Central Issaquah Plan Area (Orange), Regional Growth Center (White)
Central Issaquah Plan Area (Orange), Regional Growth Center (White)

On June 25th, the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) designated the Central Issaquah Urban Core as a Regional Growth Center (RGC). Issaquah is the 29th center to receive this designation, which is a major criterion in the distribution of federal transportation funds. Issaquah’s designation follows University Place, in 2014, and South Lake Union in 2007.

The new RGC is about two miles northwest of the historic downtown of Issaquah, centered around the intersection of I-90 and SR-900. It comprises 461 acres within the larger area of the Central Issaquah Plan. The Central Issaquah Plan, approved in 2012, relaxed parking requirements, height and FAR regulations over 1,100 acres of the Issaquah valley floor. Central Issaquah has 89% of the commercially zoned land, 13,000 employees, and many large employers including Costco. Central Issaquah is, however, thinly populated with just 730 residential units, none of which are in the newly designated RGC.

Slide 1
Central Issaquah met PSRC thresholds for planned job and housing growth

In order to gain RGC status, Issaquah’s application had to demonstrate compatibility with VISION 2040 and a commitment to center planning. The City also had to meet goals for current and future targeted activity within the center. With a significant portion of the Central Issaquah area given over to parkland and the highway, Issaquah was nevertheless able to draw a compact boundary around a smaller area that just met the threshold 18 units per acre (activity units are the sum of employment and population).

Going forward, Issaquah’s goals are more ambitious. Plans envision 16,000 residents and 14,500 added jobs within the Urban Core, radically altering what the city characterizes as a “collection of strip malls, parking lots and office buildings”. This is the bulk of the growth that had been anticipated for the Central Issaquah Plan area, and would comfortably exceed PSRC requirements if met.

The Urban Core will be mostly zoned for mixed use, with heights of up to 125 ft. There is no residential development planned at this time, but a 350 unit multi-family development is under construction at the edge of the Urban Core, and there are also two hotels and a parking structure in the pipeline.

Slide 1
Current development around the Urban Core.

The Issaquah Transit Center is at the southwest corner of the RGC, and about half of the center is within a half mile. The Transit Center is served by four Metro routes and two Sound Transit Express routes. There is, of course, a planned Light Rail alignment to Issaquah in Sound Transit’s Long-Range Plan. The City is beginning work on a transportation master plan this year.

Central Issaquah Plan - Potential Future LRT Stations
Central Issaquah Plan – Potential Future LRT Stations

The Urban Core currently has poor street connectivity with large blocks and a highway bisecting the center. To address this, several new streets are planned, as are two additional crossings of I-90. One is an over-crossing at 12th St, the other an urban shared path at Maple St. The city has revised level-of-service standards, concurrency provisions, and impact fees for the entire Central Plan area. The LOS standard pursues a 10% increase in non-motorized transportation modes.

Issaquah is extending the street grid in the urban core.
Issaquah is extending the street grid to improve mobility within the Urban Core, including across I-90.

The designation remains provisional while two remaining issues are worked out. The City needs to ensure growth targets for the RGC are consistent with citywide goals. A Parking Management Strategy also needs to be completed. Once those elements are in place, the designation will be certified by the PSRC Executive Board.

52 Replies to “Central Issaquah becomes a Regional Growth Center”

  1. I can’t imagine this will work out well. I know the PSRC wants to manage growth, and on the surface, this appears to be a good way to do it. This is supposed to condense growth into a small area. I have no problem with that. I have no problem with a lot more people living there.

    But if a lot more jobs move to Issaquah, there will be a lot more sprawl. Areas surrounding Issaquah (all the way out to North Bend) become a lot more attractive. At the same time, traffic will increase. You will have a reverse commute all the way to Issaquah, instead of just to Bellevue/Factoria. The same thing has happened in the past. Suburban sprawl increased greatly when the Bellevue Downtown area grew. Getting to Bellevue — getting to jobs — became a lot more difficult. We still haven’t dug ourselves out of that mess. It is simply a lot more expensive to serve all these far flung office parks. Serving areas like Fremont are hard enough, but much cheaper in comparison.

