79 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Mayor Durkan makes a promise to Ugandan climate activist Hilda Nakabuye”

  1. Promising for West Seattle’s future?…

    West Seattle = New California

    The house sold quickly. Since both worked largely from home, their options were wide open. The couple didn’t want to move back East, where they are both from, and Bay Area suburbs did not appeal.

    “We are city people,” she says.

    Instead, lured by a body of water and a sense of community, the family chose West Seattle. The area has become so popular with newcomers from down south “people call it New California, because it seems people from there are taking over,” Neisuler says with a laugh. “And I’m like, ‘Yup, that’s us.’”

    1. This is fine, as long as the next time upzoning West Seattle is proposed, instead of complaining about “runaway growth” and their “neighborhood character” being destroyed, they support building homes for the next folks who come along looking to live in West Seattle.

    2. Right, during the 70s and 80s people said highrises and apartments would make Seattle like California and ruin the character of neighborhoods. But then Seattle had lost 130K of its 1950s population and was just climbing back, so the vacancy rate was high and housing was cheap and capping growth didn’t matter as much. Nowadays, if we don’t build enough housing for the jobs/population increase, costs will go sky-high like they did in California. The only reason that couple was able to find a house in West Seattle for less than San Francisco is because Seattle has been building housing. Not enough housing, but more than cities in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties have been building.

      1. San Fransisco — I’m talking the city proper — has grown by about 80,000 since 2010. We’ve grown more (about 140,000) but we have a lot more land. The ratio (number of new people per square foot) is very similar. The main reason that houses in West Seattle are cheaper than San Fransisco is that a lot more people would rather live in San Fransisco. Despite the enormous growth in employment here, there are still a lot more jobs in San Fransisco.

        Things are even cheaper in Tacoma, Everett, Moses Lake, etc.

      2. The demand in San Francisco is much higher so the supply should be much higher. People aren’t commuting from Union City to San Francisco or from Santa Clara to San Francisco because they want to; they’re doing it because they can’t live in San Francisco. A significant portion of the East Bay’s population is there because it can’t live in San Francisco.

        Seattle does have twice the land, and it’s the fault of the cities just south of San Francisco that they’re even worse, so people can’t live there instead of the East Bay or South bay. But San Francisco should be a leader in taking responsibility for this. Especially those environmentalist anti-growthers need to take a hike. If you disallow density, you don’t get low-impact self-sustaining farmsteads, you get sprawl.

      3. The only reason that couple was able to find a house in West Seattle for less than San Francisco is because Seattle has been building housing.

        That is simply not true. Both cities have grown at almost the exact same rate. San Fransisco has added almost the same number of people per square foot as Seattle has. Oakland has also added lots of people. The areas are remarkably similar. San Fransisco and Oakland are roughly the same physical size as Seattle. Both have added about the same number of people. They both have exactly the same problem. The problem isn’t lack of growth in the most expensive, already extremely dense part of town — it is lack of growth just outside of the city. Or it is lack of growth inside the city, in areas that are actually very close to the center. Think most of Magnolia, View Ridge, Wedgwood and yes, West Seattle. These are areas that haven’t changed a bit over the years, just as the Oakland hills are pretty much the same. The only reason that West Seattle houses are cheaper than San Fransisco is scale. People move to West Seattle — and places like Auburn — for the same reason they move to San Mateo and Santa Clara. Moving closer to the heart of the city is too expensive.

  2. https://www.democracynow.org/2019/10/15/aaron_glantz_homewreckers_book_housing_crisis

    Mr. Neisuler, start by reading Jack Kerouac’s biography and booklist, especially the parts about San Francisco in the 1940’s and ’50’s. Then add some American History about life for the average wage-earner who was often a veteran who’d barely gotten home from World War II with his life.

    Then if you’re half as smart as you think you are and as “hip” as everything you want to be surrounded with, get ready to start electing people like Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, or even Dwight Eisenhower. Look them up. And get used to the idea that being liberal IS a moderate position.

    And be willing to demand the regulatory and tax structure that these politicians enacted, and a labor union movement with enough power to make the obscenely rich as scared of us as all of us now have to be of them.

    And Mayor Durkan, every time you kiss the moneyed interests that propel the careers behind your class of politicians…..always make sure it’s just on their foreheads. And realize that your fastest move to fix both our climate and your city is to get the 41 back in the DSTT as long as it needs to be there.

    Mark Dublin

  3. And Mr. Neisuler, sorry about the typo. Know anybody in Information Technology who can give STB an eraser-feature?

    Mark Dublin

  4. With the opening of Northgate Link in 2021, I am looking forward to not having to worry as much about NE Seattle traffic and bus reroutes on UW football game days.

    1. Just as an exercise, suppose the “just put it back” order came down from somebody with authority, or better yet up from the massive number of people damaged by the loss of the 41.

      One thing I think is turning so many working people so hard to the right is every Governmental body’s list of things we need done now but will take ’til 2021 to do. I know Seattle’s got the machinery available, and I don’t just mean political, to clear away whatever’s in the way and put that service back where it belongs.

      Think everybody remembers I conditioned my advocacy on enough improvements to keep buses and trains from stalling each other. Including the measures the 41 and the rest of DSTT bus service had been needing done since 9/15/1990. With every wire and bulb of signalling and every class roster of training paid for but never used.

