Sounder at Lakewood Station

This is an open thread.

149 Replies to “News roundup: return on investment”

      1. Sea-Tac already has an “El”. No possibility of “Chicago without the transit.”

        True, there’s no “Loop”, but half the walkshed of “downtown” Sea-Tac is tarmac and a lollapalooza of a parking garage.

        What is the councilman worried about?

      2. That’s right, I haven’t lived there. But what’s not correct to say that Link runs right down the middle of the city? Ok, not the geographic “middle”, it’s a bit east of that, but certainly the “economic center”.

      3. I thought this was funny: “We can take away parking but we can never add parking”. Yeah, they would never add parking in SeaTac. Holy smoke, SeaTac is the land of parking. It has the largest parking garage in the country, and second biggest in the world (according to this site: Then there are dozens of private parking lots in the area.

        I think Stanley does have a point. SeaTac is a suburb. The PSRC should not be encouraging suburbs to grow. They should be encouraging cities (like Seattle) to grow.

      4. We should absolutely be looking for SeaTac to grow along the 99 corridor. It has two light rail stations, a Rapid Ride line, and is already a large jobs center with the airport (13K jobs). It would be foolish to not direct some growth there.

        Ross, you throw around ‘suburb’ as if it is an urbanist slur equivalent to ‘bedroom community’ and then label anything outside of Seattle and Tacoma city limits as a ‘suburb.’ Where, exactly, do you want the region to grow? The PSRC already assumes Seattle is going to absorb ~50% of the region’s growth, which means it’s going to have to accelerate to grow faster than the current 100K/decade rate it had last decade. Do you want Seattle go grow even faster than is has under the Amazon prosperity bomb? You can harangue about the future ‘suburban’ Link extensions all you want, but the two stations in SeaTac already exists! Why would we not replace some of the surface lots with jobs & housing?

      5. @AJ,

        Ya, that comment about SeaTac being a “suburb” and therefore supposedly off limits for growth was ridiculous and poorly thought out.

        SeaTac is a city that is perfectly positioned for growth. It has a major employment center, 2 LR stations squarely along the city centerline, and a 3rd LR station at its northeastern boundary in the form of TIBS. And all that surface parking that currently exists just represents future development opportunity.

        Why wouldn’t we want growth there? Why wouldn’t we want population centers near LR stations? Isn’t that exactly the point?

        Give me a break. Some of the stuff people say on here is just too nonsensical to respond to. Of course SeaTac should grow. That is exactly the place for growth. Not all of it of course, but certainly some of it.

      6. The PSRC and federal government consider places like SeaTac to be cities. There are two definitions of suburb: (A) a satellite town with few jobs that depends on a larger city (=a bedroom community), (B) low-density and/or car-dependent development. By definition A everything outside Seattle was a suburb in the mid 20th century, and places like Medina and Mercer Island still are, but Bellevue and Kirkland and Renton aren’t. By definition B, most of Bellevue’s land area is suburban (single-family neighborhoods) and its dense inner city is car oriented (high parking minimums, superblocks, wide streets, coverage-level off-peak transit [with some exceptions]).

        SeaTac is unusual because it doesn’t have a lot of either houses or offices. It’s part of the industrial side of the county where the most predominant thing is large industry; i.e., the airport and all its peripherary parking lots and hotels.

        The slur against suburbs is directed at the low-density, car-dependent, single-use-zoning model. So what we want is for larger suburbs to “grow up”: to absorb more housing, become more walkable, and have a wider variety of businesses in every neighborhood. That’s not just what cities are but what small towns were: a mixture of walkable destinations covering a person’s entire needs.

        This is what the larger suburbs need to grow into, including SeaTac. So more mixed-use housing and retail on 99 would be a big step in that direction. And SeaTac, Angle Lake, and TIB are anchors that can be leveraged, both within SeaTac and just outside it.

        There are little-known parts of SeaTac that are traditional suburbia. 24th Ave S just north of the airport is all single-family houses, and the nearest store is over a mile away.

      7. I’ve got nothing against the suburbs, and nothing against SeaTac. If they want to grow, I hope they grow next to mass transit, unlike just about every other suburb, which tends to sprawl.

        My point is that the PSRC encourages growth in areas that inevitably will lead to sprawl. Look at the map: The scale is immense, yet the dots (the various centers) are very spread out. There is no “close up” view of the cities, because you don’t need one. SeaTac, like Silverdale, Lakewood and Puyallup, are “urban growth centers”. Seattle has a total of four “metro centers”. There is nothing for Ballard, Greenwood, Lake City, let alone the areas that aren’t growing. Even the entire, gigantic peninsula of West Seattle has nothing, despite the enormously expensive new rail line that is coming.

        The message to me is: grow in the distant suburbs and cities. But don’t grow in the main city — or if you do, only in a handful of places we designate. If the PSRC is going to pressure cities, then it should pressure them to build in places like Magnolia (4 miles from downtown, and 5 miles from the UW) or Clyde Hill (spitting distance to downtown Bellevue) long before it pressures SeaTac to do so.

      8. Ross, that’s a very dumb argument and I know you are better than that.

        Look at the actual maps of the downtown Seattle growth areas:

        I think that does a pretty good job encompassing what most people would describe as downtown Seattle. Sure it would be neat to ​see a PSRC map that shows the actual size and shape of the growth areas – would probably look like a FLUM map for the region – but that a criticism of presentation, not actual policy.

        If you want to argue that Ballard or greater Interbay (i.e. some of Magnolia and west QA) should be growth areas of regional significance, I don’t have an issue with that. But Clyde Hill and Magnolia are true bedroom communities; should they grow housing? Yeah, for sure. But those aren’t growth centers.

        To criticize growth areas away from major cities misunderstands the point of the PSRC framework. For communities like Kitsap or east Pierce, the idea is to add jobs locally to lower VMTs and bring jobs to where the affordable housing is, not simply invest in long distance transit to better connect those communities to the major job centers. While we do focus growth in our major urban centers, the ‘suburbs’ don’t get a ‘get-out-of-jail’ free card to say adding housing is ‘not their problem.’

        Also, all of the growth centers already have some amount of density, so if they are very suburban (as some certainly are), the idea it to grow and redevelopment those neighborhoods into something more dense, walkable, and transit oriented.

      9. The PSRC is unbalanced. The only regional growth centers in Seattle are downtown (which includes SLU, First Hill, western Capitol Hill), the U-District, and Northgate. These coincide with Seattle’s top tier of urban villages, called Urban Centers. The rest are all suburban brownfields. There’s also a category of industrial growth centers, which include southern Ballard, Paine Field, and the Microsoft area. But not the Ballard-Fremont residential/retail village, or Lake City, or Greenwood or WSJ or Westwood Village ot Mt Baker or Othello or Rainier Beach. Those are all Seattle urban villages but not PSRC growth centers. This matters in ST planning because PSRC growth centers are must-serve by Link or ST Express but other urban villages aren’t. That’s why the PSRC isn’t channeling more growth or resources into the other Seattle urban villages.

        And it really comes down to King County’s formula. The counties designate the growth centers and the PSRC rubber-stamps them. King County’s formula requires a minimum number of zoned job capacity and ignores housing (although housing is expected to accompany it). So the suburbs simply zone the necessary number of jobs, add a little housing, and they’re done. Ballard and Lake City have a more even balance of jobs and housing, which makes them better urban villages and allows more people to both live and work in the neighborhood, but it means they’re below the jobs threshold for PSRC growth centers so they get left out. The county needs to either fix the formula or make exceptions for Ballard-Fremont and Lake City, but so far that hasn’t happened.

        And now they’ve missed the planning for ST2 and ST3 Link. If they had been PSRC growth centers during ST2 planning, they would have gotten higher priority for Link then. Ballard did get into ST3 and is an industrial growth center, but it might have gotten more resources if it had been an urban growth center too. For one thing, the money in West Seattle might have been redirected to Ballard, allowing a longer extension or a 45th line. (And it wouldn’t have precluded BRT for West Seattle too, preferably multi-line.)

      10. PSRC didn’t ‘miss’ the planning for Link. If anything, the criticism from this blog is that ST overweights PSRC growth areas designation. So I’m not sure what you mean there?

        “The rest are all suburban brownfields. ” I’d apply that to only 12 of the 29 growth centers.. I’d consider 10 of the 11 “Urban” centers as clearly urban, with only Overlake suburban but rapidly transforming. Of the 18 “Metro” centers, 6 are existing town centers that have a good pre-war core – Redmond, Burien, Renton, Kent, Auburn, and Puyallup (downtown); all of those centers have various suburban flaws, but I wouldn’t call any of them suburban brownfields. Renton has suffered the most post-war sub-urbanization, but it also has the street grid and zoned capacity to remerge as a proper city (unfortunately, it does lack good transit).

        I’m in the camp that the region is boom and in a housing crisis and therefore needs to grow everywhere it is possible to grow sustainable, and therefore we should simply have more growth centers than we do now. If that means King County should add Ballard, Lake City, and the Junction as additional centers, great. But I don’t see any good reason to remove any of the existing centers – each has good potential, and redeveloping suburban brownfields (in and out of Seattle) will be critical for our region to grow without sprawling.

    1. Seatac has significant locations off of the 99 corridor. A good example is the location around the Safeway on 164th and Military Road as well as numerous places west of Pac Highway and 188th. Just because it isn’t near the pair of office buildings and the handful of tall hotels doesn’t mean it isn’t part of Seatac’s “downtown”. A lot of it is well outside of Link’s walkshed.

      1. Why? Most of the Rapid Ride A walkshed in Seatac already has existing businesses. Most of the growth there is going to be commercial growth (Angle Lake TOD being the big exception). Even if the parking lots go away, they’re not going to be replaced with houses. You’ll need to look at things like the East-West lines that run on 170th and 176th for residential growth. And there’s already quite a few (very low quality) condos and apartments along some of that, with SFH territory along the rest.

        Really, the biggest impediment to a Seatac residential boom is the Windsor Heights Apartments. That’s all very low income, so much so it has its own food bank, and Seatac isn’t so callous as to do what Seattle did to Yesler Terrace. But four city blocks, with a bit of a height increase in the zoning, either one bus stop away or within walking distance of Seatac Airport Station? That’s a better location for TOD than all of Angle Lake combined.

      2. I was asking about the growth area that has already been prescribed, not the city in general:

        Looks like everything east of 33th between 170th and 176th is outside the growth area and remains zoned for SF, so incremental growth there should be negligible (SeaTac requires parking & owner occupancy for ADUs). The Safeway on 164th is well outside the growth area, which makes sense because it is only served by local bus service.

        A Yesler Terrace style redevelopment would be great; I don’t understand why you would describe an effort to preserve all existing affordable housing, create more permanently affordable housing, and create a more vibrant mixed income community as callous?

      3. Windsor Heights is the reason the area east of 33rd isn’t in the growth area. I was trying to explain why it is zoned SFH.

        As for Yesler Terrace, most of its lowest income residents were permanently displaced, not a single lowest income bracket unit was added, and the community was plenty “vibrant” as it stood. The homes that were torn down were better than many homes throughout the city, and in no need of drastic repair.

        If more affordable housing for the bottom income bracket had been increased, I would have much less of a problem. But the Yesler Terrace rebuild was about more units for higher income brackets and the urban blight that is floor level retail.

  1. The word on the street is many suspended all day Metro routes, when they come back, will come back as subcontracted service.

      1. Nope. I don’t believe in doing April Fools early. Maybe someone can confirm what I heard.

    1. Sub-contracted routes has translated to sub-standard service in South Florida. Is anyone aware of sub-contracted service that actually led to *better* (or at least equivalent) service?

