This is an open thread.

123 Replies to “News Roundup: Failure to Yield”

  1. Northgate: Where 360 degrees of parking (and a freeway) meet a light rail station.

    The worst part of this new garage it that it consumes almost the entire 125′ development envelope near the station. At the first DPD meeting, the mall made it clear they had no desire to develop this area for anything other than parking because they needed preserve their “views” from the freeway.

    Other than the metro lots that will be converted to TOD after the station opens, the rest of Northgate may be on hold for any kind of serious development until the mall ownership changes.

    1. The mall won’t develop unnecessary parking due to views from the freeway? Sounds like some sound walls are needed on the east side of I-5 in the area.

      1. Having your storefront and logo visible from the freeway is a marketing asset that brings more customers in. The mall may charge higher rent for that.

        Of course, the logos could be preserved by putting them on the west wall of the garage.

    2. The mall was always going to replace the parking displaced by the station because its contracts with tenants guarantee a certain amount of parking. It sounds like the additional spaces are 700, which doesn’t sound like a lot compared to the entirety of the mall parking. It also sounds like the lots in question are adjacent to the existing garage or on another side of the mall. I never expected more enlightened development there until the mall owner commits to it. But Simon Malls should think about the popularity of University Village and upscale mixed-use “lifestyle centers”, and whether Northgate can compete with them long-term if it’s just a tired old space-wasting mall.

      1. Gosh, if only there was a place online where you can shop for anything so you wouldn’t need parking .

        I go by Northgate Mall everyday at night, and at least once per week during prime shopping hours, often cutting through the JC Penney stalls, sometimes looping around B&N walking south. Open parking spots.

        Seriously, this is a last ditch effort by Simon Malls to maintain relevance. Amazon is snacking on their hindquarters as I type.

      2. I’m certainly not going to praise Northgate as some sort of amazing mall, it’s probably a pretty mediocre mall (I’m not a mall connoisseur). But it serves a purpose that isn’t met by Amazon – it’s *much* easier to buy things like pants and shirts in person than online. And (like it or not) it acts as a social/commerce/restaurant/movie-theater hub for the whole northside, much like Crossroads over in Bellevue.

    3. Charles, I totally agree that Northgate is full of wasted space and that parking garages don’t belong next to rail station like Northgate, but in this case the mall’s hands are tied. They have contractual agreements with their major tenants that include strict parking minimums. All malls have this, including places like U Village (which is why they constructed that hideous new parking structure to the north of QFC, for example.) Nordstrom, for instance, could simply close up shop and exit Northgate if the parking isn’t replaced at a one-for-one ratio. They could also sue the mall ownership. This is a systemic and nationwide issue related to standard commercial leasing practice, and it really isn’t something for which the mall ownership or the city is to blame.

      1. I understand the contractual obligations.

        I still lamenting the waste of the very limited 125′ zoning for a low lying parking garage.

      2. Actually the new garage that was built on the lot north of the QFC store at the University Village was built by QFC as they own that property as well as the property that the store is located on. In fact the University Village does not consider QFC as part of their shopping center and if you go to the store map on the University Village website the QFC store is not shown on the map.

      3. Also, if you ask UVillage to fix that awful entrance next to The Burke for people walking and biking, they will tell you to talk to QFC, as it is their entrance. And then QFC will blow you off, because QFC only wants people to drive to their stores.

      4. “Easy, don’t shop there. I haven’t set foot in the shitty 1950s relic.”

        Some stores exist only in or around shopping malls. Northgate is the most transit-accessible and close-in mall. I’d rather go to Northgate than slog around Southcenter. Especially when I went to Toys R Us for a Christmas present last year, after going to five other city shops and not finding what I wanted. Toys R Us is south of Southcenter mall, a 30-minute walk from the 150 (although near an hourly coverage route). I was stunned at the wide streets and tons of big box stores: it’s like a city of big-box stores down there. it’s much more pleasant to take the 41 to Northgate mall or Northgate North, and I like the neighborhood aspects along the way (smaller street grid, walkable library and movie theater and medical offices, etc).

      5. Also, Northgate mall is not 100% shitty. The remodel inside with an atrium skylight and artwork overhead is quite well done.

    4. Let’s get some street-level retail in the garage at least. This space need not be fully dead.

      1. The plans have no such thing.

        I asked for building for reuse (allow structures on top) and the review board liked that at first, but it quickly fell to the wayside as they began pushing for more holes in the cement to provide “environmental lighting”.

        Because I guess cars feel better if they get some natural light.

    1. The way he fishtails you can tell he was punching it well before he could know if the person he hit was going under the car.

    2. And what a disappointment that law enforcement merely charged him with failure to yield and not leaving the scene of the crash. Yet another example of not taking behavior (criminal behavior, in this case) that endangers cyclists or pedestrians seriously.

      1. And all the press coverage is “the bike failed to yield the right of way, he saw the car coming”. As if the guy wanted to run into a car going 24 miles an hour (the speed he said he was going when interviewed) to prove some kind of point . . . gimme a break!

  2. Substandard transit build out, self-professed ‘progressives’ fighting tooth and nail to keep the riff-raff out and their house prices high: Seattle will be stuck in its mediocre, limousine-liberal ways at least until the big earthquake comes.

    1. And conservative sunbelt ways aren’t worse? Also, you’re conflating progressive with low-density NIMBYs, and implying they all have chauffeured limousines. Just because the Seattle ballot totals show a majority for transit, teacher raises, legal marijuana, and stadiums doesn’t mean the same people are voting for all of them. Transit fans show up for transit issues, education fans show up for teacher raises, anti-tax fans show up for tax caps, etc. That’s how we get contradictory results like teacher raises but a ban on the taxes to pay for them, which then squeezes the general fund. Not all of these voting blocs are “progressive”. And the majority of those voters do not ride in limousines, except maybe when going to the airport or their wedding or a funeral. As for the ones who do ride in limousines (if they exist much), some of them are progressive and some are not.

      1. This ain’t about the limousines (the self-driven ones included) but practical attitudes vs ‘progressive’ lip service. The fans only showing up for their own pet ballots is not enough of an excuse or explanation. Is that even born out by reality? Elections are pretty good samplings, especially when not voting is a vote in itself. In the end the results speak for themselves and are only seemingly contradictory. They just demonstrate a sense of self-interest that unfortunately makes things practically worse for everyone but the well-heeled with actual limousines.

