I-5 northbound from Rizal Park

This is an open thread.

69 Replies to “News Roundup: Happening Now”

  1. It’s been topped out since that picture was taken but that building under construction will be the largest hotel north of San Francisco when it’s done. 1250+ rooms.

    1. Too bad it’s such an unappealing building – looks like a bland 80s suburban office park gone vertical. Maybe they’ll paint it?

      1. Too bad it’s such an unappealing building

        Certainly not my favorite building in the city, but I’m glad that it’s there. It’s way better to have a variety of styles than endless permutations of Vancouver glass towers.

  2. Assuming that iit’s an easy walk between what would be the Avalon and junction stations, then why not delete the junction station? Keep the Avalon station elevated to save money, and call it good. Those who don’t want the ‘ugly’ elevated train track out of the junction would get their wish!.

    It is an easy walk after all…

    1. And… if a southward expansion is approved in the future it might even make it easier to head south from Avalon, than it would be to head south from an east-west oriented junction station.

    2. argh.. sentence should read: “those who don’t want the ‘ugly’ elevated train track in the junction would get their wish!”

    3. I don’t think it’s fully understood that if a Link subway goes under Alaska with a station there, it will require a huge demolition of a few blocks of businesses. Does anyone remember what was once on Broadway in Capitol Hill?

      1. A tunnel station under the Alaska Junction would be the Gift of the Magi. It would lead to demolition of the businesses that are the soul of The Junction.

        I say keep the “eyesore”, as a useful advertisement that the train exists, and as a guideway to where to board.

        Use the money saved to reach probably the most important destination that could be reached in ST3: First Hill.

        I’m also fine with just deleting the Junction station and having the train turn south at The Triangle. The Junction is on the other side of West Seattle’s island of density.

        Westwood Village, White Center, and Burien are, frankly, more important destinations than The Junction. If elevating the train could get it to Westwood Village instead of The Junction, that would be a huge improvement.

    4. It would be funny to see if the West Seattle folks would agree to that… somehow I doubt it though it would be funny to call their bluff!

      1. West Seattleite here.

        It honestly never occurred to me to remove the Junction station until now, and I love this idea. It could eventually head southbound on 35th SW or Fauntleroy SW and all my wishes would come true.

    5. @jas — Ha, I like your thinking. Yeah, sure, call it a “first phase” if you want. Not that much different then ending Link at Husky Stadium, instead of the much more logical U-District. You save a lot of money, which could be put into more rewarding projects. If nothing else, it means much more important projects (like Ballard Link) get built sooner.

      From a bus transfer standpoint, it is a bit worse than having two stations, but not that much worse. It is arguably better than just having a station at the junction. 35th is just as important as Fauntleroy/California. The difference is if they decide to send buses across the West Seattle freeway when this is all done. I can understand why the assumption is that they won’t. During rush hour it doesn’t make any sense. But the rest of the day, it does. The 21 would get truncated (all day) while the C would only truncate at rush hour. The rest of the time it would continue on to downtown, but serve a different part of downtown (something like First Hill or Belltown). Assuming the train isn’t that frequent in the middle of the day (a fair assumption) then it would be fine to just run the C as it runs right now. Riders would save a lot of time, and it wouldn’t necessarily cost a fortune.

      Assuming buses don’t leave the peninsula, I think it is more or less a wash from a bus connection standpoint. Again, not nearly as good as three stops (the third being Delridge), but not much different than only serving Avalon. It is quite likely that the C would be repurposed to follow its regular course, but wind around to serve Alki. Buses like the 128 would not be as grid-like if there was only two stations, but that is true no matter where the station is. There isn’t much difference between sending a bus over to the junction, instead of sending a bus over to Avalon.

      The big difference is that there are more people close to the junction. But not that many more. It is a bigger destination, but still not a huge one. There would be tremendous savings by truncating at Avalon, whereas skipping Avalon, but running a tunnel to the junction could be more expensive then the original plan.

      I would love to see this proposed, just to see the reaction, and the hypocrisy that follows. It actually is a fair walk between the two stations (a bit over ten minutes) which is why they had the two stops. My guess is folks who want the tunnel know that, but are willing to just throw other riders under the bus. They might feel the same way about service to the junction (they may have no interest in transit to West Seattle) but it would be interesting to see the reaction.

      With all of that, it wouldn’t go anywhere, because Mr. West Seattle (Dow Constantine) wouldn’t like it. There are folks on the peninsula who want to have their cake and eat it two (all the original stops, just underground) while others are trying to explain to them that we simply can’t afford it (West Seattle rail was already a horrible value, adding a tunnel just makes it worse).

