Initiative 123 would establish a public development authority (PDA) to build and operate an elevated park and other amenities along the Seattle waterfront, integrating one block of the existing Alaskan Way Viaduct into the design.
“YES” ON INITIATIVE 123
By Octavia Hathaway and Kate Martin
Alaskan Way Elevated Park — a new garden bridge stretching one mile from Pike Place Market to CenturyLink Field is proposed by Initiative 123. It leverages our spectacular public view 55 feet above Alaskan Way in a park investment that will pay our city and the people of Seattle back in spades culturally and economically forever.
Initiative 123 offers us the choice to make huge improvements to the SDOT plan while we have time. The SDOT plan puts our promenade on street level where you can hardly see the water or the mountains, and where ferry loading and unloading and service driveways to the piers interrupt the space. Additionally, the SDOT plan offers view access from an enormous ramp and step structure that is inaccessible to so many with mobility impairments.
Remember, it’s not Alki down there. With four to six lanes of arterial freight traffic on the surface, we’ll be walking hand in hand with 25,000 trucks a day as Alaskan Way will become one of the busiest streets in Seattle when the tunnel is done and the viaduct comes down, because the new tunnel will have no downtown exits.
Yes, the viaduct must come down; it’s old and structurally unsound, but a new garden bridge with Seattle’s favorite view can keep the legacy going. We can make the right choice for Seattle’s future without spending more than the current plan and without extending the construction timeline since absolutely nothing can happen now until the tunnel is completed in 2019 and the cost of the elevated park ($165M) is more than covered by the cost of the components it replaces. The street level promenade is right-sized so we’ll still have a fun touristy boardwalk, but it won’t be too wide and the viewing ramp is eliminated in favor of the level elevated park. So let’s join cities like New York, Paris and Chicago while we have an opportunity to create a unique elevated park that celebrates our region and speaks to the people who live here. Visitors will surely love it, too.
Detractors resist making these improvements to the status quo plan saying they’ve worked on their plan for so long and had so many meetings, but that doesn’t mean the plan should persist. In a way, that plan is long in the tooth already after what is now decades and it will be even more so when construction continues four or five years from now. Change is hard when you’ve worked long on a project, but we must pivot to a plan worthy of our city and take some solace from the fact that the two activists who brought the High Line to fruition in New York City faced opposition for eight years. We all know how that ended up. Eating crow never tasted so good because not only does the High Line improve the culture and quality of life in New York City, but those resistors are making a lot of money from it as well. Seattle will be no different.
Our downtown badly needs the kind of healthy and safe six-acre open space that Initiative 123 creates. It will be like having a Green Lake downtown where we can gather with friends and family, get some exercise, be inspired by the views, walk the dog, play with the kids on bikes and more in a car-free environment. 123 creates an unforgettable park that we’ll all visit and take so much pride in that view we’ve adored for over 60 years. Future generations will thank us.
Ballots have arrived. Even if you don’t vote on anything else this election, please open your ballot and vote YES on 123. The current SDOT plan misses the mark. It fails to take advantage of a wonderful opportunity to create Alaskan Way Elevated Park, a visually stunning new centerpiece that would offer residents and visitors glorious panoramic views of all that makes Seattle so memorable. Seattle’s favorite view is worth about a billion dollars and it belongs to you and me right now. Let’s keep it that way. Vote YES on 123 today.
“NO” ON INITIATIVE 123
By Leslie Smith
Executive Director of the Alliance for Pioneer Square
City of Seattle Initiative Measure 123 is on your August primary ballot. The initiative concerns building and operating a mile-long elevated park on Alaskan Way. This unvetted and undeveloped plan could have devastating effects to our waterfront, our neighborhoods, and our city’s budget.
Our concerns center around five main issues:
Cost: I-123 requires the city to make unlimited funds available from any source, including the general fund, to pay for this undefined project. Other city priorities — public safety, affordable housing and other vital city services — will be put at risk.
In addition to tapping into the city’s general fund, I-123 also requires the City Council to hand over any underutilized or surplus city property to this board to use or sell as they see fit. These properties should be used for budget items that have been established as high priorities, including affordable housing, local parks, and other public benefit uses.
Unelected board oversight: I-123 appoints and empowers an unelected board to develop their idea that the city will then be legally obligated to pay for, no matter the cost. I-123 hands over power to this self-appointed board to use undetermined millions in public funds.
Transparency: I-123 has been sold as a way to maintain a view of the Puget Sound by building a park on an elevated structure, but what many don’t know is the project keeps only a small portion of the current viaduct and calls for a new, massive replacement structure to be built.
The public has also been told by I-123 organizers the project would be “the same cost and use the same funding sources” as the current waterfront plan. However, it is impossible to estimate costs without a plan.
Takes us backward: City planning and construction for a new revitalized, accessible and vibrant waterfront is already in place. I-123 would undo work on a surface level waterfront park, based on years of public input, collaborative neighborhood meetings and broad based, inclusive planning work for an environmentally responsible waterfront park immediately adjacent to the shoreline. Elements of the current park plan are already under construction, including a major addition to Pike Place Market.
Reconnecting our city: Over 60 years ago, the viaduct was built and divided our city from our waterfront. It’s time to reimagine our city and look towards the future. Rather than keep a structure that blocks our views, let’s implement our plan to take it down. Let’s embrace the opportunity to view the Sound from not just one, but many places from Belltown and Pike Place Market to Pioneer Square.
Please join the Alliance for Pioneer Square, American Institute of Architects, League of Women Voters, Friends of Waterfront Seattle, Seattle Aquarium, the M.L. King County Labor Council, Seattle Parks Foundation and many, many more in opposing I-123.
Vote No on I-123.