A few of the planned and permitted projects near Roosevelt Station (Source: RDG/GGLO)

While work Northgate Link moves past construction and into cleanup and testing, developers have been busy drawing up plans for new housing near its stations. Opening day is only three years away, so projects that have started early design review should be able to finish up around the same time that light rail service begins running, though some sites are further behind than others. Using the Seattle in Progress map (which is slightly outdated due to changes at SDCI), it’s clear just how popular Roosevelt and U District stations are, while Northgate is seemingly lagging behind in terms of active proposals.

A few weeks ago, a big 24-story, 227-unit tower at Brooklyn Avenue and NE 47th Street (just over a block from U District Station) picked up design approval and is set to begin construction sometime this year, replacing a former gas station. To the southwest of the station, a national developer is piecing together parcels along 12th Avenue NE for a major project called “Campus Station“, which could feature 240-foot towers and hundreds of student housing units.

Roosevelt Station is by far the most active area for development, possibly along Link as a whole, with 20 planned or recently completed projects in the 7-block-long, 6-block-wide zone that constitutes the neighborhood’s center. In particular, the blocks facing Interstate 5 and along NE 65th Street have become home to several large apartment buildings. Among them, a pair of seven-story buildings a block east of the station at the former Sisley homes will feature 886 units and only 126 parking spaces, a far cry from the 1:1 parking-per-unit ratios seen in places like South Lake Union.

At Northgate Station, the planned “re-imagining” of Northgate Mall by its owners has moved further along in design, adding new details from when we last saw it in March. The updated plan ($) now includes 1,120 apartments with ground-level retail, five office buildings in the middle of the current mall, and a hotel facing Interstate 5. The mall is currently zoned for 95 feet, which could severely squander its potential as a future urban center and waste a potential development goldmine. Our friends up north in Metro Vancouver have figured out that malls are indeed a good place to plop down a few skyscrapers, even well out in the deep suburbs.

If the potential of the mall proper is squandered, then it will be up to the county-owned property just east of the station to take up the mantle as the best hope for Northgate. With zoning for up to 240 feet of height, but no announcement of a developer, progress on this site may be as slow as Capitol Hill’s project, which is finally starting construction with a groundbreaking in two weeks. The Roosevelt TOD site offered by Sound Transit is moving along slowly, having found an affordable housing provider last year, but cannot begin construction until early 2020 due to the site’s ongoing use as a staging area for tunnel work.

36 Replies to “New Housing Coming Near Northgate Link Stations”

  1. Yesterday I saw a Roosevelt land-use sign on one of those old houses-turned-businesses that said “24 units, 0 parking”.

    1. Amazing how all those buildings in the image above are identical… arranging 2D boxes on a 3D box and all in Hardie board.

    2. Ugly, but not as ugly as they could have been or earlier breadboxes were. Mainly because so much of the sides are windows.

  2. The document for the Capitol Hill project cracks me up. It is a huge stretch to call it “TOD”. It simply makes that part of the neighborhood similar to the rest of it. It might even have lower overall density (since it includes space for a plaza). If it was simply a big lot, and they zoned it for seven stories, it probably would have them anyway.

    That is certainly the case in Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford, South Lake Union and a lot of other places that are well away from light rail, and won’t be that close when ST3 finally finishes up. I suppose you could call it TOD because some of the zoning (like that at Roosevelt) wouldn’t have happened without the city changing the zoning laws, but as with many parts of the city, it really is the zoning, not the future promise of rail, that is driving things.

    Northgate, like Lake City, seems to be growing, but not at the save level of boom that other parts of the city have experienced. My guess is it just isn’t as popular a place. Roosevelt was always a very nice neighborhood (very close to great parks, not that far from the UW, sidewalks everywhere, pretty houses) whereas Northgate and Lake City were always just OK. No great parks, few quiet streets with sidewalks — nothing special.

    Of course it might be just the random nature of development of relatively tiny areas. Northgate is pretty close to being built out (unlike Roosevelt). Roosevelt started as a neighborhood with few apartments (and some of those were complete dumps). Northgate started out with a fair number of apartments (north of the mall, as well on 8th and Roosevelt south of Northgate Way). The biggest change was along 5th and Northgate Way that have slowly transitioned from small retail to big apartments. To the south (as well as parts of 5th) there are medical buildings, and those aren’t likely to be converted.

    Lake City, meanwhile, has projects hung up for some reason (reviews, perhaps) along with owners (especially the Pierre family) unwilling to sell their lots. It is still chugging along, but not nearly as fast as if those folks sold (and it was easier to build in the city). Lake City is interesting in that it represents a big contrast with Aurora. On Aurora, most of the development is on the street itself, while in Lake City, most of it is a couple blocks away.