        As much as I don’t like the scorching sprawled out sun belt, the one thing they do get right is affordable market rate housing. Look to Houston — no zoning. Even Paul Krugman admits as much. Meanwhile, places like Seattle keep bumbling. One bad transit investment after another with huge opportunity costs and little actual improvements that could raise acceptance of denser settlement. It’s a vicious circle and weak-minded Pugetopolis doesn’t seem to be able to break out of it.

      2. Houston gives private covenants the force of law, so it’s worse than zoning, according to “Dead End” by Benjamin Ross. Zoning lays out a citywide plan which, however flawed it is, represents thinking about the entire city and residents. Private covenants think only about the neighborhood and are overwhelmingly exclusionary. A city can recognize it needs apartments and commercial districts somewhere, but covenants are just “Not In My Back Yard”. If the entire city consists of neighborhoods with covenants that exclude apartments, then apartments can go nowhere. In most cities if you violate a covenant you can get a civil lawsuit; in Houston you get criminal prosecution. The city is thus enforcing private restrictions for existing landowners, rather than democratically-defined zones.

      3. The good news is that most of these progressives have a better command of English than you ever will. Also the sky is falling rhetoric gets old. The Tea Party has been on that one for years and now we just roll our eyes at them, are you a member? You might try moving to Houston if it’s the utopia you make it out to be.

      4. Relevant:

        no one made San Francisco the most expensive place in the country on purpose. That’s the tragedy. It was simply the unintended consequence of so many people wanting to live here, coupled with local policies that made it impossible for the amount of housing to grow enough to absorb the demand.

        We’ll never know what would have happened if we had acted in the 1980s or 1990s, or even the 2000s, to change course—if we’d realized that our 1970s land use policies were turning San Francisco into a gated city that made it increasingly closed to newcomers.

      5. By the way, Dallas has both zoning and inexpensive housing, because it allows all the demand to be built even if it’s sprawly. Chicago has zoning and inexpensive (or at least cheaper than Seattle) housing too, because it also allows all the demand to be built, but at medium-to-high density. Seattle’s problem is that the zoning is too restrictive for the demand.

      6. Chicago (the metro area) is extremely unconstrained geographically, has spread out over a very large area to accommodate growth, and I don’t think it makes any serious attempt to limit sprawl. Suburb-downtown commutes are covered by an excellent commuter rail system; other than that the ‘burbs are drive-everywhere sprawl.

        Chicago (the incorporated city), IIRC, still has significantly fewer people than at its historic 20th-century population peak. Therefore it’s not only zoned for more people than it houses, it generally has a good deal of extra capacity in its existing buildings and infrastructure. This is true of some inner suburbs, too; some of the inner suburbs, like some of the outer neighborhoods, are very poor and weren’t built to handle so much through-traffic, but they tend to have plenty of unmet capacity for people.

        Incorporated Chicago largely lost population (and jobs) to the suburbs (as opposed to a general exodus from the metropolis as a whole)… so Chicago, like the Texas cities, has really stayed affordable by allowing demand to be met in the suburbs. I’m pretty sure Seattle has built more in-city housing units than Chicago in recent years; Chicago remains more affordable because of lower growth rates, lots of existing buildings and infrastructure, and a near-infinite suburban pressure valve.

      7. An interesting piece I read recently noted that the city of Boston (proper) actually boasts significantly more units of housing than at its population peak, despite nearly 200,000 fewer residents.

        Family/housing-unit configurations and median personal space expectations have simply shifted that much since the era of mass immigrant influx.

      8. Why would Portland developments skew toward “beige and cream”?

        I wish I could figure that out. It’s as if the developers have decided that is the only color available or something.

        At least it’s better than that awful dingy gray stuff that every damn apartment builder in Portland in the 1980s thought was such a wonderful idea. Based on what I have seen in Seattle there were a considerable swath of structures up there that were built with that same color scheme as well.

      9. Forget ‘Limousine Liberals’, its ‘Marin County Liberals’… hypocrites who are members of the Sierra Club and live in the trees, worship owls, recreational mountain bike, buy everything at Whole Paycheck, drive their multiple SUVs everywhere especially for seeing nature, vote against transit and new housing especially for lower income populations, complain about all the traffic. Of course everyone else causes the traffic and parking problems, somehow their sacred car manages to magically not contribute to the problem of taking up precious parking or road space.

      10. @d.p.: Yeah, that’s really important, too, especially in older cities. Fewer people demanding more space, both inside and on the street.

      11. Yeah, I think this is accurate:

        Personally, I think a lot of people just don’t think it through. You see this with the current debate. A letter to the editor just this morning ( about HALA had someone in the first paragraph accepting the idea that ‘When supply is limited, demand goes up and higher rents follow” as true and “basic economics of supply and demand.”. Later, in the exact same letter, he questions whether “squeezing in more units in any form to increase the supply of housing will create more affordable housing”. WTF? This is amazing really. How can someone state that reducing supply leads to higher prices (all other things being equal). Then, in the same letter turn around and say that increasing supply won’t decrease prices (all other things being equal). Well, obviously if you eat more you will gain weight — that is just basic physiology — but if you eat less you won’t lose weight. Huh?

        Any demand made on developers increases the cost of rent — for someone moving into that place or any other place. It might be a small increase, but it is an increase nevertheless. But my guess is a small minority of a fairly well educated populous simply doesn’t accept that, or has never considered it. This means that people think that restrictions or requirements are not paid for by renters, but by developers. At worst they are paid for by wealthy people who move into the new place — not by ordinary renters.

        On and on it goes. People accepted Danny Westneat’s premise that the new rules would lead to more destruction of single family homes without questioning it. This is asinine. Putting aside our priorities (preserving housings structures versus high rents) there is no reason to accept Westneat’s theory. Again, people don’t think it through. It gets complicated, but consider a couple scenarios:

        1) A guy wants to live in a big house. He has the money, but all he can find is small houses on big lots. So rather than wait for one of the big houses to come on the market, he buys one of the little houses. Now he has a couple choices — make additions or bulldoze the old house. There is really little to be gained (other than saving money) by preserving the old house. If you are the only one living in it, then you don’t want three little houses, you want one big house. You don’t want five small rooms, you want two really big rooms. You don’t want three kitchens — you want one big one. So the house gets bulldozed.

