This is an open thread.
I don’t think we need more summits or think tanks here. We know what works to address climate change; the problems are if we’re up to doing the hard work and having the necessary shared sacrifice for the greater good. Considering how so many are against housing density, building high capacity transit faster and raising taxes progressively to fund climate action… I have little faith.
With the University Bridge stuck in the raised position for more than 24 hours now, I’m so grateful that we now have the U-Link and Northgate Link extensions for speedily getting across the ship canal. Having one of our major bridges blocked is now so much less of an issue than it would have been 6 years ago, or even 2 months ago.
Yeah, but it still sucks pretty bad. The 49 and 70 carry a lot of riders. What are those buses doing now, anyway? Are they still serving of all the same stops?
I saw a northbound 49 coming off I-5 onto 45th, and I’m guessing it was going to head down Roosevelt and then make the left-turn that the 67 makes to get to Campus Parkway. Not sure about the 70, though, since Metro hasn’t really indicated which stops are going to be missed:
The most likely re-route would be Boyer-24th-Montlake, though.
They got a little taste of the West Seattle quandary. A few weeks ago, the WS low bridge was stuck for a few hours. Buses had to cycle all the way back to the 1st Ave Bridge to get of the peninsula. And we don’t have light rail for at least another 15 years or so. So far those North Seattlites have lucked out with old bridges not being closed for an extended period of time, e.g., University, Aurora. At least those parts have got the light rail safety valve to absorb commuters.
But Magnolia and Ballard doesn’t–but they’ve lucked out w/o light rail, but will they continue to do so before they get light rail access?
Throwing this out to the horde: who do you think Harrell names as his SDOT head? What do you want the new SDOT person to prioritize? (possible choices, speeding up ST3 for Seattle, , firing the gondola folks into the sun or getting them to focus on making Denny gondola friendly, firing the CCC into the sun, leaning on Metro to hire more drivers, etc.)
Look to the recent proposed Council budget. The main priority is bonds for bridge repair and replacement, although the annual bond payment at a little over $7 million/year is a drop in a $3.5 billion unfunded need that has reached a critical moment due to council neglect. $70 million/year is closer to the actual need, immediacy and cost to deal with the bridges. Unless buses can fly or ride over water.
I doubt the city has the money to accelerate ST 3 in the N. King Co. subarea. The city revenue is down $20 million, and my guess is the decline in general fund and transportation revenue will accelerate due to work commuters declining long term. Accelerating (really completing) WSBLE will take billions, and any local levy would first go towards freeing up the debt ceiling so Eastside park and rides can be completed. My guess is the DEIS will determine DSTT2 is too risky and expensive, so WSBLE will have to make do with DSTT1, which will likely be objected to by the four other subareas.
Seattle transit groups could propose a transit levy, but after Move Seattle, the CCC, and ST 3 there is a lot of mistrust at levy estimates. Plus ST just increased its estimates by $48 BILLION to complete ST 3, which unfortunately is low (and around seven times Seattle’s total annual budgets to put that in scale).
Then you have why Harrell and Davison and Nelson were elected: crime, public safety, homelessness. Transit was not an issue in the elections. This likely means a huge Seattle levy to house the unhoused which will consume the little tax capacity left for any kind of transit.
Voters made it pretty clear they don’t buy into the fantasy that simply upzoning the city will solve the housing issues with little cost to the city. Harrell doesn’t have the time — or political mandate let alone desire — for upzoning. Especially with minority communities in Seattle opposed to upzoning their SFH neighborhoods, although those are the ideal neighborhoods for upzoning because land is cheaper. Unless you are a Black resident and don’t want white gentrification to displace you. Again.
Harrell’s first issue is mending fences with the business community, or that $20 million decline in city revenue will become a $20 million decline every year. There is little money for new transit with a $20 million budget revenue decline, $3.5 billion needed for bridges, a very large housing levy, more police, inflation running above 5%/year, and BBB probably dead after the CBO scoring, although the infrastructure bill will provide grants, but still not enough to address the bridges over the next 10 years.
My dream would be to address the manufactured bottlenecks on I-5, including 520 and the ship canal bridge. (Unfortunately little can be done about the narrowing from the Convention Center that also needs another $300 to $500 million). I don’t see that as more immediate than the bridges, although traffic on I-5 is the lifeblood of Seattle.
So my prediction is transit will get very little attention from Harrell in the short term, except maybe to cancel CCC, and lower retail street parking fees. Business, crime, public safety, homelessness are his agenda, and every mayor’s agenda from NY to LA to even God forbid Portland.
I’m not sure how an election can both be about crime, public safety, and homelessness AND show that “voters made it pretty clear they don’t buy into the fantasy” of upzoning, but whatever.
I don’t see any reason Harrell would replace Sam Zimbabwe. As for priorities, fix the damn bridges. At the same time get the maintenance program back on track. Both of these require staffing up both engineering and field crews with great people. The director is also the head honcho on wrangling federal dollar$ which Zimbabwe is uniquely qualified for.
He inherited a department in shambles and has been steadily restoring professionalism. Changing horses now would be a big mistake.
I agree with all of your points.
Agreed. Harrell would do well to retain Zimbabwe.
I would add though, that the Magnolia Bridge should not be fixed. It should be replaced by a smaller bridge closer to (if not adjacent to) Dravus. A lot of the plans are way to expensive and provide things that aren’t essential (like a fast way to get to the marina). Likewise, some of the plans proposed for the Ballard bridge need to go. I’m all for fixing the bridges, but that money should be spent wisely (like we are doing with the West Seattle Bridge), not on ambitious plans that assume huge increases in driving.