      Not wrong to point out how “The ideal can become the enemy of the good.” But even more true how often the mediocre becomes the sworn ally of the bad.

      Mark Dublin

    2. I wonder what Metro’s plan is regarding how to route the new 255 on Husky game days. In 2021, they could probably get away with rerouting the bus to u district station. But, what about next year?

      There are no good options. Least bad is probably to run nonstop down I-5 to Westlake station. Those going to the game could either backtrack on Link or ride an event shuttle to the stadium from South Kirkland P&R instead.

      My guess is that they will most likely do nothing. Then, when people complain, the u district station will be open for the 2021 football season, and they’ll have their reroute.

      1. The reroutes have been north Seattle routes. The Eastside routes and the 48 have been unchanged, so that may continue with the 255.

    3. I’m excited about Northgate Link as well, but I wonder how much things will change with regards to game days. If I’m not mistaken, the buses that are rerouted are the 31, 32, 44, 45, 65, 67, 71, 73, 75 and 372. I would like to see the 31/32 take a right on the Ave and go north, serving the U-District Link station. The 44 has the same issues, as does the 45, and the 73 (assuming it lives through the restructure). The 71 will hopefully be reworked, but it is a minor route. So that leaves the 65, 75 and 372. My hope is that one of those goes to the U-District (my vote would be the 75) but I really doubt all three would. Even sending two buses seems unlikely. I really doubt the 372 suddenly takes a turn on 45th, nor do I think that both buses from Children’s Hospital go on 45th instead of towards the UW hospital.

      Overall, it seems like you are still going to have a fair number of routes running by the stadium. I think we will have to live with the reroutes.

      1. I see the big win on game days as being for people headed between NE Seattle to/from Capitol Hill, Downtown, and south Seattle- those trips currently require a transfer at UW Station, and the reroutes make an already poorly designed bus/Link transfer even more confusing and burdensome.

        Instead of having to deal with bus reroutes that require either a long walk or an extra transfer to get to/from UW station, with the opening of Northgate Link many people will have the option of taking a bus (or walking!) to U-District, Roosevelt, or Northgate Stations- entirely avoiding the game day reroute mess around UW Station.

      2. Alright, I get you now. Some buses will still be messed up, but lots of people will have much better alternatives. I agree with that. Definitely.

      3. I was on a rerouted 271 once that stayed on 520 past Montlake, took the Roanoke exit, went over the u bridge, and took campus parkway to 15th Ave. It did avoid most of the traffic. Such a route would (with trivial changes) have a great connection to the u district station. Without it, though, trying to get downtown that way would be a total mess.

    1. Durkan was sitting to Nakabuye’s left, and stood up when Nakabuye asked for everyone to stand who promised to join her in the fight against plastic (I think) pollution.

  5. Jenny Durkan promising to fight climate change? Sigh. Wake me up when Mayor Durkan and the Council Staff – including Dan Strauss – actually do. Make sure the Keurig is on with a caffeinated blend please. Thanks.

    We could have had someone who would: A Mayor Jessyn Farrell. I am confident many of you like I regret how so many of us – not me – went far left and got a corporate Mayor not a transit hero.

    We can have someone who is a transit hero again in Seattle City Hall: Heidi Wills. UPass, defending King County Metro, getting Sound Move on the ballot to give birth to Sound Transit, and actively fighting 976 in Ballard. Badass? You bet.

    We don’t need the Seattle version of “The Squad” all full of over-the-top talk here. We need “Action this day”.

    Thank you Heidi Wills. You started this transit movement, let’s come home and come together.

      1. Apparently, yes. From Strauss’ website:

        Dan has been fighting for progressive values and policies as long as I’ve known him. His vision, his work ethic, and his experience will make him a great Councilmember, and I’m proud to support him.”
        former State Representative


      2. Yes, I acknowledge this. But Dan Strauss is no transit hero with a record willing to go face to face with Tim Eyman – Jessyn Farrell is a transit hero with a record who has gone face to face with Tim Eyman and won. Wills is also. I judge transit candidates by commitment to the cause, grit and passion – neither acoustics nor aesthetics nor party affiliation.

        That said, Jessyn hasn’t really defended that endorsement of Strauss and I would say, I would say Jessyn Farrell has become a net liability to the Strauss campaign and her own reputation being drug into aiding third-party negative attacks on Wills via illegal anti-social media ads the past week. Safe Seattle is lighting her and Nick Hanuerer up like a totem pole also. As such, Wills fans – plural – are lighting Farrell up in Seattle Times comments including in more moderated tones me.

        This fan of these two strong pro-transit advocates would like Jessyn home on Team Heidi, with kindred spirits, safe and sound and full amnesty. When 976 hits, we will need all hands on deck and to come together to undo the devil’s initiative. Not having a star of ours palling around with someone who could just maybe quite possibly stray into getting the most dreaded endorsement of all: A TIM EYMAN ENDORSEMENT because I’ve never heard Strauss come out and condemn 976. Wills has, as have many Strauss fans whom I thank profusely here.

      3. You only acknowledge the Farrell endorsement only after someone else points it out. Your initial posting seemed to suggest Farrell supported Wills. You might have a future as a White House press secretary for 45.

      4. HA HA, me working for 45?

        Also I’ve brought up the Farrell endorsement in other places… first.