        2) A guy wants to buy some property and rent it out. He buys a small house on a big lot. Like the other guys, he is facing the same dilemma. Does he tear down the bungalow and put up a new apartment building — or just make additions. On the surface, it seems like the same choice. There is one big difference though. People want separate places. Four small apartments are worth a lot more than a four bedroom house. A tiny house is worth a lot from a rental standpoint. It is physically separated from its neighbors, which means that noise is a much smaller issue. So adding a second or third house next to the other house makes a lot of sense. What is true of adding a new house is true of an addition. Additions tend to result in rooms that are separated from the rest of the house — perfect for renting.

        So it should be obvious that the new rules will result in more pressure for additions and extra houses. At the same time, this greatly increases the value of the small houses on the big lots. This means that the first scenario is less likely. The guy who wanted to buy the small house and tear it down is going to be outbid by someone who wants to convert the house to a rental, and add more rentals next to it.

      12. “With the HALA Committee’s proposals, we’re led to believe that squeezing in more units …will create more “affordable” housing Affordable for whom? In my neighborhood, when a lot is developed, current zoning already allows much higher density than was originally allowed on the property. Newly constructed were three single-family units on a lot that, under previous zoning, allowed no more than one single-family home, which would have been in keeping with the character of the neighborhood.”

        Wait, we were talking about affordability, then you switch the topic to neighborhood character. Those are different issues.

        How much would those single-family homes sell for? $400,000? $800,000? Who is that affordable to? Certainly not the kind of people who bought them twenty years ago or forty years ago. The argument against upzoning is that it would preserve “affordable” single-family houses, but they’re not affordable! They’re the epitome of elitism now. In fact, it’s the same kind of problem the “bad” rent control policies created: a capped number of houses cheap to those who acquired them 20+ years ago, and 3/4 of the people can’t get one of those. It’s just unjust to say, “We’ve got our single-family lots that cover 70% of the city, and screw everybody else, even if they’re the majority of would-be residents.” At least allow ADUs. They’re the least character-changing thing possible, and would relieve some of the pressure and give people more choices in housing types.

      13. Yeah, that letter to the editor is ridiculous. The Seattle Times just wasn’t being very picky when they decided to include that one. The whole idea that increasing supply won’t make things more affordable is ridiculous. Unfortunately, it is a common idea. Folks admit that the supply and demand theory has legs, but then turn around and deny that it has any relevance here. They make ridiculous anecdotal arguments like “there has been a lot more construction, and rent it really high”.

        Danny Westneat’s arguments are at least reasonable, if not well thought out. I believe that the changes will lead to less housing destruction, not more. But it is complicated, to be sure. Westneat is willing to throw renters under the bus in the hopes of preserving more housing. I think it won’t do that, but at least he isn’t trying to fool people into believing that restricting development won’t screw over renters.

    2. The longer I live here the more I realise that Seattle isn’t the liberal paradise that so many people claim it is. Just because you drive a Prius and vote Democrat every election doesn’t make you progressive.

      1. Maybe it never was the liberal paradise. It’s just more liberal than most of the US. But nobody would confuse it with the People’s Republic of Santa Monica or Berkeley.

      2. “Tax haven for billionaires” Washington State certainly hasn’t been a progressive paradise since convicted monopolist Microsoft became a major employer…. and Seattle is no exception to the rule.

        The best you can say is that it isn’t run by fossil-fuel interests, the way Texas is.

      3. Historically we have been one of the most left wing states in the union:

        The labor movement here was as strong as anywhere in the country (from the first general strike to the rise of the Teamsters under Dave Beck). During the sixties and seventies, the civil rights tensions here were a lot smaller than in most cities. I would say that during that period we became more racially integrated than just about anywhere. A lot of that was luck — UW blends into Montlake which blends into the central area which blends into Rainier Valley. That resulted in a lot of mixing — white kids whose parents work at the UW mixing with black kids whose parents had good middle class jobs. This is why some of the statements made in the HALA report about redlining were an oversimplification, if not an outright exaggeration — Even when crime was at all time high, Seattle’s “inner city” was a fairly safe place to walk — in part because lots of people owned their own homes. So, for example, the idea that gentrification forced all the black people out of the C. D. is an oversimplification. Many just sold their house (for a mint) and moved to Rainier Valley (and will probably do it again and make money again).

        Then, of course, Reagan got elected. Seattle got screwed like most cities got screwed. Crime overall is way down, but the rise of gangs in the area (from California) has hurt things. Microsoft is a great employer, but it doesn’t help that it located itself in the suburbs (stretching the city and putting pressure on the infrastructure). The Microsoft millionaire mentality (i. e. another gold rush) has made it difficult to establish as strong a middle class. But again, much of that is Reagan’s fault. With Eisenhower type income and capital gains taxes, it wouldn’t matter as much. Gates would still have his billions (and his dad would still fight for an income tax in this state) but there would be a lot more middle class people, which would make a lot of these issues a lot easier to understand.

        Right now, the city is coming to grips with a rent crisis that is unusual because it is primarily caused by bad legislation. A lot of people don’t believe this. They believe that rent is high because of greedy landlords, greedy developers or new rich people moving to the area. The hollowing out of the middle class makes this idea much easier to accept. In most domestic issues it is very easy to argue that the problem is caused by the rich grabbing too big a slice of the pie. In this case, though, it is simply bad policy. Sawant is not an outlier. She feels the way many people in this city feel. Problems are caused by greedy rich people, and no matter what the issue, they are to blame. In that regard, there are still plenty of progressive, left wing, labor loving voters in this state, but they simply assume that all problems are caused by greedy rich people. They have a hard time accepting that, to quote Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us”.

      4. The main influences on the culture:
        1) The mild climate and adequate water encouraged environmentalism, both among the Indians and among the flower children.
        2) The wild-west mentality encouraged libertarianism.
        3) The working-class unions of the early 20th century encouraged a social safety net.

        Combining stereotypes to make composite caricature strawmen people doesn’t help anything, nor does arguing whether they think they’re “progressive”. What matters is real people, who are complex. And what they do, not how progressive they think they are or whether they drink the right kind of coffee in the morning.