I agree on the Magnolia Bridge. Aside from a handful of loud, politically-well-connected, rich people, there’s nothing critical about replacing the Magnolia Bridge. If it failed today, it would be nowhere near as disruptive as the West Seattle Bridge, or even the University Bridge that’s stuck open now. Cyclists already are unlikely to use the Magnolia Bridge due to its grade and fast traffic, and it seems the city would be able to add transit priority lanes on Dravus easily (though I’m sure the well-heeled would howl).
I agree, we could probably just live without the Magnolia Bridge. That being said, it would get pretty congested over Dravus. The buses would be stuck too. You could have bus lanes, but then it does start looking like West Seattle from a traffic standpoint (although without the significant extra distance for drivers).
The previous study didn’t even look at that, which I think is a big flaw. For that matter, they assumed an increase in driving, even though it has been flat for a while. (The same is true with Ballard Bridge studies). The city is growing, but driving is not.
But that isn’t even my biggest gripe. It is all the crap that goes along with the basic bridge. A wider Dravus Street bridge would cost around $45 million. Then there is another $15 million so that you can access the marina from the Magnolia side. That seems excessive, since you could access it via the piers (this was in the “short term plan”, i. e. in case we get an earth quake, and can’t use the bridge). But that pails in comparison to the big expense:
$44 million so that you can more easily get from the piers to 15th. This is the part that is nuts. You can already access the area via the West Galer Street Flyover (the bridge built for Immunex, later bought by Amgen). Yes, drivers use that bridge to get to Expedia, but there is no reason it can’t work fine for getting trucks from the pier, and people to the Marina. It is a relatively new bridge, which means it probably has plenty of life left, even if it starts carrying a lot more weight each day. As it is, I can’t figure out how many trucks actually use that — the main concern seems to be car traffic to the cruise ships! That is nuts — who cares? If they get stuck in car traffic, so be it. As it is, cruise ship auto traffic, freight traffic and people commuting to Expedia travel at different times. Way too much money is being proposed for access that isn’t that important.
$45 million (for the additional capacity on Dravus) isn’t cheap, but it isn’t horrible either. It is the rest of that option that is crazy.
Here is a link to the planning document: https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/SDOT/BridgeStairsProgram/bridges/Magnolia/MBPS-AlternativeAnalysisMemo-Spring2019.pdf. On page 20 they have a break down of costs, while on pages 8-12 they list the alternatives.
Agreed, the only person I can think of to run SDOT is a former state legislator who helped him win and not an improvement on Sam Zimbabwe. Rather she ran the long-term plan.
How about a gondola connecting Magnolia with either the Smith Cove station or the Interbay station? I bet that would reduce traffic enough such that the current Dravus bridge would be sufficient.
How about a gondola connecting Magnolia with either the Smith Cove station or the Interbay station?
No, that wouldn’t work. Magnolia is a broad area, with a range of mid to low density housing, and few destinations. Neither the Smith Cove or Interbay stations are significant destinations either — they are simply connections to the bigger Link network. Eventually there will be bus service from various parts of Magnolia to the Interbay station, and on to the U-District. That will do the job. But like most transit, it won’t really fix the congestion problem — at best it just gives people an alternative.
It wouldn’t surprise me if he keeps Zimbabwe. In my opinion, he has done a good job (much better than Kubly).
As far as priorities go, I think it should be speeding up the buses, adding bike lanes and sidewalks. The proposal for the 40, for example, looks outstanding — we should have more of that. I don’t think the Denny gondola proposal makes much sense anymore, given the improvement of the 8 (although I may be wrong in that respect — is it still terrible?). I don’t think there is anywhere in Seattle where it does make sense. Same with a streetcar.
Working with Metro is essential. For example, the 62 should be moved (to where they originally proposed as part of the Northgate restructure) which means making the street stronger. That discussion should have happened a while ago, so that they could have changed the route along with the rest of the restructure. We have several expected restructures in the near future and all could effect SDOT. You’ve got Madison BRT, East Link and Lynnwood Link (which itself could have two parts, with 130th happening after the rest of the line). It is tricky, because some ideas never come to fruition (for other reasons) but the sooner you start planning for things that you know you want (like a faster route for the 62) the better.
Apparently Kubly recently decided to troll Erica Barnett on twitter. (I don’t have twitter, and only saw ECB mentioning it).
How did the Seattle area get such people like Kubly and Rogoff? I mean, if you are going to be a garbage person, please be very good in your job. Don’t be garbage at both.
Some would say Erica (“get these disabled people off my bus”) is a garbage person herself.
“Some would say Erica (“get these disabled people off my bus”) is a garbage person herself.”
That can be true as well– it is up to the STB management to decide if they want to pay her. OTOH, Erica Barnett has not wasted a dime of my (sales/property taxpayer) money on corrupt, inefficient Bikeshares and an overpriced, non-public commented ST3 proposal or for remedial manager coaching for being shitty towards a gender.
While being a garbage human being is troubling, I find it even more problematic when the persons put in charge aren’t even good at their jobs and costs me money.
‘Erica (“get these disabled people off my bus”)’
That doesn’t sound like Erica.
There’s plenty of low-budget stuff that SDOT can do to make life better, that shouldn’t just disappear off the radar. Sidewalks, bus lanes, bike lanes, and crosswalks 4 things any city could always use more of.
Yeah, but unfortunately they aren’t low budget. Move Seattle allocated about a billion dollars over the money that SDOT normally has, and it can’t pay for half of what they planned.
