If you think property owners have it made in this town, think again. The Seattle City Council has imposed a temporary moratorium to block a proposed five-home development along Ballard's Seaview Ave-nue, and the council may also remove a clause in the city's shoreline laws that allows the development of over-water homes on the site.
State regulators are concerned that the project, proposed for property just east of the Salmon Bay railroad bridge, might degrade salmon habitat. Neighbors want the rare, undeveloped stretch of Salmon Bay shoreline preserved as a park.
Council member Richard Conlin says he and his colleagues are concerned about the existence of still more site-specific loopholes in the city's Shoreline Master Plan. "I was very surprised to find this exception in the code," he notes of a 1986 clause allowing single-family homes to be developed on some shoreline lots along Seaview Avenue. The city will take advantage of the moratorium to identify and propose any needed code changes.
The smartest option for the city may be to simply purchase the property. The owners put their development plans on hold for six months to allow for property negotiations with the Trust for Public Land, but dropped out after trust officials produced an appraisal the owners characterized as "a joke and an insult." Let's skip the lowball tactics this time around—this property is located adjacent to a proposed extension of the Burke-Gilman Trail and has inarguable open-space value. Or is it that government officials find salmon habitat valuable only when they don't have to pay for it.
District shuns SPICE
After a contentious three years of investigations and criminal charges, the Seattle School District has announced it will no longer run SPICE, a city feeding and activities program for elderly residents. In a April 19 resignation letter, chief operating officer Brian Benzel claimed the district is simply too busy implementing major education reforms to keep the program going. "The decision . . . is also based on the belief that program participants will be better served by an outside organization that has expertise in running and facilitating programs geared toward elders," the letter continues.
An odd claim, considering the district has run the program during its entire 24-year life. But, it probably has a point, given the program's chaotic finances. Former bookkeeper Laura Gauntlett was recently convicted on 68 counts of theft involving SPICE program funds. (Gauntlett, in probably the most sensible move of this whole strange episode, split town before sentencing.)
The real losers in this latest move are the SPICE site coordinators, mostly older women with many years of service, who only recently obtained union representation (over the district's strenuous objections). Although the district did request they receive "preferential treatment" in future hiring, the privatization of SPICE would knock them out of the government pension program.
Sold down the river
Still stung by the appearance of the Cedar River on a national environmental group's list of America's most threatened rivers, Mayor Paul Schell and council member Margaret Pageler have resorted to a tough new tactic—writing angry letters.
Actually, the pair's April 9 missive to the American Rivers organization is largely a list of environmentally sensitive acts performed by city government in determining the fate of the Cedar's publicly owned 90,000-acre watershed. But Schell and Pageler left no doubt that, to them, American Rivers is just a bunch of thoughtless meanies. "Your action today sends the message to any organization inclined to pursue collaborative, pro-environment approaches to natural resource management that they could still find themselves the target of a negative, nationwide media campaign," wrote the wordy, weepy pols. No doubt those nasty American Rivers folks will feel guilty for weeks.
Mild though it may have been, the Schell/Pageler letter did manage to get someone's attention. The Muckleshoot tribe is annoyed by the letter's claim that the city's habitat conservation plan for the Cedar includes a "greatly improved" plan for managing water flow "developed through collaboration" with the tribe. Tribal Council chair John Daniels Jr. responds that, while the tribe has indeed participated in the discussions, the city has so far ignored the Muckleshoots' contention that the flow plan doesn't meet the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.
Incidentally, this reporter's April 22 story on the American Rivers listing inflated the Cedar's sockeye run from the state's largest (which it is), to the nation's largest (which it isn't). Hope it's not too late for all those fishing boats steaming our way to turn around and go home.
Peaked too soon
If you blinked, you might have missed Charlotte Carroll's political career. Originally tabbed as facilitator for the Seattle Progressive Coalition's endorsement deliberations, Carroll promptly got endorsed herself when she expressed interest in challenging incumbent Tina Podlodowski. Shortly afterward, Carroll outpolled Podlodowski in the Civic Foundation's election straw vote. Well, it was a nice run, but Carroll now says she's not a candidate for any council seat. "I was seriously considering it, but decided it was not the right time," she says. Hey, it's never the right time to run for office against a millionaire.