This letter was e-mailed to the Beacon Hill News on 2 November, 1999.
To the Editor, The Beacon Hill News:
I'm writing to express concern about the selection of a site for the new Beacon Hill library.
My husband and I own a house on the Hill that we love very much. We enjoy living in our neighborhood and have been very happy in our home. However, our home and the adjoining properties have been nominated as a site for the new library.
On October 26 we attended a meeting of the library Board of Trustees at which we found that our home, despite being eliminated from the list of potential sites long ago during the neighborhood planning process, has been elevated to one of the top three preferred choices! We could lose our home!
Our home is located on the "17th and Stevens" or "Chin's Auto Repair and adjacent properties" site. This is where we live. Our home and four others, not just an auto repair business, would be destroyed to build the library here. Most of the houses contain four or more residents, so we are talking about 20+ people who would be displaced, from small children to elderly folks.
The neighborhood planning process placed a high value on not displacing residents, and for that reason our site was removed from the list of preferred sites by the community. However, when the process was handed over from the neighborhood to the library, the library placed us back on the list. In fact, I was told by Greg Waddell, one of the Carlson architects, that "the neighborhood doesn't get to make these decisions. The library does."
I wonder, then, why we have a neighborhood planning process at all? It seems that the year or more of painful arguing and deliberation was nothing but a charade staged to make people feel as if the neighborhood has some say in things, when clearly they have no say at all. Why should anyone even get involved under such circumstances?
We live in a historic 1911 Arts and Crafts-style bungalow with beautiful, original interior woodwork (built-ins, colonnades, leaded glass, etc. -- most of which were never painted over -- irreplaceable and priceless). The other houses on the block ore the same age and some of them also contain very well-preserved interior details. You can see our house, including a photo dating from 1934, at http://www.slumberland.org/ourhouse.html. The house is the perfect location and perfect size for us. We love our house and we will not give it up without a fight. It's our first -- and hopefully only -- house. We didn't buy it with any plans to "move up" to a larger or better house later on. We have every intention of restoring the house to its 1911 splendor, raising vegetables in the garden, and eventually growing old right here on Beacon Hill. We have no intention or desire to sell or move at this time or any time in the future, and we are outraged and terrified that our home, after being eliminated from the list of potential sites, is threatened once again -- and based on the comments of library board members, seems to be the front-runner!
There are other potential sites that not only wouldn't displace any homes, but would also be more fiscally responsible. One of the five homes on the Chin site recently sold for more than $230,000. Extrapolate that price out to the other homes on the site and you are looking at over $1,000,000 in costs to buy out the homeowners -- and that is before buying the Chins' business site. The library site evaluation matrix (online at http://www.spl.org/neighborhoodlibs/beaconhill/bhlsite_evals1.html) listed our site, the Chin site, as the second most-expensive to acquire, at an estimated price of $720,000 -- well, as you can see, that estimate is so low as to be laughable. Housing on Beacon Hill has skyrocketed in price in the last few years, and none of these houses would sell for less than $200,000 in today's market. With a 4.75 million dollar budget for this library branch, it would seem that a cheaper site would be a much better choice. I think most folks on the Hill would rather have a nicer facility with more books than a mediocre facility on the Chin site.
To sum things up concisely, there are a lot of reasons why the Chin site is inappropriate for any further consideration for the Beacon Hill library branch site:
Please contact the Seattle Public Library and let them know that they should not destroy housing to build the new library branch, especially considering the alternative sites that would destroy no homes. You may reach them by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; by postal mail at Capital Program Office, 1000 4th Ave., Seattle, Wash. 98104; or by fax at 206-386-4108.
Wendi Dunlap-Simpson and Jason Simpson
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