternatives, according to the work group members and the public, this set the stage for a claim by the City that the PDR district was favored by the community.

The reality is that rather than allowing both sets of individuals, the working group and the public, to review and favor zoning alternatives one, the no to little action proposal, and the second alternative, the urban village option, the push appeared to be for the PDR.

This tactic was paired with the City also recommending a zoning enhancement for the industrial properties in Interbay, half of the land that was under zoning review under the study would be allowed an additional 20 feet over the previous height allowance of 45 feet.

Another note about alternative City agendas being pushed, or as they are framed by the City, pushing for the City’s “preferred” alternatives, comments by Patrice to the Ballard news outlet in May, 2013 might be quite telling also.  She stated, “This could be a good place [Interbay] for retail that’s not available in other places along this corridor that could serve not only the local neighborhoods of Queen Anne and Magnolia, but also the downtown community – that is where most of the growth will happen over the next 20 years.”

Two things immediately come to mind about that statement – one, that this is really what the Interbay portion of the planning is for – shaping the future planning and transportation landscape for Interbay because if the City continues to max out the density in Belltown, the Center City, Lower Queen Anne, and even Ballard, the residents in those enclaves are going to need a destination shopping outlet nearby to satisfy the demand residents in those areas will have for mostly goods and some services.

If the City were to allow more industrial uses, or reaffirm those that exist, or to even allow more residential in Interbay, then the capacity to produce a shopping destination that meets demand from future residents in the areas that surround or are adjacent to Interbay, Ballard and the Downtown/Upper Downtown area would be lost.

Establishing less intensive industrial uses, less sprawled industrial zones in Seattle, and less intrusive forms of industry that will be compatible with future retail and residential uses that are more desirable, maybe the Interbay exercise establishes the first part of a gradual let-down of the present property owners and businesses along 15th, Elliott, and at Interbay.  This approach allows the City to transition Interbay from heavy industrial orientated properties, to retail followed by residential, without incurring much opposition along the way to that final outcome it apparently has in mind.

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E.  Amgen Connection

There is one other twist in the City’s motivations and agenda also, and that is the City recently revealed that it is working closely with Amgen to establish a special permit category that would allow Amgen to propose a development framework for its future plans for expansion of its campus – that would be valid for the exceptional term of 25 years!

The remarkable and salient feature of this permit is that it would grandfather in for the 25 years after it is issued any and all building and land use codes in existence now, and most importantly the overall development profile, the numbers of buildings that might be built in the future, their footprints, heights, and general building uses, all would be established, without specificity in terms of their actual uses, their actual design, their actual cohesiveness or connection to the community, urban standards, plans, or environmental, social, or climactic times in which they will be built.

The City presented another group of community leaders with this information about its ongoing efforts to put together this special permitting deal for Amgen,[3] with the un-reassuring assurance that its close collaboration with Amgen was all above board and transparent, now that it was finally revealed.

Quite troubling also is an email thread between Carol Pawlak of Amgen and Patrice, that now makes sense in light of the revelation about the City’s collaboration with Amgen.  The email thread that takes place entirely on February 28, 2013 starts out with Carol making the following request to Patrice – “I mentioned to Geoff [DPD employee] after the last meeting that we [Amgen] would appreciate it if, for future use, you would please remove the ‘view corridor’ arrows from the map on the last page of the handout of the last meeting.  While there are view corridors for the existing Amgen build out, I don’t know if that is the case for the area indicated at Pier 89 where we have not developed.  From our standpoint, it would be best not to set an expectation in the community.  Thank you for considering this request.” Eleven minutes later Patrice responds, “We meant ‘view’ more generally in an existing condition/visual analysis kind of way.  I agree we do not want to set an expectation of a protected view corridor.”  Two minutes later Carol Pawlak responds – “Thanks so much!”.

Here we have evidence that a mid-level planner for the City is taking direction from a business interest, a business interest that the City is supposed to be regulating both its existing operations and its future plans for expanding its land use activity.  But instead this planner easily, and cavalierly, acquiesces to this woman’s request.

This is counterproductive,  to the City’s land use policies, codes, and most importantly counters the City’s duty to act in an objective manner as it regulates land use, the City’s duty to abide by its codified policies and zones, as opposed to acting in a subjective and clearly collusive manner.  This is counter to good governance, raises ethical questions, and an investigation should be made into this and even into whether this isn’t a common practice at the City of Seattle, Department of Planning and Development or even at the Department of Transportation.  How many off the books concessions are these planners and regulators granting to land owners and developers?

