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Time to stop snubbing the suburbs?

The notion of a "suburb" is history. Diversity, greater density, more shopping and transportation choices are all part of the new identities of the communities around Seattle.

The mixed-use Bravern development includes Microsoft office towers, linked courtyards, and high-end retail.

The mixed-use Bravern development includes Microsoft office towers, linked courtyards, and high-end retail. Payton Chung/Flickr (CC)

An elevator at Mountlake Terrace's transit center at the edge of a newly emerging town center.

An elevator at Mountlake Terrace's transit center at the edge of a newly emerging town center. Atomic Taco/Flicker (CC)

Several weeks ago I sat in a seminar on the development of suburbs in a national conference on Smart Growth. As is the case with these kinds of meetings, a series of people present their own community as a case study. I observed the eyes of an attendee from a small town near Des Moines, Iowa glaze over when a planner from Bellevue zipped through PowerPoint slides of that city’s glistening towers. I think it's probably time to stop referring to Bellevue as a suburb.

It occurs to me that the very term “suburb” may have outlived its usefulness. In an earlier era, when large, mature cities were surrounded by expansive subdivisions and shopping malls, this might have reflected a definite distinction. In those times, “bedroom suburbs” lived up their name as nighttime havens of mostly white families, often with a stay-at-home mother and a commuting father. Those were your grandfather’s suburbs.

Today, in many parts of the country and certainly Puget Sound, the pattern — both physically and demographically — is quite different. In less than a century, the average family size has halved. The largest portion of American households fall into the categories of singles, childless couples, and seniors. And vast swaths of formerly “whitebread” suburbs are a now made up of a widely varied ethnic and racial soup. Sometimes the result has been startling.

Auburn, 10 miles south of downtown Seattle, is home to a population of Ukrainian families so substantial as to support their own brand spanking new supermarket. Walking through the clean and commodious aisles of Marvel foods, one barely hears any English being spoken. Customers jostle the sumptuous bread counter stuffed with dark loaves, while a few yards away diners are slurping down big spoonfuls of borsch from the take out counter. Precisely in the style of American capitalism, the store grew  from a cramped storefront to occupy its own custom-designed structure.

Almost while we weren’t looking, towns around Seattle have acquired a range of people, goods, and services that belies the idea of the snooty, isolated, and exclusionary suburb of popular and professional literature. For a while, there was a gap politically, as the old guard of elected leaders presided over newcomers who were busy trying to figure out how to get their kids to school and run a business. Now, people of many different cultural backgrounds occupy positions on city councils, planning commissions, and other elected and appointed decision-making boards. This has essentially happened in less than 20 years — not even a generation.

Jobs are not just located in Seattle anymore, nor even in downtown Bellevue. They are found throughout the region and over time many people have tried to locate where they need not spend hours on the freeway. Our regional network of trains, express buses, and local buses has also allowed people to make choices that they didn’t have before. Not long ago, most new immigrants had little choice but to work and live in Seattle.

The very term suburb implies a we/they, superior/inferior type of thinking. As if there were only two models: urban and not. In fact, the multiple variations of urbanity are what make a region both vital and interesting. Although we still have a dominant central city, we also now have dozens of places that are wonderful in their own right and offer people lots of different choices.

And people are finding those choices and making them even more diverse and, yes, dense. Virtually every town in the region has been busy making its own center more interesting, more lively, filled with more public spaces and varied shops and restaurants. There has been a gradual erosion in the old fear of density with the realization that people do appreciate having choices rather than hewing to the old attitude that detached houses were the only acceptable form of housing. Many people understand now that having lots of people living close together supports local shops and services.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Feb 28, 10:19 a.m. Inappropriate

"[S]nooty, isolated, and exclusionary" is an excellent description of Seattle in the year 2012. The 2010 Census bore this out rather emphatically, and such racist, classist memes as Smart Growth will make it even more so. That Seattle even wastes time and energy sniffing at Russell Investments' desire to put its name on a building it almost completely occupies because—HORRORS!—it's ADVERTISING is suburban beyond belief.

According to the Census Bureau, 20% of Americans live in urban areas. That's means 80% of Americans DON'T...

orino

Posted Tue, Feb 28, 11:20 a.m. Inappropriate

Maybe the 20% figure refers to central cities. But as this column attests, a lot of suburbia is now more like urbia. More like 80% live in "urban" (meaning central city, suburbs) areas.

People pay way more per square foot to live closer in, values have held up better closer in, and current construction tends to be very central in reaction to vacancy rates etc. Guess that means Seattle is desirable to a lot of people.

As for the suburbs (or whatever they're called), they're getting better and better in many cases.

A semantics issue: rather than a collection of "cities and towns," I'd say the suburbs and the central city function primarily as grid segments in the city's (lower case c) soup, with the boundaries meaning something administratively but much less so economically. Even the school districts some people fixate over often don't follow municipal boundaries.

mhays

Posted Tue, Feb 28, 11:31 a.m. Inappropriate

I do think that "suburb" is quickly becoming an outdated notion. But I think the adjective "suburban" is still useful to note development that is sprawling,car-centered, and inefficient. Most places that people think of as suburbs have an urban center these days, or are moving in that direction. And most cities, and Seattle in particular, have suburban areas.

