In The Hall
Nightlife, Sonics, Viaduct, and Condo Conversions
Mayoral staffer Jordan Royer, the chief architect of the mayor's nightlife policy, is leaving the mayor's office to pursue a career as a lobbyist for the shipping industry. However, Royer's hoped-for legacy, a sweeping new set of nightlife rules that would change the way bars and clubs are regulated, may not survive the pen of city council president Nick Licata, who says he expects to make sweeping changes to the controversial proposal. "Residents have legitimate concerns about noise, but [the mayor's office has] cast the net way too wide," Licata says. In its current form, the legislation would require clubs to police their sidewalks for crime and litter, prevent violent criminal activity, and keep noise inaudible to a person "of normal hearing" standing 75 feet away, among other restrictions.
Just 15 percent of Washington State voters favor using state money to fund a new arena for the Sonics, with 80 percent opposed, according to a new poll commissioned by Licata and anti-Sonics activist Chris Van Dyk. Licata says the poll is geared toward convincing legislators in Olympia that their constituents don't want state money to go to the Sonics, who are seeking upward of $200 million for a heavily subsidized new stadium in Renton or Bellevue.
The list of potential city council contenders (yes, already—the filing deadline moved up this year, to June 31, ruining countless summer vacations) is the usual mix of also-rans, always-runs, and never-has-beens. Among those (maybe) running, in descending order of probability: former Ethics and Elections chairman Tim Burgess; public affairs consultant and city council finalist Venus Velasquez; her fellow council finalist and Columbia City realtor Darryl Smith; attorney and former high-school football star Bruce Harrell; onetime Port Commission candidate and improbably tall Microsoft zillionaire Jack Jolley; nutty-professor-turned-failed-mayoral-candidate Al Runte; and ex-Transportation Choices Commission head Peter Hurley, who thought about running but isn't.
A long-awaited study of condo conversions and rental housing in Seattle is done and waiting for comment from housing activists and the return of Housing Committee chairman Tom Rasmussen, who commissioned the study, from Argentina. Some of the most interesting findings in the report had to do with condo conversions, which increased dramatically in the last three years—from 358 in 2004; to 1,546 in 2005; to 1,200 in the first half of 2006 alone. The majority of apartments that were converted to condos were "affordable" to people making between 51 and 80 percent of Seattle's median income—a definition that translates to a one-bedroom apartment renting for $730 to $1,118 a month. And around 104 households a year received rental assistance when their buildings were demolished or converted to condos; however, the city found that most low-income families that received relocation assistance "found it difficult to locate similarly affordable housing within the city limits."
Rasmussen is also pushing state legislation that would ease the burden on tenants whose apartments undergo condo conversion; the bill, sponsored by North Seattle senator Ken Jacobsen, would require landlords to tell tenants about any relocation assistance that's available, increase the notification period from 90 to 120 days, remove a $500 cap on relocation assistance, and prohibit landlords from starting construction or demolition until the last tenant has left the building.