If you’ll forgive me being pedantic for a moment, I’d like to push back against the corruption of the term NIMBY to mean “anyone who opposes a project.”

The meaning of a NIMBY, although it’s not clear from the acronym, is someone who doesn’t question the value of a project, but always has reasons it shouldn’t go in their neighborhood. They might applaud the expected congestion reduction from a new highway, but try to keep it away from their neighborhood; understand the need for a new prison, but have a reason it would fit in better on the other side of town; or accept that more density will contain sprawl and reduce long-run housing costs, but shucks, it just doesn’t fit the “character” of the neighborhood. The glorious thing about the NIMBY is the stink of hypocrisy, and I’d hate to lose that connotation through misuse of the term.

That’s not the same as a BANANA — Build Absolutely Nothing Anything Near Anyone — or someone genuinely opposes the project no matter where it goes. Someone who doesn’t care about sprawl, or who somehow hasn’t connected the dots, is simply a density opponent, not a NIMBY. So let’s use proper labels when we discuss these issues.

114 Replies to “On NIMBYs”

  1. Vying for the smuggest post of the week?

    The architects, engineers and city planners of each generation have all the answers, and anyone who opposes them is a NIMBY. Neighborhoods are not skyscrapers nor ramblers, nor factories or transit stations. Neighborhoods are made up of people. People choose to live in a location for many reasons, and for the young it’s often price. But those with a little more maturity choose a location for what it is, and how the people there behave and interact today, not for the promise of what it might be.

    If you don’t like your neighborhood, or don’t like the way non-residents plan to change it, you can work to make it better or you can move. Give me a neighborhood full of NIMBYs any day.

    “…or who somehow hasn’t connect the dots, is simply a density opponent, not a NIMBY.” In Roosevelt we provided for more density than the mayor or the DPD plan, just not in one particular place. That fails to make us opposed to density, but that’s always the tag most frequently applied.

    I’ll take that neighborhood of NIMBYs who know each other and are a community any day over a mass of humanity with access to a McDonalds and a Jack in the Box, where for the most part no one really knows who lives next door.

    Here’s to people who care about where they live.

    1. This is a very silly comment. Everyone cares about where they live, some people are just more constrained by price than others. It doesn’t matter whether they are young or “mature.” I’m not going to argue over whether this applies to your situation or not, but the point of the term NIMBY is someone who wants to dump something they view as undesirable on someone else.

    2. You clearly didn’t read the post.

      For someone who claims to not be opposed to density, you seem to gravitate a lot to every anti-density argument that ever appears in the comments. Not that I mentioned Roosevelt at all in the piece. Defensive much?

      1. “Clearly” is right. Missed a few important words on my first reading of the day. I do, however, root for the home team, and strongly believe that neighborhoods have better insight in how to grow their neighborhood than those with epic ambitions. I have no designs for Beacon Hill, Capitol Hill, or the Junction and think that those who can jump from one to another are arguing something completely different that what is best for that community. But I’ve lived in Roosevelt for 25 years. It can be better in more ways than one. So it’s no surprise opinions differ.

        I also push back against the frequent use of NIMBY for anyone one doesn’t agree with.


      2. strongly believe that neighborhoods have better insight in how to grow their neighborhood than those with epic ambitions

        Bah! If they did, they’d be developers.

      3. Glenn,

        Thanks for owning up to not reading carefully. It’s well above the internet standard. ;-)

        If you push back against the broad use of NIMBY I think you agree with this post. A NIMBY in the density context thinks containing sprawl is really important, and there should be upzones in Seattle, but there’s some reason why it shouldn’t happen in their neighborhood.

        I just can’t accept that outsiders have no voice in neighborhood zoning. Not only because of the multibillion dollar transit investment — leaving it solely in the hands of the neighborhood means that (i) Many social services won’t be able to be sited anywhere and (ii) many zoning rules are really about keeping poor people out, which is absolutely in the narrow self-interest of homeowners.

    3. And if we don’t upzone more, it’s not as if the neighborhood would never change, locking your perfect setting in amber forever. It would still change, and depending on your values perhaps not for the better.

    4. “and for the young it’s often price. But those with a little more maturity”

      Maturity? Give me a break. You mean money. There are people in our society that will never be able to buy a house in Roosevelt, no matter how long they work.

      Your comments have a pattern of dismissiveness and elitism toward those that don’t own a home that I find that incredibility disturbing.

      1. Amusingly, many Roosevelt residents hate Sisley, who has the most “maturity” -in both senses- of anyone in the neighborhood.

        As someone who owns a house in Roosevelt, it’s surprising how little the people their care about the residents. You have to be part of their pay-to-play club to comment on decisions, and they can boot you out at any time. When you do show up, they say how you haven’t lived their long enough to know what you are talking about.

      2. Andrew,

        Roosevelt has several blocks of mostly rental properties and others of mostly owner occupied homes. Without knowing where you live there is no explanation for the way your neighbors maintain their residences. I’ve been accused here to being insensitive to people who rent. Perhaps it’s absentee landlords like Sisley who care little about what they own that I’m opposed too. Good landlords need good tenants. No one needs a slum.

        There is a progression from renting to home ownership that you may be unable or unwilling be a part of. Age and money are small parts of maturity. Don’t get too disturbed by something you know so little about.

      3. There is a progression from renting to home ownership that you may be unable or unwilling be a part of. Age and money are small parts of maturity. Don’t get too disturbed by something you know so little about.

        This is the exact elitism you’re being accused of. At least you’re willing to embrace it!

        You are prejudiced, elitist, and most of all incorrect. Homeownership is not some “rite of passage” or ultimate end to be attained. It is a choice with serious (and often disastrous) financial implications. The bias towards encouraging unnecessary homeownership starts at the federal level and seeps all the way down to the likes of you. It is entrenched, dangerous, and wrong.

      4. Glenn you just made my point. You say that because I’m “unable to or unwilling” to buy a house, my opinion doesn’t matter and I don’t know anything about these issues. That is elitist and classicist at its best.

