Several readers took exception to my posting earlier this month (“A parking lot no more”) in which I claimed that the question of park versus parking lot at the Madison Street road end had been resolved. Some observers who attended the community meetings on the subject believed the story was exaggerated or just plain wrong. Based on what they had heard, they felt it was not at all evident that parking will be eliminated in the area beyond the intersection of Madison and 43rd.
So I decided to investigate the situation further. I put a call in to Donald Harris, Seattle Parks Department’s Property and Acquisition Services Manager. I had quoted him as telling the Madison Park Community Council and the attendees at the community forum that the City intended to remove parking from the area that’s being considered for the new LOLA (Love Our Lake Access) park. Did I quote him correctly? “Yes,” he told me. But does the City’s Department of Parks & Recreation have the legal authority to take this action? “Yes,” again.
At least one park opponent doesn’t buy that. Mark Long, owner of The Attic, says that “Donald Harris does not have the final say.” He argues that the Seattle Municipal Code would prevent the Parks Department from taking action without jumping through legal hoops. And Long claims that he has an attorney’s opinion to back him up. So I asked Harris about this. “Despite what his attorney may think,” said Harris, “I don’t think that there is anything in the Code that requires us to retain this piece of Park property as parking.”
So is that the end of the story? Not quite. While it is clearly the City’s official goal to eliminate parking at the road end, it certainly won’t be happening any time soon. As Harris admits, there no money currently allocated to develop the road end into a park. “It would be stupid if we didn’t replace what’s there now with something else,” he told me. Just chaining off the road end will not accomplish anything worthwhile, he added.
And then there’s the additional complication posed by the controversy between park proponents and those who favor the status quo. “I think the City has to be responsive to a variety of needs,” he said. It is clear, he told me, that a lot more work needs to be done on the parking issue in Madison Park, and he is glad to see the business owners now engaged in the process. “We’ll need to work together to get this right,” he said.
As noted in my last posting on the subject, the LOLA committee has been looking at ways to mitigate the loss of parking spaces at the road end if LOLA is approved (that’s 17-30 spaces, depending on which side you’re talking to). And according to Community Council President Ken Myrabo, a special committee will be established to make recommendations on ways to improve the parking situation throughout the business district. The Madison Park Business Association is expected to be involved. Getting some kind of plan in place on the parking issue may now be a precursor to having the City approve funds to build the park, but that's not clear.
Meanwhile, planning for LOLA is moving forward, according to Myrabo, with the understanding that parking at the road end will not be part of the design. And Harris confirmed to me his earlier statement to the Council on the subject: “There will be absolutely no parking on this site. That was the starting point for the development of the park project.”
Sounds pretty conclusive, but stay tuned.