Roosevelt Multifamily

It’s been quite entertaining and satisfying to read all the comments here at STB and elsewhere about my satirical take on Monday night’s meeting in Roosevelt. One of my favorites was Wally who asked me whether I was a hypocrite, preaching the density gospel while living in single-family home. No, Wally, I’m not a hypocrite and I really don’t want you to know where I live. But that has been the tone of much of the “density debate” in Roosevelt. Who’d want to live in a cubby hole? And rent? God forbid? Density is so bad in Wally’s estimation, that living in it is like being celibate, taking a vow of chastity and avoiding the joy of single family conjugal bliss.

But out of all that noise comes Janice, a renter and parent who articulates the points some of us have made but more succinctly and beautifully. I hope commenters will refrain from calling her, as some did speakers in favor of the DPD plan, a “fake neighbor.” Here’s Janice:

Janice says:
September 21, 2011 at 11:55 am

As a resident of Roosevelt I was embarrassed to see people booing and yelling at people who were there to give earnest testimony. Sad day for Roosevelt and I was also perplexed that no one in charge of the meeting put a stop to it until a man at the very end had to stop and ask for quiet while he tried to finish. I think many people like me where there to listen because I got an email through our PTA list essentially saying that the City was trying to ruin the neighborhood. Obviously I felt compelled to go and hear what this was all about.

After the presentation by both groups (City DPD v. SLRP) it seemed there was not a whole lot that was different. After listening to the testimony I went home and looked at both proposals. It seems to me that both proposals are pretty darn similar other than WHERE the new housing density and taller buildings will occur. Seems like one proposal puts a small amount east of the station and near the school but most to the west of the station (city). The other proposal by SLRP puts all the density to the west of the station only.

One woman made the point that higher density housing should go close to the school and park because it makes the higher density housing more desirable and livable. That makes a lot sense to me. I live in an apartment with my daughter west of 12th. I would love to be able to live in an apartment closer to the school and park so my daughter could run around on the field or just go a few blocks south and be at Cowen Park. She’ll be in high school before I know it so it would be great to stay in this neighborhood so she could walk to school and I could get to my job at the UW on the train.

It’s just nicer for those of us with kids, living in apartments that don’t have yards to be close to that open space instead of closer to the freeway. I am going to support the city plan for that reason. But what can I do to support that?

34 Replies to “Another voice from Roosevelt”

  1. Janice makes the point very clearly: the various proposals don’t seem all that different aside from the location of higher density but she gives a good positive reason why one location is better than the other. She even manages to say so without disregarding her neighbors who think differently. Janice here has apparently written the non-insulting and actually convincing piece you should have written. Hopefully this piece is picked up by other sites because it makes a good argument in a positive fashion.

    As for “satirical”? Either you don’t know the meaning of the word or you failed utterly to write a convincing satire. If that piece was meant to be a satire, then apparently you have us all fooled and you actually dislike the emphasis on density and were attempting to satirically emulate an arrogant and insulting example of progressive advocate. Unfortunately, it didn’t come across as you satirizing that kind of advocate: you appeared to actually be that kind of advocate.

    1. Agreed 100%. Roger, your piece was not satirical. It was dismissive, condescending, and antagonistic.

    2. sat·ire   /ˈsætaɪər/ Show Spelled[sat-ahyuhr] Show IPA
      1. the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.
      2. a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.
      3. a literary genre comprising such compositions.


      1500–10; < Latin satira, variant of satura medley, perhaps feminine derivative of satur sated ( see saturate)

      Related forms
      non·sat·ire, noun

      Can be confused:   1. burlesque, caricature, cartoon, parody, satire (see synonym note at burlesque; see synonym note at the current entry ); 2. satire, satyr.

      1. See irony 1 . 2, 3. burlesque, caricature, parody, travesty. Satire, lampoon refer to literary forms in which vices or follies are ridiculed. Satire, the general term, often emphasizes the weakness more than the weak person, and usually implies moral judgment and corrective purpose: Swift's satire of human pettiness and bestiality. Lampoon refers to a form of satire, often political or personal, characterized by the malice or virulence of its attack: lampoons of the leading political figures.

      1. Yes, his piece could be a satire if he intended it merely to be insulting and ridiculing but that’s the laziest form of satire. I don’t think that kind of satire belongs in serious advocacy, certainly not on such conflicts as minor as to a few blocks difference in proposals. There is another kind I would consider appropriate – the ironic “Modest Proposal” form where you pretend to take an absurd position to make a point — but this doesn’t appear to be that kind.

      2. Actually I take that back. It’s not even the laziest form of satire. The mere presence of ridicule or insults in a written piece doesn’t make it a satire. Satire should have some element of irony or humor and a coherent moral argument. Valdez’ piece had none of that. It was just a meeting summary peppered with insults and dismissive comments.