      1. Subcontracted routes are doing fine in Community Transit, which subcontracts all its routes to First Transit.

      2. That’s not correct.
        Taken from CT’s 2020-2025 TDP:

        “Community Transit operates Sound Transit Regional Express Bus Service between
        Snohomish and King Counties under contract with Sound Transit.

        “Most Community Transit bus service is directly operated by Community Transit employees out of the Merrill Creek Operating Base in southwest Everett. A portion of Community
        Transit’s commuter routes to downtown Seattle and all Community Transit-contracted Sound Transit Regional Express Bus routes are operated under contract with First Transit, Inc. out of the Kasch Park Operating Base in southwest Everett.”

        Also, the proper term here is contracted, not subcontracted. This shows up on the agency’s income statement as “purchased transportation services” expense. The same holds true for the services for which ST contracts with Metro to operate its routes.

      3. I heard all of CT’s buses were operated by First Transit. That may have been incorrect. Nevertheless, I don’t see how CT’s First Transit routes are any lower quality than Metro’s routes. The drivers may be making minimum wage and have few benefits but the passenger-facing quality seems to be fine.

      4. “Nevertheless, I don’t see how CT’s First Transit routes are any lower quality than Metro’s routes.”

        I agree. My comment above wasn’t meant to suggest otherwise, but rather only to correct the record about what bus operations CT does contract out.

      5. Subcontracted routes are doing fine in Community Transit
        IIRC it was a First Transit driver that blew through the traffic light at Totem Lake flyer station. The benefits are nowhere near as good so I’d expect turnover to be much higher. In general, less experience means higher chance of accidents.

      6. DART and several Snoqualmie Valley busses are subcontracted, and their service is well below Metro’s already abysmal level. I seriously hope they don’t reward this bad behavior with more cash for First Transit and Hopelink.

      7. My understanding is that Metro doesn’t fund SVT’s operations, it just owns and maintains the vans. Operations are funded by the Snoqualmie Tribe and the senior center that operates it. The alternative to this is no north-south transit at all because Metro can’t afford it. It’s in Metro’s long-range plan to restore service in the Snoqualmie Valley: the plan has a Local (nominally half-hourly) route from North Bend to Duvall. However, this depends on future funding, the future countywide tax measure for Metro Connects.

      8. @Mike Orr:

        Metro pays Hopelink to run the 628. I found this out when the drivers wouldn’t stop playing EDM/Techno over the intercom (good tunes, but inappropriate use of the intercom system) and/or the radio loud enough to be heard in the back of the shuttle bus. I’d be willing to bet you can still experience the latter on the 628 today. Hopelink doesn’t report their number of complaints to Metro so that there’s no danger to their contract. So in the end, nothing gets done.

    2. So they are actually coming back? I was expecting my route, the 249, to never come back.

      Though I’ll likely be living somewhere with real bus service before long anyway.

      1. The covid suspensions are temporary until ridership comes back. The choice of which routes to suspend was based on covid-era ridership, availability of a nearby parallel route, and Metro’s revenue limitations. The 249 on Northup-24th has a nearby 226 for part of its length. Whether that’s sufficient is a judgment call. Was the 249 the route on north Bellevue Way? That bothers be more because I used to live there (at 17th and 29th), and at least at 29th you couldn’t walk straight east to the 250.

        (When I was there the route on north Bellevue Way was the 235, later 230. There wasn’t any route on 112th/108th or Northup Way.)

        So the 249 should come back at some point. However, it may change with East Link. The East Link restructure hasn’t been proposed yet so we don’t know what will be in it. Metro’s unfunded long-range plan has a Kirkland-Eastgate route on north Bellevue Way. (Not RapidRide K! A second Kirkland-Eastgate route.) And on Northup Way, a 249-like route terminating at South Kirkland P&R.

  2. I noticed they are demolishing the parking garage next to the Bellevue TC. Here’s what’s going in on most of that block. Scroll down a bit to check out the 360 pano view link from the top of tower one. You get a cool view of the region.

    1. The lot immediately adjacent to the TC are owned by Amazon and is a development called Bellevue 600. Phase 1 has been approved and garage demo work is for a45 story office tower. Once that tower opens, the existing Bellevue Corporate Plaza will be demolished and replaced with a simillar 45-ish story tower.

      Cloudvue is going into the large surface lot north of the demolished garage. I believe it also includes the church & other small building facing 108th, so will be the majority of that superblock. Cloudvue is still in design review.

  3. According to the Urbanist post linked to “no substitute for building more units” (and I have never understood why the STB links to articles on The Urbanist as though they are reference articles) these new units in downtown Bellevue will make other housing in Bellevue more affordable. Of course, the Seattle Times noted today Seattle ranked second in housing price increases in 2020 (at least single family homes), right behind Phoenix, although each has a totally different zoning and development paradigm.

    Upzoning leads to higher underlying land prices which leads to new construction which is the least affordable which leads to neighborhood gentrification which leads to displacement. The story of the Central District, and why South Seattle residents are opposed to upzoning.

    I know some disagree, and are waiting for that magical day when the Seattle Times notes Seattle housing prices have plunged, or at least are not increasing at the second highest rate in the country.

    What this (zoning) has to do with transit, except perhaps the hope ridership can be manufactured where it is weak along 90 miles of very expensive rail lines, I don’t quite know.

    1. Land prices are a reflection of development potential (among other things), not a cause of development.

    2. Yes, there is a housing market and it is related to transportation and transit. Yes, prices change; today, in an oddity, land prices and house prices are increasing, while rents on apartments are decreasing. There has been a recent increase in apartment supply and a pandemic. The correct question is not the short term change in housing prices and rents, but would they would have done without the action considered. Suppose zoning had remained unchanged; would housing prices have increased even more? The zoning is one factor in the underlying land cost; land cost increase in high value cities. We do not want to be a rust belt city in decline.

    3. Firstly, you’re implicitly asking for an explanation of the theory of trickle-down housing via new construction and migration chains, which means you have some homework to do. I suggest this recent working paper:

      The abstract suggests that construction of 100 new luxury units results in about 60 people moving upwards from below-median rate housing, and about 30 people moving up from bottom-quintile housing. If you take the single additional step with your logic, you’d see that construction of additional housing takes pressure off the bottom of the market, via the chained effects of people taking housing they prefer, not only what’s available. You have to think about *who* is gentrifying areas, and where they would have moved to if that new construction wasn’t available.

      Increasing property values can be diluted with additional units on the same property – surely that’s not too difficult of a concept to understand. Also, it’s possible and, potentially, pleasant to raise a family in a multi-family building – not an insane idea given that much of the world’s population lives in dense cities.

      Secondly, I’m going to assume you’re asking in good faith: Transit is explicitly fueled by housing density, because just as apartment buildings are a more-dense form of housing than tract homes, mass transit is a more-dense form of transportation than the automobile. “Manufacturing” ridership is rather reductive, but not entirely wrong, so you’re near the right track.

      Finally, a reminder for the rest of the class: redlining of new single-family housing is a historically reality and it corralled POC into areas already further along the path of natural densification of cities prior to the invention of restrictive residential zoning. So, when as cities like Seattle reached their “urban” boundaries with single-family tract housing, the pressure for new housing fell to the limited area already legalized for new dense construction – areas dominated by people of color due to redlining. So, POC get predominately displaced with new construction, and it’s a problem. The solution is to upzone areas *not* dominated by POC, but the Queen Annes and Wallingfords and Ravennas of the region have enough generation wealth and power to fight the possibility that anyone other than a highly-paid family could be their neighbor.

      I, as a below-AMI earner despite my graduate degree in a physical science, would love to have a real choice what sort of housing I could rent or purchase near my workplace. Call me crazy, but a new apartment or townhome near a bus line or train station sounds pretty nice. However, with average home prices still asking for a down payment greater than twice my annual salary, that’s impossible until the market has enough vacancy to allow the invisible hand to drive prices down.

      1. On Nathan’s 2nd point, I’d strongly encourage anyone reading this blog who wants to learn more about transit ridership to read Human Transit, both the book and the blog. If Daniel is asking in good faith, he should really just borrow the book and read through it one afternoon.

      2. Nathan, not too long ago Ross posted a link to Redfin with listings for housing units for sale in Seattle for $350,000 or less. I was surprised there were so many: 148. Even at a price point of $300,000 there were still some units for sale.

        All of the units were older, and most small, and they were not in the most expensive Seattle neighborhoods. But they were for sale. This is how many couples and home owners began.

        You will likely not find a brand new unit in Seattle for under $600,000, which might be a small DADU, certainly not in a more desirable neighborhood, without some kind of public subsidy, and that subsidy is to rent.

        Upzoning if it is to increase housing stock requires new development to replace existing housing that was built based on the prior zone. That means new construction. Builders like most seek out the greatest profit: that means buying the cheapest property to build on, which usually means older and more affordable (the units Ross posted), and building as high end as the neighborhood will support. For example, a new condo in Ballard will have a much higher build cost than White Center because the sales price will reflect that because of area incomes. You will not find a new condo in Ballard for under $500,000 is my guess.

        The fact is as more and more new units are built in Seattle Seattle will continue to lead the country in overall housing price increases because the new more expensive construction replaces the more affordable existing construction in the average.

        Seattle now leads the country in micro housing, which is great I suppose if you are single. Some believe that over a great deal of time the new, smaller, denser development will age and become affordable, or people moving up into the new expensive units in Bellevue will sell their old place for less than market value, but in the meantime that new construction increases baseline housing costs, and tends to gentrify neighborhoods like The Central District in which even the older housing cost has increased sharply from the new development and increased underlying land values from upzoning.

        We are moving towards a situation in which few if any housing in Seattle will cost less than $500,000, and those will be in more diverse neighborhoods. Right now new construction is closer to $600,000 minimum for a condo unless very small, although multi-family prices are dropping during the pandemic. Just like San Francisco we have reached a point in which to buy a house you may have to move to a more affordable city, which is why Tacoma is booming.

        I don’t need to read a book on transit and housing because transit is not an important issue for most home buyers. Otherwise the eastside would not be exploding in cost. Public safety, jobs, roads, parks and schools are the main considerations.

        Since this region never really had the population or density to support 90 miles of very expensive commuter rail ST has chosen to try and manufacture the housing to manufacture the ridership, when transit and rail should follow density in the first place. But how many transit riders can afford a new unit in the Spring District, or will take transit, which is why Bellevue requires such high parking requirements even for TOD. Because Bellevue is not interested in affordable TOD, or at least the developers are not.

        Look at East Link. It crosses a lake to Mercer Island which has very little density or jobs, and plans to have very little density with very high property values, then travels through a wetland/greenbelt next to residential housing less dense than Mercer Island that will stay that way, until it reaches Bellevue, which is upzoning like crazy downtown, except most new space is commercial and the new housing is astronomically expensive, and then it passes through the Spring District that may have commercial density many years from now, and then a nice trip to Redmond through very undense areas with almost no feeder bus service but large park and rides.

        East Link is just a reality of subarea equity, and having to spend the money, but it will have probably half the claimed ridership in 2026 (ST claimed 43,000 to 52,000 riders/day). Even if the eastside were upzoned the units would be very expensive, and there just isn’t the population to support a $6 billion light rail line, and there is no feeder bus service because Metro is cutting service. That is why the eastside has so many expensive park and rides, and is demanding more. The eastside is not upzoning its residential neighborhoods, certainly for transit.

        There isn’t going to be an “invisible hand” driving housing prices down in the future unless the economy falls out (and I bought my current house in 2009 and it did not return to its assessed value until 2016) , and even then that will likely be Seattle specific with businesses moving to the eastside, but probably not. Seattle, and the region, are creating more unaffordable housing, and will continue to.

