This week, the city council will move forward with how quickly and exactly how to dial back the increased building heights along the so-called isthmus (which is really a peninsula). In the packet this week is a staff report and proposed ordinance spelling out exactly how the city can move forward.
What struck me is the long process even making a temporary (on the way to permanent) rollback of the comprehensive plan. In addition to a public hearing within two months, it has to get onto the docket of the planning commission, which won't be able to pick it up until late summer. It will go into effect immediately, but the city council will end up also justifying its actions at some point.
Here is part of the staff report that deals with the process itself:
While they're off on vacation, Mayor Doug Mah and councilmember Joe Heyer left a note to their fellow councilmembers asking them to consider pushing Percival Landing funding to the front of the line.
The letter (pdf warning) in part reads:
Percival Landing is our highest priority parks capital project. In order to complete Phase I, we must direct all available resources at the project, and we have done so to this date. Millions of city dollars have been committed, millions of state dollars have been aquired, and we are working on a federal allocation that will nearly complete the funding for phase one.
There will be trade offs and we will need to shift other projects out... but we must remember our focus, if Percival Landing is indeed our highest priority, it must fall first in line for funding.
The letter falls in with a discussion the council is already having Tuesday night on the future of the parks plan, the staff report for which is here (pdf warning again).
Remember the debate around the proposed public art for the new city hall? Boy, that was fun, wasn't it?
With everything big thing the city builds (capital projects), some of the money goes to public art. Which is a great idea, but then you get stuck debating the quality of the proposed art. Now, with the city moving to do a major remake of Boulevard Road (about time), they're considering what kind of public art will go into the project. Specifically, the roundabout at Log Cabin and Boulevard.
Check it out:
Here's the artist's description:
I plan to carve twelve, eight foot tall, naturally fallen cedar sculptures, ideally from one old growth naturally fallen tree which comes from Southworth, WA. The trees are cut in half or quarters because of the massive scale. Ten of the carvings will be placed in the roundabout in a circle, spaced approximately 12 feet apart, creating a contemporary Northwest “Stonehenge” effect. The remaining two sculptures will be placed on the southwest sidewalk, so viewers could have a closer look at them (these sculptures will have shallow relief carving to deter climbing.).
The process to approve this art included six seperate steps, including two to bring in the neighbors of the site.
More from the artist:
If you took all the studies that the city of Olympia has written for downtown and put them in a study stew, this is is the building that would come out the other end (scroll down for more versions):
This week the council will take a look at the "Parking Services Strategic Business Plan for Downtown Parking," which was designed to give the council some specific recommendations about what to do about parking downtown.
(By the way, I realize that this post is totally contrary to Berd's intent of "Park Here," but I hope he forgives me.)
The first two recommendations regard pricing for public parking and convenience (using computerized pay-by-space pay box stations), but the third recommendation was really interesting.
From the staff report:
Goal # 3: Consolidate parking so land is available for development. The highest and best use of land within Downtown Olympia is mixed-use development. When multiple uses (retail, residential, and commercial) are consolidated into one location, a synergy is created. Paying customers, jobs, and residents are brought into the Downtown community. Currently there are only two fully developed block (no surface parking) within Downtown Olympia.
The city council this week will consider whether to look to some of the recent federal stimulus money to plug the hole from last year's police department budget.
While the proposed federal funding would go towards hiring a front line officer (from 67 to 68 officers), it would actually result in the city being able to provide a detective to the county narcotics task force.
Its also interesting to note that the city would be on the hook for $115,745 over three years (more than $98k in the last year alone) of the grant to pay for the position. While this will put an officer back on the street, it is apparently a way to transition officers into the force, not keep them on forever.
From the staff report:
The COPS Hiring Recovery Program (CHRP) is funded through the Federal stimulus package and is designed to assist local jurisdictions in the following three ways: 1) to replace police officer positions that have been eliminated due to necessary budget cuts; 2) to avert future layoffs of police officers; and/or 3) to add officers to assist in reaching community policing objectives. CHRP funding is available over a three year period, after which the jurisdictions receiving funds are expected to retain any officers funded through the Program for at least one additional year.
UPDATE (7:56 p.m.): Diamond and the Thurston PUD have come to an agreement. Looks like this is locked in. Via email:
From: Subir Mukerjee
Sent: Friday, February 20, 2009 5:02 PM
Subject: RE: Contract Between Diamond Parking, Inc. and Thurston PUD
Late breaking good news!
Thurston PUD and Diamond Parking have reached agreement on a contract for the artesian well. This means that we can move forward with our agreement with the PUD to pay for testing the water.
This item is in your agenda packet for next week. At the time the packet was launched, this issue was still up in the air, and so the staff report language reflects that. In any case, your action next week will allow all parties to move forward.
If all goes well (ha!), the artesian well downtown will have a proud new papa, the Thurston Public Utility District. Staff report here, and from that report:
The city council, meeting as the Transportation Benefit District Board that they set up last year, is getting down to the details of what exactly the board will end up doing. First on the agenda, how much of a car tab fee to levy (they can go up to $20 without a public vote) and what projects to consider.
Here's the staff report. And, from that report, the discussion on the tab fee:
Without a vote of the people, the revenue option available to the Board is a fee of up to $20 per vehicle. The Board does not have to charge the full $20. You may charge $10, $15 or an amount up to $20 per vehicle per year. (In the future, if the City of Olympia ceases to use transportation impact fees, the TBD could implement transportation impact fees on commercial and industrial projects without a vote of the people.) Revenue rates, once imposed, may not be increased without voter approval. Using information from the Thurston Regional Planning Council (TRPC) the TBD would generate approximately $634,500 per year from a TBD with a $20/vehicle fee (assuming 20,209 households and an average of 1.57 vhh).
In addition to about six other items, the city council's general government committee will take a look (5:30 pm, Tuesday) at the council's email policy this week. This is likely in reaction to this sort of stuff, but its probably a good idea to open up the can of worms of how local elected officials communicate electronically anyway.
From the packet, there are no recomendations right now for how the email policy should be changed, but I'd assume you'll probably hear a suggestion that councilmembers not email each other during business meetings. While it's very likely that council members will continue to have the same kind of conversations they've been having over email via notes, side conversations during the meeting and during breaks, writing emails creates a problem. Mostly because there is a public record of private conversations during meetings.
Since there aren't any suggestions contained in anything in the packet, I have a few:
Last week (yeah, I missed a week), there was a curious note at the end of a staff report laying out options for the council to develop an opinion on whether Capitol Lake should be restored to an estuary.
The last option was "blogging."
it doesn’t require a meeting, it creates a record of participation, and it only costs staff time to moderate.
it’s somewhat risky.
Which of course, begs the question, can you break your ankle by blogging?
Obviously, what they're actually talking about is the risk of people getting bent out of shape in a comment thread, something anyone around here should have some experience with. But, the benefits of having an open, public discussion about a pretty hot topic locally, I think outweighs the risks people getting their feelings hurt.
Simply stating before hand two simple rules (use your real name and don't be abusive) and by moderating comments before they're posted, the city can actually encourage a nice, civil online discourse.
The minutes from the study session that took up the Deschutes Estuary restoration public process said nothing about their reaction to blogging, so one could assume they dismissed it immediately.