Friday, August 26, 2011

Seattle Times: Parking spat may stall project at CenturyLink Field

The story about the parking lot north of Seahawks stadium that is slowly being sold by King County to a condo/apartment developer has reached the Seattle Times.

The problem: Developer Daniels Real Estate and the owner of the stadium, known until recently as Qwest Field, haven't reached agreement on replacing 491 premium parking stalls the development would displace.

King County owns the property, nearly 4 acres covering the northern half of the parking lot. The sale to Daniels is to close Sept. 12. Work on the first phase — 444 apartments in 10- and 25-story towers, plus retail — is expected to start days later.

But one of Daniels' prospective construction lenders put a hold on the loan last week, citing the dispute over replacement parking.

. . .
A series of inter-government agreements allowed the PSA and First & Goal to continue free use of the 491 stalls and all the revenue they generate until redevelopment happened.

Then the developer was to provide a replacement parking structure.

Those agreements also included language allowing the PSA to "seek transfer" of the 4 acres from the county if redevelopment hadn't begun by July 2008, and if the board determined it needed the property.

That's the provision the authority cited in its Aug. 11 resolution threatening to seek ownership.

It's unclear how far the PSA can push that. The panel can't condemn property, Hine said.

The sale contract the county signed with Daniels in 2007 included language requiring the developer to provide replacement parking both during construction and permanently, adding that it "must be acceptable to the PSA."

Yang said the county and Daniels both have lived up to their legal obligations. Daniels has offered to build a replacement garage on two sites, or to pay cash to settle the issue, he said.

PSA officials wouldn't discuss details of those offers. But Hine said none fully replaces what the stadium would be losing.

There's money involved here. The county expects to get $10 million from Daniels when the sale closes.

First & Goal collects $2 million a year in revenue from the 491 parking stalls, Postman said; a 1 percent parking tax the PSA collects on that goes to help pay off bonds sold to build the stadium.

But "it's not a question of revenue," said another Allen representative, Lyn Tangen. "It's a question of having adequate parking."

Seattle Times, Parking spat may stall project at CenturyLink Field

First and Goal, the stadium authority, whoever, should take control of the property, pay the county the 10 million dollars, build an underground garage, restaurants and shops on the street level and an arena on top.

He would make a killing, Seattle would get an indoor facility that would have the least involvement from the City of Seattle, and people that can afford an NBA ticket would flood local businesses 41 nights a year (and/or NHL).

Have a great day,
Mike Baker

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Psychic friends connection: Malcolm Gladwell on 'Psychic Benefits' and the NBA Lockout

Malcolm Gladwell does a fine job if telling one side of the story with fairly old information and remarkably little insight into the decline of the psychic friends network between sports professional sports are the public in general.
Here is Gladwell explaining the NBA as if this were 2007.

Psychic benefits describe the pleasure that someone gets from owning something — over and above economic returns . . .

The rationale for the NBA lockout, from the owner's perspective, goes something like this. Basketball is a business. Businesses are supposed to make money. And when profits are falling, as they are now for basketball teams, a business is obliged to cut costs — which in this case means the amount of money paid to players. In response, the players' association has said two things. First, basketball teams actually do make money. And second, if they don't, it's not the players' fault. When the two sides get together, this is what they fight about. But both arguments miss the point. The issue isn't how much money the business of basketball makes. The issue is that basketball isn't a business in the first place — and for things that aren't businesses how much money is, or isn't, made is largely irrelevant.

Basketball teams, of course, look like businesses. They have employees and customers and offices and a product, and they tend to be owned, in the manner of most American businesses, by rich white men. But scratch the surface and the similarities disappear. Pro sports teams don't operate in a free market, the way real businesses do. Their employees are 25 years old and make millions of dollars a year. Their customers are obsessively loyal and emotionally engaged in their fortunes to the point that — were the business in question, say, discount retailing or lawn products — it would be considered psychologically unhealthy. They get to control their labor through the draft in a way that would be the envy of other private sector owners, at least since the Civil War. And they are treated by governments with unmatched generosity. Congress gives professional baseball an antitrust exemption. Since 2000, there have been eight basketball stadiums either built or renovated for NBA teams at a cost of $2 billion — and $1.75 billion of that came from public funds.4 And did you know that under the federal tax code the NFL is classified as a nonprofit organization?5 Big genial Roger Goodell, he of the almost $4 billion in television contracts, makes like he's the United Way.
. . .