      5. Ross B: Blaming Reagan and Microsoft for your perceived Seattle’s woes? Wow, get a grip on reality.

      6. Reagan is responsible for much that is fu**ed up in this country — not just Seattle. Let’s see — the collapse of the safety net, increased stratification, the mental health/homeless problems, increased militarization, and of course, the radicalization of the Republican Party. The last of these, of course, led to the rise of men like George W. Bush (and his cabinet) which lead, of course, to both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The first war might have been inevitable, but the second could only have happened with someone like George W. Bush (and his close advisers) in power (and that could only have happened with Reagan). There is no way someone as radically right wing and inarticulate as Bush would have gained power (or been able to wield such power) without Reagan. Oh yeah, then there was the ballooning deficit, as Laffer was (of course) proven wrong. The deficit meant that when we hit the worst financial crisis since the great depression, folks were concerned about it, rather than getting the economy back on track. I similar recession* following Nixon, for example, would have been met with a huge stimulus package and tax cuts — no matter who was in power. We would have been out of the recession much sooner, and many lives would have been saved. Then there is great increase in incarceration or the weakening of the unions. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

        As for Microsoft, I don’t blame them exactly. What they did was no different than what most software companies did. Overall, what they did is a good thing, but the wealth that software has generated has been very much focused on the hands of the few. Like many software companies, they located in the suburbs. I think most companies look at this now as a mistake, which is why newer companies are locating in the cities, and some companies are moving to the city or back to the city. Even Weyerhaeuser, a company that operates in rural areas, is moving back to the city (and a bigger city to boot).

        * The oil crisis of the 1970s was a much tougher nut to crack, and Nixon (not a radical, just a Dick) knew it was a big problem. Inflation was caused by a resource shortage, not an overheated economy. This means that adjusting interest rates (or other fiscal policy) wouldn’t help. Eventually the feds cranked up interest rates really high to kill inflation, but thousands lost their jobs as a result.

        Speaking of Nixon, it is pretty weird to think about it, but if Nixon was still in charge this entire time, the country would probably be in better shape. Yes, Reagan was that bad.

      7. I’m not going to argue about blaming Reagan. Reagan was a complete and utter nightmare and basically wrecked the US. It was actually obvious *at the time* how bad he was if you paid attention to what he actually *did* (Iran-Contra affair, cutting taxes on billionaires while raising taxes on the poor, massive slush funds for military invasions of foreign countries, huge budget deficits during a *boom period*, “ketchup is a vegetable”, “trees cause pollution”, etc. etc. etc.) — but my god he was a slick talker.

  3. Disappointed that the city is abandoning the HALA recommendations. They would have done a lot of good. Is this just an organizational problem? I’m sure there’s a lot of people who support the changes, but I get the sense that the opponents are just better able to rally the troops to oppose measures like this.

    Such are the fruits of the city council districts, I suppose.

    1. Disappointing, but given the past track record of the City of Seattle on such issues, approximately as much of a surprise as the sun rising this morning.

    2. West Coast cities in particular have this weird coalition of reactionary NIMBY homeowners and very far left politicians. As just one of many examples, notice Sawant at the anti-HALA press conference? San Francisco and the Board of Supervisors is another fantastic example.

    3. I don’t think the districts have anything to do with this. If you look at the candidates and their positions on HALA (or growth in general) I see no pattern emerging —

      In other words, the more “urban” districts (like Sawant’s) do not have reps pushing for HALA, while the areas considered more “single family” (like District 5) do.

  4. Give West Seattle credit for showing up and voting on ST’s survey, being the #1 option chosen by respondents.

    Yeah, that kind of thing can happen when you provide 3 possible survey options in the northwesterly direction, only one in the southwesterly direction, and then declare the “winner” by plurality rules.

    All in a day’s forgone spin!

    1. And all the southwesterly options were high-quality, expensive light rail, while the northwesterly options were budget-minded light rail or a completely implausable surface-Belltown alignment. And there was no space for freeform comments to write in options that were missing.

    2. And a Ballard to UDistrict option finished a few hundred votes behind the West Seattle option (and ahead of any Ballard to downtown option. Does that mean we are getting the Ballard Spur?

      1. Probably not. I suspect the deck was stacked for West Seattle to silence critics pointing out that its not very good ROI. “If its the most popular route, we’ve gotta build it anyway, right?”

        It also gives them an excuse to short change Ballard, since it came in third place. Ballard to UW has been getting stonewalled by ST staff from day one.

        Everyone I talk to keeps saying Ballard to UW “… is really more of an ST 4 project” and “If I lived in Seattle, I would want Downtown to Ballard first”

        In order for Ballard to UW to come out on top, it would need more than to just win an unscientific survey, there would need to be a lot of angry voices showing up at several meetings for the next several months demanding that Ballard to UW be built first.

        … after all, angry voices at public meetings worked for the SFR nimbys, why wouldn’t it work for transit wonks?

      2. Time to show up with those angry voices, I guess. “My kid needs to get to UW! I live in Ballard! The bus is overcrowded and not good enough!”

      3. >> “If I lived in Seattle, I would want Downtown to Ballard first”

        This just shows how ignorant people are of the city and about light rail lines. People think in terms of driving. Quick, without looking, answer these question:

        1) How far is it from 15th and Market to the U-District Station?

        2) Not counting the transfer (if there was one), how much extra time would be spent going via the U-District versus going more directly, with SDOT’s latest plan?


        1) Three miles. I would guess most of the city gets this wrong, greatly exaggerating the distance (five to ten miles is probably a common guess). Folks who ride their bike or walk long distances probably nail this, though.

        2) A minute, at most. This is the mind blower. When it comes to a subway, the easiest way to measure the time it takes to get from one place to another is to count the stops. In this case, you have the exact same number (8 inclusive). versus

        In general, it doesn’t matter how far the stops are from each other. Trains don’t accelerate or decelerate that quickly, and the distances are just too short to matter. Going a mile is not that much different than going 3/4 of a mile — most of the time is spent at the station or getting up to speed or slowing down. The extra 1/4 mile is done much faster than the 3/4 mile. Of course, going two miles is a lot faster than going one. From an overall MPH standpoint, the fastest lines are those that have lots of stations next to each other, followed by a big gap. That is exactly what UW to Ballard and U-Link would be. The gap from Husky Stadium to Capitol is much bigger than any gap on the Ballard to downtown line. It is huge, which is why the line overall, is very fast.

