Northbound Bore to Capitol Hill Station by Bruce

This is an open thread.

107 Replies to “News Roundup: Boring Ends”

  1. I fail to see how the “argument for European/DC style density” is flawed.

    Yes, it means rezoning large swaths of the entire city for multifamily. Which is something that should’ve happened decades ago.

    There is no excuse for any single-family housing to remain in the City of Seattle. None. Instead of enshrining it, we should be encouraging its demolition and replacement. The first step is a citywide rezone.

    1. That is the stupidist thing I’ve ever heard. It would destroy nice neighborhoods. Want density? Move to a big, old city.

    2. It’s flawed because in will never happen in the real world. The city council would never rezone an entire neighborhood to lowrise. The only example anywhere close to this is Ballard north of Market and south of NE 65th. As much as I would like to see rezones like that in some areas, it just will never happen.

      1. I’m not a troll. I’m being one hundred percent serious.

        We have enshrined the Single Family Home in the protective arms of the code. This is outmoded, 19th-century thinking. We’re a city now; we need to think like one. That means removing the arbitrary restrictions against sensible, medium rise development within city limits.

      2. Dude, you are going to get very little traction in your effort to convert SFH’s to something other. These neighborhoods are pre-existing and people have invested a lot of money in them and in their homes. You can’t just wipe that out by “wishing” for something else, and this is still America where government has certain constraints.

        My recommendation is to work towards increased density in areas where you at least have a hope of getting it, make sure transit is part of the mix, and then slowly work towards expansion.

      3. I’m not suggesting a myopic focus on spreading medium density. It’s clear that our downtown core could stand some significant infill and expansion.

        Nor do we have to bulldoze the entire town overnight. But we have unnecessary artificial impediments to sensible development, and we need to address that systemic issue. We should absolutely be pushing the city council for large blanket rezones so we can build the kind of medium-rise developments that make good use of the land without requiring exorbitant risk and expense on the part of developers.

      4. Now that I can agree with. “There is no excuse for any single-family housing to remain in the City of Seattle.” was a bit extreme, implied *forcing* rather than *allowing* people to build up, and was asking for emotional responses.

      5. As a start, they could remove SF 9600 and SF 7200 from the zoning code. Make them all SF 5000.

      6. Nobody’s building new single family homes in Seattle, and you’d never make money bulldozing homes to build back slightly more homes. Though I suppose you could break a 9600 into two 5000’s, as long as the original house was built on one side of the property. Seems like it would be about as (un)sucessful as the new mother-in-law (ADU) rules.

      7. I did say “as a start.” It’s just ridiculous to talk about building density in the city when there are areas within the city where the law says you can only build one house on a lot 9600 sqft in size. By comparison, most of Chicago’s single-family areas have a minimum lot size of 2500 sqft. Even their lowest-density classification is 6250 sqft. Meanwhile, there are areas in Seattle which will be served by RapidRide that have a minimum lot size of 7200 sqft.

        Single Family doesn’t have to be ridiculously-low-density Single Family.

      8. I think the statement that “Nobody’s building new single family homes in Seattle” can’t possibly be correct. There are four single family homes under construction at the end of my block (24th Ave E & Thomas). The lot they’re on was subdivided from a larger one where there was no existing structure.

    3. “There is no excuse for any single-family housing to remain in the City of Seattle”

      That’s pretty extreme. There is no reason SFH and MFH can’t co-exist. Just look at Queen Anne. Lots of density has been going in over there and yet you still have lots of SFH, most of which is relatively walkable/bikeable.

      1. I should’ve been clearer. Even without the code, SFH would persist for a while. But over time, if the code didn’t unnaturally protect single-family housing, it would naturally be replaced with better land use.

    4. The argument is right: uniform 3-10 story density would solve our housing and neighborhood needs, we don’t need 20 or 40 story buildings. Similar with office buildings: I don’t know what the optimal maximum is but I assume it’s around 30-40 stories. Seattle should be mostly mid-rise, with perhaps pockets of single-family houses. It should not be half single-family houses, or pockets of density in a sea of single-family houses that make it expensive to run transtit between.

    5. From the Anti-Planner:

      Suburbs Are Still Growing

      Next time someone tells you about how everyone is returning to the cities, point them to these maps based on the 2010 census. Available for the forty largest urban areas in the United States, they show, almost without exception, the central cities losing population and the suburbs gaining.


      As the Antiplanner’s faithful ally, Wendell Cox, shows, in terms of actual numbers (rather than the percentages show on the maps), 2009 data indicate that the suburbs of the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas grew by 2.6 million people since 2000, while the central cities lost 4.5 million. The net loss of 1.9 million people indicates a migration to smaller urban areas, which is akin to moving to the suburbs since smaller areas tend to be lower in density.