        Unless you move here with a very high income buying any kind of housing unit is unlikely, which is why Seattle is now over 50% renter. But that is not going to fix the funding issues for ST, or Metro, certainly in the N. King Co. subarea, and for all intents and purposes ST 3 is over in that subarea, including the second transit tunnel unless ST and Seattle can afford the $1.365 billion cost overruns.

        For years I have read where upzoning and new denser multi-family development will create more affordable housing, and the progressives have fallen for that ruse hook line and sinker, and for years I have read where this region has led the country in housing cost increases. For years I have read where upzoning and TOD will magically create ST’s ridership projections, and now I read where ST 3 is dead in Seattle and East Link will be lucky to have half the estimated ridership.

        When I read someday Seattle is no longer leading the country in housing prices then I will believe, and when ridership on ST comes close to the sales projections I will believe.

      3. “Look at East Link. It crosses a lake to Mercer Island which has very little density or jobs, and plans to have very little density with very high property values,”

        Mercer Island is a quirk in the middle a the lake that’s right on the way between two must-serve destinations. That’s the only reason it’s getting a station. Its non-density is unimportant. Even if it were all zoned multifamily it would not be wall-to-wall apartments because it’s an isolated island with no large job centers. It would be idiotic to put an urban center (like Northgate) there because it’s an isolated island.

        “then travels through a wetland/greenbelt next to residential housing less dense than Mercer Island that will stay that way”

        The wetland is a tiny fraction of the total track segment. The underzoning of Surrey Downs is a disappointment but Bellevue is intransigent about that. The alignment should have been on Bellevue Way where it would have served the apartments there. But Surrey Downs is not enough to make the entire line non-worthwhile.

        “until it reaches Bellevue, which is upzoning like crazy downtown, except most new space is commercial and the new housing is astronomically expensive”

        There’s a lot of housing in downtown Bellevue. It’s expensive because multifamily lots are scarce and it’s right next to the downtown Bellevue jobs and shopping.

        “and then it passes through the Spring District that may have commercial density many years from now”

        There are several large housing structures open or under construction now.

        “and then a nice trip to Redmond through very undense areas”

        Have you ever been to Overlake Village? It’s the center of the east Bellevue/south Redmond shopping and is getting a massive increase in apartments. It’s just two RapidRide stops from Crossroads, the lowest-income, most diverse, historically densest part of the Eastside. And it’s a straight shot to Bellevue College and all the student apartments north of it.

        “For years I have read where upzoning and new denser multi-family development will create more affordable housing”

        I’ve repeatedly explained that that’s false. It doesn’t create workforce housing or low-income housing when the region’s median housing price is already way above that. The reason to build it is that more units make prices rise more slowly in the medium term than if those units weren’t built.

        The only way to solve the problem of housing being unaffordable to the working class and lower middle class and poor is with a massive increase in subsidized housing. So which subsidized housing proposal do you support? Which tax increase to pay for it do you support?

      4. Dan: “Why do transit people care about housing?”
        Also Dan: “I don’t need to read about how housing affects transit, because homeowners don’t care about transit.”

        Dan, I’d like to remind you that this is the Seattle Transit Blog, not the Seattle Single-Family Housing Only Blog. Again, transit advocates care about housing because more, dense housing means more people need transit because they can’t all fit their cars on the road, and we need to plan for that transit. Density almost always follows increased travel capacity, not the other way around. Limiting high-density transit plans for the current density is asinine when executing high-density transit plans takes decades. When passenger rail was big, cities grew around rail stations. Now, cities grow outwards along federally-subsidized freeway arteries, but now we’re figuring out that’s not great for the global environment, or mental health during long commutes.

        I’d love to hear your non-NIMBY solution to the problem of increased population and business’ continued interest in dense offices when it comes to housing. How do we support the megacommutes of workers who buy the only affordable housing once that boundary is 60 miles outside of the central business district? Because if building new, denser forms of housing over old lots isn’t the right way to go about it, I’m all ears.

        For years, progressives have harped on building a LOT more housing because migration was eating up more than 100% of the new stock. For years, a lack of upzoning has made it uneconomical to build enough new dense housing to meet the demand, so prices still rise. It’s really not that complicated. A blatant refusal to see that population and job growth has outpaced housing construction for multiple decades is just willful ignorance, and I’m hoping you’re better than that.

        A final note: WA state law makes it incredibly easy for condo-buyers to sue condo-builders for any mistake, including minor ones, made during construction. Therefore, the liability insurance drives up the cost of new construction condos to be uneconomical to sell. So, while new construction residential towers are all rentals and are saturating that market, there’s still a severe undersupply of new construction purchasable homes. See:

      5. As a public social policy, which is what we’re concerned with here, what matters is that those making up to 125% of the median income can get a housing unit at 33% of their income, somewhat near their work and reasonable transit service. Those who can afford a low-density house are near the top of that range or above and we don’t have to worry about them. Single-family homeowners shouldn’t demand an extraordinary privilege for themselves. Before the 1990s they were some 75% of the population and everyone who wasn’t poor could buy a house, but those days are long gone.Since then the area inside the Edmonds-Bothell-Redmond-Renton-Kent ring has seen a dramatic increase in population but there’s no room for more single-family houses because all the land is built out. So house-owners are becoming an ever-decreasing percent of the population (now under 50% in Seattle), yet they demand the highest privileges that all their lots be sacrosanct. And they’re increasingly wealthier compared to the population average, yet still they demand more for themselves and screw everybody who doesn’t own a house yet.

    4. This op-ed presents some important general points, yet the realities of real estate economics are not as simplistic as the author presents. I would also opine that density should be measured in residential square footage as it is units (a three bedroom unit can house just as many residents as three studio apartments with the same building square footage yet 1/3 of the units).

      In history, it’s not uncommon for the solution to also build new neighborhoods rather than just redevelop all existing ones. For example, closing the Renton Airport would free up land for 170 acres, allows for taller buildings in Renton’s core (no more flight path) and possibly frees up the rail tracks for use as a passenger rail corridor. Golf course reuse is similar strategy (see the 130th/ 148th article about North Seattle TOD).

      Upcoming does create higher land values and that encourages displacement of small affordable housing. Doing it with a two-pronged ADU and urban village strategy (what OPCD appears to do) seems reasonable — and maybe only revisiting minimum lot sizes, setbacks and parking minimums could be done to make it more useful without doing a wholesale massive upcoming.

      Another issue is the time and effort it takes to build multi-family units. The 65 foot height limit means that taller buildings have to have more complex engineering and take more time to design, approve and build although for a high rise building it’s still artificially low and more expensive to build at 85 or 110 feet.

      Finally, we simply must grapple with the social challenge of homelessness in its many forms.

      1. “not uncommon for the solution to also build new neighborhoods rather than just redevelop all existing ones.” I’d go stronger and argue building new neighborhoods has been the primary mechanism for providing new housing in America, in particular post-WWII where cities effectively stopped redeveloping most neighborhoods for half a century. Trying to grow the housing stock using infill and redevelopment was the primary mechanism for centuries but is rather novel in a post-war timeframe.

      2. There is an important distinction between building at the edges of urban development (say Monroe, North Bend or Black Diamond) as opposed to rethinking lightly used areas well inside the urbanized edge. They aren’t similar at all, AJ. Please don’t suggest that it’s the same thing.

        It’s much easier to create a new urban neighborhood when the property can be densifier by only having a few parcels and a master plan that includes all the systems for that area. It’s much easier to have a well designed TOD (with a rail station) when there aren’t several hundred parcels affected.

      3. Not simillar at all. I just thought your ‘not uncommon’ framing was underselling the fact that for decades we solved a housing shortage using greenfield construction, so when we pivot to infill & redevelopment people freak out because they are not used to neighborhoods changing. Daniel thinks land should be valued based upon the present, not future, density of a neighborhood.

        It is easier to create a new urban neighborhood when you can master plan large scale brownfield redevelopment, such as a mall, but it’s even easier to just take an existing urban neighborhood that already has the relevant urban infrastructure and simply rezone it, like SLU or U District

      4. I don’t think it’s easier — and it varies by neighborhood. The CD is easier to upzone and create density because existing single family houses are small and the values aren’t a big sacrifice to lose if demolished in favor of row homes. In areas like Magnolia, the economics are not similar.

        A hypothetical example I’ve mentioned before — a West Seattle Golf Course relocation to South Seattle College. This would free up land for an amazing TOD with a more active urban park on the golf course site. The city could then purchase some surrounding homes and lands to make the golf course buildable. It’s much better to do this than to zone for higher density around the college site (and leave it to the market to create density of dozens of parcels singularly) and leave the golf course land untouched. It’s better transit access and walkability. Link could use the land as a staging area. The new golf course would have spectacular views at a hilltop location.

      5. The problem you have with basing things on square footage is that you get stuff like we have here in Portland:
        small, 2 bedroom, 1 bath houses torn down and replaced with massive, three floor houses that wind up housing the same number of people – just occupying a lot more square footage at a much higher sales price.

      6. It’s not always proportional but theoretically there’s a price per square foot of the lot or the inside of the house. I was comparing the inside of houses and apartments, and treated the outside sepearately as the “yard”. People looking for a 350 sq ft apartment can expect to pay less than people looking for a 700 sq ft apartment, assuming the location difference doesn’t override it. (Near the city center is more expensive.) Likewise with 1000 vs 2000 sq ft houses. It’s not a reliable guide but people expect the price to have some relationship to the size, if they’re in similar locations and in the same condition.

      7. Glenn is right. That’s happening in Seattle as well. Anywhere north of Jackson, except along an upzoned arterial, a torn down house is replaced one-for-one with a twice- or three-times as large house. Few people build DADU’s anywhere except the larger lots in the RV, West Seattle and Beacon Hill.

      8. The CD is easier to upzone and create density because existing single family houses are small and the values aren’t a big sacrifice to lose if demolished in favor of row homes.

        Wait, what? The houses are small, but they are on small lots.

        In areas like Magnolia, the economics are not similar.

        Uh, yeah they are. In Magnolia you might have a bigger house, but you have a bigger lot. With few exceptions, the structure itself is not that valuable. Most of Magnolia and C. D. structures are similar. Decent, but not spectacular. This is why you see so many tear-towns throughout the city. In neighborhood after neighborhood a regular house is being down and replaced by a big house. This website lists new construction ( Set the filter to only look at things built in the last year, and include houses. The circle is houses, the teardrops are apartments. There are a lot more circles. Lots and lots of circles (just in the last year).

        Where it is different is where you have a really big lot, especially if you have a small house. This tends to happen in suburban areas. Some of these are in Seattle, some outside. My neighborhood is a good example (as I wrote in a different comment). In these neighborhoods it is relatively cheap per acre to buy a big lot, and add lots of new homes. But the law doesn’t allow it, so they just built as many as they can (and handful of circles).

      9. “A final note: WA state law makes it incredibly easy for condo-buyers to sue condo-builders for any mistake, including minor ones, made during construction. Therefore, the liability insurance drives up the cost of new construction condos to be uneconomical to sell. So, while new construction residential towers are all rentals and are saturating that market, there’s still a severe undersupply of new construction purchasable homes. See:

        This concluding quote is from Nathan’s post above. I chose it because it highlights how well-intended policies to create affordable housing can have unintended consequences.

        I have posted before about the long tail warranty on new condo construction. What Nathan doesn’t understand is this warranty was amended in 2019 to significantly reduce the tail. In fact, one of my reps from the 41st Tana Senn was a prime sponsor.

        The goal was valid: to create more non-subsidized affordable condos for purchase by moderate income citizens, which would allow lower and moderate income people to share in the real estate gains in the region considering Seattle is now over 50% rental. The old “build more and they will be cheaper” mantra.

