Can we save Seattle?

Real cities don't fear single-family housing
Real cities don't fear single-family housing

Is the end of the print Seattle Post-Intelligencer a symbol of inevitable technological progress; a metaphor for the "new urbanist" kind of city? Or does it warn of the loss of our quality of life and of true diversity? I fear the latter. Here'ꀙs why and a suggestion on how we can save Seattle from its misguided Manhattan-like ambition.

A healthily diverse city and a high quality of life mean that shares of classes, races, lifestyles, educational levels, owners and renters, families with and without children and non-family households resemble the profile of the larger metropolis — and that city policies reflect the actual needs and preferences of citizens rather than berate them for their choices.

The best way to do this is to make preservation of neighborhoods and the existing single-family zoned housing an overriding priority and a criterion by which citizens may evaluate prospective mayoral and Seattle City Council candidates.

This does not preclude Seattle'ꀙs population from growing by another one-third to 800,000. Existing zoning upgrades already can accommodate 150,000 more in apartments and townhouses, urban centers, urban villages, around transit stations, and along major arterials. And, as has long since occurred in higher-density cities (but which still have higher family shares) like Miami, Los Angeles, and Brooklyn and Queens boroughs, the single-family housing stock can absorb significant numbers in shared housing. It can also preserve the private space that families want and deserve, and help save the Seattle schools. The vast amount of construction has failed to raise population, because much smaller non-family households have so displaced the families, often less affluent, to the suburbs.

Yes, we can save the city.


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About the Authors & Contributors

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Dick Morrill

Dick Morrill is emeritus professor of geography at the University of Washington and an expert in urban demography.