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Abel Pacheco
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Why Seattle CM Pacheco voted against Showbox protections this week

Seattle Councilmember Abel Pacheco speaks on a Twitter video, June 11, 2019. (Abel Pacheco, Twitter)

Monday’s Seattle City Council meeting garnered quite a few cheers as the council approved a six-month timeout on any redevelopment plans for the Showbox, a historic music venue in the city. But it wasn’t all cheers. In fact, one council member was laughed at and jeered as he spoke on the dais.

That council member was Abel Pacheco — a temporary council member who was selected to step in for District 4’s Rob Johnson who stepped down early. Pacheco was the lone nay vote in the 8-1 decision. Despite the public pushback, he is speaking out as to why he opposes the council’s direction on the Showbox.

Showbox is saved in Seattle … for now

Just like homeless camps or housing, the Showbox has become the latest battleground in an evolving Seattle. The property owner aimed to sell the site to a Vancouver B.C.-based developer, who in turn planned to build a 44-story apartment building with more than 400 new units. But after the loss of so many iconic symbols of Seattle culture, the Showbox has proved to be a line in the sand for many. On one hand, there is a considerable need for more housing in the city. On the other, Seattle is slowly losing its soul amid this evolution; what little it has left that has made it the unique emerald worthy of local pride.

In August 2018, the Council temporarily extended the Pike Place Historical District around the Showbox for 10 months. That halted sale of the land and any redevelopment. The deadline on that temporary designation was fast approaching, despite no solutions to the issue being presented. That prompted the six-month extension that was approved on Monday — the extension that Pacheco opposed.

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“Let me be clear, I’m not opposed to saving the Showbox, but I cannot in good faith support saving the Showbox in a way that places the burden on families trying to afford a place to call home in Seattle,” Pacheco said on Monday — a statement that drew a wave of laughter from the crowd in the council chambers.

It was a moment that other council members, ones who voted differently than Pacheco, shamed.

“We just had an hour of public comment about people supporting or saving the Showbox, and during that time nobody was jeered or made noises,” said Councilmember Debora Juarez. “And Councilmember Pacheco deserves to have to you be respectful and to listen, because that’s what we’re doing. So I’m going to ask that you do that … this is not a rally, thank you.”

Pacheco on the Showbox

On Tuesday afternoon, Pacheco further made his argument around the Showbox via a one and a half minute video on Twitter.

“I think it’s really important that we have safe venues for artists and audiences to participate in Seattle’s rich arts and culture,” he said. “Secondly, we know we are in a housing crisis, so getting more affordable housing is really important for me as we think about my time here on city council.”

Pacheco argues that pitting these two perspectives against each other does not lead to a productive conversation.

“What I hope can be achieved in the future is a win-win situation where we build more housing and use MHA to collect more funds for affordable housing on top of the venue that can be safe for artists and audiences to participate in,” he said.

MHA is Seattle’s Mandatory Housing Affordability regulations.

See Pacheco’s full video response below.

Originally published June 12, 2019.

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