        The problem is condo construction was sometimes shoddy, and sometimes negligent condo boards would fail to address maintenance over decades, or accumulate maintenance reserve accounts, and when suddenly condo owners were hit with a $10k or $20k assessment for a new roof or plumbing they screamed bloody murder and sued the builder. Even the litigation was expensive for the builder and its insurer.

        The warranty on new condo construction could last for decades, and if there is one thing insurance companies hate it is long tails, because they must reserve for any potential risk at full exposure, so that money is tied up in fixed income investment funds for decades before it can be “repatriated” and treated as income. So insurance companies stopped writing policies for new condo construction.

        To avoid the long tail a new condo had to be rented out for three years before it was sold, so it was no longer “new” and subject to the warranty. However smaller builders can’t have their capital tied up for three years, and often need to pre-sell condos to fund the project. New condo sales plummeted and apartment construction skyrocketed, and the construction was generally lower end since the units would be rentals.

        The unintended consequence is now builders are interested in building — and pre-selling — new condos, but of course they want to build very high end condos in high end neighborhoods, like Mercer Island, because that is where the profit is, because it is safe and the schools are great. Since much of the multi-family zone already is developed, they look for the oldest buildings, which are the main source of non-subsidized affordable housing in more affluent areas.

        So cities like Mercer Island, which has (now) a fair amount of older multi-family housing (although rents have risen with the construction of some very high end developments that raised all rents), are trying to figure out how to prevent that older, more affordable multi-family housing from being torn down and replaced with very expensive new condos, which will displace less affluent citizens, many of whom are older, although some citizens and businesses would like to see more affluent residents in those buildings. So far we haven’t come up with a solution. Meanwhile the city realizes a tidy tax gain because new construction is exempt from the 1% cap in the property levy each year.

        Everybody profits except the elderly renter in the older multi-family unit.

        It doesn’t help that King Co. eliminated its exemption from fire code upgrades for older multi-family housing, and the state on Feb. 1, 2021 required all cities to adopt the new international building codes which add a lot of cost to any upgrades to multi-family housing. So sometimes the best option for an older multi-family non-code compliant building is to sell to a builder looking to build high end condos.

        At the same time these builders don’t have enough eastside land for high end multi-family developments because much of the eastside is single family zoned, many don’t have the sophistication to build above 7 stories when wood frame turns to steel and concrete frame, and there isn’t enough multi-family zoned property for sale to redevelop.

        Naturally the builders and Forterra and the progressives want to eliminate single family zoning on the eastside, with progressives actually thinking Forterra (which once was a legit organization until upzoning and not the environment because its mission) actually want to build affordable housing, when not a single new unit anywhere on MI would be less than $1 million to buy.

        The reason many of us on the eastside shake our head at moral screeds like Nathan’s is because you really think the goal is to build affordable housing, and you don’t even know the long tail on new condo construction was eliminated. We are not any more immoral than you, we just understand the game better, and the real motivation. No affordable housing will be created from the upzoning, because no one profits from affordable housing: not the property owner, not the builder, not the city.

        You want affordable housing? You need public subsidies, which is why ARCH has built 4500 affordable housing units on the eastside since its inception through an inter-local agreement among eastside cities.

        So please no more lectures about creating non-subsidized affordable housing through upzoning when no one is creating any.

    5. Upzoning or not, the construction and displacement happens anyway. The difference is that, without upzoning, single family houses just get replaces by larger, more expensive houses that still hold just one family. With upzoning, more people get to live in the space.

      1. ” Daniel thinks land should be valued based upon the present, not future, density of a neighborhood.”

        No AJ, what I said is the underlying land is valued based on its current “zoning”, (not density). Zoning involves both use zoning, and regulatory zoning (density). If you change residential zoning to commercial it might increase, and if you increase the zoning density the underlying land value will increase. I suppose a speculator could buy property hoping for an upzone, like along the waterfront before the viaduct was torn down, but that is property speculation.

        I mean, what are upzoning advocates wanting out of upzones? For a property owner a higher sales price? For a developer a greater profit? For a person with a lower AMI the ability to purchase a home? For ST or transit advocates to create a walkshed that will create ridership to support 90 miles of commuter rail?

        Ok, the first two are likely, the second two are not, if history is any guide.

        Sure a city can rezone a neighborhood, which will change its character and I think is unfair to those who built that neighborhood, but to then assume the new construction that will rise out of the new zoning will be affordable is not reality. Show me the affordable housing from all the upzoning. Or will that take another 20 years?

      2. @Daniel your NIMBYism is shining through. Talks about maintaining neighborhood character fail to consider that a city is not a stagnant entity; cities are constantly evolving and changing.

      3. “Upzoning or not, the construction and displacement happens anyway. ”

        This is important! If the population increases, demand increases. If the supply doesn’t increase with it, prices will increase. Because more people are competing for each unit. In the 80s and 90s and early 00’s you could look at an apartment, think about it for a week, and it would still be available. Now they can be rented in two days or two hours, and sometimes you go to an appointment and other people are looking at it too.

        The same thing happens with house purchases. The time on market used to be six months but since 2008 it’s been less than a month. Yes, it started with the recession, because when buyers contracted, sellers contracted even more, and they never came back to their previous level. So if you see a house available, you’re often competing with five other buyers simultaneously, and the buyers will bid it up $100K above asking in order to get it. That doesn’t happen when it takes six months to sell a house. It’s a clear indication of housing scarcity.

      4. If you upzone one lot lot the price will increase because it’s a scarce resource. If you upzone all single-family lots in the city or county the demand is diluted across all the lots. The developer might choose your lot but they’ll probably choose another one. The demand for housing units is larger than the existing multfamily-zoned land but it’s not as large as the entire land in the city or county. So development will be saturated and reach a natural ceiling and level off. The price pressure on each lot will be less than if you upzone only a few lots.

        “what are upzoning advocates wanting out of upzones? For a property owner a higher sales price? For a developer a greater profit? For a person with a lower AMI the ability to purchase a home?”

        Units that each cost less than the one house. If you replace a house with three houses or six apartments/condos, each of those will cost less than the house even if all of them together are more. Because each unit is smaller and has less yard space. If a house cost $300K fifteen years ago and is now replaced by three houses or six condos/apartments each costing $300K now, then the value of the one house is upwards of $700K now and sometimes over a million. Mid middle-class people can afford $300K but not $700K or $1 million. If the house is run down and can’t be replaced by multifamily, then it’s just as likely to be replaced by a McMansion at $1.5 million.

      5. Over a hundred years ago, Little Italy in Manhattan was over 90% Italian-American. Today it’s down to 5%, and Asian are the majority at over 80%. The Italians weren’t priced out. They wanted out. Once they started making better incomes, they moved to the burbs. The demographics of a neighborhood can change for a variety of reasons.

      6. I mean, what are upzoning advocates wanting out of upzones? For a property owner a higher sales price?

        Nope. Don’t care.

        For a developer a greater profit?

        Nope. Don’t care.

        For a person with a lower AMI the ability to purchase a home?

        Yes, definitely.

        For ST or transit advocates to create a walkshed that will create ridership to support 90 miles of commuter rail?

        Huh? No.

        What advocates of liberalized zoning want is lower housing prices. That means lower prices for row houses as well as lower costs for condos and apartments. We also want increased density, which in turn leads to better transit. The more that occurs in the city, the better. In short, we want freedom. The freedom to afford a place to live, and move around easily without a car. Some cities have that — even really big, rapidly growing cities like Tokyo. We don’t, and the big reason is our antiquated, classist (and thus racist*) zoning laws.

        *Yes, I realize the laws are no longer explicitly racist. But historical racism has lead to a lot less wealth for African Americans and other minorities ( Since owning a home requires wealth (as well as income), higher prices make things worse for the average black person than the average white person.

      7. “ Upzoning or not, the construction and displacement happens anyway. The difference is that, without upzoning, single family houses just get replaces by larger, more expensive houses that still hold just one family. With upzoning, more people get to live in the space.”

        For clarity, I think it’s important to distinguish some terms. To some, “upzoning” means allowing ADU’s and row homes. To others, “upzoning” apartment buildings of 65 feet or higher. Density advocacy sometimes get these two things blurred.

        There has been much written about the “missing middle”. Supplying this missing middle market with housing seems to be accomplished by expanding what can be allowed in the currently developed Seattle single family zoning districts. Some call this “upzoning” but not me because this doesn’t change the height limits (aka building “upwards”).

        When I see the term “upzoning” I and many others automatically think of taller apartment buildings. That’s the element that seems ridiculous to apply to every block citywide. That’s because the outcome ignores the “missing middle” and forces everyone into either a one-bedroom apartment/ condo or an unaffordable house.

        If the objective is merely to increase affordable housing supply, it needs to be measured more than merely by number of units. Otherwise, the objective is driven by how many small apartments can be created. The “missing middle” housing stock remains unavailable inside Seattle and that forces buyers to look outside of the city. Maybe that means counting units by type. Maybe that means measuring square feet. Regardless, simple unit counting is not sufficient to measure success.

      8. Yes, there are several levels of upzoning: ADUs, duplexes/rowhouses, lowrise (2-4 story apartments), lowrise (7-story apartments), midrise (15-story apartments), highrise (over 15 stories), and eliminating all height/setback/FAR restrictions.

        “Missing middle” means at least 2-3 story apartments like the 4-8 unit courtyard apartments scattered around Capitol Hill, Uptown, and other places. These zones would also allow ADUs, duplexes, and row houses.

        In my mind relaxing single-family zoning to just ADUs and row houses is not enough. It won’t create enough units, especially since less than half of homeowners will build them, and they have so much interior/exterior space that their price is too high for many middle-class people. We need to allow small apartment buildings throughout the city. Especially the area inside the ring of urban villages. I’m not so concerned about the Lake Washington shore or Magnolia or Laurelhurst. And the larger suburbs that aspire to be job centers need to get in on the act too, and not just have a bifurcated low-density/high-density model.

    6. “Upzoning leads to higher underlying land prices which leads to new construction which is the least affordable which leads to neighborhood gentrification which leads to displacement.”

      I’ve seen quite a bit of research that refutes this point of view – can you point me to anything that supports it?

      1. “Upzoning leads to higher underlying land prices which leads to new construction which is the least affordable which leads to neighborhood gentrification which leads to displacement.”

        “I’ve seen quite a bit of research that refutes this point of view – can you point me to anything that supports it?”

        Yes. Seattle. Go to the Central District. When I grew up near there it was 85% Black. Now it is 15%. Now the new buzzword among Seattle progressives is “displacement”. What in the hell do they think causes displacement?

      2. What else happened at the same time? Affluent people started moving back to the city. Downtown Seattle added many middle-income and upper-income jobs, as did the U-District and other parts of the city. People wanted to live near downtown and have a short commute and more things within walking distance. Suddenly there were people who wanted to live in the CD and commute the Eastside. They all competed for housing in the CD and bid the prices up, and there’s your displacement. It would have happened with or without upzoning. I knew people in the 1990s who started buying houses in the CD and Rainier Valley, and they were at the start of the wave, before the upzones.

      3. Thanks, Tlsgwm, that’s the kind of thing I was looking for. I’m not quite sure what to make of that study in terms of the argument at hand.

        It does show increased land values but it also shows no increase in housing starts over 5 years – that doesn’t really bear out Daniel’s argument that upzoning leads to new construction that displaces old, affordable housing stock and prices people out of neighborhoods. At the same time, it’s hard to rationalize the increase in land values if the new zoning regime is never going to be taken advantage of.

        The main lesson would seem to be either that 5 years (or this particular 5 years in this particular place) is not enough time to see any changes in construction activity following upzoning, or that there are other impediments to increased construction in this area other than the zoning.

      4. “Almost nowhere in the United States is it possible for a minimum-wage worker to afford a two-bedroom apartment.”

