Why does Seattle fear urban planning?

Good architectural ideas get hatched, then ditched in Seattle. Among those to blame? Oddly, Jane Jacobs.

The Seattle Commons: a big dream dashed by controversy.

The Seattle Commons: a big dream dashed by controversy.

Apartment towers finally rise in the stadiums' north lot

Apartment towers finally rise in the stadiums' north lot Photo: Daniels Development

Why is urban planning so feeble in Seattle? Why no major open space downtown? Why do opportunities, such as Seattle Commons or retooling Seattle Center, become battlegrounds? Why so little beloved and bold architecture?

I got thinking about this a few weeks back when I was asked to be on a panel called "Activism: Better City" at the U.W. College of the Built Environment, convened by Marga Rose Hancock. The panel was looking back at some ambitious planning initiatives 30-40 years ago. The hope was to stir similar efforts today, but when I went back to examine how well these earlier ideas had worked out, I got discouraged, not mobilized.

The first effort the panel looked at was the Action: Better City (called A:BC) project of 1968, in which 50 local architects formed design groups and proposed such things as a 52-acre park in the heart of Belltown; dramatic palisades of buildings out over the Viaduct; and a handsome central plaza called Westlake Square. One of the A:BC instigators, Fred Bassetti, recalls the seminal project in this essay.

None worked out, but the group did lay the foundations for Seattle urban values, once the bad ideas of ringing downtown with freeways and parking garages had been defeated. The values: walkable, dense, diverse downtown street life; exploitation of alleys and smaller spaces; a major downtown park; transit to supplant cars and lots of downtown living. All those ideals hold true today, despite our poor efforts in realizing them. That major downtown park may eventuate on the central waterfront, 50 years later!

A subsequent effort was the Gang of Five, a group of five smallish architecture firms that looked again at major downtown issues and published their proposals in Seattle Weekly in 1981-82. The firms were Olson/Walker, Hewitt/Daly, Calvin/Gorasht, Schorr/Miller and Hobbs/Fukui. Peter Miller, owner of Peter Miller Books, a design bookstore, and I served as ghost writers.

The articles (Nov. 18, 1981, Jan. 6, Feb. 24, and April 28 1982) are most interesting to re-read today. Modesty and pragmatism were the key features, in contrast with the dream-big manner of A:BC and today. Downtown living was the major goal. In a way, the Gang prefigured low-regulation density advocates such as Edward Glaeser, who push for all kinds of ways to build taller buildings and increase density, with less deference to competing goals such as historic preservation, design review and affordability.

Here are some of the major Gang of Five ideas:

•Erect a big parking structure north and south of the Kingdome, topped with mixed-use buildings and incorporating a major transit center. Finally, this year, one-quarter of that opportunity is being built, along with a transit center at nearby Union Station.

•Keep and repair the Viaduct, but slow its traffic to 35 mph to cut down noise, enclose the lower level in glass and eventually convert the top deck to a park. Move Alaskan Way, the surface road, to under or east of the Viaduct, creating an 11-block park and promenade along the waterfront.

•Locate some major facilities in Pioneer Square: the Art Museum facing Occidental Park, a library to replace the “sinking ship” garage, a convention center at Union Station. (No way the powerful downtown real estate and tourism interests would have stood for this.)

•In Belltown, slow the traffic and narrow the streets. Put a monorail station at Bell Street. Keep older buildings by allowing developers to straddle them with taller buildings overhead and over the sidewalks, creating arcades. Focus parking garages at the monorail stop and a big project around Second and Battery, with tall buildings on stilts so that pedestrians can see through them to the waterfront views. Build a low-rise residential village where the Gates Foundation is today. Lid over depressed Broad Street, to make Seattle Center more a part of the city. And top it off with a gondola on Broad, linking the waterfront, Seattle Center and Lake Union.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Jun 10, 7:57 a.m. Inappropriate

Seattle's urban planning is feeble not merely in its downtown core areas; the whole way that the city's residents interface with the road system is feeble. Residential neighborhoods have no sidewalks and few (but increasing) bike lanes; we allow cars everywhere, which is dangerous, so our neighborhoods are dotted with roundabouts and chicanes making it hard to walk and bike (and not really slowing down drivers anyway). We have aerial power lines everywhere that should have been buried in the 1960s. We have developers putting in street-unfriendly buildings left and right throughout residential neighborhoods, and McCraftsman houses were allowed to dot neighborhoods where they loom over other houses. Our urban planning is so weak that Seattle doesn't really even try to address the livability of its neighborhoods much, in terms of urban planning. We mainly respond reflexively, with small budgets, to situations when children are run over by cars.

smacgry

Posted Tue, Jun 11, 11:20 a.m. Inappropriate

Keep your kids out of the street, for God's sakes. How hard is that?

NotFan

Posted Sun, Jun 16, 10:41 a.m. Inappropriate

Residential neighborhoods have no sidewalks? I believe they do not extend North of 85th street, and probably some southern boundary, but most residential streets have very fine sidewalks. In fact, they are some of the nicest sidewalks I have seen around the country; many other municipalities have sidewalks that rise and fall with each driveway, rather than the uniform surface we have.
Do roundabouts and chincanes (?) really make it more difficult for pedestrians? I am pretty sure cars would go faster without such amenities.

What doe aerial power lines have to do with urban planning, aside from aesthetics and perhaps greater durability in a natural catastrophe?

I am not saying we have perfect infrastructure, but to paint the city as being anti-pedestrian is inaccurate. Aside from topographical challenges, I wonder how one would interface with the street differently.

jeffro

Posted Mon, Jun 10, 10 a.m. Inappropriate

Why is urban planning so feeble in Seattle?

Great topic. People are taxed more heavily here than anywhere else in the country for urban planning. The results are feeble, but it is staggeringly expensive in terms of tax costs to individuals and families. Moreover, the way urban planning is done in this neck of the woods uses the biggest of brushes to attempt to paint into existence a social construct that has failed elsewhere. That aspect of it is not feeble. It certainly is grandiose though.

Let’s start at the beginning. The urban theorist who has held sway in City Hall for the past three decades is not Jane Jacobs. It is Le Corbusier. The urban design ideals of Le Corbusier were put into practice outside Paris in the mid-1960’s, and those are what the government heads around here have been trying to replicate here since the mid-1980’s.

The model Le Corbusier dreamed up for the French government was put into place along the rail lines leading out from Paris in the 1960’s. It was state-of-the-art urban design theory then. The theory held that economic, social welfare, and environmental imperatives justified dense housing built next to passenger rail stations, ostensibly because The Workers with different skin hues then would have “access to jobs down the train line” without the need to own cars. That is the rhetoric that has been parroted by every Seattle mayor and city councilmember, every King County executive and councilmember, and most candidates for those positions since the early 1990’s.

That idealized form of social organization – characterized by dense TOD housing near passenger rail stations, with rail lines leading to and from urban centers – appeals to state and local government heads here, for a variety of reasons.

The state GMA, Sound Transit, and all the Seattle Housing Authority spending over the past two decades has been undertaken in ostensible furtherance of that urban planning dogma. Sound Transit rail was placed along MLK Way, where the subsidized government housing was planned. The SHA built 2,300 units of public housing at NewHolly and Rainier Vista, which are at Sound Transit stations. SHA will finance thousands more household units at Yesler Terrace, which is proximate to the new streetcar leading to Sound Transit stations.

Problem is, Le Corbusier’s large-scale planning along these lines was proven to be an abject failure within a couple of decades. The government heads around here have been playing stupid about that reality.

The public housing projects outside Paris where the Le Corbusier TOD model was implemented now are being torn down:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/07/world/europe/07banlieues.html?pagewanted=all

The government heads around here are forging ahead with more SHA spending and the staggering Sound Transit taxing, all in the name of dense TOD near rail stations. Never mind that it has proven to be a failed model. Why the willful obliviousness on the part of the government heads here? They’re just like crackheads – they need the taxing more than anything else.

crossrip

Posted Tue, Jun 11, 3:25 p.m. Inappropriate

I read the NY Times article you provided and fail to see the strong connection between the Paris experience and our current TOD goals. Mass transit and associated TOD developments are not a panacea for urban blight and chronically crime ridden neighborhoods.

The examples you provide in Seattle are the extreme and solely focused on public housing projects. The scheme in Paris appeared to have worked for at least a decade until the units began to fall into disrepair and more seedy elements moved in, a problem for any neighborhood regardless of it being public or private housing.

Public housing is only one component of TOD. There are plenty of examples of successful TOD projects around the region and the nation where mass transit stations have been transformed into mixed income urban centers.

Lastly, where are all of the people supposed to live by 2040 if population projects are correct? TOD seems to be a reasonable strategy towards providing housing and keeping our long term infrastructure costs down.

Posted Tue, Jun 11, 4:31 p.m. Inappropriate

"Mass transit and associated TOD developments are not a panacea for urban blight and chronically crime ridden neighborhoods."

Sound Transit always was pitched by the government heads as a goose that would lay golden eggs for minorities in their neighborhoods:

-- Former City Councilwoman Jane Noland said she had no faith in the planning department's studies that indicated a negligible economic benefit from light rail. She said she was convinced from riding transit in other cities that new stations would provide a hub for new development.

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20010716&slug;=rail16m

-- An accurate tally of how many jobs would start with the project-related tasks, those in management, design or the construction itself. Add to that entry-level apprenticeship programs -- especially those designed for young people or minority groups.

Or you could measure the direct contracts that will be made with local businesses. "A $10 million investment yields $30 million in sales," the study says.

Let's be clear about this: These are jobs that will not come to the region if we do not expand mass transit. We could also pick up more federal dollars for the project, especially in a Barack Obama administration.