        Wouldn’t want to be Jessyn Farrell right now. Her boy isn’t taking on 976.

        GO HEIDI! It’s priority #1 here. We’ve been there and we’ll keep being there. GO HEIDI!

      5. Joe, if we governed according to the way Safe Seattle and the Seattle Times comment section wanted us to, we’d be living in an ancap white ethnostate, so forgive me if I’m really actually quite happy that SCC candidates are not trying too hard to appeal to that crucial constituency of suburban/exurban cranks.

      6. As noted below, you got booted from a Facebook group Seattle transit fans for making bad faith arguments, like Strauss isn’t against 976.

      7. Pat, then mdnative.

        PAT: This isn’t about race to me. I’ve stuck up for Latina City Councilmembers and Sound Transit Boardmembers of color against Alex Tsimerman.

        mdnative: I wrote you back below.

        Take care.

  6. A couple notes on the District 4 race:

    In the last few weeks, I’ve been seeing more Shawn Scott yard signs pop us. Alex Pedersen got his signs out earlier, and they are noticeably more prevalent, but it’s good to see Scott being more visible.

    The other day, I got a pro-Pedersen mailer from “People for Affordable Livable Seattle” making the case that we should vote for Pedersen since he is a “progressive” who opposes building housing, or really any change at all.

      1. Good Lord, stop spreading this misleading 976 garbage that got you kicked out of the Facebook group “Seattle Transit Fans..” You have also been previously told on Facebook by a Strauss canvasser that his campaign is against it and they are saying so in doorbelling campaigns.

        Joe, make good faith arguments. We expect better than this from you. You lose people when you mislead them.

      2. For the record, as I need to respond:

        #1. I only learned of Strauss’ opposition today (21 October). The comment was 20 October.

        #2. The opposition was buried within a PDF file in small print.

        #3. The opponent could have came out in a debate – both of the major ones on YouTube which I watched because well I have no personal life – and said it but did not. Heidi Wills did, willing to do what it took to make Tim Eyman Coug It.

        #4. Fine mdnative, spike the football. The point of that high cost offensive was to put a boot up Strauss’ butt to do the right thing. Strauss is 95% going to lose; I’d like him and Jessyn Farrell to lose D6 like heroes helping fight 976.

        #5. One last thing – I am unhappy with how divided we have become. How a meek man has the STB endorsement who needs Seattle Subway leaders to bail him out; and not a lifelong transit hero who has been there for us and will stand up for what is right.

      3. Joe, a third party (i.e., not STB,, not Dan Strauss, not me, but the moderator of a facebook group) determined that you were arguing in bad faith and/or using debunked talking points (you were told several times in the past week that Strauss was against 976 and doorbelling folks on the issue). While I never thought you were the most thoughtful of commenters, I assumed presumed you were acting in good faith (even your denial seems to include an admission in #4 of acting in bad faith). No amount of trash talking or chest puffing here is going to make up for your bad faith. It’s not me spiking the football– it is just sad that I have to continually correct someone who has (as deemed by a third party) engaged in bad faith arguments.

      4. mdnative at October 23, 2019 at 6:23 pm

        I’m going to be brutally honest and if it hurts, it’s the brutal truth…

        When it comes to fighting Tim Eyman, the pure truth becomes the first casualty. I don’t mind stretching the truth a bit and shaming meek men to do what their conscience tells them is right against the likes of Tim Eyman initiatives.

        Bad faith? Maybe. Rough play? You bet.



      5. I know it’s election season and all sorts of risible nonsense is flying, but ..

        It would be really weird if Dan Strauss were pro- 976 given his history and other positions. So “it was buried in small print” doesn’t really fly as an excuse.

        Let’s chill the rhetoric a few notches. Your favored candidate is conducting herself with more grace in this election.

  7. I’ve stated leaning toward Sawant more. I’d like to replace her with somebody more moderate, but I started being concerned about other seats that might go backward in terms of transit and housing, and we’d need Sawant as a counterweight then.

    The district-based council system was pushed by single-family homeowners who thought they’d get more influence and be able to stop growth more, and they had a geographer draw up the districts to split and dilute urban areas, but the surprise result was that the winners were more pro-urban than previous councils were. The question is whether that was the start of a long-term trend or a one-time fluke. There have been so many complaints about the urban direction of the council, and the primary winners in some other districts are not promising (and my district lost Bowers), so that has raised my concern. What do others think?

    1. As I said before, I’m glad I’m not voting in that race. Sawant got lucky. If she was running against Bowers, DeWolf, or even Nguyen, she would be in deep trouble right now. But instead she is running against someone who is probably a reasonable candidate, but relatively weak, and supported by Amazon, et al. In that district, that makes it all too easy for lazy writers from The Stranger to paint him as a corporate stooge. I don’t think it is that simple, but it benefits Sawant, and more than anything, hurts the district. For a district that should probably have the strongest candidates, this is disappointing.

