VIDEO: New SDOT director announced – Greg Spotts from Los Angeles

(WSB photo)

11:51 AM: We’re on Beacon Hill, where Mayor Bruce Harrell has just announced his choice for the new director of SDOT: Greg Spotts, the Executive Officer and Chief Sustainability Officer at the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services. You can watch live on Seattle Channel. From the news release:

Spotts currently serves as the Executive Officer and Chief Sustainability Officer at the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services, which oversees 1,500 staff positions, an annual budget of $230 million, and a capital program of more than $350 million. He has led the delivery of over $600 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects as well as efforts to make Los Angeles more walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly and sustainable.

Spotts will begin at the department in early September as acting director until Council confirmation. Later today, he will join SDOT crews to tour current bridge infrastructure and see maintenance efforts in action. As he settles in at SDOT, Spotts will tour Seattle’s vibrant neighborhoods by riding transit, cycling, and walking with neighbors and community groups.

The mayor says his choice “fits the bill,” saying Potts is the “transformational leader” he was looking for. He says Spotts has the ability to “consider the academic approach first,” with data and research. Spotts’ online profile quotes him: “I get a thrill from delivering innovative mobility and sustainability projects that revitalize the Los Angeles streetscape.”

12:01 PM: Spotts is now speaking. He says he’s used to working with neighborhoods – L.A., he says, has 99 of them. He says he’ll launch a “listening tour” in September. He says, among other things, he’s “thrilled” to be joining as the Sound Transit light-rail project revs up, and says he worked on light rail in L.A. He says his first day will be September 7th. After his remarks, the mayor goes into some backstory about the search process, which involved an advisory committee.

12:25 PM: The event is over. During Q&A, we asked Spotts what experience he has with bridges. While he’s not a civil engineer, he noted, in short, plenty. We’ll take a closer look at that when back at HQ. The event was held on the Roberto Maestas Festival Street near the Beacon Hill light-rail station to stress themes of equity and multimodality, noted the mayor. Also of note, the choice of someone from L.A. is a coastal change from the past two SDOT directors, both of whom came here by way of Washington, D.C.

1:39 PM: We’re back at HQ and uploading video from the event (update: added above). Here’s Spotts’s biography on the L.A. Bureau of Street Services website. Here’s the city news release; the position requires City Council confirmation, and according to the job listing posted through early July, pays up to a quarter-million dollars a year.

55 Replies to "VIDEO: New SDOT director announced - Greg Spotts from Los Angeles"

  • Jort July 27, 2022 (12:33 pm)

    Ah yes, Los Angeles, the shining example of how you literally can not “add more lanes” to build yourself out of congestion. I feel bad for this person, who is taking one of the most lose-lose jobs on the planet and will likely be considered a literal monster by comments sections for the rest of his life, no matter what he does. Hopefully he’s brave enough to confront the inherently unsustainable nature of cars-first transportation planning and its demonstrated, inarguable failures. But I doubt it. That would take courage, and courage is not on the list of qualifications for serving in Seattle government. Good luck “fixing” traffic, Greg!

    • Joe Z July 27, 2022 (2:00 pm)

      Around the time he gets familiar with the job and starts gaining momentum, we’ll elect a new mayor who will want a new SDOT director. 

  • Delridge Neighbor July 27, 2022 (12:36 pm)

    I hope this new SDOT director can put some serious work into making it easier to get around this city without a car. Too few roads have safe bike lanes and our bus system is too prone to getting stuck in traffic. Both because we are too unwilling to take space away from cars. In the midst of this heat wave, it’s encouraging to see that we have a new SDOT director with a prior focus on sustainability. Hopefully he can lead us to a more human and climate friendly transportation future.

    • Jort July 27, 2022 (12:48 pm)

      Personal automobile driving is Seattle’s single largest contribution to carbon emissions and those numbers are getting worse, not better. “In This House” liberals often say they want the city to meet its carbon emissions/climate change goals, but they also say they want the West Seattle Bridge open right now so they can drive their cars to Costco 10 minutes faster. If liberal residents are truly committed to curbing climate change in this city, then they need to accept that that will involve a dramatic and drastic reduction in car trips. 

