$6 Million Veto

Progressive Seattle City Council Member Nick Licata couldn't turn his lone (and kickass) dissenting committee vote against a pending $6 million hotel developer handout into the five-vote majority needed to derail the deal ["The Six Million Dollar Scam," Josh Feit, June 20]. Indeed, when the sweetheart ordinance (penned by the lucky developers themselves!) came before the full council on June 24, Licata was outgunned again, 5-3, by sponsor Richard McIver, Jim Compton, Jan Drago, and, more disturbingly, "progressives" Judy Nicastro and Heidi Wills. (Given Wills' good work on this exact issue last year, her vote this time around is a hypocritical low point. What are you thinking, Heidi?)

Licata does have enough votes (4) to sustain a veto, though. That's why I'm urging Mayor Greg Nickels to veto the sleazy deal--a finely tailored ordinance that would let developer R. C. Hedreen Co. build extra square footage without forcing the company to fulfill the corresponding, and required, low-income housing obligations.

Richard Hedreen argues that his company has a right to the extra square footage allowance because the allowance was legitimately earned and passed along to Hedreen when the state partnered with R. C. Hedreen Co. to help expand the Washington State Convention & Trade Center. (Extra square footage credits are earned when a developer provides public benefits, like low-income housing, to mitigate the impacts of a specific development. The state earned the credits by building low-income housing around the corner from the convention center during the convention center expansion.)

When arguing that his company is entitled to the credits, however, Hedreen fails to mention three key points: (1) the credits were paid for by public dollars, (2) the low-income housing around the corner from the convention center bears no relation to Hedreen's current projects (something the original deal required of the credits), and, most of all, (3) the credits expired four years ago! Why should the city make an exemption for a developer? You snooze, you lose. Does the city make exemptions for citizens who miss any variety of bureaucratic deadlines--like, oh, renewing parking permits?

Ultimately, the Hedreen handout has broader implications. Nickels ought to consider this: The city is currently championing a housing levy, asking property-owning taxpayers to pony up $86 million to help pay mortgages and rents for low-income people. Simultaneously signing off on a loophole that allows a bigwig developer to sneak out of low-income housing obligations would undermine the housing levy campaign.

Besides, Nickels has an extra incentive to veto the ordinance. The lobbyist pushing the Hedreen handout is a fellow named Jamie Durkan. Durkan is the same guy who pushed the Tukwila City Council to vote against Sound Transit. Now's your chance, Greg. Send Durkan and this crummy legislation packing.


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