    I do find it interesting that Northgate is rapidly becoming popular for motels. I think the light rail has a lot to do with that. It is a big selling point. You have the best of both worlds if you are traveler. It is easy to get to by car, and a quick, simple ride to downtown (or the UW). Motel Oriented Development, perhaps. (Then again, maybe it is the zoning — I don’t know).

    While I think it is easy to overemphasize particular developments (like the one at Capitol Hill), I agree that what they do with the mall is crucial. It just takes up so much of the available land over there. To the west is the freeway, and even with a bridge you can’t expect the college to sell off the land for apartments. The college could get bigger (which would be great) but no huge transformation. To the south there are medical buildings that could grow, or even just squeeze in some apartments (their parking lots are huge) but it really is the mall that represents the greatest potential. There is just so much land there — right next to the station — and so little right now. I’m pretty sure it is literally mostly parking right now. Just about all of the mall is one story, which means that even if the buildings contained apartments, it would be lower density than many of our single family neighborhoods. Retail has visitors (shoppers) but I don’t see this magically changing the nature of shopping. It seems to me that if you want to shop, and want to ride Link, that you would just go downtown (or Capitol Hill for that matter). I think a mall like Northgate is more attractive to those who drive. Go there, grab a bunch of stuff, throw it in your car, and drive away. Not my idea of fun, but I’ve done it. Meanwhile, retail has to be fairly low in terms of employment per square foot. In offices you have people crammed together, often in small cubicles. In hospitals you have teams of nurses, doctors and aids taking up each ward. Medical clinics operate much like offices, although rarely with cubicles. In a smaller retail shop, you often have one person in charge of the counter and that’s it. In a bigger store, you might have a few per section, but nothing like office work. On top of all that, as mentioned, you have very little in the way of structures for what amounts to a gigantic lot.

    While big buildings would be great, simply converting most of it to apartments would be a huge step up. If you simply added six story apartments (like you have on 5th) to the outer parking lots, it would represent an enormous increase in density. You could add thousands of homes by simply building over parking lots. That would be much nicer, in my opinion, then adding another hotel.

    1. To me anything that’s not too low-density or turns its back on the transit station (like the VA hospital) is transit-oriented development. So I don’t think of TOD as some narrow kind of architecture but simply the opposite of transit-hostile development (aka. “transit-adjacent development” like the VA hospital or a shopping mall facing away from the station and a huge parking lot with an afterthought path to the station if that). I’ve heard The Bronx has these.

      “On Aurora, most of the development is on the street itself, while in Lake City, most of it is a couple blocks away.”

      It seems to be a variation of the Paris model vs the Manhattan model. In the Manhattan model the tallest buildings are in the center of downtown. In the Paris model the center of town is restricted to a historical lowrise, and the tallest buildings are outside it. When I first went to London and thought about where its downtown was, I came to the conclusion that it didn’t have a downtown. The places I thought of as centers (Leicester Square, Victoria Station — I haven’t been much in the City) didn’t have highrises, while Canary Wharf and the Docklands that looked more like downtown were off to the side.

      The U-District is emerging the same way, with the lower Ave restricted to 2-3 stories and the taller buildings a block or more away. That seems to be out of a sense of frustration that developers can’t manage to build new buildings with the same friendly/inviting ambience and tasteful aesthetics as the old buildings — unless they’re actually restoring an old facade. The idea of just making new buildings like the old buildings is somehow impossible for them, and so people have responded by banishing the new buildings off the main street — not on the Ave, nor Ballard Ave, nor the Columbia City historic district.

      On the other hand, Aurora follows the Manhattan model of putting the largest buildings on the main street. That’s partly because there are single-family houses a block away from Aurora, and they are the best and highest possible use and exemplify the American dream, so Aurora is treated as a sewer where undesirable large buildings are put. In Lake City there’s too much grandfathered density around the main street, or else Lake City was zoned as a 2-dimensional commercial area while Aurora was not. The shorter buildings on the main street mainly reflect the 1970s-1990s trends when those strip malls and Fred Meyer were built — Lake City never had prewar buildings like the Ave, nor multistory buildings on the main street, so there was nothing to preserve.

      “Northgate is pretty close to being built out”

      I hope not. It’s officially designated an urban center like the U-District and Lake City. It would be a shame if one of only three urban centers in Seattle stagnates like that. But I agree the zoning has been pretty uninspired, and that’s a lost opportunity.

      “I think a mall like Northgate is more attractive to those who drive.”

