Should things go bad again for the Mariners this season, they'd at least like their Safeco Field fans to be able to enjoy unobstructed stadium views of downtown and the bay. But they're apparently behind in that game: Developers want to erect nearby buildings up to 12 stories, poking into the view corridors, prompting the state agency that manages Safeco for the M's to hire a private consultant to lobby City Hall for lower height limits. So far, the city is apparently siding with developers.
The state Public Facilities District is paying The Feary Group $100,000 over 4 ½ months to twist the arms of city officials and downtown powerbrokers to support the M's wishes. Paul Allen's Seahawks and the Public Stadium Authority - the state agency that operates Qwest Field for Allen - have also joined in the effort that Joan Enticknap, head of the Safeco Field commission, categorizes as "all out war." In confidential memos, she says developer Greg Smith "is actively working this issue every day of his life...the net effect of [Smith's] lobbying, cajoling and presuming is that he is currently winning big-time and we are currently dead." (Smith wants to develop a low-rise complex west of the stadium). The commission hired Feary in December to fight back, and the public affairs firm put together a well-orchestrated media-government campaign of lobbying, sloganeering, Website, visuals, talking points and has involved a coalition of movers and shakers in a letter-writing effort.
In confidential memos, Feary claims it has held "off-the-record meetings" with the Seattle Times and Puget Sound Business Journal. The Business Journal has done a story on the campaign, which Feary's image-consultants apparently liked: "The story is MUCH better than expected," a Feary hand says in an e-mail to the Safeco PFD. "No mention of our contract amount or any inappropropriate reference to the PFD hiring consultants to help with this issue."
Whether or not the campaign succeeds may be decided this month when the city issues an environmental impact statement as part of its ongoing stadium-area commerical development planning.