Tacoma Urbanist

Sep. 28, 2009 at 12:13am

News Tribune: "Tacoma might have its own City Council to blame for killing the latest effort to create a hotel on the urban waterfront."

Latest Mishaps in Tacoma:

The City of Tacoma has suffered a series of losses over the last month:

1) Russell Company has chosen Seattle over Tacoma and will leave soon.

2) The Historic Luzon Building has been knocked down by the City of Tacoma

3) On September 15th, 2009, the Tacoma City Council failed to approved an environmental clean up agreement to allow a hotel to be built on the Foss after they considered collateral issues (not on the agenda) such as the competition the hotel could pose to the Murano and the request to force the new hotel on the waterfront to be unionized.

(As mentioned earlier, the request that the city interfere with the union status of any hotel workers in inappropriate as only one hotel in all of Pierce County is unionized)

Tomorrow, September 29th, the Tacoma City Council will have one last last chance to approve the Foss Hotel.


News Tribune Editorial Board:

A hotel on Tacomas Thea Foss Waterway has been a dream for nine years. Financial factors  including the current recession have killed past attempts to turn that dream into reality.

This time, Tacoma might have its own City Council to blame for killing the latest effort to create a hotel on the urban waterfront.


The crucial shoreline permit expires in March. If Hollander cant break ground before then, the expensive, lengthy permitting process must start over from scratch. In that case, the city will likely again wind up staring at that gap on the Foss, wondering when another developer with deep-enough pockets might show an interest in it.

Time is of the essence. Hollander would need almost all of the time between now and March to get through the architectural review and other requirements. So the council can kill the plan while pretending not to, simply by doing nothing about indemnification.

Letter in News Tribune by Paul Alvestad:

Via the Tribune:

TACOMA: Grab opportunity that Foss hotel offers

Tacomas approval of the Foss Waterway hotel is a perfect opportunity to revive its reputation as a forward-looking city eager to embrace economic opportunity.

It is important for the city to recover from its perceived inability to quickly adopt positive economic policies, as exemplified by the too little too late approach to Russell Investments and the painfully slow decision to raze the Luzon Building.

The addition of the Foss hotel will bring critical mass to downtowns need for restaurant, museum, performing arts and convention visitors; enhance the waterfront; and provide additional housing for guests of the port and businesses.


It is difficult to believe that the Tacoma City Council truly understands the full extent of the negative consequences resulting from deciding to "indefinitely delay" the hotel development on the waterfront based on collateral factors not on the city council agenda.

There are few actions that the city council could have taken which so undermine the trust that potential investors and developers have in the city which has the consequence of driving development out of the city into the suburbs of Pierce County.

Also, Tacomans are entitled to have the real reasons for decisions place on the public agenda where they can be subject to analysis, public comment and debate.

Fortunately, the Tacoma City Council has one last opportunity to place the Foss development and clean up back on track and approve the agreement with Hollander on Tuesday, September 29th so that some life may be added back to the waterfront and downtown Tacoma.

The Thea Foss Development Authority has long ago approved hotel development on the waterway, there is no reason for the council to try to thwart their actions.

comments [20]  |  posted under Tacoma


by Erik on 9/28/2009 @ 1:16am
Here is the Tacoma City Council agenda for this Tuesday:

See page 2:


Contact information for Tacoma City Council members:


by L.S.Erhardt on 9/28/2009 @ 2:04am
"Tacoma might have its own City Council to blame for killing the latest effort to create a hotel on the urban waterfront."

What do you mean "might"?

If the council F**ks this up too, I'm going to have to write another letter to the Council & Mayor... that'd make 4 in one month. Ungood.

by drizell on 9/28/2009 @ 5:35am
Thanks for keeping this issue at the tip of our noses, Erik. I hope Tacoma does the right thing. If they don't, which wouldn't be surprising, I'd still root for Tacoma, albeit from 3000 miles away in another underdog city that doesn't shoot itself in the foot every time.

by Dmitri on 9/28/2009 @ 6:41am
"... the request that the city interfere with the union status of any hotel workers is inappropriate as only one hotel in all of Pierce County is unionized."

I don't think I understand the logic here. I think the same argument could be used to reach the opposite conclusion.

Claiming that the City always does everything wrong completely ignores the fact that Davita chose to stay.

As for Russell, the company used the City's good-faith efforts (and very good offer) to extract more concessions from Seattle. They kept negotiating long after they made their decision.

In short, they are assholes and crooks and were going to leave no matter what we did.

Private owners had a century or so to fix the Luzon. We love to hate the government when they do something and we love to hate them when they don't do something.

We just love having someone to blame.

by KevinFreitas on 9/28/2009 @ 7:08am
@drizell: Where'd you move to?