        This is the difference between now and the 1980s. House prices started rising faster than wages first in San Francisco and New York, but then it spread to all large coastal cities, and then interior cities and finally rural areas. Only depressed areas that are losing population are exempt.

        The 2008 crash halted construction for several years while the population kept rising. The subsequent boom — especially in Seattle — squeezed out the last remaining slack in the market — all the remaining cheap apartments and houses. Then because of restrictive zoning, not enough additional housing was built to keep up with population increases. There were the additional problems of the rise of AirBnB’s reducing the supply of long-term housing, Berkeshire Hathaway buying up tons of distressed houses during the recession and turning them into expensive rentals, and foreign tycoons parking their money in US real estate or buying a house so their children could go to the best American schools. I don’t know much those are a factor. But the fundamental problem is restrictive zoning: locking up 75-90% of the land in single-family-only zoning. Pugetopolis isn’t the worst. In some cities all lots are default single family, and anything else requires an individual zoning variance, and the city is reluctant to grant those.

      5. Daniel, Seattle got rich. It’s always (well, since 1860) been one of the most beautiful sites for a city in the world. Top ten for sure. When Microsoft and Amazon decided to come, the cake was baked. The global super-corporations headquartered in the city mean it is First Class First World.

        Seattle got rich. The hippies and northwest rustic folks who lived in the city in the 1960’s through the 1980’s better have bought a house then or they’ve been out-competed by people with much higher wattage upstairs than they can muster.

        Is that “fair”? Maybe not; who can really say. In a Capitalist system the rich get to live in the nicest places. You clearly hate “progressives” — the sneer drips from your keyboard when you type the word — but the alternative to progressives is fang-and-claw Capitalism with gated neighborhoods and draw-bridge islands. There certainly won’t be any icky Longshore workers to defend in King County; they’ll all be working in the POT and living in Orting.

      6. Brendan, ordinary supply and demand goes out the window when people live in a nice Seattle neighborhood. They do not want to sell, because anywhere else that they might move is a step down in desirability, Daniel’s image of rampant crazy people everywhere notwithstanding.

        Selling a North Seattle cottage immediately means a longer commute, probably from a cookie-cutter subdivision north of Lynnwood. They’re not going to be buying a view house in Innis Arden. Well, not unless they worked for a start-up, and their stock options just vested at 27X.

      7. What in the hell do they think causes displacement?

        Increased housing prices.

        Which leads to the next question: What leads to increased housing prices? Increased demand and limited supply. Seattle got popular. Employment soared. Housing didn’t keep up. Mainly because of zoning. Rather than let the entire city grow (from Magnolia to Laurelhurst, from Seward Park to Arbor Heights) only a teeny-tiny amount was allowed to add housing. If the entire city was allowed to grow, then housing prices would go down.

        Your theory doesn’t hold water because housing prices have gone up in areas where people are allowed to build (south end of Capitol Hill) and where they aren’t (north end of Capitol Hill). For example, take a look at central Magnolia. This is an area that has had no new development, and the population is actually shrinking (as families have fewer kids). Consider this house, for example: This is a nice house, but nothing spectacular. Nor is the neighborhood spectacular (unlike some parts of Magnolia, there is no view, and it is long walk to the store or a to a big park). The house sold for $127,000 in 1987, then $540,000 in 2008, and $920,000 in 2019, now it would go for over a million. Housing prices skyrocketed in 35 years. The neighborhood gentrified even though nothing new was built. Or rather, it gentrified because nothing new was built.

        The increased housing costs are simply the result of increased demand, with a supply limited by a cartel. The cartel is rarely called that, and its motivation is irrelevant. Maybe it functions to keep prices high, maybe it is just well meaning people who like the looks of single family neighborhoods. That doesn’t matter when it comes to housing prices. The cartel causes them to go higher. Full disclosure: As a home owner, I am part of that cartel. My house has dramatically increased in value, even though it is nothing special. The neighborhood is nothing special — no great parks, no sidewalks, not the cultural amenities found in Capitol Hill or Ballard. No wonderful views like in Magnolia, Ballard or Queen Anne. Its a cheap neighborhood, with cheaply built houses, which sit on big lots. Why is it so expensive then? Because there aren’t many of them, anywhere in the city.

        It is worth noting that they are building a lot of houses in Seattle. It is just that the houses are on big lots. Often it is a one-to-one replacement (which doesn’t improve the supply at all). Other times there is a big old lot that they can subdivide. But because of the zoning, they don’t build many new houses. This is a clear cut example of how the law — the cartel if you will — dramatically pushes up the cost of housing. For example, here is a brand new house on a brand new lot just down the street from me: The original lot was about 20,000 square feet, but they split it into three. Each house is similar (a large house on a large lot).

        This begs the question: Why not build a lot more houses? Why not build row houses, or for that matter, a bunch of apartments or condos, like a couple blocks away ( The simple answer is they weren’t allowed to. They built at many houses as the law — the cartel — allowed. This makes my house — and every house, and every apartment — more expensive. Instead of a dozen new houses competing with mine, there are only three. The demand is the same; the supply is limited. Prices go up.


        “For nearly four decades this corner, block, shopping center, meetup spot, grocery store and neighborhood hub was a de facto community center. To see it gone brings about feelings of disgust, abandonment, reality and displacement. The blessing is that the loyalty lives on, as does the need to make sure the CD grows and thrives as a vibrant community for those of the African diaspora … past, present and future.

        “So when philanthropists or funders ask what they can do to address the problems in this community or the black communities of Greater Seattle, first and foremost … listen before assuming you know what our community needs.”

        Good advice for some on this blog. Listen first. Upzoning for Blacks in the Central District was a diaspora.

        I have posted this admittedly dense article before, but obviously some never read it. Here is another article addressing the same issue.

        Two reasons are given on this blog for upzoning:

        1. It creates transit ridership. But that is how we got 90 miles of rail spine through areas that don’t now, and probably never will, have the density and ridership for such expensive transit. Upzoning is never going to justify the cost for rail on much of the spine, and the region has blown its transit money on running rail to undense areas, with the dream density and ridership can be created, or forced, or the car will fade away, while neglecting obvious infill stations that do serve dense areas, and areas like West Seattle and Ballard. Instead I read claims of climate refugees and millions of new citizens validating these transit costs, when country and Seattle growth in 2019 and 2020 is flat.

        Induced transit demand is a valid philosophy if your transit dollars are infinite. Just like Seattle has chosen to mildly upzone its exburbs to create a hollow downtown but many satellites “urban” cities with some commercial activity, ST has chosen to run rail to the less dense areas and far flung rather than where density already exists. The reality is density follows density, rather than creating it from areas that are not dense. West Seattle will densify faster than Angle Lake, with or without rail.

        2. It creates affordable, or at least marginally less unaffordable, housing. The reality is this is not borne out by experience. Unless an $800,000 row house is affordable, and by affordable you mean the very upper middle income with double incomes over $100,000/year. That is because builders and developers do this for profit, and there is very little profit in affordable housing, none in non-subsidized affordable housing.

        The one place density and upzoning makes sense is near existing transit when the housing is subsidized, primarily 30% and 50% AMI, in areas with lower land values like Yesler Terrace. This is how ARCH, an eastside housing organization, has built 4500 subsidized units, but none in Medina or Hunts Point because the land is too expensive and there is no EXISTING transit.

        These folks need to take transit because they can’t afford a car, and they need transit NOW, so the upzoning can be very dense, and not like the mild upzones Seattle has adopted for its residential neighborhoods, so small and affordable units to build are allowed. Instead some on this blog dream of upzoning The Spring District. Why? How will the new Spring District benefit anyone who is not rich? Do you really think residents in new Spring District condos will ride East Link. Bellevue knows its own and doesn’t think so, which is why these projects have such huge parking requirements.

        The proof is in the pudding. Show me the truly non-subsidized affordable housing upzoning has created in Seattle, and show me the ridership gains created for light rail outside the urban cores when the pandemic ends from upzoning, especially East Link, and I will believe.

        Upzoning is an interesting experiment in Seattle, and let’s see how it works out before asking everyone outside Seattle to embrace it. Build that second transit tunnel, and rail to W. Seattle and Ballard, maybe a line from Ballard to UW, with tons of new affordable non-subsidized housing along the routes, hopefully mostly downtown, and I will be a believer. But please read the article linked to above on the gentrification of the Central Dist. before acting like upzoning — which was primarily pushed by builders and absentee landlords who wanted more units per lot but didn’t want to live onsite — is somehow moral when it hasn’t created any affordable housing, and mainly created a diaspora for poor Black folks who are terrified the well meaning progressives plan to upzone South Seattle next.

      9. Mike, I have a friend who bought a house in Madison Valley in 1977. After just fifteen years during which it tripled in value, he sold out and moved to Ferry County to live on the proceeds. Ahead of the wave, for sure.

      10. “

        I have posted this admittedly dense article before, but obviously some never read it.”

        Daniel – if you’ve been following the thread you’ll see that someone has already posted that article! I read it and offered my thoughts earlier. In short, I’m not sure that his shows what you think it does. I understand you to be claiming that upzoning causes redevelopment, which causes displacement in turn. The MIT study of Chicago upzones cited in both of the articles you link to does not find that. Rather, it found that there was no new construction in the upzoned areas they were studying.

      11. @Daniel — No one is arguing that there hasn’t been gentrification in the Central Area. What we are saying is that it would have changed with or without zoning. Just look at the areas that didn’t have a zoning change.

        Remember when this was “the ghetto”: Sure you do. It wasn’t like Watts, but it sure wasn’t Magnolia. Houses were affordable, because they were a bit rundown, and it wasn’t the safest place in town. But inside they were well maintained. There might be paint peeling off the walls, and the grass might be unkempt, but inside it was clean. A lot of the houses were rentals of course. You remember, right? Oh, and a lot of them had ADUs — mother in law apartments (as the concept goes way back). Being the expert that you are on the neighborhood, I’m sure you spent a lot of time in that area. I forget — what year did you graduate from Garfield (maybe we ran across each other)?

        A house like this, for example — in the heart of the ghetto — used to be cheap: Since there hasn’t been any zoning changes, I’m sure it still is. I wonder what that house costs now? Oh! Over a million dollars: Back in 1989, it sold for $93,000. It probably went for half that when I went to school at Garfield (class of 1980).

        Look, dude, zoning doesn’t cause gentrification. Demand does. Areas that haven’t changed at all — like parts of Oakland and Brooklyn — have gentrified as white people became less scared of black people. People who rented apartments see rents go up, even if the building stays the same. People who own shops see their rent to up for the same reason. You are completely wrong when it comes to cause and effect.

      12. RossB has it right I think. Gentrification can happen with or without zoning changes. This has largely been the case in many neighborhoods throughout the CD.

        My own story…
        I moved to Seattle from NYC back in the late 1980s. I moved in with a sibling who owned a property in the CD, where he had already lived for several years in another house before purchasing his then current, larger home. I lived there for a little over five years before tiring of the criminal activity* (this was at the peak of the crack-dealing era and everything that came with it) and relocating to Wallingford. My sibling sold the property a couple of years later and relocated up to the Hill. While my brother and his partner had vehicles, I used Metro to get around, becoming a regular on routes 2, 3 and the 48, as we lived in the neighborhood west of MLK between Cherry and Union.

        Overall, I liked the central location, even after I changed jobs and instead of taking a bus to downtown I found myself commuting to downtown Bellevue via the 48 and 271. I enjoyed its proximity to the areas of town I frequented at the time, e.g., Cap Hill, Madison Valley, the UW, etc. We also had some awesome longtime neighbors, some of whom became good friends of ours. If it weren’t for the criminal BS we endured, which was mostly a nighttime thing, I think we would have stayed in the neighborhood for many more years. Even as a NYC kid who took transit everywhere growing up (the “low” period of the 60s and 70s at that), there were times I just didn’t feel safe walking home by myself late at night. At that time, even a quick run over to Rogers Thriftway could be kind of sketchy tbh.

