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March 17, 2017     West Seattle Herald
Showdown over the development of West Seattle free parking lots coming: Who will control them?
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Showdown over the development of West Seattle free parking lots coming: Who will control them? | West Seattle Herald / White Center News Skip to Main Content Area Saturday, April 29, 2017 | Broken clouds, 48.2 °F search Letters Sign in Subscribe Contact Us Front Page News Features Sports Opinion Police Blotter Showdown over the development of West Seattle free parking lots coming: Who will control them? If you have visited other shopping districts around Seattle from ... Westside-O-Rama West Seattle Entertainment Guide Admiral Theater 2343 California Ave. S.W. 938-3456 Movie ... Chief Sealth pounds West Seattle in playoff tuneup By Tim Clinton SPORTS EDITOR What a way to tune up for the ... A note about some changes- Westside Weekly becomes Westside Seattle By Ken Robinson Managing Editor When Jerry Robinson took the ... Police Blotter week of 4-24-17 Neighbors who aren’t neighborly The victim and the suspect of ... News Showdown over the development of West Seattle free parking lots coming: Who will control them? Work complete on Murray Basin CSO; Fences come down next week, celebration set for June 10 Herbold: West Seattle Bridge studies produce recommendations UPDATE:Fifth annual Peony & Bamboo Festival now set for May 6-7 South Seattle College’s Aviation Maintenance Technology Program partners with Delta Air Lines REMINDER: West Seattle Junction Day of Giving April, 29 will aid non-profits 58 unit apartment building with 29 parking spaces up for early design review Early Notice: White Center Jubilee Days promising to be the best in years West Seattle Garden Tour’s 2017 gardens & ticket info announced New playground planned for Early Head Start program at White Center Heights Elementary Trimesters, credits, and graduation, oh my! First Date musical comedy will delight audiences starting April 28 Microsoft shuttle will share space at Metro stop in pilot program Local restaurants participating in Dining Out for Life April 27 Streamlined design review set for three story, five unit townhouse on Delridge Way SW Two car crackup at 35th and Morgan SW sends three to hospital Sound Transit sends out RFQ for light rail consultant on West Seattle and Ballard routes Eleven, 3-story townhouses going ahead on 3420 SW Graham; Part of High Point redevelopment $440,000 settlement reached in West Seattle tree cutting suit: One suit remains Metro looking for input on simplifying adult bus fares King County Assessor explains why taxes are going up Next HPAC meeting is set for Wed. April 26 — join the conversation Historical society to seek new executive director The Art of Hair: Ola Salon opening a new location in Burien P-Patch community garden plots available in select neighborhoods Patrick RobinsonUnder the terms of a lease signed by the people who control them, the Free Parking lots in the West Seattle Junction face development at up to 30 Percent at a time. A challenge over the bylaws and possibly the control over the land the lots occupy is coming up for a vote. Showdown over the development of West Seattle free parking lots coming: Who will control them? Control of the lots is being challenged as land prices escalate: May 4 meeting could be decisive By Patrick Robinson 04/29/2017 Covenant.rtf Junction parking lot addresses & appraised values.rtf Proposals to the WSTP Board.rtf Check out who owns what here via the King County Parcel Viewer Who pays for parking? 2013 study If you have visited other shopping districts around Seattle from Ballard, to Queen Anne, to the University District, to Capitol Hill, you understand that parking is a huge challenge. In fact, only two have free on-street parking, West Seattle and Roosevelt and only West Seattle has free lots for shoppers and has since 1954. That could be about to change. The lots are located on 42nd SW behind the Junction, between Alaska and Oregon Street SW on the east side, to the west behind the Junction on 44th SW just south of Oregon Street SW and two others on 44th SW between Alaska and mid-block. They are actually seven plots of land (some are contiguous) with an assessed value today of $5,578,200. Push for changes could mean new development Recently a new 10 year lease (with two five year extensions) was proposed on those lots. They are controlled by a consortium of area property owners, shareholders and merchants called West Seattle Trusteed Properties (W.S.T.P.) formed in 1954. The lease included a clause to allow the development of new parking. Under a Covenant (see the text attached) with the City of Seattle signed in 1981 and governed by several city ordinances, the lots can be developed at up to 30 percent at a time but replacement parking must be provided. The WSTP lots offer a vital 228 free parking spaces. No gates, no lot attendants, and three hours to shop, dine, and do business. The voting shares for the shareholders are a mix of merchant, property ownership and standalone shares and have a cash value of around $500 each according to board members. The merchants pay the Business Improvement