Hooray for hemp! The Sensible Seattle Coalition nearly doubled its bank account, thanks to a $40,000 grant from the Marijuana Policy Project, a national group that advocates against anti-marijuana laws. Campaign coordinator Matt Fox says the money will help fund the group’s campaign to make small-time pot possession the city’s lowest law-enforcement priority. Campaign manager Dominic Holden says the group just dropped off petitions with 19,600 signatures at the county, which should be enough to qualify the measure for the November ballot. . . .

Activists looking for a little more accountability from Paul Allen’s Vulcan development company, which owns about 50 acres of South Lake Union property, might yet get their wish. For the past few weeks, Seattle City Council member Nick Licata has been floating a proposal that would force Allen and other major developers to reveal what they’re building and how it would impact traffic and parking in an area.

So what’s the harm in that? For one thing, the process could blow the lid off Vulcan’s largely hush-hush plans for the South Lake Union area. And that, neighborhood activists hope, could give anti-Allen forces some badly needed ammunition in their fight against the megadeveloper’s plans to turn much of the area into a biotechnology campus. “It’s a fair and legitimate approach to give the community a heads-up on what’s being planned for their neighborhood,” Licata says.

That’s good news to folks like Colleen Dooley, a Cascade neighborhood activist who says her neighborhood was largely shut out of discussions about whether the city should hand a public alley over to Vulcan. “I don’t see how this can be called inclusive neighborhood planning when they keep the neighbors in the dark,” Dooley says. In a document riddled with criticisms of Vulcan’s plans for the property, the Seattle Transportation Department did not recommend for or against handing over the alley; the City Council’s transportation committee will vote on it Aug. 6. Among other things, the department worries that the development will be too “suburban” and won’t include real public space, according to the department’s Beverly Barnett; currently, the proposal sandwiches the planned “public plaza” between two buildings—both of them owned by Vulcan. . . .

Most people walk faster when they get to the corner of Second and Pike. Derelicts and junkies crowd up against the mostly abandoned building, where about the only legitimate commerce left is a teriyaki shop. But Seattle City Council member and preservationist Peter Steinbrueck wants to save the historic building from what could be an uglier fate: demolition and conversion into a block-long, 24-story tower, right across from the 24-story Newmark and just two blocks from Pike Place Market. “If you are thinking in your head, ‘Why not a 24-story building?’ look at the Newmark and imagine that across the street as the entrance to Pike Place Market,” Steinbrueck says. The plans, hatched by Samis Land Development, which owns an adjacent property, also call for the monorail to run through the tower. A fight over the height of the tower could be just the prelude to a larger battle over view blockage by the monorail, which will need a special variance from view protection laws for every east-west street downtown.

Erica Barnett