Impressions of a Zoning Meeting

Mount Baker Community Club (wikimedia)

As I hinted yesterday, I showed up to the Mt. Baker Community Club’s forum on the city’s revised North Rainier Neighborhood Plan. The crowd was mainly from the Mt. Baker neighborhood; my understanding that this not the actual station area or potential upzone, but instead an area dependent on its services and close enough to enjoy (or suffer) whatever impacts arise. There’s actually a pretty nice piece of real transit news that I’ll save for a follow-on post.

Till then, here are some impressions. If you want or read about the draft plan itself there’s a pretty good webpage. Obviously, I’m a partisan in this debate but here I’m trying to articulate the real causes of opposition so that we can resolve them. The truly core objections are, I believe, are (1) more residents, particularly if they create concentrations of poverty; and (2) traffic and parking changes that will make it harder to get around by car.

More detail below the jump.

  1. There was a lot skepticism, cynicism, and fear in the room, but I was actually surprised that the comments were pretty balanced between people that articulated a vision I would broadly agree with, and people that seemed more interested in stopping change.
  2. The pro-density words that came up were things like  more businesses, a better pedestrian environment, and more bicycle infrastructure. Indeed, the “walkable” aspect was broadly popular, although some feared it would cause loss of the neighborhood gas station or big-box store (!). I don’t think everyone connected the idea that a better pedestrian environment necessarily meant a less car-friendly one.
  3. There was a lot more hostility to new residents than new businesses, including office-type development that the plan envisions. New businesses are a new amenity for current residents, while new residents are perceived as bringing congestion and sometimes crime, with little consideration that they would also provide demand for new business and more “eyes on the street.”
  4. I’d say there were three basic opposition threads that were not process-oriented.  The least convincing one, in my view, was an aesthetic distaste for height. Aesthetic concerns are fine; there are beautiful buildings and neighborhoods I love quite apart from whatever broader impacts they have. But if the imperative for density is to trump anything it ought to be this.
  5. A commonly expressed fear was of low-income housing and what it would do to the safety of the neighborhood, especially since the Southeast already has gobs of subsidized housing. City Planner Lyle Bicknell only partially defused these fears by pointing out that there was no true section 8 project going in; indeed, the only provision for affordable housing was an incentive that authorized a 7th and 8th floor of development if 18% of the additional units were priced to be affordable to a family making 80% of the median income. There was great cynicism that the City had a secret agenda to dump more low-income housing in the Southeast, a spirit encouraged by less aggressive upzones in richer neighborhoods like Roosevelt.
  6. The other objection was to traffic. There’s some doubt about models that suggest that realigning traffic flow will actually improve things, but more fundamentally, there’s a fear that all those new residents will bring their cars and make driving and parking unbearable. It’s here that there’s a really fundamental disconnect between people who view cars as really the only reasonable way to get around, and those who view too much car use as part of the problem. Mr. Bicknell made a lot of good points about reducing car ownership and reducing trips, rather than trying to eliminate cars altogether, but it’ll take more to bridge the gap.

Although there were exceptions at all ages, I was also struck by the generation gap. For Americans of a certain age, urban density means decay and crime. For a younger cohort, it’s energy, hipness, and sustainability. It’s preconceptions like these that make differences difficult to bridge.

Comments

  1. GuyOnBeaconHill says

    Glad to see that redeveloping the Mt. Baker TC is a priority in the plan. The current facility is just a mess.

    • Matt L (aka Angry Transit Nerd) says

      Other “big box” chains are trying different formats too. I’m very interested to see what Seattle’s new urban Target will look like when it opens next year.

    • GuyOnBeaconHill says

      There’s a Home Depot in the middle of downtown Manhattan. I don’t imagine they sell a lot of radial arm saws at that location, but people always need hardware stores. The Rainier Valley Lowe’s is the closest and most convenient big box hardware store for most of Capitol Hill, the CD and southeast Seattle.
      The Lowe’s property could become much more than just a box and asphalt.

      • alex castro says

        Agreed. The location actually dips below the road. They could put some parking underground and go vertical; plenty of room to add other useful stuff. The parking lot is often half empty. But the store is critical to homeowners because there is nothing else nearby.

