Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Seattle has a lot of momentum fueled by all the wealth, all the taxes in the coffers, and all the talent in the town. Now, however, a lot of these dreams are going to be infeasible, though they will likely linger on from inertia. The good news is that these are urgent times when we can inter, rather than keep on life-support, assorted ventures that are beyond their pull-dates. Herewith, my list of worthy candidates for gold Rolexes.

  • The I-5 Downtown Lid. This is an idea for lidding the downtown Freeway from Madison Street north to Thomas St. The goal is to extend the Freeway Park idea, creating new open space as well as developable land over the Freeway; and combining this billion-dollar project with maintenance of the crumbling freeway. Probably never affordable and certainly not now. Further, the idea of needing further land for development of downtown does not accord with all the challenges downtown development faces (fading retail, declining rents, telecommuting) due to the pandemic.
  • Terminal 46 Cruise Ship Facility. Talk about bad timing: just as the cruise business is blighted by the coronavirus, the Port hoped to build a third cruise ship terminal, this one aimed at the super-sized liners, just south of the Ferry Terminal. Enough already for the inundations of tourists that these ships bring, not to mention all the other drawbacks (labor, pollution, carbon, disease) in this sector. Even the Port seems to realize this, recently voting to delay temporarily this scheme.
  • Downtown Streetcar Connector. Here’s another example of a bad idea that lingers on, half-alive and consultant-rich, because of the retail and touristic interests backing the idea. It would connect the Capitol Hill-Pioneer Square streetcar and the Westlake-Amazonia streetcar (the SLUT), running along narrow, jammed First Avenue. There’s a better way. Many bus connections link downtown and Capitol Hill, and the city’s plans to focus transit-related development around two nodes (the railroad stations to the south and Westlake to the north) give the under-used, slow streetcars natural termini.
  • Cornish/Intiman Playhouse. The 432-seat theater, originally the home of the Seattle Repertory Theatre, then the home of Intiman Theatre, is now a semi-orphan controlled by the Cornish College for the Arts. It should be retained, spiffed up, modernized, and run by a neutral agency that can serve many arts and meeting users, much as Town Hall Seattle and 12th Ave. Arts. Cornish as an expensive arts school is going to have its hands full surviving the recession. The famous forecourt might also find a use for healthier, outdoor performances while audiences are forced to maintain distance.
  • Global Innovation Exchange, Bellevue. This GIX program of the University of Washington, training graduate students (many from China) in technological innovation, sprang from an era when cross-education with China had a lot more political support. Now, with public universities likely to have funding cut and the need to more computer-engineering slots for Washington students, it has lost key reasons for support. It always was an awkward blend of university independence and private (Microsoft) funding and a partnership with a prominent Chinese technology school (Tsinghua University in Beijing).
  • Seattlepi.com. With the venerated political writer Joel Connelly retiring next month, there’s little reason to read the ad-jammed, click-baited website. Who knows why Hearst keeps the once-proud brand going (probably to sell ads for other websites), but it clutters up a media landscape in need of new plantings.
  • Allied Arts. The arts and urbanist-advocacy organization once had great influence, saving the Pike Place Market and lobbying for early public funding for the arts. That was long ago. Now the two twigs of the organization, an advocacy group and the foundation, feud and reminisce. Here too, the need for potent arts advocacy is going to be intense in the recession, and a new group with real clout and new ideas needs to emerge.
  • Municipal League of King County. Another example of a once-potent organization, dating back a century to the golden age of clean-government, middle-class reform, and now on a ventilator. The days of doing independent reports and forming coalitions are long gone, since law firms no longer fund the League. One valuable service, rating candidates, was last done in 2017 and had been notoriously “gamed” by candidates. R.I.P.
  • Performing Arts Center Eastside (Pace). It’s 15 or so years of fundraising, wooing Seattle arts organizations, leadership changes, but still no performing arts center for downtown Bellevue. The original vision for a flexible-acoustics, 2,000-seat concert hall as part of the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Bellevue has proved an awkward fit. There are no natural major users of the hall, aside from the Bellevue Symphony. Nor have Seattle groups, aside from Pacific Northwest Ballet, shown much interest in renting the hall for run-outs to the traffic-challenged Eastsiders. Get the picture? Time to rethink, relocate, pull together an Eastside arts plan.
  • Residual Governmental Watchdog Boards. Back in the days of middle-class-reform politics, fastidious citizens were wary of boodling city hall politicians, so certain key functions were supervised by the upright. That’s why there is still a Parks Board and a Library Board cluttering up the accountability and both unelected. They are advisory only, though the Library Board actually picks the City Librarian, and the real power rests with the budgetary authority of the mayor and council who appoint the board members.

See you all at the awards banquet. I’m available for the keynote!

11 COMMENTS

    • WSCC stands for the Convention Center. Its expansion is suddenly in financial trouble, as sales taxes fade and lenders wonder about the convention business. Query: how could it be repurposed?

  1. We all have our candidates. One of my thoughts is the elimination and/or consolidation of some of the 70-plus Seattle boards and commissions. Some are essential to operations, like the Library’s Board of Trustees, but others are less critical, like the sugarless drinks taxation board that advises the city on how to spend incoming receipts. While members on boards and commissions are unpaid, boards and commissions do require staffing and other expenses.

    • I’ve always thought they should have Seattle Channel running in the Boards and Commissions room so tax payers could actually see what goes on in those meetings.

  2. Road-dieting should be halted immediately. Traffic in all forms must be allowed to flow freely, and Seattle’s unique topography makes this difficult enough. The current crisis has illuminated many issues. One is that the hygienically safest means of transportation is the private automobile, not public transit, not Uber, Lyft or taxis, and certainly not rental bikes. We have seen the value of curbside pickup, drive-through testing, drive-in religious services, and maybe soon drive-in movies.

    Bicyclists are not victims. As a pedestrian injured by a bicylist on a sidewalk, I speak from experience. They can fend very well for themselves in an integrated system, if they wear helmets, heed stop signals, and watch where they’re going.

  3. That streetcar project is going to seem especially ridiculous while we’re trying to find money for a WS Bridge replacement.

  4. The lid I-5 effort is at least a decade away from producing tangible results. The effects of COVID, both on the economy and our collective conscience, will be muted by then. We should not be making multi-generational infrastructure decisions based on once-every-hundred-years events. The chance to restitch the city back together and heal the mistakes of midcentury planning is a long term long that requires long term thinking.

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