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July 25, 2016

Opinion: Waterfront Initiative 123 is a bad idea

Special to the Journal

The Washington Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects opposes Seattle Initiative 123.

Initiative 123 would establish a public development authority (PDA) to build and operate an elevated park and other amenities along the waterfront integrating one block of the existing Alaska Way Viaduct into the design.

This is not the High Line and it's not a preservation project.

Unlike New York's High Line Park, the Alaskan Way Viaduct must be demolished because it is seismically unsafe. Initiative 123 proposes to construct a new elevated structure for about 90 percent of the planned park and preserve less than 10 percent (only 400 feet) of the existing viaduct structure — if WSDOT allows the viaduct section to remain.

Although there is no plan or credible cost estimate included with Initiative 123, constructing a mile-long new structure will be complex and expensive.

There would be a net loss of scenic views.

Removal of the existing viaduct will greatly enhance Elliott Bay/Olympic Mountain views from the western slope of downtown. Plus, scenic views of the bay will be enjoyed from the enhanced waterfront public spaces.

Ironically, construction of a new elevated structure would block views from downtown, much like the current viaduct structure, and actually result in an overall net loss of viewing opportunities from downtown. Active public spaces belong at the water's edge – not in the sky.

It's also contrary to waterfront planning efforts. Initiative 123 is not a well-developed concept and lacks a solid plan for implementation. This elevated park idea doesn't fit with the many years of planning and the extensive public involvement that have gone into the waterfront plan. It would force an unnecessary, expensive and completely uncoordinated element into our waterfront.

Please vote NO on Initiative 123.

Curtis LaPierre is a landscape architect in Seattle. The American Society of Landscape Architects is the national professional association for landscape architects.

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