      5. As someone who is about to eat a $20,000 shit sandwhich, I wish I had been a bit more ‘immature’ and stayed a renter a bit longer. Lucky for me the market didn’t tank as bad here as in other places, and we put a couple hundred extra towards principle each month, so unlike most other people my age who made the mistake of buying we’ll survive without a default or bankruptcy.

        Lesson learned though. Altogether my other investments have gotten a return of over 150%. Unfortunately so much went into the downpayment and then each month to pay down principle that precious little was in those accounts.

        Regardless you can take that ‘maturity’ and ‘responciple’ bullshit and shove it right back from where it came from.

      6. Then, to own a house is elitist. And so too, to own a car ( or substitute, cell phone, I pad, or the shoes you walk to work in). I guess it’s a matter of perspective. I’ve had many jobs and 3 I would label professions in my life. Each time I sought to improve my income by changing jobs I hoped to earn more money and improve my quality of life, and my life in retirement. Every step of the way was my unabashed advancement into elitism, and if that’s your definition, I embrace it.

        Socialism has been tried and there are still communities and countries that embrace it. Good luck to you both for your higher standards.

      7. Anc, how long in the home? Rule of thumb is never buy unless you plan on staying at least seven years. Yes, over the last seven years that would have meant buying at a peak and selling while prices are still dropping. But how much would have been pissed away in rent over that period. At $1,200 a month that’s $14,400 a year. Over seven years that’s over $100k which you have nothing to show for; not even a tax break. Have you talked to the bank about a short sale? If you don’t need the return of capital what about renting if that would produce a positive cash flow until the market recovers.

      8. Bernie we were planning on staying at least 5 years, but my wife just couldn’t take a) the suburban shithole that is Fayetteville b) the time requirements of my new job. So I’m getting out and we’re moving back to Seattle. Well, she actually moved back last July when I left for this last deployment, but I’ll be out there in a couple weeks.

        We talked about Renting it out, but who knows what the market will do in the mean time. When you consider the downsizing of the Military prices could fall even further. Then you get into the absentee landlord worries, and the fact that I never, ever, EVER want to have to come back here, and we’ll just cut our loses and consider this a learning experience. An expensive one, but as I said, we are actually doing better than most of our peers that made he mistake of buying b/c they were out of school, married, and that’s just ‘what you do.’

      9. @Glenn. Owning a home doesn’t make you elitist. Believing that your opinion is more important and better than someone elses because you own a home is what makes you elitist.

      10. Apparently in Glenn’s world, to not desire homeownership must make one a socialist!

        Meanwhile, capitalist developers throughout the city are building apartment building after apartment building…

      11. Owning a house is both a lifestyle decision and a financial investment. As a lifestyle decision, it can mean many things, from “wanting more space and privacy” to “wanting better schools” to “wanting to be in a higher social class”. As a financial investment, there are both benefits and risks. Too often the media and social pressure focus on the benefits and ignore the risks. Even going beyond the current problems of unemployment and foreclosures, there’s the fact that few people can guarantee they’ll remain with the same employer for 30 years or even 7 years, or that they’ll be able to find a high-paying job soon after being laid off.

        Elitism means looking down at other people or not wanting them in your neighborhood. That’s a completely separate thing from home ownership. It’s more true that elitists tend to be homeowners, than that homeowners tend to be elitists.

      12. buying b/c they were out of school, married, and that’s just ‘what you do.

        Those are all pretty poor reasons for buying. Add in purchase in an area you aren’t really in love with and buying at the peak of a bubble and you have a recipe for financial disaster. We may have “lost” 25% of our equity in Woodinville but I have no regrets buying it in 1984, living in it for 24 years and holding it as a rental. Likewise buying in 2000 and leasing back the home in Bellevue was a bargin. Even post crash we wouldn’t have been able to afford it. Nobody should be locked into the idea that they have to own a home nor should they dismiss it catagorically forever. Real estate’s not something to jump into but the next few years offer an unprecidented opportunity of low prices coupled with low interest and rising rents. Add in a dose of inflation and it’s the fence sitters that will be locked out.

      13. elitism (from dictionary.com)
        1. a. the belief that society should be governed by a select group of gifted and highly educated individuals

        Homeownership in Roosevelt does not automatically include one among the elite.

        A discussion by a large sampling over an extended period, and arriving at a consensus about growth in a neighborhood is a democratic process that should not be trivialized.

        It seems that the concerted effort by a select group of possibly highly educated individuals (who knew little or nothing about the Roosevelt neighborhood prior to a particular developer hiring a particular architect) to “keep the neighborhoods out of the decision making process in the future” would fit the definition better than any other group.

        My opinion is the fruit stand block should have been an agricultural classroom for students at Roosevelt to learn something about what they eat and where it comes from. I didn’t get my way, but a compromise was reached.

      14. May I point out the fact that Glenn is a real estate agent. He has a heavy financial interest in promoting the gospel that ownership = happiness.

      15. I’m a renter in the area between Maple Leaf and Roosevelt. I’ve lived in this house since 2007. I’ve lived in Seattle since 1989, mostly in NE Seattle (U District), though I did spend 1 year in Belltown, 3 years in Kenmore, 4 years in the CD, and 3 years in Wallingford.

        I believe I have as much right to have an opinion on zoning in say Roosevelt as someone who has owned a house there for 50 years. By the same token I don’t think my opinion is necessarily any more valid than someone who moved here from out of state last week and lives in an apartment in Westwood.

      16. Get real, Matt. I’m pretty much retired. People want to buy houses and so I help them. Perhaps you want top sell your sf home. Walk the talk.

        Chris, We value your input. Were you too busy to be at any of the meetings with the developer over the past 4 years? Were you there in the planning stages since 1995 as to how the neighborhood should encompass growth?

        By your standards we should invite the Canadians and the Mexicans to vote in our national elections and we in theirs. After all, we live right next door, and we’ve probably all been to each country a time or two.

        Thanks for your input.

      17. Why should credence only be paid to the voices of those who live in the neighborhood? What about all the taxpayers who are paying for a subway station in your neighborhood? Maybe some of them want a chance to live near a light rail station and are thus interested in seeing more housing units available in the station areas. Maybe some taxpayers just want to ensure the hugely expensive transportation system is well-used, and (substantively) increasing density around the stations is one way to help achieve that goal.

