Campaigners for Initiative 123 filed enough petition signatures to qualify a ballot measure that would create a public-development authority to begin work on a new elevated park along the waterfront using a piece of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. This is an alternative to plans already in progress.
Sometime next year, Seattle voters may be asked to endorse an aerial waterfront park, to replace the views that travelers now enjoy on the doomed Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Campaigners filed enough petition signatures last month to put Initiative 123, to create an autonomous public-development authority, on the ballot. On Monday, the Seattle City Council received certification of the initiative.
Supporters are promising a 1-mile, 6-acre “garden bridge,” incorporating a reinforced block of the old viaduct into a new, 45-foot-wide structure.
Initiative 123, “Park My Viaduct”
The path to the ballot:
• July 17- King County Elections certifies that I-123 is qualified, by exceeding 20,638 valid signatures.
• Monday — City Council receives certification of I-123.
• Aug. 17 — An expected council vote to reject I-123, which effectively would forward it to a citizen ballot. The council’s other legal options would be to enact I-123 or draft a competing referendum about waterfront parks.
• August 2016 — A possible date for citizens to vote on the ballot measure.
Sources: King County Elections, Seattle City Council, Seattle city clerk
But I-123 would compete with the Waterfront Seattle program already undergoing environmental review.
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Kate Martin, director for the Alaskan Way Elevated Park campaign, said the plan improves on the establishment’s preferred design, which calls for a surface promenade and plantings, between a busy boulevard and old piers.
“We can put the promenade up where it belongs, where we have a 360-degree view, with no cars running through it,” she said. “It’s like having a Green Lake downtown.”
However, no funding exists yet, and the risk of time-consuming disputes would seem high.
I-123 supporters want to bypass the official Waterfront Seattle program, four years in the making with collaboration by city and state governments and business groups. A $6 million design process is under way for Waterfront Seattle, guided by architect James Corner, famed for designing the High Line park in New York City. Waterfront Seattle isn’t funded either and is assuming $200 million in landowner fees, $100 million in donations and $65 million in city funds.
Proponents of I-123 gathered 32,420 signatures, of which 30,292 were reviewed, and 21,699 validated by King County Elections — beating the required 20,638 signatures from registered city voters.
The next step comes Aug. 17, when the council could vote to reject I-123, effectively sending it to the ballot.
City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said the measure, formerly known as Park My Viaduct, would impede a decade of waterfront planning, just as the city is making progress on its new seawall, and to expand the Seattle Aquarium.
If the measure passes, “it is going to create serious problems, with the millions of dollars that have already been spent,” she said.
The group originally sought to make the entire 1953-vintage viaduct a park, but changed course in June when consultants said seismic retrofitting would cost too much.
The campaign raised $389,279since last year, city postings say, and spent nearly all of it. The largest contributor was developer Martin Selig, famed for building the 76-story Columbia Center, giving $245,000. Selig has since withdrawn support, after the group abandoned its original goal of keeping the whole viaduct, which Selig hoped would allow vast spaces for bikeways, tennis courts, roller skating and trails.
“The government version is a very nice job. It has an overlook section to see the view,” Selig said Monday.
Corner’s designs show at least three pedestrian bridges, including a verdant overlook walk from the waterfront to the Marketfront plaza, a $73 million expansion of the Pike Place Market that began in June.
The viaduct is likely to stay up until as late as 2019, after the Highway 99 tunnel is completed. For now, reality offers a noisy viaduct, seawall-construction barricades, traffic detours — and crowds of visitors at the waterfront last weekend.