      Well, before malls the same kind of businesses were downtown, and people went downtown to shop. Suburban malls were a new design to complement the car-oriented lifestyle. Because you know parking is scarce and expensive downtown. But most of malls’ merchandise is clothes and other small things that can be carried on a bus, so the parking is not essential. As opposed to places like Costco and Home Depot where parking is essential because many of the products are so big they require a car to take home. But then, it’s only because people have large houses that they can buy those large products anyway, so it’s kind of circular. However, even the mall owners see their existing offerings as a dying market, which is why they’re adding apartments and offices. That car-oriented retail will soon be a small percent of what Northgate Non-Mall is.

      1. Even the bukliest items don’t require a car to shop for, as long as the store does delivery. A few years, I did matress shopping on foot. I walked home with nothing but a piece of paper. The actual mattress arrived a few days later on board a truck.

        In Manhattan, nearly every store that sells things too big or heavy to carry on foot offers delivery. With enough of a car free population, even stores like Costco or Home Depot would do the same.

      2. The Ave is such a narrow street that building tall, bulky buildings alongside it would create a pedestrian environment that would be dark, noisy and dirty. The existing architecture along The Ave isn’t notable in any sense except for its scale. A narrow street with lots of pedestrian and auto traffic needs fresh air and open skies to ventilate the noise and dirt of so many people and cars passing through. Taller buildings faced up to the sidewalk would limit the amount of noise and pollution that could be ventilated away.

        Wider streets are more appropriate places for taller buildings. Market St. in Ballard could easily absorb taller construction. MLK near the light rail stations is also appropriate, but most of Rainier Avenue should be building at a scale that matches Columbia City’s scale. One and two story buildings alongside the main corridor with taller construction offset a block or two.

      3. Slow moving cars make a lot less noise than fast moving cars (excluding those with muffler problems), and the Ave has enough stop signs and stoplights and nobody can drive on it particularly fast. Eventually, cars will get quieter still, as they become electrified.

      4. I live 2 miles from the Northgate Mall and I shop and I am a mall walker there also and I drive to the mall. For me to take transit to the mall would take 2 buses, the 372 to Lake City and then transfer to either to the 41 or 75.

        No thanks as I have no desire to do that so I will continue to drive to Northgate as people will continue to drive their cars whether some of you like it or not.

      5. @Mike — Did you just compare Lake City to Paris. How very flattering.

        OK, to be fair, there is, maybe, one little part of Lake City along Lake City Way that has old shops (similar to “The Ave” in the U-District). The Back Door Pub could be considered the hub of such activity (https://goo.gl/maps/jpH6FsUGZBC2). But really, that represents just a tiny part of the commercial area, even on the main strip. This, right here — is the heart of it: https://goo.gl/maps/NdXbpMGA8Ap. You’ll notice it is a brand new, six story building. The Panda Express/Bartell’s mini-mall area across the street is also relatively new, as is Elliot Bay building they spent months rebuilding (https://goo.gl/maps/qekbGk5i4x22). This really isn’t a case where folks are preserving character.

        This is merely old owners refusing to sell. Car lot after car lot (https://goo.gl/maps/FmUTGkMMZfG2, https://goo.gl/maps/SFr3Wop23qC2, https://goo.gl/maps/7ZkJ57MwWUJ2,. https://goo.gl/maps/ggLBic8ERUK2). If you zoom out a bit you can see that along Lake City itself, parking lots dominate, and yet just a few blocks away, there are apartments. Not every apartment is big, of course, but from 35th to 31st south of 125th, for example. they dominate. Some new, some old (https://goo.gl/maps/eGbgFibqZsF2) but you can see that this is the predominate building type.

        But there aren’t that many apartment buildings on Lake City itself, despite the zoning rules. For whatever reason, the folks who own those car lots just have no interest in converting them to housing, even though it would suddenly turn Lake City into an “urban village” to rival the biggest ones in Seattle. Maybe it is just because the owners are OK making money off selling cars. Or maybe it is because they don’t want to wait forever for the city to approve the development and don’t want to end up like the owners of this lot: https://goo.gl/maps/gLiUqot9BWv (thanks, Seattle, for adding a nice little slum to Lake City). Or maybe it is a combination, and the market can justify a nice little apartment building a block or two away from a busy street, but when you add up the cost of construction (mostly the waiting), it isn’t worth it for most places on Lake City itself. No matter what the reason, it is shame that so much land on Lake City Way that is clearly great for transit has so little development.

      6. >> Even the bukliest items don’t require a car to shop for, as long as the store does delivery.

