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No memorial for Luther Burbank

Matt Haba, the brother of the late Steve Haba, announced that he and his family have decided not to move forward with plans for “Steve’s Place,” a picnic area that the family had hoped to donate to the city in memory of Steve, a 1989 Mercer Island High School graduate.

“We didn’t come up with this project to fight with the city or fight with our neighbors,” Matt said of the proposed $90,000 to $95,000 “park within a park” that included a 20-by-40-foot almond-shaped cement slab with cement benches, a space for local art, 14 native trees and a number of shrubs. “We thought about how we could turn that tragedy into a positive event.”

Matt’s announcement came Thursday morning after a half-hour presentation to the City Council Parks and Recreation sub committee about the impetus for the project, its backers, location and design.

The project began shortly after Steve’s death in July 2008 at age 37 from complications of type one diabetes. Matt approached the parks department with the idea and it grew from there, he said.

A year and a half after Haba’s first discussions with the parks department, the City Council caught wind of the project and a small but heated public discussion ensued.

Friends of Luther Burbank raised concerns that the plan may not coincide with park policies and the Luther Burbank Master Plan, and refused a face-to-face meeting with Matt, who was more than willing to meet with the group.

One of their main concerns was that Steve’s Place would set off a domino effect for memorials on the Island.

“It’s more of a place for people to enjoy,” Fletcher said. “It doesn’t look like a memorial.”

The discussion set off a tense exchange between sub-committee Council members Mike Cero, Dan Grausz, El Jahncke and City Manager Rich Conrad about park policy and memorial donations, and when and if such projects should come before the sub committee and the Council.

“It should have come before this committee long before it did,” Grausz said.

Cero agreed and added that he felt the current proposal didn’t meet park policy or the Luther Burbank Master Plan, concerns also shared by the Friends of Luther Burbank Park.

However, deputy mayor Jahncke was disappointed with the end result of the meeting.

“I think it’s just really unfortunate to have that outcome,” he said.

Conrad said the project still may be viable.

“If the family is still interested, we’ll get them before the Council,” he said.

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