Mayor Murray seemed pleased to announce ($) that a lot formerly zoned for six stories, and adjacent to a subway station, will become a park instead. As Josh Feit succintly put it, the height limit here has dropped from 65 feet to zero.

Of course cities need parks. But no one has even begun to make the case that the neighborhood, or the city as a whole, doesn’t have enough, or that existing ones are near capacity.

Meanwhile, wherever there is change in this city the media expect readers to feel compassion for those displaced to less trendy neighborhoods, or (gasp) to the suburbs, by rising rents. And decent people will sympathize with the victims of change, even in the context of good news overall. But while replacing a poor household with a rich one has some moral valence, at least somebody gets to live here; I feel greater anguish when no one gets the chance.

If this park plan succeeds, there will be several dozen more households that won’t be able to live in Seattle near high-quality transit. Perhaps the people that would have lived here will banish themselves to the suburbs, or maybe they’ll simply outbid somebody on Capitol Hill and displace them instead.

Seattle could offset this fiasco by reopening the Roosevelt rezone and adding back the development capacity through greater height somewhere equally near the station. But of course that would unleash endless insincere complaints about process.

This is the dead giveaway about process objections: since the Mayor proposed a density-diluting measure, none of the anti-density forces care at all about public outreach, the past body of neighborhood planning, need for more study, and all the other excuses to slow down growth already well below what this city needs to thrive. I come here not to recycle these complaints, but to bury them. Support or criticize this project on its merits, not because less than 100% of residents received quality contact, or whether the study correctly hurdled every bureaucratic gate.

This proposal does have to go through the Council, which provides the opportunity for public comment. DPD wasn’t able to tell me if the park would require an environmental impact study, because it depends on whether its buildings and areas “improved for active recreational uses” exceed 4,000 square feet. This threshold, of course, is perverse: active uses at least bring people into the purported refuge from urbanity, while non-active space merely replaces a vibrant city with emptiness that taxpayers pay to maintain.

Whether or not there’s a study, don’t doubt that there will be impacts: on housing costs, transit modeshare, and displacement. Let’s hope that the Council and DPD consider these, whether in a formal process or not.

155 Replies to “A Roosevelt Park: A Step Backwards”

  1. “while non-active space merely replaces a vibrant city with emptiness that taxpayers pay to maintain”, impressively naive.

  2. In my view, a one hundred year perspective smiles on this proposal. I realize there is an impact on housing supply, density, and Link ridership. I think that additional rounds of density will come to Roosevelt; we just can’t have it all at once. I also think it’s important to add open space along with density, especially pocket parks and parklets.

    1. In no way is removing housing from the walkshed of our multi-billion dollar subway system a good idea at any timescale.

      1. So, for the thousands who will choose to live and work by walking to Link, they don’t deserve or need any open space?

      2. Sure. I love parks. But don’t put one it the walkshed of our multi-billion dollar subway system. How hard is that?

        I won’t even point out the massive Cowen Park a short walk away. Want another park? Great. Put it outside of the walkshed, on land that isn’t zoned for multifamily.

      3. I think we need open spaces within these walksheds. Those of us who don’t own cars and stay in the city for long periods of time benefit by regularly passing through public spaces where a wide range of great city-things happen. I personally would happily exchange adjacent density for the contrast.

      4. Cap the reservoir. There’s your park. There won’t be “thousands” of people in the walkshed if housing isn’t allowed to be built.

      5. Or cap the freeway up north and extend Rainbow Point Park.

        Lots of other options.

        It’s good to have various options within the walkshed of stations, but this will be a fairly small park that I hardly imagine is going to be a destination type park, in the manner of Green Lake Park or Discovery Park.

      6. Glen in Portland has a point – cap the freeway & build a park as it was done a few years ago.

      7. Four blocks from Cowen Park. Seven blocks from the play field at Ravenna-Eckstein. Possible usefully sized park at the reservoir as well. This park is too small to be useful for much of anything. At most it will be used by Roosevelt students at lunch.

    2. Yes, it’s important to have some open space along with density. But how much? There’re already several parks nearby, as shown in the map. And when will more density be added? Given conditions in the rest of the city, I’m not optimistic Roosevelt will allow further density in the future due to this park.

      1. Neighborhoods don’t change as fast as they do in SimCity. In not too many years, the Roosevelt will be populated with new long term residents more amenable to additional density. This will change the conversation.

      2. This doesn’t refute William’s point. Cowen park, Ravenna Park, Green Lake Park, Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center grounds and community garden, Froula Park, University Prep grounds, Dahl Skate park, are all within the walk or bike shed from the neighborhood. I know because I used to live there and utilized all of these facilities.

        The need is for housing now, and into the future.

      3. I think William asked some questions, and I answered one of them. I don’t disagree w/you about the need for housing. Maybe, I’m not feeling as exasperated as most are about it. I’m leaning toward the value of these blocks for people’s hourly lives and how this supports the livability of the city into the future.
        As for affordability, I’m at least as interested in mid-income jobs than more high-wages ones as our current development patterns seem to be producing.

    3. Counterbalance Park in Lower Queen Anne is a nice vacant bit of space that I have never actually seen anyone use, yet it is pretty well developed with tables and chairs and a nice big platform. It’s got two busy roads next to it and to me isn’t that pleasant a place to be.

      Ella Bailey Park is about the same size, and people are there all the time. It has a decent enough view of the water, the mountain and a bit of downtown. Most importantly, people can get to it without getting run over, and use the park without being drowned out by nearby road noise as the nearest busy roads are two blocks away.

