Mayor changes course on land sale to fund homeless initiatives
WEST SEATTLE - In the ongoing debate about how to handle the homelessness issue, one thing seemed clear.
The city would sell an unused parcel of land, in southwest Seattle for $5 million to create more shelter space and honey buckets. The land, off Myers Way, is little used, and littered with garbage. It was part of the state of emergency order by Mayor Ed Murray and elected leaders last fall.
On Thursday, Murray reversed course.
"We took another look at it, and decided not to sell it," he said during a morning press conference on the Housing Levy.
It came after councilmember Lisa Herbold and her West Seattle constituents argued that the area should be preserved as green space and was good for the environment.
"It's fantastic news," Herbold said. "I think there is a really good sound case, and that property serves a really important function."
But not everyone is happy. The city has already spent the $5 million, and now must look elsewhere to fill the gap.
"It raises a lot of issues," says councilmember Tim Burgess, who chairs the council's finance committee. "We said we would use the proceeds to help with our emergency response with street homelessness in this city."
"It says that city leadership should be consistent to the financial policies we set," he added. "We should weigh all of the competing interests and make really prudent and wise decisions, and unfortunately this is not one of those."
Murray acknowledged he does not know where the money will come from to fill the gap.
"We'll identify other funds, to pay for the challenges of homelessness, which continue to grow," Murray said.
Murray said the city was in the process of writing the budget and would be able to answer where the money will come from in September.
Herbold believes the money could come from the recent sale of the Pacific Place parking garage, but Burgess isn't so sure.
"I can guarantee you there will be many competing interests trying to further divide the city budget. That's why faithfulness to the financial policies we set is so critically important," he said.