Weekly Update: 12/21/2020

Merry Christmas! And Happy Holidays and all that sort of thing. Just pretend I know how to insert a really clever ‘meme’ or Santa emoji <here>. 😀

Public Service Announcements

  1. Sunday’s article in the Seattle Times regarding the Masonic Home has gotten a lot of people talking. As you know, working to save the place has been on my agenda for years. Please contact me or Barbara McMichael of SoCoCulture.org at info@sococulture.org to get involved!
  2. Working Washington Small Business Grants (Round 3) If you have a small business of any kind do this now!
  3. City Of Des Moines Minor Home Repair Program This is one of those great programs the City has had in place since forever, but we only advertise every quarter in the City Currents Magazine. Basically, low to moderate income households can get grants to do all sorts of necessary repairs. Just email Minor Home Repair Coordinator Tina Hickey (206) 870-6535.
  4. Every home should have a Carbon Monoxide Detector–especially during the colder months! Full stop. If you need one but money is tight, South King County Fire And Rescue will get you one. Just call their Community Affairs Office at 253-946-7347.
  5. Rental Assistance for Low Income King County Bar Association – The Housing Justice Project is requesting community based providers assistance to identify households who owe 10K or more in back-rent. “We can zero out $10K or more of rent for folks who are at 50% AMI or below these income limits. If you know anyone, can you have them email fwblackcollective@gmail.com for navigation with case managers or give them this link which has all the paperwork to complete and email to edmundw@kcba.org to get their rent payed out.   Forms to Eliminate Back Rent: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=1fUdYAwMFH_V_B1vTD_urmir_ltI8Wfnw.   Completed forms can be emailed to edmundw@kcba.org.”

Last Week

Tuesday: South County Combined Are Transportation Board (SCATBd) Meeting.

Tuesday: Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) Ferry Study. This is different from the study the City has launched with private consultants. The PSRC did not find evidence of sufficient demand for a State-run ferry. This matters because a private ferry system would likely be funded by airport and cruise ship operations. And the last thing in Des Moines should be doing is enabling more flights from Sea-Tac Airport.

Wednesday: A conference with Congressman Adam Smith regarding an FAA Rule Change which would, in effect, make the language of the State law HB 2315 (which allows the Port to repair and update pre-existing sound insulation systems) as a Federal regulation and thus of benefit to all American airport communities. The news was not good. According to his staff, there has been push back from electeds in district with airports. I have another private meeting scheduled to understand the ‘why’? Frankly, any congressman who votes against this is basically telling his residents, “I could care less about your health.”

The Masonic Home

There has been a certain amount of the old Much Ado About Nothing on social media this week in response to a Seattle Times Article about the impending demise of the Masonic Home.

As you know, I’ve been a big proponent of saving the place since, basically forever. I even made that one of my main campaign videos when I ran:

I want to clear up some misinformation, which I hope you will help me share to the public, because frankly, I get worn out countering the same stuff over and over and over and over. And over…  (Ah… I do believe I hear the native call of the Whiny Northwestern Sextagenarian 😀 )

  1. Neither the Seattle Times or Thunderword articles contain any new information. So all previous comments expressing the sentiment that “I guess it’s decided” are incorrect. Nothing has changed.
  2. The current status of the building is that it is owned by a private developer who keeps renewing a demolition permit with the City (demo permits have a 180 day expiration date, but are renewable.)
  3. Other than renewing that permit, the City claims that have had no contact from the developer, nor do they have any ideas on their intentions.
  4. There will be public hearings if/when the developer takes next steps towards either demolition or planning.
  5. And that makes me want to know why the reporter chose to do the story now. IOW: there’s no ‘news’ so why run this now?
  6. It also makes me wonder how the reporter picked up the story. IOW: we don’t get a ton of stories about DM so someone must’ve convinced the reporter to write this and get it printed. Who?
  7. And then there’s a line in there where the reporter says that, according to the City, “it was sold without any pushback from local residents”. This is simply untrue. The public has made it clear for over a decade that they really want the place saved. What they (we) have been told over and over and over and over by the City is that “there is nothing to be done about it.” The City has never made any serious efforts to save the building. It has been the City’s position that this is like any other private sale and in fact have made every effort to downplay any possibility that the public could play a part in saving the building.
  8. This bears repeating: The public was told over and over that there was nothing they could do. But that is not true. If the City had taken a position of fully supporting restoration and preservation, things could have gone quite differently. There have never been any town meetings or substantial form of public engagement to discuss the situation and ask the public to consider other options. (Contrast that with the Burien Annex–where the Burien City Council held several public meetings to discuss alternatives and really listen to stakeholders.)
  9. Finally, apart from saving the building, I have very practical concerns about the current zoning. Note that it was re-zoned as ‘IC’ which means an institutional purpose similar to Wesley or Judson. I have been told over and over by residents in the neighborhood that you are not thrilled with a significant increase in traffic at that intersection. And I don’t blame you.