        In other words, we can take advantage of the fact that Sound Transit failed to put in many stops for U-Link. Ballard to UW to downtown is just about as fast as any other route to downtown.

        There are reasons why some people would support one line over the other, but my guess is that most people (especially the people in Ballard) assume that going through the UW will result in a huge delay. Even if there is a transfer, it will be a very short one. North Link is slated to run every four minutes and can easily go three minutes ( It would be trivial to time the transfer when it is running a lot less frequently.

        If we were starting from scratch and had built nothing this city, where would you build a line to Ballard? The obvious answer is to go through the UW. The fact that it is half way built just makes it the obvious choice.

      4. “If I lived in Seattle, I would want Downtown to Ballard first … This just shows how ignorant people are of the city and about light rail lines.”

        There’s some irrational downtown bias, but at the same time downtown is where transfers to everything are. So there is some legitimacy in the Ballard-downtown preference, and I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand. Earlier I did but now I don’t. Either Ballard-south or Ballard-east would be good in different ways, and while Ballard-east may have more going for it (simultaneously solves east-west transit, lower cost), people’s gut feeling that more people are going south than going east has some sense behind it. The political preference is for Ballard-downtown-West Seattle, which would serve the west half of the city and be a nice neat interline; it’s not really a bad idea, it’s just not the only thing that should be considered.

      5. @Mike — “people’s gut feeling that more people are going south than going east has some sense behind it.”

        Like most geographic items that people judge “by their gut” — people are just wrong. I took a plane that went to Toronto. After takeoff, the pilot started heading south. I told him he was going the wrong way. After all, my gut tells me that Toronto (in Canada!) is of course north of Seattle.

        Ballard is north and west of the UW. Ballard is north and west of downtown. Swinging by the UW on the way to downtown just makes sense.

        This is why I really hate the wording that they use (Ballard to downtown versus Ballard to the UW). This is what is more accurate:

        1) Ballard to downtown via the UW and Capitol Hill.
        2) Ballard to downtown via Interbay and lower Queen Anne
        3) Ballard to downtown via Fremont, upper and lower Queen Anne
        4) Ballard to downtown via Fremont and Westlake.

        There are advantages of disadvantages to each of these lines. But they all take about the same amount of time to get downtown. Really. The only reason folks don’t view it this way is because they don’t understand the geography of the city or don’t understand how subway systems work. These are facts — not “gut feelings”.

  5. Don’t despair on the single-family zoning issue. Many good things failed for several years before they finally succeeded. This is just the first year. I never expected HALA to be for-sure until the council voted to adopt it. It was the same way with the Transit Master Plan: a committee publishing a report doesn’t make it policy, it becomes policy when the council votes to adopt it.

    But the fact that the report was published is still a huge deal: it’s evidence that the city’s experts and stakeholders at one time believed these Vancouver-like solutions were necessary and it explains the reasons why. Before it was easier for NIMBYs to spin away the opposition as a baseless gut feeling, or a sellout to developers, or evidence in other countries that doesn’t apply to Seattle or the USA. But they can’t spin away these arguments as easily. They may be able to block the council from acting on them, but that hold may only last for a year or ten years or twenty years, until people’s attitudes change or the councilmembers change.

    When I read this morning that Murray is opposing the duplexes and row houses, my first thought was whether it’s time to think about a new mayor next term and how good his opponents will be. I never thought that about McGinn, Nickels, or Schell. I give them all good B ratings, and heretofore I felt the same about Murray, but this is one thing that makes me question him.

    The council races have been surprising; it’s possible that we might have density friends in unexpected places like north Seattle and northwest Seattle, while the densest east Seattle may have a reactionary. That probably comes down to parking. In single-family north Seattle there’s probably less competition for street parking even if some apartments go up, while east Seattle has more apartments nearby so more competition for street parking. That would be analogous to what Martin said a couple years ago about Seattle’s vs the suburbs having an “inverted attude” to density: the suburbs are happy to allow large contiguous developments like the Spring District or Totem Lake or the Tukwila projects in their currently-commercial areas, while Seattle has trouble allowing smaller urban villages to grow because so much of the city is single-family.

    1. Probably what will happen is that quality of life for families in Seattle will continue to decline and current SFH owners will flee the city to more livable places. They’ll be replaced with younger people who have never owned a SFH and are more comfortable living in more crowded environments with a high cost of living.

      Just like San Francisco.

      1. Funny.

        The reason we are in this affordability problem is exactly the opposite of what you state – too many people want to live in the city and enjoy a healthier, less car dependent lifestyle with higher quality of life. The result is that the demand for in-city housing is outstripping our ability to build new in-city housing.

        If it was the other way around prices in the city would be declining, but in-city prices are actually increasing on average faster than any other area in the tri-county area.

      2. And that’s a bad thing? If you believe it, fine. For myself I’m tired of “neighbors” who listen to Rush threatening to “hunt liberals down with dogs” at 90 decibels while making “Obama jokes” which really ought to be considered threats to the life of the President.

        The sooner they hie to the Sunbelt the happier I am.

    2. You might consider starting small.

      For example, if it means preserving the beloved Arts and Crafts era homes, then is it really so bad to allow them to be converted into a duplex or triplex, as certain homes in Southeast Portland have been? (look real carefully: there are three front doors entering onto the portch. One is a diagonal and another faces directly east and can’t be easily seen).

      Under the current zoning, such a house could be demolished and replaced with two much less attractive single family houses while a good duplex conversion “fits the neighborhood” better.

      Then, move on to commercial spaces. Is it really a horror to have neighborhood commercial spaces neighborhood commercial spaces surrounded by single family homes have apartments on top? Especially if it is a rather unappealing structure surrounded by single family homes.

      1. Seattle has exceptionally restrictive zoning. You make very good points: allowing duplex conversions and “small commercial, apartments over” and so on and so forth improves the neighborhood a lot.

    3. @Mike Orr,

      This is not “just the first year.” Things like this have been discussed multiple times over something like the last 20 (30? More?) years. The result is always the same; nothing ever comes of it because the pro-SFH contingent is just too strong.

      This will come up again in 5 or 10 years, and once again no significant change will occur. In fact, with district elections it becomes even less likely that we will see any significant change to SFH zoning.

      In many ways district elections strengthen the hand of the Mayor, but I think on this issue it goes the other way. By tying the council more closely to the neighborhoods you lock them into more directly supporting the neighborhoods and that means supporting SF zoning. With a council that will be near unanimous in its support of SFZ, and with it being a difficult fight anyhow, the Mayor will be less likely to even attempt it.