9.  Documents are requested that establish the authority that Patrice has to grant such planning dispensations to Amgen or to any other entity that is regulated by the City, that establish what other planning deviations or exceptions Patrice or any other planner or employee of the City has granted to businesses when they have requested them.

*This is also another instance that indicates that the City has not been forthcoming with the documents that I requested – the email references a “map” – that map was not produced even though it clearly is covered by my public disclosure request.

 F.  Transportation Expansion Aspirations Without Outright/Transparent Planning

This leads to the other outcome that is obvious in the framework for the Ballard-Interbay project, and that is part of it looks like it was intended to create a demand for public transportation in the area.  Clearly from the cryptic remarks here and there in the documents released there is an underlying governmental goal of changing the zoning to establish users that are also transit consumers.

With the establishment of transit hubs, then transit oriented business and residential developments, then a destination shopping center, it is easy to see the building blocks being set in place by the City to create ready-made situations that will justify hundreds of millions, if not billions, in transportation project investments that are being advanced right now for Ballard, and eventually for Interbay.

If this is a 20 year decision as Patrice alludes to in her comments, then why in the world isn’t the study being conducted accordingly and being undertaken as a comprehensive effort, and why the short shrift given to a clear intent to expand use, density, and public transportation in the Interbay area?

 G.  Preliminary Recommendations vs. Memorandums of Understanding – for a “Study”?

In an email from Casey Wang to Patrice on April 2, 2013, Wang asks about an “MOU” being available – “We’d love to get the paper work done this week so we can move on to the fun stuff!”.

10.  The MOU and all documents associated with it are requested, as are the documents that establish what the “fun stuff” is.

My March 29th request was and is for “…all consultant related documents, contracts, communications of every kind, plans, guidelines for program, strategic communication plans or efforts to produce the same.”

If Casey Wang is a consultant then documents related to him (or her) should have been produced pursuant to my public disclosure request.

I noticed also that there were two other attendees at Interbay working group meetings that appear to be consultants to the City, one being the law firm Foster Pepper, and the other HNTB.  Where are the same sets of documents related to those consultants that were requested; including but not limited to what the services they are providing to the City consist of, and how much the City is paying them for those services, how much it has paid them to date.

There are also multiple references to Natalie Quick in the released documents.  She is included on numerous email threads, she is a consultant/owner of Natalie Quick Associates, a firm dedicated to “Providing counsel, strategy and guiding implementation for high-profile, complex projects”.  If she is a consultant and is involved in this project then where are the documents associated with this consultant that the City is required to disclose?

Furthermore, an Email from Natalie Quick to Patrice on March 6th states, “Hi there, Hope all is well – do you have a PDF of the handout packet you gave me when we met in Feb?”  The “packet” would clearly have been something that the City is required to produce pursuant to my public disclosure request – are there documents released that comprise the packet she is speaking of, or do they still need to be released?

On March 8th Ms. Quick wrote to Patrice and stated, “I’ll have a draft of our first support letter for you to review”, and she also mentions discussions with Cms. In addition to the need to produce the “support letter” and all documents associated with it, 11. Documents are requested that identify who “Cms” is and the nature of Ms. Quick and Patrice’s work with “Cms”.

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H.  SEPA/Environmental Review Avoidance

The other question that evolves out of the Ballard-Interbay project, is this “study” and the Interbay rezone, is this really another capital project or projects that are essentially underway?  This is how a long line of projects in the last decade have proceeded, with officials and “study” managers claiming that the activities they are engaged in are “studies” when in fact the decision has been made by the City to proceed with them.

It’s obvious, one benefit of this approach is that the public opposition can is kicked down the road, the public’s reaction to the project, including their possible opposition to it can be managed, and also the imminent environmental review of the project can be avoided by the mislabeling of a project, that it really is only a “study”.  Misleading the public about what outcomes are really being sought by the City is now a common tactic the City uses to facilitate the implementation of projects.

It is a common practice now for the City to break apart projects into subprojects, it’s called “piecemealing”.  Piecemealing allows the City to stall for as long as it can to avoid compliance with SEPA.  The projects are snowballed, they are so far along, critical decisions have been made by the City about the scope, location, purpose and need, commitments are made to the project in terms of scheduling, financing, working plans, that the public gets the impression that they cannot be stopped.

