Remember those people who want to turn the viaduct into a park? They were still trying to make that happen when The Stranger had a collective freak-out about the crumbling elevated freeway back in February. And they're still trying now, despite an already-established city plan for renovating the waterfront once the viaduct is torn down.
Earlier this month, the group pushing the "Park My Viaduct" plan (now known as Initiative 123) turned in more than 20,000 valid signatures, qualifying their proposal for a public vote. Today, the city council voted to send the plan to next August's election while expressing a clear distaste for the idea.
The Park My Viaduct initiative would save a small sliver of the viaduct and then replace the rest with what is basically a newer, smaller-scale viaduct park accessible only to bikes and pedestrians. The goal is to preserve the sweeping views currently seen from the viaduct.
But, as the council says in its resolution, the city has spent years crafting its own waterfront plan. That plan will create a park along the waterfront as well as an "overlook walk" between the Pike Place Market and the waterfront that would offer views from about the same height as the viaduct.
The initiative “contradicts and contravenes what we’ve been working on for the last 12 years," Council Member Sally Bagshaw said at a recent council meeting. "We cannot overstate this problem.”
Marshall Foster, director of the city's Office of the Waterfront, told me earlier this year the city considered some sort of elevated park in its planning process but decided against it. "It's a very late idea," he said, "and one that we thought carefully about and decided is not best for the public."
Even the landscape architect designing the city's planned waterfront park—whose firm also worked on the High Line in New York City, which is often cited as support for the viaduct idea—told the Puget Sound Business Journal today he thinks it's a "dumb idea."
The envisioned mile-long elevated park would be run by an appointed public development authority (similar to the way the market is governed), which could own and sell property and issue bonds. The initiative doesn't specify how the project would be paid for, but supporters say it would redirect money from the current waterfront plan. (As the Seattle Times has pointed out, the city's plan isn't fully funded yet either.)
Park My Viaduct supporters—including community activist Kate Martin, who's leading the charge, and monorail icon Dick Falkenbury—asked the council to put the measure on the November ballot instead of sending it to an August election because the November vote is likely to have higher turnout. The council wasn't having it. The measure will appear on the August 2016 ballot.
Here are the whereas clauses in the council’s resolution, making clear their frustration with the idea:
WHEREAS, the removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and its replacement with a bored tunnel by the State of Washington, and the replacement of the Elliot Bay Seawall by The City of Seattle, present a historic opportunity for Seattle to transform Seattle’s Central Waterfront; and
WHEREAS, in 2003 the City began a public process for developing a community vision for the Central Waterfront to reconnect Seattle to its waterfront, in conjunction with the removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and replacement of the aging Elliott Bay Seawall; and
WHEREAS, the City has engaged with thousands of people, as individuals and members of organizations, to develop the vision for Waterfront Seattle; and
WHEREAS, in 2012, Resolution 31399 established the City's support for the Strategic Plan, Central Waterfront Concept Design and Framework Plan, and the Funding Plan for the Waterfront redevelopment and improvements, which rely on the removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct as planned by the State; and
WHEREAS, proponents of establishing a public development authority (PDA) to build and operate a mile-long elevated park and other amenities along Seattle’s waterfront, integrating one block of the existing Alaskan Way Viaduct into the design of the elevated park, have submitted to the Office of the City Clerk a petition bearing a sufficient number of signatures to qualify the proposed Initiative filed in Clerk File 319421 ("Initiative Measure No. 123") for placement on the August 2, 2016 ballot; and
WHEREAS, Initiative Measure 123 is inconsistent with the Strategic Plan, Central Waterfront Concept Design and Framework Plan, and the Funding Plan for the Waterfront redevelopment and improvements and undermines the vision for Waterfront Seattle; and
WHEREAS, Article IV of the City Charter specifies that it shall be the duty of the City Council to submit an initiative bearing a sufficient number of signatures to the voters of the City for their ratification or rejection