Inside Seattle's King Street Station

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130 Replies to “News roundup: returning”

  1. 1. That beautiful photography under today’s title definitively answers a question posed with the utmost grim seriousness by The Seattle Times. “Is Seattle Dying?” Obviously, absolutely not.

    2. Portland-Vancouver Ferry? Love it. Lets see some pics of the waterside stations in Olympia, Tacoma, Seattle, Edmonds, Everett, and Bellingham!

    3. The most encouraging thing about the Cascadia Corridor Project, which has long been a major part of my own plans for regional transit, is how scared of it everybody working on it is.

    Because this year, fear seems to be every mover-shaker’s most awesome legal opioid. Not only does it show a sense of responsibility. But it justifies a wide range of activity and behavior that might once have been career-inadvisable.

    Including an occasional homicide, though, being duly scared themselves, prosecutors are nowhere near flooding the courts. Freeing up the real amount of fear necessary for my own version of the Cascadia Corridor.

    Northern-most bullet train station is in Fairbanks, southern terminal in Tierra del Fuego. After all (thunder, lightning, wolf-howl, really bad Hungarian accent) What else is Halloween FOR?

    Trick or Treat.

    Mark Dublin

    1. lol Mark I love your ambition but the ferry from Portland will be to Fort Vancouver, not Canada.

  2. So an organization called the “Cascadia Innovation Corridor” is afraid of traffic, sprawl and increased housing prices in the big cities in the Northwest. Their plan is to have increase sprawl, traffic and housing prices in smaller cities in the Northwest. Oh, and the organization is supported by Microsoft. Go figure.

    Microsoft’s decision to locate in what was then a distant suburb instead of the heart of Seattle has to go down as one of the worst decisions for the region. It worked out OK for them, but made life worse for a lot of people. It increased sprawl, traffic and the dependence on the automobile. It made it much more difficult to provide a decent level of transit for the region.

    Now the same folks want to apply that idea to the entire region. Great.

    The obvious alternative (which is already happening) is to change the zoning. Portland has already done that. Eventually other cities will follow suit, as will many of the suburbs. This will lead to higher density, lower housing prices, less sprawl and better transit. To be clear, I’m not talking about the type of zoning changes that have been way too common in Seattle. We shouldn’t select small sections of the city and say “build here, and only here”. Zoning changes should be more wide spread (like what Portland is doing). This is the only way to get more affordable housing (to go along with less sprawl and better transit).

    Convincing the public to accept more density (even when the density is the same height as the houses) along with no requirement for parking is not easy. But the trend is a positive one, and my guess is if put to a public vote right now, Seattle would support it.

    1. I agree. I’ll repeat my comment from The Urbanist, hoping I’ll get more feedback here:

      We need to create new neighborhoods, not new cities per se. I’d argue we should create some new greenfield neighborhoods outside existing UGAs, and yes a steady pipeline of incremental missing middle is good, but the focus should be on “new” neighborhoods within our existing urban footprint. Much of Seattle’s recent growth is built on the creation of entirely new neighborhoods in SLU and the Denny regrade, continues with the redevelopment of U District and Northgate, and will hopefully continue elsewhere such as the future 130th station area. This pattern is repeated throughout the region, as cities like Bellevue, Redmond, Shoreline, and Lynnwood are creating entirely new neighborhoods anchored by future Link stations. We should double down on this effort throughout the region and identify more locations suitable to grow into ‘new’ neighborhoods.

      Nonetheless, identifying options for greenfield growth centers disconnected from the major UGAs is an interesting thought exercise, and I think it’s worth exploring. A small faction of future growth is still hundreds of thousands of new people.

      In the spirit of what the authors were proposing, it seems Lewis County is the logical area halfway between the 2 primary metros. I read a PSBJ article recently about how the I5-US 12 junction is emerging as a regional logistics hub because White Pass provides access to 90/82/84 without having to navigate Seattle or Portland congestion. While logistics/light industry would likely be low density greenfield development, both Centralia and Chehalis have the bones for a dense, urban form as the core(s) of this prospective hub city, with open land around the I5-US12 junction providing the footprint for a large mfg/industrial center.

      Looking elsewhere along the existing Cascades rail alignment, the station at Lacy could be the anchor for a 2nd node for Thurston, to pair with downtown Olympia as two dense nodes within a ‘Greater Olympia.’ This could drive good density in Thurston with only a small amount of truly greenfield development, and good provide a good terminus, alongside downtown Olympia, for a strong bus line.

      Closer to home, some of our existing exburbs would do well to be considered as future ‘secondary’ cities in the 50K size. If we can figure out how to serve the commuter market with a strong transit connection plugging into our HCT network, these towns are large enough to serve all other daily trips, with an historical street grid that should allow for great transit/walking/biking infrastructure, particularly with further density provided by the proverbial ‘missing middle.’ I think both Snoqualmie/North Bend and Monroe are good candidates here, in contrast to the edge city sprawl of Maple Valley, Bonney Lake, or Lake Steven. I think there is a transit solution somewhere to unlock “good density” in these exburbs in much the same way that Sounder unlocks good density in Kent, Auburn, Puyallup, and Sumner station areas.

      1. The area around I-5/US 12 also has both western railroads one mile west of the junction. The tracks are owned by BNSF but UP has on-off connection rights. An industrial area with its own trackage could be served by both railroads.

      2. We need to create new neighborhoods, not new cities per se.

        I am arguing that we simply need to increase the number of people in our old neighborhoods, which is basically what cities did for hundreds of years before zoning restrictions came along. Instead of old houses on big lots being replaced by McMansions on big lots, there would be row houses, or small apartments. You could call it a new neighborhood if you want, but you could say the same thing about those neighborhoods now. The big difference is that you would have a lot more people in the neighborhood, not just newer, bigger houses. Instead of this:, you would have this:, even if down the street you still have this: You would also allow big houses, like this:, to have more than one family in it (i. e. to be converted into apartment building).

      3. Thanks Tom, didn’t know that about the railroads.

        “which is basically what cities did for hundreds of years before zoning restrictions came along.” – No, not really. In Seattle, most growth has always been greenfield. They key difference is that as the streetcars facilitated new greenfield, those new neighborhoods as walkable, relatively dense, and support further incremental growth. Post-WWII, growth has been overwhelmingly suburban greenfield, which is then stuck as-is. In Europe, major cities like London and Berlin had catastrophic housing crises during the Industrial revolution, which were only solved by epic building campaigns that created entirely new neighborhood of midrise housing, often supported by cutting edge technologies like sewers and railroads. In Seattle today, much of our recent growth is from brownfield redevelopment of Denny and SLU, not organic infill.

        Yes, good zoning is important. Yes, ensuring demolitions result in missing middle rather than mcmansions is important. But to deliver the sheer volume of housing our region needs, we also need to redevelop entire neighborhoods. U District is a good example of this; it’s not ‘brownfield’ per se because the current neighbor is dense & vibrant as-is. But the city has decided that the neighborhood is going to rapidly evolve into a new paradigm and is investing in public infrastructure accordingly. This is quite different than incremental, organic growth as a ‘new’ neighborhood requires coordinated public leadership & investment to support a step-change in density, whereas for missing middle a city generally just needs to set good policy and let the market work over time.

        So I don’t want to take away from the missing middle policy arguments. I just think the Cascadia Innovation Corridor is on the something in terms of being more ambitious with reimagining parts of our region. Seattle has done really great things reimagining SLU and U-District (Northgate is a bit anemic); I’m excited about the Bel-Red corridor and the new SE Redmond neighborhood; Lynnwood, Everett, and particularly Tacoma have big plans for their downtowns, and we should ensure regional policy facilitates the market to take advantage.

      4. “which is basically what cities did for hundreds of years before zoning restrictions came along.” – No, not really. In Seattle, most growth has always been greenfield.

        Seattle is not a typical city. Most of the cities in Europe and Asia are a lot older. Even in the United States (the new world) Seattle is a youngster. Cities like New York, Boston or Philadelphia all grew up without zoning. Zoning is a relatively new concept, as is the automobile. The two grew together, which meant that a new city (like Seattle) did not grow the way an old city (like London) grew. It wasn’t allowed to.

        Even in Seattle — a very young city — you can see how a lot of it grew before zoning. Places like Capitol Hill, Pioneer Square and Queen Anne were obviously built without zoning. Then there are places where the zoning either matched what was already built, or just lived with what was there. Madison Park and 6th Avenue Northwest (west of Phinney Ridge) are obvious oddities that wouldn’t exist with normal zoning. Likewise, the Safeco Tower stood alone for many years because they changed the zoning after it was built. There are also big buildings on Queen Anne (and a lot of other neighborhoods) that exist in single family zones. Just about every old building — whether in a multi-family zone or not — would fail the modern code, since it doesn’t have parking.

        Zoning is a relatively modern concept. In Seattle, it was initially designed to racially segregate. Seattle grew the way most cities grew prior to the zoning rules. Then, after the rules changed and the automobile became popular, sprawl increased, and a lot of neighborhoods became suburbs relatively close to the heart of the city (e. g. West Magnolia). Folks may not know how suburban West Magnolia is. West of 34th, there is nothing but houses — no apartments, no stores, just houses and parks. This leads to walks like this, just to get something to eat (from the nearest store) Without zoning, Magnolia would look like a more modern version of the Central Area. Lots of little and big stores, apartments and multiplexes, along with plenty of houses. But they would be mixed together, in a more organic way — the way most cities in the world grew over centuries.

      5. This is quite different than incremental, organic growth as a ‘new’ neighborhood requires coordinated public leadership & investment to support a step-change in density, whereas for missing middle a city generally just needs to set good policy and let the market work over time.

        The market worked over time in South Lake Union as well. It didn’t just grow up overnight. Nor did it occur in an urban-renewal manner. They simply changed the zoning, and it grew. It grew faster because it is very close to downtown Seattle. There was a coordinated effort to make it grow, but that failed. Paul Allen tried to build a huge park, thinking that would lead to a new major development around it. That failed, twice. He also tried very hard to develop the area as a biotech hub (which was reasonable, given the location, between the UW and downtown). That also failed. None of that mattered, really. Oh, I’m sure it helped the Vulcan spent a lot of effort trying to spruce up the neighborhood, but the area changed only because Seattle grew. Specifically, Amazon and other software companies grew, and that was pretty much the only part of downtown that could grow.

        Speaking of which, as big as South Lake Union is, the Denny Triangle area is bigger. This is an area that was car lots and old motels not that long ago. There was no grand public/private plan to rebuild the region. Amazon (and other companies) just built there because it was essentially part of downtown, and they could build there (because of the zoning).

        We don’t need more South Lake Unions. We need more Plateau Mont-Royal ( There are only so many neighborhoods like South Lake Union. You can try and convert say, Lake City to South Lake Union, but it just won’t happen. There just isn’t the demand to live in Lake City — it isn’t walking distance to downtown. So the owners of the car lots just keep selling cars. It grows, but only in bits and pieces.

        The policy of specifying little circles and saying “build here, and only here” is bound to fail. It has always failed. Can you cite one example where it lead to cheaper housing? I can’t. Yet it is pretty easy to find examples (like Seattle) where it has failed. Here is another city: In contrast, consider every city in this list, that has built its way to affordability: They all have one thing in common: wide spread liberal zoning — much of it low rise.

        The density of low rise neighborhoods like Montreal is very high — similar to South Lake Union. It is often misunderstood — people equate height with density. If you look at row houses (none of which is over 3 stories) you can see that lots of people can fit in there. Or how about this example I used on the blog that AM referenced: That is a small, 3 story apartment building that sits on 15,000 square feet. That is no taller than the houses allowed in SFH zones, and is the same as three small lots. It has 41 units. You could have built that AND several row house in the area I mentioned earlier ( It has three houses instead. That would be a dramatic change for that street. Not for the neighborhood — Pinehurst has lots of similar three story apartments and rowhouses. But for the street it would be a dramatic increase. In that census block (which does include some apartments), there were 861 people. Just one small development would add 10% for the entire census block (which is roughly 1/2 mile by 1/4 mile). This would not be a huge development. This would not change the nature of the neighborhood. It would hardly be noticed, really — it would not be written up in the Urbanist, unless randomly chosen. Again, this is three housing lots, in the middle of a sea of houses. Yet it would mean a 10% increase. A couple of those and you match the increase for the entire city that has occurred this decade (a decade of unprecedented growth in absolute number). Three developments of that nature — which again would mean that almost all of the neighborhood would still be single family — and you have more growth in that neighborhood than the city averaged.

        Low rise density is not much less than what we are building now. With the typical setbacks, and parking requirement, and everything else that goes into a six story building, it has roughly the same number of people as row houses in Montreal or Brooklyn. In contrast, a single family lot has very few people. You aren’t going to build that many units by trying to build more South Lake Union neighborhoods. They certainly won’t be affordable. In contrast, if you took huge swaths of the city — where roughly 80% of the residential land is — and allowed low rise development, the city could add a lot more places, and they would be a lot cheaper.

      6. Argh. “build here, and only here” is the exact opposite of what I said. That’s a strawman. We should build in most places. Converting swaths of Seattle into Mont Royals would be marvelous. I just disagree that low-rise development alone will deliver sufficient volume of new housing over the next few decades, even with ‘Montreal’ zoning or whatever magical wand you have in mind, so I’m looking at additional levers to pull.

        Doesn’t anyone other than Ross have something to say about creating new nodes of mid/high-rise density throughout the region?