Once again things which are logically and actually interconnected, that are a corridor for example, and that legally are to be environmentally reviewed together, appear to be organized by the City in such a way that the City can claim that all they are doing is a “study”.  In the alternative they can claim perhaps even that the study is really part of a “program”, and thereby the City can claim that its activities require less scrutiny by the public; the public is told the outcome in some shape or form has a certain non-binding element to it.  This then can be invoked repeatedly by the City and thus it covers up the opposite fact.  Set in place instead is a study or a program for avoiding public intervention, avoiding public decision-making, avoiding accountability, and avoiding SEPA and NEPA review requirements.

The “program” may have multiple “projects” under it, like a “Ballard study”, and an “Interbay study”, but all of this and the outcomes of it, including extensive rezoning, permitting, and even design and engineering plans, can be claimed to be just part of the study, the program, and not subject to environmental review.  The City story typically goes that it is only the individual projects that are subject to environmental review, and since it is the program that is being studied, or that the zoning and planning activities are only a study, which may include even design and engineering work, permitting for the projects, City officials will still claim they are not required to commence compliance with SEPA or NEPA.

Seattle’s and Washington state’s capital project history has shown however that really the projects in the program, or the studies of particular projects are really projects being undertaken, in this instance by the City, but the projects’ storylines are planned and designed and then told to the public so that their wording and content provides officials and project managers with the greatest opportunity to make a claim in the future, if necessary, either administratively or legally, that they are not doing what they are doing, proceeding with a capital project or engaging in acts or activities that are subject to environmental review.

Is this why one kind of study and rezone comes out of Interbay and another is being done for Ballard – despite the official claim they are two parts of a whole?

Additionally, in my public disclosure request to the City I stated, “I am requesting any SEPA, environmental assessment, or EIS related documents, plans, goals, timetables, assessments about any requirements for the same.”  Considering that the discussion between Wang and Patrice (referenced above) appears to be about SEPA/environmental review, then where are those documents that are informing perhaps their conversation(s) or that exist in the first place irrespective of their conversation?  My request of March 29th was clearly made for documents related to the subject of SEPA/environmental review and compliance with the same – none was provided to me, and yet some provision or knowledge, and I think it is documented, exists with the individuals working on this project or others, related to the subject matter of environmental review.  I am reiterating my request for those documents.

Also – who is “RA” mentioned in the thread above; 12.  documents related to RA are requested.  Bill Sadler and Kyle Smith are included on the thread also, if there were communications related to the Ballard-Interbay study and even related to this thread with them, those should have been produced under my March 29th public disclosure request.

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I.  Additional Lack of Transportation Planning Component

One of the stated goals of the Ballard/Interbay project is transportation planning for the corridor.  As noted above that component for the Interbay portion of the study however never emerged.  Further review of the record seems to hint also that there are transportation impacts that will be a direct result of the rezoning and land use policies and plans that come out of the study, but that aspect of planning is left unaddressed by the City, for whatever reason.

Joseph Gellings from the Port of Seattle writes to Patrice in an email on November 8, 2012 and points out the need to include a transportation element in the study, “If, on the other hand, you’re just asking for general assertions about the scope of the study I would like to echo the other comments made at the Oct 24 meeting that traffic needs to be more than an secondary consideration, especially if rezones from industrial to commercial are considered.”

Adam Slivers in his email of February 25, 2013 makes several comments about diversion of traffic from 15th & 17th and Dravus to “the two other Magnolia access arterials”.  He goes on to state that “It would take a significant improvement to the traffic infrastructure to improve this – I’m not visionary enough to see how it can be achieved.  Prior to road improvements I don’t recommend demanding developers to build as a P-zone [pedestrian zone]…If you create a road diet, or if a developer puts in another signal, there will be hell to pay.  Signal backups for 4 blocks are already common…Cars are cruising 40mph.  I suppose I could phase this another way.  I would support a P-zone if traffic calming was instituted, but I don’t see a way to do this while only having 3 access roads to Magnolia”.

Given the magnitude and nature of the commentary by Adam, it appears that in these insider meetings with the select stakeholders that some kind of disruption or reduction of traffic on Dravus that is a consequence of the broader zoning and planning plans for Interbay was discussed.

