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Wednesday, February 28, 2007 - Page updated at 05:15 PM

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New-viaduct foe Steinbrueck won't run again

Seattle Times staff reporter

In a surprising announcement by one of Seattle's most popular politicians, City Councilman Peter Steinbrueck said Tuesday he would not run for re-election this year, in part, so he could dedicate himself to fighting a new viaduct on the city's waterfront.

Steinbrueck, an architect, made the announcement at a gathering of Seattle architects at the Hotel 1000.

He would not elaborate to a Seattle Times reporter, saying, "I have to talk to my [City Council] colleagues first."

Steinbrueck, 49, recently said he would fight a new viaduct to his dying breath. He instead favors using surface streets and transit. His father, Victor Steinbrueck, an architect and civic activist, was famous for stopping the demolition of the Pike Place Market. The park next to the Market is named for him.

Helped by his political pedigree, Steinbrueck was first elected to the council in 1997 to complete two years of the term of John Manning, who resigned. A resident of North Seattle, Steinbrueck won 71 percent of the vote against youth worker Thomas Goldstein.

Steinbrueck cruised to re-election in 1999 and 2003, with 78 percent and 82 percent of the vote, respectively.

Steinbrueck, who plans to serve out his term, has $16,502 in his campaign-committee account and no announced opponent.

Council President Nick Licata said he had no inkling of Steinbrueck's decision. But Licata said he knew Steinbrueck was "ambivalent about running again."

In recent months, Steinbrueck has muttered about the frustrations of his job. At Monday's council meeting, he refused to complete a statement he was making after he was, in his words, "rudely interrupted" by Councilman Richard McIver, who publicly apologized.

Charismatic, compassionate and crusading to his fans, Steinbrueck is an outspoken advocate for the city's poor and a frequent critic of developers and of Mayor Greg Nickels' policies.

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Others see him as pompous and prone to pandering to Seattle's far-left activists.

Steinbrueck is often considered a possible challenger to Nickels, who is up for re-election in 2009. Licata said a mayoral bid by Steinbrueck might be more likely now.

"It frees him up," Licata said. "My theory is the best way to run for mayor is to be out of office for a couple years."

Licata predicted Steinbrueck's announcement would "set off a land rush" of candidates for his open seat. So far four people have announced council campaigns: Shea Anderson, who is running against incumbent Jean Godden; Tim Burgess, who is challenging Councilman David Della; and Bruce Harrell and Venus Velázquez, who have not declared which of the five council seats up for grabs they are seeking.

Steinbrueck, who is married and has two sons, has chaired the council's Urban Development and Planning Committee since 2004. In that role, he has frustrated Nickels at times.

Steinbrueck took a year to review, revise and lead the council through its approval of Nickels' sweeping changes to downtown zoning last year. In the process, Steinbrueck fought successfully to make developers pay more toward an affordable-housing fund, in exchange for allowing taller skyscrapers downtown.

In 1989, before he was on the council, Steinbrueck helped lead a citizen initiative that capped heights of downtown buildings, as part of a movement against perceived runaway growth in Seattle.

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or byoung@seattletimes.com

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