Home USA News Why undermine the Pike Place Market Historical Commission? Ask the mayor

Why undermine the Pike Place Market Historical Commission? Ask the mayor

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A year after the 50th anniversary of the civic initiative that saved Pike Place Market from plans by the City of Seattle to demolish most of it, the city is once again threatening the market.

The city introduced an ordinance Council Bill 120456, which would remove public scrutiny and undermine the credibility of the Pike Place Market Historical Commission. The commission has successfully defended the market for 50 years. This ruling should not apply to the market.

In 2020, the Seattle City Council passed an emergency ordinance that gave Seattle Department of Zoning (DON) staff temporary authority to approve changes to the Pike Place Market Historic District and other historic districts, effectively superseding the decision of the 12-member Pike Place Market Historic Commission. The ordinance granted these special powers because historic district boards were temporarily unable to meet due to the pandemic. The emergency order, along with the powers of the temporary staff, expires on December 31.

Citizen initiative created the commission in 1971. The commissioners are volunteers with the appropriate experience and commitment to make informed decisions about appropriate use and design changes in the marketplace. The commission’s deliberations are vital to preserving the character of the market. For example, the commission makes sure that chains and franchises like Burger King can’t rent space in the market.

The commission process is open to the public: the public reviews proposals, provides comments at open meetings, and appeals commission decisions. The Neighborhood Department process, on the other hand, happens behind closed doors. The Market’s governance model, which is critical to maintaining its character, has been operating successfully for over 50 years.

Mayor Bruce Harrell introduced legislation to the City Council that would permanently transfer the commission’s authority over the Market Historic District to city staff. The commission spoke out against the city’s usurpation of its authority in a letter to the mayor and council August 10.

Giving the Department of Areas the power to approve market changes, possibly behind closed doors, would destroy the opportunity for the public to participate in considering market changes. This would undermine the commission’s authority and undermine its ability to preserve the market.

The Pike Place Market Historic Commission has protected one of Seattle’s living treasures for half a century, exemplifying thoughtful and responsive civic stewardship. The future health of Pike Place Market will be secured not by replacing but by restoring the authority of the commission.

To keep Pike Place Market as the most authentic place in Seattle, Market Hihistoric district should be excluded from Council Bill 120456 to maintain strong public oversight and authority for the Pike Place Market Historic Commission.

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