Now that the recast Alki Statue of Liberty is watching over the waterfront, the time concern has fallen away from the debate over a new plaza at her feet, so a different concern emerged from several audience members at tonight’s Parks Department-organized meeting: Is the plaza plan too fancy for humble Alki Beach?
Listening to how the questions and comments were phrased, we couldn’t help taking the question a step further, especially after the word “gentrification” popped up twice — are some of us ambivalent about the evolution of WS beyond its simple, small-townish core?
The beautiful plaza plan was shown off again tonight by the talented two who have donated so much time and talent to the project in the past year-plus, designer/architects Matt Hutchins (of WS) and Christopher Ezzell (of Vashon). They patiently explained every last detail, from the thick glass blocks that would house a lantern-type light in the new statue pedestal (rendering below), to the proposed repositioning of the statue (6′ further south, 15′ further west, and 20 degrees further toward the Olympics), to the drought-tolerant landscape design with Starbucks having prepaid for 3 years of maintenance.
They distributed a large 2-sided glossy color printout including project art, proposed timeline, and a detailed line-item accounting of anticipated cost. (Even Pamela Kliment, project manager for the Parks Department, said their experts agreed with the designers’ projections.) Since the main purpose of the meeting was to take the public’s temperature about the plaza concept itself, they were the stars of the show.
And it almost turned into more of a show than it needed to be. West Seattle’s down-to-earthiness surfaced again in the meeting process itself. The city hired a Vashon “performance consultant” to run the meeting, and she kicked it off by outlining a lot of touchy-feely philosophies along the lines of “no bad ideas,” core this, focus that, values this’n’ that … we half-expected her to deploy a talking stick.
Instead, we had The Dots, and Sticky Wall (TM); the meeting kicked off and ended with participants being asked to show their sentiment by sticking colored dots on pieces of paper labeled New Plaza, New Pedestal, Both. In a move alarmingly reminiscent of last March’s viaduct vote, each person was able to stick multiple dots under each option (red for hate it, green for love it, blue for questions/concerns about it), leaving the end result utterly unreadable in our view; did we just vote to dig a tunnel under the statue?
But we digress. We were heartened to see that The Dots were the only threatened tactic that survived past the consultant’s opening presentation; Sticky Wall (TM) was supposed to involve people walking up and sticking notes with their unspoken ideas, concerns, questions, on the “Sticky Wall (TM)” (as the PowerPoint labeled it) at the front of the room, but that one went over like a rock off the nearby seawall.
Beyond The Dots, the meeting wound up emulating the mode of many a public meeting. Those who spoke, along with Hutchins and Ezzell, included Paul and Libby Carr, who recapped how they came to be in charge of the newly renamed Seattle Statue of Liberty Plaza Project; Jo Ofsthus of Bring Miss Liberty Home Now recounted her involvement (and others, such as Tom Ansart of the now-defunct Liberty Deli) in the original statue-rehab drives dating back to the mid-’90s, and she described her position as “ambivalent” toward the prospect of a plaza, not opposed to it necessarily but concerned about proper accounting of its funding, among other things.
Along with the concern about whether the plaza might be too over-the-top for Alki, came some fear about losing history; one woman worried aloud, poignantly and almost tearfully, that a memorial plaque by an existing bench, paying tribute to someone in the family she’s about to marry into, might be lost. (The designers assured her that all existing plaques would be included in the new project. And they brought up other aspects of history; Hutchins noted he was drawn to the project because he watched his then-teenage brother help restore another Statue of Liberty replica in Colorado years ago.)
The history of this project came into play as well, with some attendees talking about what they believed they were supporting when they purchased commemorative bricks/pavers years ago. Parks Department rep Kliment cheerily but cleanly shot them down with the matter-of-fact observation that whatever happened in the past, the project is where it is now, and everyone has to proceed from here.
In fact, the timeline on the designers’ handout will proceed at breakneck speed, if it holds true. It calls for public comment through 9/24; Parks Department review through mid-November; design completion and final Parks Department approval by mid-December; fundraising ($90,000 needed for what they want to build) done by late December; bids in January; construction February-June; dedication on July 4, 2008.
No further public meetings were mentioned, though we will be checking on that. If you weren’t at tonight’s meeting to ask questions and stick The Dots (we know there were many competing events; on our way to the Bathhouse, we passed a perky crowd at the Alki Elementary Back-to-School Barbecue) have your say by e-mailing the Parks Department. Take another look here at the plans for the plaza; if you want to see it happen, the Seattle Statue of Liberty Plaza Project is now officially taking donations — $15,000 makes you a major donor; $7,500 gets you a bench; but we imagine they’ll take less, too (they were selling their new T-shirts at the meeting, $20 each).
If you have a view on whether the City Council should approve the mayor’s request to chip in $50,000 for the new pedestal, you can e-mail councilmembers with addresses you’ll find here, or attend their first public hearing on the budget October 10th (reminder provided at tonight’s meeting by Brian Hawksford from WS resident Councilmember Tom Rasmussen‘s office).
Tuesday night’s unveiling was more a beginning than an end; since the ultimate decision on what’s next comes from the Parks Department, which reports to city government and therefore to you, now is the time to speak up for what you want to see happen next.
To the point of whether the plaza might be too over-the-top for Alki, co-designer Ezzell argued that WS deserves a “beautiful and exquisite place for the community to gather.” Another meeting participant put it more simply, noting this would exemplify the saying “Leave it better than you found it.”