Full Council vote on the Roosevelt Rezone (LIVE COVERAGE)

On Monday, January 30, at 2 PM, the Seattle City Council will vote on Council Bill 117379, better known as the Roosevelt Residential Urban Village rezone.

We will be watching the live stream (via the Seattle Channel) from Ravenna Blog HQ and covering the action in the space below. Readers may follow along (and make comments) during the live event, or come back later to read our notes. We will also embed the video of the meeting here once it is available.

SPOILER ALERT: The Full Council meeting agenda already includes eight of the nine Councilmembers’ votes (then Council President Conlin was absent from the December 14, 2011 Committee on the Built Environment meeting due to illness).

Seattle Community Center operations WILL change, but by how much?

Last night at the Bitter Lake Community Center, around 65 people gathered to hear about the potential fate of the city’s 25 community centers. One more of these meetings will be held tonight, from 7-8:30 PM, at the Jefferson Community Center (3801 Beacon Ave S).

Seattle Parks and Recreation has been asked by the City Council to trim $1.5-2.5 million from its community center budget for 2012. In January of this year a series of meetings began — with Parks’ staff, the public, and an advisory committee made up of both — to come up with ideas for both cuts and increased usage.

From those meetings, nine options for changing community center operations have emerged. Now Parks is seeking pubic comment on these options before final recommendations are brought to the City Council and the Mayor’s office in September. Final decisions will be made the week of Thanksgiving.

These nine options were outlined and discussed last night in a presentation by Parks staff, with a question and answer session following.

Of the nine options, three categories emerge: Options 1-3 make system-wide changes to community center operations, 5-6 deal with raising fees, and 7-9 explore partnerships with an eye towards individual centers’ needs and resources.

Option 4, however, is not really an option: Closing community centers. More on this below.

Carol Everson, of the Parks and Recreation Finance and Administrative Services Division, presented the nine options to those attending. Before she started, Everson urged us to think of the options as a “range of possibilities” available to make up the Parks’ budget gap, or even a “menu” from which multiple options could be chosen.

The survey about all nine options (and a space for comments) can be found online here, and is also available on paper at the community centers themselves. The deadline for the survey is July 1.

Carol Everson (standing) and Charlie Zaragoza (seated; Chair of the Associated Recreation Council Board) during the presentation of the Community Center Operations Options

The full descriptions (and cost savings) for all nine options can be found online here. Last night, they were outlined by Everson. What follows is a summary of the nine options, grouped by type, and including some additional information from last night’s presentation.

Reducing General Fund Usage

Options 1-3: Changing the way community centers are managed

Community Center Operating Options 1-3 are a progressive series of options all based on Option 1 (Geographic Management of Community Centers).

Option 1 “[O]rganizes community centers into seven geographic groups of three or four centers that are manage and programmed in a coordinated fashion.”

Option 2 adds on to Option 1 by classifying community centers within these groups into three tiers “based on criteria including physical facilities, current use, and demographics.” Tier 1 centers would average 50 hours of operating time a week, Tier 2a centers 30-45 hours, and Tier 2b centers 12-25 hours.

Tier 1, 2a or 2b: That is the question.

And Option 3 puts 2-3 of the Tier 2b centers on the chopping block. These sites might be run by other partnering organizations, or kept closed.

Option 4: Changing nothing

Called the “nuclear option” by Parks staff themselves, Option 4 would keep all operations at community centers exactly the same as they are today…with the exception of the 7-10 centers that would be closed outright.

With 25 community centers in the Parks system each costing approximately $400,000 a year to run, shutting down a bunch of them would instantly save the city millions of dollars. Closed centers would still be available for rentals or partnerships with outside groups. But the cost to local neighborhoods (and possibly to the Parks Department, the City Council, and the Mayor’s office) would be tremendous.

Both Parks staff at the meeting (and our own local community center coordinators at Ravenna-Eckstein CC and Meadowbrook CC; both present at last night’s meeting and with whom I spoke) agreed that either Option 1, 2 or 3 will be chosen: Community Centers in the future will be managed by geographic areas, not on a site-by-site basis. (How this will affect individual centers’ Advisory Councils will remain to be seen.)

Adjusting Fees

Option 5: Increase PAR Fee

Participation Fees (PAR fees) are monies that are retained from Associated Recreation Council (ARC) classes, sports fees, and childcare services by the City. Under Option 5, these fees would increase to 4% or 5% from their current level of 3.25%. Unfortunately, this would only bring in another $47,000-$126,000 a year.

Option 6: Resident Discount

With Option 6, Seattle residents would be offered about a 10% discount on community center programs and services, while fees would be raised for other users. This option would be piloted at the Amy Yee Tennis Center or at all swimming pools first, before extending into remaining facilities. Similarly to Option 5, Option 6 would bring in only an extra $126,000 per year.

Partnership Options

Option 7: Volunteers

Seattle Parks and Recreation already makes use of a good number of volunteers in its community centers, but Option 7 would have the amount increase. These volunteers would augment current staffing, freeing “professional staff for duties requiring their expertise.” But training new volunteers takes time, and the option is considered “[u]nlikely to be [a] major source of budget savings.”

Option 8: Reprogramming of Underused Spaces

Option 8 would take community center “dark hours” (when the center is not open or is underused) and “recruit outside organizations (partners) to provide programs or services” at those times. Utilization of centers would be increased through Joint Use Agreements with these outside organizations, but, yet again, Parks believes that this option is “[u]nlikely to be a major source of additional revenue.”

Option 9: Long-Term Lease of Entire Community Center

Another option that would close the budget gap quickly but has the potential to create public ill-will is Option 9: Allowing an outside organization to assume total responsibility for operating a community center that would otherwise be closed.

Current examples of long-term partnerships of this type include Green Lake’s Bathhouse Theater, the Pratt Fine Arts Center, the Mountaineers Club, the Seattle Aquarium and Arena Sports (Building 27 in Magnuson Park).

Each community center that is closed automatically saves $400,000, and rent payments by lessees would added to that savings as well. But there would be lag time between center closures and reopenings by lessees. Maintenance costs of these facilities would still fall to Parks, and reopening as a community center in the future would be difficult.

City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen at the Northeast Library next Saturday

City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen has been making the rounds to various libraries this month, holding conversations with citizens about Our Fair City. Next Saturday, October 30, from noon-2pm, he’ll be at the Northeast Library (6801 35th Ave NE) to chat with YOU.

CM Rasmussen (far left) at the Green Lake Library conversation on October 16. Photo courtesy Amy Duncan at MyGreenLake.com. (Click photo to read her post on this meeting.)

From the Council News Release (October 4, 2010):

SEATTLE – Councilmember Tom Rasmussen will spend several upcoming Saturdays in the community at Seattle Public Library locations, listening to residents. These informal conversations will take many different directions, with all topics on the table.

“I sincerely hope people will take advantage of this opportunity to have informal yet meaningful conversations about our City,” said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen. “I’d like to hear people’s thoughts regarding next year’s budget, transportation issues, as well as other topics relevant to Seattleites.”

This informal conversation is being held the day before Halloween. No word on whether he’ll be dressing up or not*.


*I’m guessing NOT.