      1. I’ve mentioned this before, but West Seattle needs to determine if they want a small transit center at any station and what kind of bus routing works . Because 80-90 percent of West Seattle’s population won’t be walkable to Link, bus and drop-off access should govern everything! It doesn’t have to be at Alaska and California; Alaska and Fauntleroy could also work as a small transit hub, for example.

        There are those that want a few West Seattle bus routes at each station. Here’s what’s wrong with that logic: going from one point in West Seattle to another would end up as a double transfer! It’s cruel to make someone go to a Delridge Station, ride only a few blocks, and get on another bus route at a station at Avalon or Alaska Junction!

        Then, rather than just debate what corner it goes for a subway, the question should be either what two city blocks do they want to lose for 8-10 years (and/or what street closures will they endure for 8-10 years) and what’s an acceptable walking path.

        My preference is to keep the line aerial or surface in West Seattle and end it within a block of Fauntleroy and Alaska. I also think all West Seattle buses should go by or to Delridge Station and the role of Alaska Junction as a bus transfer point should be lessened. Alaska Junction should be as a quaint neighborhood commercial district that people want it to be, just a few blocks from Link!

        Brent is right in that the low density zoning begins just a half-block from California. That’s not the “center” of the West Seattle urban village; it’s the “edge”.

      2. There are those that want a few West Seattle bus routes at each station. Here’s what’s wrong with that logic: going from one point in West Seattle to another would end up as a double transfer! It’s cruel to make someone go to a Delridge Station, ride only a few blocks, and get on another bus route at a station at Avalon or Alaska Junction!

        How is that any less cruel than what people do every day? Even when Link gets to Northgate, how do I get from Lake City to Greenwood? I can do as I do now — take a bus to Northgate TC (which itself is way out of the way) then take a couple buses to Greenwood. With Link, I will take a bus to the same place, then take a train one stop (to 65th) then take a bus back towards Greenwood. How about Pinehurst to Ravenna: A bus to Northgate again, then a ride down one stop to 65th, followed by a ride east. Those are the good ones. There are plenty of places where bus trips will likely be as tough as they are now, while billion dollar light rail lies tantalizingly close. Places like Phinney Ridge, or combinations like Fairview and Harrison to 15th and Harrison. The former is one mile from the Ballard Station, while the latter is a trip that is merely one mile as the crow flies. For neither does Link actually work, when we get done with this mess. Neighborhood to neighborhood connections are really not what Link is about about. Talk about cruelty.

        Anyway, I wouldn’t worry about it. The two are not exclusive. You can have bus routes serve *all three* stations, while still connecting the areas via bus routes at the same time. The 50 does that today — it would just need more service. The 128 does that on the other end (but it too needs more service). You could get by with fewer stations, but if you are going to build all three, then it makes sense for buses to serve all three, regardless of how people get from corridor to corridor.

    6. The Junction is the largest urban village in West Seattle, with the most in its walkshed and growing, and the biggest transfer point (although Westwood Village may have as many transfers someday). It would be like putting Link down 23rd and missing Broadway.

      1. If you look at the development plans*, the two stations are basically at either end of the relatively small area that is proposed for an upzone. Cancelling the Avalon station is just about as bad as cancelling the Junction station. The difference is that cancelling the junction station would save a bunch more money. The point being, if we are seriously considering removing a perfectly good station (Avalon) to avoid putting in an elevated rail station by the junction, then we should keep Avalon (a very similar station) and save ourselves a huge amount of money by simply truncating there.

        * Here is a link: http://seattlecitygis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=b0167cf4e63149e3b891307a41a639e5. You have to select option 4 and zoom in. The big difference is that

      2. The Junction is already a large urban village even without an upzone. It may be curtailed one block west like 44th in Wallingford, but it also goes north and south. There’s practically continuous multifamily/commercial 1.5 miles north to Admiral, and south to Morgan Junction. And a bus can go north-south past the station connecting both those areas. At 35th and Delridge pretty much everything is south.

        I like the idea of buses going to all three stations if feasable, although it would contradict a north-south route on California which is also important. But it reminds me of the trains between Edinburgh and Glasgow. As one guidebook put it, “The Scotland rail network is arranged so that trains that go to one city also go to the other.”

  3. I think Seattle should be inspired by Uber and start a crowd-sourced enforcement program for these “ride-share” companies. Everytime you see an Uber or Lyft do something stupid or parked somewhere illegal or dangerous to pick up their fare, snap a photo or video of the infraction, with the license plate number, and upload it to a designated website, where it will be reviewed.

    Seattle can start slapping the individual drivers with ever increasing fines, up to and including a ban on that particular driver within the city limits, pickup OR dropoff. It would require Uber/Lyft’s participation to verify the driver of the car at that time, but their other option would be to have the fees directed towards Uber/Lyft or a complete ban on non-participating ride-shares in Seattle.

