Letter to the Editor: MLT Prop. 1 — Chip in for the sake of the community


Dear Editor:

My partner and I bought our first home last year, in Mountlake Terrace. We were looking for affordable housing (which is hard to find in Seattle), a big backyard in which to garden/raise chickens, a safe neighborhood, good schools for our young children–things that all families want.

We love our home, but the City of Mountlake Terrace needs some help cosmetically and in terms of basic infrastructure, in order to support a growing population–we need a city hall, we need a better police station to keep our officers (and thus ourselves) safe, we need community spaces in which to gather, and so on. This city needs a facelift, to entice others to come and enjoy/invest in this city which has so much potential, and to keep MLT residents spending money within MLT.

Yes, Proposition 1 requires all of us to pitch in a few dollars–but per household, the contribution is MINIMAL. Chip in for the sake of the community.

Samatra Doyle


  1. Wait a minute; something doesn’t follow. Someone moves to MLT because it is affordable, has big lots and apparently was good enough last year to entice the writer to move here. What part of our pre-existing “cosmetics” was she not aware of when she bought? A new Civic Campus will constitute a “facelift? Really? Who knew our transforamtion would be so easy?

  2. Yes, it’ll certainly be a start. There’s really no need to be sarcastic and rude. We were fully aware of the “cosmetics” of this city—that’s WHY homes are more affordable up here and WHY we bought up here. It just isn’t an attractive place to live at first glance, for most people. Part of that stems from a lack of homeowners investing time and money into maintaining their homes, while part stems from the lack of a solid infrastructure and investment in improving the public areas. The pool, schools, library are all great–and if we all give a bit more, we can all benefit.

  3. Actually it does follow. When we purchased our home, we made sure the house, the immediate neighborhood, schools and access to our jobs met our immediate needs. The reputation, physical appearance and primitive public facilities of Mountlake Terrace were balanced against the realities of our budget at the time. As time passed we were able to start considering the larger community around us. We started looking for what we could do to help make the city a better place for our family to live in. We participated in community organizations and voted for bond issues even though they may have stretched our budget. We did it because we knew that was what was needed. That’s where Samatra is now, she’s participating and thinking ahead. Unlike some who selfishly just want to take and never give, she is doing her part to help make Mountlake Terrace a better place for her family and the rest of us. Thank you, Samatra, we’re glad you joined our community.

  4. I really respect what Mr. French has said (on so many forums) in clear concise terms on behalf of the NO on Prop 1 campaign, but considering Mr. French is (or was?) a real estate consultant, I’m perplexed why he has spent the last several years opposing any development of Mountlake Terrace. Many families like ours bought a house in MLT because if we dip our toes over the county line in King County the cost of housing increases exponentially, not to mention the (much higher) cost of property taxes. And yet, no one buys real estate for it to not increase in value as has happened with our purchase. Why it’s lovely to hold onto that bedroom community “feel’ that’s often touted by the NO campaign, it’s not sustainable in the long term. We need to attract more businesses into what they will perceive as a thriving community. We have some of the lowest property taxes in this part of the Puget Sound, which allows some flexibility (not much, I appreciate the economy is hurting many families) to increase property taxes to pay for a new civic center. Is it too grandiose a plan? Perhaps. But as any real estate expert will tell you, it’s preferable to buy the most you can afford at a time when interest rates are at a historically low rates, rather than coming back to the city in a decade or more to ask for more money because the city has outgrown its premises (again.) It’s not a “facelift” – it’s a necessity in order for MLT to grow and develop and be financially viable in the long term.

  5. I think the writer’s post makes perfect sense. Many things can be true at once: being enticed by affordable housing, big lots, and simple pleasures (being able to walk to a library or park, pool/pavilion nearby, school, quiet cul-de-sacs) while also wanting better for the town, hoping for more communal spaces to meet in, believing in supporting a community’s development by giving a very reasonable amount of money. Of course a civic campus won’t be the complete solution, but is it not a step in a good direction? If you care so much about MLT (which it seems like you might), wouldn’t you want it to thrive and develop and be of interest to new businesses and people? No one is claiming this is an easy transformation, especially when community members are so resistant to change and selfish in their participation in the community itself. Comments like the one above seem to come from people who may do better living on a rural farmland, as they try with all of their might to welcome positive change. I hope the MLT residents who most support this development are the ones who most reap the benefit, and perhaps encourage more families to move to MLT to bring openness and change.

  6. Great sentiments, Samatra. If the best argument Leonard French of the “No New Taxes” side has to offer against your letter is to focus on the word “facelift”, he doesn’t have much to help his side.

    I don’t know of anyone that hasn’t wanted to improve their surroundings, whether it be an office, apartment, condo, house, neighborhood, or city.

  7. Yes, actually, Samatra is right on target.
    The MLT downtown is far below its potential, and those of us who want to see our community grow, develop and prosper know that a vibrant, service-oriented civic center would be a catalyst. No one moves here and hopes that MLT will continue to be the dilapidated, depressed and stagnant downtown that is has been for years.
    Thank you Samatra, for moving your young family here and being part of the positive, forward-thinking majority willing to chip in and do your part for the betterment of us all.

