This is an open thread.

70 Replies to “News Roundup: STAB”

  1. “People “rebutting” this by pointing out the lack of units at the low end of the market should ask themselves if stabilizing market-rate rents matters or not”


    We obviously need to do a lot more for people making under 60% AMI, buf having so much new housing that people who make AMI can afford is hugely valuable.

    Someone making AMI can’t come close to affording a brand new unit in most desirable US cities.

    1. Supply & Demand.

      With more “luxury housing” all the people that can afford luxury housing will start moving up out of market rate housing. Then low income people can start moving in to market rate housing.

      The competition will lower prices from the top to the bottom and people will be able to move up from bottom to top.

      1. Agreed that stabilizing market rents is important, but disagree that we were ever to the point where people who could afford and wanted to live in a SLU luxury apartment had to “settle” for a no-frills complex in the Rainier valley, competing for workforce housing. It’s like, there’s the weekend evening queue for Cheesecake Factory and the queue for McDonalds. If you’re going out for the former, you probably don’t switch to McD’s just because Cheesecake is crowded.

      2. B– I completely disagree with you. I am a property manager for 20+ market rate and “entry level” housing options. Over the last two years, I have seen Amazon people flood in from all over the country, desperate to rent anything, so they rent my crap. I’m guessing that by next year, when they could rent in a high end luxury apartment building for the $1600/month they are paying me now, they will move there. And my rents will go down, to $1300, which is what some people are paying for micro studios, and those people will move out of their micro studios into my now-$1300 1-BDR apartments. And then those micro studios will go down to $900, and then we’re getting somewhere.

        You might not also be privy to the fact that people treat housing expenses differently than their “spending money.” If they can spend less on housing, that means more “play” money. Imagine making $100k, and only spending $12,000 of that on housing, instead of the $33,000 (1/3) that most people are estimated to pay. For a lot of people, it’s an easy decision to save $20,000 a year, and take trips, and spend money on food and cars. There are a lot of “rich” people living in slums.

      3. You’re both right, although I wouldn’t define luxury housing as “not market rate”, because that’s almost all the market-rate housing that’s being built now. Rents go up and down based on the vacancy rate, which is another way of saying the difference between supply and demand. People seek the largest, highest-quality, best-view-and-parking housing they can find and can afford. There’s not just one market but several overlapping markets, at all the different price levels and quality levels. New high-end units will cause people to cascade up, and that will free up some openings at the bottom.

        At the same time, the gap between “an SLU luxury apartment” and “a no-frills complex in Rainier Valley” is so wide that they’re essentially different markets. If a person has $2200 to spend and can’t get it in SLU, they may go to an $1800 new building in Rainier Valley or a $1600 new building in that Southcenter Baker Blvd neighborhood, but they’re unlikely to choose a $1300 1950s building that’s falling apart and has scary unsafe people. That run-down apartment isn’t available anyway because it was filled five minutes after the “For Rent” sign went up.

        (Do landlords still use “For Rent” signs? That’s how I always found my places, but now maybe you have to look online or it’ll be filled before you see it unless it’s a new high-end building? The last time I moved was in 2010, when you could still walk a neighborhood, see a sign, visit the place, and make a decision a few days later.)

        Then there’s the lower-income people who are displaced from Seattle and living in the suburbs against their will. But those are the ones who would presumably move into those low-end units when their current residents move up.

        There’s also the issue of slumming it, or not wasting money on a larger or better unit than you need. Those people may remain in their lower-end units even though they could move up. But those seem to be few people. (Although I am one of them.)

    2. Incidentally, will $15 an hour buy you a bunk (not sure those are provided) in the big new city tent? Really, nothing shows, an explains the complete takeover by the very far right. How many people, let alone their elected reps, ever even mention the word “UNIONS” ?

      If offered what $15 could buy ’till Reagan, would average Boeing worker have walked out without slamming the door so hard there’ be broken glass whole length of Marginal? Or leaked enough jet fuel to burn out Hell before getting on the picket line?

      Density, markets, and everything the Universe of Money programs tsk, tsk tsk about, worst of all National Public Radio about..seems to me there’s an easier way, that’s worked lot of years in the past.

      Hire people at living wages (as if $15 an hour is even wretched survival) and health care worthy of the name so they can buy a house. Or maybe get back the house they used to live in, or the car they were living in before it got repossessed.

      Hate the word “Stimulus.” Really makes you shudder to think of the personal columns in The Stranger doesn’t it. Forty years of deferred maintenance has left our whole country in a condition that Metro would not be the only enterprise so starved for new workers there’d be their first bonus waiting when they walk through the door.

      Personally, don’t think we’ve got long to wait roads, bridges, and dams…”Run ’em till the fall apart” is a what-else-is-new for 300 million people. But let recent sanitary waste on Magnolia become precursor to all the damn things blowing up at once, and “ditch digger no long a pejorative term for an Italian.

