SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER EDITORIAL BOARD
Incentives are the best route for encouraging homeowners, businesses and developers to make wise environmental decisions. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels has used this philosophy well in a proposal meant to open more creeks to daylight.
Maybe too well. There also has to be a bottom-line level of regulation that sets appropriate minimum standards.
On that score, environmentalists worry that the mayor's proposals for updating some regulations don't go far enough to "daylight" streams in culverts or pipes that would be healthier if they were uncovered. They would like to see the City Council add a ban on building on top of pipes carrying streams.
It's great to use incentives to encourage uncovering piped streams. The mayor has appropriate trade-offs in mind, such as lessened requirements for building setbacks, landscaping and parking. As city officials suggest, the incentives should strengthen the resolve of most property owners, who want to do the right thing, anyway.
But life isn't all carrots, no sticks. The city has every right to set minimum standards. The public cares deeply about restoring streams. And that's not just some Seattle liberal fetish.
As a Seattle P-I story pointed out, the city of Shoreline, Seattle's suburban neighbor to the north, forbids building on top of culverts that contain streams. Following Shoreline's example should be a no-brainer. Incentives will encourage many people building near streams to improve the environment. But Seattle shouldn't allow anyone to put new construction on top of piped streams. That would just cement the mistakes of previous years in place for several more generations.