      18. Those tax payers should have been fighting against this station in the first place. At best maybe 20% of the new residents will be living car free meaning the area will be traffic gridlock long before ridership ever justifies the cost of the Roosevelt Subway. For those wanting to live next to a station there’s loads of choices and plenty more on the way at Brooklyn and Northgate. For those that yearn for the wide open range of new development there’s three station in the RV just begging for people to move in. D.P. nailed it; the station is in a stupid location and is costing a stupid amount of money. It’s another Beacon Hill fiasco.

      19. I know most conservatives don’t know the meaning of “socialism,” but labeling the pro-real estate development crowd as socialist really is a whole new level of ridiculous that I’m just stunned anyone could actually be so bananas. Pun intended.

      20. [ad hom]

        I’ll make some comments about home ownership, however. If you can buy outright, it’s a financial decision which usually pays off — the savings over renting are quite substantial. If you have a mortgage, you’re going to be spending more than you were when renting — so it’s generally a poor financial decision, and you should only do it if it’s going to be a major quality-of-life improvement for you.

        And for a lot of people it’s a drop in quality of life. They have to do their own repairs, etc. Of course, for some it’s an improvement (they LIKE to do their own remodeling, etc.)

      21. My spending analyses of course relate to renting and owning in *the same area*. Sometimes that isn’t an option and the area you want to be in is basically all-owned or all-rented.

  2. I do not define myself as anti-Density, I call myself a Sparsity Advocate.

    (Not letting the opposition control the language).

    I would call myself a Sprawl Advocate, but the word sprawl has (unjustly) been tainted.

    Sparsity/Sprawl is not NIMBY…as shopping centers, more highway lanes, cul de sac housing developments and low rise apartment complexes, big box warehouse-retail stores, are all part of Sparsity.

    1. I agree you wouldn’t fit in the NIMBY box. Or really any box. Your views are so far out there I can rarely make sense of them, let alone am able to classify them. It seems you use the comment section here as an advertisement for your Sparsity(TM) ideas, then run off whenever anyone challanges you.

      I don’t think it would be a terrible idea if you tried to boil down your philosophy into a concise set of logical, defensible arguments and asked the editors here to submit it as a guest post. Though I’m not interested in reading something that doesn’t meet those criteria, I’d be happy to debate the points of your plan.

      1. Abbie Hoffman said that he didn’t bother to explain because the people who don’t get it will never get it. And you’ll end up spending all your time “explaining” for nothing.

        That seems to be the case here.

      2. In the fine tradition of Ramon Llull–unfortunately stoned by a mob while extolling the rationality of his (circular) arguments–I present the STB comment subject generator. Pick one entry at random from each table, and use the combined results to formulate your next posting:

        Table 1
        2D, Subsidized, Hydrogen, Robotic, Fuel-Cell, Solar

        Table 2
        Train, Bicycle, Car, Funicular, BRT, Telecommuting

        Table 3
        Cul-de-sac, Density, Freeway, Suburb, Grid, Warehouse-retail

      3. To “Jeremy”

        You know, I seem to keep reading the same pattern of counter-comment in several blogs around town where the person cannot really answer the argument at hand and therefore goes into Meta or “Abed” (cf. Community) mode in which he tries to bound the entire blog by stating things like “oh, and this is where (a) comes in and says (b)). You know that in any long running argument, it’s okay to repeat so long as the weight of evidence is building. So, yes, I can re-iterate my themes, as do others, and add to them.

        It’s called the intellectual process…or, in other parts of the world, being an adult. But then, that is why the Abeds/Jeremies (or any of the other 3,000 pseudonyms that you use) are more like children, than adults…destined to sit at the smaller, lower table…drinking milk through a straw and making it bubble up their noses.

      4. Okay, theme reiteration time. Americans continue their Live Fastian Bargain. ERoEI declines and the exponential problem gnaw at the heels of humanity. Mankind races to bury the most poor people possible as the rich continue their extravagant energy consumption patterns. Biosphere takes a shellacking as the unconstrained Carbon excursion dabbles with unconstrained risk for a Sixth Great Extinction Event.

        Cars? I will not trade cancer for convenience. Fuel cells? Niche utility that will not scale to more than a fraction of the 7+ billion people on the planet. Sparse suburbs? Feed the river of death that is I-5.

    2. Embrace your inner sprawl. Sprawl pride. See “Sprawl: A Compact History” for a defense of sprawl.

    3. I guess, John, that that means that you are a STRONG supporter of population reduction and give heavily to causes promoting contraception?

      Because to have “sparsity” this is a *prerequisite*.

      Full disclosure, I do give to causes promoting contraception.

  3. My issue with NIMBYism and a certain amount of justification for it is that in the neighborhoods in this city with more money and political clout-primarily those north of the ship canal bridge-take less to none of the homeless shelters and substance abuse locations than other parts of the city–primarily the south and the center, which end up taking more of them and the NIMBY’s in those parts I believe have some right to complain.

    1. Let’s clarify this, since I see the term “north of the Ship Canal” as a catch-all both here and elsewhere–north of the Ship Canal to about 85th is more accurate. Those neighborhoods north of the old city limits often bear much greater resemblance to south end neighborhoods–no sidewalks (it’s worse north of 85th than anywhere else); social services like you mentioned are much more common in places like Lake City or Aurora N, two-seat (minimum) bus service downtown except at peak times–and sometimes not even then (NOT that this is necessarily a bad thing–and yes, you CAN get used to it).

      Lake City and Bitter Lake are NOT Roosevelt, Ravenna, Fremont or Ballard–though there is certainly potential in both of those areas.

      1. d.p.

        As the goal of North Link was to serve the U-District and Northgate only a handful of options were ever on the table for the station between the two:
        1. No station
        2. Elevated station at NE 8th between Ravenna and 65th NE
        3. Underground station more or less in the current location.

        North Link was never going to serve Ballard.