      1. “The key issue here is CHOICE. People should have a choice between living in a trendy urban neighborhood or a family-oriented suburban neighborhood.”

        I wonder if there’s a solid formula for how much a suburbanite is subsidized (including all environmental damage beyond what an urbanite has). Then if they pay that fee, it would truly be an equal choice… Except that the fee should be slightly higher to reflect the fact that it’s better not to damage the environment in the first place than to damage and mitigate it.

        I realized something interesting about the Bailoman yesterday. He advocates for really low density, yet he’s happy living in an apartment building next to a shopping center. So… if all suburbanites did what JB does rather than what he says, the suburbs would be halfway more urban than they are.

      2. Bailo is weird in his opinions… but not in his actual desires.

        What he actually wants is to live in a old-school train suburb, and he’s pretty much succeeded. Think about it: these were old village downtowns. Quite dense in the center, but fading out first to single-family and then to rural very quickly. With a downtown train station with frequent service to the actual city.

        These were then strung together, each one having a station, by the train line, *without* filling in the intermediate areas with development.

        Streetcar and train suburbs (which still have their trains) remain consistently among the most attractive and expensive residential addresses in their metropolitan areas. This is because they provide a particularly distinctive combination of amenities; most of the amenties of the city and most of those of rural areas, with few of the downsides of either, and none of the downsides of automobile suburbs.

        (Penthouses facing Central Park are even more attractive and popular; but that’s hard to achieve without a Central Park. I’ve said before I think they provide a similar combination of amenities to the streetcar suburbs, only even more so.)

  2. I’m not impressed with Seattle’s “bike score”. Somehow 7th place seems overrated to me. Not to be demeaning of any of the cycling communities hard work here, they do a good job. But the City of Seattle has more to go I feel in terms of showing that their 7th place actually translates into tangible results that benefit the everyday cyclist.

  3. Sorry but I mostly agree with Kyle s, but I think we should leave between 10-15% of Seattle as single family. The 65-70% that we currently have is ridiculous. I avoid the single family neighborhoods like the plague. Anyways I haven’t heard any link ridership reports recently. How is the ridership doing? Is there a web page that has up to date monthly ridership stats?

    1. Try here. Looks like the 1st Q for 2012 isn’t out yet. 2011 ridership was up to 7.8M – up from 2010’s 7.0M but still 24% shy of their “budget” (I assume their goal for 2011) number of 10.3M. Of course they also cut their vehicle hours by 6% compared to the budget.

      1. Ok thanks it used to be posted monthly on here but I haven’t seen it in a while. I was just curious. Anyways it’s good to see ridership increasing. I expect we’ll see some good increases this year as unemployment creeps down, massive amazon expansion and all the new apartments going in downtown.

  4. That stadium idea is pretty much the worst way the city could spend $120mn.

      1. I don’t know. It sure seems like spending $1 to gain $500M to $800M of private investment would be a good deal.

        And it sure would improve this city to have both the NBA and the NHL play here. Well, maybe just the NHL…but I’m sure there are lots of people who would see it the other way around.

        And we would gain a concert venue too…

      2. We managed to get Amazon, Vulcan, etc. to invest hundreds of millions in SLU without giving them any subsidies…

  5. One of the things that makes Seattle so great is that we haven’t pushed everything out into the suburbs. One of the things we are known for around the country is our in city stadium district.

    And I really want an NHL team!

    1. I agree. Whether you think sports teams are silly or not, you have to give us credit for building the stadiums downtown, not out in the burbs. That being said, I can see where we made a couple big mistakes:

      1) Building both a football and a baseball stadium. The Bay Area (which is much bigger than us) survived for years with one open air stadium serving both sports. There is no reason we couldn’t do that.
      2) Having the Huskies rebuild their football stadium. We already have a football stadium, so why not use it on Saturdays as well as Sundays? One of the Seattle Times sports writers suggested that, but the argument went no where. He said that we could use the Husky stadium area for more medical buildings. Makes sense to me. It is really saying something that a sports writer says that building a new stadium really doesn’t makes sense.

      As for this arena, I’m all for it. I wouldn’t mind just using the one at the Seattle Center, but transportation to there is less than ideal. We have already put in place a system to get to the stadiums, so lets just use it.

      1. I think you guys have this backwards. What’s a worse use of prime downtown real estate than a massive football stadium used 35 times a year and a equally massive baseball stadium used for 5 months out of the year?

