By Jack Mayne

The SeaTac Planning Commission considered major substantive changes in the city’s zoning code and then made recommendations to the City Council which approved the changes this week, with some misgivings about guessing what the future would be like for the city.

Senior planner Dennis Hartwick said the purpose of the new city planning package was to make it easier to use by clarifying regulations and “administrative cleanup.” He added that regular “maintenance of the code is required to ensure its proper functioning.” He said the Council could approve, modify or reject the proposed rewritten ordinance, but the city planning staff recommendation is approval by the City Council of the new ordinance.

City staff has been working on the update of the planning ordinance since January of 2020 when the SeaTac Planning Commission approved the new version, he said. Most of the changes were minor, said Hartwick.

One change was “large enough” that he wanted to spend time explaining it to Council. “That change relates to the retail and commercial sections of the land use landscaping and parking charts,” Hartwick said.

Changes in the mobile home relocation standards were also made, although some have been taken over by state law.

Tremendous congestion
Councilmember Stanley Tombs said the changes on parking in the new proposal were “significant.”

“The structures we build today will be there 80 years from today,” Tombs said. “We can take away parking but we can never add parking” because “things build up around it.”

“Puget Sound Regional Council is directing us to find ways we can put 5,900 new residences in SeaTac and 19,000 more jobs,” said Tombs, “very heavy, heavy intercity congestion and density in SeaTac in the next 30 years.” They fail to mention the number of cars that would result, he said, adding that 90 percent of the adults living in SeaTac own a vehicle, and that means a “tremendous amount of congestion because we don’t have ways to build new streets or add capacity.”

“This is a big gamble, if we get it right we’re going to be heroes, if we get it wrong, we are going to be downtown Chicago without transit,” said Tombs.

COVID vaccine availability
City Manager Carl Cole told Council that the Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority that serves SeaTac has implemented a mobile vaccine unit and working with the senior center for a list of names of those who need the vaccination. When they have extra vaccine left over, Cole said they use the list of seniors to contact.

“The biggest issue right now is vaccine availability, the don’t always get doses every day on a regular basis, so we can’t open a clinic … because we don’t have a flow,” Cole told Council.

Economic Recovery Program
Port of Seattle staff presented an overview of the contracts for the South King County Fund to the Council because some awarded contracts are going to organizations that are either located in SeaTac or serve residents of SeaTac.

In November of 2018, the Port of Seattle established the South King County Fund to develop partnerships, provide resources, and support in historically underserved near-airport communities. The fund is to award $10 million between 2019 and 2023 to address noise mitigation, environmental health and sustainability in these ethnically and culturally diverse communities.

The fund has had 27 proposals submitted, 10 recommended and $981,881 awarded.

A balance of $186,000 from the Airport Community Ecology program will be for projects only in SeaTac, Burien, and Des Moines. Once those funds are exhausted, the grants awarded to organizations doing work in SeaTac will come from the South King County Fund.

The Recovery Fund granted $100,000 to the African Chamber of Commerce, $91, to CARES of Washington and $100,000 to Partners in Employment.

Miscellaneous actions
In other action, the Council transferred risk management from Human Resources to the Legal Department in April 2020. The Risk Management Division of the Legal Department drafted a proposed Ordinance which creates the framework for the administration of risk management functions.

But it removed and held a proposed ordinance would authorize the continued use of outside legal services with respect to pending litigation and amend the City’s 2021-2022 biennial budget to pay for these expenditures.