Friends of the Market has been an education and advocacy organization for over 50 years. Since 1964, it has singly, or with allies, advocated for or opposed public policies affecting Pike Place Market and fought for historic preservation and renewal in downtown Seattle and the Market.
Market Historical Commission
In July, 2015, retiring City Council member (CM) Nick Licata proposed an amendment to the 1971 Pike Place Market Historical Commission (MHC) charter. While one of the proposals corrected a serious problem, other provisions would have transferred appointment powers of Commissioners from the Market to City Hall. This change would have robbed the MHC of its prized independence which had never been challenged since its inception 44 years ago. But Friends of the Market’s (FOM) advocacy won the day!
Friends of the Market discovered that the amendments had been “cooking” on the desk of the City Historic Preservation Officer for several months – with no outreach for comment or advice from the Market Historical Commission or the public. We were being sandbagged by City Hall with just weeks to organize and persuade at least five Council Members to reject the Licata Amendment.
The proposed amendment to the original Commission charter would have place all commissioners nominations in City Hall, thus depriving the Commission of the recruiting powers of its three main historic preservation organizations: Friends of the Market, Allied Arts, and Seattle AIA (architects). The city would continue to recruit six members from unorganized pools of Market residents, merchants, and private property owners. In addition to the nominating changes, the proposed amendment would have replaced both property owners with at-large members appointed by the Mayor.
First, Friends alerted allies in historic preservation: Allied Arts, Historic Seattle, Market Constituency, Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and individual citizens. FOM members called on City Council member to discuss the amendment early in September. CM Licata was retiring at the end of the year and action to kill it before November was critical.
A September meeting with CM Licata ended abruptly when he recognized there was active opposition to his proposed legislation. A late September meeting of CM Sally Bagshaw’s Public Utility and Neighborhood Committee meeting was the first open discussion of the Licata amendment. It had to pass from this committee for action by the full council.
FOM and Allied Arts brought assertive letters and witness testimony from a dozen knowledgeable citizens with strong opposition to the proposed amendment. All witnesses rejected the amendment with no offer of accommodation. The theme of the opposition was “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” CM Licata joined the committee discussion, but could not offer a reasonable explanation to his colleagues for the need for his amendment.
Within a week CM Licata offered changes to the amendment that were acceptable to preservationists. They kept the nominating power in the Market, kept the Commission membership at twelve, but replaced on property owner with an at-large member to be nominated by the Commission. The one positive change in the original amendment made it clear that the two merchant positions on the Commission can be filled with day stall merchants, and that change survived. Thus, FOM advocacy succeeded, and the Market Historical Commission retained the independence from City Hall it has enjoyed since 1971.
Currently, in 2017, Friends and its historic preservation allies in Seattle are pressuring the city, by visits, letters, and email to include a member of the historic preservation community on the interview panel for recently retired city Historic Preservation Officer. FOM is concerned that language in the job description appears to disparage historic preservation.
Central Waterfront Committee
Friends of the Market have been involved in the planning, design and development of the post-viaduct waterfront along with City and State representatives, waterfront businesses, residents, and other interested parties under the co-chairmanship of former Mayor Charles Royer and community volunteer Maggie Walker. The long-term result will be a completely new entrance of the Pike Place Market for pedestrians and automobiles.
Victor Steinbrueck Park
This popular downtown park, designed by Victor Steinbrueck, Friends of the Market founder, and Rich Haag, well-known landscape architect (think Gas Works Park), continues as an active advocacy priority. FOM is working to preserve the original design and uses of Victor Steinbrueck Park including bringing back a children’s play area and saving a gathering place for the native people who have made part of the Park their own. Meanwhile, the City needs to replace the membrane that once prevented moisture from seeping into the underground garage on the western margin of the Park. FOM will keep members and the public posted on this immensely important development.
First Avenue Streetcar
Don’t you think the Pike Place Market would welcome the original proposal of a streetcar stop at its front door? You might, if the problems of passenger loading and unloading did not conflict with the hundreds of commercial deliveries every day. Better than a Pike Street stop would be a stop on First Avenue at Union from the trolley’s center roadway on First Avenue in front of Seattle Art Museum or a stop north of Stewart Street. Friends has been attending meetings and open houses and responding to requests for comments for over a year. Now Seattle Department of Transportation, in a February SEPA Addendum, has seen the light. The agency has been persuaded of the chaos that will occur at First and Pike all day long every time the trolley stops. We are heartened that Market comments have been heard and will receive proper attention in the final First Avenue Streetcar plan.