The best illustration of psychic benefits is the art market. Art collectors buy paintings for two reasons. They are interested in the painting as an investment — the same way they would view buying stock in General Motors. And they are interested in the painting as a painting — as a beautiful object. In a recent paper in Economics Bulletin, the economists Erdal Atukeren and Aylin Se├žkin used a variety of clever ways to figure out just how large the second psychic benefit is, and they put it at 28 percent.7 In other words, if you pay $100 million for a Van Gogh, $28 million of that is for the joy of looking at it every morning. If that seems like a lot, it shouldn't. There aren't many Van Goghs out there, and they are very beautiful. If you care passionately about art, paying that kind of premium makes perfect sense.
. . .

The big difference between art and sports, of course, is that art collectors are honest about psychic benefits. They do not wake up one day, pretend that looking at a Van Gogh leaves them cold, and demand a $27 million refund from their art dealer. But that is exactly what the NBA owners are doing. They are indulging in the fantasy that what they run are ordinary businesses — when they never were. And they are asking us to believe that these "businesses" lose money. But of course an owner is only losing money if he values the psychic benefits of owning an NBA franchise at zero — and if you value psychic benefits at zero, then you shouldn't own an NBA franchise in the first place. You should sell your "business" — at what is sure to be a healthy premium — to someone who actually likes basketball.
Malcolm Gladwell on Malcolm Gladwell on 'Psychic Benefits' and the NBA Lockout

A couple things, the Hornets sold below market rate to prevent a sale at a massive loss (more or less a repo by the NBA), the Bobcats sold at a massive loss.
Never, ever, compare the NBA with the NFL. The NFL makes money, no matter how badly they try to screw it up. The NBA has high revenue but that doesn't always mean profit, and absolutely not profits on the scale the has anybody in the NBA acting like Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys. Remarkably few NBA team owners could whip out a checkbook and build an area knowing that they will make freakish amounts of actual, honest to goodness, profit from that investment in facilities. Know why? Because the actual value of an NFL team still puts it in the realm of being a profitable business.

The bulk of NBA franchise do not exist on the same financial planet as the bulk if NFL teams. The Dan Snyder reference is absurd in its meaninglessness to the NBA owner situation.

The bulk of the latest NBA franchise sales have more to do with the profitability of their associated arenas than with the actual NBA team. If the Memphis Grizzlies owner controlled all of the revenue in his building then he could have sold his team 4 years ago for $400 million dollars with very little effort. But he doesn't, so he bleeds money.

The public has stopped giving away brand new arenas.

The reality is that the NBA is a business because people borrow money to buy teams, and the lenders expect to get repaid. The cities that most of these franchises exist can no longer afford to play along in feeding this broken business.

Wealthy individuals owning teams has been on the decline for years, and lately so has the publics desire to fund sports facilities.

The fact is that in order for the NBA owners to keep this art form going they are going to have to pitch in on building facilities, borrow large sums of money to do it, and have to run their hobbies like businesses, or you end up like 1/4 of the teams, bleeding money while trapped in an arena lease that can't be justified by the profits the these teams are making.

As local theater stages went dark over the past year was it that wealthy people just didn't love them enough? I think not. Was it that they, too, were in a broken business model, that despite the psychic value, there still needed to be a viable business underneath?

That is more likely a better comparison, local live theater and the NBA, and neither is like the NFL.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Seattle Times Newspaper's Danny Westneat: Digging into Seattle's century-old debate

Seattle, vote Yes on Referendum 1.

In 1904, the Great Northern Tunnel, although not the longest, was the highest, 28 feet, and widest, 30 feet, in the United States. The finished tunnel was lighted by electricity, well ventilated and large enough to accommodate a double line of tracks. In constructing the tunnel, $1,000,000 was spent on labor alone and $500,000 was spent for materials and other costs. The tunnel was intended for use by both the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific Railroads, who split the cost of construction.

Today, in the Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat points out that we have a tunnel already, it is 100 years old, and was constructed to reduce traffic congestion.
I think it is odd that a journalist has to point something out to the anti-tunnel folks, including the mayor.

In part, here is Danny Wesrtneat:
Mayor Mike McGinn mostly opposes digging a tunnel for financial and environmental reasons, but he has also called the project "unacceptably risky." He cited how it will be dug through "extreme soil conditions" beneath a major American city.