Association (BIA), called the Junction Merchants Association to administer and patrol the lots for violators (handled by Diamond Parking), who then pay the taxes and maintain the lots. Charlie Conner, who is the majority shareholder with 27 percent, feels that the lots are not being used in a financially responsible way and that the board is in need of reforms. He sent a letter to shareholders representing several shareholders that makes some serious charges. "Dear WSTP Shareholder We seek reform of the management of West Seattle Trusteed Properties Inc. in order to preserve the value of the Corporation while continuing to provide parking for junction area businesses and patrons. A number of the current Directors have consistently failed to act in the best interest of shareholders by failing to act consistent with State law and in a competent, efficient, ethical, transparent manner. Actions taken have included: 1. The unauthorized sale of unissued stock to one Director/Shareholder thus diluting all other shareholder interests by over 10%. The Directors declined to rescind this sale until confronted with litigation. 2. Shareholder records have not been fully and accurately maintained resulting in many shareholders receiving no meeting notices or other required information for over ten years. 3. Directors have employed WSTP legal counsel to assist in anti-shareholder oppressive actions such as drafting by-law amendments, making it more difficult for shareholders to raise issues before the board or nominate certain shareholders to serve as Directors. The board has squandered WSTP funds by tasking WSTP counsel to research how to strip shareholders of their stock or their rights as shareholders. 4. WSTP properties have been encumbered with easements without any consideration paid to WSTP or other affected parties. Within the last two years, WSTP has spent over a hundred thousand dollars in legal fees related to these actions to favor a few Directors in opposition to the Shareholders generally. Now, a number of current Directors seek to enter a 20 year lease of WSTP parking lots at an insufficient rental rate which will disproportionately benefit the largest property owners. Shareholders have not had sufficient opportunity to review the proposed lease in order to provide input on lease terms. nor has the board engaged real estate professionals to advise them of market rates or conditions. Such a lease as currently proposed, may have dire consequences for shareholders especially in the event of a future condemnation proceeding. A valuation based on a long term low lease rate will yield a low valuation and low compensation to WSTP. With ST3 having been approved by voters, it is reckless for this Board to ignore that risk. Dave Gowey, Joe Erickson, Tyler Johnson and myself are all shareholders who support reform and seek to serve as directors on the WSTP board. in order to do so we have submitted bylaw revisions for consideration at the upcoming shareholders meeting which will enable the election of the foregoing shareholders to serve on the Board to implement necessary reforms. Attached is a proxy which will allow us to accomplish our election and institute a few critical reforms. Please complete it and send a copy to Charlie Conner at the address set forth below. You are also encouraged to attend the shareholders meeting on March 23 (note: rescheduled to April 6), at the West Seattle Senior Center located at 4217 SW Oregon Street, Seattle WA 98116 where you may vote in person. In addition to these reforms we are committed to providing all shareholders with the following on a timely basis: 1. Meeting notices, agendas and minutes 2. Transparent financial reporting at least annually 3. Notice of significant issues being considered by the Directors which could affect WSTP value. 4. Professional management of WSTP business We hope you will support our efforts. If you have questions or comments please contact any or all of us. Sincerely, Charlie Conner Dave Gowey Joe Erickson Tyler Johnson Conner was once owner of the land in the Junction now home to Starbucks and the Equity Residential apartments extending down to Fresh Bistro in mid block. Conner sold that land to Equity Residential but retained his shares in WSTP in the transaction. He currently does not operate a business in West Seattle or own land in the Junction. He is the President of Conner Homes based in Bellevue. Others mentioned are either property, or shareholders in WSTP too. According to several shareholders contacted by the Herald, Conner had amassed an "unfair number" of shares and was on his way to even a higher percentage but was blocked by board members who asked that he divest some of his shares. He sold some of his shares to Joe Erickson and others and according to current board members hoped to have those who shared his beliefs get on the Board of Directors and have more control. This sale, would have been in conflict with the by-laws but the terms of the sale were worked out by the legal representative for both sides of the transaction. One direction Conner suggests would be to pattern the parking arrangement in West Seattle after that of the University District Parking Associates. That organization sells tokens to