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Obstructed view: A vote for Licata's amendment is a vote for blight.

Nick Licata sent an e-mail today explaining why he’s trying to stop a rezone to 65 feet on the blocks next to the new light rail station in the Roosevelt neighborhood. Licata’s thinking is framed by a question he’s asked himself; “can the Council support Transit Oriented Development in Roosevelt without increasing building heights to 65 feet across from the Roosevelt High School building?” Licata concludes that it can, so he “will move an amendment in tomorrow’s COBE committee meeting to keep the heights at 40 feet.”

Licata acknowledges that “what is best for the city as well as the Roosevelt neighborhood are inexorably linked,” but his starting point leads him to the wrong answer, that somehow preserving views of Roosevelt High School and denying the developer additional capacity will create TOD in Roosevelt. Nothing could be further from the truth. His own e-mail acknowledges that denying the rezone could leave the neighborhood with a blighted hole, not new housing.

Licata rehearses many of the same arguments that have been offered again and again to oppose increased heights on these key blocks. The neighborhood’s plan is the product of lots of process so it should take precedent, and their plan “takes” more density than other proposals.

Licata’s e-mail goes on to cite the complaints local neighbors have had about the property owner Hugh Sisley. Sisley, Licata says, is a bad actor, having code compliance issues. But strangely he says this:

If the developer cannot build to 65 feet, he believes that his project is not viable and will probably walk away from developing these parcels, perhaps leaving the community these troubled properties until the land ownership changes or another developer presents a different package.

But let’s return to the original question, “How does the Council support TOD without upzones on these properties?” Licata’s answer is that it does that by preserving the “prominence” of the High School, and locking in blight on key properties in the neighborhood. Neither of these creates new housing, and keeping blighted properties blighted won’t help TOD. His amendment fails to meet his own standards.

Licata, if he listened to his own reasoning, wouldn’t be proposing his amendment. If he believes that these properties will stay blighted because the developer will walk away from 40 feet, how does he think that keeping those properties that way helps the goals of Transit Oriented Development?

It seems more likely that Licata starts with ideology rather than TOD in mind. He culminates the e-mail by quoting a resident opposed to 65 feet:

Another resident amplifying a national theme wrote: “It feels as though we are being strong-armed here and that democracy has been spurned. This smacks of the national problem of the one percent exerting its will over the 99 percent.”

So for Licata, it all comes down to the 99 percent. Somehow the entitled single family homeowners are the downtrodden 99 percent, while the people that would move into apartments in the redeveloped properties don’t matter.

Licata’s reasoning is deeply flawed and seems to be linked to the contention that upzones are just giveaways to the 1 percent, rather than opportunity to create more affordable housing and accommodate growth around regional investments in light rail. Licata’s amendment would leave the blocks in question a blighted mess without accommodating any new housing. Is that really what is best for the neighborhood? Or has Licata aligned himself with single family homeowners who can’t get over their anger at Hugh Sisley and who feel entitled to keeping the value of their own investments at a premium at the expense of more housing?

Let’s hope Licata’s amendment, like his logic, fails.

165 Replies to “Failed Logic Leads to Blight, Not TOD”

  1. crossposted from Publicola:

    translation

    “Black and brown neighborhoods get train running down the middle of the street, while in Whitey-town aka Roosevelt, the train is underground and the people don’t have to be bothered with creating a dense neighborhood”

    Hooray for Seattle progressives! [ad hom]

    1. Excuse me – please don’t call people like me, progressives fighting for density (because density is progressive) racist. The people who are fighting density are conservative – by definition.

    2. Limiting density is conservative, not progressive – by definition.

      Seattle progressives (like Roger and I) aren’t racists.

      If you make the connection you’re making, all you’ll do is hurt the fight to frame density as a progressive issue. Please don’t.

      1. Ben, can you elaborate on how limiting density is conservative “by definition”?

        If anything, the vastly overgeneralization that conservatives tend to favor free market would imply that conservatives are for density. Additionally, I’m guessing that most of the people in the Roosevelt neighborhood tend to vote Democrat. (Even the STB Prop 1 voting map shows this area going 50-60% for Prop 1).

      2. Josh, you’re talking about different things. Here Ben is using “conservative” to mean “conservative political philosophy” which is different from “people who are sort of on the right”.

        “free market” is actually “classical liberal”, which is of course different from “liberal”, but more like “neo-liberal”. That’s where it overlaps with “neo-conservative” and “libertarian”.

        Lots of people blindly think progressive=liberal or whatever, but these are terms that have distinct meanings when discussing political philosophies.

      3. Conservative (historical/international meaning): favoring incremental reforms, retaining the wisdom in evolved structures. Opposite: revolutionary, radical: favoring the wholesale replacement of current structures with a new order.

        Liberal (historical/international meaning): favoring free trade, free enterprise capitalism, democracy, equality — “1 person 1 vote”. Opposite: protectionist, feudal, authoritarian, marxist(?).

        Conservative (US politics): opposing government social programs. Opposite: liberal: favoring government social programs.

      4. In general, I don’t think it’s useful to prescribe the definitions of words, especially political categories.

        In this case, however, it’s clear that Ben is using “conservative” in a completely non-political way. Just like savings accounts are considered conservative investments, limiting density in areas that are currently low-density is a conservative policy. It’s sticking with the status quo.

        A proposal to rezone Lower Manhattan to be exclusively SFH would not be conservative at all, because it would imply a radical change. But in Seattle, low density is what we have, and so the conservative (i.e. minimal change) position is to stick with what we’ve got.

        It’s undoubtedly true that many on the American right have very non-conservative views, such as eliminating Social Security/Medicare, massively reforming the tax structure (e.g. “Fair”Tax), and others. That is completely orthogonal to this discussion.

    3. I don’t know what the original ad hom was, but the funny thing is I doubt the “hooray for Seattle progressives” was aimed at the STB group, who would have preferred the train run underground (or at least in its own right-of-way) everywhere and would prefer Roosevelt be bothered with creating a dense neighborhood. Unless you’re accusing Roger of reverse racism…

  2. Roosevelt didn’t design the transit system. That there is concern about how the neighborhood speaks well of it. When neighbors aren’t concerned is when they most often get screwed.

    1. I can’t see how a neighborhood being gifted a subway station ( remember it was supposed to be closer to the I-5 Park and Ride!) and not holding up the other end of the bargain in terms of TOD is being screwed….

    2. Roosevelt is screwing thousands of people who want access to transit.

      The problem here is that we’re only asking the people who already live there – not the people who want to live there. It’s selfish exclusivity.