    I can’t help but think that the PSRC is desperately clinging to a suburban notion of our region, despite the fact that we are obviously moving the other way (and moving the other way very quickly). More people moved into Seattle the last few years than moved into all the big Puget Sound suburban cities combined. If you add up the growth in Issaquah, Sammamish, Bellevue, Redmond, Auburn, Renton, Kirkland, Kent, Federal Way, Burien, Shoreline and Lakewood it still doesn’t equal that of Seattle.* So either the suburban growth efforts aren’t working (people are moving to smaller, perhaps unincorporated communities) or everyone is moving to the big city (Seattle). If it is the latter, than this won’t help. If it is the former, then efforts like this are self defeating and unnecessary. The better solution is to push growth and investment into Seattle (where it is happening anyway).

    * This chart here (http://stb-wp.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Regional_Growth_Chart_2.jpg) is accurate, but misleading. It makes it look like the other areas are adding almost as many people as Seattle. They aren’t. When you plug in the actual number of people who have moved to the area (city population X growth) then almost half of the growth on that chart was in Seattle. By removing Everett and Tacoma from the list of cities, my statement is accurate.

    1. Have you been to Issaquah?

      The sprawl part already happened back when Microsoft moved facilities out there.

      The only next step is condensation and infill which this plan may foster.

      1. I’m not talking about Issaquah (although I would imagine it could sprawl some more) I’m talking about the areas surrounding it. Those areas can easily sprawl some more. Think how many people can get to Issaquah in fifteen minutes and you have a lot of potential for sprawl.

    2. I don’t think jobs will move to Issaquah. New companies will locate both there and in more urban areas, and companies will expand both there and in more urban areas. Some companies may build a headquarters there and consolidate jobs from other areas, as Amazon is doing in SLU and Expedia is doing in Interbay, but those would be the biggest cases of “job move”. The guaranteed allure of suburban office locations peaked in the 1970s and 80s and started breaking down in the 90s, so even if Issaquah becomes a growth center it won’t move most companies to it, just some companies, and really a small number compared to the entire Eastside or Seattle.

      Bellevue has talked about redeveloping Factoria/Eastgate someday. Now would be a good time to think about it more, and in conjunction with this Issaquah development.

    1. This is a corridor that needs to be expedited if Issaquah lives up to its growth plan!

      1. Just like Ballard – UW, SLU – Capitol Hill, Lake City – 130th, all day Sounder, TCC – downtown … The region’s full of corridors that need to be expedited!

  2. I am kind of amazed that all it takes to become a regional growth center is 730 residential units and some strip malls…

    Hasn’t Ballard added more than 730 housing units in the last 12 months?

    I guess we just need some more strip malls zoned for 125′ towers next?

    1. Why not?

      There is already sprawl a plenty in Issaquah.

      To get it to be denser might mean buying up parking lots and mall space and turning it into townhomes and 9 story apartments.

    2. EDIT: 9000 jobs and zero housing. The 730 housing units are outside the Regional Growth Center boundary. The RGC is 100% employment/retail at the present time.

    3. The county criteria is skewed toward job centers. Issaquah got it by zoning for enough workplaces. Ballard-Fremont and Lake City apparently don’t have enough job capacity to qualify. Changing that would require more office towers, a change in the commercial/residential balance, upzoning single-family blocks (Oh noes!), changing the qualification criteria, or getting exceptions for them. Then there’s the issue of the PSRC going by outdated population estimates because better official estimates aren’t available.

      1. If you skew away from population centers and toward job centers, its no wonder they want to build park and rides everywhere.

  3. Now I think the key question is: how can we get Ballard and/or Fremont onto this list? I’d be surprised if a Ballard-Fremont super area didn’t match or beat Issaquah on all those metric. We need to figure out who to push to do this – perhaps Mike O’Brien.

    Anyway, good for the Issaquahians! Hopefully they get light rail in ST3 so we in Seattle can push for more here!

    1. The holdup is that Seattle city planning doesn’t really want to promote growth outside downtown. Virtually the entire city could be designated a “Regional Growth Center” if the City wanted to. But can you imagine the outcry from some of the current residents if more Seattle neighborhood centers were rezoned for no parking with 125 heights, with the City aggressively targeting employment and housing growth?