      • downintacoma says

        This (I think) is indicative of a bigger idea: what if those places we conventionally consider ‘big box’ stores – you know, Home Depot, Target, and the like – began shifting their business models to fit into this urban context? (I lived in London, where a supermarket is essentially hidden from street view – there’s the narrow street entrance, but then the store opens up once you get inside. No parking at all.)

        It’s a sign that people no longer want to get in their cars and drive 20 miles out into a suburb to find this stuff; more importantly, it’s a sign that those businesses are starting to realize it.

      • Matthew 'Anc' Johnson says

        Let’s see if this works….

        The Option of Urbanism: Investing in a New American Dream (Christopher B. Leinberger)
        – Highlight Loc. 1159-63 | Added on Monday, May 09, 2011, 02:59 PM

        There is the “bury-the-box” mixed-use product type, which puts a big-box retailer in the center of a block surrounded with “liner” buildings. These liner buildings have retail on the ground floor and office or housing on the upper floors. The big-box store, movie
        theater, or urban entertainment arena is inward facing, opening to the sidewalk only at its front door. As shown in figure 5.6, the pedestrian walking by will be able to window-shop at the ground-floor retail, but will be oblivious to the fact that fourteen screens are showing movies forty-five feet away, just beyond the restaurant or clothing store she is passing on the sidewalk. Bury-the-box mixed-use development is one of the most important of the new evolving standard product types.

        ==========

    • Mike Orr says

      At the Rosslyn metro station in Virginia, there’s a Costco tucked into the second floor of a building on the access path. It reminds me of Northgate North, which has several big box stores stacked on top of each other.

    • Martin H. Duke says

      I want to clarify that I’m not, in principle, opposed to big box stores, and indeed my family shops at them frequently. It’s just that it’s not the usual battle cry of the neighborhood activist.

    • Cascadian says

      Last time I was in Vancouver I also ended up in an urban big box store, though it wasn’t Home Depot. There’s nothing inherently anti-walkable or anti-transit about such stores, if you build them right. (I think there are still valid arguments about big-box stores driving smaller shops out of business and creating a more generic urban experience and economy with less creativity and vitality, but those concerns are separate from the land-use and transit implications.)

      • says

        There are a few of these on Halsted near Lincoln Park in Chicago. A Guitar Center and Home Depot share some space. Halsted isn’t a great pedestrian street in this area and the major transit is on the elevated lines a couple blocks west (Halsted bus is long and slow) but it’s a very intense bike street in every way.

    • Charles says

      There’s a Home Depot “mini” box store in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. The parking is the two top floors and roof of the building and seems similar to the Target/BestBuy location at Northgate here in Seattle. The Chicago store is fairly accessible to transit and of course it’s in the middle of a reasonably dense and upscale neighborhood so a fair amount of traffic arrives on foot.

      • says

        Jinx!

        Probably the most striking things about entering a Home Depot are the ceiling height and the very strong hardware-store odor. These elements are quite toned-down in this Home Depot. Of course, a Home Depot (and to a lesser degree the nearby Guitar Center) stock lots of items that are hard to carry long distances on foot/transit — I recall carrying two booms, a recording console, and a couple new microphones home on the L, which was pretty tricky.

        There’s also a Home Depot south of Roosevelt and east of the Dan Ryan. It’s more of a typical free-standing big box, but the parking isn’t out in front of the store so the storefront is right on the street. There are lots of superblocks in that area and lots of exposed parking lots. The whole area is stuck in a no-man’s land of density and development, dense enough that traffic is a snarl almost all the time, not dense enough for walking to predominate, developed so that density and pedestrian use can’t grow organically, located where density and non-auto demand won’t fall (barring the total abandonment of Chicago).

  2. Transit Voter says

    Re the subject of this meeting, was this an official DPD plan, or the work done by university students around the country (who didn’t visit the site)? The latter was in the news recently.

  3. Anon says

    At the meeting the audience asked for relevant examples and Lyle Bickell mentioned Renton Crossing near downtown Renton. The audience pointed out the high vacancy rates for the renton development. The city plans ignore the repeated request for quality paying jobs to relocate employers to North Rainier, which if courted could create demand for people that want to live near work.

      • says

        I think the idea (near as I can tell with the dense grammar) is that moving quality paying jobs would better justify allowing bigger heights.