      As for what I would do, I would probably vote for Orion. I’m afraid Sawant is simply too far below the “good enough” threshold for me. I’m not one to dismiss experience, or keep voting for new people because they aren’t perfect. Far from it. I’m enthusiastically supporting Juarez, even though she has her flaws. The difference is that I think Jaurez will get stronger over time — she will accomplish more, and learn more, about the way the city runs and about the needs of it. In the meantime, she is fighting — and fighting hard — for the things that matter most in her district. I’m not convinced Sawant will ever be any better than she is now — and she isn’t that good. She spends most of her time as a demagogue. She seems ill suited for the job, really. Someone like her as a representative — better yet a senator — would be much better. Most of her concerns are national, not local. That is all good and well — often she is completely right — but it doesn’t make the city better. Grandstanding has its place — but that place is not on a city council. U. S. Senator, certainly (it is a major part of your job). But not on the city council.

      So I would vote for Orion, and if he disappoints, vote for someone else next time. I think that if Sawant wins, she will be just competent enough to keep winning elections in a district that really should have someone better.

      1. Juarez who helped win ORCA on the monorail and did a few other noble things lost me over…

        a) Mismanagement of the Tsimerman Crisis
        b) Mismanagement of the homeless crisis
        c) Having a classier opponent who wants homelessness treated as a crisis

        Lucky I don’t live in D5 and right now, I am considering a house in Seattle.

        You don’t need more than two guesses where.

      2. Tsimerman Crisis? What are you talking about? I looked up Tsimerman, and I fail to see how their is a crisis involving a Canadian mathematician.

      3. Oh, and what the hell do you mean by “classier”?

        As for the homeless problem, you do realize that most people who are homeless simply can’t afford rent. They aren’t alcoholics. They aren’t junkies. They don’t have mental issues. They haven’t given up, and are happier begging on the street. They are simply too poor to afford housing.

        It shouldn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out that housing prices are a big part of the problem. If housing was cheaper, a lot of homeless people would no longer be homeless. Furthermore, the agencies that deal with people who are homeless would have a much easier job. They could focus their efforts on the addicts, and those with mental illness, instead of spending so much time on people who are simply poor. Public housing dollars would go a lot further. Wait lists would decrease dramatically.

        The difference between Debora Juarez and Ann Davison-Sattler in this regard is dramatic. It explains why this blog gave Juarez an Excellent rating, and Davison-Sattler was rated Poor. Juarez has worked hard to lower the price of housing, while Davison-Sattler is committed to keeping it high. If you actually care about the homeless, then the obvious choice is Juarez.

      4. Spot on, re: Sawant.

        I’m not sure what she expects to accomplish on the city level, especially when it seems like the issues that matter to her the most are ones that you have to at least be at the state level to affect any change (rent control, income tax, etc.) or federal level (corporate taxation).

        Furthermore, the rhetoric from her is hard to take seriously at this point -her statement in the Voters Guide is Exhibit A of that fact. It’s akin to what I expect from extremist candidates that get 3% of the vote in the primary and are never heard from again.

      5. Did it ever occur to you that for many people endless centrism has patently failed, and thus more radical options appear necessary?

      6. It depends on what you mean by centrism. To me it means pragmatism rather than ideology, and recognizing that different viewpoints can have a kernel of truth behind them. Looking for what is rather than what you think you know. Centrism didn’t fail, it was thrown under the bus by one party that started arguing in bad faith and trying to gerrymander their way to permanent power and found a strategy of accusing their opponents of doing what they were doing to confuse people. You can’t split the difference or find a midpoint with that. But you also can’t say “Revolution now!” because often revolutions end up much worse than the status quo. The far left like Sawant, much as their tactics and ideology annoy me, are generally motivated by injustices that are self-evident, things society should fix but hasn’t. US politics have gotten so weird that it’s hard to find an example of what we should do, but if you look to Canada and the Scandinavian countries, they have a centrism that puts people first, and that’s what we should aim for.

      7. I agree with everything Mike Orr said in Mike Orr at October 21, 2019 at 11:29 pm .

        The Republican Party has acted in bad faith for a looonnnnggg time. No longer the party of McCain and the think thanks – it’s now a dirty, filthy populist party. I will not be going back.

        Rather happy as an Independent anyway. For now.

  8. Having spent several years in East Africa, was grateful for the few minutes listening to the well-spoken young woman from Uganda.

    I think that as a graduation requirement, high school if possible but definitely college, everybody should enter young adult life with direct experience someplace very different from what we consider middle-class United States.

    For financing, would consider national service program comparable to Sweden’s where most recruits go to the civil service. Though this week’s events demonstrate how desperately we also need a widespread generation of political leadership that knows which end of a rifle the bullet comes out of.

    Events in Syria (and Lord knows where else!) these last couple of days clearly demonstrates what’s going to happen from here on as a result of the zero-to-negative-thousands of mistakes in the minds of our electorate’s resulting decisions.

    We see the likes of Africa as a million square miles of misery- which does not make us act to reduce the true ratio. Uganda, Thailand, Brazil, Eastern Europe….Nabayuke belongs to a whole generation of business people and workers upon whose good will our survival will depend, as individuals and as a country.

    One dreadful difference between our world and Jack Kerouac’s: Direct World War II experience left a large world-full of people willing to risk their lives to save an American soldier. This week’s first summary execution of a suddenly-ex friend by way of thanks for several years’ life-and-death alliance doubtless sent our graph whistling off the cliff.

    I keep asking for commentary input from readers with direct hands-on experience with public transit. Really curious about our overseas audience. So appreciate the chance to send my request worldwide.

    Blanket truth that the more details we know on any front, the longer we’ll live. Starting with making sure Northgate’s opening isn’t the only outcome upon which lives will depend next Inauguration Day.