      From its location, this park seems like it would create a space far more like Counterbalance Park than Ella Bailey Park.

      1. I live a few blocks away, and you’re absolutely right that to a first approximation, no one uses that park. I’ve seen a handful of people take their Caffe Ladro goodies across the street to be in the sun, but other than that it’s empty pretty much 24/7.

        I’ll even go out of my way to avoid walking past it since the awkward intersection often makes it faster for me to walk down to Mercer, cross, and walk back to Roy than to wait for a walk signal. And if I wanted to have a picnic I’d walk the extra couple of blocks to, say, the International Fountain and not have to listen to traffic whizzing by.

        In retrospect it would probably have been better to leave that property on the tax rolls.

    4. “Pocket parks” and “parklets” are awful. Name one city which finds them of any value.

      Seattle is creating *bad* parks. Good parks are actually pretty sizeable.

      There is something a little different but the same size: public squares. Which act as homes for small outdoor events, and places for people to eat takeout lunch. But most of these “pocket parks” aren’t that either.

      1. Pocket parks are good in some places, like Bellevue & Thomas. They’re not for where there’s a big park a few blocks away. They’re for where there’s no big park or playground.

        Parklets, as in parks in parking spaces, are too new to evaluate. But some like Montana’s are well used and do have a plaza feel. Others at least look nice, certainly better than cars dripping oil.

  3. From a subway station that consumes most of a block with its one story awesomeness, to the unlidded freeway to the West, and now Hugh Sisley Memorial Park, Roosevelt is set for the future!

    1. Great idea, groan. Let’s petition to name the park after Hugh Sisley!

      “It is through the perseverance of this upstanding citizen that we can dedicate this prime real estate to… abso-fucking-lutely nothing.”

    2. Correction: the subway entrances fill two consecutive blocks of major arterial frontage with one-story glass blankness.

      1. And lots of open space. Arguably, the station is a reasonable place for open space for improved pedestrian circulation.

      2. As we consistently lose the battle to have housing built over stations, maybe we ask ST to put pocket parks on top of them?

  4. How about leasing this park to one of the new tent cities the council is proposing? There’s your density, and you know they’ll be transit riders!

    1. @Ian. This seems like an excellent proposal to me. It both satisfies the urgent need for affordable housing close to light rail, and improves the quality of housing available on that particular lot.

  5. By the way, Capitol Hill Station is adjacent to Cal Anderson Park. Is anyone complaining about that?

    In the Le Corbusier model, there is plentiful open space between high-rise buildings. I’m a fan of creating open space but allowing for compensating the density loss by letting adjacent properties build taller.

    1. The Le Corbusier model is an absolute disaster everywhere it’s applied.

      Cal Anderson Park was there first, is very well used and there aren’t really any other park alternatives nearby. That said, if it didn’t already exist I would absolutely not recommend that they put it there — probably about 1/2 mile away, on the fringes of the station walkshed instead of at its heart.

      1. There also are not too many alternatives to locating the huge reservoir that is under the park.

      2. I bet the residents around Central Park in New York would dispute the idea that market-rate residenial high rises around a park is a “failure”.

      3. The areas flanking Central Park contain dozens of square miles of uninterrupted urbanity, to the sidewalks, street corner to street corner. They are dense as fuck.

        But they are of mixed forms and mixed heights. Nowhere, in fact, is New York a “field of towers” (except in the Urban Renewal disasters).

        Please continue spouting ignorance, though. I do so love it when Seattleites lecture people from New York stock about the postcards they’ve seen or about that one afternoon they spent in Midtown. Almost as much as I love it when they claim Central Park would be just as awesome with none of the people (see: the Seattle Commons debate).

      4. Le Corbusier’s model is best exemplified by the public housing projects in NYC which are pretty much universally reviled. They built high rise apartment complexes surrounded by open space, as Le Corbusier suggested. They wound up with terrible housing with no sense of community at all, and open space that’s ruled by criminal activity, not least because the residents didn’t use the open space.

        Regardless, that’s not what is happening here. If they were tearing down a square block of single family housing, putting that number (or more) of residents into a single high rise, and making the rest of the block into a public park, that would be the Le Corbusier model. Le Corbusier was not against density. He was hoping to use the new technology (high rises) to replace traditional housing and create open space with the leftover, while maintaining overall density.

      5. None of these “pocket parks” have any resemblance to Central Park. They generally don’t even resemble Bryant Park.

        At best, a few of them might resemble Union Square or Madison Square. Most of them are even more useless than that.

    2. “You too can experience the miracle of Clichy-sous-Bois and Pruitt-Igoe!”

      Cal Anderson works because it is both a meeting place and a crossroads within and between Capitol Hill’s busiest, most populated, and most multi-faceted swaths of urbanity. Even then, Cal Anderson’s success is as much a product of placement luck as of careful design.

      This is not easily replicable even in similarly vibrant neighborhoods (see: Ballard Bum Commons), much less as part of a regimented and sanitized urban-entropy-depleting Corbu myth.

      1. Pruitt-Igor was a failure in low-income pubic housing design. Market-rate apartments and condos are something completely different.

      2. Towers in parks tend to leave empty parks and little street activity. What you need for a lively neighborhood is to concentrate people with active uses. Having empty space tends to do the opposite, as except the rare picnickers any pedestrians are transiting through the area rather than having it as their destination.

        For market-rate building examples, see any empty plaza downtown forced into existence by our open space requirements. Even the density that comes with the Columbia Tower isn’t enough to make its plaza completely lifeless, even at lunch on a weekday.

