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Open letter to an Olympia City planner regarding the “Mistake”

Dear Ms. Floyd,

These are my official comments on the current “Views on Fifth” proposal for the Capitol Center Building on the Isthmus, a.k.a., Mistake by the Lake.

My primary concern about any built structure proposed for the isthmus is the inappropriate participation of the City as the approving agency. This area is in the highest jeopardy for sea level rise-based flooding and earthquake-induced liquefaction.  The City potentially assumes severe liability by not exercising its restrictive permitting authority and thereby enabling development that could lose most or all of its value as the result of predictable natural processes. At the very least, the City should require that any party choosing to invest by developing in this area be able to prove that their improvements are fully covered with private* flood and earthquake insurance. Restricting “development” to parks and other open space would minimize the at-risk property and accommodate the public’s preference for passive recreation and historic views.

The public has voiced and written its opinion on this stretch of downtown many, many times. They want the Mistake gone and the land left relatively undeveloped. They appreciate the opportunity at hand, that some other cities are taking advantage of, e.g., New York, reclaiming large areas of the urban core for much needed open, living, green space as an economic as well as environmental benefit.

Historically, our state capitol campus included a designed view corridor between the Capitol building and the water, especially the Olympic mountains.  Building here would preclude that.

The City’s own Parks Plans from two previous eras talk about replacing this building with civic space.  Most recently, the anticipation of its removal helped to pass the Metropolitan Park District measure.  Provision for sufficient funding is written right into it.

The public should be specifically asked what they want to happen.  Back just after the turn of the century, many of us rallied with signs asking the City Council to let us vote! on the conference center.  Ensuing elections changed the make-up of the City Council as a result of that issue and waterfront controversies.

I hope the public process for this proposal is extensive and inclusive and I look forward to participating.

* not relying on FEMA or other public insurers to bail them out

Walt Jorgenson

Walt Jorgenson has long been active in local planning issues. Ms. Floyd is the Olympia planner assigned to the current proposed project involving the Mistake on the Lake.




One Comment

  1. Jon Kime September 20, 2017

    We all like parks and greenspace but it’s obvious that the city has a hard time maintaining what we already have. As evidenced by the State dumping responsibilities for the lake, they have no intention of completing their original grand design to include the isthmus. Global sea level rise is a fact and nearly all of downtown is at sea level. Much of what we see will be underwater, a sort of poor man’s Venice, downtown is no better situated than the isthmus. As for the old corrections building, it is possible to build in a swamp if one chooses. As long as the developer is required to take proper precautions the building will be no worse off than the rest of downtown and we will have one fewer derelict building.
    Take your pick.

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