    3. @Glenn – Roosevelt did play a big part in designing the transit system. The YIMFY campaign fought to have the station in the core of the Roosevelt neighborhood. Due to the advocacy of Roosevelt neighbors, the more expensive option was chosen. See http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002163169_sound28m.html At the time, planners were convinced that “we have a community clamoring for a light-rail station and embracing the density that comes with it”. Unfortunately, that optimism didn’t pan out.

      1. LWC,
        Lets be honest here, Roosevelt did embrace density if only a little bit. The neighborhood plan update adds capacity for more new housing units than the old pre-rail one did. However I do agree with others that the new density they are accepting really isn’t enough considering the location.

        Beyond the issues with the landowner people here have a weird thing about building heights. Really is there all that much difference between 40′, 65′, 85′, 100′ and 120′? People act as if that additional 15′, 20′, or 25′ will mean the end of civilization as we know it.

        Then again I’m a fan of performance based zoning rather than prescriptive zoning and FAR limits rather than height limits.

      2. As I understand it, their proposed solution would leave virtually no opportunity for real actual construction anytime in the foreseeable future because the upzone would be in an area of long established single family homes whose owners have no plans on selling. The upzone would not be adjacent to the station and thus destroy any synergy that a station would create for commerce. So nothing is going to be built in our lifetimes.

        While I do place value on aesthetics and views, in this instance I agree with Ben’s position that the decision values should be on what benefits all the citizens of Seattle and the future residents of “Roosyhood”.

      3. I have been involved off and on with the roosevelt neighborhood and the planning and re-zoning efforts of the last 10 years.

        there is no neighborhood in the city that has worked harder at planning for the coming light rail — and the community planning efforts have met or exceeded every benchmark and goal the city set. The city set density targets: the community exceeded them. The city suggested raising the density goals further: the community again met & exceeded these new goals.

        yep, the local planning efforts were a bit D-I-Y. They had to be, since the city offered no real support or resources — or specific guidance.

        There is no NIMBYism here — at the city’s direction we updated our neighborhood plan, and in doing so the Roosevelt neighborhood identified where growth and density could best be accomodated (centered on the urban village crossroads of 65th and roosevelt way); and we identified landmarks that are to be protected and treasured (like the high school).

        It now seems that the city is going to go against all the work and planning of this very-engaged community. the council is truly heading towards slamming this neighborhood and quash civic participation city-wide.

        if COBE, and the city council, goes ahead with its plan to up-zone the roosevelt “high school blocks” to 65 feet it is blatently making a choice of:

        going along with monied ‘special interest’ groups

        and

        ignoring the engaged and informed members of the community.

        I hope the council will re-consider before you making this ill-advised decision.

  3. Hugh Sisley is a bad guy and the neighborhood is mad at him. Fine. But he still owns the property and is apparently more than willing to let it decay until he can get more height. The neighborhood needs to look beyond this one guy and recognize that blighted properties in front of the school are only going stay if they don’t compromise. Remember that Sisley’s opening bid was over 100 feet, so 65 is a good compromise.

    1. 120 was a good compromise. 65 (and 65 was only ever “with setbacks”) is damaging to our economy and destroys jobs.

    2. I can’t see how between 40′ and 120′, 65′ is a compromise. It should be 85′ at least.

    3. Well, once you get over 65 the buildings would actually block the school, so at that point I would not support additional height. Height is not everything.

  4. The continual irony in all this is that it was a “YIMFY” (Yes In My Front Yard) campaign on the part of Roosevelt neighbors that convinced ST to choose the Roosevelt routing. Were the organizers of that movement honest with their constituents about the up-zoning requirements that would result from the station location? If not, they did their neighbors and the city a great dis-service.

    1. How is it a disservice to bring their neighbors more options and a stronger neighborhood?

      1. They did their neighbors a disservice by rallying them behind a light rail station without making it clear that it would require up-zones in their neighborhood. They did the city a disservice by bringing light rail into a neighborhood where density would be so viciously opposed.

      2. The light rail station didn’t “require” anything. When you subsidize transportation, demand for land use changes. It isn’t up to transit activists to educate neighborhoods about market forces.

      3. Good point. I guess I’m just trying to figure out how the transition from YIMFY to NIMBY happened in Roosevelt.

      4. Because people are selfish.

        The answer is pretty much to call them out on it. Look at the framing I’m using in these replies – it works. People start to realize that they’re hurting people who just want places to live, and there’s a little shame, and it makes them stop. We just haven’t been organizing a good pro-affordability message around development, even though right now developers are our allies. :)

      5. Another reason Roosevelt appeared to go from YIMFY to NIMBY is that there are many people in the neighborhood with different opnions, and people tend to complain louder than they praise.

      6. I think a couple of other things are going on here. First while neighborhood residents might have supported upzoning in the abstract they opposed it once they started seeing maps with specific zoning assigned to specific lots. Second the neighborhood did in fact support a mild upzone from the old neighborhood plan, it just wasn’t much considering the scale of the amenity and the demand the amenity will generate. Finally I think the neighborhood would have gone along with a bigger upzone if the properties were owned by anyone other than Hugh Sisley.

        At this point I think the city should just declare the Sisley properties “blighted”, and seize them using eminent domain for economic development purposes.

    2. some quick historic perspective:

      #1.
      the neighborhood lobbying efforts (YIMFY) did not “bring light rail to roosevelt”, it simply pushed for an alignment in the neighborhood core, rather than the (TOD-challenged) proposed site immediately next to I-5.

      #2.
      the community then wanted station-area-planning to begin, but neither Sound Transit nor the City puts any resources behind that….. and so, the DIY SAP began…. that right there should tell you something about the neighborhood: we could have sat back and let urban design + upzoning crawl along slowly… but the community wanted to be proactive and get out ahead of all this.

      so we went to the city and asked about upzoning around the station. the city’s reply was that step #1 had to be an update of the neighborhood plan– and then with a revised plan defining and suggesting where/what development should happen, step #2 could/would be an integrated, comprehensive upzone plan.

      so some thousands of volunteer hours and seemingly endless public outreach later, we had a neighborhood plan update. and then with hundreds (if not thousands) of additional hours of work, a rezone proposal was crafted — and it was created to exceed all of the density targets which the city provided. –and that plan update identified things like the crossroads of the business core (65th and Roosevelt); and defined things like historic and cultural sites to be preserved (like the high school). So the up-zoning proposal reflected these values — JUST LIKE IT WAS SUPPOSED TO.

