What might happen if we got rid of the code one mile around Beacon Hill, stopped worrying about heights, and, instead, focused on what’s happening on the ground there and wrote a code that reflected that potential? I’m not sure, but when the inevitable criticism came in for my Zero Based Zoning idea for the Beacon Hill station area, I started to wonder, “Maybe a mile is too big of an area around a station.” But after an extensive walking tour, I think a mile is just about right, and there is strong foundation there upon which to build the future.

My drawing skills are certainly not great, but while I was walking and looking at maps here’s what I sketched out. (click here for the big version).

In the center of the bull’s-eye, of course are the station and the commercial district. The circle is roughly a mile from the center out to the edges. As one commenter pointed out, the circle does include seemingly incongruous neighborhoods. But as I experienced the area on foot (I also live there for 10 years) it became easy to see that there are some important reasons to consider such a wide circle.

Zero Based Zoning is a concept like form based code except that it doesn’t start with a code at all, but a process. Can we consider a neighborhood without limits but only potential? Can we stop worrying about adjusting heights, bulk, and scale of buildings in a neighborhood, but consider instead what could happen there with more people? Here’s my view of Beacon Hill with no code, only experience an open mind about what could happen there with the station holding it together.

The Center: Dense, high rise, mixed use

Perhaps the easiest part of the thought process is the commercial district surrounding the station itself. Much of this area can and should support substantial mixed-use development. The only limits for a quarter mile around the station ought to be financial feasibility. The Red Apple could easily support a larger development, as could some of the surrounding blocks. I would imagine a dense, built out core that would look a lot like parts of downtown, Belltown, or First Hill.

The Keyhole: Low Rise 3, like Capitol Hill

A kind of keyhole shape of single-family residential surrounds the core, bounded by Jefferson Park on the south, steep green belts on the east and west, and the Jose Rizal Bridge on the north. This entire area should look a lot like Capitol Hill’s huge swaths of L-3, low rise, multifamily with some single family mixed in. Most of Capitol Hill is quiet, with a residential feel. True, there a lot of people there, but most of the housing is 4 to 12 units, a perfect way to transition Beacon Hill’s single-family neighborhoods around the station into density, and a huge economic opportunity for current property owners who could convert their homes into townhouses, fourplexes, and backyard cottages. Everyone in the keyhole would become a small scale citizen developer overnight.

The North: Gateway to Little Saigon and Capitol Hill

The north end of Beacon Hill winnows down to a point, which makes the Pacific Medical Center Building an iconic gateway to the neighborhood. It’s hard to improve on what’s already there, but for many years there has been an interest in a better link to Little Saigon and 12th and Jackson. I don’t have any good answers, but it’s probably time that the entire Pac Med building campus come back into the public realm, unless a way can be found to turn it into housing. Most of the north end of Beacon Hill looks like parts of Capitol Hill, so it may not be an issue of adding more people, but reducing crime and promoting walking across the bridge.

The West: Funicularity, gondolarity, and connectivity

One commenter was flabbergasted that my mile circle included the industrial area, an understandable reaction. But when I lived on Beacon Hill and biked to work every day my route took me right down Holgate and onto 4th. I even used to walk that route. And don’t forget that while there is a firm, clear, and excellent edge to the neighborhood there, it doesn’t mean there can’t be connectivity and improved access for bikes and pedestrians to the bus way and light rail on 6th. Holgate and Spokane could be great pedestrian and bike gateways between Beacon Hill and everything west, including the stadia, light rail, bus lines, and maybe even the Sounder.

And how about a gondola or a funicular between the edge of Beacon Hill and the base to facilitate this? There is already a piece of the Mountains to Sound Greenway that stops right at the top of the Holgate Bridge. The west side of Beacon Hill has a firm edge, but it doesn’t have to be a brick wall.

The East:More Gondolarity

And speaking about gondolas, why not have one connecting the Beacon Hill Station and the Rainier station or Franklin High School? I know, I know, pointless from a pure transit perspective, but it would be a great connection bridging the steep incline for bikes and pedestrians going up the hill. Like Little Saigon, most of Rainer Avenue is still far away conceptually for residents of Beacon Hill not so much because of actual distance but because of the steep climb. There might be better ideas for where the gondola might go, but something to open connections to Rainier Avenue, in addition to light rail itself, seems important.