      And worst of all: With no military draft for fifty years, nobody knows how to dig a sewage treatment correctly no matter how many pushups their sergeant yells for them to do.

      Word to the NRA: In World War One, and probably all the rest, when you and the enemy went hand to hand in trench warfare in each other’s trench, it had been noticed that you couldn’t either level your rifle or use it for a club. And your bayonet would often get stuck in its target ’til favor was returned.

      Note the little teeth in the grey one and use your imagination. Even more effective if you’d just been using while regular plant was under insurance assessment. Check out the Army surplus stores. Could be one left. Would also help workers who want $15.50 to gain necessary bargaining power.

      Oh, and you can also create a new HOME a lot of places, making them also affordable. And seriously lowering your taxes for lack of skilled collectors.


  2. Seattle is building a lot of studios and ‘urban one bedrooms’ (deceptive name for a studio) but family-sized housing is pretty much non-existent.

    1. There’s still a fair amount of town home construction going on, particularly outside the urban core, which I think counts as family-sized. But not at the volume of the 1-bedroom apartments going up in the urban core & urban villages.

      1. I’m not sure what the code looks like now but I know there are entire neighborhoods in the city with housing that would be illegal to build under current zoning. That’s crazy to me. Townhouses should be allowed everywhere.

    2. Developers should start to notice that there are lines out the door to put a contract in for a 2+ bed while studios and 1 beds are sitting vacant.

      The problem that most people have with developers is that they are reactive instead of proactive when it comes to market housing supply.

      1. Developers rely on investors. Investors aren’t willing to gamble in volatile markets like condos and apartment buildings. They already have to plan for the several years it takes to construct the building, adding another layer of guess work isn’t practical for them.

        As Frank noted below, it’s more profitable to build small apartments. That’s all it takes.

      2. There’s a base price per unit and a lower surcharge for each additional room. Developers can get more money if they put three small units in the same space as two large units. Three 1 BRs may have six working adults and no children, while two 2+ BR units may have 2-4 working adults and 1-2 children. The more working adults mean they can pay more and won’t balk as much at being price-gouged, while the fewer adults and more children mean they can pay less and have to reserve some of their money to feed care for their children. So just as developers milk the top end of the market and neglect the rest, they pursue singles and doubles and neglect families, especially now that there’s no longer a social expectation that everybody will be married and have two children so there are a lot of singles and childless households to market to. Some developers realize this imbalance is unsustainable and have been mixing in a few 2+ BR units into their complexes, but not enough, and it won’t become enough until most of those families make at least $150K and can afford high-profit luxury units.

      3. You are correct that roommate situations would benefit as well. Older cities are full of 3 and 4 bedroom apartments. Families live next-door to apartments full of young adults. This is more affordable than individuals renting their own apartments and it keeps families in the city. Win-win.

        I read a long time ago that Seattle has the highest live-alone rate of any major city. I don’t know if that’s still true but I think it could be and it would fit with this city’s personality. It could also be out of necessity. There isn’t any other choice unless you can find an empty nester with a spare room to rent.

      4. It’s because Seattle has the smallest number of children per capita in the country, besides San Francisco with which we continually leapfrog. There has been a movement of families with children back into the city but it’s still low. The lack of large affordable units is part of the reason but the trend predates the post-2008 and post-2003 runups.

      5. I know it does. I read that factoid at least 15 years ago. Not having kids doesn’t necessarily mean living alone though. I think many more people would live with roommates if that were an option but it is increasingly difficult, especially as family-sized homes in the city are torn down or priced into exclusivity.

        Young singles without kids would benefit from living with roommates. It’s social, it saves money, it’s safer, etc. Instead, we’re building a city designed for transients. Once they get shacked up, whatever that might mean, they’re going to want a bigger place even if they don’t have kids. Their only option will be to move out of the city if we continue building like we are.

    3. Developers will always prefer 1BR or studios (higher $/sq ft), especially if all construction has to take place in the unreasonably small sliver of land where multifamily construction is legal.

      So if we want family-sized units, I think we need to either write it into the law (as i think Vancouver does) or allow multifamily construction in single family zones where it can be done more cheaply. No?

      1. Allowing MFH more construction in SFH neighborhoods will just bring more studios to those areas. As long as they’re more profitable that’s what they’ll build. I’m not against building more studios in more places and you can’t blame developers for this situation, they’re acting in their best interest like any business does.

        I’m not sure what the solution is but my point is, even if rent is stabilizing for tiny apartments, this doesn’t necessarily translate to good news for families.

      2. Anyone who thinks new MFH in SFZing is going to be cheap is smoking something a bit beyond what is legal in this state.

        A guy in my group just developed a parcel in a SFZ as sort of a side job/hobby. He sold it for $2.3M. That is not what I call affordable.

        I’m not against increased supply. Increased supply will definitely help tamp down price increases, but doing it in SFZ’s isn’t going to move the needle on supply or affordability. Look to places like Aurora and big box store parking lots for that sort of heavy lifting.

