Fact Check - No Waterfront LID
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Fact Check

The city has made many statements that need to be fact checked and clarified. Here’s our list.
What’s on your mind? Please contact us or, better yet, deliver a verbal or written statement during the public hearing period.

The city says:

“The LID is fair because the scale of public investment in the waterfront is unprecedented, so the downtown owners should help pay a portion of it.”

Fact check:

We are the public. We are the ones who made the public investment through our federal, state, and local taxes. Downtown property owners have paid their fair share of the public investment.

The city says:

“The LID is fair because there is a long history of using LIDs to build the Aurora Bridge, hose down the Denny Regrade, and pay for the South Lake Union Streetcar.”

Fact check:

The Aurora Bridge and Denny Regrade LIDs made specific neighborhoods sustainable from an infrastructure standpoint; that is the common use of LID funding.

The South Lake Union Streetcar LID was not imposed by the city. It was petitioned by property owners who agreed to the scope and cost in order to achieve a very specific transportation infrastructure.

By contrast, the Waterfront Park LID is intended to attract people from across the city and visitors from around the world. The city proudly proclaims it will be a “park for all.” It is certainly not a park designed to benefit downtown residents. It is exactly the sort of park project that, since the founding of the Seattle Parks Department in 1887, has been paid through general funds and city-wide parks levies.

The waterfront LID has nothing in common with other city LID-financed projects, and it is far more expensive.

The city says:

“The LID is fair because economic studies show that properties near parks and streetscape improvements have higher values than other properties.”

Fact check:

The August 9, 2017 LID Feasibility Study states on pages 18-19 that none of the comparable improvements discussed in other cities are highly similar to Seattle.

A Seattle Times report points to the short supply of real estate as the main reason that prices are going up. The Alaskan Way Viaduct removal will also have an influence on waterfront property values independent of any LID projects. Furthermore, changing a more passive park to “a heavily used park catering to large numbers of active recreation users” actually reduces the value of adjacent residential properties.

The Feasibility specifically acknowledges that the waterfront park will already exist without the LID: the viaduct will be gone, Alaskan Way will be a ground-level street built to city design standards (which includes landscaping), the Seawall project will provide the sidewalk promenade you can already see complete with plantings, Pier 62/63 will be rebuilt for public concerts, and the Pike Place Marketfront Project overlooking the waterfront is already complete. All of these features are already paid for by public funds, which we contribute to.

The LID will simply add to what is already there: the single most expensive component of the LID improvements is a $100 million, 40-foot-high elevated ramp called the Overlook Walk connecting the Pike Market to the waterfront. The Overlook Walk alone is designed to bring millions more tourists to the waterfront, which the study names as an adverse impact on existing residential properties.

The city says:

“The LID is fair because an LID has always been part of the assumed financing and we have held many information sessions.”

Fact check:

When it comes to the Waterfront LID, the city can’t tell the difference between its “information sessions” and genuine participation by property owners. City information sessions consisted of telling property owners that the LID is inevitable, and there is a [nearly impossible] way for the public to oppose it.

The only opportunity property owners have to stop the process is if properties representing 60% of the LID tax burden object to the LID within 30 days of learning how much it hurts them, which is a difficult if not impossible task.

And how likely is an individual property owner to prevail against national LID appraisers, all of whom make a living working for cities?

The city says:

“The LID is fair because the LID will only make property owners pay for about 50% of the Special Benefit, which is a great deal for the owners.”

Fact check:

Under the State LID law, once the city imposes the LID, the city is required to complete the LID Improvements.

Regardless of whether there are cost overruns or whether the other sources of funding dry up, the city must build the park as stated in the ordinance.

The LID law states the city can, at any time in the next 10 years, come back to the property owners and take the rest of their Special Benefit in a supplemental assessment.

The City Council should not want to be handcuffed to this bad funding model. If the project goes beyond the budget, then not only will property owners pay another hefty tax, but it puts other city programs at risk by having to cut their funding to pay for the park. This is unjust for downtown property owners, but more so, the people who benefit from publicly funded programs.

The city says:

“The LID is fair because it the median assessment is only $2,400, or $10 per month.”

Fact check:

The city uses a median number instead of the average number because it sounds like a great deal. Let’s dig into the math.

They say that because there are some very large assessment, it skews the average upwards. But they do not say that the city data includes literally hundreds of $0 or $2 or $60 assessments for storage units and garage spaces that are linked to our properties. This skews their median down.

The average residential homeowner is projected to pay $5,434 (or up to $10,870 if there are cost overruns). For homeowners who cannot afford to pay a lump sum, with interest, the assessment would grow to approximately $8,000 (or $16,000 if there are cost overruns). The interest rate in this calculation is based on the City of Seattle’s April 2018 presentation.

The average commercial property owner is projected to pay $117,000 (or up to $233,000 if there are cost overruns). These costs may be passed on to apartment renters or small-business leases.

Help us defeat the waterfront LID