The South: Beacon Hill’s front yard

Big institutional buildings anchor the north and south of the circle, the south end’s being the Veteran’s Administration Hospital. But what give the south part of the circle its charm are Jefferson Park and the golf course. This amenity in the middle of an increasingly dense neighborhood is a huge selling point for families and older residents too. The important analogy here is also to Capitol Hill and Cal Anderson Park. Cal Anderson is also a lidded reservoir, and it functions as the front yard for thousands of people who live in apartments and condos in Capitol Hill. The best way to keep the park and golf course alive is to fill it with people either who live nearby or who light rail, gondola, bus, or funicular onto Beacon Hill.

Getting to what we want, not avoiding what we hate

I’m no planner, and gondolas, on the surface, have nothing to do with land use. But that’s the point. Far from being undemocratic or driven from the top down, Zero Based Zoning is an effort to do what people like Tim Burgess and Peter Steinbrueck have suggested more than once: turning our land use code into incentives that promote what we want, rather than an accretion of rules to prevent what we fear. Zero Based Zoning has only one quantitative outcome, more people in a smaller place. How we do that in a sustainable, livable, and affordable way is up to us, not a code.

Below is a 3-D fly-over view of part of my walk up Beacon Hill from 4th and Holgate, a cool feature of Map My Run.

65 Replies to “Zeroing In On Beacon Hill”

  1. An eastward gondola would be utterly pointless. Link already provides a high-quality connection that accomplishes everything you desire.

    1. I’m trying to think of anywhere in this circle where a gondola makes any sense, and am coming up almost empty. The one place I could imagine it helping is if we took out the golf course and built something fairly high density (a new university? tall condos?). A very small, cheap gondola between there and the Rainier station would connect that blank slate to Link. Either that or run a streetcar down Beacon Ave.

      1. Between LINK and the 36, North Beacon Hill is covered very nicely transit-wise. The 60 is fairly handy too, milk run-esque deviations aside. No gondola needed here.

  2. Can anybody prove to me that the reason Beacon Hill Station has been surrounded since its opening by acres of leveled gravel is because of zoning problems and lack of a gondola?

    Let’s have the discussion start with some explanation of who exactly benefits from the present situation. Only idea that makes sense to me is that it’s a minimalist park design thing. Flat graded gravel is philosophically restful, or something like that.

    What’s the truth?

    Mark Dublin

    1. The truth is that the area around the station is zoned too low for the property owners to make development on it pencil out.

      1. There’s also a financing problem for developers, they need someone to lend them money.

        You can also account some of it to zoning uncertainty. If you think you’re zoning is going to go up later, you wait to build.

      2. Thanks, Ben. Now, will there be strong resistance in the neighborhood to the rezoning that will permit more activity? I can’t help but think that a lot of inaction on all fronts stems from the current economy. Or more accurately, the effect of current politics on the economy.

        Like Downtown, Beacon Hill station area will eventually get developed.


      3. I own property near this station, though it’s not anything large enough to build on. If the zoning were merely NC 65 in our area (a couple of blocks from the station), we’d see some more development for sure.

      4. Mark:

        At the community meetings the city held regarding proposed upzones, there was little pushback from neighbors. People generally accepted 65 feet as a good height for the station area.

      5. The truth of it is actually that the property is owned by a Chinese family that does not want to sell the land and is not involved in development as they are busy running their new restaurant after they got booted off Beacon Hill. That is just the way it is in our neighborhood. Some cultures value holding onto the property and it isn’t their fault that Sound Transit and armchair planners don’t know anything about our cultural history, including the fact that taking down a 60 year-old restaurant with many followers isn’t going to be easy to fix. But so much for the responsibility of the builders and designers and armchair planners to be socially literate.

    2. I am thinking of starting a new service for municipalities. Rent-a-hipster. The idea is to hire out “hipsters” on long term contracts to inhabit a neighborhood and build its cachet. Once the “hipness” has been establish and people start flocking, the development will follow.

      1-800-HIPSTER, our operators are standing by and may even answer the phone.

      1. You’re too late, groan. This is and has been a long standing sequence of development. Think Greenwich Village in NYC and in Seattle South Lake Union and Ballard. Seven corners in Minneapolis and countless others.Artists move in where spaces are large and cheap for studios. They do cool stuff and then someone wants a loft. Kaboom! Gentrification, redevelopment and it’s good-bye artists.