      The plain facts keep getting lost in a bunch of commenters now vilifying Roosevelt as ‘wanting no growth’ and ‘fighting density’.

      the facts are:

      Roosevelt was as pro-transit and progressive an area as I could imagine.

      the neighborhood followed every bit of process that was suggested, and beat every growth/density target/goal.

      even though some would like “skies the limit” zoning adjacent to all stations, that just isn’t realistic in already built-out neighborhoods. The push-back would be enormous, and politically impossible.

      If there should be higher density goals set in station areas, so be it. Lobby to get that passed city-wide and the neighborhoods can + will use that as their target.

      But you can’t beat up on Roosevelt for playing by the rules, expending a huge amount of effort, and creating proposals which met the goals we were given.

      that just ain’t fair–

      and you are setting a precedent that even progressive communities which do everything according to the city’s direction will be vilified and ultimately ignored.

      nice going.

  5. Roger, I think your ideology is distorting the reality of the 65th St impasse. Hugh Sisley is a greedy, racist slumlord (remember when the BAFT raided the white-supremacists in one of those houses?). If he were to follow current code, he would walk away with several million dollars in his pocket. BUT HE’S GREEDY AND WANTS MORE THAN SEVERAL MILLION. And yes, his logic and actions defines the 1%: using his position of wealth to influence public policy to make him even wealthier.

      1. I made this same comment a few months ago when this topic came up. That’s the crux of the problem here. I’ve only lived in the city for 5 years so I don’t know the history, but for some reason Hugh Sisley was allowed to acquire and then let rot all of this property. In most other places I’ve lived this would have been dealt with. I don’t know what it couldn’t have been dealt with here. But, that’s the past. He’s going to make a lot of money now, and people just need to get over it. They can take solace in the fact that he won’t live too much longer to enjoy his gains.

      2. Exactly. It sucks a little, but trying to legislate away a jerk leads to much bigger problems down the line.

      3. Sisley would even make a lot of money if the city seized his property under any number of legal pretexts they could use.

    1. So if Sisley sold his property to the Dalai Lama, the RNA would immediately embrace 65 ft limits? If so, that is not how public policy should be made. If not, stop pretending this is about Sisley.

      1. I think there’s a lot more of that than you think there is. I bet they wouldn’t accept 120, but I seriously bet they would go with 65

      2. I agree with Andrew, if Sisley was no longer the property owner then the RNA probably wouldn’t have had a problem with 65′ on those blocks. Heck they might have even accepted 85′ for the block between 12th and Brooklyn.

    2. Making public policy about “people you don’t like” is a great way to end up with really screwed up public policy. If you’re talking about what you want or don’t want from an individual, you should recuse yourself from the discussion, because you’ve lost sight of public good.

      1. Seriously, it’s like blowing up the boat you and all your friends are on in the middle of the ocean, simply because you hate one of the other passengers…

    3. And land use policy should not be used to punish bastards. Find some other legal way to punish people like this. If a slumlord’s land attracts crime, get a petition to declare the property a nuisance and condemn it.

  6. The neighborhood accepts density and the community welcomes all who want to live there, be it in single family homes or in apartments. Your specious article politicizes what is actually a community at work trying to make the best out of the place we live in. The blighted hole is an issue, and where the travesty is in this discussion. We have been held hostage to the derelict properties and we are told that we should accept the owner’s and his chosen developer’s demands, or else we continue to live with it.

    Thanks to Licata for a clear and well articulated position.

    1. No, it’s a community and a Councilmember attempting to throw roadblocks in the way of actual, meaningful development in a growing city for the sake of spite.

      1. “losing the forest for the trees” here folks……

        to examine some of the comments here and elsewhere you’d think that there is a dispute of upzoning the whole area vs. no upzone at all.

        the Roosevelt ReZone Plans call for multiple blocks upzoned by multiple levels — and none of this is being fought….. likewise, all the rezoning plans ARE calling for upzoning of the so-called “high school blocks”. all of this energetic debating on this issue relates to whether or not a relatively small portion of a community-wide comprehensive rezone should allow 4 stories or 6……..

        the community was told by the city that the first step in doing Station-Area-Planning was to update their neighborhood plan. Through a huge volunteer effort, and a lot of public outreach this was done.

        In updating the neighborhood plan the area landforms, scale and community developement was all examined.

        In creating an update to the community plan the Roosevelt neighborhood identified where growth and density could best be accomodated (centered on the urban village crossroads of 65th and roosevelt way); and identified landmarks that are to be protected and treasured (like the high school).

      2. And the neighborhood identified places where growth and density won’t happen in the real world – which is why they identified those places.

        And it’s why next time we do upzoning, we won’t ask the neighborhood.

      3. ben says:
        “And the neighborhood identified places where growth and density won’t happen in the real world – which is why they identified those places.”

        —–
        I don’tknow what map you’re looking at, but the neighborhood upzone proposals have all the blocks adjacent to the business-core crossroads, –and most of the blocks adjacent to them– set to go to 85’….. and much of this is currently only developed to one or two stories.

    2. See my comment below. “Single family homes or apartments” cannot be the only two choices if you want people to stay in your community.

      In addition, why don’t you simply ask the city to condemn his properties? There is already a case on the books, I believe it’s Miller v. City of Tacoma, that upheld a city’s ability to condemn homes for blight and sell to a private developer. Cut Sisley out of the equation and let the developers come back and put competing proposals on the table.

      1. Condos and townhomes are also good choices. We won’t get them from private developers until they get a chance to fill in some of today’s massive demand for apartments. If you want choice, let it happen.

    3. And you’re choosing to live with blighted properties, correct? I mean, that’s what it has come down to: the neighborhood is willing to keep those blight to ensure he doesn’t make more money? Do you really think making the neighborhood the “best it can be” is to engage in a path that keeps those blighted properties just to try and win a battle with a slum lord? And in the end, he’s going to get his money; the neighborhood can choose to get those properties re-developed, something that will make the area better.

      Licata, as usual, fails to see the bigger picture.

      Cut off your nose to spite your face.

      1. The neighborhood believes that 4 stories at the very edge of the urban village is appropriate no matter who owns the property.

        There are numerous other developments at 4 stories and lower that ‘pencil out’ . The new scarlet tree block…. and several other permitted developments.

        This developer is welcome to build green buildings in many areas of the neighborhood. He chose an area that is highly impacted by traffic already and provides no mitigation for the traffic that will come with his commercial area and numerous new tenants… oh, I forgot, no one in seattle owns a car!!!

      2. interested resident – if the market can support a 150′ building (which financier, developer and bank all agree), limiting heights to 4 stories means your choice will make the neighborhood even more unaffordable.

        This is a social justice issue. Severely limiting development causes skyrocketing rents, and sucks middle income people dry. You’re hurting working class people.