Rail, unlike bus systems, opens up all sorts of additional development opportunities (that's another way of saying, "Yes, even more jobs"). Portland's experience is that $6 billion in development occurred within walking distance of MAX light rail stations since 1980. There are similar findings in Dallas and San Diego, where property values around the light rail stations jumped by double-digits.

Sound Transit is a critical public works project. A one-half cent boost in the sales tax seems a reasonable price to pay for so many new jobs.

http://www.seattlepi.com/opinion/383847_soundtransited.html

All those visions of collateral economic benefits that were used to sell the concept turned out to be so much hot air. There are a number of reasons for that. In contrast, the unstated reason for siting the light rail line where it went -- as part and parcel of large public housing projects -- did come to pass.

"The examples you provide in Seattle are the extreme and solely focused on public housing projects."

That’s because the SHA developments and Sound Transit are the biggest, most expensive urban planning undertakings in Seattle of this generation by far, and lousy urban planning is what David Brewster is writing about here.

The government heads wanted the heavy taxing powers and zero accountability that Sound Transit offered, so they spun a tale about how it would create a boom of TOD around the stations. Now what they are reduced to doing in light of how wrong they were about that is 1) handing out spot upzones (to bribe private investors to build), and 2) selling properties to non-profits for them to build.

What Sound Transit was primarily intended to accomplish was to augment the major SHA spending on public housing along MLK Jr. Way and at Yesler Terrace. That public housing was seen as the key to keeping lots of minorities in south Seattle where they could be controlled and the miscreants sent away. As you may be aware, there also was a bill this session that came close to passing that would have increased the amount of low-income housing around transit stations:

http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/crossref.aspx?year=2013

Sound Transit’s light rail always was meant as an adjunct for large public housing projects so that a servile workforce could be kept out of the good neighborhoods and delivered to employment sites. It is the Le Corbusier planning model, adopted wholesale from France and set down in Seattle.

Absolutely nothing about this SHA-plus-Sound Transit urban planning has been done with an eye toward "keeping our long term infrastructure costs down". The financing plan for Sound Transit depends on that municipality imposing scores of billions of dollars of regressive tax revenue just as security for bondholders. Nobody else finances light rail like that, anywhere.

Finally, you did not say which population increase projections you have in mind, but my guess is they are worthless. All of the PSRC’s projections about employment growth, the amount of driving that people here will do, transit ridership, and population growth have been proven grossly overstated. There is a simple reason for that -- PSCOG and then the PSRC are MPO's, and if they use inflated population growth projections, employment growth projections, numbers of miles people are expected to drive, etc. they can apply for and secure larger federal grants. The PSRC is not supposed to be accurate, it is supposed to paint pictures of overheated economic conditions to justify large federal grant applications.

crossrip

Posted Mon, Jun 10, 10 a.m. Inappropriate

I didn't realize city planning had disappeared but that's the best explanation I've heard for the bad things "smacgry" lists. I drive downtown from Madison Park every day and the uniformity of mundane and shoddy looking new apartments is shocking. If one of the mayoral candidates made strong planning and design review the CENTERPIECE of his/her campaign this former Burgess supporter would climb aboard.

ctb

Posted Mon, Jun 10, 7:03 p.m. Inappropriate

ctb, I think you should read up on Peter Steinbrueck and see if you agree with his vision for Seattle. Don't you think having an architect in the mayor's office would make more sense than a lawyer?

I copied the statements below from his website: http://www.peterforseattle.com/issues/15-reasons-peter-steinbrueck-is-the-best-choice-for-seattle-mayor/

Pro­tect Great Neighborhoods: The res­i­dents of each Seat­tle neigh­bor­hood deserve a clear voice in any rezon­ing or other change process. Peter is the city’s lead­ing advo­cate and cham­pion for our more than 40 unique neigh­bor­hoods. A few of Peter’s accom­plish­ments include the Capi­tol Hill/Broadway rezone, the Uni­ver­sity Dis­trict Revi­tal­iza­tion Plan, and the City­wide Com­mer­cial Code revision.

Cre­ate a Liv­able Down­town: Thanks to Peter’s fore­sight to curb sprawl and pro­vide for more sus­tain­able growth and devel­op­ment in the urban core, Seat­tle is one of the nation’s most liv­able cities. Peter led the cit­i­zen involve­ment and City Coun­cil process that pro­duced pub­lic sup­port, poli­cies, and pro­grams for a vibrant and liv­able down­town. Key ingre­di­ents of Peter’s plan include: envi­ron­men­tal and energy-efficiency stan­dards (LEED cer­ti­fi­ca­tion), family-friendly neigh­bor­hoods, and com­mit­ment to his­toric preservation.

Posted Mon, Jun 10, 11 a.m. Inappropriate

Nothing like a headline like that to shake things up.

I've tried pretty hard in the last few years to think this all through on a practical and inspirational level, and need not repeat my own conjecture. It's out there--and tracks some of your thinking, David--that today's ideas are often premised on valiant past efforts, now forgotten, and eerily similar to what we see today. It's important not to forget as we try to create great cities in today's context of sustainability, funding challenges, equity considerations, and plain old urban/human issues such as safety and comfort.

But that's just it--the list of why things have not happened here is incomplete and really, really can't be summarized in any one article or termed "urban planning" when you might really mean "urban design" or maybe just "architecture". I'd stress more our Tower of Babel civic reality--everyone often wants the same thing but speaks to it differently and often tries to own messages no one should own--I'd factor in all of the changes in the economic climate of our region, the unrealized aspects of the Growth Management Act, the impacts of the recession, the vast diversity of the City's population, the fundamental and long-debated role of physical determinism (versus social needs and citizen consensus), etc. etc. It's a rich reality reflected in the built environment but not necessarily created by it.

So a great start, but I'd suggest not just leaving it here for ranting responses. Clean up the headline, call it a new plea for pluralist debate, not just about what a city looks like, but how to make it a great place to live...

Posted Tue, Jun 11, 11:18 a.m. Inappropriate

Yes, there should be no rants. God forbid that anyone say just how ugly most of your buildings really are. You just might ... um ... make something that we didn't want to see burn to the ground. We can't have that!

NotFan

Posted Mon, Jun 10, 11:05 a.m. Inappropriate

David, the headline asks why "Seattle" (there is no such being, at least as a cohesive, deliberative and decisive body) fears urban planning.

You answer your own rhetorical question with this: 'Mostly it is the outsized power of local corporations and their law firms, able to overwhelm mayors and city councils with generic, corporate-safe designs."

That is the relevant critique, rooted in the joint and several profit motives of corporate owners and their agents, exercised in service of private ownership (and disposition) of land.

Our legal framework defers greatly to the owner of the land/asset and his/her/its desires--and as you note, our Design Review Boards (not a good tool in the best of circumstances, since not timely in the entire permitting process) are extremely limited in scope.

We can be thankful that there is no Ministry of Design that sets rigid requirements for the built environment.

We can also regret that, by so greatly privileging private choice, we have few grand public spaces and amenities, and neighborhoods that lose visual integrity and community coherence by the day.

In such a choice environment, the question isn't "Why is the city afraid of planning?," but whether public governance can assert a right to that never existed or was ceded long ago.

Seneca

Posted Tue, Jun 11, 2:03 p.m. Inappropriate

"That is the relveant critique, rooted in the joint and several profit motives ..."

I am not sure why that is a bad thing. In order for those "profit motives" to be realized, the public, or a significant plurality of it, must be willing to patronize the land use selected by those coporate or individual landowners. A Dick's Drive-In succeeds at a location because the owner has determined there are thousands, or tens of thousands, of folks who will flock to that particular parcel if that is what is put there. Similarly with office towers in downtown Seattle. Companies will rent them because it is a cost-effective place where they can attract workers (part of the cache' is transit for that workforce). The same with condos, apartments, and the like.

I think the real gripe is that is is decentralized, non-planning, that is decided by consumer preference surveys (e.g. market studies) about what land-use and architecture generates the most customer traffic at the lowest cost.

It should be confined to the big things like Viaduct or Tunnel. Park or non-park.

Centralized planning has its place and purpose, but not in design review. San Francisco got the way it was by decentralized choices. It has only been in recent decades that the state has regulated it to absurdity, driving out any socio-economic diversity and providing discincentives for row house onwers to re-invest and re-capitalize.

Posted Mon, Jun 10, 12:05 p.m. Inappropriate

As Chuck Wolfe points out, David's article touches on issues that are quite complex. And, as Seneca notes, "part of the problem is the degree to which "our legal framework defers greatly to the owner of the land/asset..."

The Washington State Supreme Court decisions of the early 1980s (Norco, Carlson, and similar cases), make it very difficult to implement broad land use or urban design plans at any scale. Those cases effectively determined that whatever is not explicitly prohibited by the land use code of any jurisdiction is allowed. These decisions make it very difficult to shape urban plans and urban form because the primary approach to land use regulation under these decisions is prohibiting things a city or county does not want. These decisions make entering into negotiations about land use plans, urban form, etc., challenging because a property owner is allowed to do anything not explicitly prohibited, unless the city is willing to give something in order to get something (for example, give increased height in order to get certain amenities).

Under these decisions and others, a city's Comprehensive Plan has no legal weight in land use contests. The Court has said that the Comprehensive Plan (a this would equally apply to any other plan) only has legal weight to the extent that it has been codified into actual land use regulations.

In other states, there are cities where planners/urban designers have broad powers to negotiate with landowners, but cities in Washington can engage in such negotiations only if they are willing to trade extra floor area (usually meaning added density and/or extra height) given the framework of court decisions. Right now Seattle neighborhoods are so "shell-shocked" from intrusive development, they will generally fight any approach that adds to the height or density of any development.


Posted Tue, Jun 11, 11:07 a.m. Inappropriate

Seattle has a land use code in name only. Any developer that wants to put up an ugly building in violation of that code need only plop a suitcase or three of cash in front of the best city council money can buy, and voila! no more land use code.