        Huge waste of space compared to something that could be used everyday.

      2. How many times is the Space Needle used per year? Should we tear it down and build something more useful in its place? One of the things that makes city life appealing is the variety of things to do, for many of us those things include cultural or sporting events, which wehile not used every day are very much part of the appeal of urban living.

        Wait, speaking of cultural events, aren’t you against Benaroya as well?

        Combined with your opposition to night life and streetfood, I’m beginning to wonder what you think a city should be about….

      3. It would be all but impossible to have 4 teams in the same stadium (Mariners, Seahawks, Huskies, and Sounders). Then again, the Sounders wouldn’t be here if the CLink hadn’t been built, so we wouldn’t have had that problem.

        Office buildings aren’t exactly amazing uses of space either – they sit empty ~12 hours each weekday and another 48 hours over the weekend.

        I’d love to know how much use the Convention Center gets. It is taking up some prime real estate.

      4. The Space Needle is used every day, by thousands, and never sits empty.

        Design a stadium that doesn’t end up as a lifeless pit most of the time, and I’d feel much better about it. Maybe turn them into massive movie theatres on non-game evenings? Key Arena just packed in more than 5,000 people to a simulcasted opera.

      5. Another angle to consider is the same we use for housing:

        If we don’t build it HERE it gets built THERE. Century Link has THE smallest footprint of any modern NFL stadium, due to lot constrictions and THE least amount of dedicated parking (due to great transit access and shared parking).

        Does anyone here honestly think the same two things would have occurred if the stadium were build over in Bellevue? How many more acres of impervious surface would have been created for even less usage?

        And with 5 teams instead of 3, the fledging ‘sports district’ we’ve created will really take off. You are talking year round usage in the area. Then it’s not so much a single use building, but an anchor for a yearlong lively, activated district. You think you can build a Wrigleyville in Issaquah?

      6. Matt, mostly by tourists. I can’t get a single damned person to go to the revolving restaurant (never been) b/c all my friends in the area insist it is an ‘overpriced tourist trap selling mediocre food.’

        Seriously, NO ONE will go with me, not even my wife. :(

      7. Tourists definately count.

        And take your wife there. Don’t go for the food, go for the view. Make reservations for an hour before sunset on a sunny day, and plan on spending at least 2 hours. Order something basic that’s hard to get wrong, but mostly sit around talking, drinking wine, and enjoying the view. It’s a great deal if you consider the entire experience.

      8. The Space Needle has a lot smaller footprint than a stadium. It’s also an example of vertical design, while a stadium is by necessity like a sprawling one-story mall.

        Here’s an idea: put two or three stadiums on top of each other.

      9. Design a stadium that doesn’t end up as a lifeless pit most of the time,

        The new area, if it gets both NBA and NHL teams will host around 100 home games per year including exhibition games. Playoffs would be more. I’m sure the owners plan on booking concerts and other events. Clean-up and changing over the venue takes time. That’s the good news. The bad news is that a good number of these events are going to happen on weeknights when the Mariners are playing. That’s assuming they don’t leave town because of the dilution of sports dollars. There’s really not enough people to support MLB, NFL, MLS and NBA let alone the WNBA and the many College teams.

      10. Bernie, how much overlap would there really be?

        A quick wiki says that for MLB the season is:
        March 28, 2012 – October 3, 2012
        October 7, 2010 – June 15, 2011 (last season with beginning and end dates I could find)
        October 30, 2012 – April 17, 2013

        So unless I am doing it wrong, there are only a couple of weeks a year where the two even have the possibility of overlapping. So I’m guessing at most 2 or 3 times a year will you get a weekday where both Safeco and Hansen Stadiums are both having games at the same time.

      11. I’m not against Benaroya, whatever that could possibly mean, I just once argued we shouldn’t name a train station after a private organization; it’s free advertising.

        I’m not against nightlife (I play out in a band twice a month, and go to bars all the time, probably way too often). I just have issue with the “its the lack of bus service that I have to drink drive” argument.

        I admit I am against people eating everywhere all the time, so I’m not for a massive expansion of streetfood. What they have in Portland is great. What people seem to want for Seattle is not.

        I go to lots of Mariners games and have had season tickets to the sounders for years. I just think this basketball idea is hare-brained and a waste of public money. $115 mn (or whatever) is the cost of the FHSC. That’s a fuck ton of money to build a private, for-profit business a place to operate.