        Maybe we should go the other direction. Tell me about market-rate towers in parks that work well.

      3. Mies van der Rohe’s Lafayette Park is considered the gold standard of “market rate” towers-in-parks development, and despite being in central Detroit, it remains highly prestigious and its grounds carefully maintained to this day.

        The place is sterile as fuck, and its “open space” are ghost towns.

        Le Corbu was a germophobe and a person who loathed the entropic human engagements that makes cities vital and vibrant. His theories are city-killing to their cores.

      4. Towers in parks are discredited as an architectural pattern language. If anything they are an architectural anti-pattern.

        While market rate tower-in-park developments may not have the same issue as tower-in-park public housing the surrounding open space tends to be very sterile and underutilized.

        A vibrant urban streetscape fronting on a park is an entirely different kettle of fish. Especially when the urban streetscape side is made up of narrow storefronts or porches and stoops.

    3. The difference, of course is that the density around Roosevelt is pretty border line _as it was_, it just got worse. In contrast the density on Capital Hill is just fine despite Cal Anderson Park. The question on Capital Hill isn’t why did they give them a station, but rather why didn’t they give them more than 1.

      1. Yeah, we are not talking about towers at all. We are talking about a 65-foot multi-story apartment building, that just got razed.

        But hey, surround the park with 130-foot apartment buildings, and a whole lot of people will get a preserved view of it.

      2. I don’t see much density difference between 65-foot lot line to lot line buildings for block after block, and 130-foot buildings with half of the lots being open space. As for livability, I think that the latter is going to offer more pleasant views for both the residents and the pedestrians on the street. Does anyone want to always live with neighbors in view in distances less than 70 feet?

      3. Yes, the overwhelming majority of the urbanized world does. Even Americans do, which is why the handful of rarified places we still have that look like that are in such demand that they cost more to live in than their sprawling post-war alternatives.

        The vetted-by-experience difference between short+continuously urban and tall+oodles of open space is that the former encourages urban cohesion, walking, and synergy between indoor and outdoor life, while the latter encourages withdrawal and driving anywhere more than a block away.

    4. That’s a reasonable argument for not putting the station next to Cal Anderson. Except that there is a college across the street. Otherwise, the station probably would have gone in a little ways away from the park.

      But that isn’t what this is about. We aren’t discussing whether it makes sense to put the station next to Cowen Park, because it isn’t going in there. The question is whether it makes sense for the city to spend a substantial amount of money on a little park in a neighborhood that is rich in parks. While we are at it, perhaps we should finance additional Thai restaurants in Fremont, and additional Pho restaurants on the Ave.

      There are neighborhoods that could use parks. There are neighborhoods that could use sidewalks. This neighborhood needs neither. As was said before, if you really want a park, then cap the reservoir north of there. That would be a much better park, and a much better use of city money.

      1. It would actually make sense to put a station at Greenlake or Alki because a lot of pedestrians go there from other areas, there’s housing and businesses nearby, and Greenlake is a bus transfer point. But those are existing, successful, large parks. It does not make sense to take single lots out of the precious few housing blocks next to stations and convert them to pocket parks. Not at Roosevelt, and not at U-District Station, where some people are trying to do the same thing.

  6. The time to have the quiet conversation about what to do with the park lot was before the big press conference in the neighborhood promising a new park in place of an existing eyesore.
    None of the candidates for Council are willing to join the ‘Kill the Park’ marchers, His Honor is too savy a politician to try to walk this back.
    Enjoy the new park.

    1. I agree, but the fact that City Hall either didn’t realize or didn’t care that it would trigger massive urbanist backlash is deeply concerning.

      I think the face-saving way out, as I said, is to boost the height limit on a couple of other blocks close to the station. If we get the units back I have essentially no objection to this project.

      1. It depends on your definition of “a couple other blocks close to the station”. They’ll put it along I-5, half a mile away, thank you.

        To be more specific, the ADJACENT LOTS should be upzoned, to make the change unit-positive and population-allowed-positive.

    2. Also, mic, the park is not really replacing an eyesore. Those empty houses were slated to be replaced by desperately-needed multi-story apartment buildings. The park is actually displacing potential future residents. Enjoy your new neighbors who wanted to live near transit, but will now be priced into living in Kent.

    3. I don’t think anyone is talking about the cost of this. I would like to know how much this costs the city. You not only have the value of the property, but the value of the property taxes that could be raised by such. Now explain to every other community why Roosevelt, an area overflowing with really good parks, gets to have a new park.

      The obvious face saving way to deal with this is to cap the reservoir north of there. This will have to be done eventually, but this gives the neighbors something. A reservoir park would be a much better park, at a much better location. It would allow for better pedestrian access through the neighborhood (unlike this pocket park, which will add nothing). It would compliment the other public space, like Roosevelt High School, which is in essence a park in the summer and on weekends (which is when most people use parks). With or without light rail, this is a stupid little park. It is just inappropriate for the location.

  7. Areas around rail stations will densify over time no matter what. That’s why is’t so important to take advantage of any opportunity we can to protect open space, because in time, those other few examples of parks in the map above are going to be surrounded by large buildings. And if we don’t build the parks now, that opportunity will be lost forever.

    1. On the contrary. If we don’t protect this land for housing, that opportunity will be lost forever. I notice you aren’t claiming buildings will be built on those parks, just next to them. That’s because parks are forever. Which is a really bad idea in the walkshed of the spine of our transit system.

      1. Matt, the difference is if we don’t save that land for housing, yes, that opportunity will be lost forever, but just in that one location. There will be other opportunities for housing and density in other many other places in the Roosevelt Station area. But land for parks is much more scarce.

