Vacant Roosevelt: What

A recent and rich study, by Needham Hurst “How Does Light Rail Transit Affect Urban Land Use?” takes a close look at how land use changed around light rail stations in Minneapolis over the last decade. The study confirms the obvious: light rail transforms land use patterns, promoting the development of vacant and underutilized land. Light rail stations also boost demand for housing and commercial space and contribute to an overall transformation of the built environment.

Tonight the Seattle City Council will consider land use changes in the Roosevelt neighborhood, where a new Link Light Rail station is planned. What’s at stake in Roosevelt is the future of light rail in Seattle. Until now, the course of land use decisions in station areas has trended toward conservative and incremental change when there has been change at all.

Hurst’s work confirms many of the suspicions of “density freaks” that see the opportunity to channel growth into a tight circle around transit stations, especially areas with vacant land like Roosevelt:

Vacant land experienced the highest magnitude and radius of LRT’s effect. Vacant land was the first type of property to be converted to denser uses—indicating the Hiawatha Line increased the marginal accessibility of properties enough to generate higher housing demand, high prices, and which in turn incentivized development on vacant properties.

In Roosevelt there is a panhandle of vacant and derelict land that extends from the station area entrance for a few blocks east, paralleling the high school and 65th. Neighbors justifiably upset with the owner of the panhandle are bitterly opposed to his realizing a profit from turning those properties into mixed-use development. More after the jump.

Hurst’s study points out that a light rail station is going to drive demand for developed property enough that previously vacant or derelict property, like the properties being discussed in Roosevelt, is going to be far more profitable built out than vacant.

Hurst found that high prices created by scarce housing “incentivized development on vacant properties.” Why is that? Basic economics has the answer, when housing is scarce price goes up, when price goes up so does profitability. When profits are high more people want to build. When building happens supply keeps up or exceeds demand. When demand exceeds supply prices go down. Simply put, more housing can lead to lower prices.

And the problem with the discussion about Roosevelt is that nobody is talking about the basic and proven idea that people want to live next to transit stations. Growth around transit means good things for existing property owners (yes, even single family property owners) and for ridership. And the sure way to prevent development from being to pricey is to allow more of it. This is how it works.

But instead of opening the floodgates to growth around light rail stations, Seattle’s discussion continues to center on the height of buildings on a few lots in Roosevelt and the angst generated by possibly putting a few extra dollars in somebody’s pocket. Instead of excitedly planning a big upsurge in density and growth in the neighborhood, we’re arguing, literally, over 20 feet of additional height.

Light rail can transform our city, making it more sustainable with job creating density. But we just have to get out of the way. What we need isn’t a comprehensive study of the real estate market, but a fundamental change in attitude. Growth is good. Density does good all by itself.

One more quote from Hurst’s study:

[Light Rail Transit] does have a strong effect on vacant properties and encourages urban infill. Area with mixed-use land use patterns, higher population density, lower-income residents and older structures experienced the most land use change because of LRT. Proximity to the central business district also had a strong effect on probability of change. Complementary policies like rezoning had a small but significant positive effect on land use change, although the political economy of rezonings and neighborhood opposition needs to be studied further.

The big research question now is not “what is the right thing to do?” with density around light rail stations, but “why aren’t we doing it?”

42 Replies to “Roosevelt rezones up for discussion tonight”

  1. Higher and better uses of land, especially vacant lots, generates more local tax revenue for things like parks and community centers. I recall a lot of people get very angry this year over the forced closure of community centers due to a drop in revenue.

    1. Truth. More density means more revenue, more revenue means hopefully less library closures and other things.

  2. Hurst’s study seems to conclude that vacant properties near light rail stations will be the first to undergo land use changes. That isn’t really surprising considering that they are likely the cheapest and easiest properties to acquire and build on. It’s much harder to predict the long term land use changes that will evolve over generations, but it was interesting to read this citation in the study “Recent estimates suggest that one new highway passing through the central city reduced that city’s population by 18% between 1950 and 1990 (Baum-Snow 2007)”.

    Hopefully, a future generation will find that one light rail line passing through a central city will increase the city’s population by a significant proportion.

    Is the discussion of Roosevelt zoning really so dominated by a desire to piss on Sisley? I hope not. I’ve noticed over the years that too many of the decisions in Seattle are driven by people’s attitudes towards Paul Allen. Let’s hope that people in the Roosevelt neighborhood aren’t willing to shoot themselves in the foot rather than put a few nickels in some slumlord’s pocket.