      By the way, I think Seattle should designate every part of the City with >18 “activity units” as a Regional Growth Cneter, just to get a fair share of PSRC money.

    1. Heh. Ballard and Transit don’t even belong in the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence.

  4. Reverse commuters are, theoretically, actually relatively cheap to serve, since it’s mostly a matter of putting what would otherwise be deadhead bus hours into service. The 545 and 550 carry full loads with frequent service in both directions, so it certainly can be done. The problem is how to find enough people willing to ride the buses to fill them up.

    Nationwide, attracting reverse commuters to transit almost never seems to go well. Microsoft has been able to mostly buck the trend because the stars happen to align perfectly to make transit work. A walkable campus helps, as does a bridge toll that, round trip, costs almost as much as parking in Capitol Hill. But, when push comes to shove, it’s the HOV lane on westbound 520 that really makes the difference in getting people out of their cars. There is no better way to promote transit than for all those who drive alone to sit in traffic and watch the buses go by them every single day.

    Unfortunately for transit, 520 is somewhat of an outlier. Usually, the combination of real transit priority and real congestion for transit to bypass is almost unheard of for reverse commutes.

    1. I’m not sure you really can until there is no such thing as a reverse commute. Isn’t the definition of a reverse commute one that not standard and therefore lacks congestion issues that make transit more attractive?

      1. Right, phrasing gets difficult. For example, you might say that there is no “reverse commute” on 520, about the same number of people are headed east in the morning as are headed west. Perhaps a more accurate term for the situation asdf2 is talking about is “reverse the traditional commute” or maybe the “urban to suburban” commute.

      2. Reverse commute means the opposite of the traditional commute. Vancouver apparently has a larger reverse commute than traditional commute now, because so many people live in the inner city. Losing the “reverse” designation would require a suburb becoming big enough to qualify as a traditional commute target. Has that happened to Bellevue yet? Or what will be the criteria for when it happens? In the meantime, most people still assume “reverse commute” is away from Seattle.

    2. Even then, it isn’t that great. Ballard to downtown Seattle is way better than Ballard to Redmond. In general, every place to downtown is better. UW to downtown is better, even though 520 is right there. Of course you can find exceptions, but those exceptions don’t have as many people. Draw lines from where everyone lives to possible locations and the shortest set of lines is close to downtown. But the biggest problem is just a matter of spreading out your nodes. Places like Factoria, which have several very big office buildings, don’t have that many buses headed there, because the transit system is spread too thin to handle it. If the entire region is fairly dense (like New York) then you can easily justify the expense of building a huge network of trains that serve far flung areas like Queens. But Issaquah will never be as dense as Queens, and it is farther out (and there is less in between it and downtown).

      With areas like Issaquah, a problem like Factoria/South Bellevue is common. The suburban area is too spread out to expect people to walk to a single station. A huge park and ride makes sense. But having done that, it skips over the nearby buildings (at Factoria). If Factoria was bigger, a second line would have been built. But it isn’t, and Issaquah won’t be either. If we continue to spread out businesses, then we make it much harder for people to get to work via transit. They will do what most people do when they want to get to Factoria — drive.

  5. As I’ve mentioned before, the plans for this area, should they have even a modicum of success in attracting investment, amount to a glorified Issaquoffice Park.

    No one will ever arrive at these vapid, hermetic, aesthetically and culturally suburban places via transit. No one. Ever.

    The PSRC approach to development and transit “planning” for our region is incredible, in the literal sense of being without a shred of credibility.

    1. I’m not going to pretend that these places will get the transit mode-share of downtown Seattle or Bellevue. But, “No one. Ever” is a very strong statement. I’ve met people who have taken transit to far more inaccessible places than this.

      (Not that the section of Issaquah right by the transit center is all that inaccessible – it’s just that driving there is too cheap and easy).

      1. It isn’t just the cheapness and ease of driving there, or the plentifulness of parking that will render New Issaquah a “towers in the park(ing complex)” architctural megafail.

        The greater problem is the same one that afflicts every other attempt to solve sprawl traffic with random rail to distant outposts: your hypothetical ridership is coming from places far too dispersed, and with too permanently poor access to the transit spine, for the long haul necessary to reach the rail corridor ever to make sense.