NotFan

Posted Tue, Jun 11, 10:57 a.m. Inappropriate

But wait, I thought Seattle was world-class, vibrant, green, walkable, and smart. You mean to tell me it's actually a pretentious, overgrown lumber town with a corrupt and badly managed local government and a crew of architects who wave the ugly stick every chance they get? Who knew?!

p.s.: Since we have architects reading this, maybe one of you ugly generators can tell us when you all decided to shop from the same flat V-shaped roof warehouse, and why. Has a single one of you ever had a new idea in your lives, or did you get some kind of surgery to cure that?

NotFan

Posted Tue, Jun 11, 11:26 a.m. Inappropriate

When I think about the parts of cities that I value it is seldom the big urban vision that remains attractive over the years. The piece-by-piece assembly of Boston and San Francisco can become an urban vision, maybe by accident or maybe by several generations' consistent pursuit of a single ideal but the pieces are small and even the glitches seem compatible. The big urban vision that got built and has changed our city, not necessarily for the better, is the sports stadiums. The relatively incremental work in South Lake Union seems attractive by comparison. I have to add that there now seems to be a political momentum to bring it up to the "big vision' category which I think is sad.

kieth

Posted Tue, Jun 11, 1:52 p.m. Inappropriate

David, commoner and patrician alike, so don't take this personally, have little choice but make mincemeat of the terms used by elites practicing what the UW in a moment of despair gave up and encapsulated as the "Built Environment" (BE). Unfortunately, each "niche" that students are steered to are at war with each other.

Sad to say, as more money, more study, more niches, more students have been thrown upon the visual aspects of cities, the Solution has become the Problem, evermore so. For example, Seattle's urban planners are far from "feeble," they now rule the entire realm the UW would have us believe is the "Built Environment." Where they "went" is they took over the Building Department. Their presuppositions are no longer frustrated, now that they can write the design standards and guidelines and the building and land use codes, are sole interpreters of what they really meant to say, and can favor and frustrate construction to suit planning presupposition(s).

Wikipedia postings, as they often do, provide a handy glimpse of suppositional tug-of-wars. All planning roads now lead to "urban planning." Community planning not even mentioned.

Urban planning is said to be a process that " concerns itself with research and analysis, strategic thinking, architecture, urban design, public consultation, policy recommendations, implementation and management."

Urban design ,also said to be a process, is "an inter-disciplinary subject that unites all the built environment professions, including urban planning, landscape architecture, architecture, civil and municipal engineering. It is common for professionals in all these disciplines to practice in urban design. Urban design demands a good understanding of a wide range of subjects from physical geography, through to social science, and an appreciation for disciplines, such as real estate development, urban economics, political economy and social theory."

As one Wikepedia talker says "Unfortunately the overall impression the page is giving is that urban design is a load of phoney baloney snake oil, rather than the practical and profoundly important activity that it is. It needs a really good edit by someone with both knowledge and patience."

Problem is a single human being with all that knowledge and patience, to boot, is hard to find even across the World Wide Web. To run the entire "Built Environment" realm of a mid-sized city—next to impossible.

afreeman

Posted Tue, Jun 11, 2:05 p.m. Inappropriate

There's more to Seattle than just the downtown core and I think this is what the bulk of residents are complaining about. There are no "urban visions" for neighborhoods other than to allow the developers to build at their whim without any regard for the residential neighborhoods. The City has not updated the 1994 Comprehensive Plan other than to change the zoning codes for developers. Neighborhoods have not been involved. Even Richard Conlin admitted to that -- the city has been wrong in not including the neighborhoods in development. But what does he do? Continues to vote on behalf of developers to the detriment of neighborhoods -- unless, of course, you happen to live in one of the wealthier neighborhoods where his constituents live. I would like to see some of our taxpayer dollars spent on the residential neighborhoods so that each one has something special. But no, our money goes downtown most recently on SLU and now on Pioneer Square and in the near future a new waterfront park for tourists. This used to be a great city to live in. It's really a shame at what's happened to it.

Norge

Posted Tue, Jun 11, 5:03 p.m. Inappropriate

Those Soviet Bloc apartments in Ballard are now going to be scattered through Interbay. There is nothing they won't hit with the ugly stick. And the fawning architects might be the worst of it, in a way. I mean we expect developers to be greedy a-holes, and we expect politicians to be corrupt.

But architects make this claim to be artists of a sort. Turns out they're just another crew of lickspittles without a shred of integrity. Oh well. Another illusion bites the dust.

NotFan

Posted Sun, Jun 16, 5:52 p.m. Inappropriate

What is your profession snotfan?
Just being an intolerable jerk on the comment section?

You are quite good at it!

Watch as he will respond to this post with some more of his typical vitriol which does absolutely nothing to further the conversation.
I would not be surprised if he also called me progressive or accused me of singing kumbaya which further illustrates how little value he brings to this site.

Nothing like a little xenophobia to make those smarter and younger than notfan to see how easily he is rattled.

jeffro

Posted Sun, Jun 16, 11:42 p.m. Inappropriate

Always good to know that I've irritated a typical smug, hypocritical, knee-jerk, self-overrated, dimwitted "progressive" Seattle jackass who sings Kumbaya until he meets someone who tells him what a phony he is, at which point he reveals what a phony he is.

Not to put too fine a point on it!

NotFan

Posted Wed, Jun 12, 9:31 a.m. Inappropriate

Norge,

Developers don't build to their whim, they build to the whim of the newcomers that are willing to pay to come here. They spend lots of money on market research about what people will pay the most for, or what features they want at a given price point. It is not their whim that is driving the increased density and changes in housing styles, but that of their customers.

So what you are really advocating for is to have the tastes of those who arrived here first, have some legal authority or precedent over the tastes of those who come later.

It has always been so. The Craftsmans were out of character and scale with what came before them. The latest three-storie wood frame businesses were out of character and loomed over the one story ones that came before them and the surrounding houses. The sub-division of lots to build those Craftsmans, increased density, decreased open space, decreased natural habitat, made what few, rutted, existing roads, etc. more congested and more rutted. Taxes had to be raised to pay for street lights, traffic signals, and other improvements. Yet they were built, and over time, the character of the neighborhoods changed to match the tastes and needs of the newcombers.

What housing choices, and how far beyond what you could afford would it be, had the "Norges" that existed when you moved here prevailed in locking the city's land-use and housing styles in at the then existing status quo? Not as many, or any.

Why are you so entitled, to be able to dictate to the owner of a lot you haven't paid for, what they can do, just because you discovered Seattle first?

Posted Thu, Jun 13, 7:33 a.m. Inappropriate

When I bought in to my neighborhood (Ballard) I bought in to a neighborhood with a certain ambience. Parking in Central Ballard was a problem then (1986) but nothing like it is today because of the influx of new apartments/condos/townhomes currently with no requirement to put in parking for the new tenants. According to the City no one is supposed to need cars. The bus service is not good in Ballard -- the D-line is really a failure here. It takes about an hour to get downtown on the D-Line--5 miles. Luckily they kept most of the express buses, which take about 30-45 minutes, but Metro has cut out some of the express buses which had run completely full. The grocery stores in Ballard are on 15th NW (Market Street and 85th). There is one on 24th and 57th. So how do people get groceries without cars? Do we have them delivered? Maybe but most people still go grocery shopping. There are currently 2200 apartments/condos/townhomes recently built or being built. This is an enormous change for the neighborhood. The ambienc in I bought in to has dramatically changed. In the long run will it be for the better, who knows? But I do know our current transit options can't handle this type of increase and parking is now unbearable. There is very little business parking and I no longer do business in the heart of Ballard and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Crime has dramatically increased in Ballard, the homeless population here is soaring. Am I safer now with more people in Ballard -- no, it used to be a much more pleasant area to walk around than it is now. So does it mean I don't want new residents in Ballard? No, I would just like to see some reasonable growth in Ballard and that is not happening and the residents of Ballard have no input into planning that growth.

Norge

Posted Thu, Jun 13, 3:23 p.m. Inappropriate

Norge,

You repeat twice, "I bought in to a ... certain ambiance." Really? I didn't realize that you got fee-title to ambience in addition to the land and improvements within the lot lines.

In order to preserve that ambience, you have to tell the 75,000 people that have come to King County in the last two years, a large plurality of which went to Seattle, and smaller plurality that went to Ballard, that they can't have the opportunity to find housing that works for them, like you had the opportunity to find housing that worked for you when you came. The only constant is change. You can't lock in an ambience forever. That is not reasonable.

To put a finer point on it, an appraiser does not directly (it is somewhat indirectly reflected in the comparables) factor a view into an appraisal, unless it is a view that the owner of the lot or house owns. E.g. Nobody can take it away because the owner of the view property is right on the edge of the water, or a cliff, and there is nothing that can be errected between the bought property and the view.

So I think you believed all the marketing fluff about "ambiance" that the realtor put in the add, and think you are enitled to something that is not included in the purchase price.

You can also join the 25% of property owners, in any given single-fmaily neighborhood in Seattle that sell in a year, and relocate for a better job, ambiance, etc. to someplace else. In today's mobile society, the idea of non-transient neighborhoods is a myth.

The average length of ownership of any single-family home is 7 years. Our length of ownership is much longer, as I suspect yours is, but we are outliers.

The Council of District Council's is fighting for a "Mayberry" ideal that hasn't existed for quite some time.

Posted Sun, Jun 16, 11:47 p.m. Inappropriate

Always nice to see how deeply "progressives" like realpolitik despise Seattle and its longtime residents. Let's see what tune they sing if and when some wave of newcomers swamps everything that brought the likes of realpolitik here.