      2. I am actually thinking of an actual “guided” development model vs. “Hey its cheap here!”

        Spokane, back in the late ’90s, tried to establish a “gay friendly” district…

    3. Mark, the truth is the land on the BH Station block is in two ownerships, one of which is a large family that has not yet come together in agreement on a future there.

      The block is being rezoned to NC2R-65, allowing the ubiquitous 5/1 building type to be constructed. Perhaps this rezoning will provoke the family to engage.

      As Martin wisely observes, gondolas are absurd. Roger should visit Portland and study the areas around the termini of its gondola line. He will see nothing remotely like Beacon Hill and SODO. Nothing!

      1. I should point out that the zoning density increases now before City Council were approved and supported by virtually everyone in the community, at least everyone who was engaged at all in the discussions.

        Nobody testified against it at the Council public hearing last month. The notion that most Seattle neighborhoods are NIMBYies just doesn’t hold water.

        Had the City’s neighborhood plan update process been more transparent and less exclusive, we might have achieved even greater densities than in the plan now being adopted.

        Roger has been away from Beacon Hill for too long.

      2. Gondolas in and of themselves are not absurd, but this neighborhood doesn’t need one. We built a subway tunnel through instead, and that should be leveraged to support a much larger neighborhood population. Unfortunately the current plan will add a fraction of the population the upgraded transit infrastructure could support.

  3. I have a set of three letters for you…



    Or are you going to put a crazy value judgement on another airport like someone did to LKE?

    1. Technically, the runways at KBFI are offset so that aircraft come in over Harbor Island, the Industrial District and Elliot Bay, but FAA regulations are definitely a reason to focus on density, not height. Check it out on google maps.

      This has been said before, but while gondolas are cute, considering we already built a subway station on the hill, I don’t really see why we’d need one…

      1. Well, unless things have changed since I took flight lessons (in my youth) and since I still see planes “in the pattern” over Beacon Hill, a flight pattern for runway 13L/31R runs right over the hill. (think of a rectangular pattern with the runway forming the left line) So, height of buildings there would likely require FAA review.

      1. It decidedly does not suck to be me (in fact it’s awesome most of the time), but this is popup is annoying.

  4. When comparing parks in Capitol Hill, don’t forget to mention Volunteer Park. Two great parks exist on Capitol Hill.

  5. Well if we had a light rail stop at graham or orcas then up over the hill to Georgetown might work

  6. Roger,

    Unlike many here, I respect your ideas, and think that your heart is absolutely in the right place. And I firmly agree with you that our current zoning code is much too complex, and that it effectively outlaws urban development (and has for a long time).

    But don’t make the mistake of thinking that abolishing zoning will result in anything like what you imagine. About the only certainty is that we’ll see more development. Otherwise, it all depends on what makes money. For example, unless they’re explicitly outlawed, we should expect to see quite a few payday loan shops, nail salons, and used-car lots, because they have very low barriers to entry.

    Also, rather than the nice transitions you describe, expect to see totally haphazard development. High-rises will be next to structured parking and single-family homes. A well-architected building will be bordered by five hideous ones.

    Now, I happen to think that there’s a certain kind of beauty in the chaos. Old urban neighborhoods — the kind we wish there were more of — are universally characterized by their complete disregard for building in any way that makes sense. But in today’s world, if you want consistent mixed-use density, and the clean transitions that you describe, you’re going to have to do something to regulate it. The best tool we currently have is form-based zoning. I don’t believe that form-based codes are the panacea that some people do, but they’re unquestionably better than what we have, and leagues better than giving neighbors veto power over every new construction project.

    For my part, I’m happy to let the market sort things out. I’d rather see too many nail salons than too few. But the market is not psychic, and it will never produce perfection.

  7. Thank you Aleks. Your comment is a relief from the content and tone of much of the other comments here. The fact that I have failed to inspire much useful dialogue is my own responsibility. I must not be communicating very clearly. And certainly it hasn’t helped that I have called out the financial interests of single family homeowners and questioned the courage and convictions of my own allies. That leaves me pretty exposed to being blasted from one side for “voodoo planning” and from the other about whether I am just a shill for developers.

