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Archive for the ‘Development’ Category

The City has sent out the following press release about last night’s Council decisions on next steps in the process to develop the Suzuki process:

The Bainbridge Island City Council has established a path to move forward with the development of the Suzuki Property, including completing an ecological study of the property and identifying a development team, the Olympic Property Group, to begin negotiating a development agreement.

At their Regular Business Meeting on March 23, the City Council laid out a path to move forward with an ecological study of the Suzuki Property. The citizen advisory Environmental Technical Advisory Committee (ETAC) will work with City staff to identify information already available regarding the property, and will identify additional information needed to establish an ecological baseline for the site. Once the additional information needed has been identified, ETAC will make a recommendation to the City Council as to the best path moving forward to gather the identified information.

The Council also voted to direct the City Manager to move forward with negotiating a development agreement with the Olympic Property Group. During their next meeting on Tuesday, April 12, the City Council will discuss the scope and parameters that will inform the City Manager during these negotiations. The exact details of the development contract including requirements for affordable housing, types of community amenities, etc., will be decided during these negotiations. All Councilmembers have already expressed a strong desire that the developer be required to carry out an extensive public engagement process as a condition of the development agreement.

 

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Bainbridge Mayor and Council member Val Tollefson has posted the following memo on the City’s website:

To: City Council; Doug Schulze
From: Val Tollefson
Date: March 21, 2016
Re: Proposal for moving forward with the Suzuki property Background.

There appears to be majority Council support for selecting a developer and moving forward with development of the Suzuki property. At the same time, there is unanimous support that if any development is to happen, it must be in the context of protecting the important ecological attributes of the property. Finally, there is strong sentiment among some on the Council and within respected members of the community that before any development activity proceeds there should be an ecological assessment of the property, to establish baseline information and ensure that there is no compelling but currently unknown reason to abandon development efforts before any substantive development takes place. There is also some opinion that such assessment should be done by persons or organizations without ties either to the developer or to the City, in the apparent belief that an unbiased assessment cannot otherwise be expected.

Following are my views on these issues. I hope they will help us have a productive discussion tomorrow evening.

Baseline Ecological Assessment proposal.

While I agree that an early baseline assessment of some aspects of the property is prudent, I do not agree that such assessment should happen independent of involvement of the developer, for several reasons. First, tasking the City with contracting for such an assessment will inevitably increase the cost and slow down the process. Second, it is important to involve the developer in defining the scope of such an assessment so that the scope will not be deficient and require unnecessary repetition if the development proceeds. Third, at least one of the baseline issues that should be addressed (the impact of any proposed development on aquifer recharge and the hydrological functioning of the non‐ developed portion of the site) requires input from the developer with regard to areas subject to potential development.

I believe that any fear that involvement of a developer will compromise the process or be a de facto decision to proceed regardless of what an assessment might reveal are groundless if we take the following three steps:

  1. Task the Environmental Technical Advisory Committee to act as the City’s advocate in collaborating with the developer to define the scope of an assessment, in approving the qualifications of professionals retained by the developer to perform the assessment, and to verify the adequacy and reliability of any resulting work product. ETAC will have to agree to this assignment, and to its willingness to handle these responsibilities (which should be short‐lived) on an expeditious basis rather than through its regularly scheduled meeting process. Alternatively, the City could retain a professional project manager to discharge these responsibilities, although after some research I’m not sure where we would find such a qualified professional.
  2. The City will require that this assessment be completed and reported to the City Council for consideration and possible approval before any other aspect of a potential development proposal is considered by the Council.
  3. The City will agree to reimburse the developer its costs incurred in performing this assessment should the assessment result in the City deciding to abandon the project.

If the Council agrees that this is a reasonable approach, I suggest that we direct City staff to implement this strategy. Although the scope of the assessment should ultimately be determined by those with expertise, I suggest that the main items that need early attention are:

1. A survey of the property, to include surveyed location on the property of trees
identified by a certified arborist as mature or old‐growth, and the outline of the
portion of the property identified by that arborist as constituting “mature forest”.