        Especially with an unpleasant mono-form “last mile” on the office-park end as well. Does the PSRC even care that its “growth area”, built at a cloverleaf as always, still sprawls broadly enough to guarantee auto-scale forms?

        There never be a rational (or even emotional/aesthetic) case for switching to transit for work commutes to these places. Never mind any other type of trip.

        This is designed to fail.

      2. I don’t think it is quite as dire as d. p. says. There are some that will take the bus. I remember when I worked in Factoria, and I tried to take the bus. Of course, the buses were terrible (it was a while ago) so I decided to drive. That was also terrible, so I finally just quit and moved. But anyway, let’s play this out:

        Between 520 and I-90 and east of Lake Washington:

        East of Lake Sammamish — Drive (and a nice one at that).
        West of Lake Sammamish, but east of 405 — Still drive.
        West of 405 (including Downtown Bellevue) — You might take the bus

        South of I-90 — Drive. Worse case scenario, you travel the back roads until you get to I-90 or Issaquah (e. g. SR 900).

        Seattle — If transit is good, you will take it, since driving means being stuck in traffic crossing bridges or going around 405.

        Kirkland/Redmond and places north — Might take the bus if works well. Most likely you would have a transfer at downtown Bellevue. Those to the east will drive.

        So that is a few people. But notice anything?

        The only people who will take the bus are folks who would be way better off working in downtown Bellevue or Seattle! That is because in almost all cases, you would transfer in downtown Bellevue or Seattle. The one exception is Renton, but Renton is closer to Seattle! This is just a bad idea if you are a fan of transit. The only people who will take the bus are those who wish they didn’t have to work in far flung Issaquah. That is not good, and not something a regional council (or any council) should encourage.

      3. It all depends on how the development is done. Forty years ago nobody thought downtown Bellevue, Kirkland, and Redmond could turn into walkable places that people would walk in, live in condos in, take the bus in, and take the bus to, but now they are. Renton is less promising with its one Landing residential building, unreformed Landing shopping clump, and only tiny signs of redevelopment downtown. So it needs to be something more like Redmond than Renton. The Spring District will show how close the Eastside is to real non-downtown walkable neighborhoods.

        I’m concerned about the distance from Issaquah’s center. On the one hand I understand the wish to keep it outside the historic downtown. On the other hand I think the city loses some potential for not having the largest work/live area downtown where the government offices and other city-center things are.

      4. …nobody thought downtown Bellevue, Kirkland, and Redmond could turn into walkable places

        Simply incorrect. Kirkland and Redmond both possess historic downtowns whose walkable attributes long predate the present zeitgeist. And both centers have seen growth in population and employment through genuine organic growth and locational desirability.

        Bellevue’s status as a large and scalable “edge city” is unique and not replicable as long as Bellevue itself retains additional capacity to grow in place.

        And Issaquoffice Park bears no resemblance to any of these places, anyway. It is Totem Lake 2: growth of any note is unlikely; and if any does happen, the results will be awful and permanently pedestrian/transit-rider repellant.

      5. @Mike Orr

        I think the first real test to see if we can convert suburban car based development into a walkable neighborhood is to see what unfolds in Northgate.

        How walkable mall and office park developments can become might well be informed by what happens here. Currently the signs are not pointing to something very walkable, but things are just getting started up here, so its too early to make any pronouncements.

      6. Northgate is a lot different from Totem Lake and this part of Issaquah. Sure, it has I-5 running through it, and a big superblock mall breaking up its street network. But it’s surrounded on all sides by neighborhoods that, if they aren’t quite streetcar suburbs, have a bunch of things in common with streetcar suburbs. People would actually walk from these places to a walkable Northgate. Expand the radius a bit, and Northgate is within a few miles — local bus distance — of a significant transit node in Lake City, the second biggest transit hub in the region in the U District, and a little farther from Ballard. People already walk to and around Northgate, and take local transit there, despite its obvious flaws. Even when it comes to regional transit distance isn’t totally irrelevant, and Northgate’s This isn’t a perfect comparison, but on the whole, the subjective transit and pedestrian qualities of Northgate are closer to downtown Bellevue than Totem Lake or “Central Issaquah” offramp land, and I bet the modeshare numbers are closer, too.