merchants who issue them to shoppers who must then either pay or use the tokens for parking. That means lots with attendants would be required, instead of the more open plan in place now. The current lots are patrolled by Diamond Parking, tickets are issued and chronic offenders are towed. But it's not a highly rigorous system. In letters sent by shareholder Tyler Johnson of Corner Investment to Erin J. Letey, the attorney for WSTP with Riddell Williams, P.S. Johnson expresses "concerns about the actions of the the WSTP Directors" and the advice allegedly given by Letey to the Board, which Johnson asserts he perceives "to be inappropriate" since it "has had the effect of favoring one group of shareholders over another, and disenfranchising a significant number of shareholders." Johnson is part of the same group who propose bylaw changes for WSTP. A major shareholder and member of the organization for 50 years, Leon Capelouto believes the board and parking lots are being run properly and that if the land is developed it will negatively affect some of the merchants in the Junction if replacement parking spaces are not provided. Capelouto once owned Shafran's Menswear (where the Matador Restaurant is now located) and is now a major land owner in the Junction, owning Capco Plaza (home to QFC) and other Junction properties. One potential some have suggested would be to work a deal to use the spaces under Jefferson Square which are often under-used but there are several existing paid lots in the area, which would mean those spaces would need to be leased and the WSTP has no funds for such a purpose. Shareholder Joe Erickson who is a Board member and Vice President of WSTP in a March 24 letter to the board recommended that the execution of the lease be postponed charging that, "It is not in the best interests of the Corporation and the Shareholders. This is evidenced by signed proxy's that Charlie Conner has received from WSTP shareholders representing over 50% of the outstanding shares. The shareholders are against this lease because it is a massive giveaway/destruction of value of the assets of the corporation to various special interests in the Junction, especially the largest property owner, Leon Capelouto." Erickson's letter notes that the rates for parking have risen "over 10% compounded annually over the past 12 years." The letter also charges that, "The board has openly pursued a path that benefits board members personal interests and non-shareholders at the expense of all shareholders. The board has breached its fiduciary duties by not considering other options or doing proper due diligence. The long-term lease is being pursued for two primary reasons: 1) to enhance the value of individual board members' property holdings and businesses in the junction and 2) to pursue other social purposes that many of the board members believe in at the expense of the majority of shareholders." A meeting was called on April 6 to vote on a new Board of Directors and on a set of proposals (found at the link above) from Conner and Corner Investments Co. but a quorum was not possible and the election and other decisions were delayed until May 4. The voting is an interesting if slightly confusing process based on the number shares, times the number of board of directors. There are currently 9 board members (though this number fluctuates). Hence a shareholder with 100 shares would have 900 votes to distribute as they saw fit. If a quorum is again not reached, the decision will again be delayed. Various shareholders, including most board members recognize that development is inevitable. They see that Sound Transit, seeking a park and ride site once light rail arrives in West Seattle, may well claim eminent domain and declare that the lots and/or other property be condemned, forcing their sale at the assessed value (likely much lower than they could be sold for to a developer) even though the lines are not due to be completed for more than a decade. So the question is, should that development be carried out by those with a clearly vested and historical interest in the junction or by others more recently involved who may or may not have the best interests of the merchants and shoppers in mind? Both sides of the question say they care about West Seattle and the business district. If and when development comes, it may well follow a pattern set forth by the Seattle City Council and codified as the Urban Village concept that lets developers build multi-family housing with fewer parking spaces as long as the development is within 1500 feet of a transit stop. Added to that is the trend toward less car ownership. In a 2013 study by the Sightline Institute noted that in an analysis of 23 apartment projects "37 percent of parking spots remained empty during the night, the time of peak demand for residential parking." The study concluded that "Many tenants don’t own cars, Multifamily developments lose money on parking, and car-free tenants still pay for parking," since the cost must be spread out amongst all tenants, thus raising rents. Seattle's Comprehensive Plan, in place since 1994, outlines what is planned for the Junction as well as Admiral and other neighborhoods. Parking has been an issue for decades "The original