Breaking Down the Walls

Part Two - Era of Mistrust Put to Rest

For many years much of the talking between the two sides was not exactly friendly. Bad feelings started back in the 1950s and 1960s, when communities felt the University and city were in cahoots to make sure the UW could gobble up all the land it wanted along Portage Bay so it could expand. Those moves generated lawsuits and a distrust of the UW that lingers to this day. "There's always been the feeling that the UW would buy up more land to preserve the sylvan feel of campus," says Fred Hart, proprietor of La Tienda, a shop on University Way N.E. "The University is here to provide education. It should not be looked at as a national park."

'U' District businessman Fred Hart

"U" District businessman Fred Hart says the UW's neighbors have long worried that the UW would buy up more land to preserve the sylvan feel of campus. The University, he says, "should not be looked at as a national park." Photo by Jon Marmor.

Those hard feelings run the gamut, from legal action and threats to stop the expansion of the UW Medical Center and keep the UW from developing the Southwest campus to ongoing clamor to tear down the four-foot-high concrete wall bordering the campus side of 15th Avenue N.E. Just about everyone agrees that wall is an affront to those living and toiling outside the lush campus environs. "That wall is psychological as well," says Hart. "It's part of the unfriendliness of the campus, a little thing that shows the University's attitude and insensitivity to those outside."

Getting along has always been a prickly proposition here, given the number of players involved. There's the University. The city. Community councils from Montlake, Ravenna Bryant, University District, University Park, Wallingford and Laurelhurst. There's the Greater "U" District Chamber of Commerce. Various other quasi-governmental councils, and, last but not least, the 50,000 residents in and around the campus. All have their own interests at stake.

The first attempts at ironing out the cantankerous relationship between the University and surrounding communities began to take shape in 1976. That's when the city of Seattle and the UW forged a Memorandum of Understanding to create a committee that would serve as a "viable mechanism for information dissemination and citizen input" and help put a stop to increasing enmity between the University and surrounding communities.

As a result, the City University Community Advisory Committee—known as CUCAC—was born. A coalition of 16 members from seven community councils, UW administrators, faculty, students and a city appointee, it was set up to advise the city and University on the orderly physical development of the University, adjacent community and business areas, and protect those areas from adverse effects of University and city actions.

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