  8. I have to agree with this letter. While I don’t believe the new city hall will entice business growth, it certainly signals that our community wants to prepare for the future. If you look at the history of MLT, you will see that it started back in the early 1950s as a development of low price cement-block homes. There is definitely a history of “go cheap if you can”. This is a prime time to change that. We could have a light-rail station here in less than a decade. We need to make sure our downtown has the widened walkways and trees that are planned. We need to turn Ballinger Park into public gem. We need to make sure successful downtown businesses like Double-D entice more shops. We need to clean up what we can. And we gotta start sometime.

  9. While I can’t speak for Mr. French, I will say the blanket statement he’s against new development in MLT is woefully lacking in reason. Opponents for the most part are not against development per se but against irresponsible use of tax payers money by the Council. Mr. French and others in opposing prop 1 rationally state the obvious in that the city unnecessarily and recklessly tore down the former city hall without a fiscally responsible taxpayer approved plan before they acted so foolishly. So now the supporters want to reward them for their costly mistake at our expense? What sense does that make? NONE.

    Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. A fool and their money are soon parted; don’t play the part of the fool and Vote NO on Prop 1.

    • “The city unnecessarily and recklessly tore down the former city hall”

      Ed – I’ve seen you and others make this claim many times. Maybe you don’t recall that the ceiling collapsed in the council chambers of the 50-year old building. Thank God it was at night and no one was seriously injured or killed. Do you suggest that the City should have kept using the space, a major liability, and just hope that no one gets hurt? Below is just a sampling of conclusions made by experts over the years about the building. It’s obvious that it did not make sense to continue pouring money into a 50-year old building.

      In a July 11, 1991 letter to City Manager Robert White, Architects West Director of Bellevue Operations Fred L. Stumpf wrote of challenges discovered during the design of renovations to the Civic Center building. Due to the combination of the building site, the existing building construction, and code compliance requirements, he determined it was not possible to construct cost-effective renovations that would meet code. He had serious problems getting the new roof to pencil out; the new bathrooms would likely go over budget due to plumbing issues; and space renovations would be hampered by interior walls that could not be moved. He concluded that the additional space to be gained by enclosing the covered entry area would not be sufficient to meet the City’s needs. While he did end up producing designs, his ultimate recommendation was that the building “really ought to be replaced over a period of years and maybe serve a single City function.”

      In a letter to Ron DeMars, Building Official, re. Mountlake Terrace City Hall Structural Review, Smith & Huston, Inc. (Consulting Engineers) have the following findings: Makes recommendations for “Immediate Repairs”, reconstructing the west end of the south wall and bracing the roof shell over the covered entry area for earthquake resistance; “Five Year Repairs”, improve building lateral stability and connections between structural walls and the floor and ceiling; and “Ten Year Repairs”, which require a more comprehensive review and renovation program.

      Mountlake Terrace Civic Center Structural Assessment for The City of Mountlake Terrace. Saad E. Moustafa, PhD., P.E., Project Manager. WJE: Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (Engineers, Architects, Material Scientists). Findings: Makes recommendations for a seismic upgrade of the main building in the next two to three years, and seismic upgrade or removal of the courtyard cover.

      2001 – Nisqually Eartyhquake
      Letter to Jerry Trojan Re. Post Earthquake Assessment of Mountlake Terrace Civic Center. Saad E. Moustafa, PhD., P.E., Affiliated Consultant. WJE: Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (Engineers, Architects, Material Scientists). Findings: Evaluation after the Nisqually earthquake found the only damage seen was to the four columns supporting the courtyard roof panels over the entryway. While the damage was not seen to render the columns “unstable,” WJE repeated its opinion that the columns “are not capable of providing adequate lateral support”

      2008 – City Council Chambers Ceiling collapses
      The City Council Chambers ceiling collapsed in City Hall, making the Council Chambers unusable. An asbestos abatement company was called in to clean the Chambers and make the remainder of the building inhabitable. Due to a number of safety hazards including that other parts of City Hall have the same encapsulated asbestos ceiling that fell during the July incident, the Council directed the City Manager to move forward in locating a temporary City Hall.

      2008 – Citizen Task Force Makes Recommendations
      In December of 2008, the Task Force made a presentation to the City Council with a service and needs assessment, site alternatives and conceptual design options for city facilities, as well as other uses and services that were heard by the community during numerous open houses and public meetings. Task Force is recommending that the current civic center site (23204 58th Avenue) be used for the new city hall and community center.

  10. I am amused by those who imply that community values equate to a collective support for increasing property values, especially when expressed by those attracted to the community due to lower property values in the first place. Community means more to me than that.

    • James, you’re right. A lot of us were attracted to MLT because of the affordability of properties. The thing about property values is that property values will increase when more people want to move here. The reason more people want to move somewhere is generally because the quality of life is greater. None of us are saying that community values = collective support for increasing property values. Unless we’re all planning on selling our homes and moving out of town when property values increase that is. We’re saying that we want a better quality of life here in Mountlake Terrace, and that will probably result in higher property values.

