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An urbanist’s creative fix for Seattle traffic, and his run for city council

Traffic in Seattle continues to escalate. (SDOT)

Logan Bowers is a self-described urbanist, campaigning for Seattle City Council on a pair of ideals: Fixing outdated laws that hurt both traffic and housing, and reversing what he feels is the damage done by District 3 incumbent Kshama Sawant.

“Kshama’s been in office for six years now and we can look at Seattle and say, ‘is Seattle going in the right direction or is it going in the wrong direction?'” Bowers told KTTH’s Jason Rantz. “And I think people agree pretty almost unanimously, which is we are moving in the wrong direction as a city right now.”

“Housing affordability, homelessness, transportation and mobility, public safety, they’re all moving in the wrong direction,” he added.

Kshama Sawant council challenger aspires for ‘world-class city’

Where Bowers really feels he can effect change, though, is reversing a city he feels is “frozen in amber” from a zoning perspective.

“The urban villages that we have today basically existed as they do now from about the 1930s,” he noted.

“So you’re saying that the zoning that allows for some of the coffee shops that we already see, or the grocery stores we already see, that was established back in the ’30s and hasn’t really been updated in a meaningful way since?” Rantz asked .

“It’s actually worse than that,” Bowers said.

Essentially, when Seattle’s urban villages were first created, there was no zoning in place to prevent say, a grocery story from setting up shop. As Bowers puts it, “they just went wherever people needed stuff.”

That zoning tightened in the 1950s, when Seattle city officials enacted laws to make it so you couldn’t build that grocery store or coffee shop in a needy neighborhood without authorization. That strategy was part of the larger, racial redlining of Seattle, that built segregation directly into the city’s zoning laws.

How segregation was planned, and continues in Seattle

Today, many of those restrictions remain.

“Even to this day, the current council ratchets those rules tighter,” Bowers said. “So what it means is even though people would benefit from having something in their neighborhood — something closer by so they don’t have to drive all the time — the council makes it illegal for those businesses to appear.”

Ideally, Logan Bowers would like to see businesses like restaurants, coffee shops, and grocery stores open up in neighborhoods where they’re most needed. He hopes that would increase walkability, which in turn gets people out of their cars, and from there, acts as a strategy to at least in part address Seattle’s congestion problem (and on a larger scale, climate change).

“We’re seeing a push in society to drive less, and that comes down in Seattle especially because we’re drowning in traffic,” said Bowers. “It is a disaster anywhere in the city, and (now we have) the impending doom of climate change. Carbon emissions come mostly from vehicles especially in Seattle, and so we have to use our cars less overall.”

“Rather than top down trying to force people to drive less when they really want to, I’m suggesting give them a choice,” he added.

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