    1. From the comments I remember reading about this topic a few months ago, it really is about Sisley for a lot of people. It’s really sad that a) this one guy is ruining it for the rest of us and that b) we’re ALLOWING him to ruin it for the rest of us. The fact is that whether we set the limit at 45 feet or 200 feet, the guy is going to make a profit. Are we really willing to forgo all of the benefits of greater density simply to deny this guy a return on his personal investment (which, by the way, is a very small proportion of the area that will be affected by light rail development)? For a lot of people, unfortunately, it seems like the answer is yes.

    2. And I completely agree on the point about Paul Allen. People in general seem too willing to pass up genuine opportunities for the city because of their personal feelings about the people who stand to benefit most from the deals, even if everyone else benefits too.

      1. There is some genuine concern about Allen’s real commitment to TOD and whether he diverted investment and development from more deserving places. (Denny Triangle is still a valley between Belltown and SLU.)

      2. Morgan, he is a businessman! He is under no obligation to do “the right thing” with TOD. It is the city’s job to use its powers over zoning and land use to give people like Paul Allen the right incentives. It is pointless to vilify him for being rational. Denny Triangle is not going to develop unless the city focuses time and money on it, and so far it has chosen to focus on SLU instead. Allen has little to do with it.

      1. The question is whether the people mover helped stop some population decline. There’s no reason to expect a 4.7 mile line to save a whole city.

      2. Detroit is a unique case, because the entire economy and most of jobs were focused on the auto industry, which mostly is made up of factory complexes far from the city itself. There has never been much reason for autoworkers to live in Detroit or for major employers to locate there. They built the peoplemover in an attempt to make the city more attractive, but it didn’t work. Why would people ride it if it doesn’t go anywhere they want to go? Seattle’s light rail would not be successful if Seattle did not have a relatively strong local economy. Luckily Seattle does have lots of jobs and institutions in the city, so in this case light rail will draw more people to the city.

      3. Bailouts,

        So the city leaders of Detroit were idiots. BFD. It has nothing to do with the proven willingness of north Seattle residents to ride public transit. Public transit which is going to be enormously improved by North Link.

        This is a “build it and they will come” project. East and South may not be, but North Link is a winner.

  3. Have they considered a a TDR/TDP program such as the one they are exploring up in the Pike/Pine neighborhood? I know the neighborhood isn’t exactly full of historic properties but certainly there are some “character buildings”. I think a system like this can help calm resident worries about canyons and a wholesale displacement of the existing urban fabric. It also indirectly punishes Sisley for ruining his properties in the first place. In the future it could also be incorporated into a wider city TDR preservation program for similar neighborhood cores.

    1. TDR could be utilized to capture the unused development capacity over the light rail station. That capacity could be sold to one or more developers within a defined station radius, but usable only in the highest density zones.

    2. There are very few buildings with any character around there. Most of the Roosevelt commercial area is pretty run down. There’s certainly some character in the businesses themselves, but not in the buildings. It’s like with the Capitol Hill station–people mostly miss the businesses, but the buildings were nothing special (except maybe the Vivace one, that was kind of cool).

  4. “Neighbors justifiably upset with the owner of the panhandle are bitterly opposed to his realizing a profit from turning those properties into mixed-use development.” What’s the backstory here?

    1. He’s essentially a slum lord who lets his houses completely decay while renting them out to (seemingly) dozens of people. A few of the properties got so bad that the City made him board them up, and the City has made him knock down a few od those abandoned ones. But that means that a couple blocks right in the center of the Roosevelt neighborhood look bombed-out, while the few blocks surrounding those are filled with houses in terrible condition. So the neighborhood definitely has reason to be angry at him, but that anger shouldn’t get in the way of making the neighborhoof as good as it can be.

  5. “When demand exceeds supply prices go down. Simply put, more housing can lead to lower prices.”

    I think you meant to say when supply exceeds demand prices go down. Right?

    1. Whatever he meant, it’s not as if Seattle were an island like Manhattan…there is plenty of room in Washington State to spread out.

      In fact, the fastest (and only) growing region around here is south of Olympia.

