January 11th, 2003

Sea dragon

The amazing community meeting day

Today was the culmination of months of work for me, and by 8 PM I felt like I could have gone to bed because I was so drained, especially after spending the last several nights worrying about what was going to happen today and the impacts that it would have on my life in the long run. All week long I was making phone calls to the city and the county, writing letters, rallying the troops via email, and getting together the written "vision plan" for my neighborhood as well as the speech in which I would present it to the masses. And the tension was especially high for me after the neighborhood president told me last night that Richard Conlin had a meeting with Ron Sims earlier in the day at which some important decision had been made. WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN?

And what a presentation it was. As I walked into the room for the neighborhood meeting this morning, there were not one, not two, but three officials there ... not just Conlin but Larry Gossett (King County Council rep for my district, who I talked to not once but twice this week ... I can't believe he called me, I'm a nobody!) and Jesus Fucking Judy Nicastro, who I didn't recognize at all and she is just as cute as a button even with a broken arm. I couldn't believe she came! What was SHE doing there, and what did this all mean?

So I got to go up there in front of some sixty or seventy people and make my presentation, so unsure of how much of a fool I would be made to look within the next hour. Were the city folks going to tell me how they've decided that we can have what we want, a big development on 12th street with TONS of low income housing AND they're going to build the "project" on the park I go to with my dogs every day, and ain't it GREAT how the city and the county are working together to get us what we want? Or was Conlin going to announce that (whoopie, old news) the city was going to pay the county for the privelege of keeping whatever scraps of park the county felt like leaving to us after they built the 64 apartments that would basically have the park as their front yard?

The whole thing was SO political. I wanted Conlin to look good for my community, which is why I hadn't brought it up to the mayor (since the mayor and the city have been fighting over who has the good ideas first) even though he could be so very effective, and I didn't want Steve Arai of the group that did the master planning process to look stupid even though I was fairly disgusted with the plan they had come up with. But it wasn't their fault, King County controlled their budget and they ultimately told them what they could and couldn't include in the master plan. The client is paying after all. And I do respect Steve, he's a good guy and I think his company does good work. But I was DEFINITELY disgusted at having that plan presented as a result of all of the "community input" they got this fall.

So I presented what was truly the community's plan for the site. A big, mixed use, mixed income building on 12th street, that could give our community a grocery store, places for small businesses to flourish, and community space in a plaza overlooking my beloved park. Better transit service in my community, encouraged by a reduction in the amount of parking spaces provided to the employees of Juvie Hall as they saw their parking lot turned into shops, offices, and apartments. An expansion to my park, with the swampy area turned into a proper park respecting the spring instead of hiding it, and benches and all of that good stuff. A new development north of the main juvie hall, so it looked a little less like a meat-packing plant and more like a Palace of Justice (with a neat plaza facing 12th so we didn't all shudder as we drove or walked by). It was such a perfect expression of every good thing I had heard from all of my neighbors and the people who work across the street (as I sit here looking out the window over my computer) during all of those long damn meetings I attended last year.

Steve got up, and he made his presentation of their plan. The apartments "framing" my park and taking 10-15% of it away, forever. A mixed use building with no plan to ever really build it in the next decade. The plaza. He kept mentioning the points I made, but also emphasized that the subsidized apartment building couldn't be done as part of a larger project because they had to be done by September 2004, and the mixed-use project would take 3 1/2 to 5 years. I felt good that I didn't spend any time talking about what was wrong with the county's crap proposal and just stuck with presenting something that I thought was exciting. My opinions about the need to "protect the interests of the developer" they picked before the planning even started were best not brought out at that time.

Then Larry stood up. He talked about the history of why the housing had to be built and where the deadline came from. That was good, if I had said it people would have been bored but everyone in my tiny neighborhood was I think simply flattered that he'd bothered to pay attention to our squeaking.

And then, because it couldn't wait anymore (and it kept Larry there an extra half hour), Conlin stood up. He told the neighborhood about the $400K allotted to buy the park. I clenched the table. And he said that he AND JUDY had met with Ron Sims yesterday. Oh my God. When did Judy get involved? I hadn't called her office since last July, when her assistant said, "I don't see what this has to do with the city" and I gave up trying to make her see why she SHOULD care. But Judy is pro-low income housing. Were they going to say, "Yes, you will definitely get that building on 12th, all you need is to wait until they've finished the other building?"

No indeed. When Judy put her hand on the picture of the big building on 12th avenue on Steve's nice drawing and said, "This is what we want," I suddenly felt the battle, while not won, may have seen the tides finally turned. Judy understood that for our CITY the project on 12th was very important. She said they were looking at finding other housing in the meantime until the new housing could be built. After eight months, the conversation had finally started!

My neighbor Marty summed the problem up so nicely, too ... I couldn't have asked for better. "Our neighborhood already has lots of affordable housing, far more than most neighborhoods in the city. We have almost no green space. It would be a terrible trade that caused us to lose any of it." And the guy sitting to my left led a round of applause for me and the community council president for all of the hard work we've put in on the issue.

Jeezus gods almighty.

Yes, Worthy Opponent was elected to the neighborhood council, and afterwards we went to Top Gun, and I went to Rebecca's to learn how to make soap in the afternoon (creamy vanilla bar anyone?). But what more could there be to this day? Other than sleep. Of course, how perfect. Good night.
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    "Bohemian Rhapsody" (not really but it would be nice)