    But your comment starts to get at the point. I’m glad to take a risk with the market. I think the market can produce some really good outcomes; it is a risk though. Nail saloons, car washes, and strip malls can make money. Somehow I don’t worry so much about that if we turned off the code in the core of Beacon HIll. There are some unknowns, but the known is a vacant lot in the center of a transit oriented community.

    I don’t think my idea of starting with use is a panacea, but the existing code is kind of a non-starter. We should be looking at how we mix different uses together, not how high or bulky the container is. I don’t think form based code is really the answer because that’s essentially what we have, a code that is driven by building form not how buildings get used.

    If it weren’t so funny it would be sad that people dog piled the gondola idea. I was a pedestrian in this little planning exercise, for crying out loud; my use of the neighborhood was as a pedestrian trying to get around and over the hill. Of course we have a tunnel blah, blah, blah. But I said that in the post. I wasn’t proposing the Gondola as the savior of freakin’ western civilization. It was supposed to be fun. As my friend Dan Bertolet pointed out when I ran into him on one of my walks, “Seattle just can’t seem to have fun.” Exactly.

    The point of this post (and if I have to explain it, I guess it failed completely) is to give an example of one person just tackling the one mile circle on foot, and thinking about how the neighborhood could work from the perspective of someone walking, starting with zero code.

    Had I done this as a transit user, or taxi rider, or bus driver, or bicyclist I would have arrived at some different ideas. Same thing had I looked at it as a resident or business owner. The point of zero based zoning is to listen and document the way different people use the neighborhood and its existing infrastructure, then provoking ideas about how to make it better.

    When we start with a code that is use building height (low rise, high rise, NC 65 etc) why is it any surprise that the shape of our land use discussions take the form of buildings rather than use? Some people want nail salons, other people bars, other people, yoga studios and on an on. We get around in a variety of different ways, following some very basic instincts that don’t always conform to a topographical map. We spend money on things that sometimes make very little sense like car washes.

    All I am suggesting is that we pull our heads out of the code for a minute, put on our shoes and walk around a bit. Get on a bus. Walk into a restaurant or bar you’ve never been in. See how the place works. How do people use it. Do they use it at all? Then try to imagine doubling or tripling the number of people there. How would that change things?

    Then start dreaming, planning, financing, and building. That’s the hope anyway. Maybe someday somebody will take a chance on the market, on people, and on looking at how they use their city rather than just digging in around building heights and transit modes. Maybe then I’d feel like I hadn’t wasted so many words and so much shoe leather….boo, hoo!

    1. I’m glad to take a risk with the market.

      Really, how much do you have invested? Or are you just happy to take risks with other peoples money?

      1. The real money involved is that of the developers who want to buy land and pay construction crews to build buildings, and the land owners who want to sell to those developers. Why don’t you want to let people take risks with their own money?

      2. You’re leaving out the land owners that don’t want to sell to developers. If someone buys into a gated community they have an expectation that the gate will remain. If you buy a view lot in Sommerset you have an expectation that your investment in that view will be protected. If you buy into some place like Columbia City or Beacon Hill you have invested base on an expectation that the block next door won’t become a Walmart.

      3. You’re leaving out the land owners that don’t want to sell to developers.

        Then they don’t have to sell.

        The Onion once published an article, “Massachusetts passes new law ordering mandatory gay marriage”. I think someone needs to write another article, “Seattle passes new law forcing all homeowners to replace their house with a 50-story building”.

        If someone buys into a gated community they have an expectation that the gate will remain.

        Bernie, no one wants to build mixed-use developments inside a gated community, and you know it. Red herring.

        If you buy a view lot in Sommerset you have an expectation that your investment in that view will be protected.

        Expectation maybe, but you sure as hell don’t have the right. Your property rights don’t extend an inch beyond your property. Who says that your view is more important than someone else’s productive use of land? It’s a *view*, for crying out loud!

        If you buy into some place like Columbia City or Beacon Hill you have invested base on an expectation that the block next door won’t become a Walmart.

        Again, if you did expect that, you’re wrong. All investments have risk, and one of the risks of land is that it will become more or less valuable due to what else is around it. The government should not infringe upon every landowner’s rights because their next-door neighbor might hypothetically lose value.