      • Wseattleite July 27, 2022 (2:29 pm)

        Seattle residents want the bridge working “right now” to alleviate the massive carbon footprint of spending hours per day in stop and go traffic for what should be a 10 minute drive to Costco – for the environment.  Fixed that for you Jort. 

        • Derek July 27, 2022 (2:42 pm)

          That’s not really how that works. More roads don’t alleviate traffic. That’s a fallacy. So opening the bridge won’t actually curb pollution :

          • Pessoa July 27, 2022 (4:59 pm)

            The claim that light rail will significantly reduce congestion, or significantly reduce CO2 emissions, or increase access to public transportation, are myths, too.  The light extension from Pasadena out to Arcadia and beyond, for example, has been a massive, expensive bust.  I drove the 210 along the extension many times and it was empty trains running between deserted stations.  How much CO2 do you think was pumped into the atmosphere to build it? Bus transit, of which there is a lot in LA, carries far, far more people than light rail.

        • Jort July 27, 2022 (4:41 pm)

          No. You didn’t “fix that” for me. What you said is incorrect. Research has shown that emissions saved from less idling are offset by increased emissions from additional driving. The assertion you’ve made – that, actually, making it easier to drive is good for the environment! – has long been an attempted “environmentally friendly” justification for widening roads. Yet, we’ve been widening roads for hundreds of years and somehow our automobile-produced greenhouse emissions keep going UP, not down.  

          • Seriously? July 27, 2022 (6:30 pm)

            Jort,You’re just patting your own back to hear yourself chortle if you expect us to believe your anecdote that driving 15 less minutes at roadway speeds equals identical emissions as driving 15 MORE minutes or significantly more honestly, and several more miles, at reduced engine efficiency due to extreme traffic. Give us a break man. Seriously.

      • Ricardo July 27, 2022 (5:14 pm)

        That’s not true. The numbers are actually getting better. Seattle GHG emissions for cars and light duty trucks have overall gone down since 2008. Per-capita passenger vehicle emissions have gone down by 17% since 2008 as of the last report in 2016. I’d expect the next report to account for rising popularity of hybrid and electric vehicles as well.

        • Jort July 27, 2022 (5:32 pm)

          Per capita emissions have gone down. Overall emissions are increasing. The numbers are not getting better, unless you’d like to advocate that nobody else move to Seattle. 

          • Ricardo July 28, 2022 (10:11 am)

            Also incorrect. Overall emissions have also decreased by 2% since 2008 despite an overwhelming increase in population. Factor in EV usage since 2016 and I’d be interested on where things stand now. Read the 2016 Seattle Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and see for yourself.

      • Delridge resident July 27, 2022 (5:36 pm)

        Jort my man out here still fighting the good fight. Fundamentally cars are at odds with our sustainability goals and we can’t pretend like we can have our cake and eat it too. Cars must die.

    • MyThruppence July 27, 2022 (1:10 pm)

      I hope the new SDOT director understands that road diets constrict commerce, and place us in a less competitive position. Bike lanes, pedestrian friendly intersections, etc. are great, but narrowing roads, putting speed bumps every 50 feet, lane markings too confusing to ever actually follow, street parking so rare that folks are forced to change their shopping habits, all with the sole objective it appears of ‘encouraging’ folks to give up their cars, will have many, many unintended economic consequences. Good luck Mr. Spotts!

      • Todd July 27, 2022 (3:22 pm)

        Your claim if negative impacts to businesses from pro pedestrian/bike infrastructure is false. They protect people, they have statistically significant effect on public safety.