      3. If a 10-person apartment building replaces a 3-person house, that’s more than doubling the amount of housing in an area, and preventing a San Francisco spiral of runaway rents and home prices.

      4. @Mike Orr,

        If you put a 6 story apartment building with 300 units on a big box store parking lot you will get housing for 450 people on a spot that previously housed exactly zero people. THAT is moving the needle.

        And the city will never allow large apartment buildings in SFZ’s. Duplex’s and Triplex’s maybe, but apartments? Nope. Remember, this is the city that killed apodments in areas where they actually made sense.

      5. The San Francisco housing market is substantially affected by rent control and Prop 13 property tax ceilings. These two things tie up much of the housing stock as people don’t want to move. There are many people there living in large units by themselves because the rent or property tax implications of moving to a smaller place would actually substantially raise their housing costs. Seattle will never have this problem without some major changes to laws.

      6. I would caution against lumping “all developers” into one big basket. My spouse works for a residential developer on the eastside and while their market is generally higher end SFH, they also do mixed use and townhome projects (where zoning permits) that include 2 and 3-br units. Sadly, these units are probably financially out of reach for most individuals/families. If my memory serves me correctly, the townhomes they built at a project in the Eastlake neighborhood were in the $1.2 million range.

      7. “especially if all construction has to take place in the unreasonably small sliver of land where multifamily construction is legal.”

        +1. If we remove the prohibition on densifying 70% of the residential land, that would both take the pressure off housing prices and make developers more willing to build larger units, because the land price wouldn’t be such an acute factor.

        “If you put a 6 story apartment building with 300 units on a big box store parking lot you will get housing for 450 people on a spot that previously housed exactly zero people.”

        Yes, the suburbs are doing that admirably. Seatlte doesn’t have a lot of big-box store lots available, although there are some on Rainier and Aurora Avenues that should be densified and probably will be someday. The industrial districts are a more complex issue. Seattle has a lot of preserved industrial land compared to other cities, but it has active businesses there and allowing housing would change the balance of jobs and the economy in ways that aren’t guaranteed good. So the neighborhood-commercial areas and single-family areas are where we should focus on first.

        “And the city will never allow large apartment buildings in SFZ’s… Remember, this is the city that killed apodments in areas where they actually made sense.”

        Never is a long time. A future generation of councilmambers may have different ideas than the current ones, or changes in the local and national economy, increasing inequality and poverty, and incoming climate-change refugees may eventually compel them to act. Seattle did allow more multifamily housing in the 1920s and 1950s — and even some in the 1980s — than it does now. If it reversed once it can reverse again.

        “Prop 13 property tax ceilings”

        Prop 13 distorts California’s housing market in perverse ways, but ultimately the zoning issue is about people wanting to restrict development on other people’s lots around them. Prop 13 is not really relevant to that. If San Francisco and Palo Alto were to upzone like Vancouver, it would not affect existing homeowners’ property taxes, so they wouldn’t have the pressure to sell that people outside California do when their taxes and land prices go up, and there’s no legal mandate to reconstruct so they could just keep their house and eventually sell it to another homeowner. But what it would do is prevent them from blocking apartments on other lots in their neighborhood that they don’t own, which are currently under a mutual decay pact (“I won’t allow your lot to upzone if you don’t allow my lot to upzone, and who cares about the third guy who wants to densify because we don’t like apartments and don’t want them here.”)

      8. I disagree Mike. Prop 13 is more relevant than upzoning.

        First of all, most of not all of San Francisco allows 2 unit buildings.

        Second, the property taxes very dramatically. I know a guy who is living in a 3-bedroom San Francisco condo that he bought in the late 1980’s. His property tax bill is about $3k a year. If it was on the market and sold today at $1.1 or $1.2M, it would have property taxes today about $12K. Even if he sold and purchased a 1-bedroom condo, his property taxes would still double. That’s a recent example. People that inherited housing from parents that were bought years before that won’t sell no matter what a developer offers or if SF upzoned to allow twice the height. The place is full of 80-year olds in giant empty houses.

        Third, upzoning wouldn’t change the situation at all because moving out would truly raise costs for them while upzoning wouldn’t affect their limited low property tax at all. There, the actual tax is limited — and not just the aggregate tax rate.

      9. A quick skim through rental listings shows the rent premium of a two-bedroom over a one bedroom to be on the order of a few hundred dollars per month – much less than double the cost of a one bedroom, and roughly on the order of the financial cost of car ownership.

        This means that a single, car-owning individual, currently renting a one bedroom could upgrade to a two-bedroom with roughly the same budget, simply by ditching the car. This is hardly a level which warrants extreme government regulation to increase the amount of larger-sized units.