        I never said otherwise. My point is that if you ride Link, why would you shop at Northgate? You can get the same mattress at one of the stores downtown. On the other hand, if transit doesn’t work well for you (like Jeff) than driving to Northgate makes as much sense as any other place.

        In some ways, the mall reminds me of the transit center. It’s primary advantage is going away. Before people shopped online, and when most people needed a car to get around, the idea of a giant parking lot shopping mall was extremely appealing. Now, it is will likely become harder and harder to access, and folks like Jeff will just shop online, or go to less crowded malls (malls that don’t have all those buses going everywhere).

        Likewise, the reason Northgate Transit Center is located where it is — and one of the reasons the 41 became so popular — is because it is sits right next to the express lanes (HOV) ramp. That becomes meaningless in a few years, as buses stop accessing the area from the freeway.

      7. The goal was never to get zero people driving to the mall. A more reasonable expectation will be similar numbers of people driving to the mall as today, but more people shopping there. The difference will come from the new housing (people who will walk), and the new Link station (people who will ride the train).

      8. “My point is that if you ride Link, why would you shop at Northgate? You can get the same mattress at one of the stores downtown.”

        For starters, not every store in Northgate has an equivalent store downtown. For instance, the Target at Northgate is has a significantly larger selection of merchandise than the Target downtown. And, a Best Buy downtown (or equivalent) doesn’t exist at all, to my knowledge). Second, if you’re coming from the Roosevelt station area, you might choose Northgate over downtown because it’s a shorter train ride.

        In any case, the the city needs to do a better job making non-car methods for getting to the Northgate shopping area easier. It all starts with walking and biking, and much of the problem has to do with the fact that the area around Northgate is built to prioritize cars at the expense of everything else. People respond to incentives, and when the streets tell people that they could be driving half a mile instead of walking half a mile, than that is what people will do. By contrast, if the streets were built to prioritize walking, the whole area would have a ton more crosswalks, the surrounding residential streets would have sidewalks, and the traffic lights wouldn’t make pedestrians wait for several minutes to cross the street in the name of traffic flow for cars.

        For instance, let’s say you live at the corner of Roosevelt and 105th. The mall is just 1/3 of a mile away, and with a decent street network, you should be able to walk it under 10 minutes. But what you actually get is a street with no sidewalk, lots of cut-through car traffic, and inadequate street lighting after dark. Then, when you actually get to 5th, you have to detour out of your way to get to a crosswalk, then wait who-knows-how-long for the walk signal to actually cross the street.

      9. OK, fair enough about the handful of stores. My point is that very few people will take the train to Northgate to go shopping. My greater point, therefore, is that a car-oriented mall (like Northgate Shopping Center) is a waste now, and will become a further waste as time goes on. You have an enormous amount of space that will attract very few riders. A few employees, a few shoppers, and that is it. This is for a space *right next to the station*. It is the only space right next to the station (other than the county owned land).

        If they added apartments around the outside, and the mall itself was a parking lot then it would be a better use of the land. If they keep the mall, and put apartments around the outside, then it would be even better. But right now it is just a terrible waste.

        By the way, it is interesting that you mention two places (Target and Best Buy) as destinations, when they actually aren’t in the mall itself. That might seem like a distinction without a difference, but it’s not. It is one of the more urban spots in the area, similar to stores downtown. They are both in large multi-story buildings that contain parking underneath. By being stacked, they take up a relatively small amount of space. They abut an apartment on one side, and a park on the other (not a parking lot). If the Northgate Mall was designed that way, it would use a lot less space (about 1/6 of what it uses now) and would be just fine.

        Oh, and I agree that the street layout in the area sucks. Not only does the mall break things up, but on other streets it is bad as well. Not only are there places without sidewalks, but enormous blocks, with no easy way through. Making the walk you described is by no means the worst one. At least there is a sidewalk between 8th and 5th on 105th, although as you said, it really needs a crossing at 5th (there should be more pedestrian crosswalks for 5th). As long as the mall is the mall, though, there is little interest. But what if you are at one of the apartments on 8th, and want to walk to the library. You have to go all the way around (https://goo.gl/maps/MVHjJwF7x3w). That’s ridiculous. I’m all for letting developers build whatever they want to build when it comes to bigger buildings, but the one thing I would require is good passageways so that people don’t have to go all the way around. The gigantic blocks north of 105th are a big pedestrian problem that could be mitigated with some of the new buildings going in.

