For Once, I Agree with the NIMBYs
Strip clubs should not be concentrated into a single area.
Last night, dozens of speakers lined up to lambaste a proposal by Mayor Greg Nickels that would create a red-light district, of sorts, in narrow swath of the Duwamish industrial area bordering Georgetown and SoDo. The mayor proposed the strip-club zone after a court decision that ruled a 17-year-old “moratorium” on new strip clubs in Seattle unconstitutional, opening the door for new clubs to open in commercial areas across the city. (To date, not one new strip-club permit has been filed.) The mayor ostensibly chose the area because it’s far away from churches, schools, day cares, and single-family neighborhoods—the type of areas where the city has decided strip clubs would be inappropriate. (Georgetown residents have a different perspective, noting that in recent months, the city and county have located sex-offender housing and a new transfer station for the city’s garbage near their neighborhood.)
What surprised me about last night’s hearing was not so much the unanimity of the speakers’ opposition—it’s no big secret that no one wants strip clubs in their neighborhood—but their willingness to accept some strip clubs as long as they’re dispersed throughout the city. Speakers from Beacon Hill, Lake City, South Park, and Georgetown expressed dismay that the city would dump yet another “blight” on South Seattle (that’s debatable—city crime statistics have shown no solid correlation between strip clubs and crime), and agreed that a proposal that kept them 1,000 feet from churches, schools and daycares citywide would be the “fair and equitable” thing to do. “There is a faint whiff of classism in putting something we would rather not deal with in a neighborhood that isn’t ours,” one speaker said. Another, George Robertson, went further, arguing that it makes little sense for the city to ban strip clubs near churches and schools if it doesn’t ban “other harms we visit on churches and schools,” like major arterial roads and freeways.
In the past two days, both daily papers have said that planning committee chairman Peter Steinbrueck does not plan to consider alternatives to the mayor’s proposal. However, at the end of last night’s hearing, Steinbrueck asked for a show of hands: How many people would accept a dispersement approach, in which strip clubs can be located throughout the city? At least three-quarters of those in the packed council chambers raised their hands. Then Steinbrueck asked another question: How many would accept dispersement if it meant one or more strip clubs in their neighborhood? After some hesitation, nearly everyone raised their hands again. After the hearing, Steinbrueck said it was “fascinating” to see so much support for a citywide approach, adding that he’d take “a serious look” at such a proposal. “This is by no means a done deal,” he said last night. Let’s hope not.