        Its really too bad the pissing match in Roosevelt had to be over the Sisley blocks. I would have rather seen the energy put into pissing in each others Cheerios put into upzoning the station blocks and convincing Sound transit they shouldn’t be eating 1/3 of each block with a giant station entrance (not to mention the prime retail spaces they are taking away).

        The neighborhood association feels they did everything right and were saying “YIMBY!” all along but still got demonized by density advocates because of an area of the neighborhood where they DIDN’T want density.

        Density advocates feel the neighborhood wanted a rail station but otherwise wanted to freeze their built environment in amber. They feel the neighborhood got way too hung up on punishing a particular land owner while coming up with a bunch of lame reasons (protecting views of the high school) why it wasn’t really about that land owner.

      2. “Elevated station at NE 8th between Ravenna and 65th NE”

        Wouldn’t NE 8th & 65th NE be somewhere in Lake Washington? I guess you meant “Elevated station at 8th NE between Ravenna and NE 65th”

      3. I know all that, Chris. I was mostly making the points that…

        A) Ballard, which has embraced a huge influx of development, and which has just broken ground on the Compass Housing project for the recently homeless (see the above link), can’t be lumped in with the NIMBYism (in any of its forms) of many north-of-the-canal neighborhoods.

        B) Wasting money in one location does, in fact, mean an inferior transit future for other likely more deserving locations. That underground stop Roosevelt booster are patting themselves on the back for wanting “in their backyard” will cost millions more than whatever would have been built below or adjacent to the highway. So where does their plan shove all the density? Back by the highway!

      4. d.p.–I agree with a great deal of what you post on this site, but my post here is more about the older neighborhoods in the North End having a great deal more pull–for better or for worse–than the newer ones north of 85th. I find it difficult to believe that anybody actually thinks Ballard has less clout and is paid less attention to than Lake City or Bitter Lake. I don’t believe that I stated Ballard was full of NIMBYs (I don’t think Fremont is either, at least it didn’t seem to be when I used to live there). The statement was specifically that the North End is not some monolithic place where “north of the Ship Canal” describes it all adequately. Certainly, as you mention, there are differences between neighborhoods even within those boundaries. The phrase “feel free to…” is a bit snide.

        I love the fact that Ballard is developing into a great neighborhood–I remember the Old Ballard of the “Almost Live” sketches. My sister lives in Ballard and if I didn’t have to work in Bellevue it’s a neighborhood I’d love to live in as well. I was arguing for rapid rail transit to Ballard as a high-school student in the mid-80s (and not just because I got to miss school to serve on the Citizen’s Transit Advisory board). :)

      5. …So we could have saved hundreds of millions of dollars, served Green Lake better, had the station right next to the by-the-highway density that the RNA is generously “accepting”, and used those millions to study a Ballard spur line as we speak… and the only people who would have been served worse than by the underground station would be the s.f. whiners.

        The NIMBYism has rendered the underground station nothing but a taxpayer subsidy to a wealthy few!

      6. Sorry for any snideness, Scott, and I do agree that “North Seattle” takes many forms, and that disenfranchisement peters off as you get into the triple digits. (Of course, so does anything resembling density and urban form.)

        I’m just so offended by what happened in Roosevelt — more expensive station serves fewer people less well, and they pat themselves on the back for their magnanimousness!!? — that I hate to be lumped in with them in any way.

      7. Actually a station at 8TH NE would serve the neighborhoods to the North, South, & East less well. The highway does nasty things to the 1/4 and 1/2 mile walk circles even if a bit more of the East Greenlake Neighborhood would be in those zones if the station was by the highway.

        IIRC Roosevelt has had more of an upzone within 1/2 mile of their station than any neighborhood along the Seattle portions of Link with the exception of Northgate.

        BTW if you think Roosevelt is prickly I’d recommend not tangling with Maple Leaf, Wallingford, Phinney Ridge, Ravenna, Laurelhurst, or Wedgewood.

      8. d.p–no worries! I don’t disagree with you re Roosevelt; my mother (and both her parents, and their siblings) attended Roosevelt HS and she finds it funny that the view of the school–albeit a lovely building–even came up. Of course, she’s wanted us to have a real subway system as long as I can remember.

        You’re dead on about the triple digits; I do think that there is a great deal of potential in some of those areas though, and by building urban centers in places like Lake City and 130th/Aurora, we can reduce immediate demand elsewhere. Ballard is a great example of that. (The core of Lake City and Bitter Lake both have similar unit densities to Ballard; the problem there is an immediate dropoff to very low unit densities whereas Ballard has a larger built-up area and higher surrounding dwelling unit/acre ratios (a clear difference between pre-war and post-war lot sizes there!)


        (forgive me; I don’t know HTML from shinola)

      9. d.p., you should start attending the Central Ballard Residents’ Association meetings if you want to see the core of NIMBYism coagulating in Ballard, including opponents of the Nyer Urness house and any development that contains less than 1:1 parking. Some of us members are trying to fight the good fight, but alas we are outnumbered.


      10. Chris,

        As a general rule, you don’t want your transit station next to or in the middle of a highway.

        But also as a general rule, you don’t want your multi-story apartments inches from the highway either. The constant “whooshing” noise (which is, for the record, totally different from the urban symphony of a place like Manhattan), makes such apartments unattractive to anyone with the funds to choose to avoid them. And that’s where the RNA’s upzone “compromise” has stuck 100% of the future density.

        If they insist on moving the neighborhood’s center of gravity west, than it is quite stupid to move the station east, especially at great cost.

        Meanwhile, a station beneath the highway would have been within walking distance of the entire Green Lake business district — also a growing residential village — as well as the recreational facilities at the northeast corner of the lake itself. All of those places are out of the walkshed of 12th NE; on top of the extra distance, 100% of the highway is a greater psychological barrier than 50% of it.

        Actually a station at 8TH NE would serve the neighborhoods to the North, South, & East less well.

        Indeed. But the RNA has essentially ruled out all but the most negligible upzone in those places. So fuck ’em.


        Interesting map! And I could certainly see the tabula rasa-ness of Lake City making it a good case study for future growth absorption. On the other hand, that doesn’t solve the problem of our city having already thrown good transit money away on NIMBYs while completely failing to keep up the transit end of the bargain for places that are already populous!