Sidewalks are expensive and generally only go in if the entire road is being redone. I guess there’s areas in N Seattle lacking sidewalks but the big thing Seattle needs to prioritize is repairing the existing sidewalks before they get so bad they can’t be fixed. Same thing for the ROW. Buses are hard on the pavement. The money to fix that should and I think does come from KC Metro. If you look at the Org Chart for SDOT the only “department” that is somewhat transit/pedestrian oriented is the DT Mobility project. I don’t know if that includes getting freight in and out of the Port of Seattle. I don’t think so, but SDOT really needs to get involved with that (and bring in WSDOT hopefully with money to get things done). And it’s time to cash in some of the D vouchers back in the other Washington. Mister we could use a man like Maggie again… those were the dazzz
Sidewalks are expensive and generally only go in if the entire road is being redone. I guess there’s areas in N Seattle lacking sidewalks but the big thing Seattle needs to prioritize is repairing the existing sidewalks before they get so bad they can’t be fixed.
Yes, conventional sidewalks are expensive. But most of north and south Seattle doesn’t have sidewalk. There are miles of arterials without sidewalks, let alone residential streets. There are cheaper alternatives to conventional sidewalk. You can cordon off part of the street (with a barrier) and essentially turn that into a walkway (similar to how you would add a bike lane). For example: https://goo.gl/maps/UJi9C6qD9C1bw88B8. This is a lot cheaper, as you don’t have to do a hydrology study, since it is the same amount of impermeable surface.
Maintaining existing sidewalks is the responsibility of the home owner. Most people don’t know that, as the city generally fixes it up for them. This report goes into that, as well as many of the options for fixing a sidewalk: http://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/CityAuditor/auditreports/SidewalksAuditFinalReport.pdf
Buses are hard on the pavement. The money to fix that should and I think does come from KC Metro.
I don’t think that is the case. Maybe for a new RapidRide project, but even then, SDOT pays for a lot of the Seattle projects. Once it is built, that’s that. The cities maintain the streets. I am pretty sure SDOT, and only SDOT, is paying to improve the 40, for example, let alone maintain the street. I think King County only maintains the roads in the unincorporated parts of the county.
Even if the county paid to maintain the major corridors in Seattle (because buses run on them) the city still needs to fund decent bus service. It would be weird that Seattle gives Metro money to run the buses more often, but Metro gives Seattle money to maintain some of their streets.
Metro has only enough money to operate the buses, replace the fleet periodically, and do regular planning and revenue-neutral restructures. Everything beyond that comes from capital levies, city supplementals, or countywide operational levies, of which there have been no successful ones since the mid 2000s if I recall. Metro doesn’t have authority over street configuration and sidewalks: that’s the cities’ DOTs. Metro has a long-range plan but it’s unfunded, and if you wait for Metro to fund the RapidRide lines in its plan you’ll be blue in the face until a countywide measure passes, except for a few it has prioritized for equity or are already under construction (G, I, J). Metro planned and funded the C, D, and E as part of the initial A-F Transit Now levy, but the plans for RapidRide G, H, J, 7, 40, 44, 48, and 62 came from SDOT, and Metro just incorporated them into its plan. It was SDOT that planned and raised funding for the G, J, and maybe H. (ST3 contributed to the G.)
“a few it has prioritized for equity or are already under construction (G, I, J)”
I meant G, H, and I. (G=Madison, H=Delridge, I=Renton-Aubrn). Metro deferred the J (Eastlake) and K (Totem Lake-Eastgate) during the covid recession. Seattle picked up the J to complete it, since it was already designed.
@Mike — When you say “Metro funded…”, what exactly did that entail? My understanding is new buses, new bus stops (with ORCA readers) and maybe some planning. I don’t think they added concrete, but I could be wrong.
Metro planned the A-F and supplied the buses and stations and the fiber-optic cable that supports the ORCA readers and next-arrival signs. My understanding is it funded the street improvements, although it had to get the DOTs’ permission and it may have paid them to build them. Much of that was before STB existed so I didn’t know as much about it.
In the better late than never category….
The “Before and After Study” for University Link has finally been published. We now know that ST has been feeding us a line of bull about why the report was repeatedly delayed, as the study looked at 2018 data as the “after” period in the end, just two years after the extension’s opening. It’s no wonder there was no announcement from the agency itself about the completion of the study.
Good riddance (soon) to CEO Rogoff and his empty talking points about transparency and accountability.
What a shock — deep stations suppress ridership.
Interesting study, thanks for the link. It uses some jargon for the cost estimates I don’t understand: PE-Entry, FD-Entry, and FFGA. Do you know what that means?
The ridership section is most interesting. As the document put it: The large shares of non-work trips reflect both the diverse mix of land uses in the corridor and the multiple functions of U-Link service. In other words, it is operating the way any expensive Metro should. It is interesting to see the breakdown.
I think they are as follows:
Full Funding Grant Agreement (such as the FTA’s New Starts program)
Thanks Tisgwm, it isn’t hard to understand why ST delayed release of the findings.
Although 48,100 daily riders were estimated for the UW/Capitol Hill stations — the heaviest ridership in the system — 2018 ridership was 33,900. ST claims this differential is due to several factors, including faults in the software used to create ridership estimates.
40% of riders are going to and from work. 47% of those riders are to the downtown core. 18% of riders are students. 57% are able to walk to a station, whereas 21% use a feeder bus.
The small percentage of non-work non-student trips are due to the mixed land use around stations, according to ST, that seems obvious to me but misses the real point: how few non work commuters or students are using these very urban stations. Upzoning won’t really increase these non work non student riders, certainly not go the extent ridership estimates were so much higher than actual ridership. After all, these are the two densest neighborhood stations.
ST has always inflated ridership and underestimated costs. If a reader on this blog doesn’t understand that by now I can’t help you.
