Features

Seattle’s Most Influential People 2019: Sightline Institute Founder and Executive Director, Alan Durning

Sightline Institute has produced some of the most important writings on the region’s housing shortage

By Erica C. Barnett November 4, 2019

Alan_DuringCROP

This article originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Seattle Magazine.

This article appears in print in the November 2019 issue, as part of the Most Influential People of the Year feature. Click here to subscribe.

Over the past few years, Alan Durning, the quiet, unprepossessing founder and executive director of Sightline Institute, the state’s leading climate and housing think tank, has helped frame the debate on an astounding number of local issues. Under Durning’s leadership, Sightline (founded as Northwest Environment Watch in 1993) has produced some of the most important writings on the region’s housing shortage, produced key reports and data that formed the foundation for pro-housing laws in Seattle, and argued effectively for inclusion and equity in conversations about development. Durning was also instrumental in drafting, passing and defending the Honest Elections Seattle Initiative, which (among other election reforms) provides every Seattle voter with $100 in publicly funded “democracy vouchers” to distribute among local candidates. During this year’s primary election, voters distributed $1.5 million to candidates through the democracy voucher program, upending the notion that only wealthy people can influence the outcome of elections. 

Follow Us

Most Influential, Arts: Jose Iñiguez

Most Influential, Arts: Jose Iñiguez

Educator, musician

Jose Iñiguez discovered the art of opera through a PBS special. As a teenager, he came across a program featuring a tenor singing an aria while watching TV with his dad... Photo by Ashley Genevieve

Most Influential, Education: Quinton Morris

Most Influential, Education: Quinton Morris

Artist, educator

I’m committed to educating and helping students transform their lives through Key to Change. My goal is to expand the program to reach more students... Photo by Sung Park

Most Influential, Hospitality: J. Kenji López-Alt

Most Influential, Hospitality: J. Kenji López-Alt

Chef, author

López-Alt is a two-time James Beard Award-winner, with all three of his books making it onto The New York Times bestseller list. His latest book, The Wok, currently in bookstores, won him his second James Beard Award this year. Photo by J. Kenji López-Alt

Most Influential, Arts: Christina Scheppelmann

Most Influential, Arts: Christina Scheppelmann

General director, Seattle Opera

On November 22, 1981, a teenage Christina Scheppelmann saw Don Carlo in Hamburg, Germany. The five-act opera, which Scheppelmann called an “incredibly monumental, relevant piece of music,” displayed the life and conflicts of a fictional 16th-century European prince. From then on, she was in love. “(Opera) is incredibly emotional. It’s exciting,” she says. “If you…