        I have not been aware of CBRA until right now, so I’m curious where it sprang from and whom it currently comprises. When is the next meeting?

        I am, of course, aware that Ballard has some NIMBYs in it — those whose lawsuits have perpetuated the Missing Link, those who scream and moan about Nyer Urness, those who yell about “condos” destroying the very fabric of society.

        But it is really heartening that whenever some commenter on MyBallard knee-jerks about a new project, “Think of the parking! Think of the parking! Oh, won’t somebody please think of the parking!?”, there will usually be three others to vocally disagree and to ask, “When will we get some real transit so that we won’t need to park at all?”

      11. What’s the alternative to a Roosevelt station?

        (1) No station between Brooklyn and Northgate. That might make me happier and DP even less happy. This is the same DP who wants stations at NE 85th, 15th NE, and 23rd NE. Quick: which of these has less density than Roosevelt? Answer: 85th and 23rd.

        (2) The original freeway station at Ravenna Blvd. I would have been fine with that, as it’s within walking distance of both Roosevelt and Greenlake. But now that the Roosevelt station is so established, I have little interest in arguing for it.

        (3) Making Link turn at Brooklyn and go west to Ballard, instead of north to Northgate and Lynnwood. The time to argue this was years ago, not now. I don’t remember hearing anyone suggest it until after the ST2 vote. And of course, Shoreline and Snohomish would have disapproved.

      12. Yep, the original freeway station at Ravenna Blvd. would have been the best but IIRC ST decided it was cheaper to tunnel in a straight line and put the station out in Roosevelt. What I don’t understand is why nobody from Green Lake said, “Wait a minute, we’re the dense vibrant urban neighborhood; how come we’re getting screwed?”

      13. The Greenlake park and business district are still well within the walkshed of Roosevelt Station.

      14. Looks like 4 blocks, a quarter mile due east on 65th which sucks for cycling. Ravenna OTOGreenlake, especially the northeast quadrant is the epicenter so moving the station as close as practical makes sense. Really there’s not much east of the retail on Roosevelt Way and that lags way behind what’s been happening adjacent to Greenlake.

      15. Mike: Option (2). Not because it’s inherently better (tunneled and away from the highway is always inherently better) but because it was much, much, much cheaper, didn’t screw Green Lake over, and is precisely where all the density is getting shoved!!

        (As Bernie seems to be saying, it’s illogical to move the station east if you’re going to move the neighborhood epicenter west.)

        Bernie: You’re confusing two facts. Tunneling all the way up 12th Ave NE was most certainly not cheaper; it added hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost of the segment! Then, once they had already decided to commit to this tunneled segment, it turned out to be a bit cheaper to surface in the 90s than to surface in the 80s. But make no mistake — we’re still spending tons more than if the line had entered the I-5 ROW back at 62nd!

        Zed: It’s .7 miles as opposed to .4, and the crucial psychological barrier is smack-dab in the middle of the walk (with no brightly lit station entrance beneath its 12 lanes of traffic). I’m fine with either, but a lot of people do not and will not consider Green Lake to be served by this station. “Party’s over here; fuck y’all over there!”

      16. The issue of “tunnelling further is cheaper” was about the north portal, where tunnelling avoided the need to cross freeway structures additional times. That doesn’t necessarily apply to the original elevated freeway segment at Ravenna Blvd, which is a different location with different things around it. I don’t remember now whether it would have remained aboveground to Northgate (possibly being cheaper than a portal at 85th) or would have dived underground again.

      17. I believe you guys on the tunneling costs. I tried to look up the “freeway” routing alternative but couldn’t find it on the ST website. If it’s hundreds of millions more who/why did it get pushed through? Let’s see, more money, no decrease in travel time, higher risk, farther from existing density. I thought ST wasn’t supposed to consider future building projects unless they were already planned. Is the West Sub-area just so flush with cash ST ran out of other ways to spend the money? Maybe the Seattle City Counsel is just throwing it’s weight around to appease campaign contributors?

      18. “Tunneling all the way up 12th Ave NE was most certainly not cheaper; it added hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost of the segment!”

        Reference? In the North Link EIS the cost difference ranged from $5 to $50 million for all of the alternatives studied.

        “I’m fine with either, but a lot of people do not and will not consider Green Lake to be served by this station.”

        You’ve taken a statistically valid sampling of residents’ opinions of this? As a former long-time resident of Greenlake just west of the freeway I can say that most of my neighbors never saw I-5 as a barrier to shopping in the Roosevelt commercial area. And I doubt if the additional 3 blocks will be seen as a huge inconvenience to the kind of active and physically-fit people that tend to populate the Greenlake area.

        Not that it matters. It’s a done deal now.

      19. Zed, do you have a link to the EIS? I couldn’t find it in the documents library on the ST website. I have to say though that $5-50 million sounds a bit light for what, a two mile tunnel plus underground station? ST claims C9T, tunnel light, is $360 million more than at grade though DT Bellevue and elevated along the freeway would have been the cheapest of all alternatives.

      20. The only “umbrella” North Corridor EIS I could find that includes all originally-conceived route alternatives contains no dollar figures whatsoever. And the most recent EIS I could find takes the Roosevelt tunnel as a given and only puts dollar figures on options further north.

        I think its fair to say that your “$5 to $50 million differemce” reading is wrong, Zed. At some point, I saw the station box alone estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars!

        And the problem, Bernie, is that it is logical to place the station as close as possible to the current neighborhood center (between Roosevelt and 12th)… if you follow the reasonable presumptions that all involved wish to see that remain the neighborhood center. The problem is that the RNA types were basically lobbying for the station in bad faith! They even had the gall to declare themselves “YIMBY”s up until the point that they got the station where they wanted it, at which point they went full-NIMBY on all future comers!

        Basically, they got the better station (underground, away from the highway, central, yet more expensive), then shoved everyone and everything else back toward the highway so that no one could benefit from their new private station. It’s unbelievable and utterly obscene!

        As for the Green Lakers, Zed, my observations have been that most of them drive when they head into Roosevelt proper. Sad, but true.