      I’d put more money on an expanding Centralia than I would an expanding Roosevelt Avenue over the next 10 years.

      1. Bailouts,

        Are you all hot to move to Centralia? It’s SUCH a dynamic place. Why they have outlet stores on BOTH!!! side of the freeway. Such a dynamic place must have a fantastic future.

  6. I am all for development of the Roosevelt neighborhood within the scope that it maintains the neighborhood and community that is already here. Careful city planning to take into consideration traffic, parking, crime, and the residents that live in the neighborhood are all essential to a plan that works well for the community.

    My concern is that a sustainable plan was formed and submitted my the Roosevelt/Ravenna neighborhood council, approved by the Dept of Planning and was pulled by the Mayor before it made its way to the city council meeting. The proposal called for higher density housing closer to the actual location of the light rail station and decreasing height of buildings as it moves away from the center of the project. This makes a lot of sense as it is the format for almost all major cities and development areas.
    The streets moving west from Roosevelt gradually increase in slope, thus making a 65 foot building about 85-90 feet tall compared to the train station location. While there is plenty to be said to progress, there are the current residents of the neighborhood to be considered in the planning. Parking is horrible on streets 1-2 blocks away from 15th ave, and will only become worse.

    The “Great City” group, which was founded by Mayor McGinn, has received donations from the RDG.
    The relationship and push for even higher zoning strike me as odd coincidence considering. Higher zoning means more profit for the RDG. While I do see the potential upside of additional tax revenue being collected from additional units in the area, how will that money be reinvested into the commnunity to alleviate traffic, parking, crime etc.

    My view is that to the city and the Mayor have been extremely light in their enforcement of the numerous property and residential housing violations resulting from “Sisley-ville”. Instead of penalizing someone who has knowingly enabled drug trafficking, violent crime and disregard for a neighborhood (indirectly), it is rewarding him with zoning concessions. There’s plenty of revenue to be realized in fines and penalties that can be imposed and enforced.

    Shame on the city for failing it’s residents, tax payers and voters for not taking care of this neighborhood, and for allowing such blatant disregard for law and policy to take place.
    I’d very much like to see our neighborhood cleaned up as Sisley’s slum houses encourage violent crime (shootings on 9/16), before any further plans are decided upon regarding rezoning of the area.

    1. If there are actual legal means for the city council or whoever to bring charges or otherwise penalize Sisley for wrongdoing, I’m all for it. Holding up the rezone just because or your negative feelings toward Sisley, however, is short-sighted. In fact, the sooner the rezone is complete the sooner those vacant lots can be redeveloped and your slum house problem will be resolved.

      And please, don’t pretend like everything was perfect until McGinn came along. He was not the one who brought attention to how inadequate the plan was, he simply responded to Seattle constituents who were dissatisfied with the neighborhood plan.

      If you’re worried about parking, turn the area into a zoned parking area where you need to pay for a sticker and your problem is solved. Those roads belong to the city so it seems quite fair that if you want to use that as an excuse to hold up rezoning you should be willing to pay a sub-market rate to park on that public land.

      And when you say “a sustainable plan was formed and submitted,” what exactly do you mean by sustainable? Allowing more units where people are dependent on transit than cars sounds a lot more sustainable than lower density. Don’t throw around words like sustainability just because they make your views sounds more green, reasonable, or whatever it is you’re shooting for.

    2. There is a constant misconception in Seattle that upzoning is always a “concession” or “giveaway” to developers, as if the developer is the only one who benefits. What about the people who will now get to live a few blocks from a light rail station and commercial area? What about the property value increase for homeowners in the area? What about the benefit to the city from smart growth, increased population and tax revenue, and the environmental benefits of density? Yeah, Sisley is a bad guy, but he bought the properties and in this country even bad people can make good investments. It’s just spite to limit density for no reason other than to make sure he doesn’t make as much money. If he has done anything illegal, sure he should be punished for those crimes, but that has nothing to do with the upzone.

    3. I would also caution the neighborhood not to overestimate the impact of new development on parking and traffic. Many of these buildings can be built with very little parking (due to the light rail station proximity), and the parking that is built will be underground. Street parking should use a permit system for residents, with fairly expensive short-term pay parking for the commercial area.

    4. Good grief, man. You rag on this Sisley guy for having “enabled drug trafficking, violent crime and disregard for a neighborhood” and THEN rag on him for maybe making the big bucks building density around the new LRT station.

