Sunday, November 26, 2017

Parsing the Agreement with the City about Memorial Stadium

The Agreement is eight pages long.  It is not legally binding but appears to be a good faith measure for both the City and the District going forward.

I suspect this is a big deal on all sides, not just because it means a renovation of Memorial Stadium but because it is at Seattle Center, a marquee part of the city.  I think for some it might be a feather in their cap to be involved and that kind of feeling can usually mean some jockeying for position.

Page One 

The Agreement states:

The purpose of this partnership is to meet the interests of both SPS and the City.

That's great but honestly, SPS really is in much more of the driver's seat if only because they own those nine acres that Memorial Stadium sits on. 

But, the Agreement also says:

The Parties each will maintain ownership and control of their parcels at Seattle Center.  

BUT, "by mutual agreement" they may "agree to adjust property lines and/or modify property parcels/ownership to benefit both Parties, future students, and Seattle Center visitors."

This is both good and not-so-good.  We see language like "collaborate" and "partnership" but there is vagueness like " the Parties will partner on school capacity planning, financial cost sharing and development of revenue opportunities."

What will that look like?  The district will already lose about $2M a year in uncommitted dollars when the parking lot goes away.   How much money would the district commit to the City if they, say, put that parking in a larger underground parking garage?

I do like the commitment to a "joint vision for Seattle Center" because otherwise the whole look could be jarring if SPS went its own way on design for Memorial Stadium.

Also vague is what is stated about Fort Lawton - "obtain land for school-related uses."  Does that mean a school could be there or not; one news article seemed to think it didn't.

What's good is the City seems to want to help "to identify sites for future schools/facilities." 

They promise "to engage the community in a transparent public process."  Let's hold them both to that promise.

Page Two

Here we see a list of nine principles for the partnership, two of which talk about SPS' capacity/enrollment needs.  The most striking one is:

SPS will determine the need for and priority of school facilities and construction.

That puts the district in charge of deciding what is needed where.

There is mention of "the values of equity and inclusion" as well as this important statement:

The Parties will respect and honor Memorial Wall.

In the section, Understandings, it seems the SPS focus is on a new Memorial Stadium that will integrate with Seattle Center and increase the revenue from it.  A better stadium - one that could be better used year-round especially in the summer for concerts/sports -could really be a boon to SPS.

The City says it will be focusing on "creating SPS facilities that meet SPS needs and the City's need for open space and join use opportunities."  

But the City more than an updated Memorial Stadium; they want it to be "unique, iconic, multi-purpose and year-round."

I find the next to the last paragraph on this page somewhat troubling.  It talks about the need to focus "on the education of students attending schools with high rates of poverty and students of color.  The Parties are committed to equitable allocation of administrative and financial resources throughout the SPS district.  The Parties will work to implement balanced educational projects across the district that are equitable and transparent."

Maybe this just needed to be said out loud?  But the district has - since BEX started - done capital projects throughout the district.  In fact, in the early years, there were more southend schools renovated than northend ones.

Page Three

In speaking of Fort Lawton, the district would get about six acres of land, for use consistent with the final EIS and with agreement from the City.  Six acres is very small and so I do not think it likely the district would create a school there.

As well, the City agrees to help SPS with finding properties for future schools/facilities like a downtown school or "potentially a school sited on the current Roosevelt Reservoir site" ( if they do lid it) with a community planning process.

This section also discusses that there will be a joint "draft public engagement plan."

As well, there is to be a joint meeting of the City Council and School Board in January.   

At this joint meeting, the elected officials will discuss key issues, scope of work, process and schedule for the joint planning efforts, and strategies for public involvement.

This should be interesting as it brings in the City Council and we will have a new mayor who might have her own ideas.

Page Four

This page has detail on siting and design considerations for alternatives for Memorial Stadium. 

Each Party will form technical teams "for visioning, joint planning, siting, considering inter-relationships among facilities, and design."  

Here's hoping the district has the smarts to look outside of JSCEE and find parents with expertise in design who can help them.  There is a notation that the teams will talk to the School Board, Superintendent, City Council and Mayor in decision-making.

Here you also see that marquee kind of thinking in "work toward equitable access and use of facilities, including consideration of creative improvements beyond ADA requirements."  However, the commitment to ADA is clearly spelled out.

Page Five 

This is the signature page that also lays out the "communications protocols."  A couple of them leapt out at me with phrases like "participate in good faith," "be clear and transparent," "share information," and "jointly agree on external messaging including media contacts." 

Pages 6-8

Here we see the differing/overlapping interests of both the District and the City; mostly they are in agreement.  The City really wants the design of any new stadium to align with the design for Seattle Center.  That seems fair.

One area of disagreement in the future might be over the District's desire for Memorial Stadium "protect from overuse of misuse by non-SPS entities" versus the City's "support multiple public uses (concerts, events, festivals, etc.) as well as SPS athletics and other school uses."

The City says - twice -  it's "willing to consider stadium financial partnership" or "potentially bring in outside partners" but that's not in the district's column.  Hmm.