      • Bruce says

        Ah, I see. Although the Mayor’s office is probably the place to be lobbying to encourage them to hunt for good employers for that spot, rather than DPD staff.

    • Patrick N says

      “demand for people that want to live near work.” It’s ten minutes by light rail/7 to downtown Seattle, the largest employment center in the state.

      I’m also not sure how opposing the plan will create “quality paying jobs”. The parcels to be rezoned are almost exclusively retail or parking lots. I’m not sure how the status quo addresses what they see as the problem when compared to replacing some of that with more retail and housing above.

    • FreshEgg says

      Have a heart for Lyle Bickell (the Planner). Last night was an ambush, plain and simple. I recall the Renton Crossing example was another leading question coming out of a ginned up and hostile audience. The better example mentioned last night is South Lake Union where Up-Zoning has IN FACT created a hub of very, very good paying jobs. (Note that even if the present reality is successful it could have been even better, more open, more green, more public if not for the NIMBYs cutting off their own noses…) Specifically, Renton Landing fails because it lacks density and remains fundamentally auto-oriented. The residential units are clearly an afterthought and the very buildings themselves are compromised by bases devoted to parking. IMHO its a poor example of a none-too-convincing development idea called the Lifestyle Center.

      • Bernie says

        The better example mentioned last night is South Lake Union where Up-Zoning has IN FACT created a hub of very, very good paying jobs.

        IN FACT South Lake Union Up-Zoning created zero jobs other than the construction jobs to create new buildings that replaced the space previously occupied at the PacMed Building. At best it’s a shuffle that benefits Paul Allen paid for by tax payers. The reality is the historic, iconic and beautiful PacMed building may go into default.

      • Zed says

        Speaking of ambushes…

        He didn’t say the upzone created jobs, he said it created a hub of jobs.

        Only a small portion of Amazon’s offices are in the Pac Med building, the rest are scattered around the city, many in Paul Allen’s developments near the ID and in the Columbia Center. Their new campus in SLU is nearly ten times as large as the space they occupy in the Pac Med building, and even that’s not large enough for their growing workforce, as they’ve had to lease additional space in the Denny Triangle. Those jobs could have gone to any office park in the region, the SLU development plan helped keep them in Seattle and helps create ancillary jobs in all of the new businesses that have sprung up in SLU hoping to cater to all of the new office workers in the neighborhood.

      • Bruce says

        Right. NO construction projects create permanent jobs by themselves. Rather they encourage other jobs and people to move there, and judging by the amount of construction in the pipeline for Belltown and Capitol Hill — all while the suburban housing market is circling the drain — I suspect they’re onto something.

      • Bruce says

        What kind of obtuse question is that? It will presumably be leased to new tenants.

        If the people who managed this building managed to go bust because one big tenant moved out, that’s their stupid fault.

      • Zed says

        Wright Runstad has a 99-year lease of the Pac Med building, I guess it’s up to them to find a new tenant or lose a lot of money. The bottom two floors are still a Pac Med clinic.

      • Bernie says

        I didn’t know that. Know nothing about the Runstad family but a bit about the Wright soap opera.

      • Mike Orr says

        Renton Crossing is the complex near the transit center? One of its problems is that it’s competing with similar places near Link stations. If you want to live in TOD, wouldn’t you rather live in a place that has a train every ten minutes and is not subject to traffic congestion?

  4. Cascadian says

    “There was great cynicism that the City had a secret agenda to dump more low-income housing in the Southeast, a spirit encouraged by less aggressive upzones in richer neighborhoods like Roosevelt.”

    That’s not a bad point. Why shouldn’t Roosevelt take on the same amount of density?

    A different process could help here by setting citywide goals for upzoning across all neighborhoods, with neighborhoods allowed to trade new development projects either voluntarily or based on some tradeoff (lower property tax rates or cheaper permitting fees, or something.) Really you could do it like a development cap and trade, but with a minimum instead of a maximum. Any neighborhood could accept less development than the cap but only if it paid for the privilege in some way.

    I guess setting up a system that wouldn’t make things overly complicated for developers and blunt overall development would be the problem. I’m curious if anything like this has been attempted before.