  11. Thank you for your documented history of the old city hall. It’s good to see the Council actually did their due diligence in getting the old city hall inspected by professionals.

    I recall the No New Taxes folks saying that it was a perfectly good building and that it would last for years. Then the ceiling collapsed, more due diligence, and here we are. It looks like they are using the same play book for the police station and library. They don’t want us to be proactive and don’t want us to be reactive either. Hmmmph.

  12. Mr. Muze, we bought our first home in MLT 2003 and I’m embarrassed to say our realtor at the time almost dissuaded us from purchasing in MLT because of its “cinderblock” reputation & lack of shops & services. Boy was she wrong! When it was time to get a bigger home in 2007 due to our growing family, guess what? We chose to STAY in MLT because of the incredible parks, trails and an award winning recreation center, which all of my kids have used since they were tots (they are now in their teens.) However you’re naive if you think we’re tying community values to our desire to see our home values increase. (Though most homeowners desire that wherever they live!) Nope, we want MLT to continue to thrive and grow as a city that will attract new families and small businesses to move here. Don’t you find it intriguing that most of the YES signs you see around our great town are in the front windows of local shops, who have chosen to do business here?

    And Mr. Stephens, as others have stated, the city did not “unnecessarily and recklessly tore down the former city hall”. It really did not have any choice (as Dustin DeKoekkoek outlined in his excellent timeline post.) It is by far an “irresponsible use of tax payers money by the Council” to continue to pay rent to an out of state private company.

    And finally, I am not singling out Mr. French who I believe is probably one of the most articulate opponents of the NO campaign, but I’ve read his thoughts on MLT for the past 7 years on various forums, including The Seattle Times. His eloquent piece in 2006 (http://seattletimes.com/html/snohomishcountynews/2003168408_snofrench02.html) spoke of why he is resistant to change (increased traffic, parking issues – all very important factors to consider for MLT.) However, it also referenced another article that captured for me why we need to embrace the issue MLT is facing: “Always a bedroom community, shopping and services have not congregated into a singular downtown … .” That was 7 years ago and nothing has really changed. Creating a community hub with the new civic center, a library, decent police headquarters & senior center in the heart of our downtown area- is a step in the right direction.

  13. I’m a thrifty 70+ senior who bought my first home here 6 years ago because Seattle became too dense and unaffordable. Mountlake Terrace seemed to offer the most for my investment, and my daughter and grandkids live here. Ours is an easy-going, small community with a unique geographic setting that sets it apart from its neighboring communities, yet with easy access. Thankfully, we have the right mix of housing (modest to upscale) and business: neither endless, overly commercialized strip malls nor faux gated communities. And the wonderful trees–a hearty shout-out to all property owners who try to preserve at least some of our towering conifers!

    Mountlake Terrace has unique potential, as evidenced by its well-planned projects such as the Pavilion and numerous parks and fostering citizen involvement. And at this pivotal point in our city’s evolution, we now have a significant opportunity to continue to build on that sense of small community and to guide its development by establishing a vital town center with a new City Hall, making long-overdue police station and library infrastructure upgrades, and continuing to preserve current and attract new locally-owned businesses (think Pet Adventure, DD Meats, Red Onion, etc.). Prop. 1 is a proactive, practical investment for the future. To vote no may seem penny-wise, but in reality, it’s pound-foolish.

  14. Mr. DeKoekkoek’s “timeline post” can be repeated as many times as he likes, but none of that chronology speaks to demolition until after the ceiling collapse in one room in July, 2008. There is also no reference in any of the pre-2008 portion of the chronology to the Civic Campus currently under consideration. I think Mr. DeKoekkoek has probably read those studies and knows they don’t actually say what he infers from them. I’m not sure any of the rest of the proponents, who applaud his rendering of them, have. I very sure that none of you care what they actually say as long as someone interprets them to make your case.

  15. Again, the “No New Taxes” folks are not happy with the City being proactive, which causes the City to be reactive and they are not happy with that either.

    And I will make my own assumptions, as Mr. French does about others, that if the “No New Taxes” folks voted for something that the majority of voters wanted but didn’t reach the 60% requirement, that they would be shouting from the rooftops of Mountlake Terrace that they have been dealt an injustice and that majority should rule. But I would doubt the “No New Taxes” folks would be voting FOR anything. It is much easier to criticize than it is to create.

  16. Mr. Ito:

    Were you to actually look at what those of us who object to the project as currently proposed have been saying, you might learn that we are not in opposition to higher taxation, but rather we oppose the size of the project currently proposed relative to what the City’s needs are.

    We’re willing to support the City’s needs. We’re not willing to support the wants of a few tacked onto them.

    There’s a difference. A big one.

  17. So Bob, were you to actually look at the “No New Taxes” signs, you might learn that they say “No New Taxes”. There’s a difference between saying “No New Taxes” and “Yes New Taxes”. A big one.

Leave a Reply