Seattle City Council
6/1/2004 4:15:00 PM
CITY COUNCIL APPROVES ALCOHOL IMPACT AREAS
Neighborhood requests lead to voluntary agreements that would limit certain liquor sales in University District and central Seattle
SEATTLE – The Seattle City Council today voted 7-1 to approve two new designations for Alcohol Impact Areas in the University District and central Seattle, including downtown. Today’s action was prompted by neighborhood requests for more tools to fight the problems associated with chronic public inebriation.
In the designated areas, local citizens, consumers and businesses now will begin a voluntary process to reach agreement over business practices designed to reduce the adverse impacts of chronic public inebriation through limitations on sales such as restricting the hours of alcohol sales, removing high alcohol content/low cost beverages, and not selling single cans or bottles of alcoholic beverages.
“Alcoholism is destructive not just to the alcoholic and to his family, but to the community,” said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, sponsor of the legislation. Rasmussen said that the newly designated areas represent about 8 percent of the City’s land, but account for 55 percent of emergency calls for public drunkenness.
“Putting these restrictions into these areas improves the quality of life and reduces emergency calls in those areas,” he said.
Many Council members supported the legislation while also saying it was not perfect. “It’s kind of sad that this is not ideal legislation. We seem to be treating the symptoms and not the root causes here,” said Councilmember Jean Godden, noting that improved treatment, housing and counseling services for alcohol and substance abuse are not included in the AIA legislation. “In the meantime, we’re giving some help to the neighborhoods that have asked for it.”
The new Central Core AIA extends from Elliott Bay east to 29th Avenue, and from South Royal Brougham Way and I-90 north to Valley Street and East Aloha Street. The new University District AIA extends from Latona Avenue NE east to 15th Avenue NE, and from NE Northlake Way north to NE 60th Street and NE Ravenna Boulevard.
Councilmember Richard J. McIver cast the lone dissenting vote. He voiced concerns that such legislation might impose additional anti-social behaviors on already fragile and historically disadvantaged neighborhoods outside the AIA designations. He also expressed skepticism that there is not sufficient evidence to show that AIAs actually solve the systemic problem they are intended to address.
“I’m not opposed to protecting our neighborhoods, but I’d like to see all neighborhoods protected and I don’t believe this legislation does that,” McIver said. “My proposed solution to the problem of chronic public inebriation is the equal enforcement of all existing laws throughout all Seattle neighborhoods.”
Rasmussen said there are measures in the legislation that call for tracking the so-called “spillover effect” that may be caused by the AIA designations.
The Washington State Liquor Control Board has mandated that voluntary efforts must be tried for at least six months. If neighborhoods within the new AIAs believe that voluntary efforts are not successful, they can come back to the City Council to ask that the City request for the Liquor Control Board to make alcohol sales restrictions mandatory.
Mandatory restrictions on the sale of alcohol took effect last September in Pioneer Square.