        And, the assumption that those 2-3 bedroom units in the middle of the city would end up going to lower-income families is unrealistic to begin with. More will end up going to either single individuals with roommates, or single individuals without roommates, who simply want more space and are willing to pay for it. As mentioned, simply getting rid of car expenses, in and of itself, is sufficient to cover the difference between a 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom in most neighborhoods – especially for those with access to an employer-funded transit pass.

        Ultimately, there is some market equilibrium ratio between studios, one bedroom units, two bedroom units, and three bedroom units, where all are equally profitable. Right now, it sounds like the ratio is a bit out of balance, so smaller units are more profitable. But, if too many smaller units get built, and not enough larger units, eventually, the premium for larger units is going to rise, until building larger units becomes more profitable. Then, they build larger units, until smaller units become more profitable, again, and the cycle repeats.

        At the end of the day, the best way to bring down rents (or at least slow the increases) is to increase the total supply of housing, which, yes, means rezoning single-family neighborhoods to allow apartment buildings.

    4. It’s as if our community rewards putting people individually in units not much bigger than jail cells.

      I do wonder how things will be in 20-25 years when these units show their age. I wonder if we are letting developers build the homeless encampments of 2040. Keep in mind that Pruitt-Igoe and Cabrini Green were once models of urban utopia when they first opened.

      1. They will likely slowly become like the old Single Room Occupancy buildings, or will end up as hotels, group homes or college dorms if they aren’t needed anymore.

      2. What good are large units if people can’t afford to live in them? And small is beautiful. The average house size in the 1950s was around 600 square feet, which is the same or larger than European, Asian, or non-luxury New York units. That’s a two-bedroom house or apartment with two parents and 1-2 children. All those apartment buildings in Summit used to be full of families like that. Then in the late 1960s the average house size started creeping up, to 1000 sq ft, then 15000, then 2000, then 2500. Do people really need all that space or is it just a reflection of our disposable, high-energy use society?

      3. If they haven’t crumbled from shoddy materials, maybe their cheap construction will make internal retrofits easier. At some point I hope it will make sense to combine multiple ‘urban one bedrooms’ into housing sized for families.

      4. I wrote this before but it never showed up: What good is it to have large units when people can’t afford the price-per-square-foot cost? Small is beautiful. In the 1950s the average house size was 600-800 square feet, for two parents and 1-2 children. That’s the same or larger than normal units in Europe, Asia, and the non-luxury units in New York. All the apartments in Summit used to be full of families like that, and I visited a friend in Brooklyn and saw the single-family house he had grown up in, which was that size (closer to 600 sq ft). Then in the late 1960s the average house size started creeping up to 1000 sq ft, then 1500, then 2000, then 2500. Do people really need all that space or does it just reflect our country’s disposable, high-consumption, high-energy-use lifestyle? There are several YouTube channels showing how you can pack a lot of functionality and decor into a small house or apartment.

        Pruitt-Igoe had a lot of different problems, many not directly related to its architecture. It opened at a time when industrial jobs were just starting to disappear and the government starting to neglect inner cities and the safety net.

        There is a significant difference in quality between pre-1980s bulidngs and new buildings. Old buildings were built to last for a hundred years, and were financed by their owners or local banks. New buildings are financed by Wall Street investors who have no connection to the city, and are built to last 19 years to repay their investment and profit, and then they don’t care because it’s amortized and they’re off to other investments, and they expect the building will be torn down in 20-30 years anyway to make way for a new style and the premium of newness.

    5. Most of our residential land is zoned exclusively for family-sized housing, while 75% of our households are just one or two people. Is it any wonder that the pent-up demand for smaller homes is so high that developers find them more profitable to construct in the few areas where they are allowed?

      1. The land isn’t zoned for family-sized housing, it’s zoned for one family per lot. There’s a difference. And there’s an incredible demand for the family sized housing. Ask anyone with a house how many unsolicited offers they’ve received.

      2. Yes, it’s one family per lot, and because the land is so expensive you’re not going to see many small houses built on those lots. ADUs excepted, I’d guess that the number of homes built recently in single-family zoned Seattle with fewer than two bedrooms is roughly zero.

        Meanwhile, per the census bureau, Seattle has approximately 323,000 homes, of which approximately 65.3% have two or more bedrooms. In a city where 40% of households are a single person and only 20% of households have any kids at all, does it really make sense to argue that we’re adding too many homes for 1-2 person households and not enough homes large enough for families?

      3. Those houses are already occupied and very few of them are for sale. Since the recovery we’ve had the lowest inventory (number of houses for sale at a time) in over fifty years. And most people can’t afford their $700K+ prices anyway. You know those houses on Queen Anne and Capitol Hill, that as recently as 2000 were considered ordinary houses that any middle-class person could find and afford? They’re now going for $2 million. The problem isn’t housing availability for current homeowners, it’s housing availability for their grown-up children and newcomers, new divorcees, etc.

    6. I agree with asdf2 — the two bedroom places are out there. They cost more, but they are out there. As he wrote, even if you created a bunch of them, that doesn’t mean that they would actually go to families.