      Dude, there won’t be any more drug deals! The fricking high school is three stories high (about 40 to 45 feet) directly to the north of his property so it’s not like the winter shadow is going to be a giant footprint on the neighborhood that isn’t already to a degree there.

      This is a GREAT location for density. Embrace it.

  7. there seems to be this fallacy that “density-hawk” bloggers and commenters keep falling into:
    Increased Density is Good; therefore increasing it even more must be Even Better!

    some of the criticism I’ve found seems to follow the line of “….the proposed rezone in Roosevelt is a substantial increase….”, but not enough…

    it seems for some people it would never be enough: Make the sky the limit and let the market sort it out……

    unfortunately, this would leave us all living for decades in a jumble of high-rises next to single-family houses — not the sort of livability or quality of life we should aspire to.

    But anyway, to the specific points about Roosevelt and the ReZoning Proposals:

    BTW, The neighborhood-generated re-zone proposal in Roosevelt suggested even more up-zoning that DPD put into its april proposal.

    Roosevelt Neighborhood proposal of 2006:

    DPD, April 2011:

    either way, these proposals call for more than doubling the zoned-for residential unit additional capacity, and increasing the available commercial space twenty-fold — in a relatively small community — and this is being spoken of as “woefully inadequate” and a “token gesture”…..
    (it is proposed that the current zoned capacity of 269 units and 10,604 feet of commercial space be increased by an ADDITIONAL 348 residential units and 215,209 commercial square feet….. )

    yep, I realize that there’s going to be a transit station RIGHT THERE…. the neighborhood lobbied for it! and this IS the perfect place for density — just steps from mass transit…. but there’s got to be a limit to the amount you force into a small neighborhood before it becomes no neighborhood at all……..

    the roosevelt neighborhood is, by and large, on the side of development, higher density, and “smart growth”. They’ve worked hard for it, and spent a long time working on creating a plan approved by the consensus of the residents.

    And yes, residents SHOULD have their voices heard — upzoning an area like this is going to be terribly disruptive for the foreseeable future. Developments won’t be created by the wave of a magic wand, and during this transition period of some developments happening, and others delaying for 5, 10, 20 years — well, its going to an awkward and semi-developed neighborhood with almost constant construction impacts.

    some background, and comments:

    please appreciate that this neighborhood has been very proactive all along, with little or no help from the city or sound transit, and they worked up their own station-area-planning effort because they didn’t want to see it happen in a piecemeal, contract-rezone, unplanned, haphazard, last-minute manner.

    why Sound Transit spends billions on light rail, but doesn’t facilitate station area planning efforts well in advance of station/light rail developments is mystifying (but subject for a separate discussion — thorough “smart-growth” planning efforts YEARS ahead of time (like at least 10) are needed if Sound Transit and the region wants to be successful in the near-term future of the next few decades……).

    Roosevelt recognized this 6-7 years back….. and begun doing something about it.

    with a number of people howling that the neighborhood-endorsed plan of upzones aren’t big enough, I think its worth considering how many areas of Seattle fight all developments…..

    yet here is a neighborhood that fought for the light rail alignment to be moved INTO the center of their community; and then took it upon themselves to organize the public process and created a consensus plan of upzoning the center of their neighborhood.

    Neither DPD, nor the mayor’s office, nor the city council, nor sound transit was thinking this far ahead and even considering this 5 years ago, and the community –on their own– started pushing for growth & density.

    consider how (unfortunately) rare this is…… its a bloody shame that some of the folks who’ve now come late to the issue are labling the neighborhood as “NIMBY”.
    this is a neighborhood that not only NEVER said “Not In My Backyard” — but actually ran a campaign which stated “YIMFY” (“Yes In My Front Yard”)

    Roosevelt WANTS growth, but recognized early the importance of Smart Growth — not just blindly demanding that everything within a certain distance of the station be zoned up out of scale for an “urban village” or arbitrarily to some the maximum amount……

    The biggest current issue which everyone should rally behind is demanding that the Roosevelt Station be designed by Sound Transit for a complete and integrated over-build. Much of the discussion bouncing around online and in discussions concern whether certain city blocks should be upzoned to 40 vs. 65 feet — not that big an impact.

