Stake and regs

What if they held a stakeholders meeting and nobody staked?

That's the situation city officials face now that representatives of three University District neighborhood groups are boycotting three separate planning processes in the hood. Matthew Fox, president of the University District Community Council, says residential representatives see no point in showing up for meetings when city planners persist in reintroducing proposals that the neighborhood has long opposed. Neighborhood leaders also resent that the city seems to be dangling the promise of new sidewalks on the Ave (University Way) in return for allowing the University of Washington to lease an unlimited amount of space in the neighborhood and rebuild Campus Parkway to its own specifications.

Deputy Mayor Tom Byers says he's sorry to get the news of the boycott and hopes the "skeptical voices" of neighborhood leaders will return to the process. He says the Ave sidewalk project was delayed when federal funds for the project were pulled, and that the City Council needs to see progress on settling simmering neighborhood disputes before it will issue bond funding for the fix up.

According to Byers, the city's goal was merely to structure a partnership with the major stakeholders to take actions consistent with the neighborhood plan and leverage city investment into a comprehensive community strategy. Gosh, how could anyone voluntarily opt out of that?

Frankly, bolting the process makes some sense. If neighborhood leaders aren't willing to compromise, there's nothing to negotiate. They'll also miss a dozen boring meetings, while retaining their right to lobby against council approval of the UW proposals.

This seems reminiscent of the Eastlake neighborhood's refusal to participate in the second round of negotiations over the reuse of the Lake Union Steam Plant in the early 1990s. Earlier, the community had endorsed a housing-dominated reuse plan, but developers promptly courted a high-tech firm for the space. Called back to the table by the city (with the implied promise of extra public features in the final project), the Eastlake Community Council just said no. Recalls activist Jules James, "We said our dignity is more important than the city's handouts."

Good words to live by.

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