    Mark Dublin

  9. This is a very interesting article about zoning in Canada: https://pricetags.ca/2019/10/17/the-grand-bargain-illustrated/?fbclid=IwAR1yAeWGDUzZjG8vLaBPhwJPYh9fxm0tIuVXUbfLVYFqbT1f7zJy5H7s7D0. There are great similarities with our current zoning, although the terms are different. What the author calls “the grand bargain”, we call “urban villages”. (Making matters more confusing, we use “grand bargain” in local politics to refer to another aspect of our zoning policies). The interesting thing is that our approach is certainly not unique, and it has failed in plenty of other places as well.

    I think that Vancouver is a little more complicated than they suggest, although I agree with the basic principles. Vancouver was able to grow fairly rapidly and affordably because of very liberal ADU laws, as well as a lot of people who simply ignored the laws. They built backyard cottages and didn’t bother to fill out the forms. Then they basically hit a wall. Most of the houses that could add density that way already had it. At the same time, they took the same approach as us — drawing little circles and saying “you build there”, while making sure that everyplace else (the vast majority of the land that can be developed) had exactly the same number of residents. The results were as expected (and as we’ve experienced) — sky high rents.

    1. Ross, ANY “world city” — and Vancouver, Seattle, and San Francisco are all world cities to different degrees — is going to have “sky high rents”. If a lot more housing is built, prices will fall somewhat, but then a lot of people who would LIKE to live in those cities would be attracted by the “bargains” and the price would go right back up.

      A renter in San Francisco is competing with a noticeable portion of the 7 billion people who live in this world. It’s not so extreme with Seattle — there haven’t yet been enough movies made in Seattle, but they’re coming.

      Yes, build more, but don’t expect much lessening in prices.

      1. Tokyo is — by some measures — the largest city on earth. It is extremely popular, and there is extreme wealth in the area. It is still growing, at a high rate (despite the fact that the country as a whole is not). That is because it is experiencing the “move to the city” movement as much as any place on earth.

        Yet despite all that growth — despite all that demand — housing prices are *cheaper than Seattle*. Yes, cheaper than Seattle.

        Zoning matters.

      2. One room apartments in Tokyo run 900/month. A Seattle Apodment starts around 800. I wouldn’t call that “cheaper than Seattle”. Tokyo rents are on par with or slightly higher than Seattle rents.

      3. To back up your position–the idea/truth of “induced demand” came to mind. In the same way that building more highway lanes only causes more people to drive (because now with more lanes it is a bit easier) do to large unmet demand, so you could also say that in “superstar cities” the increased housing that is produced only seeks to release a bit of the much larger demand for housing that these magnet cities attract. Zoning and high prices are what restricts the total population of these cores cities just as highway congestion or tolls restrict highway vehicle mile per person averages. Then it would seem that you can’t build you way out of either dilemna–that demand is too high. An entire new San Francisco could be added in the central Bay Area or an entirely new Seattle (or at least half of) added in the core Seattle area. There appears to be that much demand. I do, by the way, support way more housing and no more highways for liveability reasons.

      4. Be clear on the definition of ‘cheaper’ and ‘apodments vs. one room apartments’.

        Better to define cost as per sq/ft.

        Just a quick Google search showed Seattle’s rent to be twice that of Tokyo, on a sq/ft basis (but that was just a cursory look by me)

      5. Rob E, you can’t know what would happen if Seattle or San Francisco had twice as much housing because there’s no comparable place in the US that has done it. My contention is that demand is finite: you just have to saturate it and then there won’t be much more, because not everybody wants to live there. San Francisco may need more land (which is equivalent to building up the adjacent suburbs) because many people throughout the world for a century considered it the most beautiful and cultured city in the US, but Seattle doesn’t have that problem, and we have twice as much land, so we could double the population and still be less dense than SF or northeastern cities, much less than Asian cities. And if we did double the amount of housing in Seattle, the suburbs wouldn’t sprawl nearly as much.

      6. Jim Cusik, you make a good point. Apodments start at 150 square feet, whereas the one room units I was looking at in Tokyo are 430 square feet (40 square meters!).

        I should have caught that. I feel I would have on a normal day. I am under the weather and heavily medicated

    2. Chicago and Tokyo don’t have sky-high prices like we do, nor do Houston or Dallas or German cities. The reason is they allow the housing supply to match changes in population demand so that there’s no scarcity premium. Chicago, Tokyo, and Germany do it with infill, Houston and Dallas do it with sprawl, but the result is the same: average people can afford to live there without worrying about housing costs. Germany also has statewide rent control in the various states, so developers know they’ll make a reasonable profit but they won’t make a killing windfall, and residents know they won’t be priced out in their old age.

      True world-class cities like Vancouver, New York, and London have an additional problem: ultra-rich people buying trophy houses and condos they rarely use, either for vanity or to invest in a stable economy or to launder money into legitimate assets. In that sense there may be theoretical bottomless demand, but still cities with adequate housing manage to avoid price spikes. Cities can also do more to encourage ordinary housing and smaller units rather than boutique luxury units, and in that way make them unattractive as trophy units.

      1. Chicago’s also been losing population for most of the past 70 years too- some of this is is falling household sizes (my dad grew up in the city, sharing a small house with his parents and seven siblings!) but some of it is families leaving the city (between him and his seven siblings, only two have stayed in Chicago).