        Northgate’s challenges and limitations are quite different from all these places. Seattle’s leaders don’t pay all that much attention to Northgate, and generally don’t seem willing to invest in tightening and repairing the local public street network anywhere that isn’t right next to downtown. This is important to Bellevue’s plans for the Spring District, expansion of downtown Bothell after the 522 rebuild, and Seattle’s plans w.r.t. Aurora, Mercer, Broad, and the north waterfront; even in the Totem Lake area, Kirkland has done a bit of this and early plans showed possibly doing more using a small part of the CKC’s land. Seattle hasn’t shown a similar willingness to do this with Mount Baker rezone and Northgate plans. Yeah, they’d need private land, but the suburban projects do, too. Northgate has solid, if not perfect, fundamental conditions for walkable, livable development that would improve the quality of life for current and future residents (FWIW, I am not advocating the wholesale destruction of Northgate Mall or the office park to the south of it, but I do think clear public pedestrian ROWs through those blocks, and a few others, are important); the biggest risk is public inattention and shallow engagement leading to lack of private-sector buy-in. The biggest risk in all of Bellevue is car-head, plain and simple. Totem Lake and “Central Issaquah” are just bad locations — they’re almost pure offramp settlements and have been building up this way for decades; that’s a lot to overcome.

      7. (Apologies for the incomplete editing in the first paragraph; I was going to say that Northgate being about half as far from downtown Seattle as Totem Lake, Issaquah, and Lynnwood does matter.)

      8. I was stretching it a bit with Bellevue since some of those apartments on Bellevue Way have been there more than forty years and I lived in one of them and found downtown Bellevue wonderfully walkable and urban after my experience in east Bellevue, and all my neighbors seemed content with it too. But what I meant was the later wave of office towers and several-story condos. That brought a lot more people walking downtown. Maybe if I’d been older I would have recognized Bellevue’s growth plan ahead of time and what it would be like, but for me and the people I know it just kind of happened, people said at the time, “Bellevue is growing a lot”, but without any prediction of what it would be like when it was done.

      9. I think Issaquah is like Totem Lake and not like the others. Northgate and downtown Bellevue, Kirkland, and Redmond all have somewhat walkable centers and a concentration of people immediately around the centers, so a built-in starter market for whatever develops. Issaquah and Totem Lake are more being built from scratch in the middle of nowhere. There’s preexisting big-box stores but those are the things to be replaced, and the nearest surrounding neighbors are further away. And in Totem Lake’s case, they don’t like to go to Totem Lake, and it remains to be seen whether this redevelopment makes them change their mind.

      10. When people in towns like Issaquah look at recent growth in places like Bellevue, downtown Seattle, SLU, Ballard, and Kirkland, it’s easy to see why they don’t want it in their historic town center. The availability of overhead imagery online and the prevalence of aircraft-view renderings from developers encourage us to tell the same lie repeatedly: that buildings with parking garages underneath are basically the same as pre-auto-age buildings, and nothing like parking lots. On the ground the truth is obvious: they share many of the parking lots’ demons and lack many of the un-garaged buildings’ graces. We talk a lot about density of homes and businesses being a key factor for walkability, but density of parking and traffic surely detracts, and we’re adding this nearly as fast.

        How do we measure success? There are so many lines of division in land use. We’ve often separated by the familiar SimCity zones, R, C, and I, to protect R from the emissions of I and influences of C. We’ve separated by class and race, to protect the least vulnerable among us, and to our great detriment. We’ve separated by age and child-raising status, protecting kids from anarchic singles or retirees from noisy kids. We’ve separated by sexuality, social attitudes, and politics. Issaquah isn’t the first town to suggest separating the past from the future. Kirkland has been banging this drum for decades but the band hasn’t followed to 124th/124th, the Nexus of Nowhere; nor have the ills of the future been scared away from frail old Kirkland. A bifurcated Issaquah would certainly be worse for anyone that arrives there on the bus to spend the day; would certainly be worse for people living and working in town playing the school drop-off game. Real success, in terms of sustainability, may not be possible. In an interdependent society for any part to claim sustainability when the whole fails is meaningless. Significant growth without parking and traffic growth is economically infeasible in Issaquah, so developers would surely say, and in this particular case I’d believe them.