      • Jort July 27, 2022 (4:45 pm)

        Let’s imagine a place where the convenience of cars has almost total impact on the built environment. Maybe there are thousands of parking spaces, and 75% of the available land has been dedicated to car movement and parking. How will the businesses do, there? Oh wait, we can look and see, right here in West Seattle. It’s called Westwood Village. The very fact that the entire rest of the developed world – the world that doesn’t rely solely on cars for everything – has successful, happy societies filled with robust commerce and social engagement should tell you that maybe … just maybe … cars don’t have to be a mandatory ingredient in our lives. We can choose to lessen their importance, just as other societies have successfully done with far more positive impacts.

        • Jethro Marx July 27, 2022 (4:53 pm)

          It’s funny, I always see the vast parking lot there largely unused and think, “Maybe if they built some housing here they’d have more customers.” Daylight the creek while you’re at it, Westwood.

          • East Coast Cynic July 27, 2022 (8:21 pm)

            Developers have purchased the plot of land where the DOL sits in Westwood Village, where they plan to build 120-140 apartment building (a pretty tight spot for such a development).  Those apartment dwellers may have to rent parking space in WWV mall if the developers don’t put in a sufficient amount of parking.

        • MyThruppence July 27, 2022 (6:21 pm)

          Surprise, the rest of the world IS building roads and buying cars faster than ever. Yes, alternative ways to move people and goods is welcome, but NOT to the exclusion of all automobiles, which sometimes seemed to me to have been the objective under the former SDOT director. Absolutes in either direction are a red herring. We can do both. Alternate energy sources to fuel our transit needs, mass transit systems (can’t wait for our segment of the light rail!), bike infrastructure for those who wish to travel that way, etc. are all welcome by me, but devaluing automobiles as a community need is an untenable position to take.

          • Jort July 27, 2022 (11:20 pm)

            Have you actually visited the rest of the world? You might be surprised. And, no, nobody is advocating for a complete and total elimination of all vehicles. Just a reduction of them and a de-prioritization of them. Just like most major countries have successfully done for decades, leaving our country as an extreme outlier. 

  • Derek July 27, 2022 (12:51 pm)

    One of the worst ran public transit cities in the US. Awful move. Harrell does nothing but disappoint!

  • WSRes July 27, 2022 (1:02 pm)

    I hope we can end the all out war on cars mentality. Not everyone can afford to live within city limits and must rely on a personal vehicle to commute in and out of the city. 

    • Derek July 27, 2022 (2:40 pm)

      They can move near a train or bus route. Which is what two of my close family members have to do down in Federal Way. They can’t afford a car. It’s absurd to act like people can just afford a car and gas right now too. 

      • Scubafrog July 27, 2022 (5:24 pm)

        I am excited for rail.  And maybe Gregg Spott will add speed bumps, and focus on slowing down Seattle’s notorious speeders.  Also, look at how the cycling and pedestrian world’s been affected by negligent/reckless drivers, just awful.  Maybe he has some unique ideas all around.  Who knows, I’m certainly going to give him a chance.  I’m glad he’s engaging with the community so rapidly.

    • Jon Wright July 27, 2022 (3:36 pm)

      “War on cars” is the most ridiculous American trope there ever was. Right up with with white people being the victim of racism and Christians being persecuted.

    • Jort July 27, 2022 (4:31 pm)

      You think there is an “all out war on cars?” What would indicate that to you? Perhaps the ~95 percent of SDOT’s budget that’s spent primarily servicing the needs of automobiles? Would it really help if SDOT spent an even smaller fraction of a percentage of its budget on bike lanes?  Or are you saying that 25 mile per hour speed limit signs means there’s a “war on cars?” Or that somehow Seattle hasn’t somehow become the first city in the entirety of human history to “solve” traffic congestion? Because, um, yeah, don’t know how to help you on that one, buddy. 

      • MJ July 27, 2022 (10:41 pm)

        Uh, he’s agreeing with you, saying that claiming there’s a war on cars doesn’t make sense.

    • Chris K July 27, 2022 (5:25 pm)

      There absolutely is a war on cars, and I hope the new director continues it and even ramps it up.

