Early friction surfaces in bid to remove cars from Pike Place Market

Jan 18, 2022, 9:57 AM
Cars at Pike Place Market...
Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle. (Flickr Creative Commons)
(Flickr Creative Commons)

Efforts to remove cars from Pike Place Market appear to be encountering early friction, with one group accusing Seattle City Council of overstepping its authority.

‘Let’s turn this thing into a party’: Should Pike Place Market become car-free zone?

The market itself dates back to August 1907, when years of farmer complaints over price gouging by wholesalers saw eight farmers set up their own market to sell their produce on the corner of First Avenue and Pike Street. Roughly a century ago, the street was opened up to vehicle traffic, and has largely operated that way ever since.

The effort to remove vehicles is being led by City Councilmember Andrew Lewis, who has previously described it as a “big priority for 2022.” The issue is also one that’s come up several times over the years, with advocates pushing for what they hope will be a safer, more walkable Pike Place Market.

Achieving that goal, though, will require a collaborative process between the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA) and city leaders. The PDA is made up of 12 total members — four are appointed by the mayor, another four are chosen by city council, and four are elected by the Pike Place Market “constituency.”

A recent newsletter sent out by the Friends of the Market advocacy group levied criticism against Lewis and the council, claiming that the PDA’s authority is being circumvented.

“During the pandemic the Pike Place Market PDA has admirably managed the Market (including street use), doing its very best to keep the Market functioning for the benefit of merchants, residents and customers; and making Pike Place Market arguably the safest, most vibrant part of downtown,” the newsletter reads. “Why, now, would the Seattle City Council want to meddle in the management issues of the Market?”

Lewis clarified his own position in a subsequent statement to MyNorthwest, noting that he has “never claimed” the council has the authority to unilaterally remove vehicle traffic from the market.

“The city traffic engineer and the Pike Place PDA are the entities ultimately with the power to determine what vehicles are allowed on Pike Place,” he said. “But, the Council can put together a process, for example via resolution, for those entities to work through the issues.”

Curley: Removing cars from Pike Place Market a step toward car-less Seattle

Lewis went on to describe how making the market a pedestrian-only area has traditionally been “immensely popular with the public,” detailing how “there has never been a process to work through the very real concerns that have been an impediment to progress.”

“In terms of next steps, we need to consult with the interim leadership team at SDOT, Pike Place Market stakeholders (PDA, vendors, residents, and many more), and the incoming mayoral administration on the details of a resolution,” he added. “We will certainly keep the public posted on the progress.”

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Early friction surfaces in bid to remove cars from Pike Place Market