"Mayor Puts the Brakes on Parking Tax," screamed the headline on a press release issued by Mayor Greg Nickels' office on Monday. The release, highlighting a study that found a tax on commercial parking lot revenues would harm parking lot owners and retail businesses, made a great sound bite. The trouble is, nobody's proposing a parking tax. So how could the mayor slam the brakes on something that wasn't even rolling forward? City Council President Peter Steinbrueck was asking that very question Monday, after he found out about the study the same way the media did—by press release. "The mayor seems to be trying to make some kind of political statement," Steinbrueck said. "There is no legislation currently being considered." Steinbrueck should know—he's the one who first brought up the idea of a parking tax in January. The 15 percent tax would have raised up to $18 million a year for transportation improvements, to be spent in the business districts where the tax would be collected. But that tax died for lack of a council consensus. "Every time this parking tax concept comes up, it gets shot down by special interests" like the Chamber of Commerce, Steinbrueck said. On the other hand, a study concluded that it would take a huge parking tax—something like 50 percent—to keep people out of parking lots, Steinbrueck said. "For the past 10 years, parking rates have gone up by 8 and 10 percent a year, and the demand for parking has not fallen off." Maybe the city would just prefer to reap the rewards of higher parking rates directly. The study also concludes that the city could generate more revenue by "dramatically increas[ing] the metering program, possibly in combination with raising meter rates." The study also suggests better enforcement of existing regulations. Asked if the mayor would commit to raising meter rates and hiring new parking enforcement officers, Nickels' spokesperson Marianne Bichsel said, "Not at this time." . . .
The Lillian apartments' slow demise came to an anticlimactic end last weekend, when a small crowd of Cascade neighborhood residents and low-income housing activists gathered early Saturday morning to watch a wrecking crew take a chunk out of the side of the abandoned apartment building. By Monday, the 34-unit complex was gone, razed by Paul Allen's Vulcan Development Co., which owns the property. Residents and housing activists say Vulcan ripped out boilers, radiators, and a stairwell to lower the value of the property. City law allows developers to demolish housing like the Lillian if repairing it would cost more than half its worth. The race to save the Lillian ended when attorneys for the Seattle Displacement Coalition were informed by Cascade residents that a demolition crew was at the property. By the time the coalition found out its appeal of Vulcan's permit had been denied—on Friday afternoon—it was too late to file for a restraining order. "The fact that Vulcan was notified of the decision to throw out our appeal but we weren't is kind of shady," says Cascade resident Malaika Lafferty. Diane Sigamura, interim director for the city's Department of Design, Construction, and Land Use, says the city did send out notice of the denial.
Erica C. Barnett