      7. Ross, I think the biggest thing you are missing is the difference between greenfield and infill development. The island of Montreal wasn’t suburbia before it become a dense urban space; it was mostly open farmland. Those dense neighborhoods you love in Montreal or Chicago or Boston or NYC were mostly built at an initial level of density that isn’t much less than were they are today. The only city in that Sightline article (which is an excellent article) that’s relevant to your argument is Houston, which has delivered significant infill density over the past 2 decades. So if you think Seattle can have the same political support for permissive zoning as Houston, cool, but I’m more with the CIC that infill developed should be strongly encourage but we need additional tools in the housing toolkit because infill alone will not for sufficient for various structural reasoning, including the political environment. Even with Portland recent zoning change and a redevelopment of 80% of Seattle’s SF housing stock over 20 years (a massive achievement), we’d still need more housing. Don’t put all your eggs in the infill basket.

    2. I think you’re imagining Portland to be something it’s not just because its zoning laws are different.

      1. That is fairly presumptuous, given the fact that the only thing I mentioned about Portland was the new zoning rules. What do you imagine I imagine Portland to be?

    3. Portland is less dense than Seattle. And many statistics like poverty, homelessness, etc., are similar to Seattle. And if you plopped down Microsoft, Amazon and Boeing in the greater Portland region, it would wipe-out any slim affordability advantages it has over Seattle. The idea that changes in zoning law is a magic elixir that cures all affordability problems was proved wrong long ago. Tweaking the law here and there can help a neighborhood, but let’s stop pushing the canard that it turns expensive cities into affordable one’s.

      1. The idea that changes in zoning law is a magic elixir that cures all affordability problems was proved wrong long ago.

        Really, where did that happen? Because this article lists several examples of where liberal zoning allows for more development, and cheaper housing, even in the biggest city on earth (Tokyo).

      2. I have to agree with Sam on this. What makes a city expensive is its economy and the nature of its job base. People come to cities because of they provide opportunities for betterment, both economic and personal. The more opportunities, the more attractive they are. The more attractive a city is, the more expensive it becomes, especially if there are physical or structural constraints to population growth. Portland has a much tighter Urban Growth limitation than does Puget Sound, but its economy is much weaker. Thus it is neither as expensive as Seattle with similar restraints would be nor as cheap as its so-so economy would be absent its growth boundaries.

      3. What makes a city expensive is demand for housing in relation to the supply of housing. The economy and the nature of its job base is just one possible cause of the demand (albeit a very common one). Aspen is one of the most expensive places in the United States, and the local economy has little to do with it.

        It is all supply and demand. In Seattle, for example, demand suddenly went up while we greatly limited the new supply that could be added. Demand increased because of the local economy, but it really doesn’t matter why demand increased. But the problem really wasn’t the increased demand. In Tokyo demand has increased far higher than demand in Seattle, yet housing is more affordable than Seattle because it is easy (and cheap) to increase supply.

        It is pretty easy to see what would have happened if the laws were different. Let’s say that the entire city was zoned single family. There would still be apartments, but no new ones. Prices would have gone up very high for every apartment and condo in the area. The suburbs would have grown, and new apartments would have been built there. Prices there would have been high, but in most cases, the prices would have been lower than Seattle (parts of the East Side being the exception, as housing demand there has increased as well).

        It is also easy to imagine what would happen if the city had adopted the approach that Portland just did, but 20 years ago. You wouldn’t have houses like this: This lies on a brand new subdivision. The lot it sits on is over 9,000 square feet, yet by law, it can’t smaller. Instead of the 3 house subdivision, you would have at least a dozen homes, or a small apartment building with two dozen units. That is a bigger increase in supply. This would cause all houses, apartments and condos in the area to be cheaper. Not only in Seattle, but in the suburbs as well.

        Zoning isn’t the only thing that limits supply. If the price to build a house is too expensive (and the price a builder can expect to get for it is too low) then it won’t be built. There are also situations in which wealthy people will pay more a large place than everyone else put together. In Seattle, however, builders always build as many places as they can. Thus it is zoning that is most responsible for the low supply in Seattle, which in turn is mostly responsible for the high cost of housing.

      4. The property linked by RossB is zoned SF7200 (source: so the parcel could in fact be “smaller”, up to about 20% smaller. It just could not be subdivided under current zoning. It is a minor distinction, but one worth mentioning.

        I do not have any history knowledge of this property, but if it is a new subdivision, presumably it could have been subdivided differently, assuming the original property was large enough to warrant this. Again, I have no knowledge of this particular site, one way or the other, it’s just a slightly strange argument to make.

        In general, yes, allowing for smaller lots would be a reasonable way to address the issue. Honest question, who controls this in Seattle, is it City Council, or is it one of the city government departments? i.e. does the pressure have to be impacted through legislative action (which may require directly finding candidates supporting the change) or executive action (which relies on support from a mayor and unelected positions within the mayor’s office to impart the pressure)?

        In either case, it appears that some political (electoral) pressure needs to be imparted. How do we get buy-in from enough Seattle people to elect candidates who will support these issues – or, to rephrase, how do we get candidates who will support these issues who are electable, even in Seattle?

      5. Fun fact: I work at Boeing in the greater Portland region!

        The site is much smaller than anything you have up in Puget Sound, though…

      6. The property linked by RossB is zoned SF7200, so the parcel could in fact be “smaller”, up to about 20% smaller. It just could not be subdivided under current zoning. It is a minor distinction, but one worth mentioning.

        The original lot was about 25,000 square feet. That means that there can only be three lots (the main issue). It that lot was smaller, than the other ones (which are already big) would be bigger. If they were all the same size, they would be about 8,300 square feet — not much smaller than the biggest lot.

    4. I agree. Microsoft located themselves in the boonies, then decades later lobbied to have light rail directed to their doorstep. Now they are proposing creating new cities, and lobbying for a new high-speed rail line that will link them with existing cities? Sounds familiar.

      There is plenty of room in existing cities, no need for greenfield development. All we need to do is legalize multifamily homes, offices, and small shops in existing exclusively “single family” zones that have nice grid networks. Cars aren’t scalable and there will always be congestion, so we may as well provide alternatives like walking to shops instead of having to drive to them. But as the paper points out, this is all politically impossible.

      To be clear, I am also totally in favor of upzoning around every Amtrak Cascades/Sounder station. This would be a good start to what CIC is proposing.

      1. Was the decision to locate themselves in Redmond reasonable, from a business perspective (i.e. doing their fiduciary duty to shareholders)? Was it legal?

        My guess is that in both cases, the answer is “yes”. Also, at the time, the company was presumably not large enough to influence political decisions through lobbying. So blame probably is held at a more societal level. If we don’t want companies to do that, how do we encourage them or require them to do something else?

        I might add that I am still in favor of spreading jobs around the region much more uniformly (or at least commensurate with existing density), so that Seattle does not become the next Medina, as I mentioned last night in a different thread.

      2. The problem with these utopian ideas and zoning is Seattle is just such a terrible example of all these urbanist ideals. Maybe if Seattle were not so dysfunctional these ideas might have some merit, or some on the eastside might consider them for a second. Eastsiders do believe Seattle is dying.

        Eastsiders — although they tend to not read urban or transit blogs — see this argument as: since we totally ruined Seattle, let’s take these same ideas and ruin the eastside, and of course are not oblivious to the fact all these ideas to change their cities and neighborhoods are being made by people without any money. They think it is all about envy. These people watch Fox News.

        If you are going to change eastside zoning involuntarily you are going to need some heavy duty money behind the idea or legislation, because the state and county are not going to do what Bellevue, Issaquah, Snoqualmie, Sammamish, Kirkland and so on don’t want to do, because some naïve idealists on The Urbanist (which is going broke) think is good for them.

        Good luck on changing residential zoning on the eastside, especially with working from home. How about we see how it works out in Seattle first. Or how about we fix Seattle first, since it is the paradigm for New Urbanism.

        The greatest gift to every eastside commuter is they no longer will have to commute into Seattle. To them, Seattle will cease to exist, and they won’t miss it for a second. How will that sentiment help sell Seattle’s ideology to the eastside?

        Fix Seattle first, then sell it to the eastside.

      3. As a fellow Eastsider who does not believe that density ruins neighborhoods, please do not claim to speak for all eastsiders.

        I live near downtown Kirkland and place a high value on the walkability – quite literally, as a 3 bedroom townhome in the walkable part of town costs as much as a full single family house with a yard in the less walkable parts. There are several new townhome developments being built or planned very near me, and I do not oppose them. On the contrary, more people ultimately means more and better businesses to walk to and transit service to elsewhere. For a development planned for right outside my window, I wrote in, asking if a parking spot could be removed to preserve a tree, with no objection to the number of units.

        I personally believe that parking requirements are excessive and drive up housing prices unnecessarily. I deliberately chose a home with a private garage, in large part because it was the only way to avoid paying for not just one, but two parking spots that would just sit empty and never get used. A garage, least, is a functional storage space, even if there’s no car in it.

      4. Like it or not, the natural geography of Puget Sound and the Cascades creates an elongated north-south urban form or boat-shaped. Concentrating growth in the City of Seattle creates economic pressure for upscaling housing on the Eastside. The inevitable market result seems to be increasingly setting up the Eastside as the nearby exclusive neighborhood for Greater Seattle. The Eastside is not self-contained — even if it’s constrained by a few gateways or no matter how many residents wish it were that way.

        So to me the fundamental issue becomes where the jobs are. Up until now, the increasing centrality of many jobs has been roughly between 85th St to the north and I-90 to the south in both Seattle and the Eastside. It has been a wonderful urban form to date — but we are approaching the reasonable limits of that form. We are also used to believing that we can live and work anywhere in the region. Moving forward, that paradigm has to shift somehow.

        Certainly, adding long light rail lines eases the challenge but even those will feel cumbersome because light rail technology is too slow and the trains will be stopping over 16-17 times from the north and south end points. What seems to be needed is a longer-distance system to move people — not only between major cities but to intermediate points too. It also needs to be two-way and frequent, which is a big limit to Sounder expansion.

        A final issue is access to the east and the rest of the US. The emergence of Snoqualmie Pass as the predominant truck travel route has had a big hand in growing Seattle faster than Tacoma and Bellevue faster than Auburn, for example. The way that the region connects across the Cascades can ultimately affect our urban form.

      5. @AM — Right, I don’t really blame corporations for the wrong they do. That is like blaming a bear for digging through your dumpster. Corporations will act in their self interest, and usually that means screwing the public if they can get away with it. Just look at how Boeing screwed this state (over and over again).

        The problem was rules that encouraged companies to develop there, along with the mindset that it was a good idea. It wasn’t, but like you wrote, it seemed reasonable at the time.

      6. These people watch Fox News.
        … how about we fix Seattle first, since it is the paradigm for New Urbanism.

        First of all, how do fix something that isn’t broken?

        You are saying that there are too many idiots on the East Side, and we need a better propaganda campaign to promote Seattle? What do you suggest, Russian bots?

        Yeah, sorry, but if you are stupid enough to watch Fox News, you are stupid enough to believe that Seattle is broken, and nothing will change that. You won’t believe the facts (that clearly show it isn’t) — you will go on living in your little delusional world.

      7. @RossB

        “That is like blaming a bear for digging through your dumpster.” – that sounds like something someone living in Sammamish would say. Have you moved and not told anyone? :)

        Right, so changing the rules is a part of it, but I think the point is even more subtle than that. I imagine that Microsoft would not be what it is had it been required to locate in a city core (at the time, presumably Seattle or Tacoma or Everett, at best, for the Puget Sound region). So it’s not that the two choices post-facto are “Microsoft as it is now, in Redmond” or “Microsoft as it is now, in Seattle”. Most likely, it would have been “Microsoft in some other form, somewhere else altogether”. Not claiming this would be better or worse for all involved, but I think it is important to note the distinction, and be explicit about what the implications are.

      8. As a fellow Eastsider who does not believe that density ruins neighborhoods, please do not claim to speak for all eastsiders.

        I don’t think the attitudes of home owners on the East Side are that different than those in Seattle. (The biggest difference from a political standpoint is that there are now a lot more apartment dwellers in Seattle). But the attitudes of home owners are quite similar. Very rarely do people complain about density. They complain about parking and building height. Not everyone, of course, but those are usually the two main issues.

        Parking is probably the toughest. People like easy parking. They expect someone else to pay for it. Other than appealing to their good nature (something that requires an argument many refuse to understand) there isn’t much to do. It is like the argument for eating less beef to reduce global warming — an inconvenient truth.

        In contrast, allowing low rise development seems like an easier sell. Why allow a McMansion to be built, but not a house converted to an apartment? This seems like the easiest argument. If you allow a new big house to be built, why not a new apartment the same size?

        Of course a lot of people will argue that if you allow apartments to be built, more old houses will be torn down. The piece meal zoning actually creates this rapid change. If Seattle (for example) tears down 20 houses, and builds 20 apartment buildings this year, they won’t be spread out across the city — there are bound to be areas where this development is concentrated. Thus the current approach actually makes things worse. By limiting zoning changes to a handful of areas, we are likely to lose *more* interesting buildings, not less.

      9. I don’t think the Eastside needs apartments or rowhouses everywhere. But new developments on the Eastside often have smaller lot sizes than even Seattle:

        Problem is that they don’t enforce street grids, which makes walkability a nightmare and prevents any future upzoning or good transit service.

        Dense single-family living with a walkscore of 9. Worst of both worlds, IMO. But I don’t live there. For those that choose it, I genuinely don’t know how much it’s a revealed preference and how much of it is the suburban status quo on autopilot. Perhaps if those developments were all built out in a 1920s street grid people would revolt because the kids can’t ride their bikes in the cul-de-sac and strange people can drive cars down their streets. Or maybe they’d love the fact that they can walk to the QFC.

        People do seem to want to live in Eastside neighborhoods that have some nods to new urbanism (Issaquah Highlands, etc.). So there’s probably more demand than is met by the current market.

