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City of Seattle

Proposition No. 1
General Obligation Bonds - $290,000,000 (Alaskan Way Seawall)

The City Council of the City of Seattle, Washington, passed Ordinance No. 123922, concerning funding for the Alaskan Way seawall and associated infrastructure.


This proposition would address public safety risks and seismic hazards by authorizing the City to incur costs related to the design, construction, renovation, improvement and replacement of the Alaskan Way seawall and associated public facilities and infrastructure, including City-owned waterfront piers; issue no more than $290,000,000 of general obligation bonds maturing within 30 years; and levy annual excess property taxes to repay the bonds, all as provided in Ordinance No. 123922.


Should this proposition be:



The Existing Situation–


The City of Seattle owns the Alaskan Way seawall and Piers 58 and 62/63 on the City central waterfront.  The City Council passed and the Mayor approved Ordinance 123922 (a copy of which is found elsewhere in this pamphlet).  That ordinance includes the following statements about the existing situation of these public improvements: 

  • “[T]he existing Alaskan Way seawall is seriously deteriorated due to aging components and materials, and tidal forces of Elliott Bay, and marine borer damage, with approximately 50 percent of the existing wall currently damaged.”
  • “[T]he seawall is not designed to withstand earthquakes and there is a one in ten chance in the next ten years of an earthquake leading to liquefaction and Seawall failure.”
  • “Pier 58 is seismically vulnerable and the structural deficiencies of Piers 62/63 have forced the City to significantly limit activities on the piers in order to protect public safety.”


The Effect of the Measure if Approved –


If approved by the voters, the City proposes to sell no more than $290,000,000 in bonds to pay for the costs related to the design, construction, renovation, improvement, and replacement of the Alaskan Way seawall and associated public facilities and infrastructure, including City-owned waterfront piers (collectively, the “Project”).  The principal and interest on the bonds (the debt) would be repaid by increased property taxes in excess of normal property tax limits.


The bonds must be issued within ten years of the vote and each bond must mature within thirty years of its sale.  A portion of the funds raised, equal to 1% of the estimated construction expenditures on the Project, will be spent on public works for art in accordance with Seattle Municipal Code Section 20.32.030. 


The funds raised by the bonds would be used for capital costs of the Project.  Section 2 of Ordinance No. 123922 details the nature of those costs.  The City also shall seek supplemental, matching or additional funds to pay all or part of the cost of the Project.  If the Project is completed and there are remaining funds from the sale of the bonds, those funds may be used for other waterfront improvements or infrastructure construction, repair or replacement, or for the payment of debt service on bonds, all as later determined by ordinance.  Should there be insufficient funds from the bonds to complete the Project, the City may delay completion of all or any element of the Project until adequate funding is available, or eliminate any part of the Project.


Property taxes will be raised in excess of regular property tax levies, without limitation as to rate, but only in such amounts sufficient to pay the principal and interest (debt service) on the bonds.  The annual debt service for all $290 million in bonds approved by this measure is estimated to be $19 million per year over a 30-year period, assuming a 5% interest rate.  Once the full $290 million in bonds have been sold, the impact to property owners is projected to be approximately $59 annually for a median-value home worth $360,000.

Save Our Sea Wall: A Critical Public Safety investment


This measure is a critical public safety investment first and foremost. Seattle’s Waterfront Seawall ranges from 75 to almost 100 years old and has deteriorated to the point where it may completely fail in an earthquake or large storm. This could lead to the collapse of the Alaskan Way surface street, waterfront piers and businesses, the ferry terminal and Port of Seattle facilities. Major utilities including power, sewer and storm water, natural gas and telecommunications are also at risk.  It is time to make a needed investment for the safety and future of our waterfront.


Generations ago, Seattle residents built the seawall as an investment in public health and safety and to facilitate growth of a new economy and city.  A new seawall will not only protect the safety, mobility and economy of our waterfront and downtown, but allow us to realize future economic and civic potential. 


This measure also helps to fund critical improvements to publicly owned piers that right now are unsafe and unusable. While replacing the seawall, we can save money and give new life to these important public spaces on our waterfront.


A New Seawall: The Foundation of a Waterfront for All


While this measure is designed to fund the public safety need for a new seawall, the replacement project is the critical first step in a larger vision to revitalize the downtown waterfront.  The City Council and Mayor—following significant public input— have approved a framework plan for a new Alaskan Way surface street, new parks, picnic areas, open space and paths for walking, biking and running after the Viaduct is taken down.