        BTW, the “park” shown next to Roosevelt HS in the map above is actually their football field. So if you go out 1000 feet in any direction from the future Roosevelt Station, there are no parks, except for Cowen. So buildings outnumber parks in that 1000 feet circle about 50 to 1. That’s why it’s more important to save open space while we can, because it’s it’s a much more scarce resource and rare opportunity. If we don’t save it, future generations will be forced to make pitiful micro-parks on top of former parking spaces.

      2. Then put the parks where the parks go: outside the walkshed of our subway system. “that land for housing, yes, that opportunity will be lost forever, but just in that one location” That’s a very, very important location for housing, as it’s easily walkable for transit. There is no reason a park has to go there.

      3. Matt, I think we all understand the value of maximizing the number of residences and jobs within walking distance of a station. I’m encouraging myself to remember that it’s not possible to maximize all aspects of a complex system.

      4. But it is possible to have more housing next to the station, and more parkland in the neighborhood. That’s trivial.

        What is not trivial is the politics of getting the neighbors to allow it.

        I’d even go for the City setting aside an even larger park, in exchange for moving it away from the station, and doubling the allowed heights around the station.

      5. Sam, you completely ignore that Roosevelt already has tons of parks and open space, indeed on of the gems of the city park system Cowen/Ravenna is only three blocks from this pocket park. There is also the Ravenna Boulevard median, Roosevelt high school grounds! Link station public plaza, and the additional park space likely when the reservoir at 75th is redeveloped.

        Roosevelt does not lack for parks and open space when compared to most of the city.. It does lack affordable housing and replacing the Sisley blocks with low income housing does make quite a bit of sense.

    2. Sam –

      Do you have any evidence that they’ll inherently densify over time? And to what extent?

      1. Yes, Morgan, Roosevelt is building to the limits in the upzone. Without further upzones, the neighborhood will only grow by shoving more people into the same living spaces.

        Some of the neighbors said on this blog that once this upzone is built out, they don’t want any upzone in the neighborhood ever again.

        And this is the closest neighborhood station to the largest public university in the state.

        This park isn’t for future generations. It is for keeping future generations out of the neighborhood, including tens of thousand of students who would like to live near campus. (And you may have noticed that there is an effort to keep new housing from being built in the U-District as well, including by putting a plaza next to that station).

      2. I believe that those neighbors who are today saying no to upzoning will slowly move away, by choice or in a casket. Others will come to adapt and enjoy the new Roosevelt. There will be more conversations in the future, and there will be more upzoning. I’m certain of it. We just don’t know exactly when, because we’re humans and we get locked into a belief that our current reality is permanent.

      3. Considering the current price of housing hasn’t spurred any neighborhoods to call for an upzone, I think you’re a bit optimistic.

      4. I’m not dead set at all. I’m trying to represent perspective not represented in the article and, generally speaking, not acknowledged by transit/density/affordability efforts.

      5. Matt, individual thinking/politics doesn’t work that way. Home owners aren’t going to resist valuations; although they will push against property taxes. This leaves, renters, developers, and activists to push for upzoning. presuming, as many do, that density will ease pressure on pricing, which I think is overstated to achieve transit function and reduce travel emissions objectives.

      6. So, why not move the park away from the station, within hiking distance of those living at the station? Even double the size of that park if neighbors are willing to move it elsewhere?

        Or increase the building heights around the station to absorb at least 56 more families?

        Acknowledge the suggestions here, and if you like some of them, say so. If you don’t, say why not.

      7. Morgan, whatever mechanism you look at it hasn’t happened even with our high housing prices. The only upzones we’ve had were because of transit, and the city has actually downzoned lately (small house legislation, the aPodment legislation, for two examples). The one exception was South Lake Union, but that was severely scaled back from what it could have / should have been, and that upzone started well before the current boom.

      8. Having just returned from visiting my old cul-de-sac SF neighborhood in Union City, CA, I can tell Sam that BART, just 1/4 mile walk away has done zip to replace any of that housing since the station was built ~40 years ago.. There’s your evidence that SF just changes hands, but rarely gets bull dozed to make room for MF projects –
        OK, maybe in Detroit.

    3. I have always wondered why housing and retail facilities could not have been incorporated into the Link station structure itself. That station takes up an awlful lot of space.

      1. European stops have cafes, crepe stands, florists, and a whole slew of other retail offerings in such a space. I suspect we will have a tepid “display” with long flowing concourses for the buskers and hustlers…

    4. Right Sam, except for Roosevelt High School, Cowen/Ravenna Park, and a future park at the reservoir, the area has no parks at all. [snark]

      Seriously though, this is way to philosophical a discussion. This is getting us nowhere. Put it this way, how much does this park cost? OK, now what do you want to do with that money? My guess is no one would say “build a very expensive park in an area that is overflowing with parks”. No way. Off the top of my head:

      1) Fix up the park at Northgate (north of Target). It could use a playground.
      2) Fix up Pinehurst park. The field is crap (although the playground is nice).
      3) Build some sidewalks for areas that don’t have them. It isn’t too great to have a park, but not be able to safely walk to it.

  8. Sorry, I don’t buy the argument “units are lost” at this juncture: this is one piece of land changing today, and the reality is, the city doesn’t know exactly “when” units could be built on this property. We are assuming far too much to think the land use on other adjacent blocks will be the same 20 years from now. And anyone who writes articles as if they know exactly what will happen 20 years from now…..Wow, what an amazing human you are to read the cities palms!!