      12. March 28 – April 17 all three are in play and the hockey and baseball into the middle of June for Hockey. That’s 2 months. Then there’s post season and pre-season plus all the concerts and special events. We’ve had only a few nights when there’s been Sounders and Mariners and it results in gridlock. Add to that a slew of midweek soccer matches that are on the same night as basketball or hockey. Plus there can be big events going on at Key Arena (or whatever it’s called now). Even with careful scheduling I’d guess we’re looking at at least a dozen if not more weeknights with multiple events over the course of a year. Throw in winter darkness and rain and it will be ugly.

      13. Grid lock for cars is good. It means we’ll have to build something like the “Seattle Subway” to get the people in and out of our sports complex. And it would get used outside of the normal commuter hours.

        Year round usage will help with the restaurant and other service businesses in the area.

        I’m all for co-locating the sports arenas. I’m not for publicly backing the bonds. It’s a private enterprise, not a public necessity.

      14. Grid lock for cars is good.

        It’s especially good for the port… Port of Tacoma that is. Truthfully cars stuck in peak traffic that the system isn’t designed for only creates more air pollution, cut through traffic everywhere, and buses that are trapped right along with the cars. It does nothing to reduce driving because these are sporadic events not an everyday occurrence. I don’t really care if they build the arena as long as the County gets it’s money repaid. I’m actually happy with the Sodo location because it means it won’t be in Bellevue! But I think long term the Seattle Center would be a much better location.

      15. Bernie, your dozen+ a year sounds like fear mongering to me. Because I’m bored, let’s just see what we would have had this season:

        I’m going with the Kings as a stand in for the Sonics.

        Sounders-Sonics Midweek Conflict: 1
        Weds March 7 CONCACAF Champions League Match

        I’m going with the Coyotes as a stand in for the Metropolitans. (Sounders 2011, for the October overlap)

        Sounders-Metropolitans Midweek Conflict: 0


        Mariners-Metropolitans Midweek Conflict: 1
        March 12


        Mariners-Sonics Midweek Conflict: 5
        Friday March 9
        Weds March 14
        Monday April 2
        Weds April 18
        Friday April 20

        Total Additional Sounders-Sonics-Mariners-Metropolitans Midweek Overlap: 7

        Did I overlook any season overlaps? Now keep in mind that this is WITHOUT any special scheduling. I would imagine you could get it down to 4 or 5 but I have no idea. Still not a ‘dozen if not more.’

      16. If we got rid of the stadiums (stadia?) think of all the mid-rise building we could put there…density ho!

      17. Just to clarify the dates the poster mentioned above include the playoffs. The NHL season ends in April with postseason lasting until June. The NBA information he presented was correct with playoffs also lasting until June.

      18. Ya, lets build something that will be used everyday… what? A portable hot dog stand maybe?

        Have you seen how the free market values that property? It’s currently a POC and totally underutilized.

        And redeveloping it in this manner sure beats building yet another low intensity use office building serving….serving what? Maybe 1 or 2 hundred workers on a 9 to 5 schedule? Compared to that the arena would represent much higher utilization and have a much more positive impact on the neighborhood.

      19. Total Additional Sounders-Sonics-Mariners-Metropolitans Midweek Overlap: 7

        But that’s not counting any special events like concerts which are most likely during the summer when the sports teams aren’t in town. And while the outdoor stadia aren’t used for much besides their primary purposes there are occasional events like WrestleMania and corporate events. Plus the exhibition center is a major draw for things like boat show, cars show and sportsman exhibition. But, I predict the Mariners are “out’a here” if they have to start competing for sports dollars with two other major league teams. That’s a much bigger risk financially than any tax giveaway to Chris Hanson. OTOH, they may leave irregardless of a new arena.

      20. The stadiums could be more multi-purpose centers if they’re built and programmed that way. The Kingdome was a great multipurpose venue. Safeco Field is really one-use. CenturyLink field at least made some effort to be 2-sport and to accommodate other events. It sounds like the basketball stadium would be even more multi-purpose, able to host concerts and the like. But all that is just bringing us back to what we already had in 2000: a multipurpose stadium that could host several sports and a variety of other events. So all this money and construction wasted for nothing.

      21. Multi-purpose stadiums are a failed paradigm. Almost all of them that were built are now gone, and the ones that remain are generally reviled.

        The Kingdome was a prime example of how bad these things can really get. Expected to cost $40M to build, it instead actually cost $70M. And, after approx 25 years of operation it was $100M dollars in debt on the day it was imploded. That is about as bad an investment as you will ever see – an unmitigated disaster really. Heads should have rolled.

        However, the NHL and NBA do work well together. Both sports require a stadium of about the same size and dimensions, and concerts also work well in such a venue. It’s about as close as you can get to a multi-purpose facility.