    Sounds harsh, but I and many other people have had too many life threatening close calls with aggressively negligent “ride-share drivers”. SPD is unwilling to actually enforce any traffic laws, so we need something else to protect vulnerable users.

    1. It would help if the city had more loading zones where you could safely get in or out of an Uber or Lyft.

      1. I agree. Having taken a few rides, I think the process is often confusing. The driver knows where I am, but not exactly. It is tough for both the driver and passenger to figure out exactly where the pickup should occur, and more loading zones would help a lot.

      2. Perhaps it would provided some motivation at City Hall to allocate more loading zones? Two parking spots with a dozen or so people an hour being picked up/dropped off > two cars being stored in the same spots for an hour.

        But I’m much more concerned about the Uber/Lyft drivers that disregard the stop signs and turn restrictions in my neighborhood. Reporting to Uber is fruitless since I am not actually riding in the Uber at the time.

        Of course, if you are in an Uber/Lyft and the driver is breaking traffic laws, be sure to deduct stars and make a note in the comment area.

      3. The process may be “confusing”, but let’s be serious: the drivers are absolutely aware they’re parking in bike lanes and across sidewalks. They do it because nobody holds them accountable.

        Frankly it’s hard to be sympathetic for companies founded to operate, effectively, as taxis that don’t have to pay for medallions or obey any serious licensing requirements, that then ask the city to build them taxi stands. They asked for a lower level of support and they got it.

      4. Well, sure, but we’re only asking for this “general” thing because of the increasing demands of the specific companies. The app-taxi companies have their own PR departments to peddle their spin, we don’t have to do it for them.

      5. As autonomous vehicles become a thing, curb space for loading and unloading is going to become more important and parking, less important. Whichever companies that ultimately ends up being. And, even today, loading zones are useful for far more than just passenger pick-ups. They are also used by delivery trucks.

        In general, loading zones are much more justifiable policy-wise than parking, since drivers only take up the space while they’re actually loading/unloading – unlike parking, which one car gets to hog for hours at a time.

    2. Heck, these self-taxis companies (let’s not pretend they aren’t taxis) could do this themselves and fire frequent violators.

      1. Of course, if they required their drivers to professionally obey all traffic laws and self enforced it, they couldn’t attract nearly as many drivers.

  4. Results from the first Stakeholder Advisory Group meeting are out, showing preliminary assessment of alternative alignments in West Seattle, Ballard, and important points between. http://westseattleblog.com/2018/04/heres-your-first-look-at-5-early-alternatives-for-west-seattle-light-rail-as-unveiled-at-stakeholder-advisory-group-meeting/

    One of the top suggestions includes a Delridge station under the freeway between the port and the steel mill. Lord help me if they try to pull some shenanigans like that while building a primo tunnel up to the beloved Junction…

    1. Yeah, that’s ridiculous. I’m sure they were thinking it would include a big parking lot (because how else are you supposed to get to the train?).

      Not that the original proposal is much better. Based on the video, they have it north of Andover, centered around where 23rd Avenue merges with Delridge (https://goo.gl/maps/hnKT55DtDzs). There isn’t a lot there. That could change, of course. The strip malls could be replaced by apartment buildings, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. You are getting really close to the freeway (and the mill) making apartments less desirable. Rent has to be really high to be worth replacing decent retail service with apartment buildings in a location like that. Houses on the other side of the street could be replaced by apartments, but that is true anywhere along there. Being part of that triangle is what makes the area poor. You have less potential to the east, as the walkways all force you to Andover anyway (except for places off of 23rd). The other direction, beyond the small strip mall, you have land owned by the mill.

      It makes way more sense to have it just south of Andover. You could still walk to the mill, or that strip mall, but it puts you closer to the headquarters of Bartell’s, and more importantly, the only decent size apartment in the area (Youngstown Flats). If houses (or parking lots) get converted to apartments in the area, then being close to Andover would make a difference. I’m not saying it would be a great stop — nothing in the area will have big walk up ridership — but it would be a bit better than the current plan, and a lot better than moving it under the freeway. As with everything, cost is important. If moving it north of Andover saves a lot of money, that makes sense. But unless you save a huge amount, moving it under the freeway doesn’t.

  5. I’m glad to see that the summary notes are peppered with comment summaries about good station access and transfers. Let’s hope that the stakeholders get that the public interest is served by considering the whole journey from a sidewalk in one part of Seattle to a sidewalk in another part (including a transfer at a rail platform as well as escalators), and not just the rail vehicle portion of the trip.

  6. Oooh, open thread, this means I get to gripe about Orca!

    A couple months ago I got a youth card for my tween daughter. Her card value is low, so yesterday I signed in to register it on my account and add some money. Alas, was not to be, because apparently the card was automatically registered when I got it. So, I filled out the contact-us form and was only told after submitting that they would get back in 2 or 3 business days. 2-3 days! People need to ride the bus now!

