City Hall

Moon Disappointed in McGinn's Seawall Proposal

By Erica C. Barnett January 23, 2010

Cary Moon, head of the anti-tunnel People's Waterfront Coalition and one of Mayor Mike McGinn's "ambassadors" (informal citizen advisors) after last year's election, says she's disappointed in his decision to move forward quickly with a measure to replace the seawall without involving the city council or coming up with a comprehensive plan for the downtown waterfront.

"I think he didn’t do enough research before proposing it," Moon says. "You can’t just say, 'trust me,' you have to show them."

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Moon, a landscape architect who has been involved with waterfront planning since 2004, points out that the seawall design McGinn used to reach his $291 million cost estimate was based on the now-defunct cut-and-cover tunnel, of which the seawall would have been one side.

Now that the city and state are planning to build a deep-bore tunnel away from the waterfront instead, the seawall and tunnel projects can truly be considered separately. That changes what can be built, Moon says.

"In 2006, when they were going to do a waterfront cut-and-cover tunnel they designed this super-massive Great Wall of China seawall," Moon says. "There are lots of different ways you can solve the same problem that are more people-friendly and more fish-friendly and probably cheaper and better for Puget Sound. Why wouldn’t you do that?"

Last night, council member Sally Bagshaw (a tunnel fan) publicly addressed mayoral advisor Ethan Raup at the waterfront committee's monthly meeting. She recalls telling Raup that the council "hopes to work with the mayor’s office and do it in a real comprehensive and thoughtful way, not just piecemeal."

She also questioned whether replacing the seawall, parts of which have been shored up in recent years, was really the emergency McGinn has claimed. "If it's really an emergency, if McGinn’s got some new information that’s different than what we believe is the case. ... then it shouldn’t be subjected to a public vote. If it's a critical need, we should do it. We don’t say to the public, 'This is an emergency, do you want us to fix the dike?'"

A bigger problem, Moon says, is that city leaders don't know what McGinn's larger plan is for future levies that may be more important than the seawall. "The council absolutely deserves to have a big-picture view of all the levies McGinn is planning and what his priorities are," Moon says. "Where’s that transparency and collaboration and openness that everyone thought he stood for?"

McGinn plans to present the case for a May seawall vote at Monday's morning city council briefing. However, council leaders have made it clear that a May vote is unlikely.

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