Peter Steinbrueck is running for Seattle Port Commission Seat 4. (Courtesy of campaign)

Peter Steinbrueck is seeking his second term on the Seattle Port Commission Position 4. Steinbrueck was a Seattle City Council member from 1997 to 2007. An architect by training, he founded a consulting firm in 2008 and has worked on some high-profile appeals of housing projects. Steinbrueck’s father Victor was a prominent architect and historic preservationist credited with saving Pike Place Market from demolition. Check out Steinbrueck’s campaign website for more information.

The Urbanist Election Committee followed up on our questionnaires with Zoom interviews to fill in the gaps. We released our Primary Endorsements in late June. Since Steinbrueck faces only one challenger, both automatically advance to the general election and the race isn’t on the primary ballot. Primary ballots should have arrived in your mailbox and must be postmarked August 3rd. No stamp needed as postage is included. For voter information or to register to vote, visit the State election website.

Below are Peter Steinbrueck’s questionnaire responses. 

The Port itself is set to meet its carbon reduction targets earlier than anticipated, but the region as a whole is stagnating. How can the Port do more to address stagnating emissions levels around the region? 

Even though Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is the first airport in North America to be certified for reducing carbon emissions by a world-wide independent program, air transportation (including King County and Sea-Tac) is major source of greenhouse gases.  Much of the air travel demand at Sea-Tac is domestic, making it feasible for clean electric propulsion for shorter commuter runs. Several companies are developing such electric powered commercial jets. Another promising long-term strategy is to reduce air travel demand by investing more in regional fast train infrastructure between west coast cities.  Cascadia Rail is a new organization advocating for such a system, and with the Biden administration’s big plans to invest trillions in clean energies and infrastructure, there is more hope. Other strategies include developing production of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) with conventional jet fuel, which could have a big impact in reducing carbon emissions when blended with conventional jet fuel. I am working with King County on a feasibility to develop municipal solid waste to biofuel program, that could be a real game changer, given the 300 million tons per year of MSW that is transported to landfills annually.

What strategies would you push at the Port of Seattle to develop more alternatives to single-occupancy vehicle trips for Port employees and visitors? 

We need more aggressive strategies to reduce scope three emissions from people driving their private vehicles airport, from both air travelers and employee commute trips. What other major airport in the world is not well served by fast rail or transit to urban centers?!  The mode split at Sea-Tac is over 90 percent by private automobile.  With over 50 million passengers per year (2019) and over 20,000 daily commute trips by employees working at Sea-Tac, we need to dramatically increase the mode split to high-capacity transit such as light rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) Yet Sound Transit ridership share to Sea-tac station is only about 6%. My goal is to get it to at least 30 percent by 2030 by improving light rail service (how about a daily express train or two from Bellevue and downtown Seattle?) and adding BRT service from the regional urban centers that feed into Sea-Tac. Under my Ground Transportation Access Plan for Sea-Tac, I want all employers to form a Transportation Management Association with aggressive commute trip reduction strategies. Commute trips by Port employees is a tiny fraction of total daily commute trips generated by port related activities.

The Port Commission backed a low carbon fuel standard at the state legislature this session. What statewide policy priorities will you focus on?

I am committed to dramatically reducing the Port’s GHG emissions in all its operations. After nearly 10 years of lobbying by the Port of Seattle for a Low Carbon Fuel Standard, its passage this year by the state legislature was a watershed in our efforts to fight climate change. I actively supported the LCFS, as it will not only work to reduce air pollutions and greenhouse gases and generate new Green Jobs, but it will also help in our effort to develop Sustainable Aviation Fuel in Washington state which could eventually power all flights at Sea-Tac. It is possible to reduce air and water pollution dramatically while operating a competitive global gateway, but to do so responsibly and justly we must have aggressive strategies to achieve those environmental goals. But the transition to clean, renewable fuels in buildings and transportation must also just and equitable. My other priorities are to dramatically reduce carbon emissions from al building and transportation sources, especially vehicle trips which are the primary source of GHG emissions in Washington.  As chair of the Port’s Energy and Sustainability Committee, part of my Green Port Green Jobs Initiative is to transition all the port’s facilities and vehicles to clean, renewable fuels by 2035 or sooner.

The development of a portion of Terminal 46 as a new cruise ship terminal has been put on hold by the current Commission. Do you support this project and are there any conditions that would cause you to change your answer?

Under my leadership as commission president last summer, the proposed 29-acre cruise terminal at the north end of the 86.5-acre Terminal 46 was terminated, and there are no plans to resume cruise terminal development there. Terminal 46 is a marine cargo terminal and part of our NW Seaport Alliance’s leased facilities. That is my highest priority for use of T-46 to continue as a marine cargo facility.  Any future decisions that would change the use must be agreed to by the 10 managing members (Seattle and Tacoma port commissioners) of the Alliance. All the port’s deep-water terminals are part of the NW Seaport Alliance’s shipping facilities, and I am committed to maximizing their maritime industrial use and remain competitive with other west coast ports.

What is your position on the issue of a second regional airport in the Puget Sound region?