2. A report by a certified arborist identifying the species, estimated age and health of each tree located in the survey.

3. A report by a certified arborist of requirements to protect the health of the mature forest, including buffers from construction activity, or recommendations on means of construction that would avoid damage.

4. A report by a qualified professional as to the impact on aquifer recharge that would follow from development of any particular part of the property, and of the
consequences for the ecological function of the remainder of the property of such
development.

5. A report by a qualified professional as to the minimum buffer around the existing pond and elsewhere on the southern border of the property necessary to preserve the essential ecological function of the pond, and to provide reasonable screening to adjacent neighbors.

Developer Choice proposal.

I recommend that we direct Staff to negotiate a development agreement with Olympic Property Group for the following reasons, and with the following instructions:

My recommendation of OPG is based on the following factors:

1. I believe that OPG is best‐qualified financially and by experience to provide a project that will be functionally and esthetically acceptable to the community.
2. I personally believe that for a development agreement to gain Council support, it will be important for the developer to lead the development team in considering innovative ways of addressing community interests and Council priorities, and to maintain a robust and effective community outreach process. I think OPG is best equipped to accomplish this.
3. Of those members of the public commenting in support of some development of the property, there has been significant support of including some sort of Boys and Girls Club/Community facility. Such a facility would be a good fit with this development and adjacent neighborhoods, and potentially would result in less traffic impact at critical times.
Development Agreement directions to Staff.
If we move ahead as outlined above, I suggest we provide Staff with some specific goals for a development agreement. My current list includes, in no particular order:

(more…)

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This was posted on Facebook today, and was posted last week on the Parfitt Way Blog, the blog of Parfitt Way Management Corp., owner of the Harbour Public House, Pegasus Coffee House and Harbor Marina. The entire blog post is here.  Parfitt Way Management is owned by long-time islanders and business people, Jeff and Jocelyn Waite.

As I listen to the competing arguments for the preferred use of the Suzuki property, I am disappointed by the discussions.

In many respects, this is a bizarre story of a geographically exclusive city that prides itself on being environmentally conscious, whose city council can approve the construction of yet another 10,000-square-foot vacation home with a heated outdoor swimming pool, and simultaneously decry as an eyesore the “ugly” multifamily developments where working class people live. In other respects, this is a familiar story of America’s continuing clash between people of differing economic classes, who rely on each other, and yet cannot figure out how to live with each other.

Bainbridge Island’s service sector is teetering on the edge of unsustainability for one reason and one reason alone – lack of available workers. Historically, to maintain our two restaurants’ doors open we have required some 60 – 70 persons in our work force per year. That nets out to about 35 full time equivalents (FTE). We are just one employer on an island that continues to demand a vibrant and healthy downtown. Each year we watch as our available labor pool shrinks and the number of staff miles driven to get to work increases. In my many years on the Chamber of Commerce board of directors, I have heard a common refrain from the island’s employers. How is that good for the island and our island environment?

For those who are taking issue with the Housing Resource Board’s (HRB) proposal based on environmental concerns, please take pause. If Bainbridge Island is a defining place that embodies the best of environmentalism, then much of that movement becomes wed to the condition of the privileged. Privileged environmentalism is not progressive politics but a politics of the rich and comfortable that only claims progressive ideals. That brand of environmentalism becomes entirely consistent with – and is a close cousin of – class exclusionary politics. (more…)

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It was after 11 last night when the City Council concluded its discussion about the next steps in the process to decide what to do about the Suzuki property. The Council agenda called only for “discussion” on next steps and not for a vote. But when each council member had given lengthy statements about his or her views on Suzuki, a visibly tired mayor Val Tollefson said he’d “counted noses” and believed a majority of four council members were in favor of developing the property for affordable housing. The four members supporting development are Roger Townsend, Wayne Roth, Mike Scott, and Val Tollefson.