  • Kathy July 27, 2022 (2:00 pm)

    Didn’t LA just build a brand new bridge and had to shut it down at night because of bad car behavior? Prioritize cars in your infrastructure design and you get more car culture: speeding, drag racing, rolling coal and generally screwing up the environment.

    • Pessoa July 27, 2022 (3:37 pm)

      It’s a bridge, Kathy.  It carries people from one side to the other, you know, like bridges are designed to do.  People who need to get to work, people who have doctor’s appointments, people going to visit other people – that sort of thing. Sorry, we can’t all glide across town on sustainable, organic, locally sourced, gossamer wings.  Most Northwesterners conceptions of LA are assembled from rumor, myth and Hollywood, not from actual experience; LA has one of the best public transportation systems in the country. Try getting out of West Seattle a little more often.   

  • Pessoa July 27, 2022 (3:28 pm)

    I laugh at all the comments about Los Angeles, most assembled from rumor, myth and popular culture, such as Hollywood films, and not based on any firsthand experience.  Actually, Los Angeles has a very good public transportation, aside from some massive, expensive light rail infrastructure (ask Mr. Spotts about the virtually deserted light line out to Arcadia and beyond) which service an incredibly tiny percentage of the population.  

    • MJ July 27, 2022 (10:44 pm)

      Completely agree! I’ve found LA drivers to be way better than in Seattle. Faster, but pay attention. Also way easier connecting with people in LA than Seattle. 

      • Jort July 27, 2022 (11:15 pm)

        Yeah, MJ, and the trade-off for that “faster” driving is a much higher automobile fatality rate. That’s what happens when your prioritize speeding over safety. 

      • Jeepney July 28, 2022 (6:14 am)

        Completely agree MJ!  I drive in SoCal frequently and while yes, many drivers there do go fast, they are consistent.  I will be tooling along the freeway doing 75 (if there is not gridlock) and other drivers will fly by me doing 85 or 90.  But here’s the thing; they keep going!  Drivers in the NW tend to get past you, then slow down for some odd reason.  

        • Pessoa July 28, 2022 (2:30 pm)

          Exactly. They have a great feel for traffic flow. 

      • Andrea July 28, 2022 (10:03 am)

        I just got back from LA and literally said the same thing about LA drivers being faster but do seem to pay more attention. Traffic was thick but mostly flowing and I did a lot of driving during my week stay in LA.

  • Peter July 27, 2022 (4:25 pm)

    He hasn’t even started yet and the comments section is already scapegoating him for anything they’re upset about. Ridiculous. 

    • Jethro Marx July 27, 2022 (4:58 pm)

      I love that someone already asked him if he’s a Real Engineer, too. The new Seattle Freeze maybe?

    • Delridge resident July 27, 2022 (5:39 pm)

      “Surely my city leaders hear my cries from the angry pits of the comment section…!” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ What can you do.

  • TJ July 27, 2022 (5:43 pm)

    People were having these opinions on cars and the environment 20 years ago. And they were having them 20 years before that. Cars are here to stay. Some peoples opinions of hoping they won’t, or thinking they shouldn’t, aren’t based in the world we live in here. The air quality in Seattle is much better than 40+ years ago, which is a result of industry regulation changes and automobile changes (remember regulated gas?). We are not too far away from most cars being electric, which should end the climate impact talk of cars but won’t because some people then cry about the batteries impact. One thing is for certain, this boondoggle Sound Transit rail line won’t do anything to lessen traffic, while at a astronomical cost that I dont think people understand. ST3 will be remembered as a colossal waste of resources and money by the time it is finished, and that is why I did whatever I could to avoid paying towards it.

    • Pessoa July 27, 2022 (7:26 pm)

      Largely correct, but there are those who will always lash out emotionally at anyone who threatens their cherished beliefs. One can be for public transportation and be opposed to some light rail infrastructure; this is not cognitive dissonance, this is being cognitvely flexible   As someone who has ridden buses my entire life, I look objectively at the West Seattle light extension and see a massively disruptive (imagine the CO2 spewed during contruction) aethetically ugly, project that will not reduce congestion, nor will it increase access to public transportation.  And once built, it’s here to stay.  