But what these numbers also tell me are the issues Link will face when it moves into the suburbs where ridership is —or was — heavily work oriented, and walking to a station — nominally a one seat ride — becomes much more difficult, and adds one or two seats.
The ridership levels, pre-pandemic, also make it pretty clear ST will need an O&M levy unless it neglects maintenance like Metro did.
By your own numbers, 42% of ridership is non work, non student. That’s not nothing. Nor does it include trips taken by students for purposes other than going to class.
As to inflated ridership…as long as the actual long-term ridership is sufficient to justify the construction costs, that’s what really matters. Whether the number initially promised is larger or not doesn’t.
The small percentage of non-work non-student trips …
I wouldn’t call 42% of the ridership a small percentage, especially given the truncated nature of the system at the time. There just weren’t enough stations north of downtown to generate a huge number of riders. With the extension, this is less of a problem, although we will always regret the lack of a station at First Hill, and the lack of stations in general.
You also have the awkwardness of the UW Station, which was mentioned. Imagine you are in the U-District, headed to Capitol Hill. A couple months ago, you had two choices: take a bus to the station, cross the street, and go down, down, down to the platform or just ride the 70. A lot of people just stuck with the 70. Now, Link is a much more popular option, and that is before frequency doubles.
42% of ridership is non work, non student
So, what is it? I guess these numbers were pre-covid? So some people go the U Dist for dinning, sports events, etc. But Montlake is a long way from the U District and sporting events can’t be the big story. So that leaves transfers. Like all the people that used to take the 255 to DT. So maybe not “work related” as a destination but a transfer to get to work is my bet on most of that 42%. There’s a chunk that are accessing services at UW Medical but my guess is that’s about the same as sports events.
“Whether the number initially promised is larger or not doesn’t.”
Not according to Congress and the USDOT. That’s the whole point of having the requirement for these assessments in the first place. The Cons have been trying to kill what little funding goes into the CIG programs for some time and these studies can certainly serve their cause when the results are less than favorable.
So maybe not “work related” as a destination but a transfer to get to work is my bet on most of that 42%
No, the report is quite clear: Non-work related means non-work related. That particular paragraph is focused on start/destination (direct or indirect). The commute section includes all of the people who took a bus and then transferred to Link to get to work (or vice-versa). It is worth reading the document. It’s not that long, and except for the jargon Tlsgwm clarified (thanks!) an easy read.
In this case, they break out that 42%:
20 percent are made between home and other activities, and 22 percent are between two non-home locations.
It gets into other aspects of travel involving that section as well. I have been hesitant to quote sections or try and summarize because the report lays it out quite well, and yet it is easily misunderstood if you try and summarize it.
Capitol Hill Station is busy all day. That’s my station, and there are usually 10-20 people getting on each train, both northbound and southbound, and a similar number of people getting off. It’s a very successful station, with the kind of use serious subway cities have. It often seems like the highest-ridership station if it weren’t for the Westlake peak commuters and UW students. So even if it didn’t make arbitrary estimates, it’s still a good value.
Bodyguards to escort County employees in Seattle from work to public transit stops.
Well Sam, I think your post and link perfectly encapsulate the disconnect and irony of Seattle progressives. How many on this blog have claimed there is no problem, even though they don’t visit downtown Seattle.
One important distinction in your link: the patrols are only to the ferry and King St. station. The county employees refuse to take public transit like buses or light rail in Seattle even if escorted. The protest March originated with King Co. wanting to eliminate free parking for staff, and return to ORCA cards.
Which is something I have tried to point out about Eastside employees taking the 550 when it was eliminated from the transit tunnel. Unless peak hour commuters return in large numbers the light rail stations won’t be seen as safe either, like today with King Co. staff.
I have said it many times: nothing depends more on safe streets than transit and urbanism, and female staff run the world and won’t risk their safety for progressive ideals.
Employers will find alternatives: move to the Eastside, WFH, foot patrols, and most likely subsidized parking which isn’t much more expensive than subsidized ORCA cards, depending on traffic congestion.
One issue to follow is the council’s proposal to raise the parking tax to fund housing. Currently the city adds 10% to downtown parking. My guess is businesses will object (and demand the head tax be repealed) and Harrell’s first priority is to make peace with downtown businesses to stop the exodus and tax revenue.
In a short few months our firm will have located to the Eastside, so like many on this blog the situation in downtown Seattle will be theoretical for me too.
You write, “the patrols are only to the ferry and King St. station.”
Then you write, “County employees refuse to take public transit like buses or light rail in Seattle even if escorted.”
What an interesting logical deduction to make. That employees are afraid to ride public transit like buses or light rail, because they have presumably asked for an escort to Sounder and ferry…other public transit services?
I could see the appeal of King Street Station is that it is right across the street from ID – so it would be a convenient place for both Link and Sounder commuters. They would just have to cross the street.
Dear Persephone of Seattle Transit Blog – I know you are good at pointing out all the problems with Seattle and its transit system. But this ain’t it.
Amtrak service returns to the PDB on Thursday. Here’s hoping for a completely uneventful first trip.
You won’t see me singing the praises of Governor Inslee very often but to give the devil his due; the appointment of Democratic state Sen. Steve Hobbs to Secretary of State was a great choice. I’d just consigned myself to him picking the next big Democrat donor on the list but instead he made a great pick in Hobbs who is qualified and said he plans to run for re-election. Don’t be surprised if he’s Washington State Governor in six years. While I don’t agree 100% with his politics I believe he has solid reasons for the position he takes and is always willing to listen to the other side. While he’s Democrat through and through I believe he will conduct himself as Secretary of State in a non-partisan manner when it comes to monitoring elections. His biggest critics are likely to be from the left.