NotFan

Posted Fri, Jun 14, 7:17 p.m. Inappropriate

Is the guilty party the buyer who buys those ugly, but brand-new and shiny homes-in-a-box, or is the guilty party the city urban planners who decided to force the war on cars against their city dwellers by creating a model home for builders to build that totally is against realistic parking requirements and realistic garage sizes?

I'd guess the buyers will be the ones holding the declining value bag with an extremely difficult to sell home in eight or ten more years. As those areas become more and more crammed with far too much density, no one is going to think they were ever a good idea, and certainly will not pay top dollar for a run-down house-in-a-box on too crowded a street. Of course, eventually, no one will live in the boxes, nor need to park nearby, so the parking issue will resolve itself.

The war on cars has got to end. And guess what? That war is being taught and perpetuated at colleges and universities that we fund.

Posted Sat, Jun 15, 10:53 a.m. Inappropriate

People in San Francisco or Brooklyn pay much more per square foot, with less parking than we have, all the time. San Francisco is much more dense.

... and the buyer in Seattle certainly has the option to pay for a house with parking if they want to. The fact that they don't, says they don't want it, or aren't willing to pay the extra payment that would be required to have the type of house you describe, on a bigger lot, with off-street parking. Or what it suggests is there are other amenities that they are getting in the house you describe they are unwilling to swap out for parking to keep the price the same.

Builders relentlessly research what buyers want and that is what they build. Prices have been in decline until recenlty. Rates have been at rock-bottom. Payments have been lower. Yet the houses that have been selling have been one with fewer square feet per person and more amenities in the square feet that are left. That is true within Seattle, and in the burbs.

Posted Sat, Jun 15, 7:31 p.m. Inappropriate

realpolitik, San Francisco has far nicer weather than Seattle does. It's not big deal to walk to work (oh yes, SF also has more JOBS in that city withing walkable distances to city housing areas). And of course, the appeal of housing units in SF is that the majority of them were built over decades, and not pre-programmed nasty house-in-a-box like what we see in Ballard and other neighborhoods in Seattle. The SF areas mostly have the enticing CHARM that Seattle nasty house-in-a-box never will have.

Note too, the decades stable trolley car lines, that run 7 days a week. People have never needed individual cars in San Francisco, that day will never happen in lame-o Seattle, public transportation does not go where you need it to go.

Seattle neighborhoods were far better served by trolley lines clear up thru the 1960's. What a shame.

Posted Sun, Jun 16, 11:48 p.m. Inappropriate

People in San Francisco or Brooklyn pay much more per square foot, with less parking than we have, all the time. San Francisco is much more dense.

And if you want to live in one of those dumps, then move there.

NotFan

Posted Wed, Jun 12, 8:43 a.m. Inappropriate

Crosscut and it's commenters really seem to hate today's Seattle.

Personally I don't know how you look at Seattle's awesome neighborhoods, healthy downtown and vibrant gathering places and conclude that generations of planning has been a big failure.

Grand egoistic plans always fizzle out but their best ideas are embraced and implemented over a long period if time.

g_dub

Posted Wed, Jun 12, 8:23 p.m. Inappropriate

Thanks and agreed. Reading some of the comments you would think we're living in Detroit or Camden for crying out loud. Perspective please. Seattle is a great town with vibrant neighborhoods. Ya folks are spending too much time grumping at the screen. Get out and about!

Treker

Posted Sun, Jun 16, 11:52 p.m. Inappropriate

No, the people who hate Seattle are the "progressives" who are doing everything they can to ruin it. The very things that "Treker" praises are the very thing that he and his crew of parasitical jerks are trying to eliminate. Their praise for these things is completely phony; it's only a tactic aimed at making people think that "progressives" aren't the urbanist virus that they are.

NotFan

Posted Wed, Jun 12, 9:03 p.m. Inappropriate

Why does Seattle and the rest of Washington fear urban planning? Because in today's world, urban planning means increasing density, but not providing reasonable mobility, spending tax dollars on wasteful, overpriced things such as a $4 billion dollar bore tunnel that will move fewer vehicles than an inexpensive brand new Viaduct. Because in today's world, somehow it's considered acceptable to spend approx $179 million per mile to build a light rail system that has no parking, and doesn't connect to much of anything, nor merge well with other transit mobility for the masses.

Because in today's world, finances are optional, and never taken seriously. I for one believe that the severest recession since the nasty depression taught politicians and planners absolutely nothing.

Why does Seattle fear urban planning? Because we detest the far-too-expensive-war-on-cars and we cannot fathom why liberals think the way they do.

Posted Thu, Jun 13, 9:53 a.m. Inappropriate

Three reasons we don't support urban planning in Seattle:

1) So much of the urban planning we have seen to date is horrible. Who would sign up for more of that?

2) The city's politics are controlled by real estate developers. Urban planning, to some extent, requires private property owners to make concessions in favor of a common good. That can't happen when the property owners are corporate entities with only a profit motive and no interest in community good.

3) Seattle is not so much a city as a federation of neighborhoods clustered around a downtown. We are Balkanized.

coolpapa

Posted Thu, Jun 13, 3:30 p.m. Inappropriate

See comment to Norge above. With so many single-family houses turning over in any given year in a neighborhood and such a short average length of ownership, I think we all are joining the corporations in being in it for the profit motive.

That rapid churn of people also raises the question of who is the community? The people who will live here now, or the entirely new group of people that will live in the neighborhood 5 years from now? 10 years from now? I run a 250 person block watch e-mail list in a stable, single-family neighborhood. The number of households that have been on it for 10-years, because they are still the original household, at an address, that signed up to participate a decade ago, is probably about 15%. Fortunately for me, or unfortunately, as the case may be, is everyone, even the new comers that dominate the listserv, have the same interest in having a crime-free neighborhood.

Posted Fri, Jun 14, 7:09 p.m. Inappropriate

I'd guess that the reason newcomers dominate your listserv is that they are younger than the people who have lived in your neighborhood for decades, and who may not care to participate via email/online -- or ten years ago didn't have a clue what email/online/listserv meant.

In our neighborhood, we lost a lot of people to foreclosure. Residential turnover isn't always for profit.

As a comment, we never signed up for our neighborhood watch groups either.

A) We did not care for the intrusionary way the leaders of the effort made it become

B) If we see a problem, we'll call the cops, no matter whether we know you personally or not.

Posted Sat, Jun 15, 11:04 a.m. Inappropriate

The listserv is very demographically representative of the neighorhood. The participation rate is about 75% via the listsrv. Another 5% or so participate but don't have e-mail (we do post-card notification and phone calls).

As far as your comments about block watch, I can see that. The protocol here is:

1. Call the cops.
2. If it is something that others would benefit from knowing to prevent crime, report it to the head othe listsrv. If not, don't.
3. There are many things I don't pass along because they don't meet the above criteria and I nearly always strip out the reporting parties e-mail, and other details (like a detailed listing of who was home, since household composition can be pretty unique and a "giveway").

To the extent we are intrusive, is when the comings and goings are criminal activity that impacts surrounding neighbors (e.g. drug dealing, the gatherings turn into shootings, on a regular basis, a landlord who doesn't care about criminal activity as long as the rent comes and the property isn't trashed). Then we make a group request to the City Attorney to file a lawsuit under State Statutes or the City Chronic Nuisance Ordinace. If the City declines we initiate our own. Result, one drug house of 41 years gone. One set of tenants who's teens burgled, vandalized, stole, threatened assault, etc. evicted, a gang wanabe (that attracted lots of drive-by shootings evicted).

It's fine line between intrustion and sharing information that broadly benefits the neighborhood.

Posted Fri, Jun 14, 8:52 p.m. Inappropriate

The turnover/newcomer angle is a good one that I hadn't thought of. In the 2000 census, Seattle ranked second (to Austin) of American cities with a high percentage (31%) of residents who had lived in the city for five years or less. We are a much younger, much more rootless city than we imagine, or than we were a few decades back. While it's true that this diminishes the constituency for wise, long range planning, it also makes it more important, providing stability and form to all the change.

Posted Mon, Jun 17, 1:20 p.m. Inappropriate

Statistics, my man, statistics. This is one case where the normal distribution won't work. It's going to wind up being bimodal by age, and bimodal by neighborhood. There will be two populations in Seattle, one quite stable and the other quite transient. The general number will say little or nothing.

NotFan

Posted Sat, Jun 15, 9:26 a.m. Inappropriate

realpolitik - It's interesting that you respond to my comment about choosing a place to live based on the ambiance of a neighborhood yet you indicate that you have lived in a stable single family neighborhood with a 250 member e-mail list. Do you think if you lived in a neighborhood where single family homes are being torn down and replaced with 200-400 unit apartment houses would make a difference to the stability of your neighborhood? Well, Smart Growth Seattle and other developer groups are pushing for upzoning in all neighborhoods so there will be no single family neighborhoods in Seattle. Would that change the ambiance of your stable single-family neighborhood? I bet it would and I bet your tune would change. When I bought in 1986 my neighborhood was primarily singe family homes, a lot with mother-in-law units and my property was zoned duplex. The zoning on my property has changed multiple times since 1986 -- zoned as high as a 9-unit apartment house (1994). I think it's now zoned for a 3-townhome size lot. Two blocks away is a new 170 unit apartment house that took the place of three older homes. I don't have any control over the zoning on my property and until this type of building starts to impact you, you really don't start looking into what the City is doing. For me it's too late to save my neighborhood (but I am trying) but for others they can at least try to get involved with zoning changes the City is making, or you too will no longer live in that stable single-family neighborhood.

Norge

Posted Sat, Jun 15, 11:10 a.m. Inappropriate

Norge,

My neighborhood, even with owned homes, turns over about 30% of the houses every three-years.

