Ed Murray's waterfront director departs

The mayor immediately announced a replacement, City Planning Director Marshall Foster.
Crosscut archive image.

People ogling the waterfront makeover model at a public forum on the project.

The mayor immediately announced a replacement, City Planning Director Marshall Foster.

Seattle’s Office of the Waterfront director Jared Smith resigned on Friday, less than one year after he was appointed by Mayor Ed Murray.

Taking Smith's place is Marshall Foster, Seattle's planning director, who has more recently played a key role in managing the city's massive waterfront redesign effort.

Smith did not immediately respond to a phone call and email asking for comment, but a press release from the Mayor's Office said that he intends to travel and spend time with his family before moving on to a new job.

His resignation comes amid uncertainties about how the city will cover the full costs for a $1.07 billion waterfront redesign, which involves a new network of public spaces and parks and an upgraded seawall that will run along the Elliott Bay shoreline. The redesign was underway before Smith started working on it. But during his time with the city, he has become a point person for the project, making presentations to the City Council, appearing at public events and speaking with reporters. In recent months, he helped spearhead a revised spending plan for the parks and public spaces, which included proposed cuts that could add up to $168 million in cost savings.

But on Wednesday of this week, the Seattle City Council's Budget Committee asked some probing questions about where some of the funding for the project would come from and about how much pressure it could put on the city's already-burdened budget.

Smith and Budget Director Ben Noble walked through a presentation during the meeting that showed the source for $52.2 million in funding for the waterfront redesign was "To be determined." That chunk of money is not needed immediately and would cover costs occurring between 2017 and 2020. But other questions emerged as well. Council members asked about what kinds of bond financing commitments the city would have to make and what a projected $100.8 million in philanthropic funding would cover.

Further complicating affairs on the waterfront is the state-run Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement project. The machine digging the Highway 99 tunnel, which is supposed to replace the viaduct, has barely moved since last December due to mechanical problems. Although the tunnel project is being run by the state, not the city, many of Seattle's waterfront plans depend on the project's completion. Crews are currently working to access the machine to carry out repairs, but mining is not expected to resume until at least March 2015. This week's discovery of seashells with possible archeological significance threatens to delay the project further.

Murray brought Smith onboard about one month after last year's election, during an early round of staff hiring. Smith was initially tasked with overseeing waterfront policy in the newly created Office of Policy and Innovation. But then, in February, the mayor created the Office of the Waterfront, and tapped Smith to head it up.

Prior to his time in the Murray administration, Smith oversaw Northwest operations for the engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff. Some of the projects he worked on at the firm were related to the viaduct replacement project.

Smith's replacement, Foster, has served as Seattle’s Planning Director for about five years and has been involved in the waterfront redesign effort in various capacities since 2009. Recently he became manager of design, planning and public engagement for the Office of the Waterfront. He will take over the director position on Dec. 1.


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