  2. Numerous people – many of whom agree with you on the fundamental importance of density for effective transit, and the need for higher density in Roosevelt – carefully dissected your piece and found it lopsided, poorly reasoned, and inappropriately antagonistic. In your response, you respond to none of those points, but instead describe reading those comments as “entertaining and satisfying.” With those three words you’ve removed all doubt that you are smug and uninterested in reasoned debate.

    1. There’s that word smug again. “Smug: (1) trim or smart in dress; (2) scrupulously clean, neat, or correct; (3) highly self-satisfied.”

      Can we stop assuming we know a person’s inner feelings (“highly self-satisfied”) from their writings? Unless they say, “I am highly self-satisfied”, we don’t know whether they really feel that or not.

      1. Action (or writing) is character. To anyone else, who we are is how we present ourselves. Roger has always been smug, just like Dan Bertolet. It is part of why they are often fun to read.

  3. Roger’s earlier post was hyperbolic and dismissive, but about as hyperbolic and dismissive as calling the pro DPD testifiers “nazis” or fake neighbors, both of which happened in the comment thread of that blog.

    As for Janice’s piece, I couldn’t agree more. There are plenty of cities all over the world where people live with kids in dense environments, easily able to access parks, schools, and other amenities. We should have the same in Seattle.

    What we need now is a compromise plan that takes part of the DPD proposal, part of the SLRP proposal, and combines them. Then we’ll probably be done.

  4. Sometimes I wish this blog was a little more informative about the issues at hand – it took way too long to spell out the main differences between the two plans. What some likely or potential outcomes are? There have been four recent posts about the Roosevelt upzone, but none (until a letter embedded in this one) have given even a broad overview of the different plans and exactly what they entail.

      1. So in the VERY FIRST PAGE… in what I would call the SLRP’s manifesto is this line, “Just as good fences make good neighbors, good neighborhoods make great cities.” WOW! Really? Good fences make good neighbors? Really? That is part of the community manifesto for what makes a great neighborhood?

      2. okay, so now the SLRP plan is going get beat up on for including a literary reference.

        “good fences make good neighbors” was in the poem “Mending Wall”, written by Robert Frost and published in 1914.

        I thought it a very common colloquial phrase (but then again I grew up in the mid-west where the language is full of pithy [ and hackneyed? ] phrases).

        the phrase has generally come to mean to show a respect for others, for their privacy, for their boundaries…..
        so yeah, that does seem like the kind of thing that would make for a good neighborhood…….

        …..though I respect your opinion if you feel it does not.

      3. [andy]
        “good fences make good neighbors”
        “the phrase has generally come to mean to show a respect for others, for their privacy, for their boundaries……

        so yeah, that does seem like the kind of thing that would make for a good neighborhood….”


        it would perhaps also
        be a good ‘rule of thumb’
        for blogs (esp the comments).

      4. Have you ever read the poem? The only time he and his neighbor interact is once a year when they both mend the fence between them, silently.

        That’s NOT the kind of relationship that builds good neighborhoods.

      5. Okay, so HS was a few years ago. Rereading the poem, it does appear they talk. The narrator tries to strike up conversation and ask why they keep building back up the wall, when they have nothing that needs to be kept separated. However the neighbor isn’t interested in conversation and just keeps repeating “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.”


        Still, not a philosophy on which to build a healthy urban neighborhood IMO.

      6. yeah, high school and any ability to effective analyze poetic meaning is fairly far in the past for me too….

        but the point of my comment was to say that it is phrase published long ago which has become a common colloquialism– which I paraphrased as:

        “respect others, their privacy, their boundaries”




        I really like the part in the WikiAnswer (2nd citation above) which has really extrapolated out the whole concept and says:

        “…..In regard to the actual fence it should be low enough to allow communication between the neighbors while keeping some things out. The same applies to the personal fence. Do not build a stone wall between each other that allows for no communication.”

      7. The interpretation I’ve always had of “good fences make good neighbors” dates to the ancient days when property border disputes were common, and could be *extremely* acrimonious, causing lifelong resentments. A *good* fence marks your property line and the point beyond which you would like your neighbor to ask before wandering on and messing about with your land. (As opposed to a bad fence. :-)

  5. Not only do you insult residents of Roosevelt with you’re ‘satirical’ post, you come back and insult all of us for not getting the joke? Please…

  6. As I was driving back to my Kent East Hill apartment from QFC, I was looking at the complexes near me and thinking about this STB discussion and thinking…the whole thing is a joke! I have density right next store, the schools are walkable (there are hoardes of kids walking there every day) there are greenbelts, there are two parks up the street, there is a skate park around the corner and a soccer field about an 1/8th of a mile away. There are two main bus routes on the corner and a shuttle right on the street, and more lines futher towards Kent Station…where we have the Sounder and Express buses to Bellevue.

      1. Sorry, that was rude. John, you should start the Kent Transit Blog and see how many people care to read it.

    1. The difference between John’s viewpoint and the urbanists’ is the ideal level of density, not Seattle vs Kent. If I were JB I might start a Suburban Pugetopolis Transit Blog, using Kent as a focal point for illustration. Because we can cover the suburban-centric viewpoint here and constrast it with the urbanists’, but we can’t do it as completely or in depth as a dedicated blog could. And I imagine JB’s blog would also have contrarian comments by urbanists, a mirror reversal of STB.

