Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2022 | Roadside Chat with Fred Perez, SDOT Curb Space Management Supervisor

Fred Perez (left) poses for a picture with his family during the holidays in 2021, including his parents and his sister. Photo credit: Fred Perez.

This month is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) month, a time when we celebrate the contributions and achievements by AAPI community members.

The first official U.S. commemoration of AAPI heritage dates back to the late 1970’s, where Congress proposed a week dedicated to commemorating the accomplishments of AAPI individuals in the United States. The selected week was established in recognition of the first Japanese immigrants arriving in the United States on May 7, 1843. On May 7, 1990, then-president George H. W. Bush proclaimed May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. Subsequently, the U.S. Congress passed several laws to codify this proclamation as a permanent cultural heritage recognition. (Source: https://fapac.org/AAPI-Resources)

Here at the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), we strive to ensure that all people within the city of Seattle have access to safe travel options and safe spaces as part of our overall vision, mission, values, and goals that guide our work. Internally, SDOT has an Employee Resource Group, known as RISE API (Rally for Inclusion, Solidarity, and Equity – Asian Pacific Islanders). This group is dedicated to providing a safe space for SDOT’s AAPI staff members to share their experiences, learn new skills, and be a resource for each other.

SDOT’s Curbside Management team gathers to celebrate Nick Wander’s retirement (pre-pandemic). Fred is visible to the left of Nick (behind the commemorative street sign).
SDOT’s Curbside Management team gathers to celebrate Nick Wander’s retirement (pre-pandemic). Fred is visible to the left of Nick (behind the commemorative street sign). Photo credit: Fred Perez.

To recognize our colleagues during AAPI Month, we spoke with Fred Perez, an SDOT staff member and RISE API member, about his work and what this month means to him.

1) Hi Fred! Please tell us a bit about your role at SDOT and how long you have been with the department.

I started with SDOT in November 2008, so close to 14 years. I’m the Curb space Management supervisor in SDOT’s Transit and Mobility Division. My team of 4 (soon to be 5) engineers evaluate day-to-day curbspace (i.e. on-street parking) operational issues. Since bike lanes, bus lanes, load zones (shuttle, disabled, commercial, passenger, food vending, etc.), paid parking, and street cafes touch the curb, we’re constantly making decisions and collaborating with numerous stakeholders (internal and external) on relocating, installing, or removing parking. Sometimes I tell people that my job is a citywide game of parking musical chairs. We also deal with right of way issues like property owners thinking the parking in front belongs to them. It typically doesn’t, and is usually public space!

2) What is your favorite part about your job? What makes you enjoy coming to work?

After all these years, I still enjoy seeing our work implemented in the field. Last year, we installed thousands of parking signs to support Uptown with the Climate Pledge Arena opening, and to support the neighborhoods near the three new light rail stations that opened in North Seattle. And the variety of stakeholders also remains interesting. In the past few weeks, I’ve had to correspond with the FBI, the CEO of a local cannabis company, and a ‘Mr. Seymour Butts,’ about their parking concerns. (I think Seymour was trying to be anonymous on his parking complaint).

But what keeps me coming to work is my SDOT family. I get to work with a lot of wonderful people not just in Transit and Mobility or the bigger Curbside Management team. It’s been fulfilling collaborating with others throughout the organization on projects and issues.

3) What does AAPI heritage month mean to you?

The month is a time to reflect on where I’ve come from (and not just because May 8th is my birthday). I was born in Manila, Philippines and my family moved to New York City when I was around 7 years old. Growing up as an immigrant and in that diverse city, it was confusing for a bit. But now, I’m proud to say I’m a Filipino-American. Some of my observations: our culture has delicious food (artery clogging but great) and a lot of us love our karaoke singing. We tend to value family and we can be scrappy like Manny Pacquiao. In NYC Woodside was where the Filipinos congregated. In the Seattle area, we have Seafood City. Go check it out.   

Fred enjoys a plate of chicken and waffles after completing the Oakland Marathon in California earlier this year.
Fred enjoys a plate of chicken and waffles after completing the Oakland Marathon in California earlier this year. Photo credit: Fred Perez.

4) As a member of RISE API, how has this SDOT’s employee resource group contributed to your sense of togetherness and support in the workplace?

RISE API is a great testament to the diversity within SDOT. I know I’ve got that support available to me and the group highlights cultural events worth attending.

Thank you for joining us as we celebrate AAPI Month!