13.  I am requesting all documents that relate to the subject of traffic on Dravus and any plans or suggestions by any party or entity that it should be diverted, managed in anyway, “calmed” as it were, or that traffic around the Dravus study area will be otherwise affected to accommodate the policies and plans that are being spun out of the Ballard-Interbay rezone plans.

               14.  Documents are also requested that the City holds of any kind that relate to the “Ballard-Interbay Study” and traffic on Dravus or effects on traffic of every kind under any scenario considered on the access to Magnolia, at every point of access to Magnolia.

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J.  City Seed Money for Business Interests

Another item of interest in the City’s documents released is that the City provided a grant to the Ballard Chamber of Commerce for the revitalization of the Ballard business core area.  That there is a need for business revitalization in Ballard seems to defy the reality that that would be needed, given the robust rate of business growth there, given the huge influx of literally ready-made, in-place consumers due to the hundreds of housing units that have been brought online in Ballard; and that are coming on line in the next months and years.  “Revitalization” typically is engendered by a decline in business operations, a decline in consumers to an area, and a general decline in the built environment of an area.

15. I am also requesting the underlying documents about the grant that the City made to the Ballard Chamber of Commerce along with documents that indicate whether the Magnolia Chamber of Commerce or Interbay Neighborhood Association were given a similar opportunity, or any opportunity, to obtain a grant from the City for the revitalization of their business core area.

16.  Documents which establish that there is a need for the revitalization grant and effort in Ballard are requested; as are similar documents for a need to revitalize either Magnolia’s, Interbay’s or Queen Anne’s business core areas.

On March 11, 2012 the Interbay Neighborhood Association submitted an Application for the S12023 – Interbay Path Link to Ship Canal Trail, NMF Small and Simple Projects Fund.

17.  Documents which establish the disposition of that application, how it was processed and the current status of that Application/project outcome(s) are requested.

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K.  Upzone Bargains

Jeffrey Hummel’s email of April 9, 2013 seems to indicate that the City is expected to be in some kind of collaborative relationship with the Washington State National Guard; apparently the push is for the City to upzone the Armory property thereby providing a benefit for the Guard because its property will be worth more with the rezone.  Hence, if the City rezones the property the plan is for the Guard to sell it, but if the City doesn’t do it within the Guard’s time schedule the Guard is “threatening” to remain at its location.  That’s what I took out of this email.

Furthermore according to this same email, LTC Iwaszuk “will be the Colonel for this Armory and responsible for its future…A decision on zoning now will take at least until his tenure begins to get approved…If however, a zone with greater development potential can be agreed upon, then the property value is high enough that they [the Guard] can relocate to a proper site.”

18.  Please provide documents that accurately characterize what is going on between the City and the National Guard, who is involved in the matter, and what quid pro quo strategies are on the table.

19.  Please provide documents also as to why if it is imperative that the Guard be located in another location, why it is not doing so of its own volition, exclusive of whatever the City is doing?  Instead according to the record a possible move seems prompted more by the necessity for the City to rezone its property.

Given that the City and the Guard are two distinctly separate entities, given that the City has no authority over the Guard and vice versa, and given that the Guard’s homeland mission and operations are not fundamentally reliant upon this rezoning scenario, why would the Guard be acting in a manner that it is stating compromises its effectiveness either now or in the future?

20.  The documents that answer the above questions are requested.

It is also noted – all landowners would love for the City to upzone their property in order to sell it for a higher value or in order to develop it at a higher land use rate.  However, it is not the City’s duty or job to take property upzone requests from a private landowner and to entertain them as it appears the City is doing in this instance, as some kind of privately negotiated transaction.   We all get the fact that this parcel is desirable to many parties, in particular the City and land developers, and that these parties want the Guard to sell.  However it appears a bit irregular this bargain that the Guard is trying to make.  Either it is a good location for their homeland security operations or it isn’t, but public safety seems to be the least guiding factor about its disposal of this property.

On March 25th Ken Angier requested that Patrice call him, stating, “Call me and I will explain”.

21.  Documents are requested that memorialize that conversation, what it is that he explained on the phone.

Reference is also made in that same thread by Patrice that Kauri, whom Ken Angier represents, has “submitted a new application” followed by her comment, “Has your intent for the Armory Way site changed?”.