      Keep in mind, there are no regulations banning the creation of big apartments (other than regulations banning the creation of apartments in general). On the other hand, Apodments are illegal. You can’t build tiny studios, with the kitchen or bathroom down the hall. Nor can you build an apartment as small as many motel rooms (which is pretty crazy, given the fact that a lot of homeless people end up in motel rooms for a while, because rent is too expensive). In other words, the market has not met the needs of those who want a small place all to themselves because they have outlawed it.

      What the city really should do is convene a giant committee, made of developers, citizen advocates, maybe a few leaders in the community (e. g. folks from the medical community) and try to hash out a new set of regulations to improve things. Call the group LAHA for Livability and Housing Agenda. Then, after months of haggling, after they present their suggestions, the mayor should destroy the key elements of the committee she created.

      Sorry — I just think Murray was the worst mayor we had since, well, the guy before him. Both of those buffoons make Nickels seem like a genius. But who strikes down the key part of his hand picked committee’s recommendations before the city council even has a chance to vote on it? I guess the same mayor who lied to us about Move Seattle. Mr. “I like little boys” Murray. I hope that dude goes to a special hell and has Kavanaugh as a roommate.

      It really isn’t that complicated. We need to liberalize the zoning rules in this city. We need to address the missing middle. Add boatloads of ADUs, DADUs and just plain apartment conversions. Subdivide and allow small houses on small lots or town houses, especially in the north/south end, where right now subdivisions are common, but we end up with mansions sitting on 7200 foot lots. A working class family should be able to afford a two bedroom place in Lake City, and, if they reach middle class, a skinny town house. No, they won’t have a view — they won’t have the charm of Capitol Hill or Ballard — they may not even have sidewalks — but they will have a home.

      1. “which is pretty crazy, given the fact that a lot of homeless people end up in motel rooms for a while, because rent is too expensive”

        The monthly cost is often the same, but motels don’t charge last month’s rent and a security deposit and require a credit check and no criminal record, or require an annual salary three times the monthly rent. Some people on the margin could afford apartments but they can’t afford all these other costs or they’d fail the checks, so they end up staying in hotels for months or years.

  3. Not surprisingly, SVT, as implemented today, is pretty much only useful for retired seniors, who have nothing better to do with their time and ride buses all day. Looking at their website, that seems to be the market they are going for.

    For people that actually have jobs, the schedule looks almost unusable. For example, a resident of Fall City might face this transit commute to Issaquah, and this transit commute to Redmond, with each trip in the range of 1-2 hours, minimum each way, with substantial risks of spending over an hour in the afternoon, waiting for a bus connection, depending on the whims of traffic.

    For those working at the Snoqualmie Casino, the travel times are more reasonable, but what percentage of casino workers are going to have shifts that just happen to line up with a bus that runs every hour and a half, Monday-Friday only, with the last bus of the day leaving the casino at 6:30 PM?

    For people that live outside of the valley, visiting someone there, the schedule is, again, nearly useless, at least for people that have normal jobs. With a total shutdown on, not only weekends, but every conceivable minor holiday where someone *might* get a day off, taking transit anywhere the SVT shuttle goes literally requires burning vacation days, just to ride the bus.

    1. It was started and operated by the Mt Si Senior Center so it’s not surprising it’s geared toward seniors.

      And Fall City is a rural town outside the urban growth boundary so they’re trying not to encourage people who work in Redmond to live in Fall City as if it’s just another suburb. Farmers and seniors and work-at-home, please.

    2. Seniors vote. We have a number of routes that are basically political; this is a very obvious one, though at least it provides a lifeline.

      1. Brad, name some routes you think are political. And your definition of the word. Also, “seniors”. A word I won’t hear applied to me, any more than the term “affordability”.

        Hire me as a Government contractor at a wage that would’ve left me at my apartment in Ballard, and I’ll willingly “affordablitize” the taxes to pay for help provide a decent living for people disabled for any reason, of any age.

        Medicare for my group, a snap. While politics and the health industry fight it out over “medical coverage”, see to it whole population gets a nurse. Worse I’ve got arterial bleeding, a blocked airway, or am presently on fire, less I need a doctor and the more I need a really tough nurse.

        I’ve also got a skill or two. But have to say it makes me very uneasy to be the only one here that hates the idea that we an our country have stagnated to the point where it’s useless to think that it’s possible for more than a few people to earn a living by their own work.

        And govern the place accordingly. So let’s have one or two comments on that score. Because I really think we’re looking at what they used to all “A Gentlemen’s Agreement”: like to be kind to the poor because after all, you are what you’re born an get used to it. Pretty much the mindset that wasted so much of the potential of our DSTT.

        We can, and think we’re worthy of set things right on the financial scale. At least somebody have the courtesy to tell m exactly where I’m wrong.