They also supported doing the ecological study of the property urged by Council members Ron Peltier, Kol Medina and Sarah Blossom. Tollefson noted that much of the work for such a study has already been done and that the first task would be to work with City staff to learn what has been done, and to “fill the gaps” with a paid consultant. The four in the majority rejected the idea, floated by Peltier, that the City should use citizen volunteers for the study. (more…)

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home1We’ve heard a lot about the environmental value of the Suzuki property, and the potential ecological impact from development. In comparison, we’ve heard almost nothing about housing access, lack of diversity and other consequences of Bainbridge Island’s affordable housing problems. I don’t want to further polarize people, but I do think a balancing of the factors in the City’s decision would be helpful.

Fair housing is an ideal that emerged from our nation’s civil rights movement. In the 1960’s, a national advisory commission found that both open and covert racial discrimination prevented black families from obtaining better housing and moving to integrated communities. To overcome the legacy of segregation, unequal treatment, and lack of access to opportunity in housing, Congress adopted the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

The FHA outlaws obvious discriminatory practices like exclusionary zoning, discriminatory lending practices and racially restrictive covenants. Over the years, it has been expanded to cover several protected classes, prohibiting housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or the presence of children. Like many states, Washington has its own fair housing laws, and specifies additional protected classes, such as age, sexual orientation, political ideology and source of income.

But discrimination is not always obvious, and last spring, in Texas Dept. of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that housing policies resulting in “disparate impact”—a disproportionately adverse effect on protected classesviolate the law even if there is no intent to discriminate. The Court cited zoning laws and other housing restrictions as examples of actions that may not arise from intentional discrimination, but may nevertheless violate the law because they have a disparate impact on protected classes.

Also last year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) finalized a new rule that gives sharper teeth to the Fair Housing Act, impacting all communities, including our own. This rule requires all agencies receiving HUD money to provide regular reports on actions they have taken to “affirmatively further fair housing.” These reports must be be submitted to HUD for review. This is a more robust standard than the previous requirement to do an “analysis of impediments” to fair housing, which fell short of the goal of increasing housing fairness.

How do these developments affect us locally?

Bainbridge Island receives HUD money through Kitsap County, according to HUD Public Affairs officer Leland Jones. For example, Housing Kitsap–our county’s public housing agency—provides HUD money to islanders who have Section 8 vouchers. Additionally, federal money provided some of the financing for Ferncliff Village, an affordable housing development of our housing nonprofit, Housing Resources Bainbridge (HRB). Thus, the island’s efforts to affirmatively further fair housing must be documented and submitted to HUD under the new rule.

Even before the new rule, there was plenty of publicly available information about regional housing efforts.  For example, a 2014 report by the Puget Sound Regional Council said that although most forms of overt housing discrimination are in decline in the Puget Sound region, the impacts of historical unfairness are still evident. The report further noted, “Structural causes of segregation continue to have a pervasive effect across communities, whether or not self-segregation or discrimination are also at play. People are residentially sorted by economic status. High-priced neighborhoods as well as neighborhoods with limited rental housing fail to provide feasible housing choices for low- and-moderate income households.”

Bainbridge Island is deeply afflicted with these structural causes of segregation, and is one of the most racially segregated communities in the entire region. According to our latest Housing Needs Assessment, the population of Bainbridge Island in 2010 (the most recent year for which data is available) was 91% white. Since 1980, minorities have consistently made up less than 10% of the island’s population. Compare this to other Puget Sound suburbs: Shoreline: 69% white; Bellevue: 60% white. Even our Eastside doppelganger, Mercer Island, is substantially more diverse than Bainbridge at 78% white. (more…)

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IMG_2996 Next week the City Council will start talking about what they want to do with the Suzuki property. There are four proposals on the table, ranging from transferring the land for free to the Parks Department, to selling it for as much as $2.6 million for higher-density development that includes at least some affordable housing. The process has generated strong opinion, because our community (and our Comprehensive Plan) place so much value on the seemingly contradictory goals of environmental stewardship and affordable housing.  In a recent interview with Bainbridge Island Broadcasting, the City’s Interim Planning Director, Joe Tovar, hit the nail on the head when he said, “So you’ve got those two things that, in the abstract, are very high rank order public policy priorities for people here on the island.”