    1. The assumption is that the land will be used for what it is zoned for: housing up to the height the neighbors allowed. The neighbors applauded themselves for barely meeting the City’s growth goals, after getting the station moved over from the Greenlake area and then wedging the upzones between the station and the I-5 fumeshed. They used meeting the City growth goals as a talking point to oppose exceeding the growth goals. Now, with this conversion of one of the major multi-family housing lots (if you can consider 65 feet “major”) in the upzone to a park, it appears the neighbors have reneged on that promise.

      Mayor Murray got played. What the Roosevelt neighbors got away with here is hardly worth celebration.

      So, where is that vaunted process? Do we get to have a public hearing on downzoning this property?

  9. I am a huge nature lover myself, but I find myself agreeing with the writer. For me, it’s always a trade-off. A park added to the city is a plot of land “suburbanized” outside of the city. I feel like I sound like a NIMBY in saying that we need to make better use of what we already have in terms of parks, but I really think it’s true. Is adding an additional park in that area really going to have an impact or is just going to give people an additional place for their dogs to poop? Instead of oversaturating areas with mini-parks, why don’t we look at our current parks and make them good enough that I actually want to visit them on the weekend versus always driving far away. Add more trails to Discovery Park and some Mountain Bike trails to Cheasty for starters.

    1. The spectacular Cowen/Ravenna park complex is only 3 blocks from this worthless pocket park. There is also Ravenna Boulevard running along the southern border of the neighborhood. At least between I-5 and Cowen park it gets used as additional park space by residents. The station and Roosevelt High School provide more than enough open space to the core of the neighborhood.

      I see zero reason the city shouldn’t use land seized from Sisley for affordable housing.

  10. Morgan said, “I think we need open spaces within these walksheds. Those of us who don’t own cars and stay in the city for long periods of time benefit by regularly passing through public spaces where a wide range of great city-things happen. I personally would happily exchange adjacent density for the contrast.”

    You can live near a train station, and regularly walk through open space within the walkshed of where you live. The two walksheds don’t have to be identical.

    By the tenth time you have your commute lengthened a few minutes by extra open space that kept you from living closer to the station, you’ll be rethinking the math.

  11. “If this park plan succeeds, there will be several dozen more households that won’t be able to live in Seattle near high-quality transit.”

    There will be dozens of them…DOZENS!

    1. We’re talking about losing around 56,000 sf of capacity. At 1,000sf units that would be 56 households kicked out of Seattle at any given time, forever. Would you be more upset if the city physically evicted 56 families and escorted them from the city, in the name of building another park for local residents? It’s effectively the same thing, with less drama.

      1. This is a bit hyperbolic in my view. There’s change all over the city, and while a given location might be permanent in one direction, there are many other locations w/ opposing vectors. There are also many other locations under consideration now and coming online. Why bound the discussion to units/area within the walk-shed of the station? onward

      2. This isn’t even about parkland. Creating a park was just the tool the neighbors came upon to kick 56 unwanted families out of the neighborhood.

      3. Buy, hey, let’s have a big amoeba hug, and pat ourselves on the back for keeping those 56 families out. And let’s have a press conference and some ice cream and pretend that what we’re really excited about is having a pocket park we have no intention of using.

      4. Well, it was more a joke, by way of Arrested Development. But if I was to stay on topic, I’m never a big fan of public space becoming private, because if that private space ever needs to become public again, it does so at greatly inflated cost.

        If a park isn’t the best scenario here, why not find some other public use for it? Even public, low income or senior housing would be a better use than turning it over to private hands.

    2. “… low income or senior housing would be a better use than turning it over to private hands.” I don’t believe that. Private hands means the parcel would generate much-needed property tax revenue. Low-income housing generates zero property tax revenue. Property tax is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s the goose that keeps laying the golden eggs. Continually converting property tax-generating parcels into -non-property tax-paying parcels is slowly killing our golden egg-laying geese.

      1. Aren’t all the SHAG developments around town owned and run by private developers, who still have to pay property tax (albeit less property tax, but probably still more per acre than single-family homes are paying)?

        And don’t seniors pay sales tax, the primary funding source for the transit they would be getting to live next to?

      2. Good point. Let me clarify. If the choice is between a new Roosevelt park and a big housing complex, I choose the park. But if the choice is between private and public housing, I choose private. Now if it’s a choice between private, property tax-generating condos/apts or a park … that’s a tough one, but I’d still go with the park. A hundred years from now, that area is going to be a dense, noisy, dirty urban jungle, and the park will be a welcome and necessary respite.

      3. Why the fuck does that part of Roosevelt need a park Sam?

        In 100 years we’ll have both the station plaza and the high school as open space in the core of Roosevelt. Cowen/Ravenna park will still be there only 3 blocks from this pocket park. Ravenna Boulevard will still be there with a landscaped median wider than this proposed park.

      4. Don’t forget the reservoir Chris. Sooner or later the city will convert that to a park.

    3. Why bound the discussion to units/area within the walk-shed of the station? onward

      Because this station represents a multi-billion dollar transit investment and one of the few places in the region where people can conveniently move around sustainably.

  12. Like with all other urban elements, including architecture and transit itself, the same park can be designed badly, mediocre-ly (what’s the adverb here?) or excellently.

    Go to:

    Doubt Barcelona’s excellent transit system considers Park Guell an urban desert, and also know that Seattle park-as-low-income-density-remover advocates would go bat-brained berserk if we put copy at Roosevelt.

    Serve ’em right, actually. Also [On (Totally) T}: Great Catalonian designer Antonio Gaudi had his life end by getting hit by a streetcar.

