Here's an update on that half-baked plan to build a new viaduct-park in downtown Seattle: It's going terribly.
Martin Selig—the billionaire real estate developer who helped bankroll the early stages of the Park My Viaduct campaign—is now donating to the "no" side.
Park My Viaduct, since rebranded as "A Waterfront for All," will be on the August ballot in Seattle as Initiative 123. The initiative would circumvent the city's current plans to tear down the crumbling Alaskan Way Viaduct and redevelop the waterfront, instead preserving a small piece of the existing viaduct and then building a new elevated park—essentially a bike/pedestrian-only mini-viaduct—in its place. The initiative comes with no funding to build the new park.
After donating to the Park My Viaduct campaign in 2014 and 2015, Selig gave $5,000 to the No on 123 campaign this month.
The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that Selig changed his mind about the plan after its leading proponent, civic activist Kate Martin, switched from her original idea to preserve the entire Alaskan Way Viaduct and put a park on top to her new plan to scrap the viaduct and build a new structure. That switch came after Martin discovered retrofitting the existing viaduct would be too expensive.
Selig told the Business Journal that he learned of Martin's change in plans when he called her for an update. "I said, 'Excuse me?'" Selig told the Business Journal.
Somehow, the idea of building a new mini-viaduct downtown with no identified source of funding is not even the most bananas part of Initiative 123. The text of the initiative shows that Martin is using it to try to give herself a new job.
I-123 would form a new public development authority to oversee the construction and maintenance of the viaduct-park. The PDA would have authority to buy and sell property and issue bonds. And who would run that PDA? According to the text of the initiative, Martin and five other people would make up the PDA's governing board for at least the first six months of its existence. Read the full text of the initiative here.
With just five weeks until the election, Selig's switch in allegiances is only the latest bad news for Martin's plan. Her campaign faces a slew of opposition, including from Seattle City Council members, and is in a deep fundraising hole. While the "No on 123" campaign has raised $250,600, Martin's campaign is $72,000 in debt.