  5. Bill says

    I was at the meeting last night and it was a pretty good mix of people. We began the meeting by focusing on what we wanted our neighborhood to look like in 20-30 years. Many people agreed on the need for a pedestrian friendly environment with good businesses, access to the light rail, nice architecture, more dense housing and office space. A few people were very anti-density and some were very pro-density but many hadn’t made up their minds yet and simply wanted more information about the project.

    One woman, who claimed that she was otherwise on board with the project, said that she had some questions about how the new one way traffic couplet might affect traffic in the neighborhood. This sparked a long debate and discussion. Currently 38,000 cars pass through Mt. Baker each day from South Seattle or downtown. The streets currently function like a highway with traffic lights, which is one of the reasons why businesses in the community have had trouble drawing customers. Although many of the people in the neighborhood (including me) and in the new apartments will (hopefully) use the train or buses as their main form of transportation, thousands of people, including most people who live over a mile away from the transit hub, will continue to drive through our community with no intention of stopping on their way to downtown. She wanted reassurances from the city that they have considered the transportation issue and found a way to properly steer the traffic through the area without diverting too many cars onto
    residential side streets or creating unsafe conditions for bicyclists or pedestrians. We decided to schedule a follow up meeting on the transportation issue with members from the city, Metro and Sound Transit.

    I thought most of the people at the meeting were excited about the new investment and urban development possibilities, especially since current residential areas would not change substantially under the new plan. The transportation issue seemed to be a bigger issue at this meeting than density.

  6. FreshEgg says

    Bill: You are absolutely right that the pragmatic issue of mitigating traffic impacts is a relevant priority that needs to be addressed in detail.

    That said, you are much more charitable than I am as I detected a venomous undercurrent that we have seen before in the Rainier Valley. The same straw men issues, leading questions and untruths were raised again and again. For context see: http://crosscut.com/2008/10/15/neighborhoods-communities/18502/NIMBYs-of-the-fighting-Southeast!/

    What really made me sad was the lack of vision and cynicism at last night’s meeting. In my mind, we are about to shoot ourselves in foot again, driven by small-think, an irrational hostility to non-profits, density and light rail. Imagine for a second, if the words NO and BAD were abolished for the length of the meeting and all statements were aspirational. MBCC chair, Lee Stanton was heroic last night in trying to maintain fairness and civility in what I saw was basically an ambush.

    Anyway, back to the vision thing with ED mode on (and why Density is worth fighting for):

    (1) Common Sense: How is anything, anything that is proposed worse than what is already there at MLK and Rainier. It currently doesn’t even work very well for cars. God help the pedestrian.

    (2) Fiscal Sense: Whether you like it or not the light rail network is in place and that investment needs to be leveraged by appropriately dense mixed-use development over the coming decades. I recently attended a lecture where a RE professor from Utah theorized that the astounding RE values in Vancouver, BC might be partly attributed to high transit ridership. What you don’t spend on your car each month, you can spend on real estate. At the same time, Seattle has experienced a decline in value of approx. 20%. Vast swaths of ex-urban car-based development are currently abandoned in the US right now. The associated investment in infrastructure has been, of course, pissed away.

    (3) Global Competition: In this post-industrial age cities are obligated to compete for human capital by “soft” factors like culture, life-style and economic opportunity. By job and family connections, I have fortunately experienced both the cities of Singapore and Vancouver, BC. Observe that both these cities are having Seattle for lunch, right now. Both are characterized by extensive transit networks, visionary planning and Density and the weather sucks in Singapore! The Mt. Baker Hub, as part of a larger vision for Seattle, represents an equal opportunity.

    (4) Reality: While the Mt. Baker Plan is a visionary document, the one real proposed development is the Artist Live-Work development sponsored by ArtSpace for the Firestone site. This was derided, last night, as more affordable housing in the valley but this attitude completely fails to see the potential in such non-profit developments acting as a catalyst in changing neighborhoods. If you want, collections of artist are like life-style R&D units which have repeatedly sparked broad economic revivals in depressed neighborhoods. Based on the track record of such developments, you can bet on it. Closer to home, visit the Tashiro-Kaplan building near Pioneer Square on First Thursday and get a taste of the energy.

