For 17 years, Seattle has had a temporary moratorium banning strip clubs from operating within city limits. Recently, a judge ruled that ban illegal and the moratorium was lifted - Seattle is now open for business, all businesses.
The city reacted quickly and Mayor Nickels responded in a stealth-like manner by introducing a proposal that few heard about. The mayor wants to confine all new adult cabarets (a fancy way of saying strip clubs) to a 310-acre area south of downtown from Walker Street to the north, South Duwamish Street to the south, 4th Avenue to the west, and I-5/Airport Way to the east.
One would think that since this is a rather large area, home to many businesses and bordering several neighborhoods, the public would have a say before anything is proposed. Yes, one would think this, but one would be wrong.
I heard about the strip club proposal by happenstance. A few weeks ago I sat down, coffee in hand, and logged onto my email. At first I thought the subject line about strippers was another piece of Spam that slipped through my filter, but I double clicked the mouse.
"Here we go again," I thought to myself after reading about the mayor's proposal.
Didn't we just finish battling Southwest Airlines? Now this. Ahhh, the joys of living in the South End.
The mayor picked this section of the city because it is largely industrial, and any new establishments would need to be 1,000 feet from parks, playgrounds, community centers and day care. I have that 1,000 foot spiel memorized, for the city quoted it before siting the sex offender housing on South Spokane Street. Also, this distance was also a factor when it came to finding a location for the Solid Waste Intermodal Transfer Facility.
However, with the strip club proposal, people have questioned the proximity of Cleveland High School. If you read the 1,000 foot requirement closely, you'll notice a loophole; "at least 1,000 feet from any school, daycare, park, or religious facility unless separated by such other use by significant topography or Interstate 5."
So, the city can pass legislation that keeps customers at least four feet away from dancers, but a strip club can operate down the street from a school (read Cleveland High) if it is separated by I-5. How is that for priorities concerning boundaries?
While it is true that SODO is largely industrial, it is also an area that is close in proximity to Beacon Hill and Georgetown. It is also relatively close to the Central District and South Park, and, as we know, these neighborhoods already have their fair share of urban blight.
We cannot forbid strip clubs from opening here, or anywhere else, in the city. It's simply an argument we cannot win. Adult cabarets are legal and saying otherwise would be unconstitutional.
What we can do is insist on strict regulations, no matter where these businesses choose to locate. The mayor and council are trying to make it unappealing for these types of businesses to operate within Seattle: such obstacles include the 4 foot rule, new lighting requirements and not being able to serve alcohol. However, we can ask for more. We can demand more.
While I appreciate the mayor and council creating restrictions that may serve as deterrents for these businesses, what I really want is advance notice. I often feel as though I accidentally stumble upon city information in a second-hand, e-mail forward way that affects my household and my neighborhood. The city doesn't seem to come forth with information. Instead we learn through our emails, newspaper articles or when a reporter calls asking for a reaction.
Hey, Nickels and council members, alert us to things that are happening in our neighborhood before you seal the deal. Is that too much to ask?
South End writer Kathy Nyland may be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org.