Queen Anne Bowl Playfields parking and Initiative 42



Yesterday Council voted to approve legislation (Ordinance 117669) that swapped a parcel of parks-owned land for a strip of land owned by Aegis on Queen Anne, to ensure that Parks could continue to provide parking for the Queen Anne Bowl Playfields.

The current parking area is not actually owned by Parks. Parks made a deal in 1977 with the property’s then-owner, Seattle Pacific University, that allowed Parks to use it for parking, and though that agreement expired long ago, the lot has been in use for Parks parking ever since.

But this summer, the property was sold by Seattle Pacific University to Aegis, who now intends to develop it for senior housing.

Happily, the new owners agreed to a land swap so that Parks could preserve parking for the Playfields.

We had a couple people ask how this deal related to Initiative 42, better known in legalese as Seattle’s Ordinance 118477. (In fact, the text of the Queen Anne Bowl Ordinance 117669, which we voted on yesterday, explicitly noted that it superseded I-42. More on that below.)

Because we’ll be reviewing more legislation early next year to transfer partial jurisdiction of Parks-owned land to SPU, for the placement of combined sewer overflow tanks (CSO), it seems a good time to review the basics of I-42, aka Ordinance 118477.

What is Initiative 42?

Initiative 42 was a citizen-generated petition circulated in 1996 that called for all lands and facilities held then or in the future by the city of Seattle for park and recreation purposes, whether designated as park, park boulevard, or open space, would be preserved for such use in the future.

The Initiative 42 effort got underway when the South Atlantic Street Community Association (SASCA) realized that a local undeveloped pocket park was at risk of being sold for development.  Not only did their efforts result in the passage of Ordinance 118477, they also got funding from the Department of Neighborhoods and the Pro Parks Levy and ultimately created the neighborhood gem, Bradner Gardens.

A council bill that made Initiative 42 law was adopted by the Seattle City Council in January of 1997, signed by the Mayor in February 1997 and took force in March 1997.

In the ordinance adopted by City Council, Parks land can’t be sold, transferred, or changed from park use to another use unless:

  • The city holds a public hearing regarding the necessity of the transaction, and
  • The city enacts an ordinance finding that the transaction is necessary because there is no reasonable and practical alternative, and
  • The City receives land or a facility of equivalent or better size, value, location and usefulness in the vicinity, serving the same community and the same park purposes, in exchange.

As for why the Queen Anne Bowl Deal didn’t fall under I-42: Parks can recommend that certain ordinances supersede Initiative 42 when not all conditions of Ordinance 118477 are met but there’s a very compelling need for the sale or transfer of the land and the community affected supports the change.

In this instance, members of the Queen Anne Community Council expressed support for Parks, and attended the Parks and Neighborhoods committee meeting where the legislation was voted on to affirm their support for the deal.

The main points were that the Playfield had no other parking, and Parks, Aegis, and the community was concerned that on-street parking could become congested and dangerous. Parks didn’t have funding to acquire property in the area.

Aegis wanted to acquire approximately 4,935 square feet of the Playfield property in connection with its proposed retirement living project on its property north of the Playfield; and was willing to transfer approximately 5,650 square feet of the Third Avenue West Parking Lot that it owned to the City in exchange it. Both properties appraised and determined to be of equivalent size and value. But because the parks property wasn’t being used for parks or recreational purposes at the time, the transfer didn’t meet the requirements of Ordinance 118477.

Because of the unique opportunity to acquire needed parking for an active recreation area in exchange for property that is not needed for the active recreation area, DPR recommended the exchange even though the two properties do not serve the same park purpose, so Ordinance 118447 had to be superseded to permit the proposed transaction.