      22. Why were the new stadiums built? To add luxury boxes. Why are they single-sport? It’s part of team marketing.

      23. Sure, luxury boxes are part of the mix in new stadiums. But denying that “big money” is a part of sports is denying reality. It’s a fact of life, and these multi-purpose stadiums with their bizarre cutouts, poor sight lines and horrendous acoustics will never be able to generate the revenue required to support today’s teams – with or without luxury boxes.

        And you obviously never attended a basketball game in the Kingdome – it was totally ridiculous and should never have happened.

        This city much improved now that the Kingdome is gone. Build a new arena to bring in the NBA and NHL and this city will be even better. And put in SoDo where we have the transportation and hospitality resources to support the fans.

      24. The concrete cavern was a pretty lousy place to go see a baseball game too. I guess it was OK for Seahawks and monster trucks. And while not a viable NBA arena it did allow us to host the Final Four and would have been a viable place for a political convention.

        It’s [a new arena] about as close as you can get to a multi-purpose facility.

        Except we already have one in the Seattle Center. It will have to compete with the new facility for concerts, ice shows, etc. Would the Storm move? Would the Thunderbirds stay in Seattle Kent? The Seattle metro area is a pretty small market for this many pro sports teams.

    2. Even with the Stadium Link station, regularly scheduled transit access to Safeco Field could be a lot better. The NBA/NHL arena will be that much further from a Link station, and so a local transit transfer will be needed at the King Street/ID and SODO stations. Would be a huge benefit to all three stadium complexes.

      The First Avenue South & Lander Street corridor is really interesting for reserved ROW transit. Would serve the front door of the entire Stadium District, as well as the Starbucks HQ. I’m thinking a transit facility shared by buses and a streetcar network extension. A similar facility for San Francisco Muni light rail at the San Francisco baseball park is key to limiting park auto access to around 50% (numbers pre-3rd Street LRT extension, Local transit access should not be forgotten when addressing Port accessibility and Highway 99/I-90 circulation.

      1. A little distance is good for people and transit. First it breaks up the crowd heading to the next train. Second the whole country could stand to go for a 1/2 mile walk.

      2. I’m also hoping the arena construction would involve some tree planting or redevelopment or something to make that 1/2 mile walk more pleasant than it would be today.

        Still, before I learned about public transit, I used to drive to SODO to find free street parking for Mariners games. The walk isn’t that bad, especially when everyone else going to and from the game is doing the same walk.

      3. So the LRT line is too close to the San Francisco ballpark? Transit users get plenty of walking in. That extra distance is huge in the transit/car mode split. Also, consider the quality of that half-mile walk from the far side of the BNSF tracks.

      4. Sports fans are used to walking–mainly because if you can’t get in-close parking (very limited in Seattle’s stadium areas) or you don’t want to pay the exorbitant prices for nearby parking (try up to $50 near Safeco), you either park farther out and walk, or take transit. Personally I drive to a Link station and take the train in, mainly because the 11 is so damn slow and the train gets me in and out much faster. My buddy from Maple Valley takes Link from Tukwila and my brother in Olympia drives to Tacoma and takes Sounder when special event trains are running…he can’t wait for Lakewood to open!

        The arena development could be a great catalyst for planning that west side rail line; what could be more natural than running a Second Avenue subway through downtown, then down First Avenue S past the stadiums and arena (and the concurrent development)? You’d have a district with rail service on BOTH sides, and very little need to drive there if you didn’t want to deal with traffic. Would that some far-seeing city or county official could make that point and open up a serious discussion for enhanced transit in the area…and every car not coming because they took the train instead is a car out of the way of the Port traffic.

    3. That statement makes no sense at all given that we’ve created a multibillion dollar transit system, you would want to locate large structures such as a stadium on the terminal ends of such a system so that the land is cheap and buildable.

      In a star network then all the “arms” of the network would feed into exchange stations and then out to the end.

      Even Yankee Stadium in NYC is way up in the Bronx as anyone who has taken the subway there will know.

    4. Bernie, we may not be a huge city, but we are a rich one. Like it or not but corporate sponcership luxury boxes, and TV deals are where it is at.

      How much did adding the Sounders ‘hurt’ the Seahawks or Mariners?

      1. There was a piece about it in the Seattle Times:

        Can Seattle support six pro-sports teams?

        Of the five markets have six or more teams: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago have a lower median income but are 3-7 times larger. Washington, D.C.and San Francisco are higher. And while there is certainly a lot of wealth I think Seattle is more of a participate than watch sports town. I think that’s one of the main reasons support for baseball and basketball has never been strong unless the team is in contention for a championship.

