Judge Boots 'Save The Creeks' Initiative Off Seattle Ballot

July 31, 2003


SEATTLE, WA-- An initiative to protect and restore creeks in the city, an effort to restore salmon runs, has been thrown off the ballot by a judge who ruled that it conflicts with state law.

The ruling was issued Wednesday on a challenge by City Attorney Thomas A. Carr to Initiative 80, backed by environmentalists and opposed by developers, contractors, real estate agents, Mayor Greg Nickels and port officials.

Backers said they would appeal but conceded it was unlikely the state Supreme Court would act in time for the measure to be restored to the ballot for Sept. 16. The deadline for deciding what goes on that ballot is Aug. 8, county elections officials said.

Provisions of the "Save Seattle Creeks Initiative" include removing drainage pipes and culverts to restore creeks to the surface, removing barriers to fish passage, banning pesticide use near creeks and prohibiting development within specified distances from creeks.

King County Superior Court Judge James A. Doerty agreed with Carr that it exceeded the scope allowed for local initiatives and conflicted with the state Growth Management Act, which requires "meaningful public participation" in determining land use policy.

"These responsibilities cannot be performed by the exercise of a 'yes' or 'no' vote," Doerty said.

Ruling immediately after hearing arguments in court, the judge also concluded that I-80 was not based on the "best available science" for improving salmon habitat and probably would be ineffective.

Nickels said it would cost taxpayers between $504 million and $21.6 billion or more and spawn lawsuits that would delay restoration of creeks.

To comply with the state law, Seattle must add 50,000 housing units over the next 20 years, said Tim Attebery, a lobbyist for the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties.

"Clearly we have an affordability problem," he said. "When you take a densely built city and add more buffers and restrictions on builders, we can't respond to the market."

The coalition Yes for Seattle gathered about 22,000 signatures on initiative petitions, and the City Council voted in February to put it before the voters after efforts to draft a compromise failed.

"It won't be on the September ballot, but it will be on a ballot," coalition co-chairwoman Pam Johnson said. "We believe Seattle voters deserve a chance to vote on an issue that is this important."


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