22.  Documents are requested that detail the relationship between the City of Seattle and Kauri/Kent Angier, and that detail Kauri’s or any other parties interests that are known to the City for the Armory property

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L.  More Developers’ Desires

On the same note and subject as above, what property owners want from the City, and following up on this previously noted topic, related to the District Council meeting where a City planner showed up to give his presentation about how the City was working out a method to issue a developer, Amgen, a 25 year permit for their property’s development.  It made the above Armory property machinations look like small potatoes.  It was clear from the presentation that the City was engaged in a collaborative relationship with Amgen.

A more recent public display of collaboration that the City made was with a developer, Chris Hansen should inform this relationship the City is having with Amgen.  In the City/Hansen instance the City and him ended up with an agreement that he would pay the City to have an exclusive and collaborative relationship with them in order to process his permitting and environmental review requests.  A good question in the Amgen instance is if the relationship is as David Goldberg, City planner, presented it to the community it would seem that likewise Amgen, or any other major developer, Vulcan and Amazon come to mind, that they too should be paying for the special service, the volume of service, and for the special relationship they are demanding to have with the City.

The penny-ante permit and review fees that they and the Amgens of the world are paying for projects that are maxing out the urban carrying capacity of Seattle are an affront to all concerned.

Quite troubling though in the Ballard-Interbay study saga is an email thread between Carol Pawlak of Amgen and Patrice.  The thread is dated entirely on February 28, 2013 and starts out with Carol making the following request to Patrice – “I mentioned to Geoff [DPD employee] after the last meeting that we [Amgen] would appreciate it if, for future use, you would please remove the ‘view corridor’ arrows from the map on the last page of the handout of the last meeting.  While there are view corridors for the existing Amgen build out, I don’t know if that is the case for the area indicated at Pier 89 where we have not developed.  From our standpoint, it would be best not to set an expectation in the community.  Thank you for considering this request.” Eleven minutes later Patrice responds, “We meant ‘view’ more generally in an existing condition/visual analysis kind of way.  I agree we do not want to set an expectation of a protected view corridor.”  Two minutes later Carol Pawlak responds – “Thanks so much!”.

Seriously?  A mid-level planner for the City is taking direction from a business interest, a business interest that the City is supposed to be regulating both its existing operations and its future plans for expanding its land use activity.  But instead this planner easily, and cavalierly, acquiesces to this woman’s request.  This is counter to the City’s land use policies, codes, and most importantly counters the City’s duty to act in an objective manner as it regulates land use, the City’s duty to abide by its codified policies and zones, as opposed to acting in a subjective and clearly collusive manner.  This is counter to good governance, raises ethical questions, and an investigation should be made into this and even into if this isn’t a common practice at the City of Seattle.

23.  Documents are requested that establish what authority Patrice has to grant such planning dispensations to Amgen or to any other entity that is regulated by the City, which also establishes what other planning deviations or exceptions Patrice or any other planner or employee of the City has granted to businesses when they have requested them.

                24.  Documents are requested that establish when it was that Amgen or the City of Seattle agreed to create a 25 year permit for Amgen’s property; and all communications between the City of Seattle and Amgen about this particular planning effort, including but not limited to the scope of the permitting project, respective responsibilities, time schedule to complete the project, deliverables of either party, any agreements about the budget for the project, whether any financial arrangements have been made between Amgen or the City to defray the cost of the permitting project, and documents related to the any permit project meeting involving any party or advisor to or agent of a party, email communications, phone call logs or notes, maps, plans, studies, permit applications or pre-applications related to this on-going relationship between the City and Amgen; and all documents related in any way to the meeting held on June 10th.[4]

Note:  This is also another instance that indicates that the City has not been forthcoming with the documents that I requested – the email references a “map” – that map was not produced even though it clearly is covered by my public disclosure request.

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M.  Even More Developers’ Desires Fulfilled?

The City’s Preliminary Recommendations also propose that the BINMIC boundary just north of the Dravus Street corridor be altered in order that the zoning for parcels 2770602690, 2770602685, and 2770602680, owned respectively by Trey, LLC and QFC/Kroger, can be changed from Industrial General 2 (IG2) to SM-D 40/85.  Why is this set of potential developers being given such a dispensation, apparently without even asking for it?

25.  Documents are requested that establish the purpose or need for this change and any underlying documentation about the genesis of the change, including but not limited to any communications between the parcel owners or property managers for the owners and the City of Seattle about any sort of change to the zoning, any plans for development on those parcels (or adjacent parcels), and any permits or zoning change requests of any kind that the property owners have submitted to the City, proposed to submit to the City that would benefit from the BINMIC boundary adjustment and the concomitant zoning change.