But nobody ever seems to mention that we already have a tunnel down there. It was dug through these same soils. It's no minor tube, either. It's a mile long and 30 feet in diameter (enough room for two train ways). In places, it is 140 feet below the surface.

And here's the thing that gets me: They dug it by hand.

In April 1903, "an army of 350 workers with pickaxes, shovels and wheelbarrows began digging into the hillside" at the foot of Virginia Street, according to theSeattle history website

The Great Northern Tunnel is smaller — it's 60 percent of the length of today's proposed 1.7 mile-long tunnel, and only about half as wide. Still, at the time it was the largest train tunnel ever attempted (again — sound familiar?). Yet it took two work crews digging from opposite ends only 17 months to chisel the entire thing out by hand.

That's about the time it takes us to convene an advisory commission.

According to newspaper reports at the time, incessant water seepage hampered work, as did soil cave-ins, boulders and the discovery of a prehistoric forest. Yet the entire project cost only $1.5 million. Plus it's still in heavy use 108 years later. The last earthquake, in 2001, didn't crack it or move it an inch.

In today's dollars, the old train tunnel cost about $40 million — fifty times less than what we're projected to pay for the new tunnel.

"I don't think that train tunnel has ever missed a day of service," says Ron Paananen, manager of the state's team planning the current tunnel. "It changed the face of Seattle, and it doesn't get a lot of notice."

How can we be so freaked out by something when we did a version of the same thing more than a hundred years ago?

Danny Westneat | Digging into Seattle's century-old debate | Seattle Times Newspaper

I have mentioned it, many times, and so the joke goes like this:
1 hundred years ago, hundreds of pickaxes, hundreds of men, 10's of jackasses, were used to build the tunnel we already have.
Now we have 1 machine, hundreds of men and women, and 1 jackass - Mike McGinn, will be used to build this tunnel.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Regarding the $80 VLF, rail transit

To: the Seattle City Council [sent via email, 8/12/2011]
Please, do not write an unending blank check for a light rail "idea". There isn't a plan, plans have defined duration and resources. Light rail in Seattle has neither, yet. You have a map.

Light rail should be, as the mayor said during his campaign, put to a vote. It should be better defined, and a separate ballot measure.

It is simply absurd to have the mayor "ask the hard questions" asking for a blank check for light rail.

Show that plan, let the people decide.

Have a great day,
Mike Baker
Seattle, WA

On Aug 11, 2011, at 12:30 PM, "Office of the Mayor" <> wrote:

City logo
Office of the Mayor
City of Seattle

Last night, supporters of an $80 vehicle license fee showed up at City Council chambers and asked Councilmembers to support the proposal previously recommended by Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee. People in support of an $80 fee included rail supporters, neighborhood advocates for rail, for transit reliability and transportation choices, advocates for pedestrian infrastructure, supporters of job creation, and other people from a wide variety of backgrounds. The Stranger characterized testimony as "overwhelmingly lopsided in favor of sending an $80 fee to the voters".
If you weren't in attendance, you can listen to public comment on the Seattle Channel, or read about the hearing here or here.
The community is making its voice heard in other ways. A group of leading environmental advocates wrote to the City Council in support of the $80 fee, writing "We ask you to place this measure before the voters. We are eager to support it. Polls show that the citizens of Seattle want this."

Momentum for rail is growing, but the Council is still deliberating this proposal. If you haven't shared your thoughts about this proposal with the City Council yet, please do so today. The Council will make their final decision on Monday. Simply email Councilmembers:;;;;;;;;

Read the Mayor's Blog Post: "For Rail, Be Bold"
Watch public testimony from last night's Transportation Benefit District Public Hearing
Read more about emailing City Council
Read The Stranger's post about the hearing
Read the Fremont Universe post about the proposal
Read the Ballard KOMO post on the debate

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Chesapeake Energy and Aubrey McClendon can burn in Hell

It is always interesting to see the ads that get placed on my personal blog. Usually, the ads are loosely tied to the content of the blog, Seattle, Washington State, King County, Arts, Sports ... Once in a while an advertisement will show up and I feel compelled to comment.

Today's gem, Chesapeake Energy.

I am not sure how this got here. I am able to filter this out in the future. For now, let me say this: Aubrey McClendon, the owner of Chesapeake Energy, can burn in Hell for eternity, the sooner, the better.

And as it turns out, July has set a record as the hottest month ever recorded in Oklahoma.

The line that I hope eventually forms of those that wish to kick him in the crotch, let me be first.