        (There is one alley about a block south of Northgate Way — https://goo.gl/maps/X9vvvUbCUMU2. But I don’t think there is anything else until you get all the way down to 105th. Between 8th and Roosevelt, savvy pedestrians can use the apartment that is directly east of that alley as a way to get to Roosevelt without going all the way around. You can also access that parking lot from the south, making for a more pleasant shortcut. That, combined with the little trails they added make for decent walking in an area that doesn’t have a lot of it.)

      10. The inner city lacks several big-box stores, their more obscure or large-size merchandise, and some chain restaurants You have to go to Southcenter fror them, or the big-box city south of Southcenter, or in a few cases Federal Way. I grew up in Bellevue and like a typiocal family we mostly shopped at the department stores, Fred Meyer, and Sears. When I moved to Seattle and lived in the U-District for 18 years, I found that many of the things I was accustomed to like housewares, towels, name-brand sweaters, and hardware weren’t available in the inner city — you had to go to Northgate or Southcenter for them, and the nearest Fred Meyer-like store was in Lake City or Renton. But after a few years I realized I didn’t really need those things, and when I did it was only two or three times a year. So two or three times a year I go to Northgate or Southcenter for things that aren’t available in Center City or the 45th corridor. But that’s no big deal.

        And over time I’ve fond that some things I thought weren’t available in the inner city actually are. Hardwick’s in the U-District, True Value at 50th & U-Way, and the small hardwre store at 12th & Denny have hardware. Bed, Bath, & Beyond at 4th & Virginia has a variety of housewares (and a large choice of fans). These places are so nondescript that many people don’t notice them.

        There’s also a difference between what people with large houses with yards want, and what people with apartments want. Northgate and Southcenter cater to what people with large houses and cars want. The small hardware stores cater to what people with arpartments who are on foot want, and they do a pretty good job of being complete in that niche. This also holds true for small grocery stores like Central Co-Op or the former Vietnamese store at 12th & Jackson. I’ve gone to Central Co-Op wondering if they’ll have cranberry sauce, and sure enough they have a couple cans. What they don’t have is thirty kinds of vanilla ice-cream or a hundred breakfast cereals: you have to go to a suburban-sized supermarket for that.

      11. “I’m all for letting developers build whatever they want to build when it comes to bigger buildings, but the one thing I would require is good passageways so that people don’t have to go all the way around.”

        Absolutely. This cannot be stated enough times. If you want a neighborhood to be walkable, the walking routes must be direct.

      12. “That seems to be out of a sense of frustration that developers can’t manage to build new buildings with the same friendly/inviting ambience and tasteful aesthetics as the old buildings — unless they’re actually restoring an old facade. The idea of just making new buildings like the old buildings is somehow impossible for them.”

        I always wonder about this. Why do we keep getting wide, shallow storefronts, huge pointless lobbies, featureless entrances, etc? Why can’t we just copy the design patterns that we know work? Is there zoning in place that somehow prevents it?

  3. To be frank, the term TOD was created as a marketing term by Peter Calthorpe and got popularized. Before 1980, such areas were called higher density, mixed-use development near rail stations.

    Is the design really “transit-oriented” when the actual stations become difficult to access because of missing down escalators or out-of-device elevators (strained by use partly due to escalator deficiencies)? Are the trips and land uses focused on transit riders or does the station’s pedestrian flow primarily feed the activity?

    I avoid the term. It’s used for everything from a garden apartment near a bus stop to a 100-story office tower near (but not linked to) a subway train station. It also suggests that higher density is novel circa 1983, when it should be considered expected given market conditions and denser zoning allowances (parking, height, setbacks, pedestrian orientation incentives).

    A great example is Capitol Hill. It’s character has been there for decades. Buildings are almost uniform heights regardless of where the station is. The presence of the FHSC is a pretty addition but not critical to the neighborhood. If we wanted to make it more “transit-oriented”, where are the additional station entrances and circulation access features? It just appears to be a smug declaration made by neo-urbanists to declare success and not question how these areas could be better for transit riders.

  4. asdf2, it used to be very common for stores to deliver. I think it’s time for the habit to come back. And extend to bringing luggage for Sea-Tac Airport to hotels Downtown. Would save room for hundreds of LINK passengers.


  5. Does anyone think that the private sector marketplace is reacting quicker to better high-capacity transit access than governments are?

    – Why aren’t more post offices in or near Link stations?
    – Why is King Co Dept of Elections far away from Link and ballot drop boxes are not in Link stations?
    – Why is it up to transit operator funding to build direct access without using sloped buses to get to Harborview rather than put the responsibility on King County?
    – Why is UW hospital not linked into the UW Station?
    – Why is the Northgate Station pedestrian crossing not a huge catylist for revising the North Seattle Comm college campus?
    – Why aren’t cities getting new Link stations moving city halls, libraries and police departments to be next to or co-located with Link?
    – Why isn’t every major state office implementing a long-term strategy to be located at a Link station?

