Something Useful From the City Council?

Be Very Afraid

Don't ever say Seattle's City Council members didn't tell you anything useful.

Last week, they approved an ordinance to ensure that residents know exactly how dangerous this place really is. While you may escape being sandwiched in the viaduct during the "big one," you still have an active volcano in your backyard, miles of waterfront susceptible to tsunamis, a city of slide-prone, waterlogged ridges, and a giant bowl of a lake that's been known to produce things called "seiches." (Don't feel bad; this one got some blank looks from the council, too.)

"It's oscillating wave action between smaller bodies of water," explained council member Richard Conlin.

"Like a ripple?" asked council member Tom Rasmussen.

"A BIG ripple," said Conlin.

According to a study compiled by city staffers and UW's Kathy Troost, 8-foot waves were reported in Lake Washington after the 1891 Port Angeles earthquake caused massive landslides. And seiches damaged houseboats, buckled moorings, and broke water and sewer lines in Lake Union following the 2002 earthquake.

When it comes to Mount Rainier, the danger likely will come not from an ash blast like Mount St. Helens but from a swiftly moving debris flow called a lahar.

Conlin told the council that the necessary safeguards are already required as part of the city's building code, but noted that this doesn't mean there wouldn't be room for future improvements to tighten things up.

"The departments will look to make sure we're doing what we need to do when it comes to regulations," he said. No doubt.

Sudden Impact

A funny thing happened in Georgetown last Wednesday. The Seattle Department of Transportation swooped in sometime before noon and changed the parking signs, dialing back by one hour the period when parking isn't allowed along the neighborhood's main commercial drag. Parking is now banned on the west side of Airport Way South from 3 p.m. (instead of 4 p.m.) until 6 p.m..

Kathy Nyland, who chairs the Georgetown Merchants Association, says the change happened with no notice and no warning. "I'm a pretty easy person to reach. They didn't call. They didn't write. They just did it," she says.

Nyland says she was busy reading a packet from the economic-development office on how to create a thriving business district when the panicked calls from shop owners started coming in. One of the key components for success? Parking, of course.

"I thought, this is so cruel. The city is trying to kill me," Nyland says.

"We think we could've done a better job notifying more people that this change was going to be made," admits Wayne Wetz, an SDOT traffic engineer.

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