My Turn: Sounds like old hype

Posted: Sunday, August 10, 2003

I received my "Long Range Waterfront Plan Community Polling Effort" flyer in the mail urging me to take part in "planning my waterfront." Over the years I've taken part in hearings and workshops for all sorts of projects, hoping that my input and that of my neighbors would carry some weight when measured against the interests of big business. The results haven't been too heartening, so I have pretty much given up.

I must confess I didn't attend the three public workshops held on this subject. I suppose I am just about as uninformed as most of the people who received this city-wide mailing. That's a scary thought given the over-simplification of the questions I am being asked. I feel that my naive responses will be used to demonstrate public approval for projects that cost more than any of us can imagine.

The maps are detailed and quite confusing. I studied them for half an hour and still don't grasp all the proposed concepts. It seems like there are many hidden agendas lurking behind those innocent green and blue puzzle pieces. What is meant by phrases like, "Adaptive Reuse of Building Cultural Facilities Mixed Use Redevelopment" or "Mixed-Use Urban Infill"? I wonder which mega-businesses are driving some of these obtuse descriptions?

Does "Support Private Development to Provide Multiple Storefronts and Waterside CirculationSeawalk (2 Story)" mean we are being asked to support a complex of Princess Cruises' own gift shops near the rock dump where a "Proposed Private Dock (CBJ approved 2/03)" will be built by Princess? Seems like this sort of development would suck the lifeblood out of the small local shops on South Franklin and other downtown streets. That's a pretty high price to pay in addition to the cost of sidewalks, road improvements, and who knows what else the city would need to provide.

What other hidden costs are involved in these simplistic questions? Why aren't the recipients of the mailing being given more background? For instance, Question D2 explains that the new large ships can't fit our existing docks and asks if we support enlarging them. What will the construction costs be? Where will the money come from? What are the economic costs to the community if the ships dock elsewhere? Loss of port fees? Less tourists shopping downtown?

Where's the background information in this literature that tells us what's involved in "strengthening and formalizing access ways," "removing part of Merchant's Wharf," "creating pocket parks," "expanding right-of-way on Franklin St.," "improving marine and seaplane operations" and "creating an uninterrupted seawalk?"

Where am I? Sausalito? Remember, we're talking about a town that can't manage to build a new high school for the amount budgeted or put a stoplight in at a death-trap intersection. It took the better part of a year and millions of dollars to deck-over a small portion of Marine Park, and we're talking about revamping 212 miles of land that would require acquisition, condemnation, demolition, negotiation and re-construction. Who are we kidding? It's time to stop wasting money on big city consultants, to level with the public about who will profit from this plan, and to come up with a few inexpensive improvements that we can actually afford and finish in our lifetime.

The questionnaire reminds me of the old capital move hype. When Alaskans were asked if they wanted to move the capital they said "Yes." When asked if they wanted to pay for it, the answer was a resounding, "No."

Phyllice Bradner is a Juneau artist.



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