On Friday, Judge Patrick Oishi reaffirmed what the Council should have known all along: targeting a single property—called “spot zoning”—is illegal. Councilmember Kshama Sawant and the rest of the Council have squandered its efforts trying to “Save the Showbox” instead of spending that time on literally any of the serious problems the city faces. Indeed, council members spent more time on Showbox hearings this month than they spent on homelessness.
This is bad governance. They wasted time and money pandering to a primal fear of change. This distracts from important issues that could actually help Seattle residents, like addressing our severe housing shortage or getting unsheltered people off the streets and into shelter.
Councilmember Sawant is, predictably, the loudest voice for the Showbox. After six years, we in District 3 have come to expect Sawant to name every assemblage of people a movement and claim she is leading their fight. But this time she has allied herself with A.E.G., a California-based, billionaire-owned corporation that owns and operates The Showbox. She’s chosen to advance the interests of a corporation since it also gives her 15 more minutes in the spotlight.
Meanwhile here in D3, our city’s historically black community is being erased and the City Council just shrugs. The Council chose to concentrate growth in a handful of diverse communities, including the Central District, and now these communities are being displaced. Since 2010, almost half the black residents in the CD have been pushed out. On the other hand, Councilmember Sawant and the rest of the Council protects neighborhoods that are historically white and wealthy from growth, and most have even seen their populations decline! Seattle does not need pandering, self-aggrandizing, or absentee council members.
What Seattle needs is more housing.
1426 1st Avenue, the location of The Showbox, is in a dense, transit-connected neighborhood close to many large employers. Over 500 people could live there and work downtown without further congesting our freeways. Yes, this would probably become a luxury highrise, because it would be occupied by the hundreds of people who have well-paying jobs downtown. A residential highrise would allow them to live in the city without displacing existing communities in residential neighborhoods.
There is no question that The Showbox holds an important place in the memories of thousands of performers and Seattle residents. I fondly remember seeing one of the Foo Fighters’ first shows in 1995 at the now-demolished King Cat Theater, another casualty of downtown development. The building is gone, but I will always remember that amazing show. The Showbox is part of our history, but keeping it only pushes more people out of the city. The next generation of Seattleites deserves to live here and form their own history and experiences.
I value my memories, but I value the people of Seattle more. I support people over places. If we don’t build more housing, the most vulnerable among us will continue to be pushed out. Seattle needs a City Council that is accountable to all communities and focuses on the issues that really matter in our lives. In District 3, we need a council member who governs for the good of our city.
Logan Bowers is running for Seattle City Council in District 3. He's the co-owner of Hashtag Cannabis.