Back in February 2022, when Piroshky Piroshky owner Olga Sagan closed her Third Avenue location, it was seen as a symptom of everything going wrong downtown. Sagan told the Seattle Times that sales at that location had gone down 85 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels, and people were using drugs in the store’s doorway. When a man was shot to death around the block, it was the final straw.
The bakery reopened in December as downtown crime rates fell, but Sagan apparently feels that the city government isn’t doing enough to help business owners and the downtown community. On Tuesday, May 16, she launched a campaign for City Council District 7, which includes downtown as well as Magnolia, Queen Anne, Interbay, and Lake Union. She criticized incumbent council member Andrew Lewis for not being responsive to the concerns of downtown residents like herself, for whom she says the neighborhood became more dangerous during the height of the pandemic and immediately afterward.
“I was harassed on the streets,” Sagan said in her prepared remarks at her announcement. “I have seen many people exposing themselves, having intercourse and going to the bathroom in front of my house. My daughter had her first scare with someone threatening her with a gun. We would not go outside in the dark — we were victims.”
Sagan emigrated from Russia in 1999 when she was a teenager and attended Ballard High School. She started out in Piroshky Piroshky sweeping the floors before becoming a manager, then part-owner, then the sole owner in 2017. When she closed the Third Avenue location (one of the bakery’s four stores), it stirred up right-wing commentary, with the Daily Mail writing that she was slamming “woke city leaders.”
But Sagan hasn’t exactly been a right-wing firebrand. When she appeared on Fox Business last year, she agreed with her interviewer that Seattle needed to devote more resources to policing, but also cited a lack of “humanitarian services.” In her campaign announcement, she declared that “we must help the unhoused and provide them with shelter.”
Though she portrayed Lewis, her opponent, as out of touch, the councilmember seems to share a lot of Sagan’s priorities; he bragged to the Times that he was working with the Downtown Seattle Association to clear homeless encampments, a goal he has prioritized for years. “My opponent’s critique is just not based in the reality of the coalition and leadership we’ve been building,” he told the Times.
The election will be held on November 7.