Saturday, October 25, 2014

Seattle City Council Budget Hearing October 23 2014

 Seattle Green Spaces Coalition  Voters support using surplus City land for open space.  Throughout Seattle, residents are feeling pinched by the enormous development:  apartment homes squeezing in on single-family residences, big box houses built in backyards of bungalows, 4-plexes sprouting everywhere. All of this development requires balance.  Our city lands have been providing some of this balance. Many of the surplus sites contain mature trees and plants, which are an important part of our urban ecosystem.    

The Open Space Opportunity Fund is a very good way to help put development in balance.  The current disposition process for surplus land does not account for the environmental benefits that the land is providing.  Now, when a property comes up as “surplus,” it is shopped around to various departments, agencies and the school district.  But they look through the narrow lens of their specific needs.  (Sometimes using out-of-date metrics, such as Parks’ GAP analysis using 2006 data.)  If the property doesn't fit their narrow criteria, they pass on the property, and it is placed for sale to the highest bidder.  

Neighbors in the immediate vicinity are told of the proposed sale, but given a very short time to come up with their own plans and financing to “rescue” their neighborhood green spaces.  (Some neighborhoods are successful; others are not.)  
We are currently missing that the true Value of the Sites has not been identified and accounted for:  ecological balance, environmental services provided, health benefits, increased property values, beauty and civic pride.  These are not just empty, junk lots.  Some are wetlands and all are part of our watershed: each Green Space filters storm water and cleans our air.  Some are in environmentally critical areas and maintain our hillsides.     
The implementation of the Open Space Opportunity Fund can assist neighbors in identifying and assessing environmental benefits.  
Attached is a list of surplus Seattle City Light properties and properties listed by FAS.  You will see that they are located in neighborhoods throughout the City.    
In the aggregate, Seattle’s surplus properties provide significant positive environmental benefits.  
These can and do contribute and mightily to our Green Canopy.  If Seattle truly wants to meet its environmental goals, we have to take action, not just talk about it.    
The Seattle City Auditor has reported on the dire condition of our Tree Canopy: Seattle is continually losing our City’s Green Canopy.    
Seattle has all kinds of papers, reports stating our environmental needs and goals …  We must make this an opportunity to make a real step toward meeting these goals.      
Neighbors throughout Seattle support saving our open spaces.    
Mary K. Fleck,   
Co-chair, Seattle Green Spaces Coalition,