My neighborhood has about 15% of the houses as single-family rentals. Two blocks away we have one of the larger low-income apartment complexes in South Seattle (they have the lower crime rate than any other part of this neighborhood, because they screen for criminal history, it is gated, the residents have electronic key cards for the gates that I.D. which tenant opened the gate when, they have cameras, and the non-profit management really promotes community, even though they turn over nearly all the units ever three years) and we have three different condo projects.

My neighborhood is a designated urban village. Nothing would make me happier then to have my lot re-zoned to multi-family. It would be worth so much more than it is today. I could re-develop it as apts or condos and keep a unit, or sell to a developer, who will pay much more per square foot than they will for single-family. Really hard to lose. It might or might not involve a move. Oh Well!

Posted Sun, Jun 16, 4:04 p.m. Inappropriate

Real, That low income apartment sounds like hell. The tenants are constantly surveilled by cameras, have their comings and goings tracked, and have some Management involving itself in their lives. So, a person, who does not make much money should be treated as a minimum security prisoner? You like this, I also noted with your other posts, you are real big on making sure only the "right" people live around you, so you gang up a bunch of other people and work with the City to harass people. I have seen how much people lie about others, especially people, who think they are the Bully of the Neighborhood. I am glad you don't live near me; if you did, the first time you messed with me, you would be taught that you are not the Bully of the Neighborhood; but only some gentrification wishing petty despot.

jhande

Posted Sun, Jun 16, 11:55 p.m. Inappropriate

So you live in an unstable trashy neighborhood full of wandering yuppie jerks like yourself. Congratulations. And when are you going to move out? Please don't linger.

NotFan

Posted Tue, Jun 18, 7:40 a.m. Inappropriate

"With so many single-family houses turning over in any given year in a neighborhood and such a short average length of ownership, I think we all are joining the corporations in being in it for the profit motive."

I disagree. While people do like it when their house retains its value or appreciates, owner-occupied houses are still primarily personal use assets rather than investment assets. People spend money on remodels when they know that they cannot expect to see a dollar-for-dollar increase in the resale value of the property because they will realize value from having an improved home life.

People don't think about their homes the way they think about investments. And they shouldn't.

coolpapa

Posted Wed, Jun 19, 1:35 p.m. Inappropriate

It all depends on whether you've got the perspective of a real estate speculator shyster or not. I don't. I've poured all kinds of money into my house of the sort that I'll never get back. If I thought that my next door neighbor could erect a 7-Eleven or an apodment, I'd never have moved here to begin with.

NotFan

Posted Sat, Jun 15, 12:19 a.m. Inappropriate

Because we don't want Beijing capital funding Smart Growth projects in Seattle. Instead, we want Chinese American and others to fund our infrastructure.

The San Jose Mercury News just exposed the Beijing money behind Oakland, California's revitalization. I don't know if this also happens in Seattle. Seattle has enough talented architects, including Chinese AMERICANS, and we don't need anyone from overseas.

During our nation's founding, the original tea party was to get rid of the foreign tea party telling us what to do. Today, we have China building large condo projects in Oakland, CA and also in Texas. We don't want local governments, like the Puget Sound Regional Council, making deals with foreign companies.

In other words, it's similar to the NSA, Obama, and the Democrats hiring contractors to spy on us, as Democrat Randi Rhodes explained this week. The Bushes also made alliances with major corporations, as Republican Mark Levin explained this week.

These are non partisan issues. The government should not make deals with contractors, corporations, or anyone else. Unfortunately, the size of government is so large, that contractors will pay city councilors behind the scenes.

Recall the alliance between Ron Simms, Gregory Nichols, and others, with Port Blakely Holdings of Seattle and New Zealand ... who built the smart growth development Issaquah Highlands? This Democrat coalition with Port Blakely Timber and Construction Company used public money to build something that is expensive and that nobody wants - people prefer homes with private yards.

Links on Beijing money for Oakland revitilization -

http://www2.oaklandnet.com/oakca1/groups/ceda/documents/pressrelease/oak040490.pdf
http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-news/ci_22997301/chinese-investor-jump-starts-oakland-waterfront-project

However, the Chinese people don't live in the condo towers. They prefer low density suburbs. In fact, it's the Chinese American families, along with the Mormons, who will save the American dream in the suburbs - such as Bellevue and Sammamish. For the suburbs, they are our best students and honest citizens. If it was not for these two groups, then we would have much less civic engagement in our suburbs.

Indeed, smart Growth is not from the American left. That's impossible since the left are in the artistic professions (art, design, fashion, architecture, horticulture). Most people in these areas don't make much money. They don't have the money to build large smart growth and downtown revitalization projects.

Smart Growth, and downtown revitalization, receives money from somewhere. In Seattle, the only one I know of is the International Timber and Construction company, Port Blakely Holdings, who also build the Ken Behring project in Kent.

How much of Seattle Smart Growth is paid for with foreign capital?
I can speculate about this but the Oakland example requires an immediate answer.

You would get more support for Seattle Smart Growth if you would not allow foreign companies to build infill and other projects. Same thing in the Bay Area, where they are still debating Plan Bay Area, and it's now proven that Beijing money is funding the Oakland project. Regards, -Tom Lane

TomLane

Posted Sat, Jun 15, 7:25 a.m. Inappropriate

Brewster again fails to mention the less enlightened “one hand washing the other” process that passes for planning and leadership in Seattle. In his own March 26, 2009 Crosscut article he pretty much predicted how we would wind up with the most expensive and least efficient designs for both the waterfront and the I-520 Bridge. Both projects, packed with amenities for several affluent neighborhoods, will increase congestion and reduce capacities and access for regional commuters and cost 4 billion dollars more than more efficient designs.

Read it here…turned out he was absolutely right.

http://crosscut.com/2009/03/26/crosscut-blog/18899/When-Chopp-speaks-parse-closely/

jmrolls

Posted Sat, Jun 15, 1:16 p.m. Inappropriate

realpolitik - You and I bought into our neighborhoods for two very different reasons. Did you buy in figuring you'd cash out within a few years and the bottom fell out of the market -- or did you buy in to SE Seattle along the light rail thinking that more development would come? I wonder -- were you in Seattle before the light rail was put in? Because if you were from Seattle you would have known that putting light rail down Rainier to MLK was a ploy by the City of Seattle for increased development of the area. It hasn't worked but hey, it's only taxpayer dollars so why not try. I didn't buy into my neighborhood just to cash out in a few years -- I bought into it because I liked it -- small house, small yard, it was close to downtown Seattle, it was a safe neighborhood that I was very familiar with. I thought it had good bus transportation (but I was wrong) and I figured I would be happy here for a long time and I was, up until about 8 years ago when massive development starting rolling in. Granted my $50,000 investment in 1986 has served me well over the long haul and eventually maybe yours will too but I think most people still choose a neighborhood because they want to live in it.

Norge

Posted Sat, Jun 15, 4:32 p.m. Inappropriate

I bought into my neighborhood for whatever it would become. If it stays the way it is, for a decade or more, we would welcome that. We really, really like it, as it was when we came, and like you have welcomed some changes, and not others, but we won't stand in the way of the the City of Seattle and private property owners making changes to suit their aesthetic, policy, or profit-line.

We would also welcome the opportunity to sell or develop for a more profitable price than single-family. That would allow more intese development to house those who want to come to Seattle, as I did in 1991. More dwelling units per acre means I can get paid more for my land, and more dwelling units per acre also holds down the cost per unit for those coming here.

In enough decades it also might make that boondogle of light rail actually get utilized enough to justify the billions being spent on Sound Transit.

The only constant is change. Embrace it and role with it as it happens, when it happens.

If we are so restrictive in our land-use code, that the City can't get more dense, then prices for everyone will rise, a black market in illegal basement or bedroom units will become more pervasive, and Seattle will lose is socio-economic diversity.

Posted Sun, Jun 16, 4:12 p.m. Inappropriate

The densest cities are the most expensive, so quit with the density lowers cost BS. One only has to look at the square foot costs of the rent at "apodments" to see the density lowers cost is a lie. You seem to be concerned with changing zoning in you area not to provide "affordable" housing to others, but for you to make a bunch of profit. So, you end up just like the developers, who lobby for land use policy based on profit to developers, only you wish it based upon profit to you. So, you should quit with the fake concern for new residents and affordable housing.

jhande

Posted Mon, Jun 17, 11:08 a.m. Inappropriate

Jahnde,

There relative expense is the question, the question is what the expense, WOULD BE, without that density, how big would the black or grey housing market be, etc. If demand is the only variable, then prices will be quite high. Allow the supply curve to be altered by suppliers coming into the market to meet that demand, and the point at which supply and demand intersect will be at a somewhat lower price-point.

Posted Mon, Jun 17, 7:06 p.m. Inappropriate

No, housing supply is like roads; build a new lane and people move in and fill the new lane.

There is currently no housing shortage in Seattle. Anyone, who wishes to pay for housing can get housing in Seattle. The problem is finding housing, which is affordable. New construction in Seattle has not lowered the cost of housing, or made affordable housing. Even the apodments end up being not affordable.

Creating density zoning does not create affordable housing. Dense cities end up with smaller and smaller living spaces for more and more money. Density causes the opposite of the "it creates affordability" line used to market it.

jhande

Posted Sun, Jun 16, 11:58 p.m. Inappropriate

You bought into a busted-down neighborhood because it was cheap. You regarded it as a dump, with no intrinsic value, and you still see it that way. Whatever zoning will get you, you, YOU the highest dollar would be best, best, BEST! These are the values of gentrifying real estate sharks and soulless civilians like yourself.

What's worse, this is how you see the entire city, and probably the entire country. To people like you, nothing is sacred at all. You have no understanding of normal human beings who settle into an area and put their heart and soul into their homes or their neighborhood.

