October 31 update – and Public Hearing TOMORROW

We haven’t been in touch in a while, so read on for an update. But first:

WE NEED YOUR VOICE!

The City has reached the last phase of the approval process to expand the Asian Art Museum building into Volunteer Park. This phase is where your voice counts the most: the City Council. Here are upcoming opportunities including TOMORROW:

BUDGET COMMITTEE HEARING
TOMORROW, November 1, 2017
5:30 PM
City Council Chambers, 601 5th Ave.

Very very quietly, the City has scheduled a public hearing on committing $19,000,000 of City funding in 2018 for the proposed Asian Art Museum renovation and expansion project.

Suggested talking points:
* We don’t object to $11 million for seismic and ADA renovations.
* We do object to the extra $8 million for expanding into the park.
* Those funds should be used for fixing neglected community centers.
* There was no public involvement process that offered alternatives.
* Seattle’s public open space is precious and should be protected.
* It’s no fair to have a hearing and not tell anybody.

Agenda (which was posted on seattle.gov today, 10/31):
http://seattle.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=A&ID=570661&GUID=FC404C47-FFDB-41CA-BA47-A11F654D6071

Public testimony will be allowed 2 minutes per person, or less. Numbers matter so please come out!

If you can’t come, you can make written comments to Council@seattle.gov anytime until around November 20 when the final budget is approved. Commenting early (today) will give the most influence.

PARKS COMMITTEE HEARING
December 7, 2017 (TENTATIVE DATE – see our web site to confirm)

The Parks Committee will hold a public hearing after the committee considers the Asian Art Museum expansion project. This meeting will be a chance to comment on the proposed new lease agreement at Asian Art Museum (which we don’t have yet), and its public benefits. This is a very important hearing to influence key council members. We will email again once this hearing date is confirmed.

BONUS EVENT: SEATTLE PARK DISTRICT HEARING
Monday, November 13, 2017
2:30 PM (or after full Council meeting)

Not strictly Volunteer Park related, but if you want to increase investment in maintenance of park facilities (not expansion), you may want to speak at this meeting of the Seattle Park District (aka City Council wearing a different hat).

The proposal from Friends of Funding our Aging Park Facilities:
http://lcna-seattle.org/2017/06/petition-fund-our-aging-park-facilities/
Agenda:
http://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/ParkDistrict/111317agenda.pdf

AND NOW, THE UPDATE

We haven’t emailed in a while, so here’s an update about Protect Volunteer Park and our aim to, yes, protect Volunteer Park from the proposed expansion of the Asian Art Museum building.

  • Almost all the approval hurdles for this museum expansion have been passed. The last step for approval is the City Council. This is more democratic than the DCI and Landmarks processes which emphasized technical issues. The City Council is accountable to the voters and we can sway them with mass input.
  • Our legal effort is suspended and we are not asking for funds currently. We appreciate your past donations for legal work.
  • Over many public objections, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (DCI) issued a Declaration of Nonsignificance for the project, making it unnecessary to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.
  • Over many public objections, the Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) voted to issue a Certificate of Approval to allow the expansion. We do salute the two members of the LPB who dissented and voted against the project.
  • The Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) continues to insist that expanding the Asian Art Museum building is an appropriate use of their very scarce capital funds, and that Asian Art Museum is a “recreational” use under Initiative 42 (although somehow it is never included in any of their planning documents for recreational facilities). The city administration’s position has not seemed to change through the transition from Mayor Murray to Mayor Harrell and now Mayor Burgess.
  • DPR is negotiating a new development and lease agreement with its partner Seattle Art Museum. We have not been able to access any drafts of this proposed new agreement. The long-standing existing agreement is a total giveaway, granting SAM free rent at Asian Art Museum. SAM pays nothing toward routine maintenance of the building. SAM does not even pay for its own utilities or custodial services, the City makes payments to SAM to reimburse its spending on these.
  • We conducted a do-it-yourself parking study and documented that Volunteer Park’s parking supply routinely becomes 80% full, even with the museum closed, on weekends in May through July. SAM’s plan to expand visitorship 54% will overload the parking supply in Volunteer Park. We also analyzed SAM’s parking study, which counted cars in November and took that to represent typical park user demand. For more information, see our web site:
    http://protectvolunteerpark.org/parking-impact-of-museum-expansion/
  • The final approval stage is the City Council. We expect on December 7 (tentative) the Parks Committee will get its first look at the proposed development and lease agreement (and so will we). The Parks Committee may vote at that meeting, or send it back for changes and more review in additional Parks Committee meetings before consideration by the full Council. Watch our emails for updates or check our web site: http://ProtectVolunteerPark.org
  • SAM also asks the City Council to approve a zoning change that gives the Asian Art Museum a zoning exception for its bulk and the lack of parking. Otherwise the museum expansion cannot legally go forward. This may be addressed by another committee or may be handed off to the Parks Committee.
  • If the City Council approves the museum expansion, there is one more approval stage we know of. The proposed zoning change gives the DCI director the discretion to determine whether there are adequate parking facilities. We will advocate for our parking study to be considered.

Thank you for supporting the preservation of our precious public open space.

Best regards,

Jonathan Mark and Protect Volunteer Park
pvpinfo@protectvolunteerpark.org