    So, today I called the Orca number, which is nothing more than a forwarding service to the local transit agencies. Choosing Pierce Transit put me on what I’m sure would have been infinite hold (it was more than 10 minutes). So, I called Pierce Transit directly and found out that their customer service line doesn’t even work – 15 rings then a hang-up.

    So I called Sound Transit, and the customer service was fine, except they can’t log in to the Orca system apparently. They transferred me to KC Metro, who finally resolved the whole mess – her card will be on my account within 24 hours, which is still 23 hours longer than it should take (After all, people need to board the bus now).

    You would think that near-instant updates would be a mandatory part of a transit-fare system, but it sure ain’t here.

    1. My ORCA card got weaker and finally stopped working, so I looked at the ORCA site to see where to replace it, and it was completely useless: no location or contact number I looked at Metro’s site, found the customer service office in Pioneer Square, and when I went in the line was short and the representative was as kind as could be and replaced the card promptly. ORCA is really just an umbrella organization and doesn’t want to get involved in any of these low-level details. So I’d tell everyone just skip trying to deal with ORCA and go to your local transit agency, or if they’re lame go to Metro’s office in Pioneer Square.

      1. I had the same issue several years ago when I needed to replace my ORCA card and like you I found out that the ORCA website was absolutely useless in trying to find out how to replace it. I also ended up on the Metro website and found the information that I needed which was to go to their customer service office on Jackson Street and there it only took a few minutes to get a new card. The only issue was that the balance on my old card could not be transferred to the new card immediately but would take 7 to 10 working days. When I asked why the representative just said that was the way the system was set up and that I was not the only person to ask that question.

        I have gone to the Metro Customer Service office several times and I have found that the representatives are wonderful and provide the kind of service you like to receive. They did say that it would be best not to come in the first week of each month as that is when they are quite busy.

      2. Yes, my pass transferred immediately but the e-purse took a few days. That didn’t matter to me because I only use the e-purse a few times a year for surcharges or ferries. So I didn’t bother figuring out why. A few days later when I tapped on a bus it said “Value added” or something.

    1. Now Durkin wants to raise property taxes yet again:

      https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/seattle-would-spend-636-million-over-7-years-under-school-levy-plan/

      I know many of retirees who spent their entire lives paying off their mortgages and thinking they would be able to retire debt free, only to be stuck with escalating property taxes which in-turn are forcing them to move out of the area. It is sad what this generation of retirees is being forced to do because of the demands of younger generations. Taxing should be more income based and more equitable than this sorry system.

      1. Les. I know plenty of professionally employed young people putting the majority of their pay checks toward rent that will never be able to buy a house in the City. Yes the City’s over reliance on property taxes is a problem, but the root causes are much larger changes in the world economy since the 70 that have caused falling wages and rising asset values (including real estate).
        If you’re looking for pity, you should be aware that most of the young people you’re seeking it from view home ownership (and retirement for that matter) as a luxury they will never be able to afford.

      2. I would tend to agree with the above: At least you *have* a home with a paid off mortgage–you have other options. Unfortunately, the “younger generations” had no say in the devaluation of wages relative to the cost of living, that has been ongoing since the 70’s. Or on political decisions that emphasized building new stuff over maintenance, which the deferred maintenance is now coming due.

        Basically, we’re all screwed.

      3. We’ve got property taxes, we’ve got sales taxes, we’ve got the specter of poorly-targeted business taxes like the employee head tax, and we’ve got usage fees. That’s what we’ve got unless we change state law. Property taxes are least-bad of these options for raising money because they tax people with accumulated wealth.

        It would be good to balance out taxes on accumulated wealth with taxes on income. But who do you think voted against this idea in large numbers last time it was on the ballot? I don’t think it was the aspiring youth stuck in expensive rentals, even if it would have been in their self-interest.

      4. Younger generations are looking unlikely to be able to retire at all.

        Getting forced to sell and move does suck, but it’s the same economy wringing everyone dry, just at different stages in their life. Having a house to sell (for much more than you bought it for) is some positive, at least.

      5. @Al S.
        “But who do you think voted against this idea in large numbers last time it was on the ballot? I don’t think it was the aspiring youth stuck in expensive rentals, even if it would have been in their self-interest.”

        Source?

      6. Not to be mean spirited… but I think your real estate tax gripes arre without merit and make you appear greedy.

        If you are retired and paid of a mortgage in most parts of Seattle, it is likely that your home is worth 600K+ what you paid for it. Almost no one with a normal salary in the current working generations can afford your house that likely was affordable to you back in the day. The average Seattle home is worth over 800K, which is out of reach for most, and by percentage Seattle real estate taxes are not high at all… your taxes are high because you are sitting on a super-valuable piece of property. And seniors get special rates on their real estate taxes… after benefiting from the decades of incredible housing inflation.

