Seattle City Council Member Richard Conlin got an earful at a May 31 community summit when 125 folks showed up to blast Mayor Greg Nickels' grand neighborhood proposals for the University District, Northgate, and South Lake Union. Either sufficiently dressed down by the angry neighbors or empowered by their showing, neighborhood guy Conlin marched back to city hall to revise a council resolution that would rubber-stamp the mayor's plans.

The community summit had seemed like Conlin's kind of crowd: He was on hand to reiterate his recent attacks on the mayor's plans--like an April 18 letter asking Nickels to slow down and reanalyze South Lake Union growth, which is already far outpacing predictions.

Indeed, Conlin played to the crowd--a who's-who of neighborhood NIMBYs, self-anointed cranks, and policy wonks--serenading folks with a passionate history of the neighborhood planning process.

But the mayor wasn't the only one getting a slap in the face during the three-hour conference: Weirdly enough, Conlin took a beating too. After all of his talk about taking back the neighborhood plans, activists were surprised to learn about Conlin's support for Council Member Jim Compton's last-minute resolution.

What was wrong with Compton's plan? Neighborhood activist John Fox was happy to grab a microphone at the summit and wave the draft he'd received the day before, and explain the problems to a flustered Conlin.

First off, Fox said Compton's resolution prematurely tagged the "Mercer Mess" (i.e., the gridlock on Mercer Street) as a priority for funding in the regional transportation package. More important, the resolution unconditionally supported the mayor's South Lake Union biotech plans. "All without so much as a shred of community involvement, or even an attempt to assess the costs and impacts on our communities," Fox emphasized.

South Lake Union property owner Mike Foley seconded Fox, chastising Conlin for signing off on the resolution so quickly. The proposal, Foley said, will do more harm than good to the neighborhood's traffic woes. He produced numbers from the city's own April 2003 Mercer Corridor Improvement draft study by Parsons Brinckerhoff: A two-way Mercer boulevard would cost around $100 million, increase eastbound travel times, and decrease capacity. "Allow me to suggest," Foley wrote in a letter to the council the next day, "holding off on the resolution until there has occurred dialogue with taxpayers as to whether they are willing to fund a project that will make Mercer worse than it is today."

Apparently, Fox and Foley got through to Conlin. On Monday, June 2 the council followed Conlin's lead and voted five to four to stave off some last-minute Compton backpedaling. Conlin, apparently fueled up by the summit, refused to give in to one of Compton's proposed revisions that would have deep-sixed a city review of South Lake Union's growth. Conlin made sure the resolution was held until June 9.