    A much bigger difference –-many more units of potential housing, creating much greater density–- could be realized if the station were designed with a full build-out of housing above.

    In June the mayor recommended changes to the proposed re-zoning which are out-of-scale and ignore the the structure and layout of the community. The principle reason cited for these new changes is the loss of potential density DUE to Sound Transit.

    Their plans call for a station lobby which is the equivalent of an empty airport concourse – a two story tall, 2 block long glass box using up some 50,000 square feet of prime land IN the business core – all for a station which is 70 feet underground!

    This neighborhood successfully lobbied to align the station near the crossroads of the business core – a spot which allows the maximum amount of transit-oriented-development. It is a HUGE frustration that Sound Transit is now limiting the very density which should be accommodated in the business core at the station itself – and therefore development is being pushed out into the surrounding residential areas.

    The University District (brooklyn) station will allow for development, and so should the station in Roosevelt.

    A VERY thorough and VERY public process created Roosevelt’s re-zoning plan. Its a plan which meets the city’s growth targets, and welcomes development and density – but this is being blocked by some preliminary transit station design work.

    This makes NO sense.

    All supporters of smart-growth and higher-density planning should take as a top priority calling for Sound Transit to design the Roosevelt and Northgate stations to be constructed with full-height, max-density “overbuild”.

    these stations should be something which is incorporated UNDER a well-designed, site appropriate, mixed-use high-rise…… just like the stations downtown!

    The design of these NorthLink stations is currently still in the early, conceptual stages. Now is the time to change these plans, because once these stations are constructed it will be nearly impossible to build anything above them in the future.

    1. There are some things here to agree with, but what struck me was this:

      unfortunately, this would leave us all living for decades in a jumble of high-rises next to single-family houses — not the sort of livability or quality of life we should aspire to.

      I wish you’d elaborate on this a little more, using more specific words than “livability” or “quality of life.” To me, a lot of residents mean more viable businesses and more lively street life.

      1. I would point to most of Capitol Hill as an example of a very livable and high-quality neighborhood that has mid-rise apartments and single-family homes side by side, even in the posher high-income parts of the neighborhood. It works very well.

    2. “Much of the discussion bouncing around online and in discussions concern whether certain city blocks should be upzoned to 40 vs. 65 feet — not that big an impact.”

      Um… I would considering a 50+% difference to quite an impact. Especially when you consider that when building new development you have to go over and above what is existing today. If you tear down a one story building to build a two story, you are really only adding one story from which to make money off of. If you build a three story you have now doubled your money making potential, three stories tripled. Considering the high costs of development you really need 65-85 to make redevelopment economically feasible.

    3. I completely agree that Sound Transit should build over the station box. They are pulling the same thing in Capitol Hill, which is very frustrating as it constrains the amount of housing and makes for awkward urban design. They haven’t figured out that the best transit stations are part of a larger commercial/housing building, not stand-alone single-use monstrosities like the Mt Baker or Tukwila stations. Ugh.

      What I disagree with are your protestations that this “small” neighborhood is going to get overwhelmed. If Roosevelt wanted to be a small neighborhood, it shouldn’t have lobbied for the light rail station! Getting a rapid transit station means you become a “big” neighborhood, end of story. Otherwise a small neighborhood is getting a huge benefit without contributing to the city as a whole. The deal for all light rail stations should be: neighborhood gets the station in exchange for accepting more of the city’s future growth.

    4. If ST is proposing a Beacon Hill box for Roosevelt, you should tell them *No thanks, we’d prefer something else*.

      So far, the Beacon Hill Station hasn’t stimulated much new building in our neighborhood. However, the apartments near the station seem to be attracting a wealthier crowd and the car prowls in the neighborhood seem to be decreasing. We’re getting some new, small, mostly food service businesses moving into existing spaces, but new construction seems to be waiting out the economic doldrums. The Othello Station area seems to be much more active than Beacon Hill.

      It’s been about 30 years since the DSTT opened in downtown Seattle. Building that project killed most of the small businesses along 3rd Avenue, but a generation has passed since then and some of the areas have recovered, some haven’t. The Westlake Station seems to be the most successful–a public-private partnership built the shopping mall/office tower above the station and the park across the street. I wouldn’t suggest a 20 story tower for Roosevelt, but a smaller tower with some adjacent open space might be appropriate. Convention Center Station seems to be the least successful–just a concrete canyon surrounded by traffic. With I-5 so close to Roosevelt, it’s important to avoid letting the new Roosevelt become an auto-centric neighborhood with convenient access to the freeway.