        So you have benefited from hundreds of thousands of dollars of increased home value that is part of your current net worth. The only cost to you is higher annual taxes. that go to public services for people who where not as fortunate as you to be buying a home in Seattle when housing was affordable.

        No one is forcing you to move. You say you own your house outright… any bank will be happy to give you a sizable monthly check to cover your taxes and other expenses (reverse mortgage) where you can tap into some of that tremendous equity you built up from owning a home in the hottest real estate market in the country. By owning a home outright in Seattle you basically won the lottery… and are complaining that you are being taxed on your winnings.

      7. @les
        Although your reply is off-topic from what I had originally posted about, I generally agree with you. Both my 80+ mother-in-law here in Seattle and my 90+ mother in NY are faced with being taxed out of their homes. (I know a number of other seniors in the Seattle area facing the same situation as well.) I posted about this several months ago and got a bunch of unsympathetic replies which ranged from the unhelpful (property tax exemptions and deferrals) to the outright mean-spirited (seniors can just sell their appreciated properties and move elsewhere). I suspect that you’ll receive similar replies from some of the readers here.

        The responses I received told me a lot about the younger generations and the way we treat our seniors who have worked their whole lives, raised families, bought and paid for a modest home and did their best to save a little for their retirement and now simply want to live out their lives on their “fixed”* incomes in the homes they have been in for 20 or 30 or more years.

        *actually declining incomes when factoring in real inflation for this age group

      8. Every time I hear about people who can’t stay in their house because of rising taxes, I think of people who can’t even get an apartment because of rising rents, or end up living in suburban hell with long commutes, or end up homeless. The cause of both problems is the same: the failure to build enough housing for the population and the regressive tax structure. But at least the homeowner has a house they can live in or can sell for a lot of money. I would like to retire someday but it looks even less likely than it is for this generation, so I’m just saving as much as I can so that I can at least cover a few years of rent or a couple years in a nursing home and then we’ll see what opportunities are available then. I think about buying something but I really don’t want long-term debt and I’m wondering about the value of something you have to pay $400K+ for. That’s not a great option for people with mid-level incomes, and is not an option at all for everybody.

        “the root causes are much larger changes in the world economy since the 70 that have caused falling wages and rising asset values (including real estate).”

        It’s not the world economy. Europe, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia are subject to the same world economy we are but they aren’t having the same problems of severe inequality, rising poverty, inadequate and deteriorating infrastructure, etc. It’s because of decisions made by the federal and state governments to cut taxes, deregulate, incentivize offshoreing, and value physical capital and corporate profits as the only important thing and to practically ignore human capital and the good of the public. See “The Nordic Theory of Everything” by Anu Partanen for an alternative, and about what Finland is doing.

      9. @Mike Orr
        “…or end up living in suburban hell with long commutes…”

        That would be exactly my situation. After living in Seattle as a renter since the late 80s, I finally attempted to purchase a property there some 15 years later and found myself pretty much priced out for my family’s needs. Hence, I finally ended up purchasing property in SW Snohomish County, conceding on the distance, commute, amenties, etc. tradeoff. I am thankful I acted when I did and am entirely sympathetic to the housing situation many renters and potential buyers in the Seattle area find themselves in today. Trust me on that. (Also, people need to keep in mind that increases in property taxes also impact renters.)

        I couldn’t agree more on the remainder of your post.

      10. There’s sympathy, and then there’s policy. The choices that cash-poor, fixed-income people have to make are tough; those people that are also house-rich often didn’t choose to be house-rich, and can’t access the benefits without taking on some risks. There’s lots of room for sympathy.

        But it’s most fair and most practical (from a tax stability point of view) to tax both income and accumulated wealth. High-earners here get away with criminally low taxes and reform is needed so they pay their fair share. But it’s hard, from a policy perspective, to put property taxes first in line for relief in tax reform, rather than sales taxes. People with wealth in property have better choices and better means to make them than the poor people gouged by sales taxes and usage fees. California’s attempt to protect people from rising property taxes ended up being spectacularly poorly targeted, and easy for rich and well-connected people to effectively exploit to their benefit — in California people with lots of accumulated wealth are under-taxed as badly as high-earners in Washington, to the detriment of other taxpayers that bear higher burdens, and of the public realm generally.

        We’d probably do better by encouraging (and sometimes subsidizing or even directly building) more diverse housing types in more places, so that people that do move don’t have to move so far, than by trying to build tax policy around people living in the same houses for the rest of their lives (then passing those houses on to their children). There are lots of non-financial reasons staying in the same home doesn’t work out, and people making those transitions for any reason need better options and more support.