You're a sad and nasty creature, but one that's all too common in Seattle, especially its corrupt city government. All we can do is take note of vermin like yourself, and fight you when and where we can, and hope that you will leave us an plague someone else. And no, I do not wish you well.

NotFan

Posted Mon, Jun 17, 1:28 p.m. Inappropriate

Nope, I see it as those who got here first, trying to dictate to those who would come after, whether they can live here or not, and limit there housing options and choices.

Interestingly enough, not allowing the city to become more dense, advances the cause of those already here. Demand goes up, but the quantity of lots (because you can't sub-divide them), and housing units (because they are limited to single-family) remains constant, and you will get very high rates of appreciation and returns for those owners when they eventually sell. Think Aspen or Vale, Colorado, Carmel by the Sea, CA, etc.

So while somebody like Norge is sincere in suggesting that the "vibe" or "character" should go with the purchase price, implying that land-uses can't change, on lots he does not own, your comment suggests a certain self-service. Regardless of motive, the reality on the ground, if you restrict supply of housing units, by restricting how many units per acre you can put in the Seattle City Limits, and demand goes up, is above market returns for the lot owners. It's an OPEC scheme, not applied to oil, but to Seattle real estate.

Posted Mon, Jun 17, 11:40 a.m. Inappropriate

jhande,

How people respond to those managment iniatives to build community is voluntary. You participate or you don't. It's not a condition of the lease, where you participate in them, or face eviction. I would hazard a guess that the particpation rates in apartment complex-wide street parties, potulucks, community meetings is 5 to 15%, but it is enough to create the critical mass.

... and given the recent disclosures about the NSA, how are the folks at those apts any less tracked than the rest of us? Your picture is taken at the grocery store, what and when you purchased is known (and is supeonable by a civil litigant and the grocery store then "stalks" you with customized mailings, coupons, and gets revenue by selling that to other retailers, etc.). You get your picture taken every time you go to the bank or use an ATM. You are captured on dozens of security cameras a day as you walk through your neighborhood and into and out of businesses (this block watch of single-family homes, routinely furnished private, homeowner security video of the street near a residence to police, just because they ask, in response to a nearby crime like homicide, street robbery, burglary, etc.). Your cell phone reveals your movements (and those records are also supeonable by a civil litigant, not just police). The difference for those low-income residence of those apartments is they are far less likely than the rest of us, to be victims of crime in and around their homes and their comings and goings are no less monitored than yours or mine.

It was not always so, that apartment complex used to have 2 or 3, 6 to 9 police unit call-outs per month. The pattern was, assault, robbery, or shooting, at the apartments, or more commonly, nearby, with bad guys fleeing into them to blend in and hide, 4 to 6 units to contain the block so that the suspects could not leave the area without being seen by police, and 2 to 3 units to search the complex, while innocent residents cowered in their apartments, often with negative apprehension of a susprect. I think they prefer the current state of affairs, as unfortunate as it is, to the former.

The rest of South Seattle had no police service for the duration (unless it was an iminent threat to life call) and then the response time was not 5 to 7 minutes but 12 to 20 minutes (as units were responded from West Seattle, Capitol Hill or Downtown, since South Seattle had none left in reserve. Since Seattle Patrol, fully staffed, is 54 units taking 911 calls, per shift, and sometimes these incidents at the apartments escalated or spread, requiring 15 to 25 units, as the containment and search area grew, the rest of the City lost police response as well. Come home to Roosevelt and find your door kicked in and a trail of stuff accross your lawn and you might wait hours or shifts for cops to clear your residence of possible bad guys and look for fingerprints, footprints, and other evidence.

So on balance, the Orwellian aspect of security at the apartment complex, is as you point out, hellish. But relative to what came before, the residents of the income level served by the complex find it an improvement (leasing rates went from 80% to 95%+), and their security is the envy of S. Seattle accorss the income spectrum. In an ideal world, we would effectively deal with crime so you could have security without a rod-iron fence (the bad guys kept cutting new access points through the chain-link, and the cameras went up only after they starting putting ropes on the locked gates and hooking the other end to a car to pull them off).

... and it was community organizers, neighborhoods, resicence of the complex and the cops, that came together to force the changes in question on the non-profit that ownes and manages the apts., rather than the other way round.

So is it regretable the way it is now? You and I would agree on the answer, but I, at least, am hard-pressed to come up with a better "answer."

Posted Mon, Jun 17, 7:52 p.m. Inappropriate

I have nothing against this apartment having a locked gate for entrance. I do have a problem with the electronic logging in and out of the apartment building. There is no security, or law enforcement reason, for these residents to need to have a record kept of their comings and going. A locked gate with a need for a key is one thing, keeping electronic tabs on residents lives is another. Where is the security added by monitoring the comings and goings of residents?

The monitoring shows exactly what type of building this is. It is a building operated by those who have contempt for the residents, and believe that all Citizens with lower incomes are criminals. The operators probably turn over the coming and going records to the police. "We need to track low income scumbags wherever they go".

It is a minimum security prison, where the inmates have to pay to be there. The only reason the inmates are there is because the operators swung some tax/financing deal with the city, and as part of that must charge lower rent.

So, lower income Citizens get priced out of other housing, and have little resort other than to rent at places like this apartment building. Soon we could have all the lower income people in de facto minimum security prisons. A building operator electronically recording the comings and goings of residents tells me all I need to know about the exploitive operators, and the reason for this building.

This will be the model for development; destruction of older buildings for gentrification, which wipes out mid-range priced housing.

The new gentrified buildings will be "upscale" with an attempt to have "upscale" businesses locate in the gentrified neighborhood ("upscale" has seemed to be the hot term in development and real estate. Build a cheap particle board, and Tyveked box, make tiny units, put in a faux marble countertop, and an off-brand stainless steel refrigerator, and then call it "upscale", and make twice the money. "Upscale" really means "Well, none of 'those' people can afford to live around here", and that is the real selling point of "upscale"), then if it is decided having some lower income citizens around to do all the work is a good idea; some of these minimum security prison low income housing building could be built along the main artery.

This would have multiple benefit for the gentrifier "upscale" snobs/bigots. Low income workers would be available close by, yet monitored for the security of the gentrifier "upscale" snobs/bigots, and the minimum security prison buildings, housing the low income workers, would muffle the noise from the artery. Making life quieter, and nicer for the gentrifier "upscale" snobs/bigots, who if you ask them are all wonderful accomplished people of the most desirable sort.

This would ensure all "newcomers" were yuppies, corporate minions, and "upscale" snobs/bigots; and Seattle could become a huge cesspool inhabited by corporate pets of little true intelligence, or creativity.

jhande

Posted Tue, Jun 18, 11:10 a.m. Inappropriate

Great argument about the future of cities as it's envisioned by the "young urbanists", they only want their "kind" living with them and the rest of the pond scum needs to be monitored because they're like old and poor, lack upward mobility, and probably watch the Discovery channel when sober.

Djinn

Posted Tue, Jun 18, 9:18 a.m. Inappropriate

Jhande, The reason there are cameras and card key for each resident, is that way you know which residents opened the gate to let the gang suspect in, or which resident opened the gate and disabled the lock, stuck something in the gate so it wouldn't shut, or gave away their card key to a non-resident, so the bad guys could get in. That was what was happening. Without an electronic key and cameras there was know whay to know who the offenders were.

Often times they were people that were threatened or intimidated into coughing up one of their household card keys for the property gates (the apartments have regular keys). Sometimes they were willing participants. Either way, the result was the same.

... and actually they did and do have a choice. Note the occupancy rate of the apartments fell to about 80% during the worst of this. Residents were voting with their feet. It is now 95% to 100%. It was the residents who lead the charge for these measures.

That said, I share your unease. A lot of buildings are going to similar systems that log which resident left the building door open. All residents pay for a loss of privacy, for the actions of a few willful or naive bad apples.

The units you refer to are "amenity filled". People are willing to give up square feet for features. Check out The Station at Othello sometime as an example.

Those "apodments" that don't have the features are folks that were often sharing large houses and renting rooms. They drive a "grey" or "blackmarket" housing. Basement rooms with inadequate windows for eagress in a fire, ventilation, no parking, etc. If the surrounding neighbors or a disgruntled tenant tips off the City, the Landlord produces a rental agreement that says they are renting a room. It says nothing about living in that room, it being housing, etc. when all the code requirements for housing apply. It's not commercial space, since no business operates there. To prove either the City would have to have an army of investigators staking the place out and filming who came and went, when, how long they stayed, etc. That is the alrernative to lawful apodments that can reach down to the price point required to house the person who serves you your and I are latte at a price we are willing to pay to drink one.

The answer to mid-range housing, is two-fold.

Upzoning to incentivise as much "high-end" rental housing like The Station at Othello (Rainier and Othello) or Columbia Plaza (Columbia City) or some of the recent apts. in Ballard. Why, because in 15-years, when they aren't the "latest and greatest", they become the Class "B" mid-range housing.

The 2nd answer is for the low-income housing, financed with the Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit to be unleashed of their rent caps in the 15th year. The feds only have a 15-year limit on rent restrictions, but they give the states the right to award the credits and put in longer-term restrictions. The states, as is Washington, run the restriction on rent out to an additional 50 years. End result is they don't make enough revenue long-term, for the their non-profit owners to run them long-term. So the non-profits have a tremendous incentive to defer major maintenance until they are wrecks and walk away. What do they lose? They aren't making any money. What assets can the public funder go after? The non-profits have no net worth outside of the buildings. Some non-profits do the right thing, because they can privately fundraise, or have added market rate, or near market rate stuff ot their portfolio to subsidize their offerings like the apartment complex you and I have been discussing. But if you allow these buildings to lose their rent restriction, and grandfather in existing residence, so they don't get "rent shock" in year 15, the units will become the mid-range units you refer to. Leave the non-profit owners without skin in the game, and the public gets to foreclose on a dilapidated wreck in year 15 or 30, and the units are lost to the low-income and the middle-income alike.