  8. What amuses me is that everything is so extreme.

    It’s like the argument is either Single Family Homes with yards or 20 story bland office buildings with a few shops at the base that will mostly end up vacant no doubt.

    What about using models from the best and most liveable sections of the world’s greatest cities.

    For example, the Upper West Side of New York:

    Now there’s beautiful “density”…and it’s only 2 or 3 stories high. You could easily build this type of housing all along the rail corridors, on either side, with the rest trailing off into SFHs. You could have shops not clustered underneath concrete buildings, but on corners…spread out…accessible.

    Philadelphia and Baltimore are good models.

    Heck, I even think Kent is doing better design work than almost anywhere these days when I look at townhomes like these:,wa&hl=en&ll=47.35169,-122.213727&spn=0.002748,0.013937&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=57.249013,114.169922&vpsrc=6&t=m&fll=47.351617,-122.213631&fspn=0.002748,0.013937&layer=c&cbll=47.351691,-122.213724&panoid=jc8ElaFKfiroD8Zoa2jDOw&cbp=11,13.56,,0,-2.84&z=17

    1. In my opinion, those town homes represent pretty terrible urban design. They’re basically typical large, detached exurban homes, but the developer decided to sacrifice the back yards for an alley and garage, leaving the admittedly slightly smaller than usual front yards and front streets as an ornamental homage to the car. You can see how truly car-dependent this particular subdivision is by zooming out on Google Maps and seeing that the only way to get to a store is by walking along an inhospitable arterial or two. That is nothing like a walkable, urban row-home neighborhood.

      1. I’m sorry, but small plots with Craftsman homes that have garages and an alley in back?

        Sounds like some of the best loved Seattle and Portland neighborhoods to me…

        This is a style that is being built…everywhere! I saw a development when I was out at Fort Collins a few months ago.

        And as far as car-dependent…well, Ballard is car dependent! I mean, yes, it has a few bus lines…and might even get light rail…but with all that, people still own cars, and park them and drive them all over the city.

        With a Starbucks in every mall and a Craftsman home in every development, the best parts of the Seattle lifestyle have permeated American culture in a new way…perhaps better than the original (more sunshine at least…!)

      2. Exactly, it’s a mesh of contemporary exurbia and single family Seattle neighborhoods. I fail to see how it represents the best of urban design work. Also, in Ballard the street grid is far more connected to commercial zones and the broader urban fabric, so even if the average Ballard resident does own a car and use it fairly often, s/he will be driving shorter distances and may be more able to replace some car trips with bike, transit or purely walking trips.

    2. Actually, those brownstones are pretty much all 4-story buildings. One problem is that those were built at a time when construction costs were much lower. Nowadays it is rarely profitable for a developer to build a 4-story building. When they do build them, the units have to be more expensive to justify it, so if you care about more affordable housing you really need taller buildings with smaller units. Another difference from when the NY brownstones were built is that now anything 4 stories or more needs an elevator. The elevator is so expensive that developers usually need additional height to cover that cost. I do agree that they are more aesthetically pleasing, though. I would love to see Roosevelt covered with these, but that would mean taking away some SF housing which seems politically impossible.

      1. Actually, on the UWS, brownstones are often 5 story buildings. See, for example, these beauties:,+New+York,+NY&hl=en&ll=40.801287,-73.978007&spn=0.009437,0.029333&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=40.324283,86.660156&vpsrc=0&t=m&z=16&layer=c&cbll=40.801346,-73.969962&panoid=TFLObLrEuoP4J1i4m62Ieg&cbp=12,195.8,,0,1.5

        I’m still unclear as to whether 5-story rowhouses were mostly built as mansions for the wealthy or mostly built as single-family flats meant to look like mansions for the wealthy. They’re mostly multi-family now, at any rate. That said, even now, not a lot of people want to live on the 5th story of a 5-story walkup.