      3. “This is a social justice issue. Severely limiting development causes skyrocketing rents, and sucks middle income people dry. You’re hurting working class people.”

        This.

        And the traffic argument is imaginary. The vast majority of people who move into multi-story housing next to a light rail station will be using transit for most of those trips. You may have heard there will be an all-day passenger train coming through there?

        65 feet is still an incredible disappointment, being so close to a train station and to a major university. Roosevelt is not Mayberry.

      4. Interested resident,
        Those 3 blocks in question are hardly the “very edge of the urban village”. They are respectively accross the street from, one, and two blocks away from the commercial heart of the neighborhood including a drug store and two grocery stores. They are also across the street from, one, and two blocks away from a future light rail station with trains every 4 minutes headed to the rest of the city and region. They will be within 10 minutes of Westlake by rail. They are 1 mile North of a major university and only 2 minutes away by the same rail line.

        Moreover those blocks are ripe for redevelopment with financing and a property developer all lined up.

        4 stores is hardly “appropriate” for blocks such as those.

        As for traffic impacts, you might notice those blocks happen to sit near some of the best transit service in the city and furthermore will soon be served by trains to the rest of the region every 4 minutes. If that isn’t mitigation I don’t know what is.

    4. “We have been held hostage to the derelict properties”

      What comes around… The entire debate is about land owners trying to tell another land owner what he can do with his property. It sounds like he’s given you the finger and let the places rot, which unlike building a useful and needed set of apartments that are 65′ (or higher) is apparently allowed by code.

      1. And how many 4 story apartment buildings do you have to build to match the same footprint in 150′? Limiting things to 4 stories means many times more houses are torn down for the same level of demand.

      2. Don’t forget that the first floor of any building next to the station will be retail, as to do otherwise would be stupid on the part of the landowner. (And zoning to prevent retail is what would generate the car trips cited in other comments.)

        That means you’re really talking about three stories of apartments, which is not any more dense than a lot of arterials that have just one bus route coming every half hour.

      3. Brent,
        Another issue is the quality of the retail space you can fit on the first floor of a 4 story 40′ building is rather low due to the low ceiling heights. You certainly aren’t going to get any larger shops such as drugstores, grocery stores, bookstores, etc. Those generally require taller ceilings which means 2 floors of apartments above. On the other hand you can easily accommodate typical retail ceiling heights with a 6 story 65′ building.

      4. the commercial heart of the neighborhood including a drug store and two grocery stores.

        Wow, what a metropolis. This sounds a lot like DT Twisp. The station is in a stupid place and in this case there’s not even enough lemons to make lemonade.

      5. ST was originally going to build the station right next to (under?) I-5, but Roosevelt successfully petitioned ST to move it closer to the neighborhood center. If the station is in the “wrong place”, they have no one to blame but themselves.

    5. Neighbor, if a “clear and well articulated position” is for killing jobs, I’m not for it. 40′ height limits kill jobs.

      1. Roosevelt is a residential urban village, it is not an area that is supposed to be creating jobs. A four story building or a six story building would both create short term construction jobs.

      2. A four story or six story building won’t get built, for starters. They’ll just wait.

        Even if it were, a six story building would generate half the jobs of a 12 story building.

        Do you want this recession to last longer? The economy is trying to recover and you’re trying to keep unemployment high.

      3. ben–

        40′ zoning is actually a nice and in-scale plan for an area which provides the transition from the multiple blocks set to be up-zoned to 85′, and the surrounding single-family areas.

        there’s certainly plenty of 40′ zoning in seattle: it is successfully developed, and it does not “kill jobs”.

        things definitely are deteriorating into hyperbole…..

      4. M, they scale EXACTLY like that. It doesn’t matter whether it’s one person working double the total time or two people working the same amount of time, it’s twice as many construction jobs.

        40′ zoning relative to a 125′ proposal with money in the bank kills jobs and hurts our economy. Those who support 40′ by Roosevelt are hurting their neighbors by saying ‘no’ to jobs.

  7. I got to thinking about this issue the other day when a friend and I were discussing our larger neighborhood: Ballard. He was slightly upset by all the new apartments going up and when pressed, he opined that it created a “transitional community.” In other words, renters don’t put down roots, so their presence does not necessarily enhance, and could detract from, the “community.” My gut reaction was that this sounded wrongheaded, but it took me a few days to process it.

    I think it comes down to a larger goal of urban planning, that of “place making” and community building. If you want people to put down roots in already established neighborhoods and communities (like Ravenna) you either have a bunch of already well-off individuals come and buy the limited supply of single family homes, or you have people who have moved into your neighborhood while young (for example) and continue to live there throughout their lives. This means that for a given individual, the housing stock in the community needs to be sufficiently diverse so that he/she could continue living in the same community if they desire despite changing needs for housing.

    I used to live on 65th NE and NE 21st, in an apartment. I loved the neighborhood, and would have loved to stay. However, because my wife and I wanted a family and a home of our own, we were priced out of the neighborhood. (this was pre-crash) So, we moved to Ballard. Now, did Ravenna gain anything from my departure? Did its local businesses? It would seem to me that it did not. Taken one step further, assume I had chosen to move away from the city, as so many do. Does that exodus benefit anyone in the community?

    1. You’re basically only priced out of the neighborhood because the neighborhood’s housing supply is being outpaced by demand. If we let buildings be built to satisfy that demand, prices wouldn’t be increasing the way they are now.

      1. exactly right. Just trying to put my real life story in this debate. I’m the kind of person that Ravenna is excluding with their policies.

      2. Except that zoning experts might say that overbuilding is a danger to communities as well in depressing home values and the risk of creating “modern blight”. (I’m playing devil’s advocate here). The real issue is whether Land use planning should be a tool for regulating housing supply and the the inflationary force that developer’s crave.

        Yes, I said it. The dirty little secret is that everybody playing the real estate game wants the value of their property to increase so land use becomes the means where developers lock in their profits. At some point, if housing value does not remain within a reasonable function of personal income, then bubbles pop, and massive dislocation ensues. But hey, it’s the free market doing its thing.

      3. Charles, the only examples of overbuilding that cause “blight” are public housing, which isn’t typically built with market-competitive features.

      4. No, Ben, What do you call the hole that was across the street from Bellevue Square for about a decade? What do you call tracts of houses and apartment buildings in the far fringes of cities built during the apex of the housing bubble waiting to be bulldozed or occupied? What do you call new construction in Chicago that sits empty for years? It’s all blight.

    2. So what is your point….. build more apartments so when people want to live in a single family home they will have to move also?