    It’s easy to be an armchair critic of private development. It’s harder to elect and lobby leaders to shift their antiquated thinking to be better “transit rider oriented”.

    1. Most government offices are Monday-Friday 9-5 type of operations. If those offices are located next to light rail stations, those storefronts would be closed and vacant for much of the time when the streets should be active and lively. Maybe if those offices were located on the 2nd floor the street level could still be busy, but building a government office next to a light rail station wouldn’t be the best use of real estate.

      King County Department of Elections is located in transit Siberia. The “F” is the closest bus line and it’s at least a 10 minute walk along a very pedestrian-hostile pathway from Elections. With ballot drop boxes there are some security concerns. Election workers have to be able to retrieve the ballots regularly and close the boxes at 8pm on election night. There is a drop box at Seattle Central College near Capitol Hill Station and another box in South Lake Union next to the SLU Streetcar line, but downtown Seattle has only the box at King County Admin and the box at Uwajimaya.

    2. Many government offices have a huge amount of public interaction when they are open. Many government facilities are open longer hours, like libraries and community centers — even city halls with evening meetings and hearings. Government office interaction is greater with non-medical private offices, which seem to be a component of many a high-rise office tower near a rail station.

      I’m not questioning past decisions as much as I’m saying that we committed billions to now add a huge rail system, and should now expect local and state government to walk the talk of TOD.

    3. Government facilities are not really the most intensive use of land, nor the most productive thing for the scarce land that exists right next a subway station. For instance, in the modern age, how often does a typical person need to go to the post office? Ballots, you avoid drop boxes altogether and just mail it. The state is even considering sending everyone postage-paid envelopes.

      In the case of the UW Med Center, the Med Center was there first, and the light rail station came later – Sound Transit did what they could with what their budget and available right-of-way allowed. Police stations, again, how often does the average person need to visit a police station? The city of Issaquah, a few years ago, followed your recommendation and built a fire station right next to Issaquah Transit Center and right across the street from future Link station. The result is transit-adjacent land that will be permanently under-utilized and useless to commuters (I doubt the Issaquah firefighters are busing into their jobs from Seattle). Apartments, a Starbucks, a grocery store, or any kind of retail, would have been much better.

      1. Yeah fire stations are horrible TOD uses. But police stations often have community rooms. Besides, a police station in or next to a rail station provides a much more visible security presence, even if they don’t have jurisdiction.

        How often do people go to an insurance office or a law office? Those storefront uses seem permissible for ground level in a TOD. Even residences have 1 person for every 500 to 1000 square feet of building, while most offices are 300 to 500 square feet of building per employee.

      2. asf2, because I like you I’ll say the site’s program messed up and blamed you for the kind of comment about fire stations that really only could have come from me.

        PTSD from watching our fox terrier go tearing out of the front yard chasing an seventy-foot long hook-and-ladder truck and actually catching it. Well, having wheels on both sides carry the truck over him. What did he learn from this? Rip out the inside sidewall.

        Also, in 1950’s cold war Chicago, somebody hand-cranked the air raid siren on the fire-house every day. Just so as not to scare anybody, siren-call for “All Clear” pattern was always used.

        ‘Til some fireman irked by streetcar bells on Clark Street a block uphill, decided to de-transit-orient the firehouse by sounding “Russian Bombers Overhead Get Under Your Desk!

        At age six I was the only person in Chicago, including average anti-aircraft battery commander, who knew what any “call” meant except the siren worked. So I was the only citizen wedged behind a radiator ’til my mother cut me loose with a metal l saw.

        Since I saluted the Milwaukee Limited when it went by another block away, with air-horn screaming instead of a siren, I really saw this as a turf-war and wrote to Mayor Daley demanding that the fire station be moved.Too bad the Milwaukee Road decided to tough it out..

        However, just so I don’t violate any copyrights, you get credit for clearing all the patients out of UW hospital and orienting it completely toward transit, starting with racks of catheters by the schedules, replacing maintenance- heavy toilets.

        Which will relieve a lot of anxiety for people trapped between stations for two hours while crash five miles away on MLK gets dealt with. In recognition, you get the job of standing by the schedule racks demonstrating their correct use.