This distinction is perhaps a bit unfair to suburban development, which certainly plays a necessary role in a metro area. After new ideas incubate in cities and universities, it's often cheaper to monetize those ideas in places where land is cheap and plentiful. Microsoft could not have started without Seattle and the University of Washington, but it could not have succeeded without cheap land in Redmond. Boeing needed a port, college-educated engineers, and a center of industry to start building planes, but it needed space in Renton and the outskirts of Everett to mass produce planes in large numbers. It's just that the use-segregated development of retail and residences that serves these suburban job centers is usually unnecessary and isn't sustainable over time.

If we properly saw our region as the Seattle area, with multiple urban centers with suburban development for key industries, we could move away from the parts of the suburban development model that don't scale and that are failing us. That means making the "suburbs" less suburban, focusing retail and residential growth in denser forms in an archipelago of downtown areas, and preserving cheap land on the edges of our cities for the purposes that truly demand it.

Side comment to orino: you'ves got the urban-rural proportion backwards. 80% of Americans live in urban areas, including central cities and "suburbs." This breaks down to:

*60% in places with 200,000 people or more (many of which are probably still thought of as "suburbs," though it WA this includes only Seattle and Spokane),
*10% in small cities and larger "suburbs" with 50k-200K residents (such as Bellevue and Tacoma--WA has 17 such places overall), and
*10% in urbanized areas with 2500-50K residents(small towns and suburbs, with Kirkland as the largest example in WA, but there are 128 such places overall.)

There are a lot more places on the small end, including many that feel quite rural, but taken together nationwide they are only 10% of the total population, with the actual rural (non-small town) population another 20%. Note that even the largest category (over 200k) is a majority, and even excluding the small towns and suburbs 70% live in urbanized areas. The people in Seattle and Spokane are in a firm majority nationwide, even if in Washington they're not much more than 10-12%. Our development pattern is much more dispersed than the country as a whole.

cascadian

Posted Tue, Feb 28, 11:51 a.m. Inappropriate

cascadian, your size ranges refer to metro populations, not municipal populations.

mhays

Posted Tue, Feb 28, 12:32 p.m. Inappropriate

Following your indirect trail to the development economist and doing some moving around, one comes up with approximately Morrill's comment the last time you and Crosscut took this on:

~C. Leinberger March 2008:The Next Slum—[Escape From the Suburban Fringe]?
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/03/the-next-slum/6653/

Many are empty; renters of dubious character occupy others.... There’s been gang activity. Things have really been changing.

[I]t is urban life, almost exclusively, that is culturally associated with excitement, freedom, and diverse daily life....Pent-up demand for urban living is evident in housing prices. Twenty years ago, urban housing was a bargain in most central cities. Today, it carries an enormous price premium. Per square foot, urban residential neighborhood space goes for 40 percent to 200 percent more than traditional suburban space in areas as diverse as New York City; Portland, Oregon; Seattle; and Washington, D.C. [L]uxury single-family homes in suburban Westchester County, just north of New York City, sell for $375 a square foot. A luxury condo in downtown White Plains, the county’s biggest suburban city, can cost you $750 a square foot. This same pattern can be seen in the suburbs of Detroit, or outside Seattle.

In most metropolitan areas, only 5 to 10 percent of the housing stock is located in walkable urban places. Yet...[when U of Michican's] Levine and his colleagues asked more than 1,600 mostly suburban residents of the Atlanta and Boston metro areas to hypothetically trade off typical suburban amenities (such as large living spaces) against typical urban ones (like living within walking distance of retail districts). All in all, they found that only about a third of the people surveyed solidly preferred traditional suburban lifestyles, featuring large houses and lots of driving. Another third, roughly, had mixed feelings. The final third wanted to live in mixed-use, walkable urban areas—but most had no way to do so at an AFFORDABLE price [emphasis added].

Builders and developers tend to notice big price imbalances, and they are working to accommodate demand for urban living. Housing at Belmar, the new “downtown” in Lakewood, Colorado, a middle-income inner suburb of Denver, commands a 60 percent premium per square foot over the single-family homes in the neighborhoods around it. A 2006 study by the Brookings Institution showed that Reston’s apartments, condominiums, and office and retail space were all commanding about a 50 percent rent or price premium over the typically suburban houses, office parks, and strip malls nearby.

Because the population is growing, families with children will still grow in absolute number—according to U.S. Census data, there will be about 4 million more households with children in 2025 than there were in 2000. But more than 10 million new single-family homes have already been built since 2000, most of them in the suburbs.

By the estimate of Virginia Tech’s Arthur Nelson, as much as half of all real-estate development on the ground in 2025 will not have existed in 2000. It’s exciting to imagine what the country will look like then. Nelson forecasts a likely surplus of 22 million large-lot homes (houses built on a sixth of an acre or more) by 2025—that’s roughly 40 percent of the large-lot homes in existence today.

