1. A few major property owners in the Pike/Pine corridor, along with a couple of business owners, have raised concerns with the city about the recent Saturday night street closures. You’d think the Pike/Pine community would be all in on the pilot project—which closed the streets to cars east of Broadway around Pike and Pine late on Saturday nights—because it draws more foot traffic for the businesses and cultivates the neighborhood as a regional destination.
But “that’s not something a lot of us want to promote or further develop in Pike Pine,” says Michael Malone, who owns 10 buildings in Pike/Pine including the buildings that house Poquitos at the hot corner of 10th and Pike, Elliott Bay on 10th, Blick Arts on Broadway, Aveda on 10th, and the juicebox and Creature on 12th. Malone says he and other property owners and developers, including Liz Dunn, who has led the urbane revival of Pike/Pine with projects like the Chophouse Row and Melrose Market, told the city to slow down. “Eyes were opened,” Malone says, “that, ‘Oh, my gosh,’ this was put together by business owners not property owners. That’s their interest, but I don’t think the city streets should be closed to benefit a few business owners.” (I have a call in to Dunn.)
“Pioneer Square and Belltown are known for their nightlife,” he says derisively, referring to the drunken crowds and violence that are associated with the bar-centric culture. “Belltown clearly has a problem with people crashing into the streets,” he frets saying he doesn’t want Pike/Pine to turn into another Belltown.
Malone, who moved to Capitol Hill in 1967 and started AEI Music (the Jimi Hendrix statue for you newbies), says Pike/Pine shouldn’t just be party central, and he worries that the neighborhood is tipping the balance into a “Mardi Gras type of environment.” He says: “[The Pike/Pine neighborhood] is not only a place to have a drink, but it’s also a place to have dinner or lunch or go shopping, and live in. Not everyone that moves into the hood wants sit around and do shooters on Saturday night.” He grouses that “the people who live here know a high percentage of people that come here on Friday and Saturday nights are not from Capitol Hill and that’s where the clash on gay and lesbian groups comes from,” he says referring to instances of gay bashing.
Malone, who compares the experiment to former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg’s now controversial ped-only zone in Times Square, concludes: “If you close the street, you allow more people to sit around, to loiter, and hang around. You create an open environment that isn’t necessarily a good thing. It can lead to panhandling and aggressive behavior.”
Asked about push back from property owners like Malone, Heidi Hall, the city hall point person on the project from the Office of Economic Development told me simply: “This is very much a pilot and we are doing a robust debrief process in September to hear from a broad range of stakeholders about their experiences.”
I have a message out to Capitol Hill Housing, the group that organized this summer’s street closure pilot project, which included a late night drag show two weekends ago.
There were some complaints from businesses about patrons who ended up with no way to exit parking lots (they arrived before the 10 o'clock closure), but the SPD opened up exit routes on the second weekend to deal with the problem.
2. City council member Mike O'Brien, who announced experimental new legislation yesterday to allow contract employees at tech-era ride sharing successes like Uber and Lyft to have collective bargaining rights, wasn't kidding when he said at his press conference yesterday that some drivers are "living in fear of being deactivated" from the system if they speak out about low wages and unfair work agreements.
Yesterday evening, after joining O'Brien at his city hall press conference that morning along with a group of other drivers, Takele Gobena, reports that Uber shut him out of the system.
O'Brien, who says the city has the "full authority" to regulate ride sharing companies which were only approved to operate after agreeing to city guidelines about training and insurance, acknowledged that his proposal is likely to face a legal challenge from the Transportation Network Companies (TNCs as they're known) because federal labor standards exclude contract employees from collective bargaining rights.
Rebecca Smith, a lawyer with the National Employment Law Project, who was at O'Brien's press conference yesterday to support his push for workers' rights, says there is a way around the federal rules. Citing cases where other classes of employees who are exempted from collective bargaining rights by federal preemption language—agriculture workers and state employees—can join unions under state systems, Smith said O'Brien's model could work at the local level.
O'Brien applauded ride share companies for being disruptive and innovative, but added: "We've got to be careful when we talk about innovation. Because there's nothing innovative about creating a whole new industry that is fueled on the backs of low wage workers and forces a race to the bottom of working conditions."
Photo: Josh Feit