               26.  Documents are requested that establish why the remaining parcels on this block, 2770602605 (City of Seattle) and 2770602600, were not similarly proposed to be rezoned; or that establish some underlying plans, discussions, or other activities that are or have been taking place, either City-based or in the private sector, that would vitiate a further BINMIC boundary adjustment and a rezoning of those parcels from Industrial General 2 (IG2) to SM-D 40/85.

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N.  Another Streetcar or a Trolley?

In an email on March 5th from Jeffrey Hummel to Patrice is a reference, “the proposed new trolley line is shown on the second map”.  According to this email an aerial photo is included as are maps.  Two photocopies that are unreadable were released, those are not acceptable – those should have been produced as part of the public disclosure release, and, I would remind you again that the documents were requested in their digital form.

This same trolley line is referenced in an email from Patrice to Sara Zora and others on March 5th.  Mention is made – “Michael – We do not plan to discuss the proposed trolley line, but perhaps you can acknowledge this as input for your transit studies.”  Documents are requested that indicate what “Michael’s” response to Patrice’s request was, and documents related to the topic of this trolley line in general are also requested.

A trolley line is also featured on a plan map in the file, SouthInterbayPlan.docx.

27.  A copy of the original document that the image in the SouthInterbayPlan.docx was taken from is requested, and the files for the image itself and any other images related to that area overview; as well as any other documents that inform that image.

28.  All documents related to an overall plan or planning documents for what is identified in the above image as the “South Interbay” area or any other underlying plans or designs within the South Interbay area, all originated or held by the City of Seattle are requested.

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O.  Miscellaneous Re-Requests and New Requests

Charles Wathen on January 15, 2013 sent an email to Patrice with three attachments related to the subject of Armory Way being a private roadway; the email was one of two, with the latter also having two more attachments.  24.  Those attachments are requested.

 

               29.  Documents are requested related to any communications that the City has had with Mr. Wathen, his firm, or any other parties, within the City  about the relocation of Armory Way.

               30.  Mr. Wathen also sent an email on January 16th, it also had an attachment; that attachment is being requested.

In an email to Kent Angier, Patrice indicates that the City is “continuing to evaluate our preliminary recommendation…We will solicit feedback…we have requested that SDOT study this”.

Documents are requested related to the evaluation, the solicitation of feedback, and the request to SDOT.

Documents also were not produced about the origination of the working group concept, outreach strategies for the public and for the working group members, etc. – please see the original request in order to re-familiarize yourself with just what it is that was requested.

Multiple emails to and from working group meeting attendees in late 2012 reference a feedback form that they received and returned to the City; no feedback forms were included with the document release.

Charles Wathen’s email of January 15th had an attachment that was not produced.

Charle’s Wathen’s email of January 16th had an attachment that was not produced (please note, may be duplicative of “January 15th” email note.

As per a February 28th email between Patrice and Sara Nelson, a Word document was produced, however the documents related to that Word document, which are covered under my request for disclosure were not produced.

The documents produced related to the March 4th email from Patrice to Ethan Raup do not appear to be produced in their entirety – there was a meeting associated with the documents produced, not to mention, where are the documents associated with producing those documents that were produced?

Patrice’s email of March 5th to Terry Finn indicates that the City is in receipt of comments from Finn; and presumably the City has received comments from others.  Despite being explicitly requested “comment” documents other than those from the working group were not produced.

As per a March 5th email between Patrice and LTC Iwaszuk, there is a photo JPEG that was not produced.

Sharon Lerman’s email to Patrice on March 20th had attachments, those were not produced.

The Email from Patrice on March 22, 2013 9:23AM indicates a hyperlink to photos is included – obviously by not providing the electronic versions of the documents released to me, despite being requested that the documents be provided in electronic form, the hyperlink is inaccessible.  Please remedy that by providing the digital copies of the documents.

Documents also were not produced in their entirety as is indicated in the email thread between Laura Toepfer and Patrice on March 28th.

Documents were not produced that are clearly in existence – as per Patrice’s email of April 10th to Marty Kaplan – “I plan to use a handout”.