The experience of cities during the 1950s through the ’80s suggests that the fate of many single-family homes on the metropolitan fringes will be resale, at rock-bottom prices, to lower-income families—and in all likelihood, eventual conversion to apartments.... As the residents of inner-city neighborhoods did before them, suburban homeowners will surely try to prevent the division of neighborhood houses into rental units, which would herald the arrival of the poor. And many will likely succeed, for a time.

Of course, not all suburbs will suffer this fate. Those that are affluent and relatively close to central cities—especially those along rail lines—are likely to remain in high demand. Single-family homes next to the downtowns of Redmond, Washington; ..., for example, are likely to hold their values just fine.

On the other hand many inner suburbs that are on the wrong side of town, and poorly served by public transport, are already suffering what looks like inexorable decline. Low-income people, displaced from gentrifying inner cities, have moved in, and longtime residents, seeking more space and nicer neighborhoods, have moved out.... In other words, some of the worst problems are likely to be seen in some of the country’s more recently developed areas—and not only those inhabited by subprime-mortgage borrowers. Many of these areas will become magnets for poverty, crime, and social dysfunction. These days, when Hollywood wants to portray soullessness, despair, or moral decay, it often looks to the suburbs—as The Sopranos and Desperate Housewives attest—for inspiration.

Stopping a fundamental market shift by legislation or regulation is generally impossible. Over time, as urban and faux-urban building continues, [builders will have learned to produce urban affordability—just don't hold your breath].

afreeman

Posted Tue, Feb 28, 12:43 p.m. Inappropriate

Tacoma is a suburb or Seattle? Really? Rather a snooty attitude, I'd say.

dbreneman

Posted Tue, Feb 28, 12:46 p.m. Inappropriate

That 2008 projection is looking pretty accurate in 2012 afreeman. The outer suburbs have lost the most value, and many are choosing existing (often foreclosed) houses as the new cheap option. This might not prove cheap in the long run due to transportation costs of course, as well as what it takes to heat/maintain a big house vs. the equivalent smaller one.

mhays

Posted Tue, Feb 28, 12:49 p.m. Inappropriate

I've never heard Tacoma called a suburb. It grew up as an independent city. Only with I-5 did it even begin to have a sizeable bedroom aspect for Seattle. Today it has a relative lack of some types of jobs vs. residents, i.e. it's a bedroom for King County to some degree, but it's semi-independent, functionally and culturally.

Bellevue, on the other hand, functions economically as a subset of the Seattle area that happens to have our #2 or #3 core.

mhays

Posted Tue, Feb 28, 2:23 p.m. Inappropriate

Knowledgeable planning folks are "snubbing the suburbs"? the evidence being that someone's eyes glazed over at a lecture? it's not easy to see the motive for this piece. Suburbs are what they are and very close to what they were fifty years ago, nice places to live, car dependent, quiet and relatively cheap. If one does not have a job, if one has some sort of disability income, welfare, a pension, then a cheap suburban house is ideal isn't it? I ask this question because I think the chief drawback (certainly not the only one) of suburban housing developments is that they are remote from employment opportunities. That may not be important if you are, for whatever reason, not employed.

kieth

Posted Tue, Feb 28, 4:17 p.m. Inappropriate

I didn't call Tacoma a suburb. I listed it, along with Bellevue, in the category "small cities and suburbs." I do think that small cities often have more in common with large suburbs than they either do with larger cities (with Seattle on the small side of large).

mhays seems to be right that I was confusing municipal populations with larger groups in the 60/10/10/20 percentages I quoted, though it turns out it's "urban area" rather than "metro area." The Seattle UA is King County plus Snohomish County, whereas the metro area includes Pierce County. And since all 3 counties have rural residents it's hard to tease out what percentage of people truly live in urbanized areas. It's well over 25%, as over 84 million Americans live in municipalities of 100,000 people or more (I went to Wikipedia and just added up the populations of cities over 100k). That total leaves out places just a bit smaller than Bellevue that are clearly urbanized, such as Kent, Renton, and Redmond.

cascadian

Posted Tue, Feb 28, 4:32 p.m. Inappropriate

Wow – All the research, evidence and common sense show that suburbs everywhere else – think Sunbelt States – are struggling for obvious reasons. Think poverty, housing stock broken, bruised, abused. Think the poor moving in with two or more families habitating together under one Leave it to Beaver roof. This story of a rise in the “burbs is delusional, as James Howard Kunstler would say.

Even redneck Time Magazine did a story on this very same theme –

http://moneyland.time.com/2011/09/26/suburban-ghetto-poverty-rates-soar-in-suburbia/

Gosh, this one's a bit old, but not dated – TED Talk – and a great Kunstler talk-Power Point:

“In James Howard Kunstler's view, public spaces should be inspired centers of civic life and the physical manifestation of the common good. Instead, he argues, what we have in America is a nation of places not worth caring about.