        It’s also worth noting that if brownstones actually *are* single-family, they’re actually not much higher density than the small-lot SF housing currently in Seattle. A friend was considering buying a rowhouse in NYC and mentioned that its lot was 25 feet wide and 100 feet deep. Which doesn’t sound all that different from my Seattle house’s 33 foot wide X 100 feet deep lot. (That said, I think 40-foot wide lots are more common than 33-foot wide lots through most of the streetcar neighborhoods)

        Which is not to say that rowhouses aren’t a good building form or can’t be used to add density in a place like Seattle. But one good 6-story, 50-unit apartment building replacing a vacant retail space adds a lot more density than, say, five 4×20-foot rowhouse developments replacing 2 units of SF housing each.

  9. “But we just have to get out of the way…Density does good all by itself.”

    I object to this on a number of grounds.

    1) Absolutist thinking is the wellspring for bad policy decisions; it’s probably how we were saddled with a state constitution that shovels cash toward highways.

    2) Someone proposed that as long as there was a degree of high capacity transit in a neighborhood, then we should simply let a developer build “whatever the market will bear”. What does that mean…it’s not like we can build one condo or one first-level store at a time, to reflect real demand. And you can’t necessarily go by commits: there are half-empty condo towers across multiple counties, all of which were supposedly built to reflect demand. And what’s “demand”…are condo flippers demand? Are wealthy investors from outside the state-or even country-real demand? Does the community-its history, its culture, its aspirations for the future-take a back seat to this “demand”? The urban village concept put the community at the center of the dialogue, and that’s the way it should be. Codes will necessarily change from one decade to the next, but the local neighborhood needs to have the most prominent voice in what those changes will be.

    3) It would seem inconsistent to tout the linkage between transportation and zoning, and then virtually ignore it as soon as an actual policy decision had to be made. If we are considering what impact a new light rail station should have on zoning, then why not talk about the actual capacity in ridership (a function of car sets and frequency) minus the expected ridership based on current travel patterns of the local community? Whatever unused capacity there is can then be budgeted to each station along the line, in whatever proportion those communities and the broader city find desirable. If you know how much extra population your neighborhood’s transportation infrastructure can handle, then you know how much residential/commercial construction you can pursue…I’m sure ST has these numbers…I would be surprised if they weren’t already a part of the discussion(?).

    Once you know what your constraints are, then I think the next step would be for a community to decide what the need is. They can use the PSRC’s forecasts on growth in the county to decide how much of which income bands it wants to absorb. Given the current demographics/firmographics, what kind of future growth do we want? Again, I believe the numbers are already out there.

    The ultimate decision by Roosevelt or “Community X” might be for three 200 ft mixed income condo towers…or 4 blocks by 4 blocks of 8 story apartments for middle class workers at a local plant…or a simple “Main Street” business district with street level retail and the occasional dwelling on top. Regardless of what the decision is, hopefully it’s not as dogmatic and haphazard as Roger seems to call for, and hopefully the community is the one making the final call.

  10. As a resident of Roosevelt, I appreciate the comments make thus far by everyone- great perspectives from all sides. In reference to Sicily and his relatively insignificant geographical space, I, personally am affected time and time again by the crime and the individuals that his properties bring to our neighborhood- and the risks to the many children that live here. We do wholeheartedly welcome Light Rail and all of the potential opportunities that it brings to the north-east end of Seattle. I have lived in both Vancouver, BC and San Francisco and am therefore well aware of “sustainable” neighborhoods (which does not necessarily have to refer to “green, reasonable, or whatever it is you’re shooting for” ) but like “Neighborhood Resident” suggests, refers to an area that is appropriately developed for the socioeconomic demands of that space. The neighborhood has been robustly resourceful and united in assessing the needs for the individuals/families that live here and subsequently communicating those needs back to the city. Frustration is occurring because we, as a community, feel that the ideas, which reflect the personal experience of living here and our desire for expansion & “urban density” are not being heard. I (and many others) are concerned because is this due to perhaps to the relationship between the RDG and the mayor’s office? I truly hope not .. I appreciate with GuyonBeaconHill’s comment. Yes, it’s hard not to want to “piss on Sicily” but I think that it’s above a vendetta at this point. Roosevelt just want to have the balance that we have been representing for many years and we’re tired of the negative influence that this family has been bringing to the area in the process.

    1. I am not convinced so far by this supposed link between RDG and the mayor. So they gave money to Great City? Great City is a non-profit that promotes density and upzoning. Why wouldn’t they support such an organization? It’s hard to see any actual evidence of corruption here.

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