      11. “it’s easy to see why they don’t want it in their historic town center”

        I understand that too, but that means Issaquah should think more about how easy it is to walk between the two and treat them as one urban unit (one “village”). If they’re too far apart for that, then what negative impact does that cause on Issaquah’s urban potential, and how can that be mitigated? The three factors I see are: walking distance, frequent shuttles (or shared segments of longer routes), and a pleasant connecting environment (not an afterthought sidewalk alongside a freeway). Bellevue has East Link between downtown and the Spring District. What will Issaquah have, because the estimated 1.5 miles is too long not to have mitigation.

    2. It’s actually the King County criteria – which PSRC is forced to adhere to when designating regional centers in King County – that is the real issue. It basically comes down to job growth capacity.

      1. Both entities can take plenty of blame for reality-phobic criteria and ways of operating.

        The question is when anyone involved is going to call the funneling of real money in pursuit of faulty models and shit principles for what it is: totally fucking unacceptable!

  6. By the way, Dan’s headline appears to be broken.

    This has nothing to do with “Central Issaquah”.

    The only part of Issaquah that possesses the faintest semblance of urban-center-scaled form and uses — and it is exceedingly faint — is more than a mile and a half to the southeast of this new PSRC “Regional Growth Center” boundary.

    Hilariously, and perhaps even more tellingly, downtown Issaquah also sits entirely outside of the city’s broader “Central Issaquah Plan” boundary.

    This is a precise recreation of a late-20th-centure planning and development trend that has never, ever worked as intended: declare a heretofore-empty and not-inherently-desirable-for-any-reason area “urban”; push developers in that direction, sometimes with significant public incentives; watch a sterile and charmless office park teeter for decades on the brink of insolvency.

    Rinse. Repeat at Totem Lake 3.

    1. It’s actually the King County criteria – which PSRC is forced to adhere to when designating regional centers in King County – that is the real issue. It basically comes down to job growth capacity.

    2. None of these agencies – PSRC, King County, Sound Transit, WSDOT, etc. – operate in a vacuum. There’s a serious systemic issue with the all of the agencies involved in planning in this region, and they feed off of and reinforce each other.

  7. Being a Regional Growth Center appears to be increasingly popular, especially within the development community. It looks great for marketing, and is a tactic to help get included in ST3. It’s too bad that PSRC still thinks of it as something radical for a city to do, and appears to allow any city that makes their thresholds earn the designation.

    I think it’s time to ratchet up the designation — like making it a competitive process (with a maximum number in the region) or requiring a financial commitment to better walkability and transit access as well as higher density thresholds. Otherwise the designation will blanket much of the region — and leave us with a slightly more dense version of urban sprawl of three-story office parks and apartments. In other words, the RGC is restating which is what the marketplace already encourages.

    1. You could also add proximity to existing population concentrations. If the success of an urban center depends partly on people from the surrounding area going to it, then it would be good for it to be located where there’s a large surrounding population, say in a 3-mile radius. Such as for instance Northgate, Rainier Valley, Westwood Village, or central Bellevue. And not Issaquah, Totem Lake, Tukwila, etc, where low density or large highway ROWs limit the number of neighbors.

      1. I would agree that surrounding density is important, Mike. Another criteria would be for an RGC to have a maximum size (so everything within the RGC can be reached by a 15- or 20-minute walk). If the area is too large, then let it become two RGC’s, with each area earning the designation on its own merits.

      2. I agree. This is key.

        The whole process is baffling to me. It is (or was) based on good intentions. The folks in charge probably didn’t want businesses spread out everywhere, because it is very difficult to handle that. Rather than small office parks everywhere, they wanted to concentrate the jobs.in centers — specifically in downtown areas. But they also assumed (wrongly) that businesses wanted to locate in the suburbs. After all, this was the preference not too long ago. But it isn’t now. So basically they are encouraging what they wanted to avoid. They feared small office parks every mile on I-90 (which was never going to happen) so instead they will get a small office park in Issaquah. This is no better, and in fact worse than if they just did nothing.