The projected growth in global passenger air travel is expected to be over 4 per cent per year for the next 20 years. Sea-Tac airport cannot accommodate this rate of growth indefinitely and will likely exceed ultimate capacity by 2027. PSRC’s recent report, 2050 Forecast for Aviation Demand states that will more than double by 2050. That is why the Washington state legislature in 2019 created the State Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission, to develop recommendations for meeting long range commercial aviation demand and facilities needs. The state Commission is already one year behind schedule in their recommendations and has not narrowed the list to top two potential locations.  I think it will be extremely difficult to locate, plan, fund, and build a second regional airport within by 2040. That said we will need to make the best, efficient use of Sea-ac as the only regional air hub, and work to educe air travel demand and in the long term, I hope, develop alternative transit modes for regional travel such as Cascadia’s high speed rail concept. Even so, there is no plans or available funding for such an expensive infrastructure protect and it could take several decades to develop.

People living in airport and industrial communities have some of the most negative health outcomes in the region. What role do you see the Port of Seattle playing in rectifying this?

The port has role and responsibility in reducing air water pollution and help communities that have disproportionately impacted. It is clearly an environmental justice issue, particularly for people living in historically polluted areas such as the Duwamish river valley, and airport area communities. That is why, in 2019 I created the $10 million South King County Community Fund. Under my direct leadership, the Port of Seattle established the South King County Community Fund (SKCCF) to develop equity-based partnerships with community organizations and provide resources and support in historically underserved near-airport communities. The SKCCF is intended to address noise mitigation, environmental health, land stewardship and sustainability in these ethnically and culturally diverse communities.  In 2019, as commissioner I co-sponsored the permanent, Duwamish Valley Community Benefits Commitment to harnesses the Port’s economic development mission, promote community partnerships, healthy environments and communities, and economic prosperity for disadvantaged communities. As part of the Duwamish Valley Community Benefits Commitment, we also launched Duwamish River Green Jobs Program in 2020 – a three-year partnership with DIRT Corps, Duwamish Tribal Services, ECOSS, and the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, to develop inclusive green career pathways in shoreline habitat restoration and Port-related environmental sector.

What do you see as the Port of Seattle’s role in reducing sprawl in the region?

As part of Port’s Industrial Lands Policy, the Port is committed to maintaining the integrity of the city’s designated manufacturing and industrial centers (MICs), at Interbay and the SODO/Duwamish. Both are protected land use areas, constituting about 7000  acres (about 7 percent of the city’s land area) under local, regional, and statewide growth management policies. The MICs, with centrally located 100-year rail and transportation infrastructure, support Seattle’s marine shipping, seafood processing, cargo distribution, manufacturing, and warehousing sectors. They are job centers of statewide economic importance, supporting hundreds of thousands middle-income blue-collar jobs. By there central locations near waterways shipping terminals, they serve to reduce sprawl by connecting job centers near transportation facilities. ST 3 will align well with these important job centers, further working to reduce sprawl by concentration of employment, housing, and transportation choices close by within urban areas. As co-chair of the Port’s  Industrial Lands and Waterfront Committee, I am working new Transit Oriented Development concept to serve growth and new development in these key industrial areas.

What do you think the City of Seattle’s industrial lands taskforce should focus on?

As Seattle and the region continue grow and build back from the COVID crisis toward shared prosperity, continued investment in and support for our industrial and manufacturing sectors will help protect and grow blue-collar middle-income jobs.  I am particularly interested in strengthening opportunities for innovation and new business development in the industrial sector. One such concept, a “Makers District” (one I first proposed while serving as land use chair on the Seattle city Council over a decade ago) is an intriguing one that could fit well in the larger more traditional industrial lands. It may be described as a combination of warehouse reuses such as for architects, tinkers, and designers, artists’ live/workspaces, micro businesses, startups, and we work centers, bakeries, coffee roasters, cideries, distilleries, and brew pubs, crafters of hand made products, and even 3D printer self-servicers. We are in a new era of innovation and daring entrepreneurship. Why not have exciting new urban areas to support these kinds of activities that help spark the creative inspirations in people? But there must also be an equity component to it that enables women, young people, communities of color, and at-risk youth to have full equitable access to such spaces and tools.

What role do you see for the Port of Seattle when discussing the future of Interbay’s armory?

The 25-acre site in the Ballard Interbay North Industrial Center (BINMIC) is the current location of the National Guard, which has outgrown the limitations of that location, including high risk factors natural disasters potential as a seismic, liquefaction and tidal surge zone. Eventually the large centrally located industrial parcel will likely be surplused, opening the door to speculation over other possible uses that maximize public benefit, and many  intriguing ideas have been proposed. With light rail eventually coming to Ballard through the BINMIC corridor, the opportunities to define a new “Makers District” and are enticing. I was invited to participate in the UW College of the Built Environment’s Armory site studio as a guest architectural reviewer for the student projects, which produced several out-of- the-box cool ideas. One stumbling block for mixed uses is limited access through the industrial area, and the adjacent mulit-track heavy rail yard with noisy dirty industrial activities occurring 24/7. For cities to thrive and grow, they must be adaptable to new needs and changing economic conditions. Intentional, open-ended visioning about the city of future that is just, equitable, and environmentally responsible is the right path forward.

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The Urbanist was founded in 2014 to examine and influence urban policies. We believe cities provide unique opportunities for addressing many of the most challenging social, environmental, and economic problems. We serve as a resource for promoting urbanism, increasing political participation, and improving the places we live. The Elections Committee consists of community volunteers and staff members of The Urbanist and is a standing body representing the political values of our organization.