Irish Castles?

Many of you will make the decidedly free-market argument that, “It’s a nice building, but… the Masons let it rot, so why should we foot the bill?” And my answer is “Irish Castles”.

As many of you know, I grew up in Ireland. And when Ireland first gained independence in the 20’s, we had hundreds of broken down castles left over from English landlords who, just like the Masons today, could no longer afford the upkeep on their very nice private properties. Now Ireland as a whole was dirt poor back then. Like Albania poor. Americans have no idea. So the huge argument for leaders was: sell these lands to farmers or developers for much needed short-term cash or preserve it for future generations. That is essentially the same choice as here: the City can promote a private sale and pocket the one-time money or help to invest in the property for the long-term good of the City.

Now a lot of those fancy lands were sold off for development, but the most significant of these falling down estates were turned into ‘monuments’; a policy which made absolutely no short-term financial sense. But over the long term this strategy has been an absolutely genius move for Ireland, both in terms of tourism and more general economic development. It turns out that having a truly unique place drives a lot of good things to your neighbourhood.

Every time the City Of Des Moines has renovated a building it has paid big dividends. Want proof? Just visit the Field House on 220th or the Beach Park Auditorium. Done right, historic preservation always pays over the long -term.

As I’ve written, the Masonic Home is one of the top five most significant combinations of architecture/grounds in the entire region. The competition is extremely thin because Puget Sound has never really placed a high value on historical buildings. All the more reason to save this amazing property for future generations It’s completely unique and it’s all ours.

One last thing for me to gush on. As anyone who approaches Des Moines from the water, the Masonic Home is the defining landmark. Not the Marina; the Masonic Home. For me as a sailor, it literally guides one home to Des Moines.

Costs?

As jazzed as I am about the place, I fully acknowledge that the costs of renovating the place would be somewhere between ‘seriously expensive‘ and ‘are you shitting me, dude?‘.

In addition to all the other work that was never done, there are probably earthquake retrofits, hazmat remediation and on and on and on. It’s not a money pit, it’s probably a money crater from that asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs.

And. I. do. not. care.

This is the one time you will hear me talk about going big on public spending because I believe I can make a strong case that, in addition to the historic importance of the building, the Masonic Home is essential to the City’s long term financial and civic success–certainly as much as the Marina.

I hope it goes without saying that we can’t do it all on our own. We should aggressively court investors and Federal and State funding. And we’ve got some of the best legislators at both levels to help us do it (as well as infrastructure spending likely coming in the next administration.) But we have to be willing to do at least our part.

The South End

The City of Des Moines is actually a collection of about a dozen annexations from the original very small geography established in 1959. And since then almost all of the City’s resources have focused on this northern end of town. But nowadays, the majority of residents actually live in the southern portions of town acquired through all those annexations.

But despite being the true majority, the South end of Des Moines has no public buildings, no community center and a complete deficit of parks. Reclaiming the Masonic Home as some combination of City Hall, Community Center, light commercial space (restaurants, professional) would give the South end the connection to the City they have been missing out on for decades.

Destination Des Moines?

We’ve been talk, talk, TALKING about ‘making Des Moines a destination‘ since I’ve lived here. And I know many of you are sick of all that talk. I know I am. The last time we really invested in this City’s future was in 1971 when we opened the Marina. I think once every fifty years isn’t too often to put our money where our mouth is. That is, if we ever hope to get to that destination.

3 thoughts on “Weekly Update: 12/21/2020”

  1. IN Melbourne Australia there is an old jail which was built out of bluestone and was closed most of it slated to be demolished. Instead they have made a beautiful job of utilizing it for it’s stellar historical construction and have converted to condominiums, a museum dedicated to it’s horrific and tragic history, farmers market, galleries, restaurants and gift shops and non profit market gardens. It’s mostly been owned by private developers but has heritage status. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HM_Prison_Pentridge

  2. The majestic Masonic Home reflects an honor to the past and the present has the duty to restore, maintain a d care for this building and its grounds as we would value our Grandparents in need of help and care.
    There is no other property like it in the whole state or the Northwestern USA.
    If the City of Des Moines cannot find an answer to its survival, they better ask the President, the Governor or Pelosi to help with an answer.

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