Seattle's proposed north police precinct was put on the back burner after an uproar over its $160 million price tag. Now city council member Kshama Sawant is proposing dumping the project altogether and using the money for affordable housing.
The opposition to the price tag of the north precinct was so strong, it had its own hashtag known as ‘#BlockTheBunker.’ Sawant is asking those precinct opponents to come to Tuesday evening's budget discussion to voice their support for her proposal instead.
The north precinct project has suffered setback after setback. The design plans were deemed to be too big, too bunker-ish, and far too expensive. With so much opposition, the mayor and key council members tabled it last month.
Now Sawant wants to use the $160 million allocated to the project for affordable housing instead.
“Working people and small businesses are concerned about the crisis in affordable housing availability in this city. So we need to build as many affordable homes as possible,” she said.
Janine Blaeloch, vice chair of the Lake City Neighborhood Alliance, wants to find a way to balance issues like affordable housing and public safety.
“I see the need. There is no denying it,” said Blaeloch, “And it is not fun to be in competition with the different needs we have in our neighborhood, but I would say let’s look at all the needs that we have here, and see how much of the different challenges we can meet with the money that might have gone to that big building. Then lets figure out a reasonable price tag for a new north precinct building.”
Sawant not only believes a new north precinct isn't necessary, but she's also against the city hiring 200 new police officers.
The mayor’s office argues the precinct and affordable housing aren't mutually exclusive.
The proposed budget for the north precinct includes a portion of funding from real estate excise taxes. State law does not allow that revenue to be used directly for affordable housing development. But budget staff is exploring possible options.