Standing last Friday afternoon in the hallway that connects the nine council offices, I glanced up from a conversation about zoning (or the port, or something) to catch a glimpse of Barbara Hadley, an ordinarily staid administrator with a penchant for modest sweaters and earth-toned trousers, gliding down the hallway decked in full Bollywood attire, right down to the bindi and the glittering, salmon-colored salwar kameez. Turns out Hadley's cultural cross-dressing was part of Bollywood day in council chambers, which included not just a movie screening (Zubeidaa) but an Indian meal, prepared by the council's central staff director, Saroja Reddy. Part of the council's new post-retreat agenda of (compulsory?) camaraderie, Bollywood day will be followed by "Legislative Department Reads!," a council-only book club.

As the council's movie-viewing preparations got underway, at least one council member, Peter Steinbrueck, had building heights, not Bollywood, on the brain. Sitting in the basement of the tallest building in Seattle, the onetime CAP initiative supporter told me he's now "looking at the possibility of eliminating [downtown] height and density limits" altogether. The idea is one ripped straight out of the mayor's playbook, with a twist; Steinbrueck's proposal, unlike Nickels', would limit deregulation to the downtown core, tapering heights downward in outlying neighborhoods. "I have no issue with tall buildings," Steinbrueck says. "But the mayor wants to put 50-story buildings in the Denny Triangle!"

Last week, mindful of the mayor's towering plans for the central city, Steinbrueck sent a harshly worded memo to Department of Planning and Development (DPD) head Diane Sugimura, questioning DPD's predictions for job and housing growth downtown, which overshoot the figures in the city's comprehensive plan by tens of thousands. "His numbers are so far off they're nonsensical."

But lest you think the urban planning committee chair is an anti-density troglodyte, consider: Just this Monday, Steinbrueck also passed legislation that will lower the amount of parking required in many new developments, making it easier, in theory, for developers to build housing that's affordable to middle-income renters. Although absolutist density opponents like the Seattle Displacement Coalition complained reflexively that reducing parking requirements will make it easier for developers to "demolish [existing housing] to make way for fancy condos and high-end slick new apartments," the fact is that higher parking requirements don't prevent gentrification; requiring more parking only makes developments more expensive for builders, who pass their costs along to tenants.

Once again, rumors are circulating that Council Member Nick Licata is facing an election challenge. Although no one on Licata's staff would identify the mystery opponent, the gossip last week pointed to Paul Bascomb, a Central District realtor who's given money to Richard McIver and one-time Richard Conlin opponent Michael Preston. On Tuesday, Bascomb said he'd made "no decisions yet" about whether he was running, or against whom.

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