        An 8-minute versus a 13-minute walk can definitely change the way people use a transit line. Even a good one. “Why should I walk further to the train then I would drive to the on-ramp?” Don’t expect Green Lakers behaviors to change much once Link is open.

      21. d.p. and bernie:

        The costs you are looking for are in Ch. 5 Financial Analysis of the North Link Final SEIS.

        In 2002 dollars the underground station at 12th is $455 million to $480 million for segment A, the two 8th ave options are $430 million to $450 million and $420 million to $440 million. So the cost difference wasn’t huge.

        In regards to tunneling the big cost is deciding to go underground in the first place. The marginal cost of additional tunneled distance doesn’t appear to be that large, at least when using TBMs. Another factor is elevated stations aren’t really all that cheap (at least compared to surface).

        As for RNA I actually think they’ve been pretty YIMBY at least compared to what both Sound Transit and DPD would have done had they been left to their own devices. Other than the pissing match over the Sisley blocks (I do believe the outcome would have been entirely different with a different owner and without the history) I haven’t seen a lot of what I would call NIBMY behavior from them. Especially when compared to similar groups elsewhere in the city.

        Do remember that lobbying Sound Transit for a station in the middle of the neighborhood and the recent neighborhood plan update were separated by a decade or more. Also remember that RNA pushed DPD to update the neighborhood plan rather than just leaving it as-is and doing everything on a contract rezone basis.

        Density advocates really screwed up in Roosevelt by making the whole thing about the Sisley blocks rather than saying something like the following “we think the updated plan should include x more units than the DPD proposal, you figure out where they should go. Oh and Sound Transit should really accommodate some housing and ground level retail in the station footprint rather than giant 1/3 block station head houses”. RNA was far more likely to meet density advocates halfway, especially when compared to the Mount Baker Community Club, the Laurelhurst Community Club, or whatever that group of Aurora business owners is called. Some of the neighborhood groups in this city are run by full blown BANANAs like Pat Murakami and are allied with John Fox.

      22. Thanks Chris. Looks like the delta is $170 million (Table 5.2-5 B4.D) in 2002 dollars. In year of expenditure that translates to ~$300 million. I can understand that the first foot of tunnel incurs a major expense. You have to design and build the TBM since you can’t just go down to Hertz and rent one. In the case of the A segment to Northgate the cost of the TBM is already built into total since there’s no other option other than a bored tunnel from Montlake. I still think we’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars more for an inferior station location. Pulling up a Google satellite image it’s clear that the majority of development is west of I-5 and Roosevelt Way is the edge of commercial/multi-family. Putting the station east of there and then complaining about a lack of density seems silly. As important as walk-on riders, which will never amount to much in either location is bus and car transfers. While Northgate is going to be the major transit hub I think the freeway location for Greenlake would have been the superior multi-modal site.

      23. Bernie, you’re looking at the wrong table. The cost for the Roosevelt options are in table 5.2-2, and the alternatives are explained in section 2.3.4. All options for Roosevelt involved some amount of tunneling because it’s the only way to get there from Husky Stadium! The cost difference between continuing to tunnel north from Roosevelt versus surfacing and building elevated is negligible.

      24. No, the selected alternative for the B segment has a huge effect on the A segment alternatives. You can’t look at the A segment as a separate project. You have to look at what is actually being built for the B segment (B4.D) to get the real world impact.

      25. The B segment was chosen before the Roosevelt decision was made and that choice dictated what alignments could be used for North Link. The U-Link alignment decision, tunneling under Montlake, was made in 2003. The decision to build an underground station at 12th NE instead of an elevated station at 8th NE was made in 2005. The question was about the cost difference between those two options.

      26. Weird. That chart does show the maximum discrepancy between the I-5 ROW and the NE 12th tunnel at about $60 million. Color me shocked.

        That EIS is six years old, though. Is the station excavation still projected to cost the same? Or has it ballooned as individual pieces of these projects are wont to do? I guess now that it’s a done deal, we’ll have to find out.

        For the record, I disagree with Bernie about which route would have been “better” ceteris paribus. Of course it’s better to have a subway, and of course it’s better to emerge at a major intersection than under a highway!

        It just still shocks and amazes me that we let the RNA get away with turning all future growth into their own private highway buffer while getting to keep the central neighborhood and its subway stop as their own private amenity. Combine that with the reduced utility for Green Lake, and it seems no less offensive at $60 million of extra taxpayer money than it would at ten times the price tag.

    1. I don’t think Glenn is a troll; I think he generally argues in good faith.

      1. I wasn’t referring to Glenn, but to another frequent commenter who raises these specious points.

    2. Forgive me a moment for being pedantic, but I think the meaning of the word “troll” has been lost. A troll is that big creature under the bridge who won’t let you pass. Some NIMBYs are also trolls, but under the classic definition.

      “You shall not pass the gate into my neighborhood and become an unwanted renter.”

  4. This is one of those discussions that cannot be carried on productively in generalities. Details matter tremendously. This kind of planning is far more of an art than a technology.

    It seems to me that the fury over the Roosevelt neighborhood has far outstripped the facts. Just by its presence, the LINK station will attract development and commerce to the neighborhood- which no one can prevent, and most people affected should welcome, if it’s done with consideration of the site.

    As professional ethics require of any development- and everyone involved has a right to demand. The decades-long signature abuses by a single landlord in the Roosevelt neighborhood really do call into question the competence and character of Seattle’s enforcement authorities.

    If I lived there, I’d be angrily suspicious about anything under the heading of “development” that didn’t include some involvement by the prosecutor.

    But I don’t think that preservation of a particular view for a particular block classifies as obstructionism. Judging by what I’ve seen in Portland and Vancouver BC, let alone Northern Europe, the world has developers and architects who can do this with no prejudice to healthy density.

    And one question about “sprawl”, John: What do you do when it’s stuffed with cars and nobody can move- and the real estate market collapses so nobody can leave? Could happen.

    Mark Dublin

    1. When people are poor enough they’ll stop being able to afford cars, and instead you’ll have people hiking for miles through desolate burnt-out buildings.