        And the part I find most ridiculous about all this is that land is a terrible investment for most people. Keeping over 50% of your net worth in an illiquid asset that, over the long term, doesn’t even grow faster than inflation? Terrible idea. And yet we create city-destroying land use codes based on the assumption that this is something we want to promote.

        I can’t tell you what car to buy, or what job to have, or how to run your business. Why can you tell me how high I can build my buildings? If I own the land, why do you get veto power over what I do with it?

    2. Roger, I love the ambition for letting it go wild, and appreciate the work you did walking the area. I’m confused because I think what you want to happen in this “zero based zoning” is what we do when we make a comprehensive plan from scratch, when we lay everything out and let ideas spring up, and craft a vision of what we want and maybe define some strategies or tools to get there, – at least in good examples that’s how it works. Except if we screw it up on a plan, taking something out doesn’t cost as much as the impact of letting someone develop a bad building that stands for 50 years but only 5 years in we say oops that was a boo-boo.

      Planning always vacillates between use restrictions or form restrictions. Use, Form and Relation are all important if the desired outcome is a functional, contributing space and a quality experience for users. We shouldn’t treat them separately. Perhaps looser use zoning on specific sites is in order so we get the form we want, maybe looser form rules could be an incentive depending on what’s adjacent. Complexity and Detail make the urban fabric rich. So freedom is good, and complex rules actually reflect a deep respect of freedom, because they show where the originally simplistic law has bent to the will of popular or special interests. Over-simplified freedom is seductive, but think about the freedom of the frontier (harsh and isolating) or sprawl (boring and isolating). Boundaries often encourage creative sparks because we innovate to live with the obstacle. There need to be multiple channels for that innovation, with potential variation at a level of sophistication comparable to the expected number of users of the space. Where only a few deviations are possible, the code is too strict. The solution isn’t to throw it out, but to bend it for the person who comes in with a great idea. The challenge is not to bend it for the person with a bad idea and a lot of money.

      1. G-Man,

        I don’t disagree with you. We do find our freedom through rules and regulation. Freedom is about good government, not no government at all.

        I realize that taken out of context from other things I’ve written that it might seem that I’m promoting libertarianism. Not at all.

        Also, you’re right, and some point we’ll have to permit some kind of building. And that building will have to conform to lots of rules, including financial and architectural feasibility.

        My contex is the context of doing just what you’ve suggested, bending the rules for good ideas. But that takes strong executive leadership and a willingness to break some eggs to make an omelette. And that egg breaking is much needed and missed when it comes to proposed projects.

        But then we’re still, in the words of one commenter, thumbs wrestling over every parcel and project in town.

        I’m not a total naïf here. This concept of zero based zoning is just another way of saying “good planning.” I don’t know what your background is, but we don’t start with ideas around here–good or bad–but with the code. I’m asking us to put the code down for a second and think.

        I think we achieve freedom trough the promulgation of really good policy and regulation. But that freedom through regulation easily becomes corrupted by a lazy reliance on written code. We’ve forgotten how to bend rules in Seattle, we just wrote more and more narrow exceptions that create a pointless spaghetti of code that suffocates innovation in finance and design.

      2. Roger, I think we pretty much agree. I’m glad that you are raising these issues. I’m AICP, originally from the midwest, currently working in transit. Also – reformed libertarian now with a well-developed sense of moderation. I dream of doing some development, probably densifying suburbs where I live and work, when I have cash to spare.

        I think planners will generally react against the elimination of zoning unless it’s clear what will stop bad uses and forms from invading the space. Reliance on the community itself hasn’t proven very effective for many reasons.

        In the current system developers can always apply for variance to build something more than is allowed, but the community will have a hard time stopping them from building less. I get why it’s troublesome that more effort is required to create density and the easy path is to not.

        Sorry I haven’t read all your posts, but has there ever been discussion of setting a minimum density? New Urbanist developments started using build-to lines instead of setbacks. Similarly, minimum densities could be adopted, not just maximums, and then the market can dictate where in the available range any project actually lands.

