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SOUTH LAKE UNION

NEWSLETTER - 12 August 12, 2001

The July 2, 2001 sale of eight City-owned South Lake Union (or Bay Freeway) properties to Paul Allen was not legal. Margaret Tunks had warned Seattle about such a possibility in her Seattle Citizens Against Freeways, Fighting Fiercely and Winning Sometimes -- a "history of transportation in the Seattle area in the 1970s." Disposition of Bay Freeway properties or bond funds for any use other than for streets and bridges, she had noted, would require another vote of the people. Such a vote wasn't held!

Put in perspective, the right-of-way for the Bay Freeway plan had already been purchased as early as March 1970. Subsequently, a lawsuit was brought against the City in 1971 charging the plan was not the one voters had originally approved (Seattle Post Intelligencer Bay Freeway Halt Urged October 29, 1971). In December, King County Superior Court Judge Solie Ringold agreed, handing down a decision that required voter approval for any change to the Bay Freeway plan voted on in 1960. In part, his order read:

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED

1. That the City of Seattle, its Mayor and City Council, are enjoined and prohibited from using any of the bond funds approved on March 8, 1960, by the voters whatsoever for the Bay Freeway in a manner substantially different from the plan approved in 1960, and is substantially more expensive. (emphasis added)

4. That the City of Seattle, its Mayor and City Council may use the Bond Funds approved by the voters in 1960 for a purpose substantially different and a major deviation from that approved by the voters in 1960, provided the matter is submitted to the voters for their approval and provided the voters approve the deviation or deviations at an election held pursuant to the laws of Washington and the City of Seattle … (emphases added)

One of two ballot measures submitted by the City terminated the Bay Freeway project on February 8, 1972. After the financial obligations of the defunct project had been met, some properties for the Bay Freeway were left unsold. Enter Paul Allen, who had previously acquired several other properties in the South Lake Union area, following the failure of two Seattle Commons ballot measures in 1995. His acquisitions on July 2, however, involved properties purchased by the City for the Bay Freeway project, and which disposition still remained under court order. The directive was in line with the state's intent to protect a person's property by requiring excess property tax levies be revoted if they're to be used in ways other than what was specified in the original ballot measure.

The problem resurfaced on June 25, 2001 with passage of Ordinance 120411, which approved the sale of the eight City-owned parcels to City Investors, Inc. and Vulcan Norhtwest -- both owned by Paul Allen. Ordinance 120411 also gave the Mayor authority to allocate the proceeds for projects. Among others, he has so far "recommended" disposition of the revenues for the following "major elements" in the area: making transportation improvements, investing $2,250,000 in affordable housing; and setting up a reserve fund for cleaning up the remaining unsold city sites and, if necessary, one of the eight sold to Paul Allen. But, the City had violated Judge Ringold's order when it failed to submit the sale and the Mayor's proceeds proposal for voter approval.

Promises! Promises! From any perspective, by simply "recommending" conditional options that "promise" affordable housing and clean-up of toxic sites, Ordinance 120411 is an unenforceable contract, especially as it follows a violation of the "rule of law." It is a classic case of City Hall's motto: "If you don't like it, sue us," which underscores the foundation of many of our current laws. Why not replace it with constitutional law and .... Hegamin as Mayor?

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