      1. They won’t have to move as far! If I build a 150′ building, it satisfies enough of the demand in the neighborhood that it reduces pressure on the nearby single family homes. Right now, lots of single family homes are occupied by renters who need to be close to the school and transit, but who would just as happily live in apartments that simply don’t exist today. Build enough apartments and you’ll be able to compete with them.

      2. Exactly go to areas in Chicago, where you have towers of apartments near the El or Metra, and a few blocks away SFH… It can work.

      3. Exactly. Although a lot of what people think of when you say ‘towers’ are public housing, so it’s important to note that our building codes are better than that. :)

      4. Building more apartments for rent doesn’t diminish the supply of affordable houses for sale. It pretty straightforwardly should be the opposite. I’m not a Seattle housing expert, but it seems like in many neighborhoods there are lots of houses for rent. If renters (young and transient, per the stereotypes) could find better deals in apartment buildings rental demand would diminish for these houses, and more would be offered for sale at affordable prices.

        An upzone should generally mean that land values increase and housing prices decrease. Thus any homeowner/land owner that doesn’t want to redevelop or sell their buildings has an economic interest in opposing upzones. Renters and people looking to buy in a neighborhood have the opposite interest.

      5. An upzone should generally mean that land values increase and housing prices decrease.

        That’s not the way it works. When land values go up the value of what gets built on that land goes up as well. You don’t buy expensive lots to build cheap houses. You buy expensive lots and tear down perfectly good homes and build McMansions. There’s this mistaken belief that building up doesn’t cost more than building out. If that were true sprawl would never have happened. The more “urban” and area becomes the more it’s going to cost to live there. That’s life, exhibit A would be Manhatten. If you’re aim is cheaper housing then you rezone to drive down property values. Site a transfer station next to the Link Station and there will be lots of affordable housing right next door. Or, just widen the roads and up the speed limit to 45 mph; lots of affordable housing will appear. “Affordable” (i.e. cheap) == undesirable. That’s how markets really work.

      6. I’ll attest to the huge supply of SF homes for rent. In many neighborhoods it is easier to find a SF home for rent than a 2br+ apartment. For the same price the SF home will be larger and have more amenities. The SF home is more likely to have free off-street parking as well (not that I want this but such things encourage car ownership and use).

        I often wonder what kind of built environment we’d get if Seattle allowed a developer free-for-all for the next 20 years. Let people build anything they want, any density they want, as high as they want. What would be the result?

        At the very least perhaps the city should do the kind of economic and market analysis those financing large projects do to ensure zoning isn’t overly restricting the supply of retail, office, and residential space within the city.

      7. Re Chicago housing….

        @Ben very small percentages of the buildings in Chicago are public housing. And many of the monstrosity towers that CHA built have been torn down and by golly upscale developments put in their place. The dirty secret is that the residents of these famous places have been dumped in other neighborhoods where they are less visible but there is substantial impact on those communities.

        There are huge areas particularly near the waterfront where towers abound and generate massive density (e.g. > 36,000/sq. mi.

      8. our only tool on the cost side of affordability is to increase supply. There is no other lever we can pull.

        The old adage is, “buy land, they ain’t making any more of the stuff”. With housing you can’t just turn up the production line and create more widgets. Increased density comes at the expense of decreased availability of SF housing. People “wanting” cheap apartments have no skin in the game. When they stop depending on Uncle Sam and actually claim a stake is when the realization sets in that there is no free lunch.

      9. [Bernie] Your bias is showing. Yes, clearly everyone renting is a welfare mom living on food stamps. I’d love to compare welfare costs with the taxes the US loses from mortgage deductions.

      10. Bernie,
        One does not need to “buy land” in order to be an owner and not a renter. There are these things called “condos” that are like apartments except you buy them rather than rent.

      11. But you also have to consider that this financial meltdown has ruined millions of people and soured them to home ownership. Many people who were formerly middle class home owners are now unemployed or underemployed. Mortgage rates are at historic lows but there are few takers because so many people are out of work or underemployed and with societal attitudes that attack living wages. For example, people think bus drivers are over paid. I’ve also had someone say to my face they didn’t see the distinction between an airline pilot’s skill (worth) and a bus driver.

        Because so few people can afford the risk of purchasing a house again anytime soon, demand for rentals will continue to increase and existing SF stock is being converted to rentals which is a degradation of its intended purpose e.g. anchoring communities and places for families.

      12. Chris, if you look back at some of my other posts I’ve used house/condo. I don’t feel the need to spell that out every time. And, when you buy a condo you are a land owner (technically not with a co-op). Many condos even come with a yard.

      13. Bernie: Condominium laws in the US do not include ownership of any common areas. Instead, you own a share of the HOA, which in turn owns the common areas.

        As far as land ownership goes, this is analogous to the situation for co-ops, and very different from the situation for non-condominium property.

        Yes, it’s true that condo buildings sometimes (though not always) include some shared green areas. But the broader point remains: condo owners do not own any amount of land worth speaking of.

      14. I’m not a real estate attorney but that’s not my read of it. I had to look up the difference between condo and co-op and it’s described just as I’d thought:

        A condominium owner actually owns the apartment in fee simple, like any other homeowner, and owns an undivided interest in the common areas like parking lots, recreations areas, lobbies and hallways.

        I think you are thinking of co-ops which used to be common and there are several really nice ones on Capitol Hill. As for the amount of land it varies a lot. A tall inner city condo with underground parking my only have a few square feet of land associated with each unit but the value of that land is quite high. My in-law owns a condo in Kenmore that has decks, gardens, lawn and even a large mandated natural area along the Slough.

      15. I’d love to compare welfare costs with the taxes the US loses from mortgage deductions.

        That would be interesting. Since you’d love to do it I’ll wait for the result := A couple of points, welfare spending, while noble, necessary and just is an expense. Returning part of the taxes taken from those supporting welfare is a net gain to the tax payer. It may also result in a net gain in tax revenue. The mortgage deduction has been severely limited over the last couple of decades. I think there is room for further cutbacks but they need to be done slowly to avoid shock to the economy that hurts everybody. I’d restructure it more like a VA loan where everyone gets one shot at it. You use your mortgage deduction on a first home and then it’s gone. That’s what it was intended to promote.

      16. “is a net gain to the tax payer” Duh. And giving welfare to people that need it is a net gain to those on welfare. Yes, both stimulate the economy as well. I believe the studies say that giving money to the poor has more of a stimulus effect, since they’re less likely to save, but I don’t have the interest to research a link.