      2. The SVT route basically follows the highway. That’s hardly what I’d call a “political” route, but a very practical one. The reason for the long travel time from Fall City to Issaquah is that the Fall-City-Preston Road is not a highway, and has no transit route on it.

        I’d like to see the Snoqualmie Valley routing adjusted to help with that – a route 202 from Redmond to Snoqualmie and a route 203 from Monroe to Preston, which would meet the North Bend bus at a Preston freeway flyer stop. These changes aren’t huge and would make the service better for everyone.

        Including the route numbers. Giving it a 600-number instead of a 200-number because it’s a so-called “community shuttle” is simply idiotic. And 202 and 203 match the highway numbers.

  4. Save the future NHL practice facility, conveniently located right next to Northgate Station!

    If we don’t give it historic status now, and exempt it from minimum density laws as well as mandatory housing affordability laws, it may never get built, and we may end up with thousands of people living in towers next to the station. Imagine what a blight all those people, and all those first-floor commercial businesses, and all that income-controlled housing would be for the neighborhood!

      1. But team sports facilities are always multi-use. Keep up with the club owners’ boiler plate press releases, won’t you?

        Besides, golf stunts the players’ teamwork development.

        BTW, we’ll need some quick movement on some street vacations, I believe. Snap to it, mayor!

      2. I do find the people outraged at an NHL hockey center at Northgate as a lost density opportunity near light rail aren’t out there demanding making the land occupying much lower-activity public golf courses at Jackson Park, West Seattle, Interbay and even Jefferson Park be something more appropriate. Hockey requires much less land and offers better year-round recreation yet players have much fewer options than golfers do.

      3. Northgate seems like a fine spot for a hockey practice / ice center. Density is not just density of residences, it’s also density of use, and I imagine this place will be well used. It would also provide a civic amenity in a transit-connected urban center that could use more amenities to complement the forest of high-rises the rest of the place will — and should — become, with the kind of Denny-Triangle-scale up-zone that Vancouver BC would have done 20 years ago.

      4. In general I’m with Jonathan on this. But I really have no idea what this will actually be like. I don’t follow hockey, so I never really thought about the concept. Basketball teams can practice almost anywhere. Football teams tend to have secluded, stand along facilities (typically in the suburbs, I think). Baseball teams essentially play all the time (and practice where they play). But apparently a professional hockey team practices at an ice center, which can also be used for other purposed. This ice center can also host mid size skating events (college hockey tournaments, etc.). For those events, Northgate is great. Folks will take transit to the game. But I’m sure there are times when just the team uses it, and I have no idea if anyone but the team uses it (are the practices open). Most of the people will no doubt drive to place (and would drive even if it was smack dab in the middle of town). Will it be open to the general public, and if so, I don’t think that many people ride the bus with skates and/or a helmet. I’m not saying some won’t, but if it operates like a general skating rink, and families attend, then my guess is a lot of people will drive there (it is Northgate, after all). So overall, I don’t know what to think. So far, no one has really explained how it will be used.

      5. Another thought. Everyone is treating Northgate like it is something special. I get that. But what makes it different than, say, Lake City? The short answer is the ability to get downtown very quickly. But you know where else you can get downtown very quickly? Downtown. Would anyone be freaking out if they added a new facility downtown? Of course not. No one is demanding that every square space of real estate downtown be used for high density housing or office space. Similarly, would anyone be freaking out if this was going in at the Seattle Center? Again, of course not. Yet Seattle Center is very close to downtown (some would consider it part of downtown) and connected very quickly to downtown via the monorail. Meanwhile, there is a gigantic parking lot at the edge of downtown, next to the football stadium, yet no is bothered by that.

        I just think people are treating Northgate like it is unique and special, when it really isn’t. By all means it would be nice to convert the parking to something more useful. I also would like to see as much housing as possible (and putting it downtown or next to Link is great). But putting this ice center there doesn’t sound like that bad of a thing.

      6. I used to attend friends’ hockey matches at the Sno-King Ice Arena at 185th & Aurora. The space is the size of a small supermarket, and could potentially be incorporated into a mixed-use building. However, the NHL space described would have three rinks, so it would take three times the space. That would be better if it were stacked, but that’s probably too urban for them. Another thing is that a stadium get tens of thousands of fans every game, but a practice facility gets only the players and their family and friends, and ameteur matches get only that too. It may be open for general ice skating some of the time, but is that common enough to fill three rinks in Northgate every week? So I’m concerned about another underutilized lot in Northgate, but like RossB I don’t know exactly how big it will be or how many people will be there each week, so I’m not totally sure.

        “Everyone is treating Northgate like it is something special. I get that. But what makes it different than, say, Lake City?”

        It’s on Link. It’s an official urban center, which is the reason it got Link and makes the city less skittish about upzoning it. That’s what makes Northgate special. There are only three urban centers in Seattle, so it’s a third of the opportunity.