Posted Wed, Jun 19, 1:38 p.m. Inappropriate

I can see from your various comments that you're nothing but a shyster real estate speculator. You care nothing for the city or its people or its neighborhoods or the quality of life. Everything is about the dollar for you. So tell us: are you an architect or are you an attorney? It must be one of the two, because only they have such a finely-tuned love for ugliness.

NotFan

Posted Thu, Jun 20, 10:02 a.m. Inappropriate

Not fan,

Yes, its about the dollar for those who want to come here. Can they afford it? Its about the dollar for those who work serving you and I our latte, care for our lawns, etc. Can they afford to live here? Does Seattle stay a culturally, socio-economically diverse place, or do only wealthy tech people, euntreprenuers, and the lawyers and CPA's that serve them get housing.

I have made my career working for non-profits that support poor people (none of the non-profits referenced in my comments). The Seattle Housing Levy is great, but Seattle Voters won't, and couldn't even if they wanted to, subsidize enough housing to keep it affordable to the income segments it is affordable to now.

Supply and Demand meet at a price point. Demand to come here, work here, and enjoy the quality of life that brought you and I here, has not abated and likely won't. If you don't increase the supply of dwelling units growing at rate that meets or beets that, prices will rise.

The answer is more, low-income housing, more top-end market rate, rental housing (e.g. Station at Othello), more in-fill development, of single-family homes, more townhouses and condos. Anything that advances supply will help contain cost. Specifically, anything that advances supply for all segments of the market contains cost for each segment of the market. Don't own a car and don't spend much time at home and want small, high-quality space, you should be able to find an apart(pod)ment. Have two kids (like me) and are constantly running to school, community service, soccer, recreation, and professional events, you ought to be able to find a single-family house with a larger lot. The key to affordability, no matter which segment you find yourself in, is a number of housing units, at a cost per square-foot that doesn't grow faster than household income growth rates, is having supply growth meet or exceed demand growth.

We can't put barriers in the way of that, unless we want to start policing the City Limits with a border fence to stop in-migration from other parts of the country.

Posted Thu, Jun 20, 6:52 p.m. Inappropriate

I think if accommodating new residents is going to be the top priority of the City government, it damn well ought to start charging impact fees like most of our neighboring jurisdictions do.

Growth doesn't pay for growth, those of us who are struggling to hold on here in the face of rising rents, restaurant costs (the cheaper locally-owned neighborhood joints I go to can't afford the rent in newer buildings - only chains can), and traffic congestion (because despite all of DCLU/DPD's promises to the contrary those new residents still do own, park, and drive those pesky cars), do.

But that being said, I don't necessarily oppose Apodments (though the current dishonest process by which they are counted and permitted definitely has to go).

Posted Fri, Jun 21, 9:19 a.m. Inappropriate

Bubble, You willing to pay your impact fees retro actively?

... and the answer to rising rents is more supply. That is true of commercial and residential real estate. On the tenant side, we had three years of falling residential rents, now its rebounding with a vengance.. About 2015, I think they will flatten or fall again, because so many new projects are in the pipeline.

There is no more land, so that means more density. It also means looking at the everything we do with permitting and regulation. What benefit does the regulation attempt to provide? What does it provide in practice? How much does it cost? What happens when you aggregate them? Are there unintended consequences? There aren't definitive "right" or "wrong" answers to those questions. The problem is we never ask them. We add to regulations and costs. We never repeal them. We never study what we have to tweak it to get what we intended. We are always chasing the latest, felt discontent.

Posted Fri, Jun 21, 11:42 a.m. Inappropriate

You ask some questions; here's a few for you--

Do you think there is any limit to growth? I.e., is there a limit to the carrying capacity of the ecosystem to provide for an ever increasing population? Globally and locally.

What population do you think Seattle should aim for in 2050? 2100? If all or most of the population of Houston or Phoenix wants to move due to climate change in 2045, do you think we could accommodate them without a serious diminishment of our quality of life? What is a sustainable level of energy, water, and other resource consumption per capita at those population levels? What is the relationship between population and quality of life?

Do you think about these questions with respect to Seattle's development, economics, politics, etc.?

louploup

Posted Sun, Jun 23, 11:57 p.m. Inappropriate

I think growth is INVEVITABLE. In some respects it is healthy. The looming collapse of Social Security and Medicare, starting in the next decade, is a result of the premise they were founded on, namely that each generation of workers would be larger than the one before it, no longer being true. It is even more true for Western Europe and Japan. The collapse of those systems will throw millions of seniors, who can't work again, into poverty, and countries like France and Sweden are realizing they can raise tax rates only to certain point, and then revenue actually falls as capital and employers go elsewhere.

I have read essays about how the shortage of tin, then a critical raw material, was going to cause economic collapses and social armagedon. The articles date from the 1800's.

Peak Oil? Never happened. There is a recent article from The Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/05/what-if-we-never-run-out-of-oil/309294/ that suggests we will never run out.

Shortage creates high prices. High prices makes R & D investments less speculative and easier to justify and attach a known, qunatifiable, return to. So we substitute one resource for another (aluminum and other metals for tin), find new ways to mine resources in ways that were previously uneconomical, etc. (there ia s group already investing in harvesting "rare earth" metals from asteroids as cell phones and other electronic devices consume the finite supply from previous asteroids that have struck the planet).

What causes the greatest mass migrations in modern econonomies? Economic crisis and mass unemployment.

We have alternatives to fossil fuels and all the carbon they spew. None of us is willing to choose the price premium, or at least not enough of us to make a difference, and the price of carbon is not yet high enough to spark the technological break-through that will allow us to capture enough of the sun's energy without having plants capture it and concentrate it in carbon deposits first. Even with that phenomena, US and European energy use is flattening or slightly declining on aggregate and per capita basis as we become more efficient. The problem is world-wide energy demand is likely to grow by 40% between now and 2050 as China, India, and Latin America raise hundreds of millions or billions out of poverty by developing their economies over the period. Who are we to stop them from aspiring to that which we have already obtained?

A steep carbon tax would help. But where on this planet is there the political will for that? I don't see direct, transparent (to the consumer) carbon taxes on a wide scale anywhere. Germany has done the best, but as their energy prices, and unemployment, rise, the political backlash is growing, and their energy taxes, to promote development of renewables, are indirect and modest. Their electricity grid is growing unstable and unreliable. See recent reporting in the Economist, among others, from accross the political spectrum, documenting this backlash.

So that addresses your broad question. The problem with carbon based energy is the negative externatlities of air-emissions, and of most concern, carbon that warms the planet. A relatively steep (and revenue neutral, and widely adopted internationally) carbon tax would do the most to curb consumption and advance alternatives; however, experience to date, shos that when you put a price to the end-use consumer on the carbon they emit, and environmental sentiment crumbles. More significantly, make the tax too high, and you get the very migration from Houston and Phoenix to Seattle, because there are no jobs, and that happens much more drastically and early, compared to what will result from temperature and sea rise.

People will come here, particularly if we are doing well relative to other areas. You won't stop that migration. It is legal.

We deploy tens of thousands of border agents and fences to stop immigration that is not legal. How well is that working? The Obama Administration has a record number of illegal aliens in custody. More than W. I am not blaming Obama, his administration is obliged to enforce existing law, I am just pointing out the futility of trying to stop it when it it illegal and we use force. How are you going to put a dent in migration from Houston or Phoenix that is legal?

So Seattle, by State Law, and in its own practical interest, if it wants to maintain its socio-economic diversity, has to prepare for it and allow itself to become more dense, with a broad variety of housing types (with the exception of single-family, which will become more like the row and townhouses of San Francisco which is 17 times more dense than Seattle). San Francisco has tons of parks and open space (although not nearly as much or as good as ours in my opinion) and is a very pleasant city. Paris, horrible? I think not.

You can rail against change and get run over by it, or recognize the inevitable and prepare for it. We need to adopt the latter, as those who were here when we got here, did in varying degrees. You are probably in in-migrant from somewhere else, and if you weren't, your parents were. We can't freeze Seattle at its current population and housing density per acre, anymore than the Denny Party could, any more than Emit Watson could, or the CAP crowd could in the 1980's. I'm not sure it would even be desirable.

More density is good for the environment. We used to have over half the U.S. Population in rural areas. Now we have 2/3 of the population living on 3% of the country's landmass. Those in cities produce 87% of the GDP. We have more land in forest today then in 1900. We have more land in agriculture. We produce more food on that land than we ever have. The more dense we make our immediate environment, the more open forrest we preserve to protect air quality, water quality, and natural landscapes.

Posted Mon, Jun 24, 11:06 a.m. Inappropriate

Interesting article in Atlantic, and appears to be mostly pretty accurate. Yes, methane clathrates. The problems with that as an energy supply, clear from the article: 1) it's not available at large scale very soon (decade(s)?); 2) unknown EROI; 3) not even close to carbon neutral; and 4) delays us from moving toward truly low carbon energy.

You avoided my ultimate question--what are the limits to growth? We live in a finite system (at least for the foreseeable non-Galactic Federation future), and assuming "world-wide energy demand is likely to grow by 40%" without considering the implications of what happens thereafter is very short sighted. Are you assuming that all 8 or 9 billion people (projection for a couple decades out) are somehow going to achieve the same quality of life that OECD countries have? Based on what energy supply and with what global impacts?

"More density is good for the environment" is only true if you assume the only alternatives are a lot of people spread all over, and a lot of people concentrated in urban areas. You are leaving out the third option; to gradually ramp down to half or less of current population. Otherwise, what resources are going to support an OECD quality of life on a sustainable basis for everyone? Check out "HANPP" (http://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/data/collection/hanpp; http://www.eoearth.org/article/Global_human_appropriation_of_net_primary_production_%28HANPP%29)

Anyway, from the perspective of Seattle, your statement that "You can rail against change and get run over by it, or recognize the inevitable and prepare for it" leaves out a third option: assume that growth is coming, and improve our governance so that all who are impacted have a say in how it is addressed.

