Off The Rails Endorsement: The Urbanist Undercuts Urbanism

With the exception of maybe Pat Murakami, all the District 3 Seattle City Council candidates have at least some urbanist bent. Great. Seattle is a city, but it’s built like a shrine to cars in too many places.

Broadly, what is an urbanist vision for Seattle? Imagine a Seattle where rent is affordable to middle-class families, with ownership as a possibility. Imagine robust homeless services for far fewer homeless people, buses that don’t get stuck in single-occupancy-vehicle snake pits, safe streets for every mode of transportation, cafes, and groceries and childcare in walking distance from where humans live. Imagine our lush tree-lined streets with idyllic missing middle housing: duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes, that make up a currently scant stock of accessible homes for seniors and the disabled. Imagine multiple light-rail lines serving our densest neighborhoods and commuter routes, connecting to frequent and reliable bus service.

D3 Candidate Logan Bowers & Actual Urbanist

D3 Candidate Logan Bowers & Actual Urbanist

If you like what you read above and you live in D3, you should vote for Logan Bowers*, the urbanist candidate. No other candidate is as focused or poised to turn that dream into a reality more than Logan.

Head-scratchingly, The Urbanist—an ardent local urbanism advocacy group—endorsed a heaping pile of status quo: the incumbent, Kshama Sawant. In doing so, The Urbanist ritualistically sacrifices a real urbanist vision for Seattle in fealty to Sawant’s boisterous movement politicking.

But…hashtags and fist pounding don’t house or transport anyone or anything. Amazon, Sawant’s chief opponent, is not the biggest blocker of urbanism—the council’s dysfunction is. Trains, bus lanes, and affordability will take a managerial and technocratic approach. By her own admission, that’s not Sawant’s style.

It’s unsurprising that Sawant’s primary campaign plank is rent control, the “low-tar cigarette” of housing policy. Responsible evidence-based progressives should not support it. It’s also illegal at the state level. Sawant’s rent control push is a giant distraction, with actual human lives on the line. Urbanism saves lives, and she’s only an occasionally ok urbanist at best, and often a deliberately dysfunctional non-urbanist at worst.

For example, Sawant touts blocking dozens and dozens of housing units in the middle of downtown in her King County Voter’s Guide blurb as a prime accomplishment. Kshama Sawant stands in solidarity with fewer homes smack in the middle of downtown—during a housing crisis.

So we’ll see what happens in the primary. The ballots are out this weekend. If you want words over action, follow The Urbanist’s lead. Just know that Sawant is pulling your heartstrings at the expense of people in need. Or, if you want a candidate who will deliver rigorous urbanism and a managerial approach—if you want to save lives: Vote Logan.

*I’m a Logan donor.


Nathan Chaffetz