James Howard Kunstler may be the world’s most outspoken critic of suburban sprawl. He believes the end of the fossil fuels era will soon force a return to smaller-scale, agrarian communities -- and an overhaul of the most destructive features of postwar society.”

http://www.ted.com/talks/james_howard_kunstler_dissects_suburbia.html

Really. First, the facts are in – poverty rates in the US rose quickly since 2008, especially in the suburbs. In this Puget Sound area, the so-called outliers or suburban cities are having huge issues with poverty, unemployment, underemployment, gasoline prices, energy bills, food tabs, school tuition, and what the One Percent (and the other 20 Percent) are essentially doing to the USA – killing good jobs for common folk. We have huge divides in the USA – more people going to college and more high school dropout rates. Poorer people are in the suburbs, and many working class families are there, and when the economy tanks for the 70 Percent, well, what happens in those places?

I worked in Auburn teaching native born youth (and Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Ukraine, Iraqi, Malaysian, Nigerian students, too) and adults at a community college coming from Kent, Auburn and environs. Many are feeling the crunch of families in debt and their own isolation. Cars are a must for most, who try and maintain something of a college-work life paying for fuel, insurance and rotten car upkeep. The bottom line is that for a place like Seattle-Bellevue-Freemont-Ballard-et al, it's the suburbs where the roofers, plumbers, day care workers, and laborers and restaurant staff are coming from. They are not all Boeing-Microsoft executives “out there.” So, I'd be very careful of characterizing this very concept of the suburbs – a complicated land use decision – “coming back” as something steeped in reality. It's the ghettoization of the suburbs, and any citizen activist and citizen land use aficionado knows that we are in a heap of pain with $7 a gallon for gas looming – in our cities, in the rural communities and suburbs.

Please, don't just nuance – READ! Story after story are like these below:

High foreclosure rates are turning Charlotte's new starter home suburbs into bastions of crime and decay.

"Charlotte City Council members say they're surprised to learn how far the city's starter-home suburbs have declined in just a few years.
They're calling for new efforts to revive dozens of subdivisions -- and at
least one builder is pledging money and manpower to help.

'This hit everyone very quickly ...,' Mayor Pat McCrory said Tuesday. 'It's a serious problem with no magic pill, and it's going to take both the public and private sector to come up with solutions.'

It's about time politicians noticed, say some residents living in these neighborhoods, built over the past decade across northern Charlotte and in parts of the east and southwest.

'I feel like I'm living in an old ghetto," says Roscoe Henderson, who has watched his 4-year-old Peachtree Hills neighborhood crumble. 'You never know when somebody's going to come kick your door in. And it seems like the city is just ignoring our problems.'"

or....

The Next Slum?

The subprime crisis is just the tip of the iceberg. Fundamental changes in American life may turn today’s McMansions into tomorrow’s tenements.
Strange days are upon the residents of many a suburban cul-de-sac. Once-tidy yards have become overgrown, as the houses they front have gone vacant. Signs of physical and social disorder are spreading.

At Windy Ridge, a recently built starter-home development seven miles northwest of Charlotte, North Carolina, 81 of the community’s 132 small, vinyl-sided houses were in foreclosure as of late last year. Vandals have kicked in doors and stripped the copper wire from vacant houses; drug users and homeless people have furtively moved in. In December, after a stray bullet blasted through her son’s bedroom and into her own, Laurie Talbot, who’d moved to Windy Ridge from New York in 2005, told The Charlotte Observer, “I thought I’d bought a home in Pleasantville. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that stuff like this would happen.”

By Christopher B. Leinberger

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/03/the-next-slum/6653/

or...............

The recession increased overall poverty rates in cities and suburbs by similar degrees. From 2007 to 2010, the poverty rate in major-metro cities rose 2.9 percentage points, compared to 2.3 percentage points in suburbs. Older Northern regions like Akron, Baltimore, New Haven, and Rochester tended to experience much larger increases in city than suburban poverty, while some Southern and Western regions like Oklahoma City, Orlando, and Seattle saw poverty rates rise more in suburbs than cities. Overall, the poverty rate in cities (20.9 percent) remained far higher than that in suburbs (11.4 percent) in 2010.

Poor populations continued their decade-long shift toward suburban areas. A combination of factors including overall population growth, job decentralization, aging of housing, immigration, region-wide economic decline, and policies to promote mobility of low-income households led increasing shares of the poor to inhabit suburbs over the decade. From 2000 to 2010, the number of poor individuals in major-metro suburbs grew 53 percent, compared to 23 percent in cities. In 16 metro areas, including Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee, the suburban poor population more than doubled during that time. The recession merely served to accelerate the trend, as suburbs added 3.4 million poor from 2007 to 2010—1.4 million more poor individuals than cities.

http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2011/0922_metro_poverty_berube_kneebone.aspx

or.......

Racially Exclusive Suburbs Across U.S. Dubbed the New 'Whitopia'

Some of the fastest-growing areas in America are also the most Caucasian --author Rich Benjamin's new book explores the new establishment of white ghettos.

In Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where 95 percent of the population is white, Rich Benjamin saw more Confederate flags than black people. Not that Benjamin was looking for suggestions of racism, but in his forthcoming book, Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America (Hyperion, Oct. 6), he was trying to discover why some of the fastest-growing areas in America are also the most Caucasian.

"There's a long-term harm when Americans accept balkanization as a way of life," says Benjamin, who is an African American. "Segregation can appear to allay social tensions, but it worsens them in the long run. Optimal democracies require more than voting; they require social integration and involvement."

Benjamin defines Whitopias as towns that are much whiter than the nation as a whole, which means they are more than 75 percent Caucasian. He looked at areas with a population growth of more than 6 percent since 2000, in which the growth was 90 percent white. Then he set out to Forsyth County, Ga., (98,000 people, 684 of them black), St. George, Utah, Coeur d'Alene and other vanilla outposts to find out why folks were moving there.

http://www.alternet.org/story/143071/

PaulKirk

Posted Tue, Feb 28, 5:39 p.m. Inappropriate

.... the suburban poor population more than doubled during that time. The recession merely served to accelerate the trend, as suburbs added 3.4 million poor from 2007 to 2010—1.4 million more poor individuals than cities.

http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2011/0922_metro_poverty_berube_kneebone.aspx

or.......

Racially Exclusive Suburbs Across U.S. Dubbed the New 'Whitopia'
Some of the fastest-growing areas in America are also the most Caucasian --

author Rich Benjamin's new book explores the new establishment of white ghettos.

In Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where 95 percent of the population is white, Rich Benjamin saw more Confederate flags than black people. Not that Benjamin was looking for suggestions of racism, but in his forthcoming book, Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America (Hyperion, Oct. 6), he was trying to discover why some of the fastest-growing areas in America are also the most Caucasian.

"There's a long-term harm when Americans accept balkanization as a way of life," says Benjamin, who is an African American. "Segregation can appear to allay social tensions, but it worsens them in the long run. Optimal democracies require more than voting; they require social integration and involvement."

Benjamin defines Whitopias as towns that are much whiter than the nation as a whole, which means they are more than 75 percent Caucasian. He looked at areas with a population growth of more than 6 percent since 2000, in which the growth was 90 percent white. Then he set out to Forsyth County, Ga., (98,000 people, 684 of them black), St. George, Utah, Coeur d'Alene and other vanilla outposts to find out why folks were moving there.

http://www.alternet.org/story/143071/

PaulKirk

Posted Tue, Feb 28, 5:50 p.m. Inappropriate

mhays,
Facts being pretty much facts, its what the age makes of them that makes the difference. Please enlighten me if your approach to 21st century urban life has advanced any beyond the 16th century's mythical "let them eat cake," or the Chinese emperor's older but possibly less mythical response to a shortage of rice— "why don't they eat meat?"

If you are not interested, is any other member of the development industry?

afreeman

Posted Tue, Feb 28, 7:13 p.m. Inappropriate

afreeman, I don't understand your question.

Also, I work for a general contractor, not a developer.

mhays

Posted Wed, Feb 29, 2:16 p.m. Inappropriate

Thanks for all the rich comments. To me, one crossroads issue for Seattle and the Eastside is whether we will continue to think of Seattle as the place for major regional facilities (symphony halls, sports stadia, nightlife, universities) with the Eastside not competing in those areas, even as it urbanizes in other ways. Or, will we become a Twin Cities model, as in Minneapolis (university and commercial core) and St. Paul (state capitol and some rival cultural facilities)?

Some factors that might push in the latter direction: the barrier of Lake Washington; the growing case for locating attractions closer to where people live, partly for carbon-footprint reasons; the enormous wealth of the Eastside, should it ever get focused on civic betterment; and the decline of governance and basic services, particularly schools, in Seattle. But for now, the region is still committed to the Big Hub notion for the central city.

Posted Wed, Feb 29, 2:39 p.m. Inappropriate

There's an unpleasant noblesse oblige tone to this article. " Auburn, 10 miles south of downtown Seattle, is home to a population of Ukrainian families...one barely hears any English being spoken. Customers jostle the sumptuous bread counter stuffed with dark loaves, while a few yards away diners are slurping down big spoonfuls of borsch from the take out counter."

Jostling and slurping. Two words not likely to be used regarding supermarkets in Kirkland. Perhaps you can't expect any different from a writer who misspells borscht.

sarah90

Posted Wed, Feb 29, 2:50 p.m. Inappropriate

"cascadian" writes: "I didn't call Tacoma a suburb."

The original article did.

dbreneman

Posted Wed, Feb 29, 4:54 p.m. Inappropriate

David,
Your "But for now, the region is still committed to the Big Hub notion for the central city" is more than accurate. What you omit is that our elected representatives meeting as PSRC ash-canned Vision 2020 (multiple centers) for Vision 2040 (five mega-cities).

