23 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: CO2-Absorbing Concrete”

  1. Headline from a story in the Seattle Times today … “With Othello Square, a Rainier Valley community gets some help in the battle against gentrification.” Battle against gentrification? Doesn’t gentrification mean to make a neighborhood nicer? To renovate homes, reduce crime and attract new businesses?

    Observation: People complained in mid 20th century when whites fled the city for the suburbs, and now people are complaining about whites moving from the suburbs back into the city.

    1. Gentrification means replacing the people in a neighborhood when you make it “nicer”. Most directly, suppose I buy a “run-down house” rented out by an “absentee landlord”, then I renovate it and move in myself. The house may be “nicer” now. But at some point in there I had to kick the tenants out — all the benefits of the “nicer” house are enjoyed by me, not them.

      When this happens to a large number of people in a concentrated area, that’s gentrification. A neighborhood that looks nicer as you walk by, a neighborhood with nicer stats in Census/ACS data. But are any of the people involved actually doing any better? Where were the tenants I kicked out able to find a new home? What will happen to the social connections and community contributions they made? If I prefer different businesses than they did, how will those businesses do?

      How to confront these things is one of the hardest and most serious questions in American urban policy right now.

      1. When a society has an equitable economic system the process of gentrification isn’t really a bad thing. Neighborhoods should evolve and change is inevitable. The problem is when the change isn’t equitable for the hard working people who live in the affected neighborhoods.

        I’ve lived in SE Seattle for decades. I don’t miss the vacant properties and crack houses that were too common before Link, but I do miss some of my old neighbors.

    2. The anti gentrification argument basically reads like this:
      1) I can’t afford the rent unless my neighborhood is a dump
      2) I don’t want to move
      3) Therefore, my neighborhood must remain a dump

      Ultimately, it’s a selfish attitude. Having a neighborhood not be a dump benefits everybody.

      1. This right here plus no upzoning anywhere is the life’s work of John Fox of the Seattle Displacement Coalition. Thankfully he and/or SDC seem to have faded away a bit.

    3. I find it curious that many in Seattle call gentrification most significant in SE Seattle. What I now see are a greater wave of blocks of low-rent, low-rise apartments in Capitol Hill being removed for more expensive taller apartments. I see large signs announcing impending demolitions on several walk-up apartment properties within 1/3 of a mile of Capitol Hill station. Because this is replacing low-rent, denser-populated properties with more expensive ones, this seems to be a bigger gentrification impact.

    4. Gentrification is a vague term and people use it in contradictory ways. It’s so slippery I can’t even fully articulate it; there are whole articles that try to do this. It may or may not include improving the quality of houses, increasing the number of units (densification), upzoning (increasing height/size limits), improving the infrastructure (transit, utilities, aesthetics), increasing the number and variety of businesses, more affluent people moving into the area, rising rents/home prices, and/or displacement of existing residents who can’t afford the new prices. All of these are independent and interact in complex ways. It’s better to focus on specific aspects because they’re unambiguous. The biggest positive is increasing the number of housing units, improving infrastructure, having more variety of businesses you can walk to, and reversing the car dependence that post-WWII development caused. The biggest negative is displacement. So let’s tackle displacement directly and not throw out the positive aspects.

      There’s a catch-22: you can either have improved quality of houses and business districts and transit, or you can leave the area underserved. It’s not fair to the residents to leave it underserved, but at the same time an influx of more affluent people can lead to displacement. In pure capitalism there’s no alternative because you can’t prevent more affluent people from moving in and bidding up prices. So you have to make sure to increase the citywide housing supply enough to accommodate population increases, and have enough non-market housing to compensate those who lose purchasing power due to housing-price increases and inequality.

      Whites did largely leave cities in the mid 20th century and started coming back in the late 20th century. That was a combination of whites fleeing school desegregation, racist mortgage policies that prevented non-whites from moving to the new suburbs, and the experience of then living in car-dependent suburban hell. While people of all ages move both directions, it was mostly boomers who moved to the suburbs, and Generation X and later that moved to the cities. That’s because GenX was the first generation to grow up mostly in suburbs.

      1. It’s not entirely slippery. If rents aren’t going up it’s not gentrification. If richer people aren’t moving into a place they previously avoided it’s not gentrification.

        Sometimes infrastructure improvements follow gentrification, as rich residents get more attention from local government. Other times gentrification follows a major investment in a previously underserved area. Sometimes upzones are associated with gentrification and sometimes downzones are! Rich people almost always demand more space per person than poor people — gentrification, unless accompanied by major building, often results in a population decrease, either by small units being combined into big ones, or by decreases in household size.

        Usually when homeowners complain about “gentrification” they’re using the word wrong. There are some exceptions, but… on the west coast we hear a lot from upper-middle-class people with paid-off houses complaining about changes to their neighborhoods that result in more people with less accumulated wealth living there. Their complaints could be justifiable, but they aren’t about gentrification. That’s true whether it’s about new apartment buildings in Roosevelt or young people pooling up to rent houses in the South Bay (even if they’re high-income techies!).

      2. I think you’re off by a generation. Suburbanization began with the post-war housing boom to meet the needs of boomers’ parents. Levittown started in 1947; boomers weren’t buying those houses.

        I’m a late boomer who moved from the suburbs to the city (though I live in Kent now because Seattle is too expensive for me).

