Supporters of Initiative 123, which seek to have built an elevated walkway along Seattle’s downtown waterfront, have no plan, no credible cost estimate, no environmental impact study ... nothing.
INITIATIVE 123 is not worthy of your vote on Aug. 2. It requires the city to pay for a new, expensive, elevated viaduct that has no plan, cost estimate or new funding to pay for it.
The backers of I-123 are attempting to associate this initiative with the 15-year-long public effort to re-envision Seattle’s waterfront as a pedestrian-oriented linear park. I-123 would actually make that vision impossible to achieve. The campaign is hoping to manufacture credibility. Don’t be fooled.
Backers of I-123 call it Seattle’s High Line, a reference to the steel railroad structure elegantly transformed into a linear pedestrian park in Lower Manhattan. Yet, the designer of the High Line, James Corner, who is also the designer for Seattle’s waterfront vision that I-123 seeks to unravel, has called I-123 “very silly” and a “dumb idea.”
Perhaps this is why:
• I-123 is not compatible with the “Waterfront for All” vision. It seeks to build an elevated walkway from Pike Place Market to CenturyLink Field, including keeping a block-long segment of the seismically unstable viaduct. This will destroy the “Waterfront for All” vision we have all worked so hard to achieve.
• I-123 is not a plan; it’s a blank check. I-123 is completely conceptual at this point. There is no plan, no credible cost estimate, no environmental impact study — nothing. What it does do is obligate the taxpayers of Seattle to fund the development of this concept without deadline, no matter the cost.
• I-123 is an unaccountable power grab. The initiative aims to form a “public development authority” to manage this process. “Who will sit on the PDA board?” you may ask. Well, the pushers of this initiative wrote themselves into the legislation, placing themselves on the board with the power to appoint friends and supporters, regardless of their capability and experience to manage such a project. Sounds vaguely similar to the doomed Seattle Monorail Project that wasted $125 million in public dollars without anything to show for it.
• I-123 places other priorities at risk. Without a budget, the blank check I-123 offers its backers would force the city to draw money from any available source, including the general fund. This means that other city priorities — public safety, affordable housing and other vital city services — would be put at risk. But it doesn’t stop there. The initiative requires any underutilized or surplus city property to be turned over to this board to use or sell as they see fit. These properties could otherwise be used for affordable housing, local parks and other public-benefit uses.
• I-123 sends us backward. Design and planning is almost complete and construction for a new revitalized, accessible and vibrant waterfront is already under way. I-123 would undo years of public input, collaborative neighborhood meetings and planning for an environmentally responsible waterfront park. Elements of the current park plan are already under construction or have been constructed. This includes things we do not see, such as utilities and infrastructure planning. I-123’s lack of coordination and planning could place the millions of dollars spent to date at risk.
After seeing this, it is no wonder that I-123’s one-time financial backer, developer Martin Selig, now opposes the effort. Joining him in opposing I-123 are AIA Seattle, the League of Women Voters, the Seattle Aquarium, 34th District Democrats, 36th District Democrats, 37th District Democrats, M.L. King County Labor Council AFL-CIO and the Seattle Parks Foundation.
Good urban design doesn’t happen at the ballot box. Even New York City’s High Line began as a citizen-led grass-roots effort, utilizing organic, thoughtful advocacy to create a truly special place. Allied Arts employed similar grass-roots efforts to create a vision for Seattle’s waterfront, which Friends of Seattle’s Waterfront is helping bring to reality.
If you truly want a “Waterfront for All,” stick with the program we citizens have created and embraced over the past 15 years. Vote “no” on this impostor — vote “no” on I-123.