        Nevertheless, that’s all in the past now as the neighborhood has become quite desirable to live in, and the home prices there reflect it. Just for grins I looked up our old house on the King County Assessor’s site. Like the example that RossB cited above, my sibling bought his house in the CD around that same time period for just under $100k. It’s a solid house, probably a bit larger than most at 4 bedrooms. It’s from the early 1900s but has been well maintained throughout its life, though I’m uncertain as to what upgrades have been made since we owned it. It has a detached garage that was at one-time an ADU that we converted back to secure vehicles overnight. The assessor currently has the property valued at about $950k. Wow.

        *Most of this centered around crack-dealing and users committing property crimes to fund their habits. We were victimized multiple times during the five years I lived in this particular neighborhood (two house break-ins, three vehicle ones). With that said, violence was not uncommon either, as I personally witnessed a number of shootings and one assault that involved a stabbing on our own property.

      13. Bellevue, Kirkland Redmond, and Sammamish have added many new housing units over the last decade, and many more are in the permitting stage, especially compared to their base population.

        But they are not affordable, and Bellevue requires a large number of onsite underground parking stalls. For example, The Hines project will have 1500 underground parking stalls, and the new twin Amazon towers will have 1700 stalls, along with 1000 bicycle stalls for 7000 employees.

        But even if these projects had no parking requirements the price of the new housing units would still be unaffordable, which I am guessing is a goal of “middle” housing, but the residents are opposed to multi-family housing in the residential neighborhoods, and it still would not be remotely affordable if allowed, and the parking requirements would require underground parking on the Eastside, or the funky street level “underground” parking seen in older multi-family buildings Bellevue wants to move away from.

        Most Eastside cities require 3 onsite parking stalls (covered and uncovered) for a single family house, and street parking becomes a big issue when multi-family housing is allowed 1 or 2 stalls/unit on the Eastside. Bellevue doesn’t want its neighborhood streets to look like Seattle’s with both sides of every street clogged with parked cars, and knows folks are not going to give up their cars if Seattle alone has 460,000 cars.

        If this “middle housing” zoning paradigm doesn’t create affordable housing in Ballard what are the chances it will create affordable housing in Clyde Hill?

      14. @Daniel

        New houses are expensive. Old houses are expensive. Yet you still can’t find the connection.

        The reason why costs skyrocketed is because demand skyrocketed. The reason demand skyrocketed is because employment skyrocketed.

        You keep confusing cause and effect as well as supply and demand. Demand has increased immensely, and supply hasn’t kept up. Those areas that you are focuses on make up only a teeny-tiny part of the market. They are expensive for the same reason existing places are expensive: too much demand, not enough supply.

        The fact is, the vast majority of Seattle has not upzoned. Those areas have seen prices skyrocket. These are facts. We contend — based on the science — that a big reason is the lack of development city wide. Your theory — if I have it right — is that prices have gone up *because* we have allowed growth in only a handful of areas. Is that really what you are saying?

    7. Upzoning leads to higher underlying land prices which leads to new construction which is the least affordable which leads to neighborhood gentrification which leads to displacement. The story of the Central District, and why South Seattle residents are opposed to upzoning.

      When you come up with a theory that is contrarian, you might consider providing some evidence. For example, if I claimed that increased CO2 reduced global warming, I would provide some shred of evidence — something — to support such a backwards idea.

      You haven’t. You are just making a ridiculous claim. In contrast, there is plenty of evidence to support general economic theory in this regard. For example: These types of studies are the equivalent of proving that it has to be cold to snow. Yeah, everyone knows that, but still, it is nice to have a study that confirms it.

      In short, you are wrong. Completely wrong. You have mixed up cause an effect, the way that a toddler claims that the snow made it cold outside. It isn’t the new buildings that make housing prices expensive here, it is the demand. It all just a matter of supply and demand. You can look “Supply and Demand” on Wikipedia, or ask any small business (maybe a kid selling lemonade will explain the basics to you).

      1. The data show Daniel is wrong when it comes to new housing driving up the cost of existing housing (“supply effect” in the paper you linked), but there is data to support the impact of ‘signaling’ on driving up the cost of housing (

        While it’s hard to disentangle public and private investment, it is plausible that the public benefits of new private investment do drive up the cost of adjacent housing costs. Does this make housing costs overall go up? No. But does it make a specific neighborhood less affordable? I think that could be true.

        Having read Daniel’s many comments this past few months, I think that is what he is trying to argue. Upzones result in new neighborhoods, which are presumably nicer than existing neighborhoods because they are new; I think this is a valid as new development is often required to provide public benefits, for example creating a sidewalk where there previous was none or creating a new midblock crossing. The public benefits are usually larger when the new developments are larger, so it follows that upzones will create more privately funded public benefits.

        I think Daniel sees a major upzone as a threat simillar to the city coming in an building a nice bike lane or planting street trees. The resulting neighborhood is nicer and therefore less affordable. This is the same logic when activists oppose new bike lanes or bourgeoisie coffee shops in low(er) income neighborhoods. The problem with this line of argument is that the resulting conclusion is a reductio ad absurdum policy response that we should keep affordable neighborhoods crappy to ensure they remain affordable.

        We should require new development to be good development, for the same reason we should plant more street trees. Yes, a nicer neighborhood is a more desirable neighborhood, but (to cycle back to your original counterargument) the only way to solve the housing crisis is to provide more housing throughout the region, not by defending specific neighborhoods from being more expensive relative to the rest of the region.

        In summary, while your counterpoints are all correct, I think you are missing Daniel’s point. I think Daniel is correct that a major upzone drives displacement, but my response is “who cares”? Not to be callous, but it’s not the region’s job to ensure that specific communities with specific ethnic or socioeconomic status get to stay in specific communities in perpetuity. In a dynamic city, neighborhoods should be continually evolving, which means the communities that live in a neighborhood will & should change over time. There is nothing inherently wrong with a specific neighborhood gentrifying; the issue is a region unable to providing adequate housing to all income levels.

        Did the Central Area upzones facilitate the displacement of the African American community? I think it did. But that’s not a sufficient argument against the upzone, because 1) the region overall is better off because housing is more abundant, 2) long-time CD homeowners certainly benefit whether they stay or leave, 3) long-time CD residents that remain presumably benefit from living in a more desirable neighborhood (unless you think the higher prices reflect nothing of actual value), and 4) CD residents that have left have voted with their feet that they value something else more than staying in the CD, whether that’s a lower cost of housing or simply remaining connected to a community that has shifted south to new neighborhoods.

      2. So basically:

        Single Family Zoning Advocates: Don’t build in our neighborhood. You’ll make it ugly.

        Daniel: Don’t build in that neighborhood. You’ll make it too nice, and that will push up housing prices.

        Maybe that encapsulates Daniel’s argument, or may he just doesn’t understand basic economic theory, zoning, or Seattle. No matter what, he has it wrong, and he has no evidence — none — to support his case. He simply point to a neighborhood and yells “See!” and expects us all to agree with his nonsense.

        Housing prices went up in the Central Area because, well, its central. Quick history lesson. Most of what is called the Central District or Central Area was redlined. Unlike much of the city, black people were allowed to live there. This made it a ghetto. This ghetto extended into what is now called Capitol Hill. TT Minor elementary, for example, was 92 percent African-American when I went there.

        When redlining ended, most ghettos in the country were fairly run down. Seattle’s central area was much better than most (for reasons I won’t go into). Most white (which is to say relatively wealthy) Americans were hesitant to move into these neighborhoods. Sexual minorities were not. This is why Capitol Hill flies the rainbow flag — those folks weren’t afraid to move there (for reasons that should be obvious). As time went on, more and more people realized that the historically African American communities were not as dangerous as they are in other cities, or the stereotypes. Housing value increased as a result. The more white people moved in, the more other white people felt comfortable moving in. In other words, racist fears kept the value of the C. D. artificially low. Once those fears were removed, prices increased substantially. It doesn’t matter if they built new buildings or kept the old ones — once people realized that a very central part of Seattle (where you can literally walk to downtown Seattle in less than a half hour) wasn’t filled with pimps and crack heads, prices shot up. This is why those prices have gone up. That, and the fact that overall housing prices have gone up — in every neighborhood. People buy a condo in the C. D. because they can’t buy a condo in Queen Anne, Wallingford or Magnolia (they aren’t building them). Just as they aren’t building them in most of the city.

      3. @RossB. Did you go to TT Minor because it was your neighborhood school or wete you Bussed there. Just curious.

      4. “Upzones result in new neighborhoods, which are presumably nicer than existing neighborhoods because they are new”

        That’s because the upzones are in a too small area. If you upzone a larger area, like everything from 24th Ave NW to 15th Ave NE and the Ship Canal to south Greenlake, then the impact is diluted over a larger number of lots, and it’s harder for any one lot to change the character of the entire district or extract a large price premium.

      5. I agree with Brendan that if property in an upzoned zone is not redeveloped it can’t — let alone won’t — create affordable housing. Although the MIT article found little redevelopment due to upzoning, neighborhoods like the Central District found quite a bit of redevelopment after it was upzoned.

        The point I was making is when existing housing is replaced with new and more housing after an upzone the new construction is not “affordable”, which means even a 100% or -150% or single $200% AMI individual could not afford to buy it.

        So what is the point of upzoning residential neighborhoods if either 1) property is not redeveloped, or 2) if redeveloped is not remotely affordable.

        Follow the money. The property owners, which in the Central District were speculators betting on an upzone, made a killing, so did the builder, and the city based on construction sales tax and the fact the new assessed value is exempt from the 1% property tax cap, but the historical Black community got a diaspora. Is that modern progressiveness?

      6. That diaspora would be happening even worse if there were no upzone, as keeping everything frozen in time limits housing availability to everyone. It makes housing close to employment a finite resource, and therefore even more subject to price increases.

      7. AJ, yes, Daniel seems to believe keeping derelict housing in Black eighborhoods is “good for” the folks who live there.

      8. The real answer is not so much an ‘upzone’ as a ‘no zone’.

        Right now we seem to be getting either nothing, or massive block sized buildings, or super tall ones.

        Where are the small to medium sized apartment buildings? They are everywhere in the city but no one is building them anymore because zoning forbids it.

      9. @Jimmy James — I was voluntarily bused. I followed my sister, who did the same thing (going to Minor, Madrona, Meany and Garfield). Garfield was the whitest school — it was about 50-50 (or really about 40-40-10-10, meaning 40% white, 40% black, 10% Asian, 10% other or mixed). Garfield was fairly integrated — the white kids and black kids sat together in the lunch room, hung out together, etc.

        During elementary and middle school, we rode a (short) school bus (there wasn’t that many of us). For high school, I took Metro. Most of the white kids that took the bus lived in Montlake (I remember following them the first day and realizing after a while I took the wrong bus). Mandatory busing started towards the tail end of my time there.

      10. Thanks, RossB. That information about your schools was pretty interesting to me. I grew up toward the end of busing. It has been gone long enough that my newer Seattle friends do not know about it or think I am making it up. But I think the expectations of what you get when you buy a fixer upper for 750k probably has something to do with it. If you move to Seattle with a dual income, college education, programming experience, and more, you might be willing to give up your car for transit. But those same friends will not let their kids go to another neighborhood to go to school. They shopped around for that school and they expect to go there. That is a sacrifice or gamble they are not willing to make in year 2000 to present. But my parents supported it in the 80’s. That might have been because they got a house in 1969 that was 25k. The price of getting a cheap house was dealing with city issues. I actually think I am a more rounded person because of it. I was going to say better person, but that is BS. Just kidding.