      Na, the developers have always coveted getting their hands on Seattle’s SFH neighborhoods and making a quick buck. What was new about this attempt was the pairing of the developers and the low income housing advocates. The developers were trying to pass off their attempt to open up Seattle’s SFH neighborhoods to development as an issue of fairness, but it really had nothing to do with that.

      But the majority of Seattleites saw through that, and the heavy handed attempt to paint SFH owners as racist pretty much backfired.

      1. I have never seen upzoning single-family areas get into an official report or even be considered by the mayor/council for more than a quarter-second before being dismissed out of hand. Activists may have desired it for a long time but I never heard any proposals for it, so it is moving.

    4. Good point. It is still depressing to see folks backtrack so soon. We are in the middle of city council races, and the council will look very different very soon. Why can’t the mayor wait until the dust settles?

      He should remember what happened the last time a mayor ignored the commission on an important issue. That mayor was doing a pretty good job overall (as this one has) was fairly well liked (well, except for a snow storm fiasco) and was certainly well qualified to handle the big tasks (such as dealing with a police force). But he completely ignored the recommendations of a committee tasked with replacing the viaduct. Next thing you know, he is replaced by a neophyte (one of the more shocking elections in Seattle’s history) which lead to the neophyte being replaced by the more qualified Murray. If Murray decides to ignore the recommendations and just go his own way, he might find himself out of a job.

      As I said above, the ridiculous part of all of this is the idea that Westneat is right. Putting aside the trade-offs (bungalow preservation versus cheap rents) why do people assume that he is right on this? Why would this change result in more housing destruction. I think it would be the opposite (and I said so above). It is crazy to think that you have people questioning whether these rules would actually lower the price of rent (other things being equal). The rules would result in more housing being built (in ways that are very cheap to construct, in areas that literally include *most* of the city). Of course that will be good for renters. At the same time, they just blindly assume that the new rules will mean the destruction of more houses. Absolute nonsense, but no one has publicly questioned Westneat’s ridiculous conclusions. Or if they have, it isn’t very public. By the time these folks write an editorial to the contrary, the mayor has already backed away from the idea.

      With any luck the mayor will flip-flop back again. The council races are very important, and with any luck, the new folks will push the mayor in the right direction. Of course it doesn’t help that Sawant is ignoring the recommendations (if it doesn’t hurt rich people, then the proposal can’t possibly do any good).

      1. We don’t even know if Murray wants a second term. His main goal may still be the governor’s office.

    5. Your view is warped. Ed Murray is, by far, the best mayor that this city has had in ages. Competent, pragmatic, and hires well.

  6. I’m confused. So hitting and running is no longer grounds for being charged with a hit-and-run? Now it’s just “failure to yield”?

    1. I think if you turn yourself in they forgive you.

      This is somewhat reasonable, in the sense that there should be a significant incentive to turn yourself in so that liability/insurance issues can be correctly worked out, since it’s very difficult to find hit-and-runners generally. However, the initial act of fleeing the scene can potentially rob victims of their first chance for emergency help, and surely ought to be punished accordingly. It’s also, of course, the case that fleeing initially and turning yourself in later can obscure various parts of the investigation, from intoxication to identity of the driver.

      1. Exactly. It is logical to have some mitigation for turning yourself in, like avoiding jail time or receiving less. But not even charging the driver with hit-and-run sets the precedent that it is okay to flee the seen, potentially leaving your victim dying in the street, as long as you turn yourself in before the police catch you. Because the consequences for you are the same as doing what you are supposed to do. That’s insane.

      2. Holy crap, I didn’t even think of that. Hit and run also effectively has destruction of evidence built in. This makes it all the more outrageous that he got let off the hook.

        I think there should definitely be an incentive to turn yourself in, but it shouldn’t be issue a citation and pretend the crime never happened. This guy should go to jail! He could have killed this cyclist.

        As for incentivizing them to turn themselves in so it’s easier to collect insurance information, I get that. But it’s kind of less necessary when there are so many cameras around. The cyclist’s GoPro got some sort of view of both the front and back plates of this SUV, although it looks intentionally blurred. There’s also security cameras pretty much everywhere now. Isn’t this why we have them? This guy might have just turned himself in because he remembered seeing that GoPro and thought “Oh shoot, I’m in trouble.” Is that what we want to incentivize?

    2. There are a few stories in the news of car drivers hitting pedestrians, then stopping and getting out to help, only to be surrounded by a mob and severely beaten. I’m not suggesting that this would have happened in this case nor am I even saying it’s even remotely the same thing, but I do thing there a few examples where it’s ok to not stop, then immediately call 911 and call for aid and the police. In this case, I believe he should have stopped. Here’s a story of a driver who stopped and was almost killed by a mob.

  7. Reword the survey to: Which would you prefer, LR from A) UW to Ballard or B) WS to DT and results would be different most likely be different. The way the survey was setup results could easily get slanted and/or split on Ballard because of its 2 options.

    1. It was the most slanted survey I’ve ever seen from ST, or Metro or the city for that matter.

      1. It’s as if certain forces want to help guide us to certain results. Makes it hard to swallow an ST3.

      2. I agree that it was slanted. I went through all the questions just to see how such surveys are done up there. Prioritizing the projects was terrible on that survey.

        While I don’t agree with what has happened here, the priority of the corridors are set by the regional planning agency. Sadly, that means such nonsense as a MAX line terminating in the middle of nothing (eg, the Expo Center) for reason that have nothing to do with actual transportation needs (eg, the regional planning agency also owns the Expo Center and wanted light rail to it).

        So, when TriMet runs a survey here it is about actual practical level service needs and what to do with those things it has control over.

    2. Well, to be fair to Portland, the Expo Center terminus was obviously also part of an optimistic “Let’s head for Vancouver WA and get as far as we can without their cooperation” project. Maybe someday Vancouver WA will figure out that it would be valuable for them to actually have a MAX extension; the Expo Center terminus is just sort of waiting for that.

      1. Except that the bus stop at Janzen Beach can be quite busy, and the line would have been doing much better with its ridership had it gone that extra half mile.

      2. Point taken. I wonder if “MAX to Janzen Beach” would be a project which Portland could now push for and get done. I think it might be.