      10. I imagine that Microsoft would not be what it is had it been required to locate in a city core

        Right, it probably would have been just a little bit more successful. Not a lot, but just a bit. It is just easier to attract people when their commute is easier. You can get to downtown Seattle from everywhere — from Ballard to Burien; from West Seattle to Woodinville. In contrast, getting to Redmond is a pain in the ass from much of the region. The failed assumption that the company made (and it was common) was that people preferred to work in the suburbs. As someone who worked in Factoria, I can tell you I hated it. The commute was so bad that I quit, even though I very much enjoyed my job at the time. I’m sure if I worked at Microsoft I would have done the same thing (endured it for as long as I could, then quit). I could have moved to the East Side, but I had no interest in that (and my wife certainly had no interest in it). Most people have no interest in it. What is so special about Redmond, other than Microsoft?

        The problem — and it was common with software companies especially — is that they thought of the workplace like it was a college. They even use the term “campus”, instead of “office”. The problem is, as a person reaches adulthood, they no longer want to live like they are in college. They don’t want to hang out with college kids or people who work in the same place. They meet people outside of college, who lie and work in different places.

        To be fair, I’m sure there are some people who would love that. They get an apartment in Redmond and maybe eventually get a house. But for everyone who likes doing that, there is someone who would rather live in some other part of town. If the office is downtown, then people from Renton, Redmond and Ballard can get their easily. If the office is in Redmond, only the folks in Redmond have an easy commute.

        Generally speaking, companies are moving more and more to the city. Amazon is a great example. They have moved more and more towards downtown. That is part of a bigger trend for software companies, and companies in general:

    5. I’m always suspicious of a report that ties Seattle and Portland and Vancouver together — but not the Bay Area, Sacramento and Stockton/ Modesto. Northern California has major cities much closer together than we do. It undermines the reports credibility for me.

      1. If you live in Kirkland you are required to have a garage for a single family home. The reason garages are required is to prevent parking on the streets, which then precludes walking and bike lanes because usually there are no sidewalks in the neighborhoods. For kids street parking pushes them into the roadway when walking to and from the school bus.

        Most new houses on the eastside will sell at a discount without a three car garage. Builders would rather add area to the house but the market (and zoning) demands large garages. When I lived in Seattle having my car that was parked on Weatern Ave. broken into was a regular occurrence, and usually at least one broken window was covered with plastic and tape at any one time. I couldn’t have a car stereo, and my battery was stolen.

        Most neighborhoods want the garbage, recycle and yard waste bins inside the garage. Recently Mercer Island has begun to experience a lot of car prowls and bike thefts in neighborhoods without adequate garages.

        Expensive bikes, kayaks, skis, camping gear, tools, gardening tools, and furnaces and water heaters consume at least one garage if you don’t want it stolen. Two adults and two teenagers usually means three cars because there are no school buses or transit for H. S., which means at least one car on the street. Look at urban areas in Seattle despite transit: the streets are packed with parked cars.

        If you don’t require garages many builders will skip them, especially on smaller lots, but that just means cars are parked in the streets making them very narrow, and all the other junk is strewn about the yard until stolen.

      2. If you don’t want people to park on the street, ban parking on the street. Or, time limit it so that only short term visitors can park on the street.

        If every single homeowner really does need a 3 car garage, then the market will provide that voluntarily without a mandate, so why make the mandate.

        Instead, we have this world where the city says, it’s ok to park on the street, but every building is required to have enough on site parking that nobody will possibly ever need to park on the street. And anyone that wants to keep fewer cars than average is forced to pay for the parking they don’t need.

        At least private garages, you can store stuff in them (bikes/kayaks/etc.), but most apartments and condos have shared garages that don’t provide the security to store anything except a car. So, if you want a two bedroom and only have one car, you have to pay for an empty parking space. Have no car, you pay for two empty parking spaces.

        The point is, the determination of what percent of users have 1,2, and 3 cars should be determined by the builder who will have to bear the consequences if he makes the wrong choice and the units don’t sell. Not the city, which makes arbitrary guesses.

        Even in areas with zero public transportation, not every family needs three cars. Children can’t even get a drivers license until they turn 16 and, even then, they can share cars with their parents.

        Not is people parking their cars on the street all that terrible. In many cases, you have a driveway with one car in it. The driveway opening takes up one parking spot, so the off street parking spot is actually taking up an on street parking spot, so you’ve paved over 200 sq. ft for the driveway and not actually increased the parking supply over just not having the driveway to begin with.

        This is just a summary of why parking requirements are all around bad. You should read Donald Shoup’s book for the complete picture.

      3. If you don’t require garages many builders will skip them, especially on smaller lots, but that just means cars are parked in the streets making them very narrow

        Oh, the horror. I mean, I can deal with the fact that hard working parents can’t afford a place to live, so they and their little kids are sleeping in the back seat of car, but Good Lord don’t make me struggle to find a parking space. That would be terrible!

        And if you don’t understand how the two are related, you don’t know much about the building trade (

      4. I worked in a large law firm in Bellevue in the late 1980’s but lived in Ravenna. I hated it too. The reverse commute was tough, and Bellevue seemed very suburban to me (of course I was single and in my 20’s). Walking from 108th and 8th to Mainstreet seemed like a long suburban strip mall to Bellevue Mall. I couldn’t wait to head back home for entertainment when work ended.

        In the long run Microsoft made a very good move locating in Redmond, which is why Google and Facebook (and Amazon) are copying them, except Amazon is going for the downtown Bellevue tower approach (in part I was told because it could not find a suitable piece of land for a campus between Bellevue and Redmond).

        When East Link was first imagined Microsoft did have a lot of employees living in Seattle, and Bellevue/Redmond were still very suburban (almost rural when it came to Redmond).

        Two things happened:

        1. The Seattle workers got older (like I did), met a spouse, wanted to start a family, so schools and a single family home become the first and second priority, and moved east of Microsoft (except senior employees who live in Medina).

        2. Which started to invigorate Redmond (and Bellevue).

        So you have a workforce that aged and wanted a different lifestyle, and you have an eastside city or two whose business/commercial/retail cores adapted to that. It might not appeal to a 22 year old, but Microsoft’s workforce is a lot older than that now.

        It was easier to go to Redmond or the eastside to get a good school and a single family home to raise a family in than stay in Seattle and attempt the same, with a reverse commute without acres of free parking. There was no East Link then, so it was drive (like I did) or take the bus or two or three.

        It isn’t like single family homes — or any residential property — in Redmond has decreased in value, and those Seattle employees who moved to the eastside, and at first questioned their move except schools and a single family house come first, now are very happy they moved, and bought when they could afford it. They are moms and dads now.

        I am not sure Microsoft could be any more successful, and doubt its location in this region would have made any difference. Microsoft could easily build a satellite campus somewhere in Seattle, like where Expedia is, but the employees would complain because they all live on the eastside, like it, and don’t want to commute to Seattle (God forbid Interbay).

        Seattle has to be separated somewhat from a city like Austin because Seattle has made some unforced errors that have degraded its appeal to businesses, although for around 10 or so years it was very hot. Amazon is moving into some city cores, like Bellevue, but its other main office locations (including the proposed location in NY) are not in the urban core. This is why the long planned goal of East Link to bring all the software and tech workers from Seattle to Bellevue/Redmond was an idea that has aged, along with the workers. There just won’t be many workers taking light rail from Seattle to the East Side, and Microsoft has lost interest in East Link. Few Microsoft employees are going to drive to a light rail station in Redmond to take a train to Microsoft’s campus when there is plenty of free parking and the trip west on 520 is short (although getting to 520 is a bear, except that is the same if you want to get to the park and ride).

        It just shows that life changes, and it is very hard to predict the future, which is why 2050 “Vision Statements” are so silly to me. People will marry, and start families, and that won’t change, and they will age and their tastes in entertainment will go from live music to junior soccer, kids will need to go to school, but they are happy so I don’t see any great changes to the eastside or its zoning because a train will traverse a tiny portion of east King Co., about 20 years too late.

        I think real changes need to come to Seattle first or it will die.

      5. Before covid the 545 ran every five minutes between 7am and 10:30am and was packed full. Half the riders got on at the Capitol Hill stop, a paragon of 6-story urbanist living, which you think has fallen out of fashion. That was on top of the Microsoft shuttle covering the same route. Other Microsoft shuttles went to Wallingford and similar neighborhoods. That’s a lot of people who want to live in the city, and many of them wish they could work at Microsoft in Seattle. If they wanted to live in the Eastside they would have done so. They’re highly-paid so they can live wherever they want, and living on the Eastside they would have had a shorter commute. But that’s not what they wanted. They wanted an urban neighborhood with a wide variety of shopping and recreational destinations, the ability to walk to friends’ houses and parties, and not the excessive parking minimums that drive everything apart. I keep saying we should plant neighborhoods like that in the Eastside and South King County so that people who want that and want to live in the suburbs can do both. But they keep missing the mark. Downtown Bellevue and the Spring District aren’t as interesting, and have superblocks and excess parking minimums. Kent just refuses to allow them. It keeps saying it will do something in downtown Kent but it’s always so little or one building every few years, and it hasn’t done anything in East Hill at all.

      6. and all the other junk is strewn about the yard until stolen.

        Whew, Daniel, that’s a real level of paranoia.

        Look, you make good arguments about a lot of things, but not everyone is as fastidious as you are. There are millions of perfectly happy and very productive people who can live with a much higher level of disorderliness around them than you can. That’s clear from your posts.

        I think you believe that everyone on the Eastside is like you. Now most people on Mercer Island may indeed be like you; it’s an island and there are notable psychological profiles of people attracted to them. But outside of the “points cities” and probably Sammamish with its two entrances folks in other places on the Eastside aren’t necessarily so easily offended by other people’s quirks and the randomness of life.

        Once the virus is lassoed, people will return to transit, and the fun of the city will return. That’s been true for six millennia since people started living in them.

    6. Microsoft could have located in downtown Bellevue. Bellevue’s growth plans started in the 1970s. Microsoft moved from Northup Way in the 1980s, and it could have built a few ten-story buildings around the transit center, which already had the tallest buildings and the best transit access in the Eastside. It chose a greenfield space on the edge of suburbia where the brand-new freeway extension was. The 40th and 51st exits were almost purpose-built for Microsoft, or at least it took advantage of them.

      It located there because that was the popular thing for corporate headquarters at the time. Christopher Leinberger in “The Option of Urbanism” discusses the favored quarter, edge cities, radial and orbital freeways, and reverse commuting in 20th-century development patterns. It fits Microsoft perfectly, All American metros have a “favored quarter” where the CEOs tend to live. It’s normally in the opposite direction from downtown as the industrial district, but n some metros for geographical reasons it’s in a different direction. King County’s industrial district is south and its favored quarter is east. Bellevue is an edge city, and is on orbital freeway 405 between radial freeways I-90 and 520. Bill Gates lives in Medina, which is adjacent to the edge city on the Seattle side. Microsoft is further east on 520 in a greenfield. CEOs in the late 20th century typically founded headquarters in the favored quarter further out from where they lived so that they could reverse commute against traffic. They focused on their own reverse commute and ignored how workers without cars would access the site. That’s exactly what Bill Gates did with Microsoft. 520 goes practically door to door for him. Microsoft had one coverage bus route, but was essentially in a car-dependent area, so everyone who worked for it or wanted the large salary had to drive. In the Eastside it was hard but not impossible to take transit to Microsoft or the startups along NE 20th Street, but in other cities there was no transit so workers without cars in the city were shut out completely from those kinds of jobs.

    7. I waited to read the Cascadia article, but the first thing that stands out is the unlikelyhood of these small cities upzoning sufficiently. Seattle has difficulty doing it, the rest of King County has even more difficulty, and the other counties and cities around it are even more restrictive. If they want a few areas for 40,000 person clusters, there are plenty of locations in Pierce, Snohomish, and South King County if you could convince the cities to zone for them near transit stations. You don’t have to go all the way to Lacey or Mt Vernon or Bellingham. But cities everywhere protect their single-family areas and allow growth only in industrial/commercial zones, which are often not near transit stations. And even when they allow growth it’s often only low-density sprawl as in Marysville, or with excessive parking minimums and superblocks which prevent it from becoming truly walkable.

    1. Correct. It makes a town wealthier at the expense of the rest of the region. I think STB had an entire article exactly on this topic?

      1. The more positive way to frame this question, IMHO, is – “if Sammamish is what a lot of people appear to want, how can we give it to everyone who wants it without penalizing the rest of the region?” Obviously both frames of the issue ignore a lot of other problems, like confounding between overall happiness of residents and mental state and income level, which obviously happens to some extent (and there’s probably a lot of other confounding effects that happen that I am not thinking about as well).

        In any case, the more positive frame of the issue is not an unreasonable goal. It may be unachievable in its purest form – that’s okay, most things are. But as aspirations go, it seems fine. And I admit that it bothers me a little that we as a community are too focused on pushing “our” view of how things should be done onto others. The method becomes the end goal, which IMHO is not ideal. The goal should be people’s happiness, not urbanism or transit. If urbanism or transit in their current form can lead to that happiness, great. If not, let’s adapt them while keeping them sustainable so that they achieve the goal.

      2. So why is it I can find an article that says exclusionary zoning makes housing more unaffordable, and I can also find an article that says inclusionary zoning can make housing more unaffordable? Are both true?

    2. An article posted in The Urbanist today also noted Sammamish has the highest home ownership ratio in the country.

      1. Which simply proves that rich people live there. Frankly, I find it hard to imagine that either Medina or Hunts Point has more apartments per capita than does Sammamish. Maybe there’s a minimum size for whatever group Sammamish won.