I truly hope the City Council doesn't let this one slide. That poor area needs more life and activity and, frankly, it'd be great to have a little more hotel competition downtown.

by tacoma1 on 9/28/2009 @ 7:42am
I fired of an email last week. If this project is delayed, somebody's gonna have some explaining to do.

by Erik on 9/28/2009 @ 8:48am
What do you mean "might"?

It was a quote from the Tribune.

@drizell: Where'd you move to?

Oh no. We lost another member of the creative class! :(

We just love having someone to blame.

I am only listing some bad events that have occurred in the Tacoma lately, there is a lot of blame to go around in the private and public sector over a many decades.

by NineInchNachos on 9/28/2009 @ 9:04am
I think Dmitri is right about lots of things. But don't let his accurate assessment of reality keep YOU dear reader from getting PUMPED UP to speak out at tonights city council meeting!

Mr. Urbanist, will you be making an appearance on TV TACOMA?

by NineInchNachos on 9/28/2009 @ 9:07am
I think we should organize a city council meeting public comment flash mob.

by ElectricElliot on 9/28/2009 @ 9:23am
Does Tacoma actually need another hotel? I understand the development implications, but why not make it a park instead?

by NineInchNachos on 9/28/2009 @ 9:35am
I've heard that there aren't enough swanky hotels downtown to have a really big swanky convention in the swanky convention center. Making other cities with swanky convention centers and swanky hotels downtown more attractive.

by Erik on 9/28/2009 @ 10:20am
Does Tacoma actually need another hotel? I understand the development implications, but why not make it a park instead?

Tacoma needs more humans so that perhaps more businesses can survive downtown and on the waterfront.

by fredo on 9/28/2009 @ 11:32am
People who want economic development in Tacoma would be advised to quit electing officials who pander to labor unions. If the candidate you're planning to vote for has received campaign funds from or the endorsement of a labor union, then don't be surprised if, as in the case under discussion, the union decides to call in a marker. Folks, the days of unsafe mine conditions are over. Today's unions exist to throttle development.

by L.S.Erhardt on 9/28/2009 @ 11:45am
I recently read that Spokane, though nearly the exact same size as T-Town, has something like 10x the hotel space in it's downtown than we do. Little Bellevue, though approx only 59% of Tacoma's size also has about 11x as many hotel rooms in it's downtown.

Food for thought.

by KevinFreitas on 9/28/2009 @ 12:56pm
Here's an email I just sent to the Mayor and city council. Feel free to copy and paste and send to them all using this link.

Mayor Baarsma and City Council members: I'd like to submit into the public record my encouragement toward approving any process that helps move forward development of a waterfront hotel along the Thea Foss. This area of the city is an amazing one we should want to share with residents and visitors alike and a hotel would be a wonderful way to do so. More competition in this arena will also encourage fair prices for overnight stays. I'd also like to remind you that the upcoming 2010 golf amateurs and 2015 pro tours are coming to the stunning Chambers Bay and I'd like to see the dollars for the tens of thousands of spectators attending these events daily stay here in this area rather than elsewhere. This infrastructure will also only help make projects like the LeMay auto museum a success.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.

by Erik on 9/28/2009 @ 2:46pm
Nice work Kevin!

Thanks for the special super powered link to send a letter to councilmembers.

Hopefully, we can get a hotel there. I walked down on the waterway this after noon. It a nice looking almost completely dead zone.

by Erik on 9/28/2009 @ 5:16pm
Looks like it will be a close vote tomorrow.

If the council caves in again, the Foss Waterway is going to be continue to be essentially dead for a good many more years.

by Erik on 9/29/2009 @ 9:34pm

Looks like the decision was put off yet again tonight for a laundry list of collateral reasons not related to the environmental issues:

The Tacoma City Council wants more time to consider whether it gives approval to an agreement that would allow construction of a new hotel on downtown Tacoma's Thea Foss Waterway.

Council member Spiro Manthou told fellow council members at a study session at noon today that several legal questions require further study.

The council delayed consideration of an environmental indemnification agreement for the hotel two weeks ago after council member Connie Ladenburg said she wanted more information on the hotel proposal. The measure had been due to hit the council agenda tonight.

The indemnification agreement would define the city's and the developer's responsibilities should unforseen environmental issues emerge during construction and later.

But the council's delay has not been so much over environmental concerns as it has been over the quality of the hotel design, union issues and the developer's track record in supporting the Tacoma convention business.


by L.S.Erhardt on 9/30/2009 @ 1:26am
M-F, G-D F-ing G-D City council. Seriously? What the hell are they smoking there at 747 Market?

by Erik on 10/3/2009 @ 7:24pm
On the Next Tacoma City Council meeting on October 6th this Tuesday at 5:00 p.m., the Tacoma City Council loos to have yet a third chance to allow a hotel to be built on the Foss Waterway.


Hopefully, they will consider the substantive portion of the resolution and approve the 5 year planned hotel development so that we can give some life to the area.