        “But you know where else you can get downtown very quickly? Downtown. Would anyone be freaking out if they added a new facility downtown? Of course not. No one is demanding that every square space of real estate downtown be used for high density housing or office space. Similarly, would anyone be freaking out if this was going in at the Seattle Center? Again, of course not. Yet Seattle Center is very close to downtown”

        You’re missing the point. Seattle has a housing shortage, especially units within walking distance of high-capacity transit with fast one-seat rides to many locations other than downtown. Downtown housing is the most expensive per square foot in the region so most people can’t afford it, and many people don’t want to live where there’s “so much concrete”. Northgate is an opportunity to build a lot of housing like Vancouver’s Metrotown, and office space so that companies have an option of locating not downtown but where workers can get to them on transit from all over the region. But the city is mostly blowing the opportunity. Only the Northgate Mall lot will get 200′ zoning, and Simon Malls has indicated that while it intends to convert the mall to a multistory mixed-use building, it won’t be very tall. The surrounding lots are being zoned to a mediocre level, so they will leave a lot of wasted space above them. The NHL facility is slated to take over one of these lots, so that may remove an entire lot from housing. It’s the same kind of thing as the lots around Capitol Hill Station: they should have been zoned for 10 or 20 stories but instead they’re 7 stories like Bellevue Avenue. So I’m concerned about whether the facility will have housing, and whether it will be multistory or sprawled out like Fred Meyer. And how much the public will actually be able to use the facility or whether it will be players-only for security and competitive secrecy.

    1. Nothing says they couldn’t put office space or housing on top of the practice facility. With the proper encouragement from the city it could happen, and happen quickly.

      But, unfortunately, I think our Mayor is too busy getting her picture taken next to the NHL logo to be too bothered about density, or bike lanes, or transit, or the CCC, or…….

    2. The Hockey Facility will have pubic use as well it will be a destination like a movie theater. It right next to the freeway as well as the transit center and it is in an area labeled mixed use. Transit need to be close to all things (Live, Work and PLAY). Transit works best if you can use it to get everywhere you when ever you want.

  5. Also, in other news, the Roosevelt Station cam is back up! It’s been down since May (I think). Nice to see it back.

    Now how about a few East Link cams???

    1. I treated myself to an admittedly indulgent East Link drive-by tour on Sunday. It’s surprising how many of the supports are already poured and how high the tracks will be (especially the 405 overpass)!

      By the way, the Rainier Ave weekend closures start this weekend. I havent seen this mentioned here. Routes 7 and 106 will be substantially affected.

      It’s also rather notable that SB 23rd Ave is still closed during these closures. It’s going to be a real hassle for bus riders in SE Seattle!

      1. Link is certainly going to win this year’s “Rail System Most Like A Roller Coaster” award.

  6. In other news, Pierce Transit doesn’t have a bus stop at the new and dense Point Ruston development because the City of Ruston wouldn’t give up a parking space.

    “When Pierce Transit was scoping out the route for the trolley during the winter, they found a spot in Ruston where two parking spots were often empty and asked the town to cede them for a bus stop. The town has a policy of not closing parking spots without opening new ones, so it denied Pierce Transit’s request.”

    All the more reason that teeny suburbs should be annexed into adjacent cities.

  7. I’m not sure exactly where this falls in the above discussion about the Seattle housing crisis, but a recent Portland condo building is being marketed to buyers in Asia so unless you figure out how to impose some sort of luxury buyers tax or some sort of property income tax adding more units might not make a huge difference.

    1. There’s at least one extremely glossy magazine in Mandarin specifically listing high-end Seattle condos and homes and describing the neighborhoods.

  8. @Mike Orr,

    The amount of undeveloped and under-developed land in Seattle is actually fairly immense. It’s not just places like Aurora and the RV, but it is just about everywhere . Add Lake City, Freelard, Art Center, Greenwood Ave, Dearborn, etc. and those are just the big ones, there are lots of smaller ones too.

    Think just of the Fred Myer on 85th. It is a big box with an even bigger parking lot. But on top of that, every single way you go from that store is a small building with a big parking lot. There is only one building near the Fred Myer on 85th that has any size, and it is only 4 stories.

    And the same thing occurs at 8th and 85th, 15th and 85th, etc. It is a horrible waste of land.

    Na, the urban village concept worked great. It worked better and faster than anyone expected. Double down on what works and don’t fight battles that won’t make a difference anyhow.

    1. >> Na, the urban village concept worked great. It worked better and faster than anyone expected.

      Really? So rents are basically what they were 10 years ago (adjusted for inflation). Who new?

      Yes, there is a fair amount of undeveloped land. But when you draw tiny little circles around a handful of places — many of which already have apartments, or fairly productive commercial property — you are a lot less likely to build affordable apartments. The urban village concept is a complete disaster, and should be abandoned immediately. The city needs to address the missing middle, in ways described here: That is the only way this city (or any city, really) can get affordable market rate housing.