    3. Parking for single family housing is different than multi-family. Whereas single family housing requires 2-3 onsite parking spaces (with 1 or 2 covered) most multi-family housing only requires one or fewer parking places. The problem is those living in multi-family housing often don’t live alone, which is why street parking is so acute in those areas. People still like and own cars, even if they live in multi-family housing. Whereas single family housing at 3 stalls might seem excessive, 1 stall is usually .5 too few. The problem though is an underground stall can cost a private developer $90,000, so they prefer free street parking.

      I have read Donald Shoup, and he explains why street and public parking is critical to retail. So cities, even Seattle, allow street parking as a public good, except that overflow multi-family parking consumes that parking.

      The problem with leaving parking up to the market or builder is houses change owners. Streets are a public good, but it is expensive and hard to enforce street parking. So onsite parking requirements are critical for the neighborhood character you are trying to create. It is foolish to require no onsite parking in fairly remote eastside neighborhoods that have no transit, because then you have shifted the builder’s responsibility to the street. The better approach on the eastside is to require larger minimum lot sizes that allow the room for 2 or 3 stall covered garages, and then determine and limit GFAR (house/garage gross floor area to lot area ratios) depending on how rural a neighborhood feeling you want.

      1. It doesn’t matter what the type of housing is. A parking requirement increases the cost of housing. This, ultimately, is passed on to the consumer. This also reduces the likelihood that a new house is built (since in some cases it is no longer cost effective to build a house or apartment). This means that it increases the cost of all housing. Thus a parking requirement is essentially a tax. But it is only a tax for those who don’t own. If you rent, or are looking to buy, you pay this tax. But if you already own, then you don’t pay a dime.

        This makes it an unfair tax.

        Consider for a second, if it really was a tax. Imagine that on every block they built a parking garage. Would it be fair to only charge renters and those about to buy for that? Of course not. That is clearly unfair, and yet that is what a parking minimum does.

      2. Changes in building code are not inherently unfair taxes. Improving earthquake safety is also something that only new building owners/renters will pay (directly or indirectly), because old buildings will be grandfathered into old code requirements until major remodeling or other structural changes are made. I hope you would not consider earthquake safety costs an unfair tax to new property owners or renters. If you do, well, we can remain friends, I suppose ;)

        In any case, the point is, the reason some of us consider parking a bad tax is due to our values, but let’s not make it a matter of fairness. It can be bad due to merits (or lack thereof) alone, and that should suffice.

    4. Ross, I wasn’t arguing for banning street parking, and agree with Shoup that street parking is necessary for urban retail.

      You also misunderstand parking requirements for single family homes in residential neighborhoods from urban multi-family housing.

      Let them park on the street if that is what the citizens and city want. Using an analogy of a homeless hungry baby in the back seat of a car when we are having a discussion about parking requirements makes me think you are too emotional and too tied up in class envy for a pretty dry discussion about parking requirements in different zones.

      1. I was a renter in a Seattle “new-ish” apartment building for over a decade, starting in the mid 2000s. We had to pay for our parking spot (one car). In that period, the garage for the building (which had I think about 1.1-1.2 spots per unit) went from entirely full (and multiple units using multiple spots, leading the waiting list situation for new spots) to the garage being about a third empty. I think this is just indicative of the changing demographics in Seattle, in particularly the much younger, carless tech worker crowd, combined with the better transit starting in 2014 or so. There are probably other reasons, too. But the reason I am mentioning those two issues is that neither was a given when my building was built, and so the developer made what seemed like rational decisions for the market at the time.

        It is certainly reasonable that other decisions should be allowed to be made now, given where the market is going, and where the city is going, but some of those assumptions could again be wrong.

      2. The solution for residents taking away parking spaces from retail is not to require on site parking for residential developments. It’s proper regulation of curb parking, like meters and time limits, rather having it simply be a free-for-all.

        You can even give out street permits to existing residents, but don’t allow people in any new developments to get them. Then, once it is clear to the developer that their future residents cannot use the public street for car storage, they can decide how much parking to provide based on business needs, not by city mandates. For instance, they can choose to cater to families with lots of cars and build lots of parking, or they can choose to cater to millenials with fewer cars who will gladly take fewer parking spaces in exchange for a lower cost per square foot.

        But, the point is, it’s the market that should be deciding these things. If the builder underestimates parking demand and has to lease parking from a neighbor or people won’t move in because they have nowhere to park, that’s the property owner’s problem, not the city’s problem.

        Development regulations make sense for things like life safety. Clearly a design that saves buyers money by omitting fire sprinklers is not acceptable. Similar for energy efficiency. If you don’t mandate it, builders will cut corners, and the result is more pollution/climate change that affects everyone.

        But, parking is not like that. If the residents of a particular building have trouble finding a parking space, that’s their problem and nobody else’s problem. Even others that may park on the street do not own the street, and if you want guaranteed parking, you have to pay for it, and to believe otherwise is just being selfish. If it’s long term residential parking displacing short term customer parking, the solution is to properly regulate the street parking.

        Also worth noting…city mandates parking minimums tend to be excessively high. The typical big box retail store, their parking lot never, ever completely fills up, not comes anywhere close to completely filling up. Costco and Home Depot don’t build 50% more parking than they actually need just because they feel like it – a larger store would clearly generate more profits. They do it because the city orders them to. The result is lots of big, ugly parking lots that make more a big, ugly city.

      3. Ross, I wasn’t arguing for banning street parking

        I never said you were.

        Using an analogy of a homeless hungry baby in the back seat of a car when we are having a discussion about parking requirements makes me think you are too emotional and too tied up in class envy for a pretty dry discussion about parking requirements in different zones.

        It wasn’t an analogy, it was a relationship. It obviously went over your head. I’ll draw the lines:

        1) Parking requirements are implemented to make it easier to park.
        2) Parking requirements push up the cost of housing.
        3) Higher costs of housing increase homelessness.
        4) Therefore, to make it easier to park, laws are passed which increase homelessness.

        Point number one is the typical argument for parking minimums (and I believe it is more or less the argument you made). Point number two and three are easy to verify by searching (I can provide links if you want). Point number four simply leads from the other three.

  3. I’m going to take this open thread opportunity to rant about the continued closure of the Ballard locks to foot traffic. I learned about it the hard way last weekend, taking the 44 from I district to Ballard, expecting to walk across the locks and ending up riding all the way around in an Uber.

    The Ballard locks is an essential transportation corridor, and needs to be treated as such. By all means, ask people walking across to wear a mask, but treating it as just a tourist attraction that’s ok to just close for 1-2 years is not acceptable.

    1. I agree, that’s nuts. I realize the locks are also a destination, but they are a transportation corridor. Even as a destination it should be open. Close the fish ladder, definitely. Close the parking lots. But even if you consider it a park, it should be open, along with signs saying about wearing a mask and being socially distant, just like the other parks. I can run around Green Lake; I should be able to walk through the locks.

      You might want to contact your city council member.

      1. The Locks are run by the Corps of Engineers. The City Council has nothing to say about it.

      2. Great I finally got to talk with you, Ross B. Given their increasingly routine experience with suburban bears, it should be a cinch for the Forest Serviced to start luring corporations into barrels whose lids snap shut, for a pleasant ride up into the mountains to let them go.

        Along with some posted reminders that with his income, Jeff Bezos doesn’t need to use the edge of his VISA card to scrape bugs out of a log. And meantime, Jeff, next time I hear my garbage can go Clang, my fireplace will soon have a real big rug in front of it.

        Mark Dublin

    2. Wow! That seems needless.

      I have wondered about the terrorist risks involved with the public on the locks. Maybe that’s the ultimate concern.

      Pedestrian crossings of our Ship Canal is one of those things that doesn’t get systemically planned. We seem to do it one project at a time. Maybe this should be a motivator for a more comprehensive crossing strategy that is both accessible and secure.

    3. Hi AM, your experience is an issue we are dealing with in our town center on Mercer Island. Mixed use developments were given additional height for underground residential and retail parking, at around one stall per 1-2 bedroom unit, which was about .5 too few.

      The building owners then began charging for parking (the stall was not owned by the unit) and some stalls now go for $240/month. At the same time this encouraged building owners to discourage retail through high lease rates or tenant improvements and use the retail parking for paid residential parking.

      Naturally the overflow residential parking migrated to free street and commuter parking. Recently the 6th Circuit held striping tires as part of parking enforcement is a violation of the 4th amendment, and Mercer Island does not have the manpower to patrol parking. As a result our already anemic retail is suffering.

      The council recently authorized $100,000 for license plate readers, and is working with a citizen/Shoup devotee to hire a parking expert to develop a parking management plan that will enforce street parking, and enforce it with fines.

      My prediction is this will cause howls from the town center residents parking for free on the streets, even though they knew they only got one stall when buying or renting. The council also plans to amend the town center code to prohibit charging for resident parking if parking was part of the reason for additional height, and to require parking set aside for retail to be walk off parking for other retail if not used for retail in that building.

      Right now there is a lot of angst about losing historical music venues, galleries, bars, and neighborhood grocers in Seattle. I posted on The Urbanists that if you upzone residential lots you will create housing but lose retail because retail loses value on each additional story (orphan space), , whereas housing valued increase the higher you go, and lease rates for retail are too high in new developments.

      If housing is much more lucrative than retail in the same zone, with fewer headaches for the landlord, you will get housing but a very dead retail scene, and that is what we are seeing on Capitol Hill and saw in the Central District.

      1. For whatever that’s worth, I’ve been on the island in the CBD about 10 times maybe in the past two years (and drove to it each time) and never had any problem finding convenient parking, either nearby on the street or in dedicated parking for the business/building, except for once on a Friday night. That time we were just picking something up so we made do with the longer walk from wherever we did park up on one of the side streets.

        Take-out is an interesting use case for parking. Even with “good” Seattle bus routes, it is hard to do take-out using public transit unless you literally live on a direct route to your home and can time the bus well, or get stuff that doesn’t need to stay hot. So we always drove to get take-out, even from places that are not too far (say a mile and a half away, reasonable walking distance for someone in okay shape). Oftentimes, it takes longer to find parking near the restaurant than it does to drive there. Is this a problem? It didn’t stop me from doing it, certainly, but it was an issue I found annoying enough to be worth mentioning, even now, almost a year after I last dealt with it. So for this particular use case, I would in fact prefer load/unload zones in front of more restaurants.

      2. Not having front door parking is a sign of a thriving retail district! It creates street life and walk-in business. Handicapped placards and spaces help those that need it — and most of the rest of us shouldn’t whine until the distance gets really punitive.

      3. @Al S:

        First, thank you for your comment.

        A minor point regarding your description of my own comment as a “whine”: I assume the definition you are referring to is “to snivel or complain in a peevish, self-pitying way”.

        I might quote myself again, to be clear: “Is this a problem? It didn’t stop me from doing it, certainly, but it was an issue I found annoying enough to be worth mentioning, even now, almost a year after I last dealt with it.”

        “Worth mentioning”, in my humble opinion, is not whining, and I did mention I found a solution, and it clearly did not stop me from patronizing said restaurants. I tend to give most people the benefit of good intentions on this blog; I would appreciate it when others did the same for me. Thank you in advance for your understanding.

        I have no sense of how much of the specific restaurants’ business came from take-out vs. sit-down dining. I would guess it varies quite significantly, and we may want to support both use cases in ways that do not detract from other use cases of the broader community, such as the ones you noted, having a striving street/pedestrian community (not always the case for those restaurants’ neighborhoods, but definitely worth encouraging), and abiding by hopefully more than the minimum ADA requirements (something I have mentioned a number of times now myself on this blog, in other contexts, so thank you for bringing it up).

        Again, my point is that transit at the level we have in Seattle is not perfect, and this use case, to me, is particularly poorly supported. So, when it comes to street parking in dynamic neighborhoods, I would in fact prefer to have less 2h parking (or whatever level) and more load zones (15min parking etc.), because that drives potentially more business to those businesses. And the people who plan to drive to that area and spend a while can walk a block or two farther than those who are just picking up something. Your mileage may vary; this is my opinion, and I hope I expressed it clearly enough and with sufficient supporting evidence to not count as further “whining”.

        Thank you again for your comment, and look forward to additional thoughts, of course, as always.

      4. The building owners then began charging for parking (the stall was not owned by the unit) and some stalls now go for $240/month.

        Great! The stalls should rent for that much or more, given what they cost to build. Any building offering parking below cost is relying on the other tenants in the building to pay the difference in their rent, whether they use the parking or not. This parking subsidy shifts incentives in favor of car ownership at a time when we should be promoting the opposite, for the sake of our traffic and our climate.

        Naturally the overflow residential parking migrated to free street and commuter parking.

        Yep. When someone is giving away something for free that someone else nearby is charging $240/month to get, it’s predictable that many folks would choose the free option. Of course there’s no law of nature decreeing that public parking must be given away for free long-term use. Price that space competitive with what nearby buildings charge, and maybe your city will be able to hire some people to enforce time limits.

    4. Answer this Ross. The hungry baby in the back of a car. Where will the parents park the car if they get housing? Do you think maybe the parents own a car because at least one of them needs it for work?

  4. I think it’s so interesting to see all the people commenting on the Musk Las Vegas Tesla article that are calling it “improved public transit.” It can move 1200 people per hour – only the saddest public transit lines in the country have such low capacity.

    The silver lining for these people is that soon the Tesla “passenger vans” will be released to increase capacity. But then, they’ll have to get in a van with strangers, in vehicles that leave on a schedule – much like traditional public transit systems.

    So Tesla and Las Vegas have built a low-capacity subway that requires proprietary vehicles and infrastructure, as well as parking lots under each station.