Should have had all emails related to the project from the following persons:
Geoff Wentlandt
Christa Dumpys
Rob Matson
Natalie Quick
Steve Gillespie
Michael James
Sandra Gurkewitz
Mark Mazzolla
Sara Zora

There also should have been documents related to the following individuals or entities:

Joseph Gellings, Port of Seattle    Joe Giaccio, WA National Guard    Karen Waterman, Sound Transit

Any documents, including any emails, email attachments or other materials to the City, phone call logs, phone call notes, or meeting notes, from any person or attendee at any of the six working group meetings; and no feedback forms were included, or emails, or other communications related to comments on the project, including those related to both the working group and arising out of the public meetings, or just unsolicited comments.

Also there should have been documents such as any work plan, any directive to start the job, what the program would consist of, what the outcome that was desired, performance measures for the project, hiring authority, what the budget for the project is, where the money was to come from, interdepartmental plans, organization of the project team (surely Patrice is not working by herself), work orders, for the production of the assorted handouts, boards, etc. Documents related to information communicated to either the legislative department or executive department, which includes each of the City Council Members, the Mayor, and Deputy Mayor, or their staff. Files for the boards, PowerPoint slides (not the slideshow files – the actual PPT files, all of the files for the images on the boards.

In addition documents that establish the amount expenditures to date for the Ballard-Interbay project, including what those expenditures are for, who or what entity has received payment from the City as a result of their participation in this project.

31.  Even though I requested documents that establish the genesis of the Ballard-Interbay study project I still do not really see any documents that set out who it is that thought up the idea of this study, what it was initially intended to accomplish, who at the City of Seattle was decided upon to lead this effort, who approved the City team that would lead the effort, directives or feedback to the leader of the study or the study’s team, by whomever is the supervisor of the study manager or of the team, directives from the team leader to the team; there are no deliberative documents related to meetings or discussions of every kind about what decisions to make or that were made in light of either communications or meetings with the working group or the public, and there are no budget documents for the study – what it is supposed to cost, what the dollars are allocated to, and the budget time line for the study; no documents that really establish how the working group members were selected were released; and if that all is not considered to be part of my original request, then those items are requested now.

Patrice sets out in an email to Eugene Wasserman on September 14, 2012 the basics of the study’s setup, general purpose and need comments, who is to be involved, the pattern of public participation that has been planned; clearly there are other details, orders, directives and then plans to implement those things that she is following; none of that which is the underlying documentation for the study that clearly was requested has been released.

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P.  Public Management Study, Not Planning Study

               The takeaway lesson from the Ballard/Interbay study is to see and understand how it is that the City consistently produces these public management extravaganzas.  The City clearly managed the expectations of participants.  The City wanted to harvest their reactions, responses, to determine mainly what the elasticity of their opinions were, for or against the project, and then to glean any possible ideas about the project, the project area, or about possible solutions or pitfalls that the City might have missed in their internal deliberative and administrative processes for the Ballard-Interbay project – in order to be able to blunt any opposition to what the City had planned and by extension manage the public’s opinions about what was going on.

“Public outreach” and “public participation” were required only because the City is unable to wholesale rezone a broad range of properties or an area without it getting back to the people affected by that land use action, or to the people that are stakeholders or otherwise mobility or economic consumers in the area, who are likely to be impacted by such a land use decision. But the salient points about the public outreach or participation is what it is intended to do and produce, not so much for the public, but for the City.

From the City’s perspective public outreach and participation is intended to inform the public in such a way that it really is managing the public’s expectations about the project.  Then it is intended as an opportunistic exercise that benefits the City on a number of levels. The opportunistic exercise part includes that pubic “participation” gives the City an opportunity to trawl meeting attendees’ reactions, to harvest their reactions, responses, and opinions, both for and against the project, which provides the City with a sense of the public’s receptivity to or lack thereof for the project. The City is able to gauge the public’s project approval elasticity as it were.

                It can determine what types of and how much change the can City make before they will meet public opposition to the proposed project.  Successive meetings with the public allow the City to refine or change their purpose and need framing for the project; it allows the City to know what to emphasize or deemphasize in order to minimize either opposition or scrutiny of the project and thus provide an easier path for the City to accomplish its objectives for the project that it has unilaterally initiated to further its agenda.  It also helps the City to wear down the public – successive meetings, overfilled with information, framed to reflect what the City is trying to accomplish, it all goes to defuse any inclination that the public might have to oppose something, or to participate, or to even disavow the public that it has a right to make any decisions about what’s being done.

