An amendment proposed by city council member Nick Licata to limit height increases in Pioneer Square (some on the council wanted to increase heights to as much as 150 feet in some areas; Licata's proposal capped heights at 120 feet) passed with a surprising unanimous vote in today's council meeting, after Licata asked for a one-week delay last week because he was out of town and didn't know whether the proposal could pass without his vote.[pullquote]It's harder to get mad at an incumbent who votes with all eight of her colleagues; it's easier to withhold support from someone who narrowly passes an amendment you oppose.[/pullquote]
Licata's amendment (which he defended like a man expecting a fight in a blog post just three days ago) failed on a 2-2 vote in council committee, with Sally Bagshaw and Tim Burgess voting against it. Business groups like the Downtown Seattle Association supported the taller height limits, which they argued would enable developers to redevelop unused or underutilized lots south of downtown.
What changed? Bagshaw and Burgess are both in the council meeting right now and can't be reached (I've emailed them both), but here's one possible explanation: Both Jean Godden and Bruce Harrell are up for reelection, and need political cover to defy voting against the powerful downtown business community, which provides much of their financial support. It's harder to get mad at an incumbent who votes with all eight of her colleagues; it's easier to withhold support from someone who narrowly passes an amendment you oppose.
In the meeting, Burgess and Bagshaw both acknowledged they had initially supported the taller height limits, but said they were happy to vote for the lower height increase once they realized the council could not, as Burgess put it, "reach a strong consensus."
"This [legislation] moves the process forward but it does not close the door for future consideration of [greater] heights," Burgess said.
Today's losers: The Downtown Seattle Association.