    3. I think sky high big city rents is more of a chronological problem than a mere geographic problem. Even though 60’s urban renewal was deeply flawed, the genesis was to add housing. In recent decades, large swaths of big city land are kept at lower densities in other cities like San Francisco even more than here. Plus, living in bustling urban neighborhoods has become more trendy (SF has as many commuters going south as coming from the south). Finally, too much rent control and tax increase limits benefitting existing property owners deter the creation of new quality urban housing. One only has to look at apartment rents in Capitol Hill in 1980 to see what I mean.

      1. In recent decades, large swaths of big city land are kept at lower densities in other cities like San Francisco even more than here.

        I would be very surprised if it was significantly different. My guess is San Fransisco has frozen the same ratio of land as Seattle has. Remember *most* of the land in Seattle is actually losing population. Furthermore, San Fransisco has frozen a lot of land that has much higher density. Just compare the two cities: https://arcg.is/1yDnnf, https://arcg.is/0C4fTO. San Fransisco has much higher density pretty much everywhere. Exceptions are in places that are industrial, or largely parks. These are old numbers, but in both cases — certainly in the case of Seattle — all the growth that has occurred since the last census has occurred in a tiny bit of land.

        It is the same problem. It is exactly what that article talks about. The problem isn’t the towers — or lack of them. It is the huge amounts of land that sits without any growth at all. No townhouses, no houses converted to apartments — nothing. I was walking around Fremont and saw a beautiful three story house going in. They could have three beautiful apartments there (like they do in Brooklyn, or San Fransisco). But they won’t. It will be owned by one family (or one person) since doing otherwise would be illegal.

        Yet that is nothing. In my neighborhood, it is worse. The houses take up way more space — at least 7000 square feet — often more. It is just roughly as far away from the center of Seattle to my house as it is from Edogawa to downtown Tokyo (about 10 miles). Yet despite Tokyo being much, much bigger and wealthier, you can buy a very nice town house for around 300 grand: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGbC5j4pG9w&feature=youtu.be. Good luck finding that in Northgate.

      2. If urban neighborhoods become more trendy, build more urban neighborhoods! The problem is that nobody is building any more Capitol Hills or U-Districts or Ballards. John Bailo used to ask, “Why not build Wallingfords in Kent?” Well, why not? What we get is soulless modernist places like downtown Bellevue or The Landing with large streets and large garages and chain stores and big-box stores. And many people don’t want to live in that, especially the ones who live on Capitol Hill and work at Microsoft. Why doesn’t Redmond build a Capitol Hill following the prewar architectural scales and uses and then the people they’re losing would want to live there and it could be more of a solution to the housing problem.

      3. Except for the Van Ness corridor, the Third Street corridor and the Mid-Market/ SODO area, San Francisco doesn’t allow new 65-foot buildings. Much of the population growth is in existing housing. Note too that San Francisco’s population has grown only 10 percent since 2010 compared to Seattle’s at over 20 percent. If one drives though The Marina, Pacific Heights, The Richmond, The Sunset, Twin Peaks or the Excelsior, one will not see many new taller buildings.

      4. They aren’t not awesomely large, but Downtown Redmond, the Spring District and Renton Landing are showing themselves as new urban villages responding to a more village vibe.

      5. Much of the population growth [in San Fransisco] is in existing housing.

        As it should be. The problem in the Bay Area, and Seattle (and Toronto) is that so little of our population growth is in existing housing. In all cases, it is the same failed model. They draw little circles and allow big buildings there. Some are six story, some are giant residential towers. Those, by themselves, aren’t the problem. It isn’t that they have too many, or too few, it is that nothing in the surrounding area allows any growth at all. You can’t convert a house to an apartment in most of Seattle. You can’t convert a house to an apartment in most of the suburbs.

        We’ve eliminated the cheapest form of housing, and wonder why rent is so damn high, even though we are building like crazy. We tear down houses, and replace them with bigger houses. We even tear down apartments, and replace them apartments. All of this keeps the cost of housing high.

        Here are a couple examples. This is a new townhouse development going in close to Lake City Way: https://www.seattleinprogress.com/project/3032666. It will be a six unit townhouse replacing a 5 unit apartment. Those living in the cheap apartments will have to move, but the new townhouses are three stories high. So maybe some of those will be converted to apartments (like in San Fransisco). Nope. Not allowed. They will all be townhouses, which means that after all that expensive construction (and the displacement) there will be a net increase in density of one unit.

        But that isn’t the worst part. Go north a bit, to this area: https://www.seattleinprogress.com/project/6620564-CN. Even though they list two, there are three new houses being built there. You can see all three lots on the King County parcel viewer (https://gismaps.kingcounty.gov/parcelviewer2/). All three lots are listed as “vacant”. That is because all three used to be one big lot, and they destroyed the existing house. The three lots are big: 7,486, 9,123 and 8,305 square feet. Yet they are the smallest lot sizes allowed. The old lot was just a tiny bit less than 25,000 square feet. So, after all of the construction (and destruction) there will be a net increase of two units (three houses replacing two houses).

        OK, now remember that lot that contained the cheap apartments, that will soon be row houses? It is 5,257 square feet. That means that up north, you could build somewhere between 25 to 30 town houses where you currently have three new houses going in.