      Or, in other words, Detroit.

  5. Can someone be a NIMBY because of where they live?

    There is a blogger on STB whose profile says he lives in an upscale suburban residential neighborhood that will never see anything other than single family homes built, so he could claim he would never object to development going on in his neighborhood, but also knows nothing ever will, because of strict zoning laws, etc. He has the luxury of sitting back and demonizing NIMBYS, all the while living in an area that prohibits anything from ever being built in his backyard. Someone can be a NIMBY without every having to say the words because of where they choose to live.

    1. Not to dignify your pure trollery, but there is nothing wrong with an urbanist college student/STB blogger living at a suburban home with parents. In fact, it’s a wise financial decision to do so, and it doesn’t involve the slightest bit of hypocrisy either. Think before you speak, why don’t you?

      1. I have more respect for someone who stands up and says “not in my backyard,” than someone who safely lives in an upscale NIMBY neighborhood, and decries the evils of NIMBYISM.

      2. Why are they living in a suburban neighborhood though? Is it because they love the low density and lack of buses, or is it because they can’t afford to move? And is the area really upscale? The only parts of the Eastside that are truly upscale are Medina and the Points, downtown Bellevue, downtown Kirkland, and maybe Beaux Arts. That’s only a small fraction of the Eastside.

      3. The only parts of the Eastside that are truly upscale are Medina and the Points, downtown Bellevue

        What is your definition of upscale?

      4. If I search for $10K-$400K, there are just as many houses as if you search for $1M up.

        My definition of upscale is an area that predominantly only Microsofties and executives can afford.

        I forgot about Sammamish. Somebody on the train (Coast Starlight) said she recently graduated from a high school there, and most of her peers drove BMWs and were snooty. So Sammamish may also be “upscale”. But that was just one person’s word. I don’t know much about what it’s like east of Lake Sammamish.

      5. Actually there are six times as many homes listed under $400k as there are over a million dollars. The parking lot at Sammamish is no where near as rich in Beemers as Redmond HS. By using your definition All of Sommerset would be upscale, all of Bridle Trails except the multifamily along 148th. All of Houghton and most of Kirkland. Certainly all of Trilogy and most of Union Hill. Almost everything along Avondale beyond Redmond was Street of Dreams development. If you break it down by zip code:

        Only one of the top ten wealthiest ZIP codes in the Puget Sound area is located in Seattle these days. In fact, only Seattle 98112 — which includes Madison Park, Washington Park, Madrona and parts of Capitol Hill — falls within the top 20. With the exception of Bainbridge Island 98110 at No. 13 and Fox Island 98333 in Pierce County at No. 19, all of the remaining top 20 wealthiest ZIP codes are on the Eastside.

      6. Here’s the top 25:

        Coming in at number two, 98053 (Redmond) averages homes for $1.99 million

        I would have considered Lake Hills to be one of the more affordable neighborhoods in Bellevue. But it slots in just behind Richmond Beach, Innis Arden, and The Highlands. 98072 where our 910 sq-ft hovel is ranks ahead of 98112 (Broadmoor, Madison Park, Washington Park, Montlake, Capitol Hill).

      7. “I would have considered Lake Hills to be one of the more affordable neighborhoods in Bellevue.”

        Does this zip code also include the west shore of Lake Sammamish?

        Zip code seems like a pretty large area to average over. My zip code appears on the list, but in addition to having some multi-million dollar homes, there are a lot more modest houses and poor folks.

        Also the fact that they use means instead of medians causes the outliers on the high side to skew the results. Note the comment in the 2005 article about the Bill Gates effect in Medina.

      8. Yes it does include the Lake Front but unlike the east side of Lk Sam. most of the Bellevue side is older more modest construction. The homes up the hill with a view are driving the values. Crossroads and the older Lake Hills homes are pulled up just because of their location. A 900 sq-ft home built in the 1950’s near Crossroads can still command a higher price than the King County median of $315,000. median sales price for 98008, $418,071. Median Sales Price in Bellevue $419,153.

      9. I happen to know the neighborhood of the blogger in question. There are a fair number of apartment buildings and townhomes in the area. It is one of the more affordable neighborhoods on the East side in general.

      10. Be careful when comparing mean or median house prices in a neighborhood with a high proportion of renters.

    2. In the same vein, someone can built 1-bedroom rabbit warrens in South Lake Union while living in a sprawling mansion Mercer Island.

  6. Martin, that’s for making this clarification. It’s bugged me for some time that NIMBY has been co-opted to mean “someone with a different opinion.” I don’t believe “density” belongs in single family neighborhoods because density spread thin is an oxymoron. In areas where single family homes have already become multifamily units, like the U district and much of Capital Hill that’s different.

    1. Okay, so you admit that most of our great neighborhoods were at one point single family and then at some point in the past ‘became’ multifamily. Why do you want to stop that from continuing to occurre? I don’t understand this city encased in amber mentality.

      1. I “admit” no such thing. Seattle has a wealth of great neighborhoods and only a few are predominantly multifamily. Magnolia is nice, Madrona is nice, Roosevelt is nice and affordable. I’d put most of Lake City in the same catagory but at the same time think it’s recent multifamily additions are “great” largely because they aren’t in the SF areas. West Seattle has wonderful multifamily and single family. I’m not going to claim that Fauntleroy is inherently superior to Alki even though I’d much rather live on that side of the hill. I would hate living on Capital Hill, Belltown or SLU. There are plenty of people that think it’s great and I think it’s great that they think it’s great. Unfortunately most seem to be much less tolerant of diversity if it’s construed to mean something other than want they want.

      2. Interesting that you should claim that “most of our great neighborhoods were at ome point single family and then at some point in the past ‘became’ multifamily.”

        A few decades ago, that’s what a real estate baron tried to explain to me as a young undergrad student at the UW. Single-family neighborhoods decay over time, he said, so they should be rezoned for multifamily so that decayed housing stock (called slums back then) can be torn down and replaced over time with new apartments.

        He was arguing for a spot rezone of a client’s property (a poor widow, this is her only asset, etc.) from duplex to mid-rise, in the middle of a standing SF neighborhood.