      11. Thomas Picketty recommends a wealth tax, to replace the estate tax, and at an annual rate of 1% of the estate tax (although it could be higher, but this is a baseline point to start the debate from). This would encourage people to not just sit on their millions but to do something productive with it. It would also give the public a small annual benefit rather than a one-shot chance every seventy years that could be nullified if the people find a way to avoid the estate tax or get Congress to repeal it without a replacement. That sounds like a good idea to me.

        Being stuck in a house that you can’t afford to move from sounds like being stuck with an employer because you’ll lose your health insurance if you leave, as was common before Obamacare. Conservatives and libertarians look at this as being free from government control and dependency (i.e., public housing and single-payer healthcare), but the Finns have a very different outlook as described in the book above. They see their progressive taxes, cradle-to-grave security (i.e., social programs), and investment in education and infrastructure as freeing. Freeing people from dependency on their family or church charities, freeing them to take the job they like or become an entrepreneur or do alternative work (i.e., low-budget non-work or volunteering). Forcing people to depend on their families creates ingrained class differences (rich parents can buy good education and opportunities for their children), strains family relations (some people don’t get along with their relatives well or their relatives are irresponsible/abusive/nonexistent), and puts a burden on family members (to take off work to care for elderly parents or children because health insurance/childcare are inadequate). Of course there’s only so much a state or city can do, it’s also a national issue, but states/cities can at least start to try some better practices.

      12. >> Tk76 just made my point.

        What was your point, that seniors should get a reverse mortgage?

        Again, the big increase is because the value of the home has increased dramatically, not because rates have gone up. Rates have gone up, just not as much as the value of property. Unless you are concerned about leaving the property to an heir, in most cases, a retiree can get a reverse mortgage to pay for the taxes (and then some).

        None of that means anyone here is happy with the current tax structure in Washington. We have the most regressive tax structure in the country. We have several big name billionaires here who are paying tiny sums to the state, because we don’t have an income or capital gains tax. That is an unfair, stupid policy, but efforts to change it have failed in the past, because there are a lot of stupid voters out there. They want what government can provide, but don’t want to pay for it (which is why we can pass initiatives that require tax cuts and extra spending at the same election).

      13. I posted about this several months ago and got a bunch of unsympathetic replies which ranged from the unhelpful (property tax exemptions and deferrals) to the outright mean-spirited (seniors can just sell their appreciated properties and move elsewhere).

        1. These responses weren’t mean spirited as much as reflecting reality. Property taxes reflect the value of the property. Unless you can convince someone to build a huge smoke belching factory next door, your property value will continue to increase.

        In fact, property values for homes in Seattle are increasing in value at around $90 an hour. You’re making more right now just by owning a home in Seattle than I will ever make.

        2. How is anything that was said to you more heartless or unsympathetic than your proposal of reducing the quality of education, street maintenance and other vital services that people use? No amount of service cutbacks are going to compensate for the huge increase in property values going on in Seattle. Furthermore, cutbacks in the services funded by the taxes you want to cut would produce a more heartless result because the very people you want to benefit from cutting all the services you want to cut also benefit from the services you want to cut for their tax benefit. You either hit them one way or hit them another.

        Your only real solutions are impractical ones that require changing the laws. That’s not some heartless unsympathetic rankings but simple reality. Unless the laws change you will eventually be priced out of your home.

      14. @TLSGWM

        I feel bad for anyone who is facing financial troubles. I just feel more bad for some than others. So I feel worse for people who never have a chance at home ownership when comparing to someone who has made hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal wealth simply by owning a home in Seattle that was affordable when they bought it and now is worth a fortune simply because it is in Seattle as opposed to some other city. Someone who had a similar trajectory who paid off a similar mortgage in Philly, St. Louis or Detroit would love have the same problem of having a higher real estate tax based on home value. Those people are paying a higher real estate tax rate…

        1. I am not in the “younger generation”, and I also own a house and pay lots of taxes without griping about it. But I do think taxation should be distributed more equitably than it is in WA, but the state has repeatedly rejected any attempts.

        2. I’ve lived in other states where housing values have not gone up much (Midwest, Mid Atlantic outside of biggest cities), In those states people have not profited much from home ownership… and still seen their real estate taxes go up dramatically anyway because those places face the same needs to raise taxes. It is common in IL to pay 10K in real estate taxes on homes worth <500K. So when I see someone who's home has appreciated massively complain that they are now being taxed more on their windfall… I don't have a ton of sympathy. You won the lottery by owning a home in Seattle. Most homeowners in other parts of the country would exchange their circumstance for yours.

        3. One of the biggest reasons localities raise taxes is to pay pension debt- that only benefit the oldest generation… who were never adequately funded these pensions for decades…. the same generation that left massive debt in their wake. Pension debt is a huge issue in older cities… not as much here locally, but Seattle has its own issues, like paying for infrastructure that was rejected by voters 35-40 years ago who did not want to invest in the future of this s=city of its people. Rapid transit and more highways were both rejected, even when the the cost to the city would have been low.