        I like your idea on how to slowly phase out the mortgage deduction. Any way you slice it, it’s such a huge tax break for the middle class that it will be painful (and extremely politically unpopular) to remove. But it skews our society toward sprawl, and is very regressive. Maybe combine the phase-out with a general tax break.

  8. Hard to believe that any family in their right mind would be “happy” moving out of a single family home and into an apartment. But admittedly that’s my own bias, I hated staying apartments and a move into a house is something I couldn’t wait for.

    That said, I sure hope something good comes of this. I used to frequent the Roosevelt area a lot when I first moved here, and I liked it. The history, people, overall layout of it made it a pleasant place to be. But it seems like its been dying lately.

    1. It’s not families who move out of houses and into apartments.

      Lots of houses are rented by single folks, often groups of single folks, who can’t afford apartments themselves. The reason they can’t afford apartments is that there aren’t enough apartments to go around for all the people who are moving here – when Amazon hires 2000 people, those are mostly single folks from other areas who come and outbid families for rental houses. They would just as soon live in an apartment.

      If you build enough apartments for the $100,000 a year 25 year olds who are taking these jobs, they make space for families.

      If you stifle apartment development by talking about “appropriateness” and “sight lines”, you just make it impossible for families to live in the city. There are more people every day, and we need to let builders keep up with them. They won’t do that with 4 story buildings.

      1. Amen, Ben.

        Even the 65 foot plan is a travesty given our investment in that station. A 40′ plan is an abomination, and will almost certainly need to be revisited when rents in that area go out of control.

      2. That’s just BS. The think that’s driving up rents right now is the fact that housing prices are still correcting from an over supply. People don’t want to buy when prices are dropping. Why pay $400,000 for a house or condo now when it’s likely to be worth only $360,000 in a year or two. You can rent for $1,600 a month and “live for free” on what the depreciation would be. There are plenty of “apartments” on the market now because units built as condos are being rented until the market improves. It’s true that apartments are virtually the only thing being built right now but it’s equally true that almost nothing is being built right now (except hospital emergency care centers) because we’re over built!

      3. Actually Bernie you’re wrong. Rental vacancy rates are currently stupidly low in the City of Seattle and prices on SF homes aren’t dropping. Home sales figures would seem to indicate that anyone who can qualify for a loan has been buying (again at least for Seattle, though I believe the Eastside has shown similar trends).

        Even if those “waiting” to buy a house or condo all did so tomorrow I doubt it would do much for the rental vacancy rate. For one some of that future supply of houses and condos is currently rentals. When those units are sold it will reduce the supply of rental housing. Second I don’t think those who are waiting for the market to supposedly bottom out represent a significant percentage of renters.

        Much more likely the hiring booms at technology firms and in aerospace has more to do with demand for rentals. Another factor to consider is people who’ve lost their homes or condos because they could no longer afford the mortgage. Those people have to live somewhere and they will likely be renters for at least the next 7 years.

      4. Significant disconnect here. Do you own a home? Housing prices in the greater Seattle area have dropped yet again. Of course our assessments probably won’t reflect reality for at least a year. We have built an oversupply of housing. Hiring boom? Have you looked at the unemployment rate lately? This region is blessed to have firms still hiring but overall it’s grim. All those folks building the surplus have been largely out of work for two years and there’s not much bright light in near future. Amazon has vacated just as much “old” space (PacMed, Union Square, etc.) as they have relocated to SLU. MS has moved offices out of Seattle to new space in Bellevue.

      5. A drop in housing costs does not equal oversupply. The evidence of oversupply would be when housing prices drop below the cost to build a house. Seen many $100k to $200k homes on the market?

      6. Given the number of foreclosures and short sales on relatively new properties I’d say that we’re already there. But the sign that there is oversupply is better judged by sales and new housing starts. Seattle is better off than most of the country but sales are way down and new starts are almost non-existent. This is the best buyers market I’ve ever seen. Usually the price of homes is driven down by high interest rates. That’s good for buyers because when interest rates drop the house appreciates and the owner benefits from lower payments. Today you’ve got artificially low rates that can be locked in for 15-30 years and bargain basement prices.

      7. Oversupply means there is more housing stock than people that want to live in homes. Do you really believe that’s true in Seattle?

      8. Bernie, prices and rents aren’t the same thing. Until you recognize that, you won’t be able to add meaningfully to this discussion.

      9. Ben, I’ve owned, rented and been a landlord. I know first hand that rents and prices aren’t the same thing. Did you have a point?

      10. Oversupply means there is more housing stock than people that want to live in homes.

        No, it means there are more houses on the market than people are willing and able to pay for. Wanting something does not equal demand. SeattleBubble.com does a nice job of showing how the drop in median home price and historically low interest rates have boosted the affordability index.

    2. All I can say is, when I was a kid living in a SFH in the suburbs, I *hated* it. I wished every day that we’d move into an apartment in the city. My happiest memories as a little kid were taking the train into the city and spending the day there with my family.

      This is why I sigh when new parents talk about moving to the suburbs “for their kids”. Did anyone think to ask the kids? There’s always this invisible assumption that urban environments are bad for young kids, but my own experience tells me the exact opposite.

      1. How is it that as a kid you knew what living in an apartment in the city would be like and why did you think it would be better? Watched West Side Story and thought that would be cool? Wanted to sneak out at night and frequent the bars? More fun rolling winos on the street than playing soccer? Longed to dodge heavy traffic on your bicycle? Inquiring minds want to know?

      2. Um… because I visited friends who lived in apartments in the city. I know, my parents didn’t fulfill the suburban dream of never leaving their house. Tragic.

      3. Tell me about it. I lived in a suburb that didn’t even have a movie theatre or a bowling alley – we’d have to drive over a half hour for either.

        The difference is I didn’t realize what I was missing (well, except for the movie theatre) until I actually lived in a city. Now that I have a son he has far, far more opportunities for life experiences than I had in my boring suburb.

    1. Licata listens to neighborhoods, and I love him for that. But neighborhood association interests are not necessarily aligned with the interests of those at the lower end of the 99%. In this case, the interest of Roosevelt residents trying to keep down the number of neighbors goes very strongly against the interests of taxpayers all over the region who have helped fund the multi-hundred-million-dollar train station, and are now told they are not welcome to move into the neighborhood.

      Keeping down the housing supply, especially where people could live car-free, does a lot to increase the cost of living. Of course, maybe that is what the current Roosevelt residents want.

      But in no way is keeping the heights around a train station down to a ridiculous 40 feet a good thing for the city.

      1. okay, reality check.

        in the majority of the blocks adjacent to the station, all of the zoning is being bumped up to 85′. for better or worse, that is more than the increases that any of the other new LINK ‘station-areas’ have planned for.