      Density is about how much you can walk to; i.e., the 5/10/20 minute walk circles. 104th may be moderately walkable: from certain houses you can walk to Fred Meyer, another supermarket, a half-hourly bus, Kent-Meridian High School, and/or a few other strip mall shops. But the undensity means only a handful of people are within walking distance. And if you live in many other parts of Kent, you can walk to maybe one of these or equivalent but not all of them. If you start at Kent-Meridian HS, you can count on two hands the number of businesses and residences within a 10-minute walk.

      In contrast, on Capitol Hill you can walk to everything downtown, buses come 4-6 times an hour (in some cases), and you can also walk to a library, 2 gyms, 4 supermarkets, 3 natural food stores, tons of nightlife and activities, a communtiy college and small university, a few parks including the well-developed Cal Anderson Park, etc. Tens of thousands of people can walk to most of these. And that’s why it’s called dense.

      1. I’m very sympathetic with the “old style small town” suburb, such as John seems to consider Downtown Kent, because I grew up in, and still live in, an “old style small town”.

        They are not the only way to live — tastes vary — but they’re pretty decent, particularly if you want to be near rural amenities without the isolation inherent in being really rural. *Provided* they have fast intercity train lines to a real city for when you need that. Which they often don’t.

        The Levittown suburban sprawl suburb is another matter; it’s kind of unmanagable and has no amenities within walking distance of anything. What does John Bailo think of the endless wastes of SeaTac?

  7. This whole battle comes down to one single issue that no one wants to say out loud. The issue is that sometimes assholes win. Sisley is an asshole. But, he’s going to win. Large buildings are going to be built on his parcels. Either he or his family will make a good bit of money. It’s going to happen. There’s nothing the neighborhood can do, and there’s nothing the city can do NOW to change this. The time for the city to deal with him was 20 years ago. For whatever reason he wasn’t dealt with. It doesn’t matter now. Roosevelt is going to grow. Either this decade or next decade buildings will be built. Either he or his heirs will make money.

    Once the neighborhood group gets this internalized and moves on then we can have a rational discussion. They can keep up this nonsense and keep up this absurd point of view that buildings over 40′ will harm the high school, but in the end they will lose. If they were smart they’d work on the best plan going forward, rather then trying to punish this asshole. They can’t do that at this point. He has won.

    1. This is another myth that needs to be dispelled. Hugh Sisely sold the development and leasing rights to the RDG. The RDG is in complete control of what gets developed and what profits come from leasing the development for 99 years. There is however (if I understand this correctly), a stipulation in the legal contract between Sisely and RDG that requires them to obtain a rezone in order to move forward on any redevelopment. Actually because of the very righteous haterd of Sisely it might help your readers STB to have an interview with RDG to better understand their situation and vision for those current slums.

      1. This is not a myth at all and RDG is not in complete control. You even contradict that point in your own post.

        Sisley will make his profit through RDG. He’s still pulling the strings which is why he only leased his land, rather then selling it. RDG doesn’t just need a rezone, they need some specific type of rezone. They haven’t been clear on what, but I doubt it’s for 40, or even 65 feet.

        Sisley isn’t rational here of course, as he’s not going to live forever, but the situation is what it is. I guess we’ll see if he takes his land back and lives to see it developed or not. Of course then we have to deal with his heirs, who might well be crazier or and more asshole-ish then he is.

        Like I said originally, the time to deal with this was 20 years ago. I’m new to Seattle and have only been here for 4.5 years, but in no other city that I’ve lived in would someone have been able to do what he’s done. I’m blown away that the laws in Seattle weren’t sufficient to force him to at least maintain his properties.

      2. Hi Arnica,
        You are correct – RDG is in a long-term (think 99 years) ground lease with Hugh. He does have a contractual say in the minimum height (65 feet) that RDG can develop on the site….but that is all. He does not have oversight or interest in the design, etc.

        Essentially, he is the landlord and that’s it.

        I think an interview with the RDG folks is a good idea.

        In full disclosure, I work with RDG (consultant, not employee), which is why I know these statements are true.

  8. Here’s an insight I’ve not yet seen. The RNA are both pro-density as well as NIMBY. They are happy to have density in their neighborhood, but only if it’s not in their backyards – instead it has to be dumped by the freeway, hidden amidst existing density, and nowhere near the sacred single family homes, away from the hallowed ground of a local high school, and certainly not replacing slums.

    By making this about density, we play the RNA’s game. It’s not density per se they irrationally oppose. It’s where the density goes. Put them back on the defensive. Call them out as NIMBYs. Ask why the location matters. Push even just a bit and you’ll find it’s nothing more than “omg tall buildings will ruin my property values and my life!” Neither of which are intellectually defensible, and neither of which are legitimate in a land use policy discussion.

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