City Council takes testimony on sale of controversial Pacific Place Parking Garage – Wed 930AM July 6th City Council Chambers

pacplace

Pacific Place Parking Garage: $73 million Corporate Giveaway

Press Release                   Seattle Displacement Coalition 206-632-0668                      outsidecityhall.wordpress.com

Completed in 1998, the city paid a developer $73 million when it only cost $50 million to build (See Seattle Times 1997).  The giveaway & city’s misuse of a federal ‘108’ loan made national news & cost then Mayor Rice a job heading HUD. 

And since 2009 it hasn’t brought in enough revenue to cover costs, sucking several million from city coffers to keep it afloat.   

There is an interesting but largely unnoticed hearing coming up July 6th Wed. 930am in the City Council’s Housing, Neighborhoods, and Finance Committee.  The Council will take testimony on an ordinance authorizing the sale of the downtown Pacific Place Parking Garage to a downtown developer for $87 million.

This parking garage was a boondoggle that cost the city millions. Completed in 1998, the city paid the developers $73 million when it only cost 50 million to build.  Our Mayor at the time, Norm Rice falsely argued blight downtown to justify a multi-million dollar federal 108 loan used to cover some of the costs of the deal.  This was a scandal that made national headlines and won the PI and Times news awards.  And it cost Norm Rice a job heading HUD. (We ought to know, the Displacement Coalition filed a complaint with HUD over this dirty deal that also made national headlines and that led to reform of the 108 program).

The project was financed through a complex ‘public-private’ partnership arrangement that had the city take out long term bonds to finance it while investors walked away with millions.  The public of course was assured the bonds would easily be repaid from all the money the new downtown garage would reap for the city.  But in most years, the facility has been a money loser.  Since 2009,  it’s cost the city 1-2 million dollars annually.

The Mayor has proposed taking at least $15 million from this sale (what’s left over from the 87 million dollar price after outstanding debt on it is paid), and using it to to help pay for an overpriced northend police station (at $160 million, its many critics call it a colossal boondoggle).  His press release says the garage’s sale value ($14 million above it’s original pricetag) proves the value of the project and that the garage played an important role in the 90’s in the revitalization of a deteriorating downtown.

These claims are a weak attempt at rewriting history.  The City could have taken that $73 million in 1998, stuck it in CD’s, and it would have generated more revenue & and w/out the annual operating deficit. And as the ’97 times story and a  1993 Times article indicates downtown development and the revitalization of the business district was well underway long before the parking garage even broke ground.

And we’ve got a better idea for use of those garage sale proceeds: a strategy that would help save the Myers parcel in West Seattle and expand funding for homeless programs.

Here’s how:

  1. Redesign the grossly overpriced northeast police station and cut 15-20 million or more from it’s cost
  2. Now that $15 million isn’t needed for the police station, redirect at least 5 million of the 15 million in excess Pacific Place Parking Garage Sale proceeds, if not more or even all of it, for homeless programs as per the Mayor’s declaration of emergency. Downtown redevelopment in the 80-90’s nearly wiped out our downtown low cost housing stock – a net loss of 4000 units over the period – so it’s only fair we use these dollars to assist those rendered homeless as a result.
  3. This does away with any rationale for sale of the Myers Parcel.We retain in city ownership all of the Myers 33 acres of land so that it can be maintained and dedicated in perpetuity for parks and open space as it should have been all along.

For more information, contact 206-632-0668  John V. Fox

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About John V. Fox

Director, Seattle Displacement Coalition
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