Washington District 36 Sen. Reuven Carlyle says he will advocate for the Legislature supporting a replacement of the Magnolia Bridge during the upcoming session.
Washington District 36 Sen. Reuven Carlyle says he will advocate for the Legislature supporting a replacement of the Magnolia Bridge during the upcoming session.

Seattle residents had a lot of asks during a community discussion with Mayor Jenny Durkan at the Queen Anne Community Center on Saturday.

While there are many important issues facing the city during its ongoing growth period, what gets addressed is a matter of what government can afford.

“Our city has grown so fast,” the mayor said in her opening remarks, “and in some way we just weren’t ready for it as a city.”

Washington District 36 Sen. Reuven Carlyle also took feedback during the Oct. 17 community discussion and resource fair, ahead of another legislative session in Olympia.

“The real question is, what are we going to be like as a city decades from today,” he said.

Durkan shared some of her visions for Seattle’s future, such as making the city’s transit centers “the hubs of the neighborhoods of the future,” noting the future light rail service in the neighborhood, and soon in Northgate.

“If we’re under construction, let’s build the city we want,” the mayor said.

The city leveraged $100 million over the last year to fund $300 million in affordable housing development, Durkan said, adding she knows it isn’t enough. A new rental housing assistance program has also started.

Queen Anne resident Andy Fessel, who is trying to get plans approved for a backyard cottage for his family, asked the mayor how the city can work with the Queen Anne Community Council to get stalled legislation easing accessory dwelling unit regulations out of litigation.

The community council is challenging a final environmental impact statement that finds little impact from increasing the number of attached and detached ADUs allowed on a single-family lot, with a Hearing Examiner hearing set for late March. It’s unclear whether the community council will file a lawsuit if the Hearing Examiner sides with the city.

A preferred alternative in the FEIS estimates 4,430 ADUs could be created in the next nine years — more than double than what would be built if regulations stayed the same.

Durkan said she’d like to get all parties in a room to hash out a compromise.

“That litigation is not making our city any better,” she said, “and it’s not helping anybody.”

The mayor said she supports backyard cottages, especially for longtime residents wanting to move into them while granting their original home to their grown children who can’t afford to buy their own in gentrifying Seattle.

One Queen Anne resident said she’s worried getting rid of owner-occupancy rules will result in properties being bought up in the neighborhood by venture capitalists and developed into rentals that will also be unaffordable.

“I think you’re exactly right that it is, we want people to be able to have an accessory dwelling unit or mother-in-law on their house to accommodate a family member or the person who’s living in them for another reason,” Durkan said, “and we can get density that way. At the same time, we don’t want to create an incentive to basically transform it into a rented-out triplex,” because developers can afford to buy those properties and make more money.

Durkan said she has spoken about that concern with Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who is spearheading the relaxed regulations on ADUs, and she plans to continue working on a satisfactory resolution.

“We don’t want to fuel a more expensive Seattle by letting people speculate on that land,” she said.

Magnolia resident Fred Rapaport, who serves on the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 91 Neighbors Advisory Committee, asked Durkan what it would take to get a 1:1 replacement of the aging Magnolia Bridge.

Carlyle said he’s looking at the state to help cover some of the cost of replacing the bridge, adding he couldn’t make any promises. It is possible a state transportation package could be discussed during the next legislative session.

“If that moves forward, and that’s a very big ‘if,’ if that moves forward, I will do everything I can within the appropriate bounds to incorporate some element of support for Magnolia Bridge,” Carlyle said. “At the same time, we have to be very cognizant that this is a city facility,” and so there also needs to be regional investment, with the port being an important partner.

Durkan said an issue she saw coming into her position was that the Move Seattle levy included a number of transportation projects that couldn’t be delivered with the available funding. Move Seattle project priorities are now receiving a “reset.”

“We are looking at, you know, talking to various oversight boards, and saying, ‘OK, what are your highest priorities,’” Durkan said, “because we know we’ve got a limited pot of money, in other words for the paving projects, for the bike projects. We can’t do everything that was promised.”

The mayor said a list of projects that the city believes it can build with Move Seattle money will be provided in a report to the city council soon.

The Center City Connector streetcar line remains stalled after the mayor ordered an independent report, which found the project could cost $50 million more than the original estimate, but could also triple streetcar ridership in Seattle. KPMG estimates the cost to close out the project at $55.4 million.

Maria Hawkins, who serves as president of the Queen Anne Community Center’s advisory council, highlighted the importance of all of Seattle’s 26 community centers; the Queen Anne center is the second-most used, she said. But many of the facilities are old, she said, and have capacity limits that leave people unserved. There are 90 families on a waiting list for child care at the Queen Anne Community Center, Hawkins said.

“We’ve had community groups that have done plans, which we have here today, donated so we can show the potential,” Hawkins said, asking the mayor what commitment she would make to establishing community centers as the hubs of the neighborhoods they serve.

Durkan agreed that community centers not only need improving, but also a reimagining of what functions they serve. Again, the mayor cited fiscal constraints while committing to finding a way to increase support.

“I can’t promise you I’m going to have Queen Anne done by X date,” the mayor said, “but what I can promise you is we’re going to keep working with Queen Anne to see how we can get a community center that you need and deserve.”

Durkan thanked those in attendance who were among the nearly 70 percent that approved of her Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise Levy in the general election, which she said will provide amazing opportunities for youth over the next seven years, including two years of paid community college for qualifying high school students.

As the Oak View Group readies to ramp up the $700 million renovation of KeyArena in Seattle Center, Durkan said she anticipates hearing whether the NHL will approve the city’s request for a professional hockey team within the next few weeks.

“We’re going to have a great arena. I’ve been talking to the school district about what we can do with Memorial Stadium,” Durkan said. “If we’re lucky, we’re going to get a school down there.”

With the KeyArena redevelopment in mind, Uptown Alliance co-president Rick Hooper said the city needs a strong leader at the Seattle Department of Transportation, which has been managed by interim directors since Scott Kubly’s resignation last December.

Durkan said she’s confident in the current interim director, Linea Laird, while a permanent leader is found. Laird’s resumé includes previously serving as WSDOT administrator of the State Route 99 tunnel, which is slated to open in February 2019; that’s more than three years past when it was originally scheduled to open. 

“We took on some really big mega projects and put it on top of the department of transportation,” the mayor said, “without giving them the support they needed and the people to run those projects, whether it was Move Seattle or the streetcar. We suddenly realized that our eyes were bigger than our stomach in some way, that what we wanted to do we couldn’t pay for with the money we had, because of the calculations the previous administration had.”

The Alaskan Way viaduct coming down will provide a number of challenges — it is expected to take three weeks to reconnect State Route 99 to the SR 99 tunnel.

Durkan said shuttle buses will be deployed in West Seattle, which will be most affected by the closure, as well as a second water ferry — possibly a third.

Just as soon as the tunnel becomes viable, the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel will close for construction of the Washington State Convention Center Addition. That will move 500 more buses to Seattle streets every hour, Durkan said, until more light rail becomes available and reduces the number of transit vehicles needed.

City employees will be given the opportunity to work remotely, to cut down on the number of vehicles on Seattle streets, the mayor said, adding the most significant factor in minimizing the effects of this “Period of Maximum Constraint” will be moving people out of single-occupancy vehicles.