“His biggest critics are likely to be from the left.”
I’ll take the other side of that bet.
Oh and I’ll fix this part for you…
“While he’s [a] Democrat through and through…”
I don’t think I’d care for Hobbs as governor (my understanding is that he’s been working to water down bills to fight climate change).
That said, the job of secretary of state is not to fight climate change, but to administer elections in a nonpartisan manner, and count the votes as they are, not how one side or the other wishes they would be. On that, I think he’d do just fine.
Elections is just one of the SoS’s divisions, but usually the one most prone to public scrutiny. It oversees the administration of elections, not of campaign ethics, a point which has seemed to be lost on every Democrat running for the position the entire time I’ve lived here.
I once saw the Lieutenant Governor of my home state end a filibuster by handing the gavel to the senator who was doing the filibuster. This is pretty similar. Hobbs’ filibuster of climate action legislation, as Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, is over. Brilliant move, governor! … and perfect timing as the COP ends in utter failure for the 26th time.
I’ve voted against every Democrat finalist running for the SoS job because they are more interested in tightening the screws on ballot access than in modernizing our pleistocene voting system with ranked choices, which would open the system up to more competition and make parties less relevant. If Hobbs wants to lower the drawbridge, by golly I’ll overlook his unhelpfulness on the climate crisis and vote for him.
In the meantime, I hope he takes the advice of the Seattle Times, and protects the public and all his vaccinated employees from the small handful of unvaccinated ones. I agree with the Times Editorial Board that outgoing SoS Wyman got it way wrong when she opted to protect the jobs of unvaccinated employees. In the grand scheme of things, it is a small number of lives Hobbs will now get to protect, but his first job is the safety of his employees, and the public that has to interact face-to-face with them.
Brent, the Secretary of State can’t change to RCV. Only the Legislature can do that. The Secretary could advocate, of course.
Having a Secretary of State not actively oppose ranked choice voting would be unprecedented. But I still don’t trust any of the Ds for the position until they make RCV agency request legislation. Until then, I just have to play defense and vote against whoever is actively trying to reduce ballot access, and that includes trying to make the initiative process harder.
He should have emulated President Biden whose pick to oversee the Federal contribution to election integrity triggered the need for an appointment. IOW, he should have appointed a Republican.
There are so many arguments for crossing the aisle for a Republican of Kim Wyman’s suggestion that his not doing so is shameful. The elections supervisor should always be of the minority party, simply to keep the majority from succumbing to the temptations which come to majorities. But even more, the past fifty-six years of Republican elections supervision in the state have been uniformly excellent. The sane part of the party has locked the loonies out of even running for the office.
That would have been rewarded in a more stable world.
What?! The lesson that Republicans have learned much better than Democrats have is to do everything possible to entrench your power. In other words take every opportunity to advance your own party and interests – and then don’t apologize for it out of a misguided sense of fairness.
Therefore, Inslee absolutely did the right thing. He has taken republicans out of a position of influence, and maneuvered someone who isn’t all that helpful to his own policies out of the Senate. This is a win win for Inslee, and the State of Washington.
Now we just have to see who replaces Hobbs.
I would have been happy with a Republican technocrat, with little political ambition, but my guess is, Inslee couldn’t find one. The fact that Wyman never recommended anyone (at least publicly) and supports the nomination of Hobbs speaks volumes to me. Those sensible Republicans are a dying breed.
Many* have said that this is a calculated move on the part of Inslee to silence a political rival*. To quote Seattle Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon:
With Hobbs attending to the state’s election system, Fitzgibbon said we’ll “likely see more enthusiasm for using the Climate Commitment Act dollars [cap-and-trade dollars] on transit and bike/ped stuff.”
That could work out well in the short term, but backfire in the long run. Hobbs could become governor, which would be bad for the state, given his love affair of highways.
The Democrats do better by enfranchising the masses than playing Jim Crow. They passed same-day voter registration and … and … and … help me out here guys.
They could, of course, pass ranked choice voting, like Maine has done. They could end the disenfrachisement of felons, like Maine has done.
One instance that the D’s would be within reason to regress is the drawing of maps for Congressional districts. Virginia voters recently passed a Constitutional amendment for redistricting commissions, and intentionally excluded the drawing of Congressional maps from it. Why? Because only D states are passing bi/non-partisan redistricting commissions, and engaging in unilateral disarmament in the gerrymandering of Congressional districts, when not excluding them. So, the D’s on our redistricting commission have to draw maps that favor Rs for the state legislature in order to get Congressional maps that favor electing more Ds for Congress. If Congressional districts were not part of that process, the legislature could, with much ugliness, pass maps that would give Ds a strong advantage in all but two Congressional districts. Maybe all but one, with really contorted maps. But that is what Rs are doing in states where they get to draw the maps.
Sadly, there is no magic pill to make Congress more representative of the voters similar to the national popular vote compact for president. The next-best thing we can do is get rid of the two-party Sithdom.
The Democrats do better by enfranchising the masses than playing Jim Crow. They passed same-day voter registration and … and … and … help me out here guys.
The Voting Rights Act. It was struck down by a right-wing court. Modern updates, which include redistricting, have been held up by Republicans (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_the_People_Act). The Democrats could (and should, in my opinion) get rid of the filibuster, but so far they are reluctant to do so.
They could end the disenfrachisement of felons, like Maine has done.
And Washington State did: https://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/voters/felons-and-voting-rights.aspx
I would prefer ranked choice voting, but it gets complicated (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranked_voting). For example, under some systems Brianna Thomas becomes our new city council member. Under others, it is exactly the same (Sara Nelson). There is no consensus as to what system is best (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_electoral_systems).