idea for the lots was to help the Junction, not the shareholders," said shareholder, board member and Husky Deli owner Jack Miller. "All of the trusteed property shares except for less than 10 percent were either passed down or acquired through purchase from owners or businessmen who volunteered and believed in providing parking as inexpensively as possible while still remaining solvent. Not until very recently did any shareholder voice concern for a return from these shares. The Junction is the heart soul and charm of West Seattle. We must fight to protect it." That was by all accounts the case and West Seattle as a neighborhood has held fast for more than 60 years. But the pace of development in recent years has meant finding a parking space at any kind of reasonable distance has become more difficult. Recently the Junction Neighborhood Association (JuNO) has suggested it is time to establish Restricted Parking Zones (PPZ), in the area meaning it would cost people to buy permits and stickers to park in certain areas as they do in other parts of the city. At a meeting held March 21 it was announced that the area has met the threshold and that the city would proceed with the next steps. SDOT’s Community Parking Program comprehensively studied parking in the West Seattle Junction in 2009. After a parking study was conducted in May 2009, staff worked with people in the area to review study findings and prepare a final parking plan. New time limit signs were installed in early 2010. That study, now some seven years out of date and well before much of the current wave of development, showed certain streets had up to 50% of parking availability in the middle of the day. That would not appear to be the case now with transit riders and area residents consuming parking literally all day on residential streets near bus stops. The Herald asked SDOT to respond to some questions about parking in the Junction. Sue Romero responded: 1. How many “on-street" parking spaces are there for the West Seattle Junction. SDOT does not have an inventory of parking spaces in and around the Junction. As part of SDOT’s Community Access and Parking Program, we will conduct an on-street parking study this fall that will provide information on how many on-street parking spaces are in the Junction area and how they are being used. We expect to work with the JUNO group and West Seattle business association soon to plan this work. You can find more information about the Community Access and Parking Program here. 2. What is the definition of parking spaces for that (or other) shopping districts. Can an RV park for example? Some publicly-available off-street parking is provided by the West Seattle Junction Association and various businesses. There is a mix of on-street parking, including time-limited parking and loading zones in the business district. Specific to RV’s, the Seattle Municipal Code states that vehicles over 80 inches in width are not allowed to park on-street overnight except in industrially zoned areas of the city. 3. What are the boundaries for 2 hour parking beyond the Junction? There is no specific boundary. The Seattle Parking Map shows where time limit signs are located, among other parking regulations. Please see the map here. 4. We understand there was an “experiment” with metered parking in West Seattle. If so when was that begun and ended? The California Avenue SW/Junction area had paid parking meters many years ago, but there have not been any in use or installed recently. 5. Is the 2010 Community Parking Program for the junction linked here still valid given the pace of development? While that study is informative, conditions have certainly changed in the Junction since 2010. As mentioned above, SDOT staff will work with the community to conduct an updated study this fall. 6. The Seattle Parking Map does not indicate ANY addresses in West Seattle eligible for RPZ. Is this accurate? Because Fauntleroy Zone 3 IS an RPZ. Is that the only one? Currently Zone 3 around the Fauntleroy ferry terminal is the only Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ) in the West Seattle area. SDOT RPZ Program staff received and are working on a request for an RPZ from residents in the Alaska Junction area. Staff plan to do a parking study and are working closely with the JUNO group and will coordinate that work with the Community Access and Parking Program study described above. What will happen to parking, the business districts in West Seattle and the complexion of the neighborhood rests largely in the hands of the West Seattle Trusteed Partners, who have the power to set the tone and structure of the area for decades to come. Seattle Parking map. Photo gallery for this story We encourage our readers to comment. No registration is required. We ask that you keep your comments free of profanity and keep them civil. They are moderated and objectionable comments will be removed. View the discussion thread. Please send us your news tips, photos or ideas of how we can better cover your neighborhood. Email us at WestSeattle@robinsonnews.com or TEXT news tips to 206-459-6717 Receive updates on news and events in the West Seattle neighborhood via Twitter! 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