In the abstract. Yes, of course.

People come down on the side of either pro-housing or pro-preservation (sometimes trying to split the baby by saying, “I do believe in affordable housing, just not here,” though the specific location of Not Here remains elusive). We collect data and studies about ecological value, species counts, aquifer recharge and the significance of trees, wetlands and pond. The other side counters with data and studies about housing costs, the benefits to kids from lower-income homes when they live in more affluent communities, and the heavier traffic from people who work on Bainbridge Island but must commute from off-island. A third view talks about missing middles, and the need for a wholesome refuge for island kids.

Data, careful study and analysis are important as a foundation for our decision-making, but we can’t stop there. We would do well to remember that data and studies are abstractions, in the sense that Tovar observed. Abstractions do not pull us together, but further apart, into the solitary confines of our own mental chatter, beliefs and preoccupations. They often confirm what we already believe. The realities in our community become symbols–abstractions—for global problems. We hunker down to fight the good fight, and solutions get lost in the fight.

When one abstraction collides with another in a seemingly intractable way, a good plan might be to go out into the real world, into the good air, where we know our surroundings bodily, with our eyes, and ears, our skin, our hands and feet.

There, we sense the wholeness and mystery of this Earth. There is no part of the Earth that is not touched by humans. There is no part of the human that is not touched by the Earth. We are already in profoundly consequential relationship with our home, our Mother. We are a crowded planet. Beautiful places that are good places to live become more crowded by the year. We don’t know how to protect our good, beautiful places, where people want to live. We don’t know how to provide decent housing for all people. Like every species, we engage in the daily struggle for survival, and now we face the added challenge of adapting to a changing world not of our own making, and almost entirely outside of our individual control. We are facing the unknown. Old strategies and structures no longer point the way forward.

Neither do questions that pose a false dichotomy: Environment or people? Homes for people of modest means, or homes for non-human species? Development or land preservation? Act now or delay? It is neither possible nor reality-based to try to choose between the natural environment and the fundamental needs of human beings.

For me, a more helpful question might be this: how do we have a relationship of integrity with the Earth and all her creatures, including human creatures, in this place, at this time?

It is not an easy inquiry. It requires a willingness to leave the comfort of already-formed answers. It reminds us that “community” includes all life forms — animals, moss, birds, trees, human beings–and that, as a community, we are accountable to our land, our neighborhoods and to each other. It takes us out of abstraction, and into actual, concrete experience. (more…)

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The City just sent out this press release and the next and last meeting about the Suzuki property, before the Council makes a decision on what to do with the land.

The community is invited to attend a meeting on Tuesday, February 23, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. to provide the City Council with input on four proposals for the Suzuki Property.

The purpose of the meeting on February 23 is to provide the community with an opportunity to share comment and feedback with the City Council on four proposals for the Suzuki Property. The entire two hour meeting that evening will be devoted to providing an opportunity for the public to provide comment. This meeting is the third in a series of community meetings regarding the Suzuki Property that have occurred this year.

The City Council will begin to deliberate next steps regarding the proposals at the Council Meeting on Tuesday, March 8. It is anticipated that the Council will make a decision regarding the future of the property this spring. If the Council decides to move forward with one of the proposals, the City will enter in contract negotiations with the selected team. During those contract negotiations, an agreement will be worked out that will include details about the purchase and sale, as well as additional conditions regarding the development of the property. For example, the City could stipulate additional conditions such as requiring that the selected team host additional community charrettes, requiring environmental protections that would go above and beyond permit requirements, or requirements for affordable housing or community amenities.

For more information on the Suzuki property, and to view the four proposals in their entirety, please visit the Suzuki Property page on the City website. Public comment may be submitted at anytime to pcd@bainbridgwa.gov or council@bainbridgewa.gov

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