    1. Any chance that “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas” can permanently apply to Elon Musk’s attempt at public transit? Horrible thought: has he been making any inquiries about some Tunnel or other under the Seattle Waterfront? Whoever dug it, impeach them immediately!

      Though any time he wants to go pouting off to Pluto, I doubt there’ll be any visa problems. Given the number of US allies another Pouter-in-Chief has so diligently antagonized, could be last place in the Universe that will still let Americans in. And not because of COVID.

      Problem with the Law and Order set and everybody of their stripe. A lot of their Orders are against the Law but it’s nobody’s job to say so.

      Mark Dublin

    2. Yeah, I said much the same thing. It is essentially a closed BRT system. If it has self driving buses, that is nice, but self driving trains are nothing new.

      We will have to look at the final product to see if it is actually a good value or not. Maybe Musk has developed a cheaper way to dig tunnels (if so, bravo indeed). Or maybe the tunnel is cheaper because it is much smaller. In that case, maybe this is an appropriate way to build infrastructure in some situations. Maybe this really is a good value, but it certainly isn’t anything revolutionary.

    3. Elon Musk is basically what you would get if you combined the engineering genius of Woz with the reality distortion field marketing skills of Jobs into one eccentric person.

      While even Apple’s most loyal (gaslitten?) fans will admit Apple’s worst failures (Newton, Lisa, Pippen, newest iMac), Musk’s followers believe he is infallible. So even head-scratchers like Hyperloop or the Boring Company get legions of online supporters and defenders, giving an air of legitimacy and suckering gullible municipalities, like Las Vegas, into installing this untested, proprietary, vaporware infrastructure.

      Don’t get me wrong, Musk is clearly a genius, but not everything that comes out of that man’s head is gold. Just don’t tell his loyal Muskevites that…

      1. Don’t get me wrong, Musk is clearly a genius

        Is he though? I’ll admit I don’t know that much about him. But just by looking through his biography on Wikipedia, I don’t see anything that resembles genius. Wozniak was the first one to get a character to show up on a home computer. I’m looking at what Musk has done, and I see nothing like that. He just looks like your average, run of the mill businessman, who got luckier than most. OK, to be fair, he knows a little physics, so maybe he is smarter than your average businessman, but I wouldn’t say he is a genius — even in the business world (which likely has fewer geniuses than the arts, academia or medicine, to name just three fields).

      2. Genius is probably not the correct word, but he’s definitely smart (and lucky) enough to surround himself with the right people to own a company that launches people into space. That’s about the only kudos he’ll get from me.

      3. Yeah, he is definitely ambitious. Before I read the Wikipedia article, I was about to give him some credit for this, or that. But then I found nothing, really. He only has a few patents, and they look fairly pedestrian (a lot of companies wouldn’t bother patenting those things). Nothing like Dean Kamen, the guy who invented the Segway. I figured he started PayPal, the kind of thing that I’m sure made thousands of software people slap their head and go “damn, why didn’t I think of that”. Except he didn’t. He got rich off of PayPal, but that was because of a merger with a software company that wasn’t likely to be anywhere near as successful. In general, he just looks like a good salesman (more or less what Trump believes he is) who rode the tech boom. It just doesn’t look that impressive to me, although I’ll admit, I think most software companies succeeded by luck. If not for IBM knocking on the door and asking Bill and Paul for an operating system (that they didn’t have) Microsoft might have ended up being a tiny company that once made Basic compilers.

        To be clear, I give anyone credit for having the guts to start a small business. I’m just wary of giving extra credit to those who get lucky.

    4. AM, my reply was to Ross’ post not yours. Affordable housing is a very difficult issue, especially in a city like Seattle with high incomes. Whatever we are doing is not working well. At the same time, I don’t expect eastside citizens to change their zoning, and if they did the new denser units would not be affordable.

      If you want to understand Seattle’s future look to San Francisco.

      Sure Kirkland has made the decision to upzone the areas behind its waterfront retail, but it is not affordable at all, and the percentage of minorities is the same as Medina. Same in downtown Bellevue.

      I think property investors are a big factor. Seattle limited Airbnb’s any one investor could run because they more than anything removed rentals from the market (and are not subject to Seattle’s strict landlord/tenant rules). How about a rule that limited any one person or entity to owning no more than two housing properties in Seattle. Get the investor class out of housing.

      That is my idea.

      Although his comment was in jest, maybe Ross is correct when dealing with a wealthy and attractive city like Seattle. If you want affordable housing move someplace else. Mark is ultimately correct that wealth (not income) disparity is the primary issue.

      Or like we learned with global warming when 2012 was the last year the state came close to its carbon emission goals pray for a deep recession for more affordable housing.

      1. “If you want to understand Seattle’s future look to San Francisco.”

        San Francisco is what Seattle would be like now if we hadn’t been building housing and upzoning over the last decade and more. It’s the reason I advocate much more housing and infill. We probably wouldn’t reach San Francisco’s $4000 rents and million-dollar median house prices because we don’t have the weather or golden gate bridge or transit or Folsom fair or Silicon Valley 35 miles away, but it would be more expensive than it is now. The wealthiest would take the most expensive units and even more people going up the income scale would be displaced.

      2. Sure Kirkland has made the decision to upzone the areas behind its waterfront retail, but it is not affordable at all
        It all sells like hotcakes so that by definition makes it affordable. Affordable only to people with household incomes north of six figures but that’s the majority of the market in DT Kirkland.
        If you want affordable housing move someplace else
        Exactly, that’s the way the market works and why Pittsburgh is becoming a tech boom town. Microsoft originally incorporated in Bellevue (it sort of started in New Mexico). Bellevue was too expensive for them to expand so they moved out to Redmond. It was not the “middle of nowhere”. Several large tech companies, mostly in the defense industry, had large engineering and manufacturing facilities there. That proved fortuitous because Microsoft was able to buy up large tracts of land and create their campus. At one point Eddie Bauer move out there from Seattle for exactly that reason.


    Ross B., you might want to be careful about classifying density itself as an absolute good. Bet you rupees to donuts that’s what the perpetrator called it too. Tyrants hate sprawl.

    But Sam, you really need to watch it. Q-anon has just identified “Wallethub” as a wholly-owned subsidiary of that notorious New York pizza parlor secretly owned by Hillary Clinton with all those bullet holes in the ceiling.

    And asdf2, since when did the Ballard Locks get so completely shut down you can’t even walk across them on foot? Anyplace I can see the announcement?

    Because I’d hate to think that the respected National Nordic Museum, soon to be an easy cable-people-mover ride from Ballard Link Station, is covertly taking sides between the King of Denmark and the Archbishop of Gothenburg for parking priority!

    Denying anybody Nordic the use of the Route 44 should make the perpetrator glad that Hamlet’s father is dead. Though at least the Route 24 costs less than Uber. I really think some credit is deserved for trying to keep transit-riding affordable.

    Anyhow, thanks for keeping me up to date. If I’m lucky, the Locks-closure could mark the beginning of the Times-sponsored socio-economic collapse that’ll give me back MY beloved old 44 stop.

    ‘Til then…Seattle’s not really dying. Like the rest of us, it’s just resting.

    Mark Dublin

    1. This is a terrible take. Seattle has a quarter the density of Brooklyn and about a sixth the density of Paris, which are far from dystopian.

  6. The devil really did make me do it, Martin. Because the truth is that between anyplace in the United States and everywhere Europe, our densest looks empty to them.

    Like the way our political Farthest Left is Europe’s Moderate Center Right. But major difference in outlook owes to time and procreation itself. In Stockholm, there’s a light-rail stop in view of a famous church where, in the 1300’s, an official called Bo Jonsson murdered somebody on the altar just to show who was boss. Good thing blonde people don’t do that anymore.

    Also, from what I saw on my last trip seven years ago, Europe’s legendary electric rail transit system no longer makes Southern Sweden’s shopping center scene look all that different from Lynnwood. Meaning increasingly stuck in traffic.

    According to relatives of mine, East Africa’s main threat to wildlife and Earth’s atmosphere now consists of the number of Africans who own cars. Really does seem a worldwide constant that as soon as the average person can own a car, everybody buys two of them.

    Making your work at STB, Martin, life-and-death valuable. Considering which one of tonight’s “Debators” considers the word synonymous with “Terrorism”, our country needs a MOVEMENT that finally energizes our political system in the interest of public transit.

    Now that The National Defense Highway Act’s creations are falling apart, we’re ‘way past due for a National Defense High-Speed Rail Act to repair them, tracks and wire included. Starting with the lengths of “Freeway” that destroyed so many city neighborhoods to construct.

    And concluding apology. The only tyrants who hate sprawl are the ones who don’t make trillions out of causing it. Peace?

    Mark Dublin

  7. In regard to Seattle’s affordable housing crisis, a subject I follow quite a bit, I thought I’d share something that I came across earlier this week that still shocked even me.

    Here’s a recent real estate sale involving a small bungalow in the Northgate vicinity:

    When I first moved to Seattle from NYC back in the late 80s I lived with a relative in a similar size bungalow located in the Mount Baker neighborhood over behind Franklin HS. It was a cute house and the only real difference was that the one-car garage was in the back of the property accessed via a mid-block alley (common in many parts of Seattle). I’ll have to look up that address so I can find what Zillow and/or the King Co Assessor has it valued at today. I think my relative sold it for like $60k in 1990. (I’ll update this comment once I locate the address.) The similarity is probably why this particular recent sale caught my eye.

    Any thoughts? Is the Northgate area becoming as unaffordable as Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, etc. for those first-time home buyers looking for a small SF residence such as this one?

    1. If you check out a Zillow map, you will be hard pressed to find any homes in Northgate for under 500K.

      1. Thanks for the reply. Yes, I’m well aware of that. Still I was surprised to see a 2 br/1 bath 1940s bungalow (on a .10 acre SF lot) selling for almost $645k, or $533/sq ft. The 2020 assessment has it valued at $535k.

    2. Is the Northgate area becoming as unaffordable as Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, etc. for those first-time home buyers looking for a small SF residence such as this one?

      No, but the difference is shrinking. For the longest time a place like Ravenna would be first tier (similar to Queen Anne or Capitol Hill). Things would get rapidly cheaper as you moved to Maple Leaf, Northgate, Victory Heights, Pinehurst and Lake City. The difference between those various neighborhoods and Ravenna still exists, but it is much smaller. I think there are a lot of things going on, but I’m sure a lot of it is people just being priced out of (what I would consider to be) nicer neighborhoods, but still wanting to live there, instead of say, Lynnwood.

      A lot has to do with the particulars. A house like that only has one bathroom and two bedrooms. It is also on 5th, an arterial. On the other hand, it is very close to the school (which also has a playground). This also puts it at the edge of Maple Leaf — an area that has increased in value quite a bit since they added the Maple Leaf Reservoir Park. You can get to all those places on sidewalks, which isn’t true for most places that far north (Maple Leaf is unusual in that way). And of course, you are a ten minute walk to the train station. I’m sure that was a big selling point. People often advertise houses as being “close to light rail” when they really aren’t. I’m guessing buyers just like the idea, even if they don’t explore the actual walk, or even work somewhere served by Link. It all ads up to an expensive little house.

      Oh, and keep in mind that small houses still sell, and not that much less than big houses. The price per square foot goes up as the size goes down. A lot of people are buying houses just because they want a house — they want the security and independence that comes from owning a house. (Town houses in nice neighborhoods tend to be expensive even though they are often relatively small).

  8. Durkan told KUOW’s The Record that Sound Transit and Seattle have been blocked from applying for federal recession assistance for ST operations and West Seattle Bridge loss mitigation because of Trump’s declaration of Seattle as an anarchist city. She called it an “enemies list” and said some agencies are interpreting it this way. A link to the episode should be on the page soon. She didn’t mention Metro but she said “transit” so it might affect future Metro assistance.

    1. Yep. We’re have the same issue down here in Portland.

      This is the drawback of fascism, folks. You don’t want to be on the receiving end of it, especially during a crisis.

      1. Relax Mike, and Chris. The Enemy In Chief here is in his seventies, infected with COVID-19, in physical condition that’ll break furniture, and possessed of Russian creditors from a Brooklyn-like city where willfully-delayed repayment is your ticket to the bottom of the Black Sea in a tailored overcoat of purest concrete.

        And Portland’s got some really wide city limits. In Olympia’s suburb of Lacey, on a certain Attorney General’s express orders, special “Fugitive Catchers” put 37 bullets into a leftist who killed a rightist in Portland.

        Unwise, but the man still had a claim of self-defense. Especially since this same AG pronounced innocent a rightist who killed two leftists in cold blood in Kenosha. Where police gave HIM a bottle of water before they sent him home to Illinois to fight extradition.

        Look up “The Three Percenters.” Not happy to see an Attractive young Olympia policewoman posed elegantly for a photo op with AR15-carrying disgraces to our colors. Whose gun-handling would’ve got them ten dozen pushups and a week digging latrines north of here at The Fort.

        Wonder what “Stay Back and Stay Calm?” is in German? Yes Sir. I didn’t move an inch when three of them walked by my scenery-view at the Capitol, professionally carrying their rifles by the end of their barrels.

        So any money denied to Transit by the source in question, even if you had been going to get the money, which you won’t no matter what you do, you don’t want it. One man’s opinion, but for the foreseeable future, certain funding sources are just ‘way too expensive.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Seattle sues the administration ($) along with Portland and New York City. Politico lists more potential cuts, including an addition-recovery program in Seattle and a covid-recovery program in King County. “Trump in a Sept. 2 order called on federal agencies to curtail funding to jurisdictions that ‘disempower’ police departments and promote ‘lawlessness’. The memo argued that the cities haven’t done enough to quash riots stemming from this summer’s protests over systemic racism and police violence.”

