Never underestimate the tenacity of the single-family-neighborhood activist.
A controversial proposal to allow mother-in-law apartments ("detached accessory dwelling units," or, for the truly wonky, DADUs) in South Seattle was put off for a week, and another proposal to condemn three single-family homes to make room for a fire station was narrowly defeated this Monday, July 31, as neighborhood activists—champions of "our precious single-family neighborhoods," as one put it—lined up to oppose both ordinances.
The latter proposal, which would have doomed three single-family homes in the interest of replacing Queen Anne's Fire Station 20, lost on a 5-4 vote after council members raised questions about whether the site was really the best location for the station. But first, there was the requisite hyperbole. "You're voting to condemn the neighborhood," one resident said. "It will never be the same." Peter Steinbrueck cast the deciding vote, after failing to postpone the decision until September. But the most surprising vote was the "aye" vote cast by usually reliable neighborhood ally Nick Licata, who said that "condemning private property... for the greater good... is a hard decision, but I believe it's the best one."
The council also cited concerns about property owners in discussing (and ultimately postponing) Nickels's transportation-tax proposal, which will likely go on the ballot in November. "People can only get hit by property taxes so many times before they start saying no to everything," David Della said.
Licata, ever the accountability purist, cast the lone outlying vote against proposals to require most department heads to undergo reconfirmation every four years. Licata opposed the changes because their author, Steinbrueck, exempted the police and fire chief, which Licata called "the most important departments" in the city, from confirmation.
One day after Mayor Nickels announced the "city's vision" for Seattle's downtown waterfront (the result of a months-long. taxpayer-funded study that presumes approval of Nickels's $4-billion-plus waterfront tunnel), a diverse group of activists, united only by their opposition to the tunnel, met in the basement of the University Baptist Church to plot anti-tunnel strategy. The group ranged from the legit (State Senator Helen Sommers; the ubiquitous Licata) to the legitimately angry (U-District activist Matt Fox; monorail advocate Peter Sherwin) to the unrepentantly kooky (onetime monorail board member Dick Falkenbury; megalomaniacal mayoral candidate Al Runte). Despite some standard internecine activist bickering (the group bogged down on whether to form a coalition at all, and several present seemed more interested in pitching their pet proposals—Elliott Bay Bridge, anyone?—than coming up with a consensus strategy) they eventually settled on a name (No Tunnel) and a strategy (oppose the tunnel now; worry about how to replace it later). Nonetheless, Licata fears their efforts may fail unless they win widespread citizen support. "I've drafted legislation to put [an up-or-down public vote on the tunnel] before the council, but unless there is public support, I'm not sure it has a chance," Licata firstname.lastname@example.org