        Perhaps we could set a target density and allow deviation of 20% either way without triggering more stringent review? The hard number that the community has to accept publicly is the big challenge, and this has the benefit that acceptance may be easier if the number on paper is lower, but what actually gets built could be 20% above that number because of the flexibility. Of course when selling the concept, emphasis could be placed on the potential for eventual density being 20% less than that number. I don’t think that’s deceptive, it’s strategic. With visualization tools the community can see what those densities look like.

    3. Roger, I suggest next time you walk around a neighborhood like this, you invite along a couple of locals who actually know that’s going on currently, against whom you can bounce off ideas, and maybe absorb a few new ones yourself. I think you missed a lot on your solo tour of Beacon Hill.

  8. Isn’t Houston an example of a city without zoning? Housing is cheap and affordable there, especially relative to wages. Seems like it would be a nirvana for Seattle’s density advocates.

      1. Houston’s “no-zoning zoning” doesn’t care about purpose. So there’s no rules splitting commercial, residential, industrial, etc; they’re all just jumbled in together.

        It does, however, mandate low-densities in most places.

      1. Sounds kind of like Bellevue which has kicked Seattle’s ass for attracting new business even though Seattle has all the historical advantages. Maybe super blocks really weren’t such a bad idea even though they’re out of fashion with the TOD set. To be honest though, Houston could have been zoned single wide mobile homes and still succeeded just because of the global oil economy. Better lucky than good.

      2. Umm Bernie, something has happened of late because in the last 3 years, Seattle has been kicking Bellevue’s ass in housing starts and business development. Could it also be that Bellevue’s planning department was gutted and it is very difficult to get projects approved? Could it be a polarized City Council with corrupt aldermanic style politicians running the place?

      3. No, vacancy rates, rents, new projects all tilt toward Bellevue. Bellevue is gaining residents (like crazy) and office space rents at a premium to DT Seattle. DT Seattle OTHO has lost jobs big time over the last decade.

      4. Bernie those comparisons are goofy, dt Bellevue is 1/10th the size of dt Seattle in terms of jobs. It’s about the same size as slu, and a little smaller than first hill.

        When you include the outlying areas, like slu, I do not believe the 10 year statistic is true, and certainly won’t be when amazon completes an entire dt Bellevue worth of office space by itself.

      5. Andrew, it’s not just the CBD that’s lost jobs. Seattle on whole lost 40,000 jobs over the last decade. Yes, an entire DT Bellevue’s worth. The “new” Amazon jobs in SLU are largely rearranging the deck chairs and have left other locations vacant; like the PacMed building. Some companies, like Russel moved in because they were able to snap up real estate at fire sale prices. But then Seattle just lost 20% of it’s container business to the Port of Tacoma.

      6. 2000: 502,900
        2008: 496,900
        A difference of 1%, probably well within the confidence interval on these statistics. Next, guess what? Recession hit and the unemployment rate in Seattle went from 4.3% in 2000 to 8.2% in 2010 (the trough, the number you picked). The unemployment rate is actually higher in the Eastside right now, btw.

        Next, the economy started to add jobs in 2011, but you don’t use that number. Now you could say “I meant “last decade” to be the decade starting in 2000″, which would mean 2000-2009. In which case your math sucks or you picked the wrong year. Or you could say “I meant the last decade to mean the last ten years” which ends at 2011, in which case your math sucks or you picked the wrong year.

        But what you obviously meant was “I’m going to pick the largest left-hand-side, and the smallest right hand side, ignore the recession and draw a ridiculous conclusion” but instead you said “over the last decade [something obviously untrue] happened”

      7. He’s not counting last year. He’s using the lowest number and the highest number. Because otherwise he wouldn’t be Bernie.

      8. I’m not counting “projected numbers”, true. But lets assume they are better than ST projections. 502,900 – 472,800 you’re only down 30,100 6%. 2000 to 2008, the boom years and you’re bragging that jobs in Seattle only lost 1%? And I’m accused of cherry picking statistics, geesh.

      9. Who’s bragging about anything? 2000 was the height of the dot-com bubble (I bet if you had years 2001, 2002 and 2003, they’d be less than 2008), and Seattle did little to attract jobs in the 2000s. That’s bad. But that’s not bragging.

        You’re either “cherry-picking statistics” or are making dishonest arguments that even your own sources don’t back up.

      10. In fact, Bernie, from 2008-2010, Bellevue went from 128,330 to 119,892. A loss of 9.34%: much, much more than Seattle.