    We owe him a monument!


    1. Park Guell, which isn’t really accessible by transit (you have to take an escalator up the street after climbing up the street), is basically a hillside turned into a park. Not really relevant to this discussion. And Barcelona doesn’t need any lessons in how to build densely. Or build transit. We stayed at a hotel way out near the airport and it was a one-seat ride all the way to downtown from literally across the street from the hotel.

  13. [Off topic, according to the commenter] – B

    Martin, I know you’re going to delete it as being ot, but please, at least wait a few minutes before doing so and give people a chance to read it and stand in awe of my wisdom.

  14. I have been following this blog for years but never commented.

    I am a big proponent of up zones and density, but many comments on this site focus on max density everywhere. Sixty-five feet zoning this far from down town seems completely reasonable. We need to focus on infill in and around the downtown core and promoting walk-able areas around the community.

    1. It’s somewhat far from downtown, but it’s really close to the university, and about to get even closer with Link.

      And also, if you’re a big proponent of upzones closer to downtown, I assume you support raising the height limit to somewhere like 100 feet (to pick a number out of a hat) on Queen Anne and in the northern Rainier Valley?

      1. I do support a number of those up zones. I will admit to a sense of Jane Jacobs’ reasoning though when it comes to outer areas. I believe 65 feet zoning this far out is acceptable and provides scale for those who wish to live in a dense neighborhood, but not one with man-made canyons (which I personally prefer). I would rather see unlimited in Denny Triangle, SLU, Belltown, ect… But I don’t believe Seattle would see much development above 400′, with a few exceptions, since it becomes much more costly to go higher than 400′.

    2. Have you seen the cluster of towers around Skytrain stations in New Westminster? That’s what we should have here.

      1. Absolutely agreed. However that isn’t what the neighborhood and the city hammered out. At this point the important thing is to ensure all of the most developable lots near the station don’t get turned into parks.

        Mark my words the open space idiots will be back demanding all 3 blocks south of the high school be turned into a park. They are also likely to demand the remainder of the station construction site be used for a park rather than TOD.

  15. The parcel proposed is not the entereity of either block to the south of the school. I agree that the area needs more density, but the aesthetic of filling those blocks with rubix cube apartments up to 6 stories will be much, much better with a park in the middle.

    Weedin Place Park… now that’s going to be fairly stupid.

    1. If you don’t want “Rubix cube” apartments, suspend design review and lift the height limits so that people can build profitably with smaller footprints and varied heights.

      1. Martin, that doesn’t make any sense. If the review process allows a cube, the developer’s going to build a cube. (A cube with alleys for larger parcels, and hell, the PCC in Greenlake’s pretty nice.) No one’s going to build a plaza with a tower in Roosevelt for a long long time, and I really think that’d suck anyways. What we need is disproportionate height with windswept concrete trapezoids around them…

        It was mostly a tongue-in-cheek comment on aesthetics anyways. The only reason the cubes are rubix is because they can ‘t make them monochrome because design review won’t let ’em.

  16. If we are concerned that parks (or other open space) are hindering density in key areas, perhaps we should re-evaluate whether Seattle can sell off other chunks of other parks to developers. The city owns lots of public land, and I’m sure some of it is underutilized. Kind of like how Vulcan is building on the SLU “park’ (which really wasn’t a park, just land Vulcan didn’t want to build on yet). Unfortunately, the new parks levy seems to entrench the parks that we have currently, rather than taking a more flexible pro-density approach that treats park lands as the very valuable assets that they are.

    Seattle Center could easily support several apartment buildings (near Key Arena, for example, or demolish the parking garage on Mercer that takes up an entire city block). At Denny Park, remove the parks department building and build up. No loss of actual park space.

    There’s plenty of building opportunities near transit stations. Westlake Park (largely unusable as anything park-like), the square across from the Westin at 5th/Stewart (if combined with the BofA branch, that’s a really nice full block), sports fields for Roosevelt/Franklin/Rainier Beach, etc. As a former Belltown resident, I think removing Regrade Park (aka the wasteland on the corner of 3rd/Bell) would be a net positive for the neighborhood.

    The only downsides of “de-parking” is that the parks that remain are likely to be harder to get to using transit and that pro-density (& pro-transit) arguments can be conflated with being “anti-parks.”

  17. I read many but not all comments on this string. Has anyone considered schools? Such a large number of potential families moving to the area I think has much great implications on other systems. Schools being just one of them.

    1. Consideration of school population was part of the upzone debates.

      Now, the neighbors pushing to remove this planned multi-family housing will cause Seattle Public Schools to plan for fewer students than they expected at the nearby schools.

    2. Seattle School District has made noises about desiring at least some of the surplus Roosevelt Reservoir property for a new school.

      The 3 blocks south of Roosevelt High School really aren’t big enough for a new school even if they were combined. Certainly this partial block area being seized by the city is not nearly big enough for a school.

      Seattle School district has a ways it can go with utilizing property it already owns before it has to start looking long and hard for new land aquisitions.

  18. The article says that the city’s plan, if someone else wins the auction, is to then use eminent domain to acquire the property from the buyer at fair market value. On what planet would that be ok? If a developer wants the land (and perhaps sees an opportunity to get it on the cheap) and wants to build it up, what reasonable justification can the city provide to use eminent domain? I’m not ok with the city going all crazy like that just because a few folks want a useless pocket park, particularly, as this article points out, because of its prime location.

    1. Eminent domain can be used to acquire land for low income housing. This is something I’d support much more strongly than the useless pocket park.

