Seattle officials want some condo owners to fund Local Improvement District for new waterfront park

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

In response to reader concerns and curiosity about various special tax districts, IAC will be exploring the pros and cons of shifting costs from private homeowners’ associations (HOAs) to public or quasi-public funding and taxing entities.

Who should pay for Seattle’s ambitious new waterfront park improvements?

It’s a hot debate for city residents and business owners, especially 2% of property owners located downtown. Those owners have been notified of City Council’s intent to establish a Local Improvement District (LID), for the purpose of collecting $200 million toward a $688 million waterfront park.

It’s important to note that property owners within the proposed LID did not petition the city for waterfront improvements. Rather, the Seattle Office of Waterfront and Civic Projects is driving the improvement project, and seeking ways to raise funds to bring their concept to reality.

In fact, affected property owners won’t even get the chance to vote down the LID until after its expected establishment in October 2018. And, even then, the City would have to receive opposition votes representing “60 percent of the LID’s dollars,” and the protest must be made within 30 days. (See reference article in Seattle Times below).

Think about it. Dollar value contributions to a LID are based on property assessments. That means owners of high value commercial properties will have more voting clout than owners of individual residential condominiums, especially “affordable” condos.

Once again, people at large are not voting on whether or not to fund a LID — in effect, owners of properties are voting.

Marshall Foster, director of Seattle’s Office of the Waterfront, says that certain downtown property owners — whether they own a condo or a commercial business — will receive an added benefit, due to their proximity to the new waterfront park. Foster believes that justifies collecting additional tax assessments from owners in the LID for the next 20 years.

However, some owners of property within the boundaries of the proposed LID argue that they won’t realize any special benefit from the park. On the contrary, because the park will attract more tourists, condo owners are likely to deal with headaches such as heavy traffic, scarcity of parking, crowds, noise, litter, and possibly an increase of unwanted vagrancy or crime in the park, especially at night. In some cases, construction of an aquarium and other attractions will actually block waterfront views.

Certain commercial businesses might thrive from additional foot traffic, but an attempt to quantify added benefit at this stage is premature, critics say. Besides, business owners already pay substantial taxes on net income.

Another common complaint of owners in the LID: even if the waterfront park does increase the value of their properties, they will already be paying additional property taxes, as their assessed values increase. The addition of a LID seems unfair, especially since the entire city of Seattle will ultimately benefit from increased tourism.

Owners of older condominiums in the city say that increasing property taxes, combined with the additional assessments of a LID, would make their homes unaffordable.

Likewise, higher property taxes will put pressure on landlords to increase rent, affecting tenants as well as property owners.

To be sure, some owners near the waterfront project say they are happy to pay their “fair share,” but even many of those owners question how LID assessments will be calculated in a way that is equitable.

See reference articles below.

Seattle waterfront condo owners face pricey assessment for new park

The city wants condo owners to help foot the bill for a new waterfront park after the Alaskan Way Viaduct comes down. Condo owners may have to pay even more than that when it’s done.

Author: Ryan Takeo
Published: 10:35 PM PST March 7, 2018
Updated: 10:35 PM PST March 7, 2018
After the Alaskan Way Viaduct comes down following the opening of the new State Route 99 tunnel, Seattle plans to build a new waterfront park. The city wants waterfront condo owners to help pay for it — and at least one of those owners says it will also potentially lead to even higher property taxes.

Read more (Video):


Seattle homeowners near waterfront need to help pay, says city 

Should Seattle property owners have to pay for a waterfront park?

Author: Ryan Takeo
Published: 3:37 AM PST March 1, 2018
Updated: 3:37 AM PST March 1, 2018
The City of Seattle wants property owners near downtown to pitch in to pay for the upcoming waterfront improvements, including an upcoming waterfront park set to be built after the Alaskan Way Viaduct is demolished.

Some downtown property owners could pay an assessment. It would be part of a Local Improvement District or LID.

“When you build a significant public improvement like this park, not only does it have general benefit to the whole city, but it creates a direct real estate value for those immediately next to it,” said Marshall Foster, director of Seattle’s Office of the Waterfront.

Read more (video):


For waterfront revamp, Seattle weighs fees for downtown property owners

Originally published March 4, 2018 at 6:30 am

Daniel Beekman, Seattle Times

People from all over Seattle and beyond visit the waterfront — but downtown property owners have front-row seats. As a promenade, renovated park, walkway to Pike Place Market and street improvements add to the beauty, City Hall may want those property owners to pay up.Daniel Beekman By Daniel Beekman
Seattle Times staff reporter
With the Alaskan Way Viaduct scheduled for demolition in less than a year, the Seattle City Council is considering whether and how much to make certain property owners pay to help build a park-studded promenade along the downtown waterfront.

The council could vote as soon as May on a resolution letting the public know about its intent to create a local-improvement district (LID) and as soon as October on an ordinance that would make the LID real.

The city’s plans say the new waterfront, including rebuilt infrastructure and new amenities — will cost about $688 million, with $195 million coming from the city, $193 million from the state, $100 million from philanthropists and $200 million from the LID.

The LID would stretch from Safeco Field to Wall Street and Denny Way and from Elliott Bay to Fourth Avenue and Interstate 5 — taking in about 6,000 parcels, including properties owned by public entities such as the city itself and the University of Washington.

Due in late March or early April, the more detailed study will set a ceiling on the amount of money Seattle would be able raise. Historically, LIDs have charged property owners 50 to 70 percent of the benefits associated with a project.

With the resolution in May, the council would state its intention to create the LID and announce public hearings and could set a target amount of money to raise, Foster said.

In October, the council would pass the LID into law — and only then would opponents get an opportunity to vote it down. They would need property owners representing at least 60 percent of the LID’s dollars to protest within 30 days.

Read more:


Seattle’s assessment for waterfront park is unfair, unaffordable

Originally published April 2, 2018 at 2:27 pm Updated April 2, 2018 at 2:45 pm

Creating a Local Improvement District to tax downtown Seattle property owners to help pay for the waterfront park is inherently unfair and will be unaffordable for many homeowners.

By Karen Gielen
Special to The Times
The Seattle City Council has discovered a new way to raise hundreds of millions of dollars of new revenue that circumvents limits on property taxes and bypasses the need for citywide voter approval: a Seattle Waterfront Local Improvement District, or LID.

Use of a LID to fund a park is unprecedented in Seattle. Local Improvement Districts usually result from the request by a neighborhood to pay for a specific improvement for a localized benefit. The Waterfront LID is different — it encompasses just 2 percent of Seattle households and commercial properties, which will be asked to pay $200 million for improvements that benefit all Seattle citizens, visitors and tourists.

Read full opinion:



Local Improvement District (Seattle Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects)

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