My guess is it would take a more radical change to get rid of the two party system. Yes, there would be Greens voting for Democrats, and Libertarians voting for Republicans, but at the end of the day, those would be the two parties. It would take a parliamentary system to really change things, and the closest we could come without a new constitution would be to change how the House of Representatives are elected. The constitution says that the representatives must be elected, but it doesn’t say how. Prior to 1967, it was common to have general ticket voting (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_House_of_Representatives). This meant voting for a party, with the winning party getting all the representatives. We could have something similar, but proportional representation (if you get 40% of the vote, your party gets 40% of the representatives). This would mean getting rid of districts and that whole mess. A party that failed to get a minimum of votes could transfer those votes to some other party. Oh, and we should have a lot more representatives.
This would result in coalitions based on the various parties, similar to what happens in Germany. Party power would go up and down, as it does there.
Ross, if both of your caveats are true — Kim Wyman didn’t recommend a professional Republican and she supports Steve Hobbs — then I guess I’m OK with it for now. But I don’t like giving one party control of the executive, the judiciary, the Legislature, the Justice Department (AG) AND elections admininstrations, even when it’s my party.
Brent WHAT is this belief that Democrats are “more interested in tightening the screws on ballot access”? Than whom? Certainly not the bulk of Republicans.
Those sensible Republicans are a dying breed.
While that’s certainly true I’d say the same for the other side of the isle. Hobbs is a moderate. Hated by extremes on both sides. But regardless of future political aspirations he seems well qualified for the job and I believe has the integrity to do what’s right. He’s an interim appointment so the voters have a choice coming up. Bottom line for me; Inslee made a good choice which I didn’t expect he’d do. And if there was an R in power they would have put someone from that party into the position. That’s how it works. I don’t fault Inslee for picking a D but applaud him picking one that is a highly qualified choice to step in on short notice and keep things going as well as they have been (in my opinion) for this State.
The thing about redistricting is that, as long as you have a winner take all system in each district, there really is no fair way to do draw the lines. Even independent commissions, somebody has to break the tie when the two parties deadlock and, even using seemingly neutral criteria, itself, may not be fair. For example, keeping Seattle together effectively packs a whole bunch of Democrats into one single district, leading to wasted votes.
There’s no good solution, but for the time being, I have effectively resigned myself to the fact that, so long as Republicans are going to aggressively gerrymander, Democrats have no choice but to do so as well, if they are to remain a serious political party. This business of blue states using independent commissions while the red states don’t is really coming back to bite. As does the fact that the swing states nearly all have Republican legislatures, gerrymandered to remain Republican, regardless of the statewide vote.
Those sensible Republicans are a dying breed.
While that’s certainly true I’d say the same for the other side of the isle.
Seriously? Do you really think that over the last 20 years — let alone 5 — that both parties are just as sensible? Sorry, it isn’t even close. Let me give you some examples:
1) Grover Norquist, and all things he produced. This includes the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Prior to the November 2012 election, the pledge was signed by 95% of all Republican members of Congress and all but one of the candidates running for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. The pledge essentially commits to no increase in taxes, ever.
2) Obamacare. This was originally proposed by Nixon, as it is essentially a Republican (free market based) idea. Not a single Republican wanted anything to do with it. No adjustments, no amendments, nothing.
3) Climate Change. 90% of Democrats believe the country is doing too little to address climate change. 39% of Republicans feel that way. Again, there is a clear conservative, free-market approach, which is a carbon tax. In a different era, it is the type of measure you can imagine the Republican Party leading, while Democrats propose more government spending. But instead, the Republicans have basically denied the problem (for what is it, 40 years now?).
4) Donald Trump. He has the support of the vast majority of the party. As of last May, 53% believe he won the election.
5) Voter Suppression. Kim Wyman really is special. Most Republicans are trying very hard to suppress the vote, in hopes that it gives them more power.
You can’t find anything like that on the left. Oh, there are occasional moves and proposals that don’t make sense, but that is normal (and always happened). The Republican Party has simply jumped off the rails.
Dan Evans is a Republican, but he longer fits in his party. He is like a racist good-old-boy who still votes for the Democrat, because his grand daddy did. The Republican Party is now the racist party, and the party of the extreme. Evans, Ike, Nixon, George H. W. Bush — all of them would be considered RINOs right now. Yeah, even Nixon (although much of the party would embrace his racism). So it is not that surprising that Inslee couldn’t find a Republican as sensible as Wyman — there just aren’t many.
Do you really think that over the last 20 years — let alone 5 — that both parties are just as sensible?
A record number of Americans are quitting their jobs
asdf2 had a good synopsis of why this is happening in a previous post. But this months record eclipsed the record set just one month previous. School bus drivers are in critically short supply. They get trained and leave for better paying jobs trucking freight. You have to pay more because real wages aren’t keeping up with inflation. And the cost of gas… how’s that Keystone pipeline and green light on Russian Natural Gas to Europe working for you Mr President?
The thing about the cost of gas…many people have have made and continue to make decisions that leaves them far more vulnerable to the price of gas than necessary. I’m talking about people that buy a pickup truck or SUV instead of a boring old sedan, who don’t need the extra space, simply for the sake of looking or feeling more macho. Or, people who drive 20 miles to the other end of town to buy stuff that they could have gotten closer to home, or simply just ordered off of Amazon. Or people who choose to commute a long distance to work so they can afford a giant lawn. etc.
