King County Council Member Jeanne Kohl-Welles will no longer sponsor a proposal to direct about $180 million over the next two decades toward Safeco Field, where the Mariners play.
The proposal, initiated by County Executive Dow Constantine, would use a portion of the hotel/motel tax currently paying off the debt for CenturyLink Field to fund maintenance and upgrades at Safeco. Under state law, the lodging tax money could be used for affordable housing near transit, homeless services for youth, or the arts instead. County Council Member Dave Upthegrove and housing advocates have called on the county council to reject Constantine's plan and spend the money on affordable housing instead of the stadium.
Kohl-Welles was originally a co-sponsor of Constantine's proposal. In an announcement Tuesday afternoon, she said she is removing her name as a cosponsor and plans to introduce an amendment to reduce the money going to the stadium to about $25 million.
"The bottom line is our region is experiencing a major housing crisis," Kohl-Welles said in a statement. "If a government declares something a state of emergency, then the public deserves to have their elected officials act accordingly."
Beginning in 2021, the pot of hotel/motel tax money up for debate would be split several ways, under Constantine's proposal. A little more than a third would go toward housing, a little more than a third to the arts, and the rest to tourism, including the work at Safeco. Under state law, Constantine's proposal meets the bare minimum for the housing and arts categories: 37.5 percent each. In total from 2021 to 2043, between $177 and $190 million would go toward Safeco Field.
Under Kohl-Welles's alternative proposal, 52 percent of the money would go toward housing and less would go toward tourism. Arts programs would still get 37.5 percent of the total. According to Kohl-Welles, the plan would reduce the money going toward the stadium from $180(ish) million to $25 million.
The county council will vote on the funding plan sometime in September. In the first public meeting on the issue Monday, Upthegrove took the hardest stand against the proposal. In emails after the meeting, Council Member Rod Dembowski said he is "a 'no' vote on the proposal in current form" and Council Member Claudia Balducci said she was "looking for a balance."
Kohl-Welles's removal of her name as a sponsor leaves Council Members Joe McDermott and Pete von Reichbauer sponsoring the legislation. Council Members Larry Gossett, Kathy Lambert, and Reagan Dunn have not made their positions clear.