        Now the same people who failed to invest in Seattle's future 35 years ago are befitting from run away property value increases and yet are trying to block current investment in the city's future that is trying to fix past wrongs.

      15. @Tlsgwm, folks wouldn’t be making mean-spirited comments if the homeowners of the previous generation hadn’t pulled up the ladder behind them after securing their housing. They did this by restricting new housing through really bad zoning laws, all in the name of protecting property values. Through policy, a home is a retirement vehicle in our country, and that forces people to always want increasing property values. Well, they got what they wanted – and that comes paired with higher property taxes based on those property values. It’s hard to feel pity for those retired homeowners now, unless those homeowners are also out there pushing for the city to do things that will potentially lower their property values.

      16. @Ross B
        “What was your point, that seniors should get a reverse mortgage?”

        Putting aside the possibility that you may be being deliberately obtuse, no, this wasn’t my point.

        Reverse mortgages have their place and in some situations they make sense in a retirement funding to. But they are by no means a panacea. Just read the CFPB’s most recent report to Congress.

        Additionally, many seniors simply don’t want to “spend” equity on the expenses incurred with a reverse mortgage contract.

      17. @Glenn in Portland
        “1. These responses weren’t mean spirited as much as reflecting reality.”

        That’s your interpretation and that’s fine. Of course, I’m assuming you went back and read said commentary, right?

        “In fact, property values for homes in Seattle are increasing in value at around $90 an hour. You’re making more right now just by owning a home in Seattle than I will ever make.”

        You’re comparing apples to oranges. Book appreciation versus active income. Also, totally different liquidity.

        “2. How is anything that was said to you more heartless or unsympathetic than your proposal of reducing the quality of education, street maintenance and other vital services that people use? No amount of service cutbacks are going to compensate for the huge increase in property values going on in Seattle. Furthermore, cutbacks in the services funded by the taxes you want to cut would produce a more heartless result because the very people you want to benefit from cutting all the services you want to cut also benefit from the services you want to cut for their tax benefit. You either hit them one way or hit them another.”

        This is a straw man argument as I never advocated for cutting taxes or for the services they provide. And for the record, even in a period of declining property values (as long as the properties aren’t abandoned), a taxing district can adjust their levy rate, subject to the aggregate and statutory limits, to accommodate their budgetary requirements. This is how levy rates are set anyway, working the math backwards. In practice, during periods of rapid property value increases, a taxing authority actually sees its levy authority percentage decrease and thus will soon ask the voters within that taxing district for a levy lid lift to restore their full taxing authority.

        Additionally, there is the issue of a growing tax base that comes about because of development and densification. That development comes with costs for providing essential services to the new residents of course, but the increase in the tax base provides for that on what should be a scalable level.

        “Your only real solutions are impractical ones that require changing the laws.”

        Your meaning here is unclear. Are you attributing these “real solutions” to something I said or suggested in my comments above, or do you mean “your” in the general sense? Nevertheless, Washington state needs to get serious about reforming on current tax structure. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) just a couple of years ago ranked Washington as having the most regressive tax system in the nation.

        https://itep.org/whopays/

      18. @Al Dimond
        Thanks for your excellent comment.

        “But it’s hard, from a policy perspective, to put property taxes first in line for relief in tax reform, rather than sales taxes.”

        I’m in agreement on that actually.

      19. I sympathize with people who want to remain in their houses in retirement, and I support possible tax concessions that allow it. But there’s another factor too: Seattle is not the came city it was fifty or thirty years ago when they bought their houses. Back then Seattle’s population was lower than it had been in the 1950s, so there were plenty of houses and apartments to go around and they were cheap. Now the population is substantially higher and housing is scarce. So giving tax concessions to people so they can remain in their SF house rather than redeveloping the house into multifamily, puts a larger burden on the rest of the community than would have been the case in the 1970s or 90s. Everyone else has to carry the burden of supporting that SF house and yard when they have no chance of home ownership, much less one that size with a yard that size. That’s why the people outside the house are bothered by these concessions.

        The ultimate solution is comprehensive tax reform, which inevitably includes making the rich pay their share. Washington state is the worst in the country in letting the rich pay practically nothing.

        Young people also don’t have it easy. They don’t have the advantages that people in their 80s had, or even people in their 50s had. (I’m in the last group.)

      20. @Andres Salomon
        “folks wouldn’t be making mean-spirited comments if the homeowners of the previous generation hadn’t pulled up the ladder behind them after securing their housing…”

        Lol. Yes, that’s exactly what my 90+ year-old mother was thinking when she and my father purchased their turn-of-the-century home in NY back in the early 1940s, Likewise, that’s exactly what my 80+ year-old mother-in-law plotted when she and her husband and her husband’s parents built their modest home in Seattle in the 1950s. Give me a break.