        It is ridiculous, yet typical. If they allowed those (30) town houses in Pinehurst, it is quite possible you wouldn’t build the other town houses in Maple Leaf. It just isn’t worth it. A five unit apartment building — sitting on a 5,200 square foot lot — is worth a lot more than an empty lot. That means that development leapfrogs. Instead of two projects leading to a net increase of 3 places, you add close to 30. That is a ten fold increase, with less development! No one has been displaced. Someone just sold their old house, and someone else replaced it with 30 houses instead of 3.

        That is without apartments on that part of Pinehurst, or replacing the one story apartment building with a six story one. All you’ve done is make a small change, allowing town houses in more of the city.

        Then there are apartment conversions. Here is an example. This is a nice big house in a very nice area: https://goo.gl/maps/QpntytCMaA8yqrHHA. According to Redfin, it has five bedrooms, three bathrooms and 2,800 square feet of space. It sits on a 4,000 square foot lot. It is about a five minute walk to the future Roosevelt rail station. It is an even shorter walk to the Cowen/Ravenna Park, one of the nicest parks in the city. It is a short bike ride to the UW or Green Lake, etc. It is one of the more desirable, and urban parts of the city. Yet it sits inside the single family zone. Even if it goes up for sale, it won’t change. Oh, someone could destroy it, and then put up a new house, but it can’t be converted to an apartment. It would make one helluva set of apartments, mind you. You could easily have three beautiful apartments: a couple two bedroom one bath, and a one bedroom. That is family size. I’ve raised a couple kids in a one bedroom (while sleeping in the living room) — a two bedroom apartment would be luxurious, especially with all that such an apartment would offer (a shared back yard, quick access to wonderful parks and playgrounds, fantastic schools, etc.).

        But that won’t happen. It won’t happen there, despite being less than five minutes away from a Link station. It won’t be allowed even though you’ve actually preserved the existing building. The cheapest, least destructive form of development — preserving the existing structure in all its charm and beauty — won’t be allowed. It won’t happen there, nor will it happen in most of the city.

        Just to be clear, I can sympathize with the concerns of the preservationists. It is reasonable to want to preserve nice looking houses. But the current approach pushes up the value of an apartment so high that even tearing down a really nice house (http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2012/10/capitol-hill-house-standing-since-1890-wont-get-landmark-protection/) happens. It is similar to the apartment I mentioned in the first example. Those are being replaced by townhouses because the city won’t allow you to build townhouses on most of the city.

        It is a failed approach. The current all or nothing approach leads to high rents, high displacement *and* a loss of character for neighborhoods.
        The sooner we adopt changes, the better.

      6. “Downtown Redmond, the Spring District and Renton Landing are showing themselves as new urban villages responding to a more village vibe.”

        Redmond has made promising strides with its lack of setbacks, recreating a traditional-sized street grid and sidewalks. It has some small independent businesses (The Stone Pot was a serendipity), and I don’t mind small chains like Cartridge World that fill a needed niche. And the acreage of park between the library, City Hall, and the Sammamish River Trail, with sculptures. But you don’t hear people saying, “I want to hang out in Redmond”, “There’s a show in Redmond I’m going to”, or “It’s nice to linger in Redmond.” That’s what’s missing: the prewar city plaza pedestrian atmosphere, and the variety of businesses and services within walking distance.

        The Landing has one urban apartment building. If there are non-chain walk-up stores, I can’t see them from the F or walking to Fry’s. What I see is big-box chains behind huge parking lots. The lost opportunity makes me sad. One of Redmond’s primary candidates said he sees a vibrant Fremont emerging in The Landing-Southport area. I wish, but I don’t see any sign of it yet.

        The Spring District is so unfinished every time I go through there that I don’t know what to make of it.

    4. All I’m saying is we should follow the best practices of other cities and countries that have managed their population better. Maybe that wouldn’t solve the problem completely but we’d be in a lot better position and have more flexibility to deal with other problems.

      1. Yes, absolutely. And that starts by rejecting our current all or nothing approach. It means making widespread changes, all over the city. Get rid of the single family zone. Allow row houses and town houses everywhere. Allow apartment conversions everywhere.

        If people want to preserve a particular house, then preserve it. Have a limited number of houses that by law can’t be town down. But still allow more people to live in the house.

    5. In 1989 in the northern U-District you could easily get a 2BR apartment for $450. In 2003 1BRs in north Ballard (65th) were $700, and studios on Summit and First Hill were $500. In 2010 the studios had reached $750, 1BRs were $950, you could still find an occasional 1BR for $650, and I got a recent (7-year old) 1BR for under $1200. Now nine years later my unit is $1900 and those $650 units are long gone. Why did it accelerate so much so quickly?

      I think it’s like a supermarket checkout line or a train platform. When people are trickling in and you can serve them as they come, the line stays 2-3 deep. But when it reaches a tipping point, even the same trickle can quickly balloon to 10 people or an overcrowded train. Likewise, Seattle lost population in the 1960s and 70s, and only regained its 1950s population in the early 2000s. That’s when the slack started to be squeezed out and rents accelerated and the low-end units started being harder to find. By 2012 the slack had dried up and prices rose even faster than they had the previous decade. So the solution is to never let it get to that tipping point. Don’t let the vacancy rate go below 5% for more than a year, and then you’ll get a nice steady population increase with no or little price rises. The problem in most US cities is we’ve severely constrained supply and it escalated to a housing crisis.

