We haven’t posted much about the minor Council/Mayor scrum over the Commercial Parking Tax (CPT) and the seawall. However, this Streets for all Seattle letter of August 5th clarifies the transportation angle:

We are writing today concerning the proposal to fund seawall-related work by raising the existing 10% commercial parking tax (CPT) to 12.5%. While Streets For All Seattle coalition members recognize the City’s obligations on the seawall replacement, we believe that allocation of our limited, flexible transportation funds to a single, capital-intensive project would unnecessarily curtail the opportunity before us to engage in a holistic transportation discussion during the budget process.

As I understand it, the CPT can only be used for transportation improvements and is capped at 20%, 10 points above its current level of 10%. The Mayor would like to have a property tax measure this year to pay for the seawall and dedicate the CPT revenue (according to PubliCola a 5-10 point increase) “toward road maintenance, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure,” in the words of McGinn spokesman Aaron Pickus. More after the jump.

Meanwhile, the Council wants to raise the CPT only 2.5 points and dedicate that funding to seawall planning, and a few other downtown-ish projects, thus deferring the big seawall tax measure to a later date. Council President Richard Conlin points out that a seawall ballot measure must “wait until better times to go to the voters for a property tax levy to support the majority of the funding for the project… there needs to be a full campaign and a careful explanation of the need and benefits for such a ballot issue to be successful.” Meanwhile, the CPT can be raised to address immediate planning needs without a public vote.

As taxes go, it doesn’t get much more benign than a parking tax, which discourages driving to the most transit-accessible neighborhoods in the city. On the other hand, Conlin pointed out that the CPT essentially applies to downtown and must be seen to fund downtown projects; and that if it goes too high Conlin fears it will drive shoppers out of downtown. Council Transportation Chair Tom Rasmussen added that “the City has doubled that tax in the last few years.”

17 Replies to “Mayor, Council at Odds Over Seawall”

  1. Oh, yes, the economy will come back just in time to push a bond issue for the seawall to build it on the timeline the viaduct replacement group prefers it.

    Build the tunnel now, while labor is cheap. Don’t rebuild the seawall, until revenue returns. Yes, the tunnel boosters are having it both ways again.

    More likely, the seawall replacement vote will come some time in 2012, after half the city council, revealed as only working on building a tunnel, is gone.

    And, oh yeah, the governor will be gone, too. Does anyone doubt that any more?

  2. Which part of we can’t afford it doesn’t Seattle City Council get?

    If they keep trying to build this, most statewide and countywide races are in jeopardy.

    Just say Yes to the Seawall and No to the Billionaires’ Tunnel that we can’t afford and don’t have bonding capacity to pay for (and never did).

    It’s going to get worse – you may think the oil refineries being sued for carbon emissions violations was bad, the lawsuit over the massive global warming impact from construction and operation of the Billionaires Tunnel will not only succeed but win overwhelmingly.

    Actions for the elite few have consequences – and the voters have no patience with excuses for why we’re being ripped off to build a vanity project that has half the freight capacity, dumps 50,000 to 100,000 more cars on downtown streets, has a $5 to $8 each way TOLL, and serves no purpose.

    1. Billionaires’ Tunnel? Which Billionaires live in W Seattle, Fremont, Greenwood and Aurora? I never knew I had such illustrious neighbors.

  3. WSDOT offered to pay 100% of the seawall replacement costs using existing gas tax revenues if the surface couplet (or the rebuild) options were chosen by state legislature.

    The deep bore tunnel, of course, costs MUCH more than reserved gas tax revenues and requires the city to pay an additional $900 million that the city would not have to had paid for the surface or rebuild options.

    How about the city just pays $300 million on ads and lobbying to un-elect tunnel-mad representatives in state legislature this fall? It would save the city $600 million (about $1000 per Seattle resident) in tunnel/seawall costs.

    1. I think the City has to pay something regardless of the option chosen. Surface/Transit/I-5 was about $700m cheaper than the DBT, but there also wouldn’t be $400m in revenue from tolling. If the State’s contribution was otherwise the same that would mean the City would still be on the hook for about $600m.

  4. We need to fix the seawall now before it collapses and destroys the west side of downtown. Just put a separate ballot measure for it, and put any other transportation improvements into a different measure. That may not be the way to win votes (vs an omnibus transportation package), but it’s the most honest and transparent way.

    The 99 tunnel is a separate issue. If it’s built, it will drain money from other transportation improvements. But we may not have the ability to stop it unless its funding disintegrates beyond repair. In the meantime, I think about it as little as I think about the Stadiums (another calamity we couldn’t prevent).

    1. After watching the visualization, I tend to agree. It’s fairly simple to imagine what “collapsed viaduct” would look like, but this this is the first time I understood what a “collapsed seawall” could mean.

      I also thought it was interesting that the visualization ended with a “No Tsunami Expected” comment. I thought the chances of tsunami was highly dependent on where the epicenter of the quake was and how much “earth” was displaced underwater, so I’m surprised they’d make a blanket statement like that unless there is something about the topography of Elliott Bay that makes tsunamis unlikely regardless of the situation.

      1. Yes, this video clearly makes the case for sea wall replacement. If the soil around the pillars had stayed in place the viaduct may not be drivable but it’s much less likely to fall down.

        What I find crazy is that the one thing that has to be fixed, the sea wall, is the one that is lowest on the city council priority list. But Mayor McGinn hasn’t made a good public case for it. Most folks I talk to have no idea how these things interact.

      2. The current City Council serves the business community first, public safety be damned. The deep bore tunnel option was chosen NOT on its merit, but on its purported ability to be constructed with least inconvenience to motorists and business as usual. Ka-ching! WSDOT could build a cut/cover tunnel and wisely rebuild the seawall at the same time, but Seattle’s business community forbids neutering their sacred cash cow, the proceeds of which they invest in vacations and moves to less polluted locales. If Seattlers must wade through cow crap and inhale its vapors, the unapproachable god of greed must be angry with them.

  5. The CPT should be locked into transportation improvements (and no, Seawall is not transit IMO) and it should be stepped up, but I think it should be done incrementally.

    I say about 2.5 now, 2.5 in 2016, 2.5 in 2023 and 2.5 more in….?

  6. If I were McGinn, I would expand and recast it into the SeaWall Commercial Revitalization Project. I would expand its costs 20 times, and turn it into a combination Surface Replacement for Viaduct, plus construction of a vast SeaWall Mall on the water front.

    Using Pike Place Market as the inspiration, we should work with Wiesfield Shoppingtown to bring the spirit of Southcenter to Seattle. The Seawall Mall would connect with the classic Pike Place Market, but then offer the modern shopping — H&M, Forever XXI — that today’s young adult demands.

    There would be a brand new cinema/IMAX/Sound Stage, plus oodles of free parking on either side of the complex.

    I-99 from either side would dovetail into a wide surface boulevard, named the Boulevard of the Salish Sea.

    The vast Seawall Mall would light up across the Sound in an array of colors visible from planes flying into SeaTac.

    Construction of the surface street cum mall cum entertainoplex could begin all at once, creating not just 500 construction jobs — but 5000 construction jobs! As highway builders, mall builders and sea wall builders would all be employed in this remaking of Seattle.

    1. To Seattlites, that would be a nightmare. We have voted for at least two levies to restore and maintain Pike Place Market in its historical tradition.

      And there’s a nice 150 bus to take us to Southcenter if the urge should ever arise.

  7. “As I understand it, the CPT can only be used for transportation improvements and is capped at 20%,”

    That makes it illegal to use it for the seawall, doesn’t it?

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