    4. It’s the general American culture, which affects both government and private organizations. As Jeff Pittman said above, “I will continue to drive to Northgate as many people will drive their cars whether some of you like it or not,” People who drive don’t prioritize having government services next to transit stations because it’s not something that affects them or people like them, and they consider themselves the majority. Also, Link is very new in many areas, and government offices can’t move so quickly. And governments’ budgets are squeezed. Seattle is just trying to keep up with its transit and housing needs; it doesn’t have a lot of extra money to move offices. SeaTac wanted to build a civic center at its Link station but the property owner (the Clarion hotel) put a wrench in it by refusing to sell the property: it would rather keep a hotel there with a huge parking lot in front of it than a civic center/mixed use village. Tukwila and Renton are basket cases: they have done little to make things more transit-accessible except their few developments around Baker Blvd and Renton TC. UW is also not very transit-friendly: it was the one that forced the station next to Husky Stadium and vetoed extending the existing garage tunnel to the station, and as an “essential state service” UW has higher authority than ST. The state is headquartered in Olympia and most of the legislators and staff come from places where everybody drives so they don’t understand Pugetopolis’ need for walkability very well. How is the private sector doing better than the government? The TOD developers are only catching up on a backlog of demand as the zoning allows them to, and more units mean more profit.

    5. – Why aren’t more post offices in or near Link stations?

      It doesn’t make sense for the post office, given their financial problems, to buy up expensive land next to a Link station.

      – Why is King Co Dept of Elections far away from Link and ballot drop boxes are not in Link stations?

      Like most organizations, the department of elections doesn’t want to spend a bunch of money moving if it doesn’t have to. As for drop boxes, it would make more sense to put them *outside* of Link stations. This is what they did, putting drop boxes close to several stations.

      – Why is it up to transit operator funding to build direct access without using sloped buses to get to Harborview rather than put the responsibility on King County?

      Huh? I really don’t know what you are proposing. Move Harborview?

      – Why is UW hospital not linked into the UW Station?

      That is a long story, but basically there were concerns about security, and like most things involving the UW and that station, someone dropped the ball. The UW is a major corporation university, with various sub-agencies all competing for money or power. ST didn’t push it. If I was on the board, i would have pressured the UW with help from the governor (since it is a state run university), and if that failed, made the whole thing public, which in turn would bring pressure on the UW. But ST didn’t want to ruffle their feathers, and didn’t think it was that important (they have never shown that much interest in making the stations easy to get to).

      – Why is the Northgate Station pedestrian crossing not a huge catalyst for revising the North Seattle Comm college campus?

      Maybe because they don’t have a ton of money.

      – Why aren’t cities getting new Link stations moving city halls, libraries and police departments to be next to or co-located with Link?

      Again, that is very expensive, and like many companies, just not worth it. T-Mobile is rebuilding it’s headquarters in Factoria, not moving to downtown Bellevue. Even Microsoft is staying put, instead of moving operations to downtown Bellevue, despite the obvious advantages from a public transportation standpoint. Amazon is one of the few big companies that has improved its transit situation over the years, but that is as much caused by overall growth than anything else. They want everyone to be fairly close together, and they couldn’t easily do that on Beacon Hill.

      – Why isn’t every major state office implementing a long-term strategy to be located at a Link station?

      Because it is too expensive. Almost all “TOD” is just new buildings going up (usually apartments). Companies rarely (if ever) move because they want to be closer to transit. They might want to be closer to other companies (e. g. downtown) but mostly they move because they got bigger (or smaller). Most companies prefer staying where they are — it is expensive, and tough on employees when they move. You can’t expect public agencies to operate any differently.

    6. “Why is it up to transit operator funding to build direct access”

      I don’t understand the specific proposal, but traditionally around here transit is seen as an impact that has to be mitigated, or that it’s transit’s job to come to the existing buildings rather than the buildings making themselves more transit-accessible. You see it in paratransit for the disabled, which comes out of the transit budget rather than social-service funding or general county funding, so the regular buses are less frequent than they could be because a chunk is going to paratransit. Likewise with the NE 85th Street interchange, the moving of Renton Transit Center, most P&Rs, and probably other things, they were rolled into ST1/2/3 because it’s transit’s job to provide parking at the stations to minimize hide-n-ride, and to fund all the ancillary projects for any freeway exit it modifies. The east coast is much different, where the transit agency provides rail but no parking, and the cities fund parking lots if they want them. But that would be a hard sell here, and it goes back to the first P&Rs in the 1970s. Then the P&Rs were seen as an enticement to take transit, so begging people to use them, and beggers can’t be choosers, or expect somebody else to fund P&Rs for their transit.