      • James July 28, 2022 (8:57 am)

        Pessoa you are wrong on almost every post I see of yours. I do not know why you go unchecked here. Aesthetically ugly is not something that kills the planet. You can complain about that all you want. But it won’t ever be true. Also that’s just your opinion, and one not shared. You do know busses can also run electrically and something I would love to see SDOT do more of around West Seattle like they do on Rainier Ave. and in Capitol Hill. The CO2 during construction is negligible as it will be a win many times over after use and negated over the CO2 saved from car usage without it. This is 5th grade logic. 

      • Jort July 28, 2022 (11:58 pm)

        Speaking of “lash out emotionally at anyone who threatens their cherished beliefs,” have you ever talked to a car driver? Have you maybe read this thread? The one where people have imagined an actual “war on cars” that is completely unsupported by fact? Or seen the reaction of car drivers to the idea of a speed hump? Or a new bike lane? Do you think those are logical, reasoned opinions they’re offering, and that somehow the people who support trains are driven by pure, blind emotion? Actually, car drivers seem pretty hysterical, emotional and illogical to me. Just because you self-describe your opinions as “objective” doesn’t mean they actually are objective. You don’t get to decide that. You’re not stupid, Pessoa. You know that discounting somebody’s opinion because it’s “emotional” is garbage debating. Don’t play dumb.

    • AF12 July 27, 2022 (8:00 pm)

      Very well said TJ!  By the way, as for the new director, he was part of City of LA “Street  Services” not DOT.  Hope he is not another PR person for avid bikers in Seattle!

      • WSB July 27, 2022 (8:20 pm)

        That IS the closest thing L.A. has to a “Department of Transportation.” City departments explained here (Street Services is under Public Works):

        • AF12 July 28, 2022 (7:50 am)

          WSB, FYI… is a separate Department only dealing with all aspects of transportation such as planning, engineering, project delivery, and operations in the City of Los Angeles. I used to work there!Best Regards

          • WSB July 28, 2022 (12:04 pm)

            I stand corrected. Thanks.

  • Seattlite July 27, 2022 (6:49 pm)

    Anyone coming from  LA is not a good omen.

  • Paul July 27, 2022 (9:27 pm)

    I would like to see timing of the street lights.  That’s a major issue. 

    • JoAnne July 27, 2022 (9:39 pm)

      SDOT will never synchronize stop lights.  It might move cars along more quickly and efficiently.   Can’t have that!

      • Jort July 27, 2022 (11:17 pm)

        The city has spent literally millions of dollars trying to “re-time” the lights, almost always to the detriment of pedestrian and cyclist wait times. There is no secret light timing that will solve traffic. And I mean literally — millions of dollars on timing the lights. 

    • Yes Paul July 27, 2022 (11:46 pm)

      Yes timing the street lights would be great. Also, let’s convert all of the left turn signals to flash yellow instead of stay red when there is a green light in the same direction. Some intersections have this and some don’t. I can’t understand why this can’t be implemented at every intersection with a left turn signal. Nothing is more frustrating than sitting at a red left turn signal when there is zero traffic coming in the opposite direction. SDOT can easily fix this and many other issues but they won’t because cars are the enemy. It’s ok though because we are on to them and as long as they continue this I will continue to drive in my single occupancy car and will commit to never riding a bus or bike and as long as that upsets the city and Jort then I will be able to sleep well at night 😘

  • Derek July 28, 2022 (8:41 am)

    Pessoa allowed to push a bunch of myths and act like they’re facts with no claim to dispel them? My guy on every thread trashing cyclists. His act is getting tired. LA is literally ranked dead last in public transit per capita. Uber is used more than busses too.

Sorry, comment time is over.