City council nixes condemna-tions for QA fire station

The Seattle City Council voted on Monday afternoon this week not to condemn three houses to make room for an expanded Fire Station 20 on Queen Anne Hill.

The vote was 5-4 against condemning the two homes to the south of the existing station, and 6-3 against condemning the house to the north.

That puts the issue back in the Seattle Fire Department's court, but it was not possible to find out what the department will do next as of the press deadline for this week's News.

However, it was clear the majority of council members were not convinced that expanding the current location on 13th Avenue West north of West Dravus Street was the best - or even the only - choice.

That was clear when council member Peter Steinbrueck made a motion to hold off on a vote until the council's Sept. 11 meeting.

"It seems to me we ought to be able to do better," he said, suggesting that the fire department come back with a second option. That way, Steinbrueck added, the department could say why an alternative site was equal to or less viable than the preferred site.

Jan Drago seconded the motion, agreeing with Steinbrueck that the fire department needed to come up with a second choice and make a case for the preferred alternative. "But we want a choice, and we don't feel we've had input at all," she said.

Richard McIver was against waiting to vote on the issue. "I don't know if you have another site," he said. "Unless you have something in mind ... I would suggest we make a choice."

Still, McIver proposed that just the two homes to the south of the existing station be condemned, an approach that would result in a two-story building for the new fire station.

Steinbrueck countered that he didn't think condemning two homes instead of three was a superior decision. He also objected to the council's attempt to micromanage the process by driving around the Queen Anne neighborhood looking for alternative sites on their own.

Tom Rasmussen confessed he had done just that by, among other steps, contacting the Archbishop to see if the adjoining Catholic church and its parking lot could be used as an alternative site. Rasmussen has said the approach would be legally difficult, if not impossible, because the Archbishop said no to the suggestion.

Besides, he argued, waiting for a month would raise neighborhood expectations that the three homes would be saved. "At least one family [wanting to sell] wants a decision today," Rasmussen added.

David Della supported Steinbrueck's motion to delay the vote and identify a second site. "I'm still not convinced we have to condemn two to three houses," he added. "We are just not convinced ... that's the way we have to go right now."

Delaying the vote was not an option Jean Godden favored. "This has gone on for over a year," she said of the plan-ning process. Godden added that she believed due diligence had been done, and she added another point. The only other viable location she knows about would have taken out another set of single-family homes, Godden said.

Richard Conlin said he had mixed feelings about the issue and would have preferred to vote against the three condemnation motions that day. Maybe the city should consider rethinking the number of needed stations because of a levy shortfall in the amount of money needed to improve the entire fire department, he said.

Conlin also suggested that - since Fire Station 20 has one of the worst response times in the city - improving the times should be a primary consideration in building a new station.

Also unconvinced the vote should be delayed was council president Nick Licata. None of the proposed alternative sites would improve response times over the existing station location, he said.

Licata added that he wouldn't be surprised if the decision was again delayed at the Sept. 11 meeting because downsizing the plan might be necessary. "But the process, I'm afraid, will continue on and on."

In the end, Steinbrueck withdrew his motion, and a city council voted to nix the plan.

Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at or 461-1309.

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