      21. It really doesn’t matter what she was thinking. Go to any land use community meeting, and property values are a top concern. Her generation could’ve stopped this, but didn’t. And so here we are, with the cost of housing (both for purchase and rentals) out of reach for more and more of the population.

      22. Right, holding the zoning rigid is the same thing as pulling out the ladder behind them. What if New York and Chicago had failed to upzone from the single-family houses and farms they originally were, then you’d have skyscrapers downtown and the same situation as Seattle in the neighborhoods. Density needs to reflect the population size.

  7. Tisgwm, how is it going adapting to a suburban environment? How far are you from an activity center (e.g,, downtown Lynnwood or some place to fulfill daily/weekly errands). Can you walk or bus anywhere from your home, or is driving always required? Do you see any progress toward more walkable areas, the way Kenmore and Bothell are doing?

    1. @Mike Orr
      Well, it was a major adjustment for us moving from Seattle to the northern suburbs in SW Snohomish County, just not as dramatic as it was for me personally when I moved to Seattle from NY back in the late 80s (my spouse is a Seattle native). We have adapted of course, although we both have long commutes for work (downtown Seattle and Bellevue). The biggest change for me was getting a vehicle again after doing without one for the previous 14 or so years. I primarily work from home, but still need to commute into our downtown Seattle office as needed. As I stated in a recent post, I can make that trip from door to door in about 35 minutes by carpooling with my spouse (who then proceeds to work in Bellevue). The trip by transit takes about three times as long, about one and half hours. This entails walking to a local CT route stop, riding it to the Ash Way P&R and waiting for my connection to the 511. That’s if all goes well of course.

      I’m in an unincorporated area of the county just north of Lynnwood and so the nearest activity center per se is essentially the SR99 corridor, though we do go into Lynnwood frequently. It’s too far to walk and impractical by transit. Thus, driving is the rule. (The Swift blue line has been a nice addition since moving to this area though.)

      As far as walkability goes, it has improved somewhat in certain areas around Lynnwood I think. With that said, many of the older blocks of Lynnwood already had decent walkability when we moved here some 15 years ago. I’m hoping that future density along the 196th corridor can create more of an urban village there to add to the current dynamic that is dominated by the Alderwood Mall and the strip malls on 99. (I don’t follow Lynnwood politics and developments as much since I’m not in that jurisdiction. County Executive Dave Somers and the SnoCo Council are my focus.)

      Hope this answers some of your questions. Thanks for asking.

  8. Atlanta is building community soccer fields at subway stations. One is at the central station, Five Points, “originally designed as a grand multi-purpose civic space that never met its full potential”. The others are planned for P&Rs. ” Atlanta’s train stations were nearly always adjacent to a giant parking lot – part of a 1970s park-and-ride policy that never really took off. The parking lots were barely used for what they were intended.”

    The article says that Atlanta has a shortage of soccer fields, especially in inner-city non-white areas. “’I started thinking,’ says Patel, ‘What if we convert some pieces of [these underused P&Rs and civic space] to soccer fields and use the train system as a network for people to get to games?’”

  9. I feel like Durkan has pulled a massive bait and switch on us. She talked a good talk during the campaign, but she’s wasted no time attacking bike and transit projects, for example the city center connector and 4th Ave bike lanes. I am not a happy voter.

    1. So why is she doing that? Is she secretly pro-car? Is she being jerked around by her staff and squeaky wheels in the community? Is she really “attacking” them — i.e., saying they’re bad and canceling programs so she can do something else instead — or is she just deprioritizing them to get a handle on the budget?

      1. She hasn’t really explained herself much beyond platitudes.

        Her political calculation may be that the bike/transit crowd lined up for her opponent in the general and she won, so she has nothing to fear from them, but if she presides over worsening traffic while being perceived as anti-car she may have something to fear from the Happy Motoring crowd.

        Outside of the political calculations, I don’t think she’s really a bike/transit person herself. She’s not the one waiting for the “Late 8”, trying to find a way to ride from Dearborn over to 2nd Avenue, waiting forever to cross the street at ITS signals in SLU — she doesn’t personally experience how bad the status quo is outside of a car, so she’d rather fight to preserve that status quo through the period of max constraint than suffer a loss in car convenience.

      2. Well, she did say she was exploring congestion pricing downtown, which does trample on the sacred right to drive anywhere for free…but at the same, congestion pricing is something that’s easily to talk about, much harder to actually enact. And, I highly doubt this is going to be enacted anytime soon.

  10. Durkan has really been a dud on transportation, and going with an external interim director was really telling.

    I think it’s going to be a wasted four years other than ST3, which, with the levy, is a huge wasted opportunity.

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