      There’s also the issue of the state tax structure. There are several ceilings that prevent spending much on transit, or anything else for that matter. It started with Initiative 601 in the 1990s, which allows public budgets to rise only 1% per year (plus population growth). That’s below inflation, so the resources are gradually dwindling. (And it gave a perverse incentive to approve sprawl in the suburbs.) Everything else requires a vote, and even then there are ceilings and sunset requirements, which is why we have to renew school levies and the 911 levy and bus levies half-dozen years. Initiative 601 was ruled unconstitutional but the Legislature was so afraid of anti-tax activists that it enacted its provisions legislatively. Sound Transit is about the only large measure around, because building a regional transit system from scratch is inherently expensive so the legislature went along with it, so cities piggyback other things onto it because it’s the only big measure they’re allowed to do. This just reinforces the bias that “transit agencies should pay for P&Rs”.

      1. The Harborview access issue could be addressed by King County. I’m not suggesting moving it as much as I am to make Harborview responsible for figuring out direct and level Link access. It’s clear the ST board and leadership don’t really care. Some agency should — even if it means pressuring other agencies for funding.

        In last month’s First Hill station plea st the alternatives meeting , it was Virginia-Mason speaking at the podium. Where was Harborview? Their silence is indicative of this systemic neglect that Link access is important.

        The past is past. Governments have limited funds. Decisions on government buildings were made before ST3. Still, we have as a region have now agreed to make rail a priority by upzoning for private development in many places and funding the system; I think it’s time that we ask our local and state governments to examine how their perspective on their own facilitiy planning now needs changing!

  6. Can anyone elaborate on Seattle in Progress’ updating and the changes at SDCI? I peruse the site a lot (an antidote to high blood pressure caused by reading NIMBY rants) and hope it’s able to continue.

  7. Maybe it’s because European cities have been compact for their whole histories, but here’s my question: In the lifetime of this project, isn’t it likely that nearby neighborhoods could change their character more than once?


  8. Why are there height limits at all at Northgate? Parking limits, maybe. But 95 feet or what have you in the mall area seems like an anachronism when Northgate is one of very few “urban centers” in the city’s comprehensive plan, and taller buildings are going up now and/or soon in many cities and suburbs all around Seattle including at Southcenter in Tukwila. The height limits should be whatever is determined by the FAA. There are no views to block as far as I know. Views of an interesting skyline would be better than views of the parking lots at the mall now. The zoning at the mall needs a complete overhaul. The risk at Northgate is that timid zoning as the new Link station comes online will limit the growth potential of that area for another 60 years.

    What’s sorely needed is a plan for the whole area at least as good as what Vancouver BC would do, with plenty of amenities, open space that actually gets used, greenery even if it has to be reclaimed from pavement, architectural interest and variety on a human scale, street life and urban energy. Maybe that’s a challenge with I-5 nearby, but Chicago manages to do pretty well adjacent to 12 lanes of Lake Shore Drive (admittedly with a great lake on the other side.)

    Northgate will be the first outdoor scene you see on Link when the train pops out of the tunnel after 20 minutes in a subway from IDS. It has the opportunity to inspire… if it undergoes the major change that should be its destiny in the 21st century. For years now I haven’t been able to think of a single reason not to upzone the heck out of Northgate. Are folks in the nearby neighborhoods raising concerns? Is anything in the planning pipeline now?

    1. Good point. It is pretty hard to see why Lynnwood is zoned for big office buildings, but Northgate is not.

      Personally, I would be happy if they just replaced the mall area with six story apartment buildings. You don’t need towers to get good density, and if that enormous block was filled with dozens of apartments, there would be a huge increase in population there. You would probably have at least five times as many people within walking distance of the station just by doing that.

    2. Just remember the most basic equation that for the most part, drives a lot of decisions in the various municipalities.

      Tax revenue is generated primarily by the SALES TAX.

      Residents, and the services they demand – COST MONEY.

      Stores and NO residents = Perfect !
      Residents and NO stores = Death…. of the municipality.

      RE: Initiative 695’s effect on what was called “Sales Tax Equalization”.
      There were a few towns that disappeared afterwards because they had no retail base.

      It’s also why cities and towns love… LOVE their roads and Auto Dealers.
      They are the largest generator of tax revenue.
      Do NOT kill the goose that lays the Golden Eggs!

      1. Then why do cities lock up 70% of their land in single-family houses? Almost all the development is in existing multifamily/commercial/industrial zones, and the only single-family areas that have a chance of being upzoned are a few blocks around them. That may have been appropriate when there were enough houses for everybody and everybody could afford one and there was empty land for more houses, but now it gives a shrinking percentage of the population extraordinary privileges over everybody else.

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