        Let me get this straight. Regardless of whether “lawless” was an appropriate word for it, CHOP was two blocks long and ended over three months ago. So the entire city is “lawless” now? It deserves no federal funding for, what, ever? Until the mayor speaks some different rhetoric, announces an increase in police funding, draconian new laws, or until there’s another protest that turns out differently?

    2. Older bungalows in Seattle are no longer valued as a single family house. They are valued based on the recent upzoning under Seattle’s new residential code. My guess is this house will be torn down and developed.

      Although I worry the new residential zoning code will damage the character of Seattle’s crown jewel — it’s residential neighborhoods — it has been great for homeowners looking to sell because the single family house is valued now as three separate legal dwellings, without requiring the property owner to live onsite. This is a great time for property speculators and developers in Seattle, especially with the commercial scene stalled.

      How much cheaper each new unit out of three will be compared to the original house will be interesting to see. I can’t imagine any new condo in Seattle going for less than $650,000 (just based on its rental value), or whether that is considered affordable in Seattle.

      1. I can’t imagine any new condo in Seattle going for less than $650,000 (just based on its rental value), or whether that is considered affordable in Seattle.

        You could stand to work a bit on your imagination. Redfin shows 157 new condos sold in the past year for under $650k within the Seattle city limits. 104 of these went for $500k or less, 50 for $400k or less.

        Most of these of course are in your typical multi-story multi-unit condo buildings. One of the first search results, however, was this brand-new DADU on a single-family lot that is now titled as a condominium split between two new buildings. This DADU sold for $500k.

      2. Eric, thank you for showing these to the broader community. I think it is interesting to note that about 90% of these examples come from two apparently-new buildings. I am wondering whether the trend of such buildings will continue (it very well may, I just have no insight into it myself – presumably one could look at filings for new buildings currently in the pipeline in the city and determine it).

        There is a grand total of one such unit in North Seattle (North of the ship canal), and none in South Seattle (South of I-90).

        I think this only goes to bolster the argument that RossB, Mike Orr, and others make, that the way to drive prices down is by changing zoning to allow for such lower priced units to appear elsewhere in the city, too. But this is just intuition based in great part on their arguments.

        Thank you for sharing the statistics, it is quite revealing.

      3. I think it is interesting to note that about 90% of these examples come from two apparently-new buildings.

        Yes, that is a bit interesting. Of course a bigger building will account for more condos than a smaller one, and there are precious few sites in the city where you’re allowed to build something that tall.

        Removing the price filter on the query I linked shows 259 new condos sold in the past year. so in fact more than half were at or below the $650k price point.

        There is a grand total of one such unit in North Seattle (North of the ship canal), and none in South Seattle (South of I-90).

        Indeed. If we broaden our search to include “new and slightly used condos” (i.e. those built since 2015) we get 387 condos sold in the past year. This includes a couple dozen units north of the ship canal. Most of these are in two buildings: Wallingford45 (built 2018, sale prices in last 12 months ranging from $387k-$554k) and Vik Ballard (built 2016, sale prices in last 12 months ranging from $400k-$520k).

        While there has been a fair amount of multi-family construction north of the canal in the 4-6 story range lately, much of that ends up as apartments rather than condos.

        I’m not familiar enough with the south end of town to offer much to the discussion there. Widening the search to 2015, unlimited price, only reveals a couple of units south of I-90.

      4. Older bungalows in Seattle are no longer valued as a single family house. They are valued based on the recent upzoning under Seattle’s new residential code.

        Wrong, wrong, wrong. Small houses are still valuable as small houses. Of course they are. If you can’t afford a big house, you buy a small house. People buy town houses — brand new town houses. Do you think someone is buying it thinking some day they can sell it to a developer who will tear it down?

        My guess is this house will be torn down and developed.

        I’ll take that bet. Do you really think someone would add “remodeled kitchen, refinished hardwoods, built-in cabinets, custom stone patio, plumbing, electrical, fireplace & A/C” just so that the new owner would tear it down? Really? Holy cow, It is zoned single family ( It is an undersized lot (4,249 Sq. Ft). But you think they will just tear it down? Come on, man, get real.

        Small houses on big lots get torn down. Most of the time, they then build as many houses as they can. In rare occasions, when the zoning allows it, people will build town houses or apartments. But a house in good shape with no immediate potential for additional dwellings will just sell as a house.

      5. I can’t imagine any new condo in Seattle going for less than $650,000 (just based on its rental value), or whether that is considered affordable in Seattle.

        Yeah, as Eric wrote, that is absurd. In the neighborhood we are talking about (Northgate) it is the opposite. There aren’t any condos going for over 600K in Northgate, or for miles around (,min-price=600k,viewport=47.74127:47.67771:-122.23534:-122.3935,no-outline). In contrast, there are several for under 300K, including some for as low as $250. Most are around 300K, give or take.

        This gets back to what I wrote earlier. The condos aren’t going for that much (although new ones get a higher price). It doesn’t make sense to tear down a house on a small lot and put in a handful of condos, simply because the house itself is so valuable. On the other hand, if you have a huge lot (e. g. 25,000 square feet) and one small house, then the best option for the developer is to build a lot of condos (or an apartment building). Instead of 3 houses, you build 40 units (with a nice courtyard, little playground, etc.). Even if you charge 250K (a bargain) you gross 10 million. It costs more to build it, but not that much more.

        But that isn’t what is happening. Because of restrictive zoning, it isn’t allowed to happen. As a result, the value of land zoned for development is artificially high. So a nice house is sometimes mowed down, just because it sits within a line drawn on a map, and lots of people want to live there. It is messed up, and Seattle needs to fix it.

  9. The RossB remarks are sound. A key is to use the tight street and sidewalk grids developed before WWII more intensively. A street grid is the key difference between urban and sprawl development patterns. In Seattle, that was south of North 85th Street, as sidewalks were not provided north of there. Adding sidewalks to the frequent transit arterials of north Seattle would go a long way to helping that area be more livable; there is already significant multifamily housing near the E Line. Several suburban cities have tight street grids at their cores. Some are allowing the market to make their cores more dense and urban (e.g., Shoreline, Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace, Kenmore, Bothell, Redmond, Kirkland, Bellevue, Renton, Burien. Lynnwood and Federal Way are urban center wanna-bes, still dominated by limited access highways and with incomplete grids. Many high tech firms wanted suburban office parks; some have outgrown that approach. The same is happening to college campuses; the old model had walls and moats; the new model has fuzzy boundaries with the surrounding urban area.

    The recent Seattle zoning changes were good and make it part way; they are positive: urban centers were up-zoned; urban villages were up-zoned along frequent transit service; and, ADU were liberalized. The whiff was not up-zoning the areas close to frequent transit in between the urban villages. But the ADU ordinance addresses that part way. A key gap is not allowing shared parking in the low rise zones.

    Zoning and transit are closely inter-related. The key purpose of transit is to extend the range of pedestrians. High capacity transit should be placed where there are high concentrations of pedestrians. It was a flaw of ST that they focus on a long spine and placed it in freeway envelopes, as freeways are difficult to develop into pedestrian centers; the highways are barriers to pedestrians as dams are to fish. The Shoreline efforts at NE 145th Street illustrate this struggle. ST and Shoreline gave themselves lemons with the I-5 alignment and a station set in a full interchange; they search for the lemonade recipe. Hope: multiple family housing has been built near I-5 near the Roosevelt Link station.

    1. In response to AM’s and Eric’s post with a link to condo’s for sale in the Seattle area that have sold for less than $650,000 (a figure I admittedly speculated on) I was most interested in the DADU and how it compared to two other links to single family houses for sale on this thread. (DADU) (single family house)

      in part because Seattle’s upzoning of residential lots is suppose to create affordable housing through DADU’s.

      The DADU if I read it correctly was built in 2019. It has a 2000 sf lot, and 800 sf of living space. It is located in Crown Hill. I am not sure if there is onsite parking, but I doubt there is garage or place to safely store things, or yard. Price was $500,000 I think. I doubt you could raise a family in an 800 sf open layout DADU. Even WFH with a spouse would get claustrophobic.

      The first single family house linked to above was built in 2020, has a 7900 sf lot, and 3250 sf of living space, and a garage I imagine. Assessed value is $921,000 but my guess is selling price will be closer to $1.2 to $1.3 million.

      The second single family home linked to is:

      I personally thought this was very pretty house. Lot area is 9123 sf, finished area is 3273 sf, it has 5 beds and three baths, and is listed at $1,395,950 although it has been listed for 74 days (although an offer is pending). Most interesting is this house costs $427 per sf while the DADU costs closer to $650 per sf. Ideal for a family.

      Granted the two houses are more than twice as expensive as the DADU, but the DADU is nearly 1/3 more expensive per sf. Is this what affordable housing is: an 800 sf DADU on a 2000 sf lot with no garage or yard with a $650/sf build price, (which is why building DADU’s is unpopular among builders: the cost per sf which usually does not include high end appliances and finishing’s).

      One of the goals of affordable housing is to allow moderate income residents to tap into the gain from property in Seattle, even if the buy in price for the DADU is $500,000. One statistic in Seattle that I find troubling is over 50% of all residents rent, in part because so many properties are owned by investors as rentals, waiting for the appreciation. But which do you think will appreciate more rapidly (even without the effects of Covid-19): the two single family houses, or the DADU (if it appreciates in the long run at all, because it really only fits a single person or couple at best).

      Affordable housing is critical, and I have been involved in ARCH in the past, but not $500,000 800 sf DADU’s. To me that is a kind of no-man’s-land: it certainly is not affordable for those who really need subsidized housing, and it isn’t a very good deal IMO for those who need moderate priced housing. But at least someone thought it was worth $500,000, twice as much as I paid for our first house on Mercer Island in 1993.

      1. The DADU if I read it correctly was built in 2019. It has a 2000 sf lot, and 800 sf of living space. It is located in Crown Hill. I am not sure if there is onsite parking, but I doubt there is garage or place to safely store things, or yard. Price was $500,000 I think.

        From the pictures in the listing there’s an uncovered parking spot next to the house and a small yard in front. No dedicated storage space that I could see, but you could put in a shed if you’re so inclined.

        I doubt you could raise a family in an 800 sf open layout DADU. Even WFH with a spouse would get claustrophobic.

        It’s a two bedroom. You could raise kids in there if this was the most you could afford, but I agree it would be quite small by American standards. By international standards…not so much.

        Seems just fine for a childless couple though, even with both working from home. Make one of the bedrooms into a dedicated office space for one spouse, set up another desk in a corner of the other bedroom or common area downstairs, and you won’t step on each others’ toes too much.

        Granted the two houses are more than twice as expensive as the DADU, but the DADU is nearly 1/3 more expensive per sf.

        Of course it is. With a DADU you spend almost as much on the expensive bits (kitchen, bathroom, heating/electrical/plumbing systems) with much less of the cheaper bits (bedroom space, living room space) to push the average per square foot down. The overall cost is still much less. The number of people who can afford a mortgage on $500k is way higher than the number of people who can afford $1.4 million.

        One of the goals of affordable housing is to allow moderate income residents to tap into the gain from property in Seattle

        Is it, though? In the long run, housing can either be affordable or it can appreciate in value at a similar rate to other investments. You can’t have both. Appreciation today causes less affordability tomorrow.

        Many of us would argue that we should not have government policies that promote appreciation through scarcity; that we should instead minimize regulatory barriers to housing affordability even if it means housing will no longer look like a stellar investment.

        Affordable housing is critical, and I have been involved in ARCH in the past, but not $500,000 800 sf DADU’s. To me that is a kind of no-man’s-land: it certainly is not affordable for those who really need subsidized housing, and it isn’t a very good deal IMO for those who need moderate priced housing.

        $500k isn’t cheap, and certainly unaffordable to a lot of folks, but it’s not far off from the best we can do right now without subsidies. A DADU group I follow suggests that $300k is basically a minimum cost for construction of one of these in the current market, and that’s on land you already own. Consider that this lot we’re talking about in Crown Hill sold for $465k as a tear-down back in 2017. It seems like this DADU isn’t marked up much beyond land and construction costs.

        Zoning reform isn’t a magic wand. It can allow people to split land more ways to reduce the effect land cost has on each home’s price, and it can remove the construction cost of extras (garages, etc.) that someone might not choose to pay for unless forced. These things can make a meaningful dent in home prices, but at the end of the day the best that zoning can do is make it so that land no longer dominates the cost of a modest home, that the cost is mostly determined by materials and labor. These things remain expensive no matter what you do with zoning.

      2. One of the goals of affordable housing is to allow moderate income residents to tap into the gain from property in Seattle, even if the buy in price for the DADU is $500,000

        I’ve never heard that. Never. Just out of curiosity, where did you hear that?

        In fact, I’ve heard the opposite. Most subsidized housing is rented out. They typically try to add home ownership to incentivize maintenance and provide for a mix of incomes (to avoid making the same mistakes as with public housing in the ’60s, which lead to slums and all that). Basically it is a bad idea to concentrate poverty in one area, and then tell people that they have no incentive to maintain the units.

        So, anyway, that is why there is ownership. But consider this little tidbit, from the Seattle Times article about the recent sale of Sound Transit property to build low income housing:

        One condition of the sale: The new owners won’t be able to pick their price when the time comes to sell and move out. They’ll have to agree to re-sell the home for more or less what they paid for it, taking inflation into account.

        So, basically it is the opposite of what you wrote. I don’t mean to be rude, but you are developing a habit of this. Not every statement you write is a fact, but when it is, it is usually false. Even for something as easily verified as the price of a condo. I would suggest that you do a little bit of research when it comes to these facts — hopefully it would lead to a change in the way you approach your conclusions as well.