        Good question about the Sounders and Mariners/Seahawks. I would expect some baseball fans may have used their sports dollars instead to go see a soccer match. Of course the Mariners are awful and have been for quite a while so it’s hard to tell from attendance. Seahawks have been putting out a decent product and there’s strong demand for pointy ball. And Paul Allen doesn’t care which team you spend money on :-)

      2. And the point is the Sonics were failing even without Sounders FC competition for sports dollars. Sounders should, in theory pull some business from the remaining franchise. A new NBA team would replace the Sonics totaling the six (Mariners, Seahawks, Storm and Sounders + NBA + NHL). At the risk of being sexist, I don’t really think the Storm are a big factor other than they’ve been able to support a championship basketball team when there’s no NBA competition and the Husky women have been terrible compared to the Chris Gobrecht era. Husky football OTOH is the most profitable sports franchise in the State. It’s the number one professional franchise in Seattle.

    1. I fixed your link.

      I was briefly shocked but I guess this is the operative sentence:

      “He attributed the lack of bidders to the fact that the note is secured not by the 16-story brick building itself, but by Wright Runstad’s long-term lease on most of the floors.”

      Yeah, I wouldn’t give much for that.

      1. 99 year leases are pretty common. Anyone building on tribal or Forest Service land for example. I think all foreign real estate “ownership” in Mexico is done this way. The $143,000/month rent check is a bit steep. At 15 years at 6% a mortgage the financing for Wright Runstad would have been around $170,000 a month. I think I remember reading they were out of pocket a bit over $300,000 a month when it went vacant. But at 10 cents on the dollar the financing would be more like $17,000/mo. Added to the rent you’d be paying somewhere around $1/sq-ft. Seems like something could be done that would bring in a profit and pay off the lease in short order.

      2. I once talked with a couple missionaries in Mexico. Their building had to have wheels so it was officially portable. They covered the wheels with siding but when an inspector came they had to show him the wheels. They also had to come back to the US for a minimum of a week every six months.

      3. @Mike Orr–

        Interesting. The same thing is done here, at least in South Carolina where I live occasionally. Mobile homes in poorer, rural areas are often left fully mobile and siding is put around the base (apparently so the owners feel it’s more “permanent”). I was told this was done because the tax rates and other requirements were less if the “house” were actually not a structure on a foundation. These are pretty common if you drive through the country down there.

  6. Regarding land use, we could use improvements across the board. The article suggested their is one model for building a pretty city, but a previous article by Knute Berger ( had a lot more nuance, despite its generally anti-density tone. I reject absolutes (like no big buildings). It really depends on the buildings, and how they are done. Vancouver is a very pretty city, and it has plenty of big buildings. Much of San Fransisco is dense in a way that the article suggests is a good thing (although it has sky scrapers too). Having a lot more housing like San Fransisco would be a great start. More row houses. But don’t give up on the Vancouver model either — they would look great together and provide plenty of what people want.

    D. C. is hardly a model city. Much of it is unpopular because it is considered unsafe. The parts that are considered safe are extremely expensive. That is why they are toying with higher building limits. Until things get straightened out, folks live in the burbs. But D. C. is an unique city with an unique past. You don’t want to crowd out the views of the historic architecture. Most cities (like Seattle) don’t have that problem. The Safeco building, for example, dominates the skyline in the area. It is hardly the Washington Monument.

    1. “The parts that are considered safe are extremely expensive.”

      They’re expensive because there are so many lobbyists with large expense accounts demanding close-in housing and fine restaurants.

  7. Here’s what’s missing with most of the “solutions” mentioned in these comments. There are people, and a large number of people, who don’t want to move into the city to live in dense and or high-rise surroundings. And people can and do make choices not to. So if you eliminate all or most single family houses, or places zoned for them, you are going to lose the most stable part of the population that makes up wonderful cities like Seattle. So before you make serious effort to fit everyone in the whole freaking world into your model of small living space, cheap to rent/own, close to fast inexpensive mass transit, remember that Seattle’s wonderful high paying jobs wouldn’t be here and won’t stay here if your ideal is reached.

    1. “you are going to lose the most stable part of the population” I don’t buy it. My uncle’s lived in the same 200sf apartment in Manhattan for 30+ years. He tends the bar downstairs, teaches at a university nearby, and is part of a strong community. Because the single family lifestyle is one that you’re used to, doesn’t mean it’s the only good choice.

      Around 70% of Seattle is zoned for single family homes. We just can’t grow unless we change that.

