A Few Months Back, alarmed at developers' plans to convert the historic Alaska Building in Pioneer Square into a nonunion Marriott Hotel, the council voted to restrict any expansion of the building to residential uses. Or at least they thought they did. The developer, Kauri Investments, now plans to add a small sink, refrigerator, and kitchenette to each of the contested upper suites—potentially converting them to "long-term stay" hotel units that Kauri CEO Kent Angier insists would comply with the city's definition of housing. "Technically, they're apartments," Angier says. Unite Here Local 8, a pro-union group, has appealed Kauri's proposal on the grounds that long-term hotel rooms don't meet the standard the council set; however, Angier says Unite Here's appeal "has nothing to do with whether it's residential or anything else," and is all about forcing Marriott out. Unite Here organizer Stefan Moritz did not return a call by press time.
THE MAYOR'S BUDGET, uncontroversial save for a few big-ticket inclusions ($12 million for an underground utility network in South Lake Union) and omissions (funding for traffic control to protect pedestrians), has now entered the tinkering stage, in which council members propose adds ($2.1 million for new libraries) and cuts (potentially, that South Lake Union utility extravaganza). One still-obscure proposal that's likely to cause consternation at Team Nickels HQ is a study proposed by council president Nick Licata that could change the way the city inspects rental housing.
Under the current system, city inspectors don't investigate a problem unless a tenant or neighbor files a complaint. This system tends to benefit landlords because the tenants who are most likely to live in substandard housing are also the least likely to call in complaints, for fear of retaliation. Licata's proposal would replace the complaint-based system with universal inspections—in order to be a licensed landlord in Seattle, you have to let the city inspect your property. The idea is modeled after a similar system in Pasco, upheld by the state supreme court last month. Expect the Rental Housing Association—last seen advocating against a cap on the condo conversions that are decimating Seattle's rental housing—to lobby Nickels and the council hard against the measure, which would target all landlords, not just bad ones.
PROVING, perhaps, that Nickels's fight against "dangerous nightclubs" is really a war against music and nightlife, the city's Department of Planning and Development (DPD) issued a large fine last month for repeated noise violations—against 107.7 The End's Endfest, an annual festival put on by promotion company AEG Live. Endfest, which featured Against Me!, Bright Eyes, and others, took place outside Qwest Field—a massive sports stadium that hardly ever qualifies as peaceful or quiet. According to DPD spokesman Alan Justad, DPD's noise inspector noted 30 violations, of which DPD charged Endfest with 16. The result: a fine of around $8,000. Andy Roe, marketing director for AEG Live, says he's not sure if the fine will deter Endfest, which had never taken place downtown before, from coming back into the city in the future.