Crosscut files will reveal that Doug MacDonald challenged the vision vs the reality back beginning in April of 2009 "Saving our region: Nice plans, but..." and 'New figures show that people are not moving to the regional growth centers anywhere near the rate that our 40-year growth plan predicts. It's time to craft some new approaches"

PRSC's May 28, 2009 confirming response to this challenge has been buried away as "Technical Appendix IIA to Vision-2040. There is no online viewing link, but the downloadable Appendix IIA is listed here: http://psrc.org/growth/vision2040/background

What is left out and studiously avoided even now post the 2010 census is what Richard Morrill continues to claim needs full disclosure: "My view, from the perspective of 50 years of involvement in these issues, is that of course there can be great social costs from unconstrained consumer sovereignty, such that collective choice to manage growth is defensible and could result in net social gains, but in practice there is also the risk of equivalent, if different, social costs from an uninformed or excessive implementation of growth management." CPSRE Research Report ~Winter 2010.

Your focus on sports and culture strikes me as a tad shallow, but from what I can tell your head's aimed in the right direction. Time to re-ask MacDonald's question, e.g., is not Vision 2020 the people's choice and for very important reasons?

afreeman

Posted Thu, Mar 1, 10:04 a.m. Inappropriate

I think it was the Times, where I saw mention there's more Medicaid/DSHS in Kent, by percentage of population, than there is in Seattle.

Posted Sat, Mar 3, 5:20 p.m. Inappropriate

With all the tax monies poured into light rail and bus transportation, suburban living has grown too. Most of us really want nothing to do with city life, because at least in Seattle, there is a war on cars. There are plenty of jobs outside of Seattle and Bellevue: Boeing is currently hiring a bunch of people.

It's really boiling down to the all-out war against cars, and parking for cars.

That makes me and my car go buh-bye now. As a business owner, I'm seeing many of my cohorts moving businesses too.

Posted Sat, Mar 3, 5:23 p.m. Inappropriate

btw ... "Ten years ago, Mill Creek had no main street. But now it does, and it is teeming with shops, cafes, a supermarket, and a string of public spaces." I hope you don't consider this shopping center street a real main street.

It's not, it's just an extension of shopping as culture.

Posted Sat, Mar 3, 9:54 p.m. Inappropriate

The "all-out war against cars" is more a result of peak oil than of ideology or politics. Aside from cars' gross ecological, land use, and public health impacts, it's the inevitability of the decline of cheap liquid fuel that drives the need to move away from America's car centric culture. As with many of the impacts over the next few decades from too many people consuming too much of the Earth's primary productivity and non-renewable resources, we can adapt with a modicum of grace, or we can let the facts happen to us.

Politicians across the political spectrum talk about the need to "get the economy going", "create green energy jobs," etc., without ever (or hardly ever) discussing the need to develop policies to deal with inevitable, huge social dislocations due to higher energy costs. The consequences include more localization of jobs and housing, more economic and cultural independence in the "sub urbs", and less physical movement of people and material. Add increased inequity of wealth and income nationally and between urban core and fringe, and you have a toxic brew.

Jon Talton at the Seattle Times "gets it":
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/jontalton/2017469989_biztaltoncol12.html ("Drilling deeper on talk of U.S. energy independence") The comments there illustrate well the low level of discourse and comprehension among many Americans. Pathetic and scary.

louploup

Posted Sun, Mar 4, 2:30 p.m. Inappropriate

Is it significant that in the article -and the many comments- the word "kids" appears just once? I would suggest it does signify something.

I'll leave it to you others to contemplate why.

Posted Sun, Mar 4, 3:48 p.m. Inappropriate

Thankfully, some of us who went through graduate planning schools and worked in neighborhood planning as volunteers, we understand that a good city plans for the least capable of deploying their disposable income to live a decent life. Older people with physical challenges and children who are dependent upon adults to plan and design and build communities that work for them they are the ones -- so-called demographic groups -- any good developer, planner, politician and banker should be bringing to the table for EVERY new tweak or tsunami of a change in neighborhood design and layout. It's called the Popsicle test -- can an 8 year old go from the front porch of the house or apartment and find his or her way safely to the corner store to get a nice organic frozen juice bar (Okay, a Good Humor bar or Drumstick), then find a place to slurp it up, and then find his or her way back home without the impediments of eight lanes of Target-loving and Wal-Mart coveting car drivers or no sidewalks or just huge moonscapes of three-story prison like walls surrounding him. I guess grandpa could also be used for the Pospsicle test, too.

Here's a bit more on it at, http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/passing-the-popsicle-test/

"Add to this the dawning realization on the part of city planners that when a neighborhood works for kids, it works for everyone else, too and you get why it is so important to try to build cities and towns that pass the Popsicle Test.

Popsicle Test? It’s simply, brilliantly this: A neighborhood works if it is possible for an 8-year-old kid to get a Popsicle on his or her own and return before it has completely melted.

That means the streets must be safe enough to cross and the housing close enough to retail. The kids must feel fine about walking outside, ditto their parents (and the police! and busybodies!). Once all that is in place, not only can children get around on their own, so can everyone else, including old folks.

