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      King County is expected to grow by fifty percent in the next twenty years. The more  growth stays in Seattle, the better for everyone. Real estate though is  skyrocketing, pushing the middle class out of the city. Metro Transit has an unique opportunity to shape that growth and create a better county by becoming a landlord.
       Just east of Safeco Field is a large bus yard covering blocks. Prime real estate underused. Obviously the bus yard is vital, but an entire highrise neighborhood could be built over the yard. The larger the project, the taller the buildings, the less development elsewhere in the county. This shouldn’t be just another development though.
Because Metro Transit is by the people and for the people, this is an opportunity to do things right rather than just for profit. Starting with how can this benefit Metro Transit. The closer people live near work, the better for Metro Transit. Therefore these apartments should be leased exclusively to people who work within a three mile radius, starting with transit employees based at the busyard.
It’s sad when city employees, or service sector employees for that matter, can’t afford to live in the city they serve. Therefore city, school, and transit employees should be given preference in leasing, but first apartments have to be affordable. Hopefully without a profit  motive and a favorable landlease, it shouldn’t even be necessary to grant tax breaks to make affordable middle class apartments. With the light rail stopping in the middle of the bus yard, tenants will be able to travel  to their nearby jobs in minutes. The complex should include zipcar access and limited parking, but each apartment’s rent should also include a monthly orca pass, again benefitting Metro Transit.
      Ideally these residents should be able to shop and drink their lattes without commuting either. The shopkeeper living over the store helps create a vibrant neighborhood. Storefronts as well as any offices  in the complex should be leased in tandem with an apartment above.  Building maintenance and support staff should also live in house eliminating commuters completely. Depending on priorities, elderly, lowcost or artist housing could also be included.
       If new apartments in Seattle are rented to people who work in Bellevue, then new development isn’t reducing traffic. Building apartments for people who can walk to work does.

13 Replies to “EADO, Seattle’s newest neighborhood?”

  1. Housing is not allowed in SODO. Other cities like Vancouver and San Francisco have turned their industrial districts into highrise neighborhoods, but Seattle is reluctant to lose its industrial land, and if you start chipping away at it for one good purpose then it starts to snowball. The companies couldn’t compete with wealthier developers and would-be residents, but it’s the companies that create jobs and bring us the goods we need, and the land is an insurance policy against an unknown future. Cities without industry are putting all their eggs in a paper-pushing basket. In the future overseas shipping may stop due to fuel costs, environmental problems, or wars, and it may suddenly become urgent to scale up local manufacturing and even urban agriculture. Where will we do that if the industrial land is gone? Also, if we push the companies out of the city, they’ll have to go to the fringes of the suburbs and increase sprawl, and workers will have to get cars to get to them.

    I like the idea of housing over the bus yard, and it sounds like the Spring District will do something like that. But it should be decided in the context of these larger issues and what our ultimate goal for SODO is, and it needs to be done slowly enough that we can really think through the consequences. Otherwise it will all turn into luxury towers and hotels and big-box chain stores.

    1. The city is free to grant an exception to industrial zoning if it sees fit to do so. In the case of the country building affordable housing but keeping the bus yards underneath I wouldn’t have a big problem with granting the exception.

      Similarly the airspace over the Link O&M complex could be developed as well.

      Note that other uses are creeping into the industrial zone, such as the new office buildings just South of Safeco field on First South. With the exception of the train yard and maritime users the Ballard-Interbay industrial district is well on its way to disappearing entirely. Zoning or not it would seem the city is losing the fight to development pressure. I know the Port wants to redevelop its uplands in Interbay and BNSF at some point is likely to feel development makes sense for its property as well.

    2. I believe that SODO would have some issues in an earthquake. It looks to me that any housing would have to have its pilings drilled pretty deep to be solid in an earthquake. The extra cost doesn’t help the ultimately affordability to the landowners. We really would leave much of SODO alone for this reason — because any housing ultimately constructed there will have to be high-end and we need more affordable housing.

      I’d note that Mission Bay in San Francisco was proposed for development for 20-30 years before it started happening. It wasn’t until the last 15 years did the land values get high enough that the cost of the pilings become economically viable. If it were not for San Francisco’s inclusionary housing laws, nothing recently built there would be affordable.

      I think that there are other areas in South Seattle that could serve housing well. One area with merit is the I-90 corridor, and raising the height and density limits could be useful. Dearborn and the area around Judkins Park are both areas that will be not far from a great transit station and offer some wonderful views for high-rise housing. Another area is the industrial areas along MLK south of Rainier Beach Station, where the valley could easily offer an opportunity for a hotel-retail-off-housing district located between SeaTac and Downtown near Boeing Field.

  2. “Therefore these apartments should be leased exclusively to people who work within a three mile radius, starting with transit employees based at the busyard.”

    If somebody loses their job, would they have to move? How could they get another apartment if they’re unemployed?

    1. I assume this could be simply a requirement for moving in. You could also handle it like subsidized housing when someonee no longer meets the income requirements.

  3. thank you Al, Chris, Mike, and James for the constructive feedback. Thanks James for pointing out that this isn’t an original idea and I could have made my point better by citing similar successful developents. Good point about earthquakes Al, it might make the idea moot. Mike, your comments about this possibly being a trojan horse to develop the entire SODO are is right on. I hope this idea would diminish demand rather than promote large scale redevelopment. I just took the train in from SeaTac Chris and agree the Rainier Beach corridor offers much potential for redevelopment. Unfortunately the middle class seems to prefer long commutes in traffic jams rather than living in poor neighborhoods.

    1. “Unfortunately the middle class seems to prefer long commutes in traffic jams rather than living in poor neighborhoods.”

      There’s a split. Enough people are moving to Rainier Valley to raise the housing prices above Tukwila and SeaTac. My friend is a third-generation Garlic Gulch resident, and he wishes he had bought a house there in the 80s and 90s when they were cheap. In the mid 2000s he looked for six months but could find nothing he could afford, so he ended up buying a house in SeaTac. The majority of middle-class people may not think about Rainier Valley or may shun it, but enough are that it’s gentrifying.

  4. This idea and those offered in the comments are all well worth exploring. Thank you for creative, critical thinking.

  5. Being right next to the highway makes it less than ideal for housing, though I suppose that helps keep it affordable.

    With all the talk of a new basketball arena in SoDo, I’ve often thought this would be a much better spot. But there are lots of potential uses. Metro has one large lot and a few smaller lots surrounding it; at this point could they build a multi-story bus garage on one or more of the small lots and sell the large one at a profit? Seems such a shame to waste all that space so close to downtown and convenient to transit for what is essentially a large parking lot.

    1. The U-District is right next to the highway, as is Capitol Hill and Shoreline. From 56th & University Way I could hear the freeway. From the alley behind Melrose Avenue it was annoyingly loud, but not with the windows closed. From one block further east the noise is insignificant. So the trick is to have at least one row of buildings between you and it.

      1. I’m surprised it was bad all the way over on University Ave. All of the area in question is much closer to I-90 and I-5 than that, with multiple ramps passing directly over parts of the base.

      2. It wasn’t bad on University Way, it was just there if you listened. It’s probably because at 56th the buildings are mostly 1-2 story (or were in 2003) so it doesn’t block the noise as much as 4-6 story buildings do.

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