    2. Hi Ross, the key to me is the lot is over 4000 sf, the limit for upzoning under the new code. Remodeled kitchens can mean many things. A high end kitchen model can easily run over $250,000, so my guess is this was a cosmetic face lift.

      If I owned the lot, and it was on a busy arterial near light rail, yes I would turn it into 2 or 3 new units per the code. After all the DADU that was 800 sf sold for $500,000. This is one of those situations in which I think newer higher density probably makes sense, at least economically.

      These older bungalows are very attractive for builders, in Seattle or Mercer Island where they have nearly all been replaced because they were the original summer homes. I like them, but they are not practical with current land values, and they can be purchased without a lot of value for the house itself.

      I like new construction, the only fight we had was to make sure the house to lot area ratios for the new house were not manipulated so the new house was much larger than the surrounding houses and zone.

      If the new owner wants an older and small bungalow (which means old plumbing and electrical, roof, insulation, windows, foundation etc.) that is great, but it is not the highest and best use of the property under the new code so my bet is still that this property will be developed within a few years. But who knows.

      1. Ross, you confuse affordable with subsidized housing. Completely different things, with different goals. The entire point of the ARCH’s affordable home ownership program was to allow lower and moderate income individuals to buy and realize the gain, although ARCH’s oversight was poor, including failing to include restrictions on sale or foreclosure on the deed. The owner would realize the gain, but the house would revert to ARCH upon sale.

        The resale of the house is supposed to be controlled. ST might have different rules than ARCH. Unfortunately it turns out that if someone owns a house that is worth more than they can sell it for they rent it out, which was another problem in the ARCH home ownership program. Since the deed was not restricted foreclosed properties wiped out ARCH’s interest in the property.

        This whole thread has gotten way off transit. I think you are knowledgeable about transit, at least in Seattle, but not so much about housing, subsidized or affordable, and I think this housing discussion is hijacking the blog so let’s move back to transit.

      2. After all the DADU that was 800 sf sold for $500,000

        You didn’t mention a DADU. I could easily see them building an DADU. I could see them building an AADU, for that matter. They could even do both. But that doesn’t mean that they would tear down the existing house. The whole point of ADUs and DADUs is that you keep the house. That is much more cost effective. Instead of starting your development process by throwing away 650 grand, you just build an addition.

        Your argument really doesn’t make much sense, when you do the math. You think the house is basically worthless, but a small ADU (in the same neighborhood) is worth 500 grand. Here you are, saying that small places just don’t have value, and then you turn around and say an even tinier place is worth almost as much as the considerably bigger place. It doesn’t add up.

    3. So many options for a statement that seem totally cut off from the real world:

      I doubt you could raise a family in an 800 sf open layout DADU

      Beats raising them in a car.

      I doubt you could raise a family in an 800 sf open layout DADU

      Yet many raise perfectly good families in small apartments in big cities all over the world.

      I doubt you could raise a family in an 800 sf open layout DADU

      So what? Not everyone has a family. There are single people in the world, just looking for places to live. If we don’t have places for people who want small, cheap apartments, then single people will be forced to buy up places that are bigger. This means they compete with families, pushing up the prices for families as well. In other words, if we only build big houses, then prices will be really high.

      I doubt you could raise a family in an 800 sf open layout DADU

      That is about the same size as a single wide mobile home. You should walk by them sometime (in general, I think you need to get out more). Families actually live in those things. I know, amazing.

      As I wrote before, there are people sleeping in their cars right now. In Seattle — just Seattle — there are 4,368 students who are homeless. Wrap your head around that. These are not the type of people most people think of when they think of “homeless”. These are not guys with substance above problems, or mental illness. These are students. Literally kids — who, through no fault of their own — don’t have a place to sleep. They would love to live in a place like that.

      1. So Ross, are you saying a $500,000 800 sf DADU will help solve homelessness? How will these homeless students get to live in a $500k DADU. This isn’t affordable housing. If I have tried to make one point it is new construction is always the least affordable, and when you upzone a zone you will get new construction. Otherwise there is no point to an upzone. To me an 800 sf $500k DADU is an indictment of the entire upzone.

        In the end my point is I don’t see the value in an 800 sf $500k DADU. There has to be something better in Seattle for $500k. But if you can get $500k for an 800 sf DADU is it any wonder that an old, small bungalow will be redeveloped into the same thing, just more units per lot?

        If you want real affordable housing either it has to receive a public subsidy, or it can’t be brand new construction. As someone else posted the base price, if you already own the land, for a DADU is $300k, which is closer to affordable, but my read is that is the very lowest cost you can hope for.

        What the new codes on fire and new legislation on warranties on new condo construction do, and Seattle’s new residential zoning, although not intended, is incentivize the tear down of the oldest but most affordable existing housing because it is the cheapest to redevelop and to redevelop it with expensive multiple units, either for rent or sale. If you make new development, including multiple units, more valuable than existing zoning or development, you will incentivize new development, and that development will replace the least expensive and oldest existing housing because it is most profitable.

        Was the goal of the upzone to redevelop existing and older affordable housing to replace it with 800 sf units for $500k. That might be the new definition of affordable in Seattle, but it won’t do anything for those homeless students you mention. They need subsidized affordable housing, which is what I think is the most important need, because they are on the street. Might as well tell them to buy a house in Medina as buy a $500k DADU.

      2. Three new 800 — 1000 sf units at $500,000 each on one 4000 sf lot as allowed under the new code. Not DADU’s. Of course you demolish the old bungalow, in part because like many houses in former single family zones it was sited in the middle of the lot. Why would you build one DADU on this property when the code allows three brand new units? That is where the money is.

      3. So Ross, are you saying a $500,000 800 sf DADU will help solve homelessness?

        Of course not. I never said that.

        I’m saying that a widespread change in zoning lowers housing prices. That’s it. It isn’t that difficult a concept. Of course you will find examples of new places that are expensive. That misses the point.

        The more liberal the zoning, the more places you build. The more places you build, the less expensive places become. Not just new places, but existing places as well. It is just supply and demand.

        Do you really want me to explain supply and demand to you? Seriously — I can. It takes a while. I would rather not write paragraphs explaining why an increased supply lowers costs, but I can, if you really want. Just let me know.

        To be clear, if we created a more free market with housing, there are still two problems that can arise. One is essentially hoarding. Wealthy people can buy up properties, and refuse to break them into smaller places. Of course that is possible now, and the zoning rules encourage it (there is no upper limit to the size of a lot in a single family zone, only a lower limit; in most of the city you can’t convert a house to an apartment, but you can convert an apartment to a house).

        The other problem is that there will be people who simply can’t afford anything. This has always been the case. At some point, if you have a liberal zoning code, you run into a lower limit for housing. The cost of construction is too high, so building new units is too expensive. (We are nowhere near that level, but it happens). Thus there is a lower limit to rents. Both of these factoring into that lower limit (e. g. if you can get more for a mansion than you can a dozen townhouses, people will build a mansion).

        This happens with food as well. The price of food is pretty low and yet many people go hungry. This is analogous to housing.

        But if market rate housing is cheaper, it helps in two ways. First, it means that more people can afford market rate housing. Not in the $500 K place you think is typical, but in places that person would have bought (e. g. the 250K condos I mentioned). Second, it means that public funding goes farther. This is why there is such a strong correlation between homelessness and housing prices. Again, it is pretty fucking simple:

        1) Restricting zoning pushes up housing costs.
        2) Increased housing costs increases homelessness.
        3) Therefore, restrictive zoning contributes to homelessness.

        Feel free to argue any of those points. But please, stop claiming I wrote something I didn’t.

      4. Ross,

        I would be very interested in your take on how increasing supply lowers price (not cost, sale price), as supply-side economics is the mainstay of Reaganomics and later and we can see how well it turned out for the last 40 years.

        Look forward to details on this.

  10. Seattle, Olympia, and anyplace else ST-related, the key to Housing Affordability is as simple as it is inevitable:

    Combined with the re-ignition of the manufacturing that made so many Workers into Homeowners, the massive public works projects that’ll be necessary to save everyplace from Mercer Island to The Other Washington will start paying the average worker enough money to afford a House without borrowing a Cent.

    Let alone a good British half-penny’s worth of WELFARE! And Daniel, I’ve a “Metric” in mind that’ll settle Seattle’s true survivability. Starting on the day the Golden Spike gets hammered in to unite Mercer Island and Ballard station…..

    Which direction will be the WAY you Island’s Runaways RUN? Through America’s whole history, except for Africans who went to Canada, how many Scots-Irish ever fled back to Islands like Scotland or Ireland?

    But never fear. As long as the Ship Canal’s still there and the Locks still work Mercer Island will still get those jetboats that’ll remedy the loss of the ferry service it used to have. And never, never, never will your town become the cow pasture it would’ve remained if it hadn’t been for how close it’s always been to Seattle.


    Mark Dublin

    1. At the risk of beating a dead horse, when you upzone yes you will get more units per parcel because it is more profitable. Same for downtown Bellevue when it increased heights by 14 stories recently.

      As AM notes don’t be so sure it will be affordable, depending on your definition of affordable, because new construction is usually the least affordable, and builders realize greater profits on high end construction (which is why upzoning is most attractive to builders in the most expensive neighborhoods, and why the MBA really wants upzoning in eastside residential neighborhoods).

      But, and this is a big but, since there is little vacant land you have to consider which properties will be upzoned? A very expensive new house on a lot? No, too expensive for the builder. The properties that get purchased and redeveloped under the new zoning are the oldest and most affordable properties.

      You get more total properties with an upzone, but you have replaced older affordable properties with new, less affordable properties, the classic definition of gentrification. Volume of properties is not the determining factor in affordability. My bet is the link Ross posted of condos in Seattle with low sales prices are all old, and those will be the very first places developers will look to develop, depending on the neighborhood.

      Never trust Reaganomics or developers to do something that is not in their financial interest. Just ask all the Black citizens in south Seattle who used to live in the Central District.

  11. Supply & demand are simply curves and the market rate is determined by where they intersect. Sure I’d like to have a new Ferrari. But I don’t have anything to do with the price of new Ferraris because the price I’m willing to pay is way below the cost of production. Lots of people want to live in Seattle but the price is driven by what people are willing to pay. The regions high wage tech jobs are what’s driven up the housing cost. Construction of new homes in the greater Seattle area has been booming yet the cost keeps going up because the demand is for expensive houses. Builders build the house they can make the most money on. In other words, all new supply will be at market rate. Gentrification is what happens when you tear down an “afforable” home and carve up the lot. The exception is subsidized housing which really is increasing the price point since it is essentially an income boost for those that qualify.

    1. The price is driven up by more people competing for the same number of units, so the owners take the highest bids and shut everyone else out. An influx of wealthier residents exacerbated it, but what if those same new residents came to a city with a housing supply ready for them? They would have taken the same units but they would not be able to drive the prices as high because there would be less competition per unit. Some owners who raised the rates would find nobody applying for a month or more, so they’d bring the price back down to avoid having it vacant for so long. That’s what used to happen in Seattle throughout the 80s, 90s, and early 00s.

      In the heady years of the Amazon boom Seattle built 9 units for every 12 added jobs. So a quarter of the newcomers couldn’t live in the same city they worked even if they wanted to.

      You can add a hundred units of housing with one midrise, two lowrises, or fifty duplexes. We should do at least one of those, and preferably a mixture. Build enough market-rate and below-market housing so that the prices don’t rise beyond inflation and everyone can afford one at a third of their income.

      1. The price went up because people, many/mostly people moving to Seattle out bid the other people looking for housing. Again, the price is determined by the market which means what people are willing to pay. It’s not like eggs where you can just raise more chickens and the marginal price for an egg stays the same. Lots of housing has been added and the market has shown the demand for less expensive housing is outside Seattle. Houses in Lakewood have doubled since 2012. Here’s a typical Lakewood home. Note the spike since the Covid lockdown. People’s home buying decisions are indicative of long term trends. The market makes the price and people are realizing you get the same egg in Tacoma for half the price of what you pay in Seattle.

      2. What people are willing to pay depends on the vacancy rate. When there are many comparable choices people shun the worst price-jacking owners because they can get something just as good somewhere else. When there are few other choices they take the price-gouging unit because there’s no other alternative. And going beyond these people, there’s the less-affluent tier below them. If there are a lot of vacant units they can go to those; if not they’re shut out and have to move twenty miles further out.

      3. Lots of housing has been added and the market has shown the demand for less expensive housing is outside Seattle.

        Bullshit. First of all, not that much housing has been added *relative to the demand*. Second, there is plenty of demand for low income housing in Seattle, it just isn’t being built fast enough.

        How else do you explain that builders always build as many units as the law allows? In that example I cited a while back, that was three houses, on lots that average about 8,000 square feet (i. e. huge). In much of the city it is townhouses, or apartments. The point is, they keep building as many as the can, and even for small places (like the example Daniel cited) people will pay a bundle. Because there is no alternative, if you want to live in that neighborhood.

        Put it another way: Imagine the city adopted a more liberal zoning code. Do you think that the builder would still build 3 houses, or a dozen row houses? Keep in mind, typical price for a row house in that neighborhood is 600K (and that is off a busy street). That means a brand new row house should easily sell for half a million. A dozen row houses means that the developer grosses 6 million, instead of 3 million. It costs more to build, but not that much more. Obviously they build a dozen places.

        Now imagine the city went a step further, and said you could build a new condo building. A builder could add a development with 40 brand new roomy units, along with a nice courtyard and playground. Again, the builder sells below market rate, for 250K. Now they gross ten million. Again, it is more expensive, but not much more.

