From Clubhouse to Firehouse

The mayor punishes Queen Anne by back-burnering their new fire station.

Of all the Seattle neighborhoods needing a new firehouse in 2006, Queen Anne was tops. Its Fire Station 20, a deteriorating 58-year-old structure on the west slope of Queen Anne Hill, was so small one firefighter had to sleep in the kitchen. Mayor Greg Nickels agreed, and proposed a new station on the existing site, just above Interbay, to be funded by a voter-approved citywide fire levy. But his plan—to condemn and raze nearby homes so the station could be expanded—was resisted by the community (see "Burning Down the House," SW, Aug. 9, 2006). Once the City Council sided with neighbors and rejected the plan, a rebuffed mayor decided Queen Anne could just wait for a new firehouse. Instead, "fire stations in other neighborhoods will move up in priority and will be rebuilt sooner," he said in a message to residents. "If the greater Queen Anne community wishes to reconsider this decision, and the City Council indicates a willingness to act, a new Fire Station 20 will proceed." So there.The mayor said he based his decision on an exhaustive study, which determined the existing firehouse location to be the "only available site that preserved response time, met all other essential requirements, and fit within the Fire Levy funding limitations." He ruled out all other potential locations, including a community-favored spot just down the street—a parking lot at Interbay Golf Course.Now there's another exhaustive firehouse study, 125 pages and two years in the making. It reviews 42 Interbay sites, narrowed down to three finalists. Topping the list for a new Station 20? The Interbay Golf site. City Hall already owns the land, a plot at 15th Avenue West and West Armour Street, and the study found it "consistently performed at a high level throughout modeling" for response times and site advantages. The City Council will now hold public hearings and eventually decide where to finally place the new firehouse. But council member Tim Burgess indicated what some may be thinking. At a Sept. 5 council Public Safety Committee meeting, chair Burgess asked project manager Erin Tam of EnviroIssues, the study consultant, which of the three property finalists was the best location."Interbay Golf is at the very top," Tam said."And if Station 20 was not at its current location today," Burgess continued, "and we were siting it for the very first time, would you put it at its current location?""Based on our analysis," said Tam, "no, absolutely not."So there.

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