Currently, we have more appearance of democracy than practice. The famous "Seattle process" appears to give a voice to the many, but really it's still the few with the money who make most of the decisions. Don't you think that's a problem? That was the drift of my Seattle specific questions, and you did not address them; shouldn't we all be engaged in a dialogue that improves how Seattle (and the region) respond to the obviously mounting stresses, including growth? Talking about global energy demand, supply, and economics does little for the quality of life here and now and in the near future.

louploup

Posted Mon, Jun 24, 1:19 p.m. Inappropriate

Louploup,

I did answer your ultimate question. There is no limit. We inovate and substitute to use different resources and use existing ones more efficiently. As I noted, even in the 1800's people were sounding the alarm over running out of resources. Everyone who has ever made the prediction that more population can't be supported (and there have been many, many, many, including Malthuese) has not been born out by events. It's not a good record. About the closest you come, are the local catastrophic collapses of localized cultures or nations documented by Jarod Diamond in Collapse.

The "zero population growth" organization and idea has been around since the 1960's, with critical and unsustainable population just around the corner, yet the predicted decade of cataclysm comes and goes, because like the oil field in CA, we just keep finding ways to get what we need from the resources available (which never really go away, I would expect that we will mine landfills in the future for Methane to burn, rare earth metals thrown away in electronics, come up with planting programs to harvest carbon from the atmospher and fix back in the soil, etc.).

Like all living things, we adapt.

... and what fees did you pay to those who came before you, to locate here, either directly as an impact fee, or indirectly through higher prices because of the zoning restrictions on supply? You got yours, now you want to stick it to the next guy/gal, which is self-serving since those supply restrictions make your real-estate more expensive than it otherwise would be.

... and I am not sure that you and I are that far apart on planning that manages and adapts the growth. But the City Neighborhood Council always want policies that mean single-family neighborhoods won't change, that the "vibe" and "feel" (see Norge comments above) surrounding the parcel they got is as much owned by them as the parcel they bought and won't change, and that new housing to meet current lifestyle choices won't happen. They advocate a for a regulatory scheme, that de-facto, seems to want to freeze their neighborhood, and the City as a whole, at the moment in time when they came here. That is not realistic and is not the third option you speak of. Nor is it equitable, since they don't want to re-troactively have those same costs and restrictions imposed on themselves. They didn't pay for their impacts when they arrived.

Posted Mon, Jun 24, 5:03 p.m. Inappropriate

Realpolitik -- You really are a piece of work. I originally moved to Seattle in 1957 at the age of four and have been fighting City Hall ever since -- trying to keep my neighborhood exactly as it was when I moved in. That's the view of most of the original settlers of Seattle have.

Norge

Posted Tue, Jun 25, 1:47 p.m. Inappropriate

"There is no limit [to growth]." You are denying the first law of thermodynamics. We can argue over where the spacial & temporal limits are (or what technology might do to extend those boundaries), but denying they exist is nonsense. There is not an empire in Earth's history that has not come to an end. You think the current version (global capitalism or whatever you want to label it) is an exception? You are wrong about the inaccuracy of all work on population and resource related projections. See http://www.esf.edu/efb/hall/2009-05Hall0327.pdf, http://www.csiro.au/files/files/plje.pdf ("A Comparison of the Limits to Growth with Thirty Years of Reality," Turner 2011), and the HANPP cites I already posted.

Why do you set up the CNC as the straw person in response to my pro democratic governance position? Whatever my opinion about the ultimate limits to growth (and of resource consumption), it is clear that Seattle is growing (booming!) and likely to continue to grow at least for a while. You're correct, "freeze[ing] their neighborhood, and the City as a whole, at the moment in time when they came here" is not my third option.

My desire is for a more democratic governance structure: people all over this town feel that their needs are not being addressed equitably (ignored in favor of the needs of other demographics, like those who can buy elections); people need to believe their voices actually have an influence on significant decisions about resource allocations affecting their communities.

People pay for the impacts of actions prior to their arrival in many ways: Higher property costs and taxes, poorer public services, degraded environment, etc. We all take the situation we find ourselves in. I'm not sure what your point is here.

louploup

Posted Tue, Jun 25, 4:14 a.m. Inappropriate

"Nor is it equitable, since they don't want to re-troactively have those same costs and restrictions imposed on themselves. They didn't pay for their impacts when they arrived"

To put it politely - horsefeathers. Current residents have been paying for Parks, Library, and other levies to pay for new growth since at least the mid-90's. We've been paying parking taxes to build an unnecessary trolley to raise Paul Allen's land values, and unlike just about every other local jurisdiction Seattle refuses to impose impact fees to make developers pay the freight for their infrastructure so current taxpayers get to. Fuck that.

The really great irony of this so-called "New Urbanist" mindset is that you've got a bunch of new residents who want to re-create this city in the image of wherever it is they came from (at least the Californian immigrants of the '80's knew that we had a good thing going up here and weren't as hell bent on screwing it up!).

If they get their way a shit-ton of residents (and there are a lot of us) who are tired of paying to save the suburbs from themselves will probably either choose to move there because realpolitik and his ilk are insufferable prats who are doing their best to make Seattle as insufferable as they are, or will be forced to move there after spending decades paying taxes to subsidize the gentrification of a city they can no longer afford.

Oh, and I moved here at 2 1/2 during the Boeing Bust - growth and its associated costs weren't exactly a problem then.

When I go to New York, Paris, Rome, San Francisco, and a host of other places it's precisely because they respect their history and don't change much. How dare they stay frozen it time - the nerve!

Posted Tue, Jun 25, 2:22 p.m. Inappropriate

I'm not familiar with Paris or Rome, but you are wrong about New York and San Francisco--they have not stopped changing. In fact, the dynamic in both places is similar to the one playing out here--neighborhoods fighting to have a say in huge changes that are (usually) foisted on them by "the powers that be." Just search for "fight over 'name of city' development" and you'll get dozens of hits for almost any big city you name.

louploup

Posted Tue, Jun 25, 11:23 p.m. Inappropriate

That's a reasonable point, but I'm pretty sure neither city has seen anywhere near the number of buildings demolished and replaced (and on a MUCH larger scale relative to the ones they are replacing) in recent years as Seattle has.

Granted, when I was last in New York I mostly hung out in the Village/Lower East Side and to some extent Hell's Kitchen - but those are still mighty big neighborhoods with the same historic buildings that have been there for a long time (and I also took the train to Coney Island, and went through a vast swath of Brooklyn without seeing a single new building).

Those cities also both still have rent control to help mitigate the impact of all of this new money on longtime residents (or at least some of them). New Urbanists just love that remaining vestige of New Deal era progressivism, needless to say.

Posted Wed, Jun 26, 7:28 a.m. Inappropriate

Recent development in San Francisco started around the Moscone Center (early 90's) and has continued primarily along Third from downtown (new marina area) on the east side of Potrero Hill nearing Hunter's Point. They have put in street car lines, new condos, apartments, etc. Other than that they have not started tearing down houses along Geary, the Richmond or the Sunset Districts, Balboa Station, the Marina District, North Beach, Glen Park, etc. and putting in 300 unit apartment houses. The bulk of SF remains as it has always been, single family homes that have been converted into flats.

Norge

Posted Wed, Jun 26, 9:39 a.m. Inappropriate

When you start with a city of 8,000,000 the percentage impact of (re)development is small even if the absolute amount is large. I don't have a strong sense of either absolute or relative speed of change, but Seattle is definitely booming compared to many if not most other U.S. cities. I am aware of a few land use fights over the past few years that do reflect the neighbors v developer/institution dynamic. See http://www.nytimes.com/1989/05/05/nyregion/board-of-estimate-approves-project-for-columbus-circle.html (a bit older); http://www.wikicu.com/Manhattanville_controversy (more recent); http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20130607/greenwich-village/village-leaders-vow-protect-new-playground-from-nyu-expansion (most recent).

Norge (and anyone else): I find http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/local/san_francisco.html to be a good narrative including recent land use fights in SF. http://www.beyondchron.org is a good source for news and opinion

louploup

Posted Tue, Jun 25, 4:14 a.m. Inappropriate

"Nor is it equitable, since they don't want to re-troactively have those same costs and restrictions imposed on themselves. They didn't pay for their impacts when they arrived"

To put it politely - horsefeathers. Current residents have been paying for Parks, Library, and other levies to pay for new growth since at least the mid-90's. We've been paying parking taxes to build an unnecessary trolley to raise Paul Allen's land values, and unlike just about every other local jurisdiction Seattle refuses to impose impact fees to make developers pay the freight for their infrastructure so current taxpayers get to. Fuck that.

The really great irony of this so-called "New Urbanist" mindset is that you've got a bunch of new residents who want to re-create this city in the image of wherever it is they came from (at least the Californian immigrants of the '80's knew that we had a good thing going up here and weren't as hell bent on screwing it up!).

If they get their way a shit-ton of residents (and there are a lot of us) who are tired of paying to save the suburbs from themselves will probably either choose to move there because realpolitik and his ilk are insufferable prats who are doing their best to make Seattle as insufferable as they are, or will be forced to move there after spending decades paying taxes to subsidize the gentrification of a city they can no longer afford.

Oh, and I moved here at 2 1/2 during the Boeing Bust - growth and its associated costs weren't exactly a problem then.

When I go to New York, Paris, Rome, San Francisco, and a host of other places it's precisely because they respect their history and don't change much. How dare they stay frozen it time - the nerve!

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