This then is the “public engagement strategy” of the City, a 95% self-serving strategy that is about consolidating through the management or exclusion of the public’s sphere of influence, such as it is, in order to maintain the City’s hegemony over planning and then dictating how people are to live their lives in Seattle.

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               Final note – it is not clear to me that the attachments and other documents that I have noted as not being produced are included on the CD of documents that I received.  I have looked at every file and am unable to associate them with the above missing documents that I have indicated.  If they in fact are included on the CD then please tell me the file name so that I can mark them off as having been received.

  • Unless otherwise indicated above, the timeframe for the new public disclosure requests covers January 1, 2011 to even date, June 21, 2013.

 

  • It is requested that all documents be provided in electronic form where possible; this is preferable and an environmentally sustainable request.  It is requested that if paper copies are made for any documents that they be one-sided copies only; the latter is a mandatory request.
  •  In the interest timely public disclosure, it is requested that the City provide an expeditious response to this disclosure request.  Accordingly, please provide documents as they become available as opposed to holding and batching them for release.  The documents are of interest to the public and provide the public with opportunities to participate in an informed manner in their advise, oversight, and consent roles over the City of Seattle.

 Conclusion

               Seattle is in the midst of planning and executing in the near future at a minimum, 100’s of millions of dollars in transportation plans and projects.  These will be paid for by the public, not necessarily by those that are interested in circumventing or curtailing any of the public’s involvement in the planning for these plans and projects.  Therefore, it is important that all quarters of transportation planning proponents, especially those in the public, be treated fairly and equitably by the City; including during any political campaigns that may be associated with their transportation planning activities.



[1]   It should be noted, studies inform decisions, in this case the study would be about whether a rezone is in order in the first place.  Instead it is clear from the documentation that a decision was made going into this matter that the rezone is to take place, all this is really about is what the envelop of zoning is and how far can it be pushed to accomplish the underlying purpose and “need” for the rezone.  Continuing the narrative that it’s a study and that there is some element in the study that is trying to answer whether the rezoning should take place, and much less maintaining some fiction about the public having an ability to influence either, is chicanery.

[2]   Which again these other two activities are “studies” in name only as they are intended to be the foundation for literal projects; there documented record confirms that.

 [3]  Of course Dwight Goldberg, the City planner who is leading the special permitting dispensation plan for Amgen, tried to divert attention from the fact that what the City is planning on doing with Amgen is highly unusual.  His tactic, which comes out of the City’s strategic communications filter that is always running in high gear, was to frame the 25 year permit as something that would be available to other developers, as is to say “It’s normal, there’s nothing wrong with what we are doing.  This isn’t like the City is just doing this for Amgen.”

He went on to explain that if developers of the future met the unique criteria being established for the Amgen’s situation they could avail themselves of the special permit classification.  True enough.  Such a permit probably would be available to other developers; but that at this point is a diversionary tactic.

The bottom line is that this is a wholesale effort by the City to cook the permitting and zoning books in order to assist a special interest to do something that is not allowed under the City’s current municipal codes and regulations.

The presentation clearly was another one of these initial forays that the City goes on when it has some controversial proposition.  If first had disclose the fact though that it has been privately engaged with a land development project, intimately working with the proponent of the project off the record, trying to come up with a way for the project proponent to avoid having to comply with established land review programs; and then to avoid substantive environmental review programs that would in real time (or more contemporaneously do so – at the time of the project’s quest for approval) evaluate the advisability and implications of each phase of whatever development program Amgen has in mind or ultimately chooses to follow.

It is unacceptable the City trying to come up with ways for the land owner to avoid a whole raft of things, including but not limited to future reviews by the public of future environmental conditions, land use, social, and even cultural standards that may vitiate Amgen’s plans for development.

The question is, why this project, why this owner, why should the public’s rights for appropriate, legally required land and environmental review of a project be bargained away at this time?  Is it reasonable to give an uninformed approbation now about so many factors that in the future that are unknowable, which may be materially different from now.  The landscape for this project in the future could be such that it should not be undertaken, but with the approval of the kind of permit that the City and Amgen want, it would be tough luck making an argument against the project.

[4]  Please note:  “Amgen” (or any other entity referenced herein related to a public disclosure request is intended to include any of employee or agent of every kind that represents or otherwise has communicated with the City of Seattle on behalf of the herein named entity or person.

 

Filed in: City of Seattle, Dept Planning & Development, SDOT, Transportation Tags: 

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