      11. Conventional (white) wisdom was that busing was designed to make lives better for black kids. Like most conventional wisdom, they were only half right. There is a lot of evidence that white people benefit as much academically (and socially) from a diverse background. Of course they do. Back in the day, wealthy people would routinely send their kids to Europe, so they could experience a different culture. Well there happens to be very rich, interesting culture just across town, and you sure as hell can learn a lot from experiencing it.

        The tricky part is implementing it. Do it wrong, and you just have white kids riding the bus together, sitting with their white friends together, doing very little mixing. Worse yet, you have ignorant (but well-to-do) parents who send their kids to private school, or hide out in white, well-to-do suburbs. Do it right and everyone wins — everyone gets smarter (and maybe even better).

      12. @RossB
        One of the things I remember in elementary school was the kids who were bused to my neighborhood. I was in 1st grade. I wanted to have a birthday party at my house. I invited 10 people. Only 3 lived in my area. Race not important. Just a kid meeting other kids at recess. I invited them, and 7 turned me down. I was insulted and asked them why. I did not realize they came in on a bus. I was only 9 or 10 or whatever. My parents agreed to talk to their parents. We had my party and they all came. I really feel selfish now.
        After, it was over, my parents, (both of them) in seperate cars, drove all my friends home. My dad told me years later it took over 3 hours. As I remember later on, not all of their parents had cars. One worked 2 jobs. My dad thinks one of the parents was screwing him out of a free ride. Not important. But I think busing was a mixed experience.

  4. the ST title VI piece has some oddities. They have to explain longer Link headways. In 2016-18, ST planned six-minute headway for Northgate. Now, reacting to Covid, they are planning eight-minute headway in the peaks. The off-peak headways are longer as well. No one can know the pace of ridership return from Covid after vaccination. But longer headways on Link and routes 522 and 542 will not help. I wonder what the fiscal tradeoff is between service millions today v. capital billions tomorrow for the ST3 reset.

    1. Good point. With transit employees now eligible for vaccination, the current excuse of staffing shortfalls no longer appears to justify reduced Link frequencies.

    2. Both Link and Metro have already partly restored service from its early-covid trough. ST has said Northgate Link will return to 10 minutes off peak. That seems to be based on projected ridership, not early-covid staffing shortages. Six-minute peaks was always temporary during the pre-U-Link phase, ST never promised to keep it beyond that. The big issue will be with Lynnwood/East Link: will ST stick to its 3-minute two-line frequency?

      1. The plan for Link was always 7.5 min peak frequency, and that is what they will (eventually) be going back to.

        The previous 6 min frequency was only temporary and was implemented to help ST get past some temporary logistical constraints.

        With interlining the peak frequency will become 3.75 in the downtown to NG section.

    3. And Tom Terrific believes eliminating Black residents from Seattle entirely is good for them. Just one more step after the Central District to the South Seattle diaspora: south across the city line, for their own good of course. . Then TT can buy a new $800,000 condo in the Central District where a Black family use to live in a “derelict house”, according to TT’s standards. Because of course all “inner city” Blacks live in derelict houses.

      Maybe the author was correct: maybe listen to what Black citizens want for once. I didn’t get the idea from the author Blacks felt the diaspora was for their benefit, like TT does.

      I think I will email the author TT’s and some others’ posts on this thread supporting the diaspora, or claiming gentrification was inevitable, and see what a Black person has to say about it, and post her response. This blog isn’t exactly populated with Black voices. It wouldn’t hurt to listen to an actual Black person displaced from the Central District, and get her views on upzoning and gentrification, and being freed from her derelict home.

      1. Dude, it’s you who opposes improving formerly redlined neighborhoods because they might get too expensive. Don’t give us this “all my Black friends say” BS from the walled City of Mercer Island

      2. And about that “genteification” thingy pushing Black folks out of the CD.

        Interestingly, my wife’s niece and her husband, who are both half or so Black — she has some Puerto Rican Latino too — are just now moving from the hillcrest above Seward Park in Columbia City to Lakeridge and are over the Moon about it.

        They started twenty years ago in a condo near 18th and Yesler — hardcore “CD” — then got a house on the hill just below 24th and Aloha (they still own both of them) and fixed up into three units. Then they moved to the Columbia City house which was just a cottage. It had a back-side daylight basement but now is 3-1/2 stories. They plan to tear down the Lakeridge cottage and start from the ground up.

        So, I guess they’re happy that they’ve been “pushed over” the southern city limits.

      3. A lot of people of color simply cashed out and moved south as prices went up. They found bargains there, while taking advantage of the huge jump in real estate prices. It is no different than Scandinavians in Ballard who sold out and moved to Sequim.

        There haven’t been that many African Americans moving to Seattle, in part because software companies employ very few.

      4. Ross, very well said. Yes, the renters have been displaced, but the homeowners — and there were and still are plenty –have been among the winners from gentrification.

  5. Rail advocates around North America are all abuzz today about the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s (a chamber of commerce) new vision for GO Transit. It builds upon electrification to make it function more like a Metro. They look at interlining, express and local trains at different stations, rolling stock that gets riders on and off faster and a clever rebranding to Trillium.

    Are there any lessons for our region here?

    1. Not really because Seattle never got built to anywhere near the legacy railroad miles Ontario did, and the obsolete ones here have already been largely converted to trail use.

      The biggest possible feasible project would be to pump state dollars into improving the Union Pacific’s trackage from Tacoma to Tukwila, and convince UP and BNSF that they should move the bulk of their freight operations to that line (at least during the day) to allow Sounder to improve to every 30m each way between Tacoma and Seattle

      That would also improve speed and reliability on Sounder as well as Cascades. The problem is getting them to do it. It’s free money for UP so I’m sure they wouldn’t take too much convincing, but BNSF is a tough negotiator. They’d probably prefer being able to schedule freight though the valley without worrying about ST and Amtrak though.

    2. Yes. Double track the UP with a few cross-overs and add overpasses to several secondary east-west arterial roads. That would allow the removal of nearly all “through” freight from downtown Kent, Auburn, Sumner and Puyallup, at least through the “daytime hours” as you mentioned.

      That would be a great additional benefit for the town centers and encourage more density in them for Sounder to serve.

      It would be unpleasant for Pacific, though.

    3. This is more or less what I’ve been trying to advocate for here, but refined to account for Seattle’s quirks.

  6. Today Amazon announced a largely full return to the office in the fall. Clearly betting on a more lenient phase by then, which is of course entirely unclear. I assume this would be masks required, but not social distancing.

    The question then is how will everyone get to work? I would guess Amazon needs transit back to full capacity by then (no social distancing, normal schedules) in order to get everyone to SLU.

    1. As long as masks are still required, a bigger question is where do people eat lunch? The only safe place to do it is outside, but there’s not anywhere near enough room outside for everyone at all of the SLU offices to eat at once.

      Also, I wore a mask for 8 hours straight once for a flight and there’s absolutely no way I would do that every day, 5 days/week. I’d much rather see a hybrid model where people work only partial days in the office, with the remainder of the time at home. Minimizes the time in a mask while also solving the lunch problem (people eat at home).

      1. I’ve been wearing a mask for up to 12 hours a day, and I will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future. All the stuff I’ve read indicates that it only takes a few hours for this virus to spread to infectious levels throughout an office when blown around by the HVAC system.

        It’s annoying, but I’ve not been sick in 1 year and 3 month now, and we had two people fall ill with Covid19 so I definitely got exposed for several days at some point.

        In any event, I’m not sure the hybrid model really works that well unless you really have a good filtration system and do the work of reconfiguring the air flow.

      2. My guess is Amazon is counting on an exemption for eating lunch inside. Or perhaps angling for one with politicians.

        I don’t think the state of emergency will end this year, unless cases drop to trivial levels per day, which means the mask mandate will likely stay. Unlike other governors, Inslee doesn’t have any motivation to incorporate political considerations into covid decisions.

        Very curious if Metro would adopt 100% capacity. That’s a huge jump from 25% and I think there would be some blowback especially if it was done at the behest of Amazon.

      3. Most office environments I’m aware of allow people to take their masks off if they are at their desks, as desks have been sufficiently spaced or segregated and HVAC systems have been upgraded. Where I work, most people simply eat at their desks.

        Also, cafeterias would be subject to the same rules as other indoor dining – isn’t that at 50% capacity now? Might need some sort of reservations system to spread out the lunch hour, but otherwise 50% capacity should be sufficient to feed an entire office tower.

      4. It is quite likely that the pandemic will be over in the United States by fall. People will eat in restaurants, like they did before. Some will wear masks, but they won’t be required. It is possible that there will be a “Vaccine Passport” and some businesses will require it. But overall, by the fall, it is likely that things will look more or less like they did before.

        That assumes we don’t get hit with a nasty variant that is resistant to the vaccine. That would set things back months, as everyone would have to get a booster shot.

      5. Unlike other governors, Inslee doesn’t have any motivation to incorporate political considerations into covid decisions.

        I disagree with that. Things are way too open now. We should be locking down everything to a much greater degree, and wait until we get almost everyone vaccinated before opening up. But he faces huge political pressure to open things up, as people can see the end of the tunnel, and are too stupid to realize that we aren’t there yet.

      6. P.1 has been recorded in two sequenced samples from Washington. The CDC did not say which county. This is the first harbinger of another surge which won’t be fully disabled by the original vaccines. P.1 rapidly becomes dominant wherever it migrates.

        So, please, keep wearing masks and socially distance carefully. It’s not over by any stretch of the imagination, and Washington has been doing surprisingly poorly for a highly educated Blue state in vaccine uptake.

      7. Once a substantial portion of the population has been vaccinated or previously infected, the break room dilemma goes away along with all of the other distancing guidelines we’ve been following over the past year (capacity caps, etc.). The US is approaching that point quickly, by vaccinating many more people than are getting infected. Current evidence shows dramatic decline in transmission post-vaccination, and re-infection after vaccination or infection is almost entirely mild or completely asymptomatic. Pfizer even published a study today that shows barely any decline in their vaccine efficacy 6 months after vaccination , so it seems likely that vaccination will be durable for years, or maybe even life. All of the vaccines currently approved in the US even provide excellent protection against hospitalization and death, which is quickly going to be come a much more important metric than daily case counts.

        I think it’s important to keep in mind that *every* respiratory pandemic has subsided through immunity, even if the pathogen remains. Even the 1918 flu virus is still present, but through vaccination and exposure it only causes mild illness. We hopefully only have to get through a few more months, get vaccinated, and then we can return to full buses, restaurants, theaters, etc. SARS-CoV-2 itself will likely never go away, but COVID19 hopefully will be something most of us can avoid after this year.

        The situation abroad, unfortunately, is not good. Much of the world gambled solely on AZ, which has well-known problems, and Europe, South America, and Africa are far behind us on vaccinations. The US has made its share of mistakes and even made malicious decisions, but the outcome could have been much worse.

      8. Two contradictory things are happening simultaneously, as when Rachael Maddow was excited about the acceleration of vaccinations and fifteen minutes later Lawrence O’Donnell was warning about the increase in cases and the likelyhood of another surge due to the variants, spring break, and some states opening all businesses and eliminating mask mandates. Seattle’s and King County’s numbers also stalled at its last trough (March 1 = Oct 17) and are now going up again. (There’s a possible downturn yesterday.) So we’re in the danger area of another surge, and it seems like the wrong time to reopen Microsoft and increase retail capacity from 25% to 50%. I would have waited another month at least. We’ve had too many premature reopenings that would have been much better if they were a month or two later, to solidify the downturn and hopefully avoid another surge.