        Roosevelt IS asking for increased growth and density in all of its planning work — and the neighborhood has always surpassed every density target the city ever suggested.

        I would tend to agree that there should be better-defined, and greater, density targets for station areas city-wide. but that’s a different discussion and a differnt topic. like it or not, we are fuctioning under the current set of policies and procedures. that is the current framework under which the current decision must be made.

        please remember that:

        all of this excitement and discussion is about an area designed to serve (at 40′) as a tranistion from the 85′ zoning in the business core to the single family development in the surrounding areas.

      2. andy, none of the places being zoned to 85′ will be built on, except the QFC lot. The neighborhood is pretending to give something that won’t really happen.

      3. ben, I have no idea why you think that all the 1 and 2 story buildings between 64th and 66th; 9th and 12th won’t be replaced with 7 stories within 10 – 15 years of the zoning going up to 85′. some of this land is currently occupied by townhouses and old homes serving as temporary retail. why in the world wouldn’t this all be bound to get developed?

        Even the Roosevelt Square building (whole foods) will sooner or later get razed for a bigger (85′) building. I’d guess within 20 years.

  9. I just can’t believe all of the wonderful arguments I see here representing personal opinions on all sides. But this is the process that Roosevelt went through for years. We were asked how we wanted our village to take on more density. We complied and revised and still, there are the disgruntled, most of whom didn’t bother with the preliminaries. Letting builders build whatever they want now not only saves the planet, makes all housing more affordable, makes the light rail “worth the cost” but it also brings the country our of the recession. It is just amazing to me how important three little blocks in sleepy Roosevelt are to the rest of the world.

    1. Yeah, Roosevelt is the first battle in a long war. The problem is – the people in Roosevelt who are fighting to the end don’t realize that the result will be removing neighborhoods from city planning.

      1. The neighborhoods have already largely been removed from city planning. I and a number of others from around the city spent over a year (2009-10) on the Neighborhood Plan Advisory Committee. Take a look at the various recommendations; very few have been implemented. Documents are here.

      2. What Toby said. Rice was the last Mayor who actually tried to do neighborhood planning with neighborhood involvement (the Diers era).

      3. ben says:
        “…..the people in Roosevelt who are fighting to the end don’t realize that the result will be removing neighborhoods from city planning.”

        the current situation is proof that this has already happened.

      4. andy, I don’t understand you.

        The neighborhood is successfully limiting a 150′ proposal to 65′. If the city wasn’t listening to the neighborhood, 150′ would be built.

      5. you really think that the 150′ proposal was seriously under consideration?

        and the city only didn’t go forward on such an out-of-scale proposal because of the neighborhood raising concerns??

    2. The great thing about pushing the density next to the freeway is that the multi-story buildings will end up being office space rather than mixed-use residential.

      That’s one more clever way to avoid having new neighbors.

  10. The language at the end of Valdez’s argument is interesting. “What’s best for the neighborhood” turns out not to be what’s best for the neighbors. He blames them for feeling “entitled to keeping the value of their own investments.” (This seems a pretty reasonable impulse to me, and I’d be surprised if it isn’t one that most people, including Valdez, share.)

    Presumably, one piece of their feeling that big apartments in front of the school will reduce the value of their homes is also aesthetic – they like being able to see the school; it creates a certain sense of place and formality in the area, etc… so they figure that losing that will make other people who might someday want to live in houses like theirs less interested in moving to their neighborhood without that.

    Maybe having more taller apartments there is good for people who want or need to rent an apartment (because apartments built on cheaper land farther out and costing the same will mean longer commute times and higher commuting expenses for them). It’s presumably good for the planet because it will increase transit use. But I think it’s straining it to say it’s “good for the neighborhood” (unless you want to argue that there’s some silent majority who really want 65 or 120 feet and just didn’t make themselves heard.)

    1. It is good for the neighborhood. It will create more spaces for more businesses, giving all residents access to more choices. It will create use of the transit station, promoting construction of a more complete transit system so that Roosevelt residents will be able to get to more of the city on grade separated rail. And it will bring people to the street in evenings and night, creating safety in a community that becomes barren at night.

    2. I’m sure those run down and boarded up houses next to the school do wonders for home values in the neighborhood. The view sure is aesthetic isn’t it? I’m sure the blighted properties are a real attraction to people buying into the neighborhood.

      As much of an asshole as Sisley is he’s likely quite right that making projects on those three blocks pencil out at 3 or 4 stories will be difficult at best. He isn’t the only developer who will walk away and wait until they can get a rezone or rents go up to the point that a less dense redevelopment makes sense.

      There is also a reason so little of the property zoned for 40′ mixed-use has been redeveloped in the city while much of the 65′ mixed-use has been.

      1. Is that actually true? Eastlake and Upper Queen Anne have both seen a ton of 40′ mixed-use in the last decade, and I can think of a bunch of other developments scattered around (some in Wallingford, some in various areas around Green Lake, a few in Ravenna, etc.)

      2. Steve,

        The point of this debate is not whether mixed-use *can* be built at 40 feet. The point is what is the best height for mixed-used buildings next to a major train station.

        Eastlake and Lower Queen Anne don’t have a light rail station. When a property is right next to a train station, and the value of the land more than doubles, then the math of what is feasible to construct and barely turn a profit changes.

        I’m a veteran of land development wars, having tried to reduce development in a fragile watershed that was the main supply of drinking water for a city, and push growth into the city. Roosevelt is doing the exact opposite: Pushing development to the far fringes in the forests (er, tree farms) on the foothills by resisting development in the city.

        Yes, 40 feet could be done, but probably not profitably next to a train station a mile from UW, with opposition from other developers who just happen to be involved in the antagonistic neighborhood association.

        More to the point: Should a 40-foot building be built next to this station? Nope. That’s a frittering away of a multi-hundred-million dollar taxpayer investment to build a transportation system for hundreds of thousands of people, only to have those people kept out of the neighborhoods that got the investment.

        Maybe the best solution out of all this is to cancel Roosevelt Station.

      3. Brent,

        I don’t disagree that 65′ is better, for the neighborhood, for housing affordability, for transit use.

        But that’s not what I was responding to. Christopher Stefan claimed that little of the property zoned for 40′ has been developed and a lot of 65′ property has been, supporting Sisley’s claim that he needs height for buildings to pencil out. That’s what I was responding to. If there’s no chance of an upzone, there’s no reason to land bank, and a 40′ building in Roosevelt is going to have the same building cost as a 40′ building in Queen Anne and similar demand (Roosevelt is less fancy neighborhood, but as you note, transit access is valuable).

