While I realize that during election season the truth gets stretched, the letter in the Sept. 25 Reporter attacking Council member Jane Meyer Brahm and me for our vote on the Legacy (former True Value site) project takes distortion of the facts to a new level.
First, the Council never approved any special parking deal for a very simple reason — it was never asked to. The project fully complied with the existing parking code. Stories to the contrary began with a newsletter from Council member Mike Cero, in which he interpreted the code differently than city staff, the city’s lawyers and the citizens on the Design Commission. While I respect Mike, the easiest way to buy a lawsuit is to interpret the code differently from those who are actually given the legal authority to make these decisions.
Second, the two material variances from the code that the developer asked for were to not put retail storefronts on the part of the project fronting on the steep hill going up S.E. 27th and to have a higher income level for the project’s affordable housing units. With the retail vacancies we already have in Town Center, the Council did not insist on what would have been undesirable retail space. As to affordable housing, the proposed units still met what is considered the King County “moderate income level.”
The Council did demand a steep price for these concessions. First, the developer provided more affordable housing units than the law required. Second, the developer agreed not to apply for the affordable housing real property tax exemption it would otherwise qualify for — a huge financial gain for Islander taxpayers. Third, the developer placed a pub- lic plaza on S.E. 76th, which it otherwise had no obligation to provide. I respect that people can take issue with Town Center development, but let’s be honest with what happened as to the Legacy project. The only concessions that Council member Brahm, other Council members and I made in the case of that project did not involve parking and were ones that the city got far more than it gave.