        I don’t think this will become a huge employment center, but why are we are encouraging it? That just seems like a really bad policy.

      3. It’s probably the same issue as the Sound Transit problems: the criteria were defined in the 1980s and early 1990s before the population increase, before the “back to the city” movement became mainstream and then dominant (at least currently), and when people still had visions of suburbanish “job centers” that people would flock to. In other words, people fail to understand the social impact of changes. In the 1960s when 520 was built, people expected it to cause convenience and some growth, but the growth was much larger than expected and had unanticipated effects.

        Likewise with Link, people who haven’t spend significant time in the northeast or Europe and thought about that experience, don’t grasp the benefit of “row-house density” and think only in terms of overlaying rapid transit on top of the existing suburban landscape and planned “urban growth areas”. They think their biggest need is an alternative to freeway congestion (i.e., lines that parallel freeways) and don’t understand the”last-mile problem”.

        Or they think the last-mile problem can be solved with P&Rs, but they only have one car and it’s too large to take on the train with them, so it can solve only one end of the trip, and is therefore an incomplete solution. If we had large enough urban areas with a wide enough variety of destinations, then they’d never need a car at the other end and the problem would go away, but our “dense areas” are too undense and fragmented for that to work universally; it only works for a limited subset of destinations.

        Ultimately we need a paradigm update. But suburbanites still think that’s a “war on cars” and not conducive to their needs. And the political leaders are mostly suburban-minded. So that’s what we get, at least until the public’s attutude changes more significantly and they replace some politicians.

    2. “Being a Regional Growth Center appears to be increasingly popular, especially within the development community. It looks great for marketing, and is a tactic to help get included in ST3.”

      The cities have to accept a certain number of people under the Growth Management Act. Putting most of them in a Regional Growth Center eliminates the only external pressure that could force single-family neighborhoods to upzone. Fortunately for them, the suburbs have a significant number of areas that were previously zoned commercial/industrial/multifamily, and sized for big-box stores/warehouses/strip malls. Nobody really likes them because they’re ugly, so they don’t care if development happens there, as long as it stays outside their backyard or their neighbor’s yards.

      In Seattle the industrial districts are protected from residential development, and the city is wary of changing this because it might be detrimental to the economy or the city’s resilience long-term. So development has to occur in the neighborhood commercial districts, and these are closer to their residential neighbors and their boundaries are more mixed. That’s partly because their neighbors are closer to each other.

      I noticed once that there are no stairways in the suburbs like there are on Queen Anne. So if you’re walking to somebody’s house, the sidewalk doesn’t turn into a public stairway. That doesn’t happen in south Kirkland. Why not? It’s clearly because the houses are farther apart and so are the streets, so the streets just go around the steepest parts of the hills. Where a Seattle stairway would be, it’s part of somebody’s yard or the border between two yards and no trespassing, walk around please. So as the houses and streets are further apart, so are the commercial blocks, and the boundary between commercial and residential is large enough to fit a strip mall in.

  8. In theory I like the idea of dense neighborhoods to prevent more and more urban sprawl. That being said, I hate the idea of Issaquah being a regional growth center. Not only will it lose all its charm, traffic and parking will be horrific.

    I work in South Lake Union (designated a regional growth center in 2007) and the traffic there is unbelievable. My commute has doubled, and half the time I can’t even get into the Mercer Street Exit lane because it is backed all the way up onto the preceding on-ramp. The on-ramp at St Rt 900 is already a total mess, imagine it with another 14,000 individuals!!

    Living where jobs are: I don’t think the planners realize that women now work too. The odds that both spouses work in the same walkable area is probably close to zero. The odds that even one spouse works in the same walkable area for more than 3-5 years is probably pretty low considering that most people change jobs approximately every 3-5 years now. Also, much of Issaquah is on a mountain (I live on the South side of Squak) which is not great for walking into town and back.

    Shopping. So you get rid of parking spaces which means that all of us who have lived in Issaquah for years and years (beyond the new center core) can no longer go grocery shopping in town. So we all go to Renton I guess? As for the charm, you could not pay me enough to live in the horrible mess of Issaquah Highlands. If this is what dense “planned communities” really look like, I want no part of it.

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