The Queen Anne Community Council (QACC), one of the oldest in Seattle, was formed in the 1940s to serve the needs of the Queen Anne area. They have acted as the voice for the community, mediating important issues such as the sale of Metropolitan Market and the traffic congestion caused by the Mercer tunnel project. Council members say neighborhood residents galvanize quickly when an issue is brought before the council that affects the community.
One example: When a private production company wanted to lease the community center two years ago to film a PBS television series, Queen Anne residents signed petitions and showed up in force at the public hearing. With their input, the council made sure that the community center would only be used by the community.
The 22 people who serve on the board live and work in the Queen Anne area. Anyone who lives, works or owns property in Queen Anne is eligible to serve on the council.
Current council president Ellen Monrad, who’s held the position for a decade, said there is cohesiveness within the council that helps members make the most well-informed decisions possible.
“Our board gets along very well. We discuss issues at length and don’t seem to have many arguments,” she said. “Every council member is there for the good of Queen Anne, no one has their own agenda and we’re not just there to be a rubber stamp.”
There are several QACC committees, including the Neighbors Advisory Committee (NAC), Neighbors in Action, Police and Crime, Social Issues and the district council. Monrad said there are three primary committees within the council: Transportation Committee, the Land Use Review Committee (LURC) and the Parks Committee.
The Transportation Committee works on main avenues like Aurora Avenue and Mercer Street, fixing stop signs, rebuilding sidewalks and the like.
LURC’s job is to work with landowners, potential buyers and the community to ensure that properties in the neighborhood are properly utilized.
The Parks Committee deals with anything parks-related in the greater Queen Anne community.
Parks Committee chairperson Don Harper, who’s been on the board since 1997, said, “The board has a terrific variety of people with an overriding common interest. We’re proud to be a part of the community and have common involvement. The hope is that we learn from each other, coming toward agreement and compromise by listening to the concerns of the citizens.”
The community council has worked with many community groups including the grassroots Queen Anne Neighbors for Responsible Growth and Picture Perfect Queen Anne (PPQA), a volunteer neighborhood alliance that is trying to improve the streetscape on Queen Anne Avenue and spruce up Queen Anne’s retail core.
PPQA chairperson Margaret Okamoto said, in early 2005, plans were brought before the community council and its parks committee. The outcome of public meetings was the streetscape plan, funded by a community vision to improve Queen Anne. Funding has been allotted for benches, improving sidewalks and garden space.
“Collaborations have been very beneficial for both sides,” Okamato said. “The council has been very supportive; they are very interested in seeing the projects undertaken.”
LURC chairperson Martin Kaplan said the council works to make sure all of the residents have a chance to voice their opinion on the issues.
“It’s one of the most active councils in the city,” Kaplan said. “There is always spirited debate.”
Harper said the board has been able to maintain membership, with more younger members on the board now than ever. He said the active community involvement is what allows Queen Anne to keep growing and still maintain its vintage Seattle image.
“If you come to the council with an idea for a park or an idea for a project, we will help make that project a reality,” Harper said.
Community input has led to restorations of parks like the Queen Anne Bowl, which switched from grass to field turf, making the field more durable and versatile, when Harper joined the board. And with proper lighting, instead of being closed during certain times of the year, sports teams and park-goers are able to use it throughout the year. It allows the community to share an open space and take pride in its upkeep, according to Harper.
Newer projects like the purchase of the Port of Seattle’s West Yard and the playfield next to it have been keeping the Parks Committee busy. Harper said the purchase could add thousands of feet of shoreline and add access for activities like kayaking in Elliott Bay. Negotiation between the county, city and port are ongoing. He said he would like to see dog park and a basketball court there in the future.
LURC has proved itself as a useful resource for the community council, with design professionals, contractors and neighbors serving the committee. Kaplan said the committee’s goals are to “protect and enhance” the quality of life for Queen Anne residents.
Kaplan said in an e-mail that the “results of their decades of reviewing projects, many multiple times, have elevated the dialogue between developers and the Queen Anne neighborhood and contributed to enhancing the built environment over time.”
Currently, Aegis Living’s plan to build a four-story facility on West Galer Street and Third Avenue West, which is subject to a rezone permit, has kept LURC and the community council busy. Monrad said they’ve spent more time on this project than anything else. Residents voiced concern in meetings over congestion on Third Avenue, as well as parking and safety issues. Ultimately, the council voted in support of the contract rezone in October.
Continuing to grow
In a neighborhood with a population of almost 30,000, it’s remarkable to see such an active community involvement. The crime rate is low, with the occasional burglary and assault. Residents have the opportunity to focus on making a great community even better with new developments, parks and a thriving central business district.
It’s the hope of community-council members that Queen Anne will continue to grow, but they want to maintain their small-town character with amenities like small multi-use buildings and free parking.
As the population becomes denser, board members like Kaplan say they need to respect the growth and work together to resolve different issues.
The Queen Anne Community Council meets the first Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. at Queen Anne Manor, 100 Crocket St.
To comment on this story, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.