Note, as does Kaid Benfeld in The Atlantic’s blog regarding the icy treat test:

…there’s no planning jargon in there: nothing explicitly about mixed uses, or connected streets, or sidewalks, or traffic calming, or enough density to put eyes on the street. But, if you think about it, it’s all there.

I’m also fond of the “Halloween test”: If it’s a good neighborhood for trick-or-treating, then it’s likely to be compact and walkable. My brother-in-law, who lives in a place that is anything but, drives his kids to the nearest traditional town center on Halloween. Quite a few parents seem to do the same thing by driving to my neighborhood."

Finally, the word kids or children fits well in New Urbanism, if allowed to be taught and practiced:

New Urbanism is a time-tested planning practice that incorporates interrelated patterns of land use, transportation, and urban form to create communities that foster the most desirable characteristics of human habitation: neighborliness, environmental sustainability, economic efficiency and prosperity, historic preservation, participation in civic processes, and human health. New Urbanism practices apply to all scales of community, from the region and neighborhood to the block and building.

Restrictive conventional zoning and subdivision regulations over the past 50 years have led to development patterns, particularly in the suburbs, that diminish these desirable characteristics of human habitation. Separated land uses and excessive traffic and parking provisions result in increasing air and water pollution, decreasing natural environments, lack of accessibility among children and the elderly, lengthening congestion and commuting time, rising public service costs, reduced civic involvement, and declining health.

PaulKirk

Posted Sun, Mar 4, 5:46 p.m. Inappropriate


The Evolving Urban Area: Seattle
--from the new geography blog

"Despite the pre-2010 census media and academic drumbeat to the effect that metropolitan areas were no longer dispersing, the census revealed a totally different and even inconvenient truth.

This does not mean that both residents of the entire metropolitan region, suburbs and core city, should not be proud of an attractive urban area in an incomparable natural setting.

Yet, the vast majority of the region’s population and employment growth is taking place outside the core. Seattle is following the national and international pattern to ever greater dispersion."

http://www.newgeography.com/content/002312-the-evolving-urban-area-seattle

jabailo

Posted Sun, Mar 4, 6:07 p.m. Inappropriate

Newgeography is a mouthpiece for sprawl, cherry picking points. Typical.

While core cities aren't accommodating massive growth, three points:

1. People who like density, mixed use, and other urban attributes are changing a lot of suburbia into "core city" in some ways.

2. People are paying way more per square foot to live centrally. I'm guessing here....but maybe those people want to live centrally.

3. Since the census, a much larger percentage of this region's growth (housing construction, spurred by vacancy rates) is happening close in...within Seattle and especially in core districts.

mhays

Posted Sun, Mar 4, 7:10 p.m. Inappropriate


Well, yeah, the argument isn't that we can't have "cores" it's just that we don't have to have one single gigantic core force everyone to herd into it every day to live and work.

What is being said the "metro area" is itself sprawling, as there are pockets of density here and there, and they can be linked both by highway and rail. At the same time, people can still have the natural single family homes they desire at low cost.

Standing in the way of Washington State getting to the new architecture is the GMA. In fact, I could make a case that ultimately Inland Washington (east of the Cascades) will be the hippest place in the years to come.

jabailo

Posted Sun, Mar 4, 8:33 p.m. Inappropriate

What makes a suburb vs. a city? Is it the cost of land? Is it the dependency on private cars as transportation? Is it the presence of a dense employment center? Is it "diversity"? Is it affluence? I don't think so, but they are all consequences of the difference.

I think David Brewster put a finger on it. The difference is in the presence of a lively arts culture and the presence of public resources.

Seattle is home to big, grand public resources: symphony, library, opera, ballet, government office buildings, sports stadia, train station, and multiple universities. Seattle has significant public resources and infra-structure.

It's more than that. It's a cultural difference that turns on the very idea of public resources. Suburbia is a culture, and it is a culture based on private ownership to the near exclusion of public ownership. Suburbanites coming home drive in their private cars onto their near-private streets (cul-de-sacs). They push that Bat Cave button on their visor and drive right into their private garage and close the door behind themselves without ever stepping into the public space. They don't spend any time in the public space. Even when they leave their house they aren't in a public space because they have an eight-foot high fence all around their backyard.

City life, on the other hand, requires people to spend time in the public space. You ride the bus home along with a lot of other people. You walk on the public sidewalks from the bus stop to your home. You spend time on your front porch where you and your neighbors can see each other - and maybe even talk to each other. You do give up some privacy but you gain community. It's a straight trade, and I suspect a lot of folks aren't aware that they are making that trade when they choose the suburbs. Even if you don't use the public resources, you certainly see the value in them.

