The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has been without a director for more than a year, having had four different interim heads while a national search was underway. That changed on Monday when the Seattle City Council formally appointed Sam Zimbabwe, a former for chief project delivery officer for the District Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C. Zimbabwe had been acting in an official capacity since mid-January, after being picked in December by Mayor Jenny Durkan.
“I’m heartened that City Council voted today to confirm him as the permanent Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation,” Mayor Durkan said yesterday. “Now, we can carry on the hard work of building a city of the future with more world-class transit and safer options for biking and walking.”
“When we undertook our search for the next leader of the Seattle Department of Transportation, we looked for a visionary leader with a proven track record of keeping cities moving, and delivering on critical transit and transportation projects,” she added. “Over the last month, Sam has already shown he is up for the job as he led the Seattle Department of Transportation during part of the permanent viaduct closure and our snowiest month in 50 years. He worked around the clock with his City colleagues to limit the impact on residents and businesses.”
Zimbabwe will be tasked with some monumental projects moving forward. Next month, the city will roll out the next round of improvements to support One Center City a.k.a. Imagine Downtown. Developing a financing plan for the Center City Streetcar project will be fundamental this year. And pushing through the reset of the Move Seattle Levy will be no easy task. But Zimbabwe appears ready for the tasks ahead of him.
Much of Monday’s city council meeting was consumed by the Mandatory Housing Affordability rezones and land use regulation changes (more on that tomorrow). But an important piece of legislation passed to set the city council’s legislative agenda for the year. There were some subtle housing, transportation, and land use highlights embedded in that resolution:
- Legislation to address unfair evictions, particularly in marginalized communities;
- Planning for land use of surplus areas of the Battery Street Tunnel;
- Review of a city budget office response for a municipal bank business plan;
- Discussions and legislation pertaining to annexation of the Duwamish Annexation Area and the North Highline Annexation Area;
- Review and possible modification of the Multi-Family Tax Exemption program;
- Adoption of the 2019-2020 comprehensive plan updates;
- Review of legislation to modify the incentive zoning program;
- Legislation to update the city’s wireless telecommunications facilities siting procedures;
- Review of SDOT’s effort to develop a decongestion pricing program;
- Legislation to revamp tree protection and canopy regulations;
- Review policy recommendations for unreinforced masonry structures; and
- Renewal legislation for a levy funding city libraries.
Last week, the Seattle City Council also approved updated design guidelines for Uptown and the University District, which we covered in detail late last year. The design guidelines will apply to new development subject to the city’s design review program.
Stephen is a professional urban planner in Puget Sound with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. With stints in great cities like Bellingham and Cork, Stephen currently lives in Seattle. He primarily covers land use and transportation issues and has been with The Urbanist since 2014.