      9. Skylar, don’t think P.1 is tge end of that evolutionary chain. There will be a P.1.1 and perhaps a P.1.2 which will each be one more step away from the recognizable Spike protein fragment that the vaccines mimic.

        This is why “a vaccine for the common cold” has proven so frustratingly difficult to develop. The Coronavirus vectors of a significant number of colds won’t hold still.

        So don’t be so confident of a release from restrictions in the coming months.

      10. Tom, we don’t have a common cold vaccine because the disease is so benign. If SARS-CoV-2 ends up being a common cold after vaccination/ongoing exposure (and that seems at least a possible outcome, given that the four endemic coronaviruses are all mostly benign), we won’t need to keep up vaccinations for it either. We don’t have vaccines for the common cold coronaviruses because there really isn’t much money in vaccines, not because of how fast they mutate (the influenza virus mutates many many times faster).

      11. Skylar, sure, if and when SARS-Cov-2 goes the “domesticated pet” route of its cousins, humanity won’t strictly need a vaccine for it.

        But don’t think that will happen in a year or two.

        Are you familiar with the “Sweating Sickness” of the Rennaisance era? It was around for about 150 years or so, erupting every few years here and there in Northern Europe.

        It was a hemorrhagic fever pretty similar in fatality to MERS with a clear genetic-susceptibility profile: e.g. it “ran in” families.

        Nobody knows if it was a Coronavirus, and it’s probably not knowable, even if the remains of known sufferers were dug up. Coronaviruses don’t have a crystalline phase apparently, so the signature of one wouldn’t still be around.

        Eventually the disease disappeared. Perhaps it’s now one of those circulating “common colds”.

        But the point is it took a century and a half for Detente to be established between virus and host.

        It’s certainly possible that this scenario is overblown hysteria, but that’s unfortunately not a certainty.

      12. Dkyler, update. It appears that most virologists believe Sweating Sickness was caused by a Hantavirus.

        So the four “tame” Coronaviruses caused some other illness when they first arrived.

    2. If Amazon opens the offices and Metro doesn’t restore all routes and relax the reduced-capacity requirements, Amazon might decide it can’t open the offices yet after all. If all the people previously on transit started driving there wouldn’t be room for their cars in the garages or on surrounding streets.

      1. My guess is Metro will start adding routes and frequency as soon as it is clear people will ride the bus. Of course that assumes they have the money.

        I don’t think ST will do anything. It is clear that they don’t care. They aren’t into service, they are into construction. You could run trains every six minutes all day long from Northgate to Angle Lake and get more riders per dollar spent than most of what is in ST3. But that’s not their concern. They just want to build stuff, because that is what makes the politicians happy.

      2. Schools have to reopen before businesses can fully reopen because someone has to take care of the kids. Whether enough kids will be vaccinated by early Sept. is unknown, but that seems like the earliest returning to in-office work can occur. Whether workers commuting to work will trust transit as much as they will their own office environment will determine how they get to work.

        The other issue is whether employees will want to return to in-office work, and whether businesses will be hesitant to renew long term leases at the same square footage. Landlords and building owners have been cushioned from the pandemic by existing leases, but those will reset over the next few years. Most assume huge increases in vacancies. WeWorks is reducing is square footage significantly.

        Employees like working from home, and just about every office in the world is now set up for it. A worker might like the office environment, but who likes standing on a crowded bus in high heels while someone pinches or coughs on you.

        I have heard conflicting reports on productivity from work from home, except that employee saves a lot of money in office overhead and subsidized commuting costs.

        Estimates run from 50% (Gates I think) to 20% (Mckinsey I think) reduction over time, from business air travel to in-office work. I personally see a three day in-office work schedule at first, which is a 40% reduction, especially if transit is seen as not safe. Long term hard to predict. The one thing you can usually predict is people will return to doing what they like to do, and try to avoid doing what they don’t like to do, like business air travel vs. vacation air travel.

      3. I’m thinking I’d like to work a three-day model. My company has said it will encourage telework as much as employees want long-term, and I think a hybrid schedule would work best for me. My biggest question is whether to do all the days together (e.g., Tue-Wed-Thu) or spaced apart (Mon-Wed-Fri). It will also depend on which days others want for meetings. Tuesday is my traditional biggest meeting day so I’m hoping to get back to that.

        Electricity usage has increased with the work-at-home order, so the economic/environmental impacts aren’t all positive.

        I could also see the rise of neighborhood mini-offices like coworking spaces. REI’s plan to shift from one Bellevue headquarters to several distributed offices is similar. Coworking spaces grew in the 2000s, then took a hit in the pandemic, and afterward they could go either way. Especially for people who feel they need an “office room” (more than my desk in my bedroom) but don’t want to move to a larger apartment/house.

      4. Great observation, Mike. This is a natural for Starbucks, who are facing quite a rise in competition from the drive-thru coffee chains.

        Where Starbucks has stores in strip centers and they can get an adjacent unit, it would make a lot of sense for them to partner with a “mini-WeWork” to provide these distributed workspaces with the traditional coffee bar, though it wouldn’t be free….

    3. There is a ton of parking in & around SLU. If Amazon returns to work before everyone else, most will just drive, which will create habits that are hard to break whenever transit does come back.

      Also, Amazon has had a high walk share, which is why those luxury apartments emptied out when Amazon went fully remote. If Amazon permanently returns to the office, look for those apartments to fill back up.

  7. Ha! My in-laws just bought a place near the future 185th St LR station. New construction. Townhome. Good location. Good transit (once Link opens at least). Reasonably priced.

    Ya, they need to suck it up for a few years and deal with crappy bus service, but it gets better in Sept when they can at least transfer to LR at NG and shorten their bus slog short. And in 3.5 years it gets even better when they can just omit the bus altogether and get a frequent one-seat ride on LR.

    I’m proud of them. Ya, it took two incomes, but they got it done. And there is already a lot of interest in the hood. That area is set to explode. They will do well.

    1. Townhouses in Mountlake Terrace have also been on the rise. People are paying upwards of $600k for new construction townhouses around here, and you’re still over a mile away from the upcoming station locations! Interestingly, condos closer to the transit centers have not appreciated much in the past year. Still an opportunity to buy a relatively affordable condo that will be within walking distance of light rail in 4 years or so.

    2. Thanks for sharing. Would you be willing to also share the selling price?

      My brother used to live in the North City neighborhood in a newly built home (late 90s). He subsequently moved to another community and so he never had to deal with ST’s condemnation actions like many of his former neighbors when that “hood” was obliterated by the Lynnwood Link extension project and station siting. He has kept in touch with a few of those neighbors with whom he had established relationships over the years and has told me some of the stories about their interactions with ST’s ROW staff. He feels like he dodged a bullet here, glad that he moved his family prior to facing a forced sale and relocation but sad to see his former property demolished.

  8. I’m honestly not a huge fan of HSR without first making significant improvements in local transit and regional conventional bus/rail service. Nevertheless, one thing the HSR study might be underplaying is the well known phenomena of “induced demand.” It doesn’t only apply to highways. If you built HSR with intermediate stations, say, in Centralia, and Bellingham, it is likely development will occur to take advantage of the stations. HSR is really an investment to help guide development for the next 50-100 years, perhaps even more so than meeting current travel demands.

    1. One ten with the Bypass double tracked and a spur into Oly should be good enough. Fortunately WashDOT is overpassing the Bypass tracks west of Lakewood as part of the I-5 rebuild.

      Centralia should be about 1:20 from King Street when a third track reaches it, and Tacoma will be a big employment center as well, only 25 minutes away.

      DOT needs to spend the billion on straightening the kink at Mounts Road.

  9. Connecticut zoning war. In Connecticut “over 90 percent of zoned land is set aside for single-family housing. “. Activists are getting the ear of the legislature and arguing that this has led to segregation. “According to one measure by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Connecticut has the 15th-most regulated residential building environment. In doing so, it has confined poorer people to small parts of the state and likely discouraged countless more from ever moving to the state.”

  10. Consider the Skyway survey. The map does not show rotes 101, 106, and 107. It asks no questions about improving the fixed service.

    1. Metro has a program of considering “alternative service delivery” in the lowest-density areas. It’s what led to the Snoqualmie Valley Transportation shuttles and some of the demand-response service in Rainier Valley, east Bellevue, and West Seattle. (But some of that was funded externally, like the Viaduct replacement mitigation and maybe grants.)

      This looks like a separate county appropriation for alternative service in Skyway, so maybe Metro can’t boost or suggest fixed-route service with it. Or maybe Metro is inarticulate in asking the neighborhood what all it needs. In any case I put a plug for fixed-route service in the comments. Others can do the same or write to Metro’s feedback address.

    2. What do we think Skyway needs? Is the 106 frequent enough? Would making the 107 15-minute frequent help? Are there any places too far from the 106, 107, or 101 to ride any of them?

      1. I think it could use a straighter 106 that gets you to Link without the detour to Rainier/Henderson. It doesn’t look far out of the way on the map, but it adds a lot of extra stoplights. If you want to get to Rainier/Henderson, take the 107. And extend the 7 to reach Rainier Beach Station also.

  11. Now that Biden is doubling down on “Buy American” in the infrastructure bill, how can we ensure any trains that come out of it are world class rather than the out-of-date models companies have heretofore been willing to build in the US?

    And how are the federal weight limitations on trains doing? I’ve heard they’ve relaxed the minimum-weight restriction so that lighter European trains can be used on US freight tracks. Is that sufficient? And would WSDOT go along with it? It seems that after the Point Defiance Bypass accident WSDOT had a knee-jerk reaction against Talgo trains, and would that also extend to ligher trains and DMUs/EMUs?

    1. I would say Caltrain already did the heavy lifting by getting the Stadler KISS for it’s upgrades, and how the Dallas area has been following this up with Stadler orders of their own for A-Train/TEX/Silver Line.

      Other systems, like the Bay Area’s SMART and more recently Chicago’s Metra have ignored this new reality. But SMART’s decision also left them forward compatible with Caltrain/HSR level boarding, assuming SMART is ever connected to the rest of the California network.

      Caltrain’s new EMU’s are going to enable major speed up in service (like 10%), and I would see no reason why modern rolling stock, electrification, and level boarding would do the same for Sounder South/Cascades.

      It’s a matter of advocacy at this point. It’s about pushing WSDOT rail operations out of the stone age.

  12. I can’t believe that people are seriously advocating for building apartment buildings on Jackson Park. I fully support turning golf courses into parks, but I can’t imagine that building apartments on top of park space will ever have more than fringe support.

    1. It depends on how much. I have been through there a few times. I don’t golf, but I cross country ski, and the recent Seattle snow has allowed me to check it out from inside. My guess is you could convert it to a park, add some housing, and still manage to have a great park. I could see a strip being developed north of the church, which means between 5th and 8th ( This would likely go for a couple blocks, then end. Any further east and it runs into the creek (and becomes wetland). As it is, the strip would be triangular (or trapezoidal) as it narrows to the north. This would be fairly close to the station, while not really taking away anything in the park.

      The other area I could see develop is by the club house. I can imagine a nice playground there, along with a few apartments buildings, while keeping the driving range.

      If they did develop it, it would probably be low income housing (like Sand Point or Fort Lawton (AKA Discovery Park)).

    2. The number of Seattle golfers has been decreasing for years. It’s worth at least asking whether the five golf courses should be consolidated into to or three. You don’t have to turn the entire lot into housing; even a couple rows along the edge would help. The rest could be turned into a park, or maybe it a smaller golf course could be viable.

  13. Prevailing wages are the dumbest thing ever. The workers agreed to work for a wage that a contractor gave them. End of story. If we want infrastructure to actually be built in this city we need to do away with this crony-capitalism beau acracy inducing nonsense. How much time and effort goes into blatantly negative things like this instead of actually building our infrastructure?

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