  8. The Oregon Electric Railway Museum has now received nine tram cars originally used in Belgium. One of these is a double ended PCC variant. They are currently raising funds to pay for their shipment.

  9. $2.2M approved for Bay Area hydrogen refueling stations

    The 12 stations to be completed will be located in Berkeley, Campbell, Foster City, Hayward, Los Altos, Mill Valley, Mountain View, Oakland, Redwood City, North First and North Fourth streets in San Jose, San Ramon, Saratoga, South San Francisco and Woodside.

    BAAQMD officials expect hydrogen technology to reduce Bay Area greenhouse gas emissions. Air district spokesman Tom Flannigan said vehicles are the largest source of particulate matter or smog in the Bay Area.

    1. That’s 2.2 million dollars down the drain. Hydrogen just doesn’t work. It’d be cheaper to put electric buses in and electric in the nw is green technology.

      1. Lunacy. The price of importing hydrogen (or more likely methane) to Hawaii is astronomical. Who’s subsidizing this?

  10. Why all the “bluster” about rezoning SFHs in Seatlte, where the average plot size is much smaller than other places already.

    Why not go after the low-hanging fruit, SFMs (Single Family Mansions) and SFEs (Single Family Estates)? There are plenty of very large, spacious properties all over Seattle. Many of these Land Hogs command significant resources often in locales like waterfronts that could be enjoyed by hundreds or thousands of residents.

    Why don’t we rezone SFMs for multi-tenant housing and then impose a highly progressive property tax on anyone using up the precious resources of land while so many struggle to find even a room in which to live?

    1. Nobody is going after anything. Rezoning anything doesn’t suddenly produce a market for a 200 floor building at that location.

      What has been suggested is to allow people more freedom to do what they want to with their property. For example, divide one of those huge houses into multiple family housing, if the owner desires to do so.

      Or, to allow people to build more detached housing in their back yard. I’ve stayed in one in Magnolia. It’s a nice location (no traffic noise, you can get across the street without getting killed, and its close enough to downtown Seattle or the UW or Ballard to be close to options for just about anything), but it appears to have been built around the 1920s. Nobody is allowed to build that type of thing in that area today, even if they wanted to.

      Literally, these are NIYBYs: Not In Your Back Yard.

      Yet, right on the corner of the place I stayed there is a four unit apartment complex that blends right in with the neighborhood, and nobody sees it being out of place since it is built just like the dozens of other places in the same area, except for multiple front doors.

      Especially with the conversion of existing houses to duplex or triplex, where only a front door or side door is the only thing that might be noticed from the street, there is the potential for decent improvements in satisfying the housing market without really having any sort of impact on the actual look of the neighborhood.

      1. Yes. The thing is that property taxes should pretty much already be a progressive tax.

        The thing that I think would be best to increase property taxes on first are true wastes of land:

        1. Banks that have foreclosed houses and are letting them sit vacant until the value of the property goes up.

        2. Surface parking lots, especially such lots that are close to downtown.

        At the same time, certain things should be subjected to a tax discount. One example I would discount would be such creative rebuilding as the big laundry building in the Cascade neighborhood that has had its attractive old exterior walls preserved, but is having a new multi-story structure built at its core. This type of thing preserves the old storefronts that so many people like to see while increasing the density.

      2. On #1 I heartily agree.

        All Property which is residential, which is not a primary residence, should be taxed to the hilt to make way for more landowners and fewer renters.

        Land should be taxed per person. Those taking up way more square feet above limits should be taxed to the hilt (in urban areas where space is at a premium).

        On #2, yes, it’s quite ridiculous to see surface parking still all around Seattle downtown! Don’t those guys know they’re sitting on a fortune? How can parking of any sort even exist in downtown…shouldn’t they all be rushing to make apartments and condos? I would ban all car traffic to Seattle downtown other than taxis and transit between the hours of 7am to 7pm.

      3. So, the surface parking lot dynamic is basically people who know their lot is valuable, but know that if they wait longer before selling to a developer, it will be *more* valuable. Speculators.

    1. The bicycle, while being ridden in traffic, is considered a vehicle under the traffic laws. So the answer is the same whether the vehicle travelling down Dexter was a bicycle or a car. Vehicle #1 turned left into the path of Vehicle #2 and failed to yield. Vehicle #1 is at fault.

      And, yes, as badly designed as it is, the bike lane is indeed considered to be a traffic lane. Also, if the bicycle had been either walked or ridden on the sidewalk, Vehicle #1 would have still had to yield to the pedestrian when turning left.

    2. Oops, you were referring to your video, sorry.

      Yes, the turning car theoretically should yield. However, it would be argued, with success, that the motorcycle is at fault for going so fast. The car couldn’t possibly have reacted quickly enough, or even seen something coming this quickly, so wouldn’t be at fault.

      Yeah, there is nothing in the traffic code that specifically addresses this. But the officer on the scene or a judge would likely come to this conclusion. (and, yes, I might just double check to see if the law is specific about that, when I have the time…..)

  11. I created this rough sketch map of the half mile radius for all existing, funded, and proposed Link stations within Seattle (So, ST1 and ST2, plus the Ballard route for ST3 as described by SDOT. I didn’t include the West Seattle part of ST3, because we don’t yet know what that will look like. Graham St. and 130th are included.)

    Don’t expect and Oran map here – this is pretty rough as I said, but I think it gets the picture across:

    A couple things I noticed is how royally ST messed up University Link with only one station between Westlake and UW. Also, if the SDOT route is what gets implemented, the only part of the urban core that will not be within .5 miles of a station is Belltown from Western to the water between Bell and Bay.

    1. *That’s supposed to be “an” (not and) Oran map. Also, you probably already know this, but you can zoom in if you click on the map.

  12. Hoping to bring your bike on a long-distance Amtrak train? Keep waiting. “We’re hoping for August,” Amtrak said of the start date. “But we were hoping for June, for February, for November.”

    From what I understand, CAF is a bit behind on their delivery of the new single level cars, which includes the new baggage cars.

    In the meantime, North Carolina has such a service on the baggage cars it owns – and those are rebuilt cars from the 1950s.

    Their cars are the last combination baggage and coach cars left in Amtrak service, but they apparently work well for this, as the passenger can ride close to their bike and easily stow it and retrieve it from the rack in the same car, or stow it while the train is departing the station.

