Whenever we argue about height limits there is faction of genuine urbanists who argue that height isn’t necessary for density. The latest incarnation is commenter “was carless“:
Some of the densest cities on Earth – Tokyo, Manila, and Barcelona – are well known for their lowrise nature of their built environment. Most buildings are in the 2-3 story range, but the blocks are fully built out, with little land used for personal backyards, car storage, or other such non-dwelling uses.
Similarly, last year Andrew made the correct point that height is not the same thing as density.
These observations are absolutely true, and yet totally irrelevant to the question at hand. I think density is important and support any legislation that increases it over the status quo. And indeed, if would be great if Seattle proposed legislation that replicated Paris (lowrise, but no parking or setbacks, and building right up to the sidewalk of a one car-width side street). I’d wonder if such a prescriptive code would end up simply stifling development, but if successful it would be a dramatic improvement on the current situation.
But that’s not the choice at hand. In every zoning battle that comes before the council, it always seems to come down to height. For any given code, it’s clear that more height will produce more density as long as Floor Area Ratio isn’t held constant. Meanwhile, it’s clear that the status quo isn’t going to get us Paris.
On this issue, I’m not interested in hearing from those who think that Seattle’s current population level is just fine. I’d like to hear from those who want to achieve density but think we can do it, in practice, at six stories.