        65′ is better because it brings more people, not because 40′ buildings won’t get built.

      4. The higher the better for affordability. Every new unit built represents one less person competing with you for another apartment.

  11. Lest the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association fill picked on here, I’ll point out that this blog has been critical of ridiculous height limits around many other stations.

    I hope this isn’t just a culture war between homeowners and apartment dwellers.

  12. Despite what some here want to make this debate into… it’s NOT about upzoning and what height buildings next to Roosevelt Station should be.

    Those questions should have been asked a long time ago.

    This is about whether or not the City honors its commitments to a well-organized and active neighborhood organization that worked with planners and agreed to take on more density when asked to.

    This is also about whether or not we should allow a developer to hold a gun to the heads of city leaders or residents to get what he wants.

    You want 150′ buildings, now is the time to start advocating for them for East Link and North Link.

    1. Roosevelt Station *is* part of North Link.

      (Okay, it depends on your definition of the word “is”.)

      1. That is Sound Transit’s definition of “North Link”: Brooklyn, Roosevelt, Northgate. Beyond that it’s “North Corridor”.

    2. Three hundred units when the market wants thousands wasn’t a reasonable neighborhood proposal, and it’s not “agreeing to take on more density.” It’s an attempt to hurt the working class, by people with million dollar houses.

      1. Get a grip on reality, Ben. Roosevelt and Ravenna are more working-class neighborhoods than you will ever admit, and always have been. It’s just that the people who live here have saved and purchased homes over the years. If you’re just pissed off because you are priced out of the market, don’t take it out on the people who have made the sacrifices to become home owners. There is no “right to cheap housing” in any Washington statutes or anywhere else. So give it a break with your righteousness.

      2. Ben has sacrificed most of his free time and a lot of his life savings to make Seattle a better and more affordable place to live. Maybe he should have sour grapes that other people have thought only of themselves…

      3. It’s an attempt to hurt the working class, by people with million dollar houses.

        Seriously? Those SF houses in Roosevelt are going for a million dollar$? A quick glance at Parcel Viewer and I think you’ll see that land values have in some cases turned $200k homes into 1/2 million dollars homes overnight 2009 -> 2010 because of Link. That’s not going to drive rental rates down when property taxes double. It does explain why some neighborhood residents may have wanted to push the Link Station farther from Greenlake and the P&R under I-5. ST was duped or someone was in on the fix.

      4. @Bernie, 4 of those properties you’re looking at were purchased by RDG. Ridiculous prices for what they bought, but I guess they will be doing the working class a big favor by building large, high quality units for families, but rent them out for way below market. Their mouth is in the right place.

      5. Look at the value of the houses of the people who are coming to those meetings. :) Maybe 750,000 – but not working class, for sure.

        Reality is, Glenn, that people are moving to Seattle because companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft are hiring them. You have a choice – you can allow new housing to be built for them that they can afford, or they can outbid you when you want a home.

        Personally, I live in the middle of downtown, because I can afford to. However, not all are like me, and I want to help make sure Seattle doesn’t become a “rich software engineer only club” like Broadmoor. If we don’t allow housing to be built, it becomes that.

        You’re making a lot of value judgments, but frankly, the math of microeconomics doesn’t care what you say, it cares what you do. And what you’re doing is hurting working class people who want to live near transit.

      6. Where are these $750,000-1,000,000 homes? Poking around the most expensive I could find was $555,000. Most were right at or below the median price for King County; that’s cheap for being in city and so close in. What kinds of cars are students driving to Roosevelt? If they are late model BMWs I’ll buy into the “rich people in Roosevelt” trying to keep out the riff raff.

      1. So, letting tall apartment buildings get built next to a train station is the moral equivalent of shooting a neighborhood?

        In reality, the neighborhood is blighting itself by preventing the sort of density that could support family shops and restaurants over the long haul, and reduce car trips (since you could walk to nearly everything you need).

      2. Judging by Glenn’s website I’d say he has a pretty vested interest in keeping as many single-family homes in Seattle as possible. What’s the matter Glenn, can’t figure out how to make money on apartments?

      3. You’re talking about this website, right? Basic surfing and comparing headshots shows this is indeed the same Glenn from Roosevelt posting here.

        So, the question arises, who is the evil developer blighting the neighborhood here, and who is the good developer saving the neighborhood? It seems to be a matter of perspective.

      4. Glenn just only wants rich people to be able to afford to live in Roosevelt. It’s safe to ignore him – he has no idea how to frame his argument to gain support past this one fight.

  13. I agree that 65ft is great, but if it doesn’t happen I honestly wouldn’t worry too much about the density increasing in this area.

    With a new train station here demand for housing will go up in Roosevelt. Tall buildings or not, people will find ways to house those people, because people like to make money. All the current SFH will soon turn into apartment rentals, many will get additions or DADUs or what have you in efforts to increase footage. And soon it will be just like other high demand SFH neighborhoods with few single families and many rental units. Eventually heights will be increased and density will continue to increase. Simple as that.

    1. And then the renters will get displaced and have to move in order to build those taller mixed-use buildings that could have been built in the first place. Doh!

  14. I don’t see why people sit around doing all these “WhatIf” cogitating when there are, by now, many cities that have implemented TOD and rail transit.

    Portland is only 2 and half hours away. Why aren’t people investigating the results, pluses and minuses of what actually works, is good, or debateable based on real world experience rather than arguing in a vacuum?

  15. As usual, I find so many folks on here tipping at windmills instead of good issues to work on.

    Whether or not a 150′ building could actually be built is besides the point… Several of you are simply taking as FACT that developers are being held back from building 100’+ buildings all over the place next to transit, and that new buildings will make housing more affordable in the city, and everyone is clamoring to live next to stations and use transit all day.

    The problem with your arguments is that these are NOT facts. Plenty of evidence shows that newer buildings are luxury buildings at luxury prices. And buyers/renters don’t move out and leave affordable spaces to be moved into because we have a lack of housing supply at ALL levels in Seattle right now. So plenty of affordable housing is torn down for new developments and never replaced.

    We also have plenty of evidence that folks still move into TOD and bring their cars.

    What we need to do is stop wasting energy fighting about zoning, and spend more time working to make sure that zoning, design guidelines, and building codes help developers build affordable housing and housing that families can actually move into. And we need to support local banks and financing options so that developers are no longer forced by “East Coast” institutions to include so much (expensive) parking in their developments.

    (Example: I have a 200+ unit luxury apartment building going into my neighborhood with more than one parking space per unit, despite being walking distance to parks, community centers, arts facilities, and a trails, and with easy access to at least half a dozen bus lines!)

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