      Seattle allows apartments on only a quarter of the residential land, so that bids up the price in those areas. It outlawed missing middle housing and SROs in the 1970s, and only now is it starting to loosen the restrictions on ADUs and duplexes. There’s your housing problem right there.

      In Tokyo you can build a house even on a little triangle of land that’s unbuildable here, and it has national zoning, and every level allows everything below it, and they’re still building little pedestrian alley-streets that can fit a lot of small houses on them.

      Egads, in northwest Everett and Magnolia, there are front yards that are so deep you can fit an entire second house as big as the first one in them.

      1. Yep. Basically we’ve outlawed inexpensive housing, at a time when demand has increased dramatically. Even a six year old with a lemonade stand could predict the results.

      2. Also, Reagan cut back the federal programs that were aimed at creating affordable housing, saying it should be a local thing. Over time, those that are homeless have shifted to those cities where homeless people area able to get services. Rather than “keeping the solution local” it has just shifted the burden to urban areas.

      3. Some 70% of King County homeless lived in King County before they were homeless. The number of homeless closely follows housing prices. They simply couldn’t pay rent, couldn’t scrape up a deposit for a new place, or got evicted and now nobody will rent to them.

  10. I was crunching some numbers this morning about the viability of funding future Seattle area transit improvements through taxes on ride hailing services, rather than traditional taxes (sales taxes, property taxes, car tabs). The theory being that suburban voters who don’t ride transit and don’t ride Uber/Lyft might feel less opposed to it, since they wouldn’t be paying for it. Perhaps it could even be imposed directly by elected officials, without having to deal with a public vote at all.

    Some back of the envelope numbers. According to a Seattle Times article, the Puget Sound area had an average of about 91,000 daily rideshare trips in Q2 2018. That’s 33.215 million trips per year, or a potential $66.43 million that could be raised with an average tax of just $2 per trip. For comparison purposes, the King County population was 2.189 million in 2017, so $66.43 million works out to be an average just over $30 per person per year, a figure comparable with various supplemental transit funding measures that have been enacted in the past.

    Politically, this approach has some obvious advantages. It shifts most of the cost burden to the neighborhoods that will tend to have the best transit and the most transit ridership, while most suburban voters who never ride either transit or Uber/Lyft pay nothing. It would make it easier for the county council to allocate transit service where it will be well used, without suburbanites being able to complain about their tax dollars getting shipped over to Seattle. It would bring in revenue from out-of-town visitors, so not all of the cost is borne by local residents. It would shift cost burden onto big businesses who subsidize their employees’ ride hailing commutes, and likely be relatively progressive, compared to sales tax. It would also provides a financial incentive for people switch from Uber/Lyft to transit, helping to reduce congestion.

    But, relying on ride hailing revenue to fund transit is not without risk. Specifically, I’m concerned with how well the revenue stream would hold up when a recession hits. Riding hailing just feels too easy for people to cut back on when budgets get tight, and I can easily imagine the number of ride hailing trips plummeting, and the transit service it funds, plummeting with it.

    1. I generally agree asdf with your conclusion.

      Relying on ridehailing to fund transit operating budgets in a recession is a bad call.

      Now if it was for capital projects like electric buses and light rail station improvements and yes if necessary streetcars I’ll support this.

      It’s clear ridehailing needs to be taxed. We have a transit infrastructure backlog.

  11. Fwiw…

    So, I took an informal poll about I-976 at a family dinner on Sunday with my spouse’s family members to get a sense of how others who I would consider “non-politicos” are leaning. This is a decently sized group as my spouse has six siblings all of whom have their own families, with some of the older nephews/nieces being of voting age. Those who will be voting live in Seattle (5), Renton (6), Bellevue (2), Sammamish (2), Edmonds (2), and Kent (3) and their ages range from 19 to 84. Like my spouse and myself, most are college-educated individuals who generally have supported transit measures in the past. The final tally on the initiative was 15 for and 5 against, which frankly kind of surprised me*. The issue that kept coming up again and again was the unfairness of the MVET schedule upon which Sound Transit bases their RTA tax.

    * I say I was surprised because my associates and colleagues from work (those that have voiced their opinion on the matter) seem to be mostly in the “no” camp.

    1. Update: A niece texted me today and she’s another “yes” vote. So that makes the tally 21 for and 5 against.

      1. I have a question, Tlsgwm.

        In your informal survey, did you ask them what their vote was on ST3?

        All of my informal surveys include that.

        95% of those who hate high car tabs have all answered that they voted NO on ST3.

        On the YES ST3/Hate Car Tab $ side I did once encounter a sheepish “I didn’t read it close enough”, with their spouse agreeing, but saying they would still have voted YES – ST3.

  12. Oh, I also just read Flat Broke with Two Goats (I picked it because it’s the Overdrive Big Library Read right now) and did not care for it either. Mostly, I think the writer was a whiner and I didn’t feel she was sincere when she said their trouble was her fault, too. I think she wanted us to go “there, there, you couldn’t have done better” but I think she could have.

  13. I recently totally retired after working 0.6 FTE for 6 years. The part-time work allowed me to continue for several years.

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