I’m sure Mayoral candidate Peter Steinbrueck isn’t trolling me, but he might as well have been as he addressed the Seattle Neighborhood Coalition, via PubliCola:
Finally, Steinbrueck—the crowd favorite—argued that good design and walkability are as important as simply creating density. “There is a way to do density right and there is a wrong way to do it,” Steinbrueck, an opponent of the current South Lake Union upzone said. “I know how to do density right.”
In an indirect shot at rail-enamored McGinn, he said that buses, not light rail, are “the most cost-effective, proven mass transit system.”
I’m genuinely astounded that a serious Seattle candidate is arguing buses vs. light rail like it’s 2007, and more so that he’s coming down on the anti-rail side. But that’s way too stale of a fight to reenact.
I have my own aesthetic principles for what a good neighborhood looks like, but I’m willing to subordinate those to what the neighbors want, because the absolute imperative is to have lots of things (households and jobs) per unit area. That’s what the climate, the unspoiled habitat, and the fate of Seattle’s political power in Olympia care about.
So I have a challenge for the “do density right” crowd: the next time there’s some terrible upzoning proposal that would allow X units, I would like to see an alternate proposal with X units “done right.” Unless it were specifically designed to make sure no one could ever economically build it, I’d have no objections to it.
If the issue is aesthetics and form rather than density itself, taking the existing zoning proposal and chopping off 25′ is not constructive. Chopping off 25′ and then freeing up an appropriate number of blocks for multifamily development is constructive. Chopping off 25′ and taking steps to replace parking with units is constructive.
Unfortunately, my suspicion is that a significant chunk of the opposing coalition equates “density done right” with “less density”. After all, many people don’t want to see more low-income housing, or more competition for free city-owned street parking in their neighborhoods, or more local congestion, all of which sometimes happen with more units and more activity. That’s not a crazy set of concerns! But I don’t see why the city should indulge those preferences when they contradict broader goals for our city, region, and world. I hope my suspicion is wrong, because it’s far more important that we get the units than that those units take any particular form.