      3. Yes, it was boomers’ parents who started it. I was trying to draw a distinction between boomers and earlier who moved to the suburbs, and GenX and later who partially reversed it. But while the pre-boomers who started the move, the boomers were more numerous and eventually filled the majority of those suburban houses, because as adults they either moved to the suburbs or remained there. But when GenX, of whom I am one, grew up in those houses in those low-density neighborhoods, many of us found it isolating and moved to urban neighborhoods as soon as we could, and the following generations increased this trend. Some boomers and pre-boomers also moved back to the city as empty-nesters, but I think they were less numerous.

        I still find among most boomers and pre-boomers a preference for the suburbs or small towns or a larger house with parking, even if they live in an inner-city apartment or a small city house without parking. It seems to be mostly GenXers and millenials who live in inner-city apartments or small houses without parking and prefer it.

    5. I do think the impact of gentrification will subside a bit as new Link stations open by 2025 and the economy eventually cools.

    6. The reason displacement is even a problem is our country’s high inequality, lack of support for lower-income people, and inadequate number of walkable transit-rich neighborhoods. If there were less inequality, the competition for limited housing units would be more random rather than lower-income people always losing. If there were a decent baseline of social services, you wouldn’t have 60% of the country living paycheck-to-paycheck and unable to pay an unexpected $300 cost that often lands them in homelessness. If many neighborhoods was walkable and transit-rich like all neighborhoods were before WWII, then people displaced from Rainier Valley could move to a comparable neighborhood further from downtown. But only 10% of the neighborhoods are walkable, so leaving Rainier Valley leaves you isolated in Skyway, Renton, or Federal Way, where it’s a 20-40 minute walk to a supermarket, the buses come every 30-60 minutes, and it’s a 90-minute trip to downtown Seattle or Bellevue where most of the jobs are and things you might want to go to. Everyone should be alarmed that it takes twice minimum wage just to rent an apartment. It wasn’t like that fifty years ago.

    7. It will probably subside because we’re unlikely to have as fast growth as the last decade, but the damage is already done with the 40-60% rent/price increase that’s not going to reverse very easily. We should have nipped the problem in the bud when prices started to rise.

    8. People say gentrification when they mean displacement, but that’s because often gentrification leads to displacement, even though it doesn’t have to. You can have gentrification without displacement, but it’s rare. That’s all.

    1. Don’t know about ST but according to the CarbonCure website it has been used on the California high speed rail line. It would be an interesting calculation to determine how many years it will take for the CO2 impact of construction to even out with the no action alternative. Especially since the increasingly likely outcome will be high speed rail only from Fresno to Bakersfield.

      It’s great that this technology creates a new market for CO2 by increasing the strength of concrete. However, there’s no shortage of industrial demand for CO2 and it is in fact produced in large quantities for the oil drilling and frozen food industries. Of course with frozen food (dry ice and liquefied gas) all of that CO2 is released back into the atmosphere. It’s unclear if CO2 injected into wells stays underground or not. Drilling for oil sure isn’t going to reduce global greenhouse gas emmisions; then again, neither will pouring concrete. The economically weak link in the supply chain here is that carbon capture can’t compete with existing production where it is sort of captured as a byproduct of hydrogen production (from natural gas) and ammonia production. So while it sounds good to say these molecules came from carbon captured at a fertilizer plant the truth is that was likely just small part of ammonia production industry. Take it from one place and it’s vented at another.

      Reducing the amount of concrete needed is good and there’s plenty of uses where concrete is the only viable alternative. But eliminating the concrete in construction with technology like Mass Timber Construction is also helping the construction industry reduce it’s size 13 carbon footprint.

      1. All that timber has to be replaced by more trees, which as saplings and then smaller trees for the next couple decades, are photosynthesizing a lot less CO2 into O2 than the big, now dead, tree was.

        Also, if we are turning old-growth forest into tree farms, we are accelerating the mass species extinction event that the industrial revolution has become.

  2. For drivers, at what point do you leave, even though you see a runner? For example, let’s say you board people, close the door, see a runner, open the door, let them on, close the door again, but then see another runner … if you keep on seeing people running for your bus, what’s your cutoff point for saying you can’t wait anymore, you have to go? For example, there are always people running for the 545 near Microsoft at freeway stops.

  3. If the goal is to minimize total travel time for all passengers, it boils down to a simple math problem. When the delay for the runner, multiplied by the number of people on board the bus exceeds the wait time for the next bus, it’s ok to leave the runner behind.

      1. I like the way light rail comes every 5-10 minutes. It’s one thing to wait 10 minutes. It’s another thing to wait 15, 30, or 60 minutes. The most frustrating thing is when you’re transferring from a 15-minute route to a 15-minute route and you’re waiting behind a traffic light or the bus is waiting behind a traffic light for a stop on the far side, and the second bus comes sailing through perpendicularly.

      2. This is why people are so much less inclined to take transit – especially for an everyday commute – when there’s a connection involved. Even at 15 minute frequencies, it adds a lot of uncertainty. For example, even a connection with a 95% success probability still amounts to about one missed connection per month if you’re making the commute every single weekday.

        It should be noted though, that there’s a big difference between a bus->bus transfer and a Link->bus transfer. Link is frequent enough that even the worst case wait time in the bus->Link direction isn’t too bad, and is reliable enough that in the Link->bus direction, you can calculate exactly which train to catch in order to have a minimal wait for the bus – even if the bus is only running every half hour.

        That is why I am generally supportive of service restructures that truncate bus routes at Link stations in exchange for more all-day frequency, but much less supportive of service restructures that truncate buses in ways that create bus->bus connections.

  4. I assume Ash Grove isn’t using this technology. As the largest generator of carbon emissions in the city, how could we encourage them to invest in it?

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