  19. Martin, you forgot to add the context that this “park” proposal is intimately wrapped up with solving the Hugh Sisley slumlord problem at that site.

    I think the park proposal is political leveraging to help solve the problem and not something real.

    Regardless, a couple of small parks in a future dense urban area is nothing to worry about. But I wish we had more tools to more rapidly densify non-downtown station areas. Not towers but max five story residential and mixed use.

    1. Eminent domain can be used by cities to clear “blight” or for building public housing.

      1. People seem to have forgotten that condemnation of the unsanitary or unsafe was an original primary purpose — perhaps the original purpose — of eminent domain law.

        Thus the consternation when, beginning in the ’60s, structurally healthy urban neighborhoods were falsely declared “blighted” for the sake of ego-driven “renewal” projects of increasingly questionable civic merit.

        (A peak example.)

        In the case of Sisleyville, the blight is real and unarguable.

    2. Whatever the intent, we should make a show of opposition when this gets before the council. At least to show that there is opposition to taking housing parcels out of use near train stations. People assume that the nimbys represent 90% of the population.

      1. I’m very curious what John Fox and the Seattle Displacement Coalition thinks of this.

        If Fox supports building affordable housing on the site then he could be a useful ally even though he is usually opposed to most things we want an mostly pals around with NIMBYs these days.

  20. @ronp,

    I hope and pray there is something to your theory. But I don’t see anything in the stories indicating that the announcement of building a park there makes bringing the property into city hands any easier.

    Everything I’ve seen and read indicates the Mayor sincerely wants to build a park there.

  21. Tempest in a Teapot.

    Did any of you read the article? It’s 0.2 Acres (8712 sq feet), (87.12ft X 100ft). The city doesn’t even own it yet. Everyone needs to settle down and focus on larger issues.

    1. Yes, city officials need to calm down, slow the process, have a public hearing, and then come to their senses that a park is the lowest and worst use of this property.

      1. We should require a process similar to what is required for an up zone in order to build a park there.

  22. More likely to be heard in 30 years –
    1. “Thank God someone back in 2015 saw fit to save this block for open, green space.”
    2. “Thank God someone back in 2015 saw fit to build another 6-story mixed use development here.”

    Yes, we need more housing supply. I’m on the pro-development side of that debate more often than not. But weeping over one small plat that will be a resource to the community for a generation, when the rest of this city is sprouting mixed use developments at a break-neck pace, seems just a little overdone.

    And that’s assuming the park actually happens which seems far from a foregone conclusion.

    1. Yeah, because every property in this city is only two blocks from a light rail station.

    2. By that argument every single bloody fucking parcel in the city should be turned into a park or open space.

      Cowen/Ravenna park is only 3 blocks away. Froula park is 6 blocks away. In addition the Ravenna Boulevard Median, Roosevelt High School, and link station all already provide open space.

      Why the fuck does Roosevelt need more parks and open space, particularly a pocket park exactly nobody will use?

    3. “the rest of this city is sprouting mixed use developments at a break-neck pace”

      Only a few of those are within a 5-minute walk of a Link station.

  23. I think the debate over whether you should have a park (or not) close to a station is beside the point. I think the question of whether it makes sense to build a little pocket park in the middle of one of the few potential spots for density is beside the point. We can argue those to death. Here is my point:

    Why are we spending a lot of money on a park in an area rich in parks?

    Other areas that are growing just as fast and are just as (if not more) urban than Roosevelt would love to have parks like Roosevelt has. Northgate, Lake City, Fremont and Ballard would love to have parks like Roosevelt has. Just consider the parks near this proposed park:

    1) Cowen/Ravenna — One of the nicest parks in the city. This has big, old growth trees along with big ball fields as well as paths to connect neighborhoods.
    2) Roosevelt High School ball fields — While technically not a park, it functions like one on weekends, holidays and every day during the summer (the times when people are most likely to use the park).
    3) Froula Park — This is a tiny park to the north of there, connected to the reservoir. Eventually this will become a big park, just as Maple Leaf Reservoir is a park (and a fine one at that).
    4) Green Lake — A bit of a walk from the Roosevelt area, but not too bad, really. The walk is flat, too. Do you really think a realtor ignores Green Lake when selling property in the area (“easy walk to Ravenna and Green Lake …” ).

    All four of those parks are way better than this little park. So, how much does this park cost? I have no idea, but the land is worth quite a bit, since it is zoned for tall buildings and sits very close to a rail station. Then there is the loss of property taxes.

    This isn’t complicated. The mayor is proposing to spend lots of Seattle’s money on a park in an area that doesn’t need it. That is just a horrible use of money, plain and simple.

  24. >>Of course cities need parks. But no one has even begun to make the case that the neighborhood, or the city as a whole, doesn’t have enough, or that existing ones are near capacity.<<

    I disagree. It may be true that the neighbourhood has enough parks, but the city on the whole does not. Especially certain areas like downtown. If you look at the percentage of the city covered in parkland, it is much lower than many other major cities.

    1. Got data? Between Discovery Park, Green Lake, Sand Point, Volunteer Park, Gasworks Park, Seward Park, that big park on Beacon Hill, Lincoln Park, and the Seattle Center, that’s a huge chunk of the city, even before counting up all the parks with soccer and baseball fields, and the bike trails, and the beaches, and that nice big park known as Cowen Park, a few blocks away from this pocket park.

      This is a pocket park we are talking about. Nobody is going to ride the train to visit it. The neighbors will mostly ignore it. It’s major purpose is to displace a couple hundred future residents who could have lived in apartments right next to a train station.

