An Update on the Waterfront LID

Posted By: Brett Waller Advocacy News ,

Your Rights as a Property Owner and the Seattle Waterfront LID

As you may know, the City of Seattle is in the process of creating a special tax assessment property owners as part of its Waterfront Seattle project. The tax, known as a Local Improvement District (LID),  would apply to commercial and residential properties in the 98101, 98104, 98164 and 98122 zip codes.  The purpose of the LID is to pay for improvements to the Seattle Waterfront after the removal of the Viaduct, including a $110 million bridge.   

The City is seeking $200 million from property owners in the LID area to pay for certain improvements to the Waterfront. Some owners will pay as much as $8 million in additional property tax associated with the LID. In 2013, the City of Seattle budgeted the entire project to cost $700 million. Now with a shortage of labor, and increased cost of raw materials, it is anticipated the cost will soar well above this $700 million marker.  

The city has estimated the special benefit and formulated a preliminary assessment of each residential and commercial property in the LID area. Undeveloped or under construction properties have a much smaller special benefit.  

Many concerned property owners have been meeting for the past two years to find common ground, alternative funding opportunities, and reduction of the overall LID. Though this group has made progress in negotiating a reasonable agreement with the Mayor's office, the City Council can do what they wish with any agreement, or create their own path.  

Property owners have many concerns about this project, including its budget, the opportunity for the city to levy a supplemental assessment if (when) the project exceeds its budget, on-going operations, and maintenance funding, and safety. Property owners along the waterfront have fallen victim to years of construction disruption because of the seawall replacement, Colman Dock renovation and more. More importantly, there is a strong possibility the tax hungry City Council could see the Local Improvement Districts as an opportunity to fund pet projects across the city.  

Challenging a special benefit and preliminary assessment can be difficult, because the special benefit is, simply put, "voodoo economics." However, if owners of 60% of the value of the special assessment  (in this case $120 million) "protest" the formation of the LID, the LID fails and the special assessment is defeated. This is a property owner's strongest tool to take a stand against ever-increasing property taxes and paying for something in which you may not receive a special benefit as a property owner. The "protest" is a simple letter, sent to the City of Seattle's Clerk. Protests can be sent immediately. Protests are revocable but must be resubmitted within 30 days after the creation of the LID. It is anticipated that the Council will vote on the formation of the LID on October 8.  

Please forward this email to the owners of your properties in the affected area to consider whether they may be affected but this supplemental tax assessment and whether they wish to file a protest. Please contact Brett Waller at brett@wmfha.org or (425) 656-9077 with any questions.