Crony Quest for Quaint: Seattle Considers Boom-Proofing Some Legacy Businesses


These sorts of programs are inherently crony and they always have strange economy mutating effects. Usually they also fly in the face of basic property rights. And trust me, I live in a place where development is eroding the nature of the town. The hippies are fewer and the lawyers with trailing spouses have taken over. I get why people try to create programs like this. Still government shouldn’t pick winners and losers.


“I want to be more creative around the types of support that eventually might be available, rather than to presuppose taxpayer funds,” Herbold says. In her view, there are “forces that are creating impacts, and communities that are feeling the impacts, and I just want to create a space for a small handful of eligible businesses to have the city as a partner in facilitating conversations between them.”

Skeptics of Herbold’s proposal suggest that development is inevitable, and that protecting old businesses may come at the cost of encouraging new ones. And they point out that, in Seattle at least, “preservation” efforts are often smokescreens for anti-development activism. For example, one business that made the “threatened” list in Herbold’s survey was the West Seattle PCC Market — an outpost of a local grocery chain that opened in the late 1980s, and which happens to be the site of a hotly disputed new mixed-use development.

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