      Oh, and it is “Fred Meyer” and there are plenty of apartments next to it. In fact, there are apartments practically adjacent to the Fred Meyer ( I know someone who lives in those yellow apartments (not the fancy new ones). They got the place there having moved from a noisy place a couple blocks from Aurora. Now they have to deal with trucks that drive there in the middle of the night. Such is the plight for someone looking for an apartment in Seattle — they often have to deal with really bad noise, because so little of this beautiful city is available for them. Last I heard they are thinking of moving to Bellingham.

    2. “The urban village concept is a complete disaster, and should be abandoned immediately.”

      Careful what you wish for. The net result might be downzoning the existing urban villages, because the opposite of urban villages is the low-density “town and country” look that the people fighting the upzones want. The urban villages are precisely the kind of things Seattle needed (and South King County and Snohomish County now need). The problem is not the urban villages but the spaces around them. They should be upzoned to at least a “missing middle” level, as the great urban neighborhoods in Chicago and Vancouver are. It’s really expanding the urban villages. Don’t call it a failure of urban villages or you may get something worse. The urban village concept may have been a reasonable alternative in the 1990s when the population was lower and there was plenty of slack to keep rents from rising rapidly, and nobody could have imagined they would runaway out of control like San Francisco (which was also less bad then). The problem is that the urban villages needed to be expanded as the population increased and that didn’t happen. If it had then there would have been no rent premium and everybody would be happily living where they want to. So the answer now is to expand the urban villages, which HALA is doing, and to upzone the remaining land so it can supply the “missing middle” again.

      It’s also interesting when people in Olympia and Pierce County call the Growth Management Act failed and say it’s mostly Seattle’s fault for not upzoning enough to absorb most of the population increase. Hmm. South King County deserves most of the blame for hardly doing anything in an area larger than Seattle, but Seattle certainly deserves some blame for not acting like the biggest city should.

    3. And just in case anybody missed it, the fastest-rising housing prices in King County are in Burien, and South King County is rising faster than Seattle, and so are parts of Snohomish County and parts of Tacoma. The medium-term result will probably be a near-equalization of prices across the three-county area. So there won’t be any place to escape the high current Seattle prices. Rents may be $200 less but not $400 or $600. You may say how can that be when I can get so much more walkability and transit and nightlife in Seattle, why won’t it always cost more? But the majority of people don’t think that way, they don’t preferentially choose those locations, they value more having a parking space and more room and having parking where they shop, so they’ll stick to the suburbs and raise prices there. The urban wave exists but it’s a wave, not a tsunami.

  9. I went to the NoDoMAP final meeting last night, and I was excited that they have selected a “1st Ave N/Queen Anne Ave N Complete Streets” project for funding. It includes bike lanes and transit only lanes. The Transit Only lanes on 1st Ave go from Denny to Republican, and on Queen Anne go from Mercer to John.

  10. Unfortunate about the TCC Park & Ride. It’s a small park & ride surrounded by massive college campus parking lots. And, the parking in downtown Tacoma (access via PT Route 2) isn’t really all that expensive. At least not for now. What would be great, to turn this into a true transit hub, would be if TCC started replacing the parking lots on campus with buildings, sports fields, or other amenities. Nine different bus routes serve TCC at the Park & Ride, take advantage of the critical mass of students and bus routes available to them. Why does the campus need so many parking spaces? This car-centric mentality really needs to change in Tacoma. I’m glad I can afford to live here, but also wish that there was quality transit to serve the City, a quality that will only ever be offered with a critical mass of riders.

  11. Lukewarm on lidding I-5 unless there’s buildings?!! Argh! Hooray for density, sure, but a lid for green space alone (and, well, reducing the noise and pollution and general unpleasantness the freeway chasm causes) is worthy in and of itself. It would make the area so much more pedestrian friendly, a key to central Seattle’s functionality. Moreover there’s a severe lack of green space in the area, so any we can get over there would be welcome. I get that it seems like a “frivolous” spend but freeway covers for open space from Boston to Phoenix to Madrid say otherwise — hiding your freeway is an enormous improvement in quality of life for neighbors and visitors.

    1. A Seattle Commons type park over the freeway would be better than nothing. But we also have a severe housing shortage and need to build tens of thousands of more units wherever we can, and it would be silly to not at least consider combining the two. There’s plenty of room for both housing and a park.

    2. I agree. Building a park there would be fantastic, and a huge improvement for the area. The amount of housing that would be added would be relatively small — nothing compared to even a minor change in zoning for the single family areas. There just isn’t that much land above the freeway.

      But by adding a bit of housing, it becomes a triple win. It would provide additional funding to offset the cost of construction. It would provide some housing, and it would make the area much nicer.

      I would be OK with office space as well. For the same reason that high end apartments influence low end apartments, office space influence housing. But I would prefer housing.

    3. I assume that any buildings can’t be more than a few stories because there’s no deep foundation under them. So that would limit the amount of building capacity.

Comments are closed.