Urban culture requires some public ownership and public resources. Kirkland has a Performance Center owned by private non-profit, not by the city. Seattle has an Opera House owned by the city. That's the difference between a suburb and a city.

coolpapa

Posted Mon, Mar 5, 12:28 p.m. Inappropriate

Seattle has approx. 620,000 residents. King, Snohomish, Pierce, and Kitsap counties have approx. 3,500,000 residents. So, are the 2,880,000 non-Seattleites in the 4 county area really a bunch of inferiority complex laden suburbanites? Watch for a national museum dedicated to suburbia to be constructed in Johnson County, Kansas, and specifically in Overland Park, Kansas. That is the Kansas City metro version of our Bellevue.

animalal

Posted Mon, Mar 5, 7:06 p.m. Inappropriate

@coolpapa

"symphony, library, opera, ballet, government office buildings, sports stadia, train station, and multiple universities. Seattle has significant public resources and infra-structure"

Yes, and that its probably one of the major causes of the current state budget woes. Seattle is a "Rotton Urb"...it sees itself as first among equals instead of being a good neighbor in a chain of communities.

Now matter how many times I say "oh, yes but we have that in Kent" you get the supercilious eye rolling as the person tries to think of yet another reason why one place needs a $6 billion dollar 1/2 mile long tunnel and somehow another can get by with a $250,000 over pass.

It's time to end Seattle Exceptionalism. It needs to be de-densified and put in its place. The majority -- the Nation of Exurbs -- has spoken.

jabailo

Posted Mon, Mar 5, 7:09 p.m. Inappropriate

@animalal

And I bet of those 620,000 residents, 400,000 of the would rather live in a much smaller community/town like Kent. I mean, what good does it for a family of four who live in Northgate, and who commute to Boeing jobs in Everett to have a 10 story library in a downtown with high parking and knife-wielding psychos. None...they'd be better off with more rental e-books for their Kindles.

You could probably split Seattle up into 4 exurbs and have better and lower cost Government, saner budgets, and the state would not suffer from the draining costs of Exceptionalism.

I have proposed that Seattle go on a "Land Diet" and break itself up into: South Seattle, North Seattle, West Seattle and Central Seattle.

Let each of these have its own Mayor and Council and be right-sized like Burien, Issaquah or any of the exurbs that make up the New Puget Sound Community.

jabailo

Posted Tue, Mar 6, 12:24 a.m. Inappropriate

I'm just trying to figure out what part of downtown Seattle is 10 miles from Auburn.

tort47

Posted Wed, Mar 7, 2:53 p.m. Inappropriate

jabailo, if you lived in Seattle then you would know that very few people think of themselves as living in Seattle.

We live in Ballard, or Admiral, or Madison Park. Seattle is not so much a city as a federation of neighborhoods. Each neighborhood functions as a small town with their own identity, parks, schools, and central shopping district. Folks in Seattle could, if we chose, live, work, and shop all within our own neighborhood. Look around Seattle's neighborhoods and you will mostly see single family homes. We have all of the advantages of a suburb - or whatever you think Kent is - with the advantages of a city.

There is no need to cut Seattle up into four pieces; it is already cut up into twenty pieces.

So I would take that bet, and win because Seattle folks already live in a much smaller community/town - their neighborhood - which is both smaller than Kent, better than Kent, and with much better access to City amenities than Kent. Not to mention easier commutes. I would not want to get on that parking lot which is the 167 twice a day. I can ride a bike to work, ride a scooter on surface streets, or take a short ride on a bus or the light rail.

And we - as a society - neither want nor need less density, but more.

And keeping Seattle large (and possibly expanding it by annexing White Center) creates economies of scale. It saves money. Split up we would have higher costs of government.

Your theoretical family of four living in Northgate could just move to Everett if they thought their lives would be better there. But they don't, because they know that their lives are better in Seattle.

Trust me, jabailo, Seattle is in its place. It is the city that makes it tolerable for others to live in suburbs.

coolpapa

Posted Wed, Mar 7, 9:37 p.m. Inappropriate

Popsicle Test? Seattle passes with flying colors: they got rid of most of the children.

Posted Wed, Mar 7, 9:41 p.m. Inappropriate

The "all-out war against cars" is more a result of peak oil than of ideology or politics.

That is not true. The all-out war against cars is a result of those who believe that we are too stupid to invent a non-oil-fueled car. Some of you who claim that vehicles take up too much room have forgotten the basic drive of humans: independence.

Walking is independent. Traveling via bus, sub, train, light rail is not independent.

But independence via walking won't likely pay the bills.

Posted Wed, Mar 7, 9:43 p.m. Inappropriate

jabailo, "In fact, I could make a case that ultimately Inland Washington (east of the Cascades) will be the hippest place in the years to come."

Without the gorgeous waters of Puget Sound, I beg to differ. Rural islands will be the hippest place in the years to come.

-Water Rat

Posted Thu, Mar 8, 10:02 a.m. Inappropriate

Shoot, I spent the last five days in Olympia, and the children Seattle supposedly got rid of are right there, in the Capitol, running scared of Head Start workers, educators, activists, and others wondering why there is an attack on children vis-a-vis education cuts. Even the Wells Fargo lobbyist ran from young college students -- ran to the bathroom (I think men's room) while being asked about Wells Fargo's lovely community sponsorhip of more foreclosures. I know where the Popsicle ends up at those wine and whiskey dinners in Olympia. Ouch!

PaulKirk

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