      Unless I see a provision in the next parks levy banning use of the money from building open space within a 1/3-mile radius of passenger train stations, I am done voting for parks levies. I want my vote back.

      1. A couple hundred people will not fit on that parcel. It’s 8712 square feet. That’d be 250 sqft per person at 6 stories with no setbacks, stairwells, hallways, bathrooms… well, maybe if you could find 48 families of four who wanted 2 bedroom apartments accessible by ladder. Hell, if you got that, they’d probably like a playground next door…

    2. Parkland as a percentage of total land area is an irrelevant metric, unless you are in a city where the non-parkland is composed entirely of building footprints and other impermeable surfaces. (Seattle will never be one of those.)

      One quite telling metric comes in the form of parkland-per-capita. You don’t want this number to be zero, course, but you really don’t want this number to be high, because that means your city is a sprawling hellhole and those parks are practically empty anyway.

      Here’s that chart. Notice Seattle right in the unremarkable middle:

      We have lots of parks. Some are good; others are forgetable. Some are huge; others are slim respites. Too many of them have been handed over unceremoniously to the bums. Perhaps it’s time to have a conversation about how the experience of our parks could be better. But in no way should the answer to that question default to “ever more”.

      1. Since you mention parks being taken over by the (ahem) homeless, I am reminded of how a grass pocket park in downtown Lake City got turned into a cement plaza, just for that reason. It isn’t used as a plaza, but is still frequented by people without homes, including some whose ancestors’ presence here long pre-dates those Caucasian homeowners claiming they were here first.

        Generations later, we still have plenty of homeless folks whose ancestral land got taken through legally questionable means, so we can’t claim they are all here because of one-way “Greyhound therapy”.

        Here’s a thought: Deed the whole block over to the Duwamish Tribe, and let them do what they will with that block. I bet *that* will get some space activation, quite possibly including commerce, tourism, and, oh yeah, affordable housing for a bunch of people who should have been first in line to get it, and are still waiting decades later.

  25. Messianic urban utopia theorists. Be careful what you wish for, in multi-story developments that don’t age well. i.e.: high maintenance cost, dearth of well-healed renters to cover cost. Tenements in the making around the rail stations.
    NIMBY? Easy to talk if you don’t have skin in the game. Like losing your home to ill conceived development for the greater good.

    1. The relative economic and environmental efficiency of urban living is not a “theory”.

      But it’s funny to bring up “costs of maintenance” in an era when the downtrodden are being exiled by the cumulative effects of poor planning policy to already-decaying subdivisions in the urban fringe. Not much maintenance happening there, unless you consider exploding meth labs on cul-de-sacs a form of maintenance.

      It’s equally funny to bring up “aging well” when the area in question is full of just-above-cardboard-quality off-the-shelf Craftmans “maintained” so carefully by Sisley.

    2. Unless the City holds onto the property and builds public housing on it (which is not on the table), any market-rate apartments built here will find takers who can afford to pay for high-quality upkeep. The demand to live here will far exceed supply. It is a plum living space one station from the largest university in the Pacific Northwest.

  26. i doubt the article is true. if it is as a semi regular visitor to seatle i found tennis courts sometimes hard to come by in a short distance. the area looked to have large ravenna park nearby, 2 tennis courts near green lake reservoir and a tiny park called rainbow point and green lake beach several easy blocks away.

    i dont know if roosevelt high allows citizens to use track or basketball facilites when not in school use.

    but when you back out on satellite view its a large swath roads and rooftops…plant some trees with a multiuse court park there and go higher on another lot with the affordable housing tract.

    1. Which is more important? The park-to-asphalt ratio or the park-to-resident ratio? Roosevelt is amazingly Mayberry-esque for a neighborhood so close to UW. That’s not economics at work. That’s a horse-and-buggy zoning process we seem to be stuck with, that is pushing rents ever higher.

  27. by rooftops i meant residents. that seemed clear to me. i dont know of places that build parks based on asphalt nearby. but if the lot is to small for meaningful affordable housing numbers a park with a type of sports court may save several blocks of biking or walking for recreation.

    1. Yeah, because you shouldn’t have to walk all of three blocks in order to spend time outdoors and get exercise!!


      1. with a type of sports court………..there are a lot of people there and sports courts fill up. huh….try waling off that shortmindedness

  28. Maybe you should dial your intolerance of neighborhood residents back just a little bit… as there IS pushback about this proposal from neighborhood groups who are upset about this change to the agreement worked out on density in the area. There’s even a great proposal being shopped around that would have the City support affordable housing on the land and vacate the street right-of-way in between to provide green space and preserve the view corridors that were a neighborhood concern in the earlier density discussion.

  29. Apologies to those who aren’t on the Facebook, but here is the proposal to which Mickymse refers: The idea was developed by about 20 people in the City Builders group on Facebook, in a 250-comment thread. Pretty amazing, actually.

    Mickymse is correct–I wouldn’t characterize the neighborhood as NIMBY at all. With some notable exceptions, a decent number attending the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association meeting last week were very receptive and supportive of the idea of turning the two parcels over to a land trust, building new Passivhaus affordable housing on the land, and turning the right-of-way of 14th Ave NE between 65th and 66th into a public open space. It would have to include access to the proposed RDG building to the east, but most of the ROW could be “park.” You can read the full proposal at the link above.

    If after reading the petition you link the idea, I urge you to contact the Mayor and Council. The resolution to turn the Sisley parcels into a park will be reviewed in committee on April 21st. And as you all probably know, once land is turned into a park there is no going back.

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