A quick Google Search shows the MSRP of an F150 more than that of a Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Prius, and nearly as much as a Chevy Bolt. The vast majority of people who buy F150’s never or almost never haul anything in their cargo bed, and choose a pickup truck only because they like the macho image, and believe more efficient vehicles the domain of loser liberals.
People who choose such vehicles purely for image reasons, who can only afford them when gas is $2/gallon, only to complain to the government when the cost of gas goes up, than vote for Republicans because they’re the party of “personal responsibility” are nothing but hypocrites. The price of gas has always been volatile and long-term trending upward. Choosing a vehicle that leaves you unnecessarily vulnerable to swings in the price of gas, then demand the government do whatever it takes to lower the price of gas to bail you out, is the opposite of personal responsibility.
I’m talking about people that buy a pickup truck or SUV instead of a boring old sedan, who don’t need the extra space, simply for the sake of looking or feeling more macho.
There are likely quite a few truck owners like that: https://www.thedrive.com/news/26907/you-dont-need-a-full-size-pickup-truck-you-need-a-cowboy-costume. You can probably say the same thing about SUV owners as well (how often do you really go off-road where it matters?). As that article pointed out, vehicle purchases are, at heart, irrational.
Of course car/truck purchases are emotional. For example you won’t find anyone in West Texas driving anything other than a white F-150.
The SUV is simply the station wagon updated, with better gas mileage. This kind of vehicle for families has been around for decades. It is also nice to sit up higher, and four wheel drive is very convenient in climates like ours.
The 150 has been the number one selling vehicle for some time. It now comes in Aluminum, and soon an EV F-150 will be available, so it will have the same carbon footprint as a Prius.
We’ll see how well the lightning version of the F150 sells. I’m somewhat skeptical given that it’s priced 10k higher than the gas version and many of the people who drive these trucks have been brainwashed into believing that their patriotism is directly proportional to the amount of gas they burn and the amount of CO2 they spew out into the atmosphere. Still hope to be proven wrong, though.
The SUV is simply the station wagon updated, with better gas mileage.
What? Sorry, no. All other things being equal, a station wagon (otherwise known as a hatchback) gets better mileage. They tend to be lighter, and have less wind resistance.
As far as “being good in this climate”, the vast majority of SUV owners never take it on rough roads, or into the snow. The most important thing for those who venture into the snow is the tires. A Prius with snow tires will do much better in the snow than an SUV with regular tires. I know this from personal experience.
Like a truck, it is about the idea that you might need it, even though most never do.
There is a twofold reason people buy these big vehicles.
For instance, Serious DYI’ers such as myself do make frequent use of the storage area available. The size of my Imperium Condescender just happens to be part of it. Plus, I’m the go-to person when people need things hauled.
The other part of the population sees the size as safer in an accident. Given modern vehicles have incredible crashworthiness engineered into them, that might not be as valid now.
The Big Trucks and SUV’s are the modern versions of the
Cadillacs and Lincoln Continentals for us oldsters.
Be that as it may, I’ve always wished they started creating hybrid trucks a long time ago.
I have a feeling that it was easier for manufacturers to meet CAFE standards doing it the way they did, lots of smaller vehicles first.
All other things being equal, a station wagon (otherwise known as a hatchback) gets better mileage.
I believe Daniels comparison was to what my parents owned when I was growing up; a 1972 Pontiac Safari station wagon. It weighed in at 6k pounds and with the 400ci V8 got 12 mpg. It’s main purpose was to pull a horse trailer. I have an ’09 Subaru Outback I use (with Toyo Observe winter tires) to go up and do Ski Patrol. It’s amazing the old rear wheel drive cars were ever able to make it up the pass. But. with studded winter tires I did leave many a high $$$ SUV stuck in the parking lot with my NOT A SNOW CAR ’85 4 cyl Mustang. Learning to drive is as big an issue as the tires; momentum is your friend. Oh yeah, this is a transit blog… Artics suck in the snow. I don’t think Finnish race car drivers or the best tires in the world will change this. Don’t let them out of Base if there’s any hint of snow.
We’ll see how well the lightning version of the F150 sells. I’m somewhat skeptical given that it’s priced 10k higher than the gas version
It will only sell if there are huge government subsidizes to buy it. For the average F150 owner it makes no sense. Prius has become the new taxi vehicle. Dodge, Ford and GM all had 3L diesel options marketed for 1/2 ton trucks before the chip shortage and other supply line lane issues. But what car manufacturer’s are doing is just get whatever they can to market. The public will buy it because there is no other choice other than waiting +1 year.
A new Eco Diesel 1/2 T gets better millage than my ’09 Outback and being diesel has a much lower CO score.
The Ford F-150 PowerBoost (hybrid) gets decent mileage (25 city, 26 highway). It is hard to say whether paying more for an electric car makes sense. It reminds me of when the Prius came out. My brother bought one (he is the one who has driven it in the snow a lot). When it came out, it was considerably more expensive than a similar car. Enough so that lots of people said it wasn’t worth it (given the expected price of gas). What they didn’t factor in is the cars essentially last forever. He had over 300,000 miles on it before he sold it. This explains why taxi drivers like them too. Yeah, it gets good mileage, but mostly it just runs and runs. An electric car may be the same thing, but even more so. Less maintenance, fewer repairs, I would imagine. I don’t know, since they are still in their infancy.
He since bought a Subaru. Not because it is so much better in the snow, but because when the signs on the highway say “Chains or 4-Wheel Drive” he can keep going. Good snow tires (which have really improved over the years) are essential for winter driving (4-wheel drive doesn’t help you stop, which explains why you see so many jeeps on the side of the highway). An SUV (or truck) is only needed if you are in really deep snow, or going over really deep potholes. There are really only a handful of hiking roads that really need them (which explains why it is common to see “regular” cars at the trailheads). Very few people do the kind of winter travel that requires high-clearance (and all of them carry shovels, or find out the hard way).