      1. Aye, my friend’s family has rented the same rowhouse in Moenchengladbach for over 20 years. Both teachers, parents of 2, involved in their community. Oh, and with a rowhouse they do actually have a nice little backyard for gardening and hanging clothes up. And then about 3/4 a block away is their garage (every unit in their row has their own little garage, but they are over in the back of the commercial units lining the busier street they are behind).

      2. Why do we need to grow? I’m reading the chapter in Lies Your Teacher Told You on progress. It seems that we think we have to grow, increase population, increase sales etc. in order to have progress. What ever happened to just having a decent city to live in? Do we really need to grow in order to be better?

      3. My preference is to grow because a more dense city is more interesting and efficient. But the real reason is environmental. Our region’s population has been shooting upward in the past few decades, and is projected to continue. Putting a Keep Out sign in Seattle pushes people out the suburbs or even the exurbs. This is sprawl, and sprawl is terrible for resource efficiency, time efficiency, commute patterns, energy use, air quality, environment destruction, and on and on.

      4. People move to Puget Sound mostly because of jobs. Some people retire here because of the scenery or to start a band but most come for jobs. When do people leave the area? When there are layoffs, as in 1992 and 2000 and 2008. The opposite of growth is shrinkage and unemployment, which is bad for everybody.

        Of course, a growing population has to live smarter to avoid exponentially damaging the environment. And if we shift away from high-energy activities and spend our money on education and human experiences, the economy can become more decoupled from the environment so that economic growth doesn’t affect the environment as much. And if, one day, all our basic needs are met by perpetual, renewable-energy robots so that poverty disappears, then the economy can level off without leaving people in unemployment desperation.

    2. Please leave your cultural imperialism out of this, Glenn. Just because you believe families with kids are superior poeple to everyone else does not make it so.

      1. Cultural imperialism?

        Fact is that you were likely a kid, and may well be a parent too. Over the course of a lifetime we experience a wide range of family circumstances and housing needs that widely vary. A healthy community provides for a full range of choices from single-family homes to small flats.

        Seattle could easily add another 1-200,000 inhabitants without ever touching the land zoned for single family homes, and probably not break four stories doing so.

      2. Relax, Kyle. You have no idea what I believe, nor I, you.
        “There is no excuse for any single-family housing to remain in the City of Seattle.” If you really believe that, then Seattle may not be the place for you.

    3. You’re missing much of the point of the article. Many seem to think there’s only a choice between a single family home on a half acre OR a one/two bedroom apartment/condo in a highrise or large complex. That’s because those two extremes are the only options they generally see in their city. There are many many more models available in between those extremes, including row housing, walk ups, flats, etc. in side to configurations between 2-6 stories. Depending on the alternative, these configurations can alleviate the feeling of being housed “on top of” your neighbors.

      1. Indeed, I live in the burbs but I’d love to live in the city if I had the choice. I however do not want to live in an apartment. I have a couple of kids and apartment living generally sucks for families. I know because I did it for many years. However, I don’t need a 3500 square foot house on a quarter acre either. All I need is a single family home with enough room outside to store my bbq and plant my herb garden. This is my ideal house IN the city. There’s a lot of absolutists on STB. We HAVE to get more dense, we HAVE to grow, we HAVE to all be crammed into apartments etc… I don’t think there’s ONE model for anything.

      2. @Grant please then become a advocate for rezonong of single family areas on the edge for urban villages to low-rise zones. That I’d the only way to get this kind of housing in Seattle.

    4. “There are people, and a large number of people, who don’t want to move into the city to live in dense and or high-rise surroundings”

      Yes, but they have to take responsibility for the negative externalities of a low-density home. If they want to live in a single-family pure-residential neighborhood with only automobile access to essential services, more than five or ten miles from a substantial city, then they should pay for the costs they impose on the rest of us.

      1. They do pay for it. And if transit chooses to run out to them, then they benefit, and are encouraged to spread further. There are many (read SFZs)in great cities (read Seattle) that encourage people to stretch their budgets and make sacrifices so they can live close in and responsibly (on 3000-5000 sq ft lots). Fostering trees and plants on individual small lots in-city provides for a lot more “green” than 400 people in one block-sized building demanding goods brought to them and waste hauled from them, with no organic green is sight. And they don’t need automobiles for every trip.

      2. Glenn,

        First of all, being able to see trees and grass has very little to do with environmental sustainability. Yes, there are environmental issues caused by impermeable surfaces, but ‘green roof’ initiatives go a long way towards fixing this, and anyway, the total amount of impermeable surface per person is much greater for single-family living than it is for multi-family. Don’t underestimate the footprint of roads — in many cities, fully 25% of land is concrete/asphalt road, if not more. The more spread out people are, the more road space there is per capita.