    Lastly, I have been informally following the development of this plan for over 2 years. A lot of hard work has gone into it and it represents the collective vision and hopes of lot of SE residents. I am personally very happy to see the planners doing exactly what they are supposed to do: convey a collective vision that guides and benefits the future of Seattle. The Plan does not deserve to be crapped on in the perfunctory manner I witnessed last night.

  7. June Starrett says

    FreshEgg, the purpose of the DPD outreach is to get *input* from the Community. 90% of the residents at the meeting (including me) had heard of the plan details only in the past week. I attended several meetings last year, and the plan has morphed substantially since then.

    The first issue is that the City made the mistake of, I think intentionally, trying to keep the outreach to those already in the choir that it was preaching to. I live on 31st Ave and get notices/postcards translated into 23 languages from the City and Light Rail and Metro each time they plan a tree or dig a ditch (okay, slight exaggeration but you get the point). I read the Mt Baker View carefully whenever it comes as I enjoy the aticles. I attend whatever meanings I can.

    I am not a super involved zealot, but I do care about my neighborhood and am somewhat active. It seemed like an ambush because the City tried to push through changes that significantly affect our neighborhood in a stealth mode, and that got people’s hackles up. Especially when we saw the names and affiliations of the community members that were thanked and acknowledged on the last page of the Plan for their input – 9 out of 12 are architects or employees of low income housing developers (SEED, Capitol Hill Housing, Homesight, etc).

    I did not speak to one signle person who wanted to “crap” on the plan as you put it. People at the meeting that I attended, even those that were clearly riled, all supported an upzone of some sort as well as were welcoming of development at the Mt Baker Station.

    I did not hear one single anti-density point of view. Or one “this will reduce property values” perspective either. It was very clear to me what the people in the room — old and young, black and white, different ends of the economic spectrum — were crying out for, even if they were one or two rancorous people who seemed there to vent about past injustices.

    We want a good, vibrant, nice development, just like every other neighborhood in Seattle has. We do not want gentrification but at the same time we don’t want to remain under the heavy thumb of the City and its social engineering plans. Mt Baker has always and will always be very diverse — in the true sense of the world. Mt Baker residents welcomed the Mt Baker Housing project on 29th and it is well-integrated into our neighborhood.

    My husband and I have one car and 3 bikes. We would love to walk/bike to nearby amenities, but are forced to drive the Trader Joe’s on Capitol Hill; try hauling groceries up the hill on a bike on your typically rainy, dark Seattle evening. We have to drive whenever we need to run an errand because we simply don’t have the amenities here. A John Douglas restaurant? Dream on, baby. The biggest day in my life so far (as a Mt Baker resident) was the day that ROSS opened and I had an additional neighborhood shopping spot for my kids supplies besides Goodwill…

    • Martin H. Duke says

      June,

      Thanks for a thoughtful reply.

      The community at STB is, broadly speaking, pro-density. I think you’d get a variety of opinions as to how much of the housing should be low-income that reflects the variety of opinion in the city.

      I’ll grant that a large volume of low-income units would be a negative impact on the neighborhood. But if opposition is not “anti-density”, what’s the substantive objection to market-rate 125′ height limits? More residents means more potential customers to support local businesses, more eyes on the street, more people with good transit options, and fewer housing units built on the periphery. What’s not to like?

    • FreshEgg says

      Thanks for your level-headed comment, June. Your “adult” take on things is sorely needed in this discussion.

      I also live on 31ST Ave and I’m sincerely baffled that you only heard of the North Rainier Neighborhood / Mt. Baker plan this week. There have been a bunch mailings and events related to the new Mt. Baker Plan over the last couple of years. I really don’t think the charge that The City is operating in stealth mode is fair. The Mt. Baker Community Club has also been busting butt to get information out as best they can while putting the pieces of the club back together. Both processes are imperfect.

      Neither am I a “zealot”, tending more toward the alienated-dude spectrum of things. I force myself out to get involved with the community mostly because I now have 2 children entrenched in the neighborhood – they walk (proudly unattended) to John Muir Elementary everyday.

      A few years ago, when out of simple curiosity, I attended a few MBCC meetings, I was completely shocked by the state of neighborhood representation; that the SE had previously fractured; that the dialogue around development in The Valley was dominated by personalities with old agendas, inaccurate info and fear-mongering tactics. See a revival of that here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/SaveOurValley/126695554073896. Bottom Line, Fear-driven decision making offends me deeply, especially if it threatens what I see is the best hope of fixing that mess at Rainier and MLK. So please forgive the aggressive tone of my post as I am in fight-fire-with-fire mode. I feel that I need to make clear that these folks DO NOT speak for me as a Mt Baker resident.