        That is why they build as much as possible. This begs the question though. If they add 40 units selling for 250K, what do you think that does to the market, especially if it is repeated all over the city (and not just in tiny pockets, as is the case now)? Don’t you think prices for existing places would go down? Why charge up the wazoo for a tiny, dumpy apartment in Lake City, when you can get a brand new condo for 250K, and a good used one for less than that?

        The only reason that people are building expensive places is because that is all that can be built! Think about it. Imagine if there was a limit to how many cell phones could be built. Let’s say 10,000 a year. Obviously, old phones would be worth a fortune. People who make new phones would all be like Apple. They wouldn’t bother making cheap phones, knowing full well that people will pay a fortune for any phone. That is, essentially what the market is for housing in this city.

      4. The price went up because people, many/mostly people moving to Seattle out bid the other people looking for housing. Again, the price is determined by the market which means what people are willing to pay.

        YES! Absolutely. And the market is artificially constrained. The zoning rules act like a cartel. Inexpensive housing — in most of the city — is not legal. I live in a house that is zoned for single family. I can’t turn it into an apartment. I can’t replace the house with a bunch of row houses. Even if I tear down the house, I can’t build anything but another house, which can only hold one family.

        This is an artificial constraint placed on roughly 80% of the housing market (the areas zoned residential). Of course this pushes up the price of housing. Any similar constraint would.

      5. Ross,

        I have not seen anyone dispute the assertion from Daniel that the code has recently changed to allow 3 units per parcel. Do you have any reason to believe that is not true?

        If the answer to my question is “no”, then your assertion that “a developer always builds as many units as the code allows” is patently false. What percentage of single family houses that have been torn down have been replaced by triplexes on the lots where this was possible since that code change went in effect? If the answer is less than 100%, your statement is false.

        Again, please, do not overstate the issue. Yes, zoning changes would help, but they will not solve everything. You seem to believe that everyone in the business will act as a truly rational actor _and_ that the market will behave correctly in all cases. We have plenty of counterexamples to both. Developers may be able to get more revenue by changing the building strategies, but that doesn’t mean they have the skill set to build effectively these new types of homes, the contracts set up for subcontractors to work on the more complex projects, the architectural plans, etc. etc. At some point, making a quick buck “today” is worth more than making two slow bucks “in a week”, or the bird in hand is worth more than the two on the fence post, however that saying goes. Your intuition is likely correct that _some_ percentage of units will change eventually, but let’s not overstate the benefit. The process will be slow and gradual and with plenty of unintended consequences, and dismissing any and all concerns is counter-productive for an otherwise very thoughtful discussion.

        At this point, I think we would all benefit from having an expert in local zoning issues (as in, someone who actually works for the city or the county) weigh in. If you know such a person, please invite them to join the discussion, we would all learn a lot. Thanks in advance if you do.

      6. From what I see in West Green Lake where the houses and lots are pretty small is that teardowns are replaced with another single-family house that completely fills the lot, except for the mandatory front yard and maybe a sandbox and cold frame in back. But, as you say, Ross, that’s still housing for only one family.

      7. “From what I see in West Green Lake where the houses and lots are pretty small is that teardowns are replaced with another single-family house…”

        That’s been my observation as well. It certainly was what I saw around the neighborhoods I used to run or bike through when I lived in Wallingford where there were lots and lots of small lot 40s and 50s bungalows. I looked at a lot of them when I was looking to purchase a property in the early 2000s but found out then that they were already beyond what my spouse and I wanted to spend. (We weren’t looking for a “fixer” or being house rich/cash poor.) The $400-450k range of asking prices at that time would be quite the steal today.

  12. Mike Orr, I think my problem DC renter (Lord, where will Maryland get enough haz-mat suits to decontaminate my rental property when he’s gone!) is giving us a perfect example of laying down ORDERS that are also against the LAW.

    False perception, maybe, but the reason I’m more ticked than scared over the Three Percenters and their ilk is that what I think those guns are for is to intimidate polite civilians, not go muzzle-to-muzzle with anybody who’s ever been in combat.

    Or is willing to put their own life on the line to protect those civilians who in addition to being polite are also our own employees. Have spoken with individual Olympia police officers about getting deputized. Evidently that’s the sheriff’s purview, and he doesn’t seem to be seeking citizen volunteers.

    But it could finally be time to do what I KNOW the Second Amendments’ Framers would have done. Formally insist on our right and duty to be inducted into the National Guard, armed, and trained by professionals as opposed to the other side’s amateurs. Any quibble on the Second, know it’s in the Ninth.

    And given the importance to public safety of public transit, not surprised if we could write good Order aboard our buses into the Law, and get funded accordingly. Which would doubtless work even better for both MAX and Link.

    We really need to talk to Charlotte, though. Just seems wrong that while their totem animal is a cat, ours belongs rightly to Jimmy Dean. Which means they’re probably really terrible cat food too.

    Mark Dublin

  13. Bernie, from the beginning of time, every civilized commercial system has been run according to rules to make sure that, among other things, nobody turns purple and dies from eating anything anybody sold them.

    Way I’d put it is like this: on life and death matters like having a home, the question is not, “Are you the buyer of the seller?” It’s a lot more important that no human being be allowed to be the poor creature left hanging on the hook.

    Mark Dublin

  14. “Buyer OR the seller”, Mark. Though with the berserk convolutions that COVIDCOMPLICATONS have inflicted on our economy, figuring out what new conglomerate’s now got your credit card number is a lot more astrological than commercial.

    Mark Dublin

  15. The Gap and Banana Republic are moving away from malls. ($) The company that owns both of them and Old Navy will close a third of the first two by 2024, mostly in malls. “That will result in 80% of its remaining Gap stores being in off-mall locations.”

    Hmm, the downtown Seattle stores are off-mall locations. I wonder what’s wrong with malls, beyond having indoor hallways in a covid pandemic, which will presumably be a non-issue by 2024.

    1. I think that these stores are less and less likely to thrive on walk-by traffic or shoppers who do comparison shopping in person. I think that more people go on line to determine what they want first from among many web sites, and then visit only that store to try on then purchase their item (sometimes with an online coupon just for that store).

      With that in mind, I see the need to pay insane commercial rents to traditional mall owners lessening for retailers. There have been plenty of articles about mall decline, like this one:

      Of course, most traditional major malls are in strategic locations with high-value land, and most are cheap concrete blocks built upon concrete floors with surrounding fields of asphalt for parking. That makes the sites easily adaptable for other uses — from new urban villages to fulfillment centers to mega churches with schools to medical centers.

  16. Look for two recent code changes to significantly reduce existing affordable multi-family housing:

    First, King Co. eliminated the exemption from updated fire codes for older existing multi-family buildings where a lot of the affordable rental housing exists because the buildings are older. These upgrades are just not cost effective for a lot of the buildings, and even if they were would raise rents substantially.

    Second, in 2018 the legislature modified the warranty on new construction for condos. Previously, to avoid the long tail of the warranty on new condo construction — which made insurance on new condo construction prohibitive — a builder would have to rent out the units for three years before selling them.

    This encouraged rental apartments. Since a builder could not sell the units for three years the construction was lower grade than new condo’s, and it limited development to large property trusts or investors who could afford to hold the properties for three years (or forever), and rent them out, rather than selling when completed to recoup the construction costs.

    The goals were laudable: allow smaller builders and developers to build condos that could be sold new without a very long tail on the warranty for new condo construction, encourage higher end new condo construction seniors wanting to downsize want, and allow more lower and moderate income citizens to buy a condo and share in the appreciation (assuming there isn’t another 2009) by creating more condos and fewer rental apartments, the usual supply side argument.

    The two problems are: 1. builders and developers prefer to build high end condos, especially in expensive areas, because the profit is greater, and new construction is always the least affordable unless publicly subsidized; and 2. since there isn’t a lot of vacant land the ideal candidates to replace with high end condos are older multi-family rental buildings that can’t afford the fire upgrades.

    This unanticipated outcome was just appearing when Covid-19 hit. There were some well publicized oversight errors by ARCH in its home/condo ownership program which led some eastside cities to suspend donations to its housing trust fund, and cities were looking at mandatory affordable housing set asides although citizens objected to increasing height limits for affordable housing or eliminating parking requirements for low income units, and builders said the affordable housing set-aside was not economical without additional height.

  17. Was this whole “bungalow discussion” in response to my comment above wherein I linked to a page showing a recent sale for a small bungalow in the Northgate area? (I ask since apparently the ensuing discussion wasn’t nested under my earlier comment.) If so, then I have a few follow-up points to add.

    1. The property IS currently being assessed at its highest best use.
    2. The property record shows the parcel at roughly 4250 sq ft. The lot is designated for SF residential use and is zoned as SF5000.
    3. SF5000 zoning has the following regulations:

    Housing Type-
    Single-family dwelling unit with up to two attached ADUs within
    the same structure or up to one attached ADU and one detached

    Lot Size-
    Zone Minimum area in square feet (sf)
    SF 5000 5,000 sf
    SF 7200 7,200 sf
    SF 9600 9,600 sf
    Exceptions may allow for smaller lots, typically when other exist-
    ing lots on the street are also undersized.

    1 single-family dwelling unit per lot

    Floor Area Ratio-
    0.5 FAR or 2,500 sf of total floor area for lots less than 5,000 sf

    Lot Coverage-
    Maximum 35%, or 1,000 sf plus 15% of lot area for lots less than
    5,000 sf

    Height Limit-
    Lot Width, Maximum Height
    greater than 30′, 30′
    30′ or less, 25′
    Small or irregularly shaped lots may be limited to 18′. Pitched
    roofs may exceed maximum height limit by 5′ with a minimum
    4:12 slope.

    Yard Requirements-
    Yard Dimension
    Front 20′ or average of front yards on either side
    Rear 25′ or 20% of lot depth (min. 10′)
    Side 5′
    Under certain conditions, accessory structures, such as garages, and certain features may extend into required yards.

    Parking Quantity-
    One parking space per dwelling unit. No parking required for
    ADUs. No parking is required on lots less than 3,000 sf or 30′

    Parking Location-
    Within the structure, or in the rear or side yard. Allowed in the
    front yard only under special circumstances. Garages and car-
    ports have specific regulations, including appearance standards.

    Parking Access-
    From the alley where feasible. If from street, only one 10′ curb cut
    permitted per 80′ of frontage.

    Tree Preservation and Planting-
    On lots over 3,000 sf, the total diameter of trees retained or
    planted must equal 2″ per 1,000 sf of lot area.

    4. As this lot is under 5,000 sq ft, the lot coverage is limited to 1000 sq ft plus 15%, or roughly 1,637 sq ft of lot coverage for this particular parcel.
    5. Given these circumstances, I just don’t see this parcel being a candidate for a DADU without the owner obtaining a zoning variance. The lot coverage stipulation is a significant constraint for doing anything more with this parcel other than demolishing the existing structure and building a new, larger and taller home. That may indeed be what the new owner intends to do, even with the premium paid for the property, i.e., paying well above its assessed value. Then again, said owner may very well be satisfied with the home as is. The big caveat here is the EXISTING zoning.

    1. I’d disagree with the idea that a DADU wouldn’t be viable on a lot that size under the current zoning.

      Part of the ADU reform bill the city passed last year was a limitation on the finished floor area in the main home: 50% of the lot area, or 2,500 square feet, whichever is larger. In this case the 2,500 square foot limit applies. Garage and storage space doesn’t apply toward this limit.

      The main home is generally permitted to be three stories tall. Put a 500 square foot garage on the bottom level and you can fit the garage plus the maximum 2,500 square feet of living space in 1,000 square feet of lot coverage.

      As you calculate, this particular lot is permitted 1,637 square feet of lot coverage. That leaves 637 square feet to use after you’ve already built a maximum-size house with a two-car garage.

      DADUs can only be 1,000 square feet. Build a two-story unit to the maximum size and you’ve still got 137 square feet allowed for a shed or porch or something.

      Don’t just take my word for this though. There’s a lot a stone’s throw away from my own house being redeveloped with a new single-family house and ADU behind. The size of that lot is only 4,000 square feet.

      Now while a DADU might make sense to build if you were starting with an empty lot, it may not work if you keep the existing home in this case. It’s a one-story house at 1,210 square feet plus a detached garage in front.

      That garage poses a problem. The regulations you quoted mention that the required parking is allowed in the front yard “only under special circumstances.” The current garage is grandfathered in at its current location, of course, but if you were to remove it to free up lot coverage for a DADU you’d be required to put in another parking spot in an approved location somewhere else on the lot.

      The current garage location won’t work unless the “special circumstances” for front yard parking apply to the lot after demolishing the garage. There might be room on the south side of the house to put in a long driveway to a parking spot in back. If not, you’re probably looking at excavating under the existing house to put a garage there. The house is on a hill so this might actually work, but it would be expensive. Parking requirements are dumb.

      1. Thanks. I appreciate your thoughtful reply.

        “…it may not work if you keep the existing home in this case.”

        This was the assumption I was making here. Building an entirely new home as well as an 800-1000 sq ft DADU would be pretty challenging on this particular lot, particularly given the garage situation, lack of an alley access and the lot coverage limitation. It may indeed be possible but it clearly would be a major expense for a homeowner who has already invested $650k for a recently renovated home.

      2. The lot is actually pretty flat once you get past the slope in front where you’re not allowed to build anything anyway. Absent the garage and parking requirement you’d have 427 square feet of lot coverage to play with behind the existing house, and a back yard more than big enough to fit a DADU that size.

        Agree that demolishing the existing house makes little financial sense here at this time, though I could easily see the land value increasing a bit once a Link station opens up a 15-minute walk away.

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