But again, very few people are doing this kind of research, or level of thinking. They are buying based on image, and possible use, not expected use. A pickup truck really can come in handy, and an SUV is great if you use its capability all the time. Most people don’t, and wasted their money.
Everyone I know who owns a pickup uses either the payload or the towing capability at least a few times a year, if not a few times a month. Everyone I know who owns an SUV uses the additional space regularly, usually for traveling with a family; I’d prefer a minivan, but most prefer an SUV for the safety* that comes from the larger size. I think this vast population of people buying pickup trucks and solely using them like a luxury sedan is more a lefty projection than reality, like how righties are convinced every liberal is a gay vegan.
I think a more important factor in the rise of SUVs over vehicles with a lighter frame (minivans, station wagons) are the federal fuel efficiency standards, which have lower standards for larger vehicles. The auto manufacturers are therefore encouraged to build larger vehicles as a path to meeting the Fed’s standards.
*safer for those inside the car, not for everyone else.
Methane as a “bridge fuel”… Um No. Way No.
Bernie, the Karens driving big-as-a-house SUV’s in order to escort little Brittany and Sean to soccer practice can eat the thin gruel of their narcissistic road-hoggism.
Even more so their swaggering husbands in the truck-nuts Ram 350’s “rolling coal” on Prii.
[IOW, “what asdf2 said”, but with more gusto.]
All of this was predicted by economists, just as almost all of them predict inflation is temporary. It is all the result of trying to restart the economy. If you have ever rebuilt a car engine, you are familiar with the smoke, and chugging that occurs when you first turn it on (and you think you screwed up somehow). That is what we are experiencing right now.
I’ve witnessed a boom in the restaurant industry as people feel more safe going back to them, thanks to mask requirements for the staff and vax-or-testing requirements for the customers. (The customers, in large part, are ignoring the mask requirements once they get in the door, and keeping their masks off even when staff are talking to them or they are wandering around the restaurant.) Public health measures are the oil that is enabling the engine to churn without all that smoke. Failure to follow them is still producing some smoke.
Yeah, there is that, but there is also the supply chain issue. It just takes a while for all of those little pieces of the economy to start back up again. It is the drawback to a “Just in Time” economy.
The more I use Northgate Link, the more I’m seeing little flaws. I counted seven benches that are wet and unoccupied because they’re partially out from underneath the awning. Thus making these benches useless because they’re in the rain.
Great for the summer but useless 9 months out of the year.
They were at Bay #4, which houses the #20 & #40.
Oh but they look so pretty in the firm’s brochure!
These kinds of bad design elements are what happens when you hire designers and agency review personnel who don’t ride a train regularly. They don’t pay attention to details.
It’s not maliciousness. It’s sheer negligence.
It’s one more reason why ST should have a Riders Committee reviewing every plan. Even a seasoned high school rider would likely understand these design mistakes.
Curious forthoughts on the Tacoma upzone, https://www.theurbanist.org/2021/11/12/latest-tacoma-growth-map-scales-back-density/
We’ve had good discussion on whether a city show focus on growing clusters of high/midrise or broad based lowrise. IMO, midrise is more conducive to transit ridership (a position I’ve take from Alon Levy), while broad lowrise may be a better path towards more abundant, affordable housing. Ross comes down hard on the “lowrise everywhere is the priority” side of the argument, so I’d been keen to hear what he thinks.
Politically, Tacoma seems to be taking the alternative track to Seattle’s urban village framework (which is why I find it so interesting). Seattle focused on urban villages with the political compromise to leave Single Family as-is. Similarly, Tacoma started with a broad upzone (the best policy option), and then significantly walked back the midrise zones but appears to be holding firm on a robust, universal upzone of lowrise. This is exactly what I think happens – there’s isn’t enough political capital to grow both low and midrise zoning at the same time, so a city must pick which it wants to prioritize in a given political cycle.
It is a good step in the right direction, for the reasons mentioned. You can dramatically increase density without building any higher. The devil is in the details though. For example, that article mentions:
The new housing would need to maintain the general size and height of existing detached houses with yards in these neighborhoods.
Yards? Are these houses required to have a certain amount of yard?
Then there is relatively low density limits for most of the city. You can build a triplex, but not a fourplex or a small apartment. I don’t get that. As long as you are maintaining the general size and height of existing detached houses, why put any limit on the number of units. You have to follow the safety regulations, but other than that, people should be able to build as many units as they can squeeze in there. You should be able to build an apartment the same size as a house. The regulations should be on the size and shape of the place, not the number of units. This encourages house conversions, and removes one of the big objections to upzones (tall buildings in my backyard).
I also want to echo what one of the commenters wrote. Most of the “mid scale” housing (which includes townhouses) is along arterials. This perpetuates the idea that apartments should be on busy streets, while the “nice houses” are elsewhere. I’ve been critical of the “Urban Village” concept (lots of people have) but at least it provided some growth on side streets.
Overall it is a good step in the right direction, but doesn’t go quite far enough. I do hope it is adopted, as it would still likely improve density, lower the cost of housing, and improve transit.
The Tacoma upzone is ideology over land use common sense.
If the regulatory limits for height, and yard setbacks and impervious surface limits (which create the “yard”) remain the same you create no additional GFA, but now must include a bathroom and kitchen, plus entrance, for every dwelling. You actually lose housing GFA when converting a SFH (certainly a rental) to multi-family housing if the regulatory limits are the same, including parking requirements