DOWNTOWN Seattle’s “ambassadors” program is up for renewal and expansion into Belltown. The program has been essential for helping make downtown more livable for residents and workers and more hospitable for visitors, and Belltown will benefit from it.
If the program had not existed, in the 12 months ended Nov. 30, directions would not have been given to 216,662 visitors; trespass law would have not been enforced 13,383 times; public sleepers would not have been awakened in the morning 7,079 times and the city’s sit-and-lie ordinance not enforced 1,857 times. Also, 23,016 graffiti tags and stickers, 10,000 piles of human and animal waste and 1,580 hypodermic needles would not have been removed.
This is property management for public spaces. If Seattle expects people to work, shop and live downtown, it needs to do this. As a center of night life and residences immediately north of downtown, Belltown also needs it. “We’re impacted by Seafair, Hempfest, Bumbershoot and Folklife,” said Elizabeth Campbell, president of the Belltown Community Council. “We love having that. But it leaves a lot of trash.”
The program, called the Metropolitan Improvement District, has been cleaning up downtown and making it safer since 1999. The new legislation would expand the boundary to Denny Way on the north and Interstate 5 on the east, taking in the Pioneer Square area.
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It is funded by a tax on property owners. To set it up, owners who represent 60 percent of the district’s assessed property value must petition the city, and the petitions are in hand. Owners pay based on a formula of floor space and value, with condo and apartment units charged no more than $125 per year.
The City Council’s Government Performance and Finance Committee is having a hearing at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday on the proposal to renew and expand the program, which was authorized in 2004.
Residents should support it.