The new seawall will be designed to improve and protect salmon habitat and the ecology of Elliott Bay.


Accountable and Affordable


This 30 year measure will cost the average Seattle household less than $59/ year— just under $5 per month.  Oversight is provided by the Central Waterfront Committee, a citizens group appointed by the Mayor and City Council, assuring accountability to taxpayers.


Seattle Agrees: Yes on Prop 1


The Seawall replacement bond measure is endorsed by neighborhood, community and public safety leaders across Seattle, The Greater Seattle Chamber and King County Labor Council, Mayor and City Council, Seattle Aquarium Society and Leonard the Goldfish, Aquarium spokesfish; and many, many more.

The Seattle Seawall Bond Measure – An Unfair Property Tax Burden


In the history of Seattle, never have so many properties been taxed so much for the benefit of so few.


As proposed, the Elliott Bay Seawall would be rebuilt with proceeds from a $290-million bond issue levied against all Seattle property owners.  Over its 30-year life, this gift to a few downtown property owners, taking interest into account, could well exceed one billion dollars. 


Seattle has almost 85 miles of waterfront property of which only 1.5 percent is bounded by the subject seawall.  The majority of waterfront commercial and residential property owners are responsible for maintaining their own bulkheads and shore lands without any public subsidy.  Many of these privately built and maintained bulkheads also hold back high-volume, principal arterial streets such as Rainier Avenue S. and Westlake Avenue.  Accordingly, why should the private business owners along these 1.32 miles of Elliott Bay waterfront property benefit from a public subsidy?


Basically, the downtown and Elliott Bay property owners want all Seattle taxpayers to pay for their waterfront improvements.  This is not only unfair but more troubling is that it raises serious equal protection arguments.  


The Seattle Central Business District is the most highly valued real estate in the entire State of Washington.  Why should the city’s outlying residences and businesses be taxed for a seawall improvement that would give them zero benefits?


With the private landowners of so many highly valued properties poised to gain substantial benefits from the seawall project, it is clear that the fairest, most equitable and least onerous project financing should come from a Local Improvement District (LID).  LIDs have been used for these exact kinds of property improvements since 1917.  An LID ensures that those who receive the benefits pay for the benefits


Please join those who are rejecting this unfair, unjust and excessive bond measure.

When a road or bridge needs replacement, all of us share the costs of critical infrastructure replacement.  Similarly, the seawall is a critical public safety priority all of us share. 


Seattle’s deteriorating seawall threatens public safety regardless of where you live or work.  Further decay will impact safety and mobility on our downtown streets, jeopardize citywide utilities that light and heat our homes and offices, and undermine important components of our regional economy. 


Seawall replacement is a needed investment to protect safety and restore publicly-owned structures. 

Furthermore, waterfront improvements are NOT part of this bond measure.  When those amenities are constructed, it will indeed be with creation of a Local Improvement District.  Opponents are misleading: downtown property owners who benefit from potential future investments WILL pay their fair share.  This measure ONLY concerns the seawall and related safety projects.


Please vote yes on Proposition 1.


Statement submitted by:

Charley Royer, former Mayor and co-chair, Central Waterfront Committee

Kenny Stuart, President, Seattle Firefighters Local 27

David Freiboth, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, ML King County Labor Council

The Central Waterfront Committee is cloaking the argument for proceeding with this unnecessary bond measure under the pretext that it is “a critical public safety investment”.  While there may be a pressing need to address the condition of the seawall, there has been no showing to suggest it is a need deserving of a 30-year commitment of over a billion dollars by all property owners in Seattle. 


Both the WSDOT Ferries Division and the Port of Seattle are able to finance their own seawall improvement with routine maintenance funds.


The alleged “collapse of … waterfront piers and businesses” is fear-mongering claptrap.


Importantly, the June 1, 2010 study for the city, Feasibility Analysis of Special Benefits, shows downtown waterfront property owners gaining up to $1.95 billion in “Special Benefits”.


Logically, a Local Improvement District (LID) should finance this project so those who benefit pay its cost.


Statement submitted by:

Christopher V. Brown, P.E., Committee Chairman

Ed Plute

60% yes vote and a minimum turnout of 79,004 (Washington Constitution, art. VII, sec 2(b))
1253 en-US Production

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