Let’s Light SoDo Up!

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Former mayor Charley Royer and Seattle Building and Construction Trade Council Executive Secretary Monty Anderson recently emphasized the importance of rezoning in Seattle’s SoDo area, and I agree. Seattle can attract outside investments and reduce taxes while addressing housing needs by transforming SoDo. A well-planned approach focusing on mixed-use zoning, including restaurants, diverse housing options, and clubs, will contribute to a thriving community and create tourist attractions that generate tax revenue for the city. We must avoid replicating the ugly square-box buildings that have filled South Lake Union.

Map showing cranes to light up circled in red.

The Port of Seattle’s iconic cranes present a unique opportunity for SoDo. By painting these cranes with black light-reactive white paint and illuminating them at night, we can transform them into striking landmarks imitating the Imperial Walkers from Star Wars. This captivating display would leave a lasting impression on tourists arriving in Seattle and those traveling along I-5 or Hwy 99, elevating SoDo’s status as a major landmark.

The City of Seattle needs to propose a bridge lighting sponsorship wherein Phillips, Sylvania, General Electric, and other lighting companies sponsor the bridges and develop solar-powered designs, which the Seattle Design Commission approves. This initiative would enhance the visual appeal of our major bridges while symbolizing the significance of public-private partnerships in the city’s development. We should promote solar lighting in line with green initiatives. Enchanting and artistic bridge lighting installations will beautify SoDo and contribute to the overall ambiance of the district.

To improve wayfinding and create a distinct sense of place, decorative overhead signage should be installed at the entry points of different neighborhoods throughout Seattle. By linking 1st Avenue to Highway 99, we relieve I-5 in advance of its’ continuous congestion problems. Continuing the Aurora tunnel beneath the green belt of Queen Anne to the Aurora Bridge, would reinforce our infrastructure and prevent future mudslides from blocking traffic on Aurora. Finally, we need to establish a second expressway lane over the ship canal to Marginal Way (up to 85th Street) which would alleviate all Northern traffic congestion and ensure smoother transportation flow thru I-5’s Northern Isthmus.

However, it is not only lighting that must be reimagined in nighttime SoDo. Seattle is home to a “gentlemen’s club”; once deemed immoral by the liquor board, which failed to recognize the significant role sex workers played in the city’s construction and funding. To move forward and fund our city’s growth, we must legalize sex work, as Las Vegas has already done. By providing centers for sex workers and customers, we can promote healthier and safer interactions, prevent human trafficking, and protect sex workers from violent clients.

Madame Lou, pictured left, and her “girls.” Madame Lou funded Seattle’s rebuilding after the fire of 1889.

As many East Coast cities already do, Seattle should extend the operating hours of bars to 4:00 am. This change would stop the chaos caused by closing all bars at 2:00 am, congesting the freeways with intoxicated patrons going home after the last call.

SoDo must engage in dialogue with entities like Burlington Northern and Amtrak to address congestion caused by surface rail crossings is crucial for optimizing transportation infrastructure, similar to the Lander St. Bridge crossing. Furthermore, exploring the potential of high-speed trains, as observed in Asia and Europe, would significantly enhance regional connectivity. Projects like the high-speed Cascadia Rail would connect Vancouver, BC, to Portland, Oregon, providing more traffic and tourists at our SoDo station.

The proposed Cascadia Rail high speed train would transport passengers from Portland to Vancouver in under 3 hours.

By adopting a forward-thinking approach, engaging the community, and garnering support from business and neighborhood leaders, SoDo can seize this once-in-a-century opportunity to shape a prosperous future for the city. As city council elections approach, SoDo must rally behind candidates who support the mixed-use redevelopment plan. Together, we can create a dynamic neighborhood that celebrates art, industry, and the character of SoDo. Let’s elect city council members who will accomplish this vision.

George Freeman
Wannabe Wizard of the Emerald City
The Rectory Seattle