        Second, I don’t know what you’re on about regarding “demanding goods brought to them and waste hauled from them”. We’re not talking about farmers here. Do single-family dwellers not have garbage pickup? Do they not order things from Amazon? Do they not make weekly (if not more often) trips to the grocery store? And you’re kidding yourself if you think that it’s more efficient for ten families to make ten grocery runs than it is for one truck to deliver all those groceries at once.

        You clearly have a strong preference for SFH living, and I respect and support that. But you’re not helping your case when you claim that single-family housing is more environmentally sustainable, especially when such claims can be trivially disproven.

  8. I was hoping the oil industry would just connect a three inch hose, with a seven inch lubed nozzle, to Eyman’s rectum and just start pumping. Pump, baby, pump. Uff da. Oh. Oh, yes. So darn nice. Oh. Sooo hot….

    Oh yeah, now ban me forever. Yipeeeee….

  9. Giving Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Cars Another Chance

    Obama slashed Bush-era funding for the clean-energy vehicle. Now he may reverse course.

    Industry and Department of Energy officials say that Chu seems to have softened his early rejection of hydrogen fuel cells. John Hofmeister, the former president of Shell USA and the incoming chairman of the Energy Department’s technical advisory committee on fuel cell vehicles, said Chu made supportive remarks about the potential for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles while speaking at a recent, closed event.

    If Chu has changed his early hostility toward hydrogen fuel cells, he does so as a handful of major carmakers are readying models for as early as 2015. Toyota, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, and Daimler have announced plans for hydrogen fuel-cell propelled vehicles. General Motors says that as soon as 2016 it may release its own hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, but it’s watching for the launch of supporting infrastructure—primarily new refueling stations.

    1. Bush pushed hydrogen because he knew it would never in his lifetime (maybe ever) become a threat to oil. Obama slashed funding for exactly the same reason.

      1. Simple. However daunting the mathematical and physical realities are, they have to try everything (or at least appear to) even if the end result shows that it’s impossible on a meaningful scale. That’s not objectionable.

        By the way, John Hofmeister as the head of the technical advisory committee on hydrogen? That has to be a joke! He doesn’t know anything. He rose up through HR to head Shell’s US division. In a recent debate with a petroleum engineering professor, he demonstrated his rose-colored view of the energy situation we’re in. He has been promoting his book on how the US could be ‘energy-independent’ if only some organizational or political constraints could be removed. He advocates for some “energy board” modeled after the Federal reserve and somehow that’s going to fix our 50+% import ratio of liquid fuels. Also, he sees hydrogen as an “energy source”. Unbelievable.

        In the end there is only this to say:

        But for all the research into hydrogen, fuel cells remain dependent on platinum, the fuel chain is still punitively inefficient, and battery electric technologies are making big strides all the while. So the jury may not be out for very much longer. According to Gary Kendall, “hydrogen has always been the fuel of the future, and it looks like it always will be”.

      2. Battery-electric is the future.

        There are also gonna be some new battery types soon. :-) It’s not all chemical batteries.

  10. My friend and I were having a conversation about how impractical and unsustainable cars are to a city and the kind of resources it takes for every person to have this thing that is several times bigger than them just to cart them around. A little question or thought experiment popped into my head: what if every dinosaur needed another bigger dinosaur to get around? You start with a Velociraptor hopping in his TRex to go to the beach. Then next, a family of 5 stegosaurus pack into their Brontosaurus for a family outing. Keep scaling up and eventually you are left with an image of the earth and a very large dinosaur standing on top of it.

    Google cars are hardly the answer, cities still need more efficiency and shared resources to operate at density.

    1. Jarrett Walker mentioned this in an analogy that didn’t make it into his book. It’s on somewhere around 2010 or 2011. He said any society of creatures with mobility devices larger than themselves, would inevitably require large parking lots that take up space and push things farther apart.

    1. The houses and apartments in Tukwila and the Rainier Valley that were impacted by light rail never made it on the front page of the Times, I guess classism is alive and well too.

      1. I don’t know about before construction but they sure did over the noise issue when Link started operation.

    2. That’s not redlining. Redlining is when the banks, or government finance programs, refuse to write mortgages in an area because the neighborhood has too many poor people and minorities. That’s what killed private construction and normal rehabilitation in Rainier Valley and it still hasn’t recovered. Surrey Downs may not be in the top eschelon of Bellevue but it’s nowhere near a readlined area, and it’s not the poorest part of Bellevue either.

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