The 5-4 vote followed a long standing, back-and-forth controversy over the site for the new aquarium, which had been approved by voters as a part of the Forward Thrust proposals on February 13, 1968. A number of sites were under consideration, including the central waterfront and Fort Lawton in Discovery Park.
Mayor Wes Uhlman and Liem Tuai, chair of the council's Parks and Public Grounds Committee, pushed for the Golden Gardens site. Environmentalists and others rallied against it because it would encroach on a popular beach.
A big supporter was Dr. Dixy Lee Ray (1914-1994), director of the Pacific Science Center and later governor of Washington from 1977-1981. She called arguments against the site "sentimental emotionalism" and denied claims by environmentalists that it was part of a "precious ecological heritage." She said the site was littered fill land covered with non-native scotch broom and could be recovered as a grounds for the aquarium.
Under pressure from opponents, the City Council reversed itself and opted for a central waterfront location.