        So you are very, very wrong.

      11. 7% vs 9% == much, much more. Dot com bubble 1995-2000, Seattle gained 76,500 jobs or 18%. 2000-2008 (real estate bubble) Seattle lost 40,700 (-8%). 1995-2000 Bellevue gained 24,900 jobs (+26%), added 1,300 in ’01, lost 9,300 in ’02 and recovered 800 in ’03. From 2000-2008 Bellevue’s employment base grew 9,900 (17,000 ’03 to ’08). What’s surprising to me is that employment for Belleuve in 2010 is virtual identical to it’s peak in 2001. At least it’s not a 7% decline. Seattle is at best an underachiever in both accepting population growth and creating employment. FWIW the City of Bellevue may want to fact check it’s Economic Profile:

        Bellevue is a major regional job center, with more people (140,000-plus) working in the city than living in it.

      12. 9.34%/6.98% = 1.33, ie 33% more. Which is a lot. That’s a lot of people without jobs. Literally thousands more people in bellevue would still have jobs if only Bellevue had lost as large a proportion of jobs as Seattle did, instead of losing 33% more as a proportion than Seattle did. Also, in 2000-2008 seattle did not lose 40,000 jobs, it lost 6,000 jobs. We covered this already, so I guess we can call this argument finished since we’re circling back on ourselves.

        Anyway, that goes exactly against what you were arguing. You can argue about the 1990s and 2005 all you want. But you said Seattle was losing to Bellevue today. Clearly that’s not the case.

      13. Sure, and if I’m going 62 mph and you’re going 61 mph I’m breaking the speed limit by twice as much. I was in error quoting 2000-08 Seattle job loss. It only lost 6,000 while tiny little Bellevue added almost 10,000. Per REIS, as of the fourth quarter of 2011 (4Q’11), the Seattle metro office market had a vacancy rate of 15.1% with average rent $28.21 psf. Latest figure I could find for Bellevue $28.70 – $31.74. On the Eastside, the total vacancy rate in downtown Bellevue actually edged down slightly during the fourth quarter, from 14.8 to 14.4 percent. I know it’s not a strict apples to apples but all signs are that Bellevue is recovering from the recession quicker just as it did following the dot bust of 2000.

      14. Ah, I think this explains the discrepancy between the PSRC number of 120,000 for jobs and the City website claim of 140,000:

        Covered Jobs in Bellevue 2002, based on estimates from 2002, the most recent year
        available (sources: PSRC and Washington state Employment Security Department).
        Covered employment refers to jobs that are covered by state unemployment
        insurance. This number does not include corporate officers or sole proprietors,
        meaning that Bellevue’s total employment is likely 10 to 15 percent higher. In 2002,
        Bellevue had 110,905 covered jobs (the estimate of total jobs is approximately
        125,000). Bellevue has the second highest number of jobs in the Puget Sound region

    1. Interesting study. Quick observations:

      1. The most affordable city in the US is Detroit. Funny, you’d think employment would be a requirement for affordability.

      2. Check out Figure 2, page 11. Land use regulation is nicely correlated with affordability. Want affordability? Tear down our awful zoning setbacks and height limits.

      3. They only factor in housing costs and wages. They neglect both the cost of living and transportation costs – both are very important when calculating true affordability.

      1. Another oddity of Detroit is that it ranks up there as one of the worst cities for traffic congestion. You’d think that with no jobs and everybody moving out there’d be no traffic.

  9. Great post Roger. I do think you needed to mention the relationship between 1 mile and walkability. Thats the essence of developing around the station site. You conjured up the image of a pyramid of development along Beacon ave. (That kind of exists already) The density is needed and the height could be achieved along Beacon ave. with heights decreasing east and west towards the views. Residential towers could work well at the light rail core, as long as there was open space for the increased number of residence, Like an open-air market/public space. Low income housing has always been a part of Beacon Hill, it is needed for our city to function, and should be the outcome of all this.

    The circle encompassing parts of SoDO should be irrelevant. In terms of walkability it falls under the SODO station. Im sure we will see SODO take advantage of that in the coming years.

    Seattle (or everyone) will need to loosen up and be creative in order to create situations that pencil out for developers, banks, and the end user. The years ahead are not going to be easier, quite the opposite.

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