        Funny how so many of those old SF neighborhoods didn’t decay after all. Travel through most SF neighborhoods in Seattle today and you will see lots of renovation going on. These neighborhoods aren’t going anywhere — and the nice thing (for all of us) is that they don’t have to!

        There is plenty of land within all the urban villages and urban centers across this city to accommodate all the demand for multifamily housing for decades to come. If anyone has evidence to the contrary, please present it for discussion. If that turns out not to be true, then those urban centers and urban villages should be upzoned and/or expanded incrementally by a block or two here and there.

        The result keeps these centers walkable — something that Roger Valdez’ “zoning by compass” circles, two miles across, would not be.

        There is no reason, no legitimate justification, to go to war with single-family neighborhoods — there’s room for everyone in this great city.

      3. Bernie, can we at least agree to these points:

        At one point much of what is now multifamily was at one point SF or some other low density use.

        That as % there is very little vacant land in the city.

        Most of the city is zoned SF as opposed to mixed use.

        Can we all agree with that?

        Transit Voter, can you also agree with those statements? If so what do you find interesting about my statement?

      4. At one point much of what is now multifamily was at one point SF or some other low density use.

        Sure, at one point it was all forest. Only areas close to the docks would have been built initially as multifamily. Not counting things like army forts.

        That as % there is very little vacant land in the city.

        That’s subjective. While not vacant there are large amounts of land available for development. A surface parking lot isn’t vacant, an empty warehouse or factory isn’t vacant. Much of the 19th century industry is never coming back. Holding on to it in the hopes that buggy whip manufacturing will return doesn’t make sense. Even land that is used for comercial is ripe for much higher density. And while I’m in favor of preservation of some historic buildings most are simply going to fall down if they’re not taken down. Same can be said of much of the SF housing in particular that which was thrown up during WWII.

        Most of the city is zoned SF as opposed to mixed use.

        By land area that would be correct. By units it’s a pretty even split although that doesn’t take into acount that a lot of what’s called single family is actually rented out as multifamily. In fact Seattle has an ordinace that DADUs can be built anywhere the minimum setbacks can be achieved. There’s nothing to prevent anyone from renting out a room in their home and in places like the U District and Capitol Hill it’s the norm. So really there is no exclusive single family zoning. The distinction is attached vs detached dwellings.

      5. Okay, so while you might not think Cap Hill is one greatest neighborhoods in the city, as evidenced by the rents per sf, most others don’t agree with you. And as it was once SF or other less dense useage, if you were to have your way back then it would still be SF. Thankfully people back then weren’t so adverse to change so now we have one of the most vibrant and diverse neighborhoods in the city. We need MORE such neighborhoods, but since you think we should cover the city in amber and not allow any new dense neighborhoods, that can’t happen.

      6. Evidenced by rents per square foot DT Bellevue is a “greater” neighborhood. Being the most expensive wine on the list doesn’t mean it’s the best. Reread what I originally said:

        In areas where single family homes have already become multifamily units, like the U district and much of Capital Hill that’s different.

        Change occured over time, followed the trends and respected neighborhood norms. Capitol Hill would be more like Lynwood if developers had just come in with a scorched earth mentality and built everything to the latest formula. Seattle can become fundamentally different by 2040 if it works hard at improving it’s urban spaces. Or it can be fundamentally the same just more sprawled out.

    2. Some of us don’t advocate for the “islands of high density plopped down in a sea of sprawl” technique. Some of us instead advocate for wholesale replacement of large swaths of low-density land. Instead of building four blocks of 200ft towers, we could build twenty blocks of four-story towers.

  7. The problem is that some people (no-growth advocates) are claiming to speak for the entire neighborhood. Residents who want walkable destinations, and the density that facilitates frequent transit, are ignored. Some people can choose to move to a denser area, but others cannot (because they’re elderly, underage, disabled, poor, or their job is in an office park).

      1. LUV your commentary, John. I was hoping you could focus a bit more on where you live. In lovely Kent. Hehe. But that’s alright, I enjoy your Seattle Trash Talkin’. Good for a laugh, if nothin’ else.

  8. One of the most successful NIMBYs ever was the location of the transition school for the Seattle Public Schools, which with the district wanted to put into Sand Point. Well, the neighbors, such as they were, were not going to stand for a bunch of high school students in their neighborhood, even though what exactly they would do or how or why they would wander a purely residential neighborhood was never explained. But they ran legal rings around the district which finally gave up and moved it to Lincoln High, in my personal backyard (we lived four blocks from Lincoln at the time.

    Since the district already owned the school, we had no legal leverage at all, so of course Lincoln became the transition school, and has been for years and years, during which the district has broken nearly every promise they made about it (I think they still haven’t let the high school marching bands practice on Wallingford Playground).

    Since our neighborhood houses both that school and the North Transfer Station, plus the fireworks, I did, along with neighbors, stand up to the mayor’s unilateral decision to move the Summer Nights concert series “permanently” to Gas Works Park. My contribution was to point out that this was being done at a time when the buses in Wallingford were all being re-routed for construction on the Fremont Bridge, meaning that there was even less transit access near Gas Works (which has essentially no parking at all) than the mayor admitted. If bus service had been as it usually is, and with a robust shuttle bus service from, say, Husky Stadium (of course, that wouldn’t have worked as a permanent solution, would it?) I wouldn’t object to the concerts being moved there at all. But submitting to another centrally-made decision that did not take into account the facts on the ground would have been too much.

  9. So a NIMBY is someone who doesn’t want to continue to have single family homes in their neighborhood – correct?

  10. “The meaning of a NIMBY, although it’s not clear from the acronym, is someone who doesn’t question the value of a project, but always has reasons it shouldn’t go in their neighborhood. They might applaud the expected congestion reduction from a new highway, but try to keep it away from their neighborhood”

    The key word here is “might” I think, as in “they might applaud” rather than “they applaud”. My impression of neighborhood no-growth activists is that sometimes they want the freeway or density put somewhere else (NIMBY), sometimes they don’t want it anywhere (BANANA), but often they don’t care what happens outside their neighborhood (which I also consider NIMBY).

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