    1. Amtrak is being weirdly slowpokey and resistant about bike racks. Federal legislation was threatened to force Amtrak to allow pets in carriers — maybe the bike advocates should try to get the same thing to force Amtrak to allow unboxed bikes?

      FWIW, on all the Eastern single-level trains, it’s quite possible and safe to walk between the baggage car and the coaches, it’s only prevented by policy. So there’s nothing technical preventing the same procedures as in North Carolina. :sigh:

  13. I’m glad they are backing off of HALA for now. Not sure why upzoning urban villages and pushing development along the light rail line can’t hold 50,000 units.

    At mid rise densities of 92 units/acre, that’s about 550 acres to hold 50,000 units. How many acres of underutilized or potential development in the following neighborhoods do we have?? Northgate + Ballard + Beacon Hill + Rainier Valley + Downtown + SLU + Belltown + Capitol Hill + First Hill + (any others?)

    Those neighborhoods are already or should be zoned to handle mid rises and the 50,000 units the mayor wants. Also already in or will be in transit-intensive zones. They don’t need to re-zone entire swaths of single family.

    1. Because tearing down literally everything in the rarified parts of your city with mixed-age, mixed-form built environments, and then replacing every inch of said districts with code-maximized, computer-designed megaprojects, is a god-awful way of growing a city?

      1. huh? I didn’t say anything about destroying districts and replacing everything with 92 units per acre developments. I asked how many undeveloped, under developed, surface parking lot etc potential acres are available in said districts.

        But anyways, I actually looked at the proposed zoning changes map and it looks FINE. What the heck is the media up in arms about. Even scared me into a nimby for a second. It’s basically the areas in urban villages or along busy corridors.

      2. Yes, and the vacant lots and surface parking lots in said urban villages all have developments or proposed developments for them.

        An ADU in a backyard isn’t going to change the character of a single family neighborhood but as part of many doing so it is going to add housing to the larger housing supply for those homeowners who CHOOSE to do so. We get it, new construction is shit. That is why we don’t want to level the great old historic homes of single family neighborhoods but rather allow for small contextual additions to be allowed to be added in the backyard at the owners will.

      3. “huh? I didn’t say anything about destroying districts and replacing everything with 92 units per acre developments.”

        You didn’t realize it, but you kind of did, accidentally! Right here:
        “Not sure why upzoning urban villages and pushing development along the light rail line can’t hold 50,000 units.”

        If you try to stuff all the development into a very small area, you get the code-maximized computer-designed tear-everything-down stuff.

        “But anyways, I actually looked at the proposed zoning changes map and it looks FINE. What the heck is the media up in arms about. Even scared me into a nimby for a second.”
        Yeah, exactly! You’re totally right. The trouble is that people are having the initial reaction you did, and it’s resulting in this “only upzone in a few very narrow places” reaction, which has very bad results, which d.p. was complaining about.

      4. And not everybody wants to live in the same kind of place. Allowing modest development in single-family areas would give people more choices what kind of building they want to live in. These duplexes and row houses are the same density level people ooh and aah about in Paris, London, and New England; they aren’t neighborhood-destroying monstrosities.

        Also, taller buildings are intrinsically more expensive because of the construction methods to support the height. There are different levels where the price goes up substantially: 4 stories, 7 stories, 12 stories, 40 stories So by forcing everybody to live in the existing multifamily land, you’re forcing all buildings into the 7, 12, and 40-story range and ensuring that nothing else is available. That is choice-limiting.

      5. Still wouldn’t even be close to the building- or people-density of the vacation-worthy places you name, because our streets are still so damned wide, and because that level of mass-transformative aggregate demand simply will never exist here.

        Paris fits 2.2 million into less than half of Seattle. With no dearth of light or people spaces, and no shortage of charm.

        Frankly, I can think of any number of tiny non-West Coast cities you’ve never heard of whose form more closely resembles our s.f. areas if infused with multiplexes, and smaller-lot houses, and corner stores.

      6. One problem is that it’s impossible to build pre-automobile era neighborhoods in the automobile era. People won’t tolerate such narrow streets that can’t fit two-way traffic and side parking. Greenlake has some streets where you have to turn into a side space to allow an oncoming car to go through. Allowing new streets that narrow would be harder than allowing triplexes, and the fire department would probably prohibit it. So the best we can do is allow triplexes on the wide streets. It’s funny to call Seattle streets wide anyway, because have you seen the streets in Dallas or California outside the old areas? Six-lane boulevards every mile, wide enough to fit two Seattle streets in.

      7. The worst are the (usually suburban) neighborhood streets where they take the space that should be the sidewalk and simply pave it as part of the extra-wide street. The total width of the right-of-way is pretty much the same as a typical neighborhood street in Seattle. Only, instead of having a sidewalk, you have an extra-wide street, which encourages speeding, which makes walking along the street without the sidewalk more dangerous. And for all that, they don’t even save any money by omitting the sidewalk because the same amount of concrete still has to be poured to build the wider street.

      8. Erm, is that different than the parts of Seattle without sidewalks? Are there any new streets without sidewalks? I thought it was a law everywhere in Pugetopolis now that new streets have to have sidewalks.

  14. “By the way, Dallas has both zoning and inexpensive housing, because it allows all the demand to be built even if it’s sprawly. Chicago has zoning and inexpensive (or at least cheaper than Seattle) housing too, because it also allows all the demand to be built, but at medium-to-high density. Seattle’s problem is that the zoning is too restrictive for the demand.”

    You guys crack me up. Dallas has demand but Dallas County hardly grew during the aught years. Why? Because the metro is sprawling like crazy on lots of flat land. That’s why housing is so cheap…….because a major component of housing cost…….the land…… cheap.

    Chicago on the other hand doesn’t have demand……….while also surrounded by lots of flat land with the notable exception of the lake And that’s why its housing is relatively cheap although its expensive by Midwest standards.

    Like SFO, Seattle has the worst of all worlds……..lots of hilly land, surrounded by lots of water and lots of demand. That makes its land costs very expensive. You could build triple the number of units and all that would do is cause a temporary drop in prices during which developers would stop building. After demand catches up and prices firm, construction would resume. You are NEVER going to get cheap housing in Seattle. Density may be important for other reasons but the argument that it will create cheap housing is misinformation.

Comments are closed.