      June, I urge you to think more about two memes extant in your post:

      (1) The City is operating in stealth mode and forcing this plan on the Mt. Baker community with a heavy thumb: The notification procedures are dictated by City Bylaws. As far as I can see The City went beyond that with multiple weekend community workshops, after-hours presentations at MBCC, etc. Again, this process is imperfect. Who would benefit anyway? To me it looks like an equal opportunity win or lose scenario for all parties concerned. It looks fair to me.

      (2) Non-Profits are taking over the Valley: You mentioned Mt Baker Housing as a good example of affordable housing in the neighborhood. I totally agree but could you imagine the fire storm if someone tried to get the same project approved right now?
      Again, I see a big problem that needs a fix at Rainier & MLK. I believe that non-profits can and will play a leading role in this change. Columbia City would not have happened without the catalyst provided by non-profits.

  8. Mike Orr says

    The issue of “Why aren’t other neighborhoods getting the same zoning as Mt Baker?” is a good one. It shows how being overly short in one neighborhood (Roosvelt, Beacon) has ramifications for other neighborhoods. On the other hand, the city is trying to make a distinction between “urban villages” and “urban centers”, if those are the right terms. Othello and Beacon Hill are urban centers and are expected to take more housing and neighborhood retail, but Mt Baker and Northgate are urban villages and are expected to be larger, taller, and to be bigger employment centers. I don’t know about Roosevelt; it seems to me it already has larger commercial buildings than you’d expect in an urban center.

    So that’s what’s behind the 125′ limit in North Rainier. You can argue that it’s not an appropriate place for an urban village, but I’d say it’s the best place in southeast Seattle for it. (Other possibilities include on Rainier between Jackson and I-90.)

    • Sotosoroto says

      Roosevelt, Beacon Hill, Columbia City, Othello, and Rainier Beach are “Residential Urban Villages,” which would be a smaller scale than the “Hub Urban Village” of North Rainier (Mt Baker), the “Urban Center Villages” of Capitol Hill, U District and Belltown, or the “Urban Centers” of Northgate and South Lake Union.

      Definitely not one-size-fits-all!

  9. June Starrett says

    @Martin,

    I completely agree with you and would be excited about the Urban Center (and would be okay going even higher than 125 ft) if I had confidence of the reality of that development. Like I said, since I’ve been in Mt Baker (over a decade), we have had many experiences with projects that got the neighborhood excited, only to end up with more low income housing.

    Martin, I appreciate your opinions and attempts at even-handed presentation of the facts. I’d like your thoughts on whether it’s irrational for residents to be a little suspicious after 40 years of nothing but low income housing in the Valley.

    This current project sounds very similar to the Goodwill/Target project that was torn down by some of the same people promoting this plan. It had a small Target, 20% subsidized housing (at the insitence of the City and the non-profits that mobilized in the way the community has this time). It had offices and training centers for Goodwill.

    That plan was ultimately abandoned after almost 10 yrs, the developer could not contnue his Quixotic crusade against the City and nonprofits that had lined up to oppose the project because it wasn’t THEM building the low income housing. Shortly after the project was abandoned, we heared that HomeSight was to acquire the project and scrap the offices, retail and other aspects of the original plan, and build600-800 units of you-guessed-it!

    @FreshEgg,

    With all due respect, you and I will have to agree to disagree as we clearly have a fundamental difference in philosophy for our neighborhood — and I think that is the nub of the divide. This is what the passion on Thursday was about, not about pro- or anti-density.

    “We have a problem at MLK and Rainier and nonprofits can and should play a leading role in solving these problems.” Where else in the City can a statement like that be made with a straight face? Good God, it’s time for me to go now. I really find that I have nothing to say to that kind of mindset, I have lived in socialist countries and never even heard that kind of talk or thinking anywhere else. Ridiculist.

    • Brent says

      As a former Rainer Valley resident who is looking at moving back there, I just have to express my wish that people like me be welcome in the valley.