They both agree on the need to work together to pass the BEX and Operations levies in 2019.   Given the City is combining the Pre-K and Families and Education levy that comes up in Fall 2018 and then, in Feb. 2019, the district will have its own levies, it seems it would behoove them both to get a coordinated message.

As I have stated previously, I think both the City and the District will be asking at (or just below) $1B for their levies.  That's a huge ask for voters.

Another area of seeming disagreement is "Seattle Center Properties" where the District says, "Keep existing SPS property at Seattle Center" while the City says, "evaluate siting options for all parcels (SPS and City creatively, balancing complex needs and considerations."  It will be interesting to see if the District uses the same lines on the City as they do to parents about some of their non-school facilities. 


Elizabeth said...

Hi, to be clear, where has this statement/opinion come from that this is not a legally binding agreement? It clearly is just that, legally binding. You have to look at the content, the intent, and there is no provision in it that outright states that, that it is not meant to be that. In addition, it should be taken in the totality with another agreement the City inked with SPS in July, revealed 8/4 this year - this is a plan, some details to work out, but the basics are there, the school district blinked, got a land concession for its effort, Fort Lawton, but this agreement will be used from here on out by the City and SPS to forge ahead, to put down any objection to their plans for now and in the future. It is spin that it is about “public participation” or that it is a “framework”, that’s to head people off as to what has occurred, projects are now determined, where they will be, who is in charge, and don’t mess with us gauntlet is down.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Elizabeth, I was told it's not legally binding by someone at the top. I do not doubt this person' word.

Ghost Mom said...

A school on the lid of Roosevelt reservoir???!!! That's only about 4 blocks from Roosevelt HS. What kind of school would they put there? They should put athletic fields for Roosevelt... Although I guess with light rail, that area will be built up a lot more. Maybe they do need some more schools... Wonder what kind they're contemplating.

Patrick said...

Ghost Mom, an elementary school, I'd assume. Greenlake, Bryant, Wedgwood, Sacajawea are all a bit crowded.

Anonymous said...

Re: using the Roosevelt reservoir lid for a school.... A pool and field for RHS would be nice, a Hazelwolf-like STEAM k-8 would also be amazing.

Capacity Plus

Melissa Westbrook said...

A pool and a field for RHS? This is a neighborhood, you know. As a neighbor, I'm not sure I'd want the entire thing going to school purposes. I think the city needs more playfields for all.

Anonymous said...

How about affordable housing instead.
- NP

Melissa Westbrook said...

NP, maybe you missed it but Roosevelt is being developed in every direction with housing. Even right in front of RHS. I think the land could be used for other things at this point.

Anonymous said...

Plus, I thought the basis of this discussion was that the city and SPS propose partnering on the development of what goes on the lid? Thus the suggestions related to RHS or a STEAM K-8, otherwise I agree with Melissa that a community pool and field would be nice, or something like what McMinnamins built in Bothel with a community pool, theater and restaurants.

Capacity Plus

kellie said...

About 10 years ago, during the height of the closure madness, a small group of moms, including myself, connected with every elected official in Seattle to ask for help. We thought the closures were just crazy.

Seattle was the fastest growing city in the United States. Elementary school enrollment was accelerating. SPS was CLOSING schools, when there needed to be plans to open schools. Now 10 years later, there is finally an MOU that says that Schools are a part of basic urban planning.

At that time, the relationship between SPS and City of Seattle and the Seattle Delegation was non-existent. Every elected official remarked about how there were ZERO official meetings between SPS and any other elected branch of government. After that there were regularly scheduled meetings between the mayor and the Superintendent. Please note that for over 30 years there was no contact between the mayor and the Superintendent.

The wheels of democracy spin very slowly but this MOU represents just very basic urban planning. Public Schools are a primary part of the infrastructure, just like fire stations and policy stations and community centers.

Watching said...

It appears the district and board will be a part of HALA. This is a good thing.

For the city: The city will have to weigh the costs of a shiny new stadium and costs of maintaining Seattle's pools and other crumbling structures.

For the board: The board will have to weigh the costs of Memorial Stadium and backlog of maintenance.

The board will have the difficult task of creating a contract with the city. The costs of accepting funding to build a new stadium and an agreement that allows the district to collect revenue. It seems to me that Memorial Stadium will have the capacity to generate a lot of funding. I'd like the district to receive funding from public events. Perhaps the district could mandate a percentage of funding for each public event.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I will just say that I support redoing Memorial stadium but not as part of a high school. I think it is folly at this point but there seems to be those who are pushing hard for it.

kellie said...

@ Mel,

I concur. I do not think a high school at Memorial Stadium makes any sense at all. It is an exceptionally expensive project at nearly $200 Million and there are are better ways to spend an equivalent amount of money.

Lincoln and the addition at Ingraham will provide plenty of north end capacity for immediate needs. Rainier Beach clearly needs to be the next high school BEX project. If additional capacity is still needed, then a high school at Fort Lawton makes a lot more sense both geographically and financially than Seattle Center.

There already is a high school at Seattle Center. It makes far more economic sense to support an expansion of an already existing program, rather than investing nearly $200 Million into an additional comprehensive high school.