Top Urbanist Action: Ask County Council for Housing Not a Stadium Subsidy


It seemed like a done deal. The King County Council was going to fork over about $190M to pay for Safeco Field maintenance intended to keep its tenant, the Seattle Mariners, happy and ready to sign a lease extension.

Then something extraordinary happened. Hundreds of people pushing for more affordable housing (#TeamHousing) contacted their county councilmembers and dozens turned out at a hearing on Monday. The following day, County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles announced that she was withdrawing support for the bill she co-sponsored and presenting an amendment that redirected $184 million toward affordable housing.

This is why we have to keep the pressure on to keep housing a top priority, while making sure stadium upgrades remain in their rightful place as a low priority for county dollars. Our county councilmembers can be swayed.

The Mariners franchise was recently valued at $1.4 billion and club owner John Stanton is a billionaire. Let them deal with maintenance. They don’t need a public subsidy. The Mariners would have to content themselves with the $25 million in the Kohl-Welles plan, so they aren’t going completely empty handed.

It seems like the Kohl-Welles plan might have enough support to pass. County Councilmembers Dave Upthegrove and Rob Dembowski had already been voicing concerns about funding a stadium instead of housing ahead of the meeting. Councilmembers Claudia Baladucci, Larry Gossett, Reagan Dunn, and Kathy Lambert had been more reticent to express a stance, but they may join in voting for the amendment too.

As Republicans, Dunn and Lambert may have their party’s inborn tendency to side with the mega wealthy, but they may still be persuadable. Councilmembers Joe McDermott and Pete von Reichbauer had been sponsors of the bill, but perhaps they too can have a change of heart.

Contact King County Councilmembers and let them know where you stand.


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Doug is executive director of The Urbanist.

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You might want to read the actual contractual agreements between the County, which own the freaking ballpark, and the Mariners, who are paying the overwhelming majority of capital costs.


Given that taxpayers are already leasing this ballpark to the Mariners at far below fair market rents, it only seems reasonable that the lease be on a triple net basis (NNN), which puts all the burden of maintenance and improvements on the tenant benefitting from the low rents. Taxpayers are already gifting quite enough to the Seattle Mariners baseball club.