      And in order for that to happen, that means more housing (hopefully by the private market) has to get built. And if not around rail stations, then where? But if it isn’t around a rail station, then, frankly, I won’t be moving back to the valley.

      I won’t be taking away your jobs, since I already have one elsewhere. But I do visit your restaurants frequently, I shop at your grocery store (the QFC) since my neighborhood has none (and what’s with this story that there are no good grocery stores around Mt Baker? — Trader Joe’s is smaller, but yeah pricier — and they aren’t even union, last I checked), and I even stop by Borracini’s once in a while.

      Well, if I am not welcome, and you consider the rail line as crapping on southeast Seattle, I guess I’ll take my business elsewhere. I can find other bus trips to amenities from my neighborhood to a neighborhood where I am welcome.

      Mt Baker already has lots of amenities of which I am jealous.

  10. Melissa says

    For the people who are concerned about low income people somehow being drawn to the area by non-profits (if they build it, poor people will come), here are some facts (sourced from http://www.city-data.com/neighborhood/Rainier-Valley-Seattle-WA.html):

    Median income in Mt. Baker is 30% higher that in the two surrounding areas. Overall, Rainier Valley (even North Rainier) has a high percentage of households that qualify for housing, food, and other benefits. Rainier Valley already has twice the rate of households led by single mothers. I could go on, but you can read the demographic information yourself, and/or find other sources.

    There are nonprofits in SE Seattle serving low income people because THERE ARE LOW INCOME PEOPLE IN SE SEATTLE. Agencies are here because they want to help residents. Your neighbors are poor. Many of your neighbors are homeless or under-housed. We all need transit and functional traffic patterns. We all need safe, affordable, accessible places to shop. All families need schools/early learning centers, all community members need public spaces and social activities.

    Our low income neighbors also need housing, and jobs, and services. The nonprofits who are hoping to develop affordable housing in our neighborhood deserve our support, not our suspicion.

    Concerns about traffic and business district vitality are valid and community input is crucial to a successful Neighborhood Plan–if only to reduce the chances of costly delays to implementation.

    However, please be clear that building affordable housing does not generate poor people. Please don’t pretend that you don’t think there are any poor people here. And please realize that when you say “poverty = crime” while arguing against the agencies that give people hope and options besides crime (housing, job training, mental health services) you are both perpetuating an ugly stereotype AND working to make it true.

    • Merle says

      I appreciate the red herring. No where in my comment have I alluded to crime, you brought that up yourself. Nor am I against LIH, if it’s part of a mix (as the Goodwill Project did – 20%).

      I don’t believe we can have a vibrant Urban Village with smart retail and economic development, if the emphasis of the project is focused on subsidized housing. The first project approved for the Urban Village so far is ArtSpace, which consists of 51 units of subsidized housing. No one has opposed that, as far as I know. I feel the rest of the project should focus, to every extent possible, on trying to draw an employer with good jobs as well as quality retail (not necessarily high end, but a bit above what we currently have).

      Most people agree that concentratiing LIH housing in one part of town is not a good idea from a planning process. They’ve tried that in the East coast and ended up tearing down Cabrini Green and other similar projects, and moving to a different approach. Your link and statistics prove the point. In 10 years, everyone will be wondering why there has been a middle class flight from the Valley. Those of us who want to try to stay here want to make sure that doesn’t happen — most people move to the Southend because they value diversity.

      I read somewhere that SE schools have 72% of kids that qualify for free lunch. Do you think the schools will improve if those numbers go up to 95%? Do you think people that are already here would benefit more from a marquee employer moving to the area and creating jobs and spin-off jobs in retail, etc.? Or from more LIH? How many jobs are the non-profits creating and who do those jobs go to — the poor minorities that they are “helping” or middle class white people who spend their entire careers in the business of poverty?

      I think that creating jobs will help and having affordable housing as part of the mix is a good idea. But not having it be solely LIH, or it would not be an Urban Village. I’m not opposed to non-profits, there are some good ones doing great things, and there are some that seem to exist solely for their own self-perpetuation. Either way, I do not agree that they should be the driver for all solutions in just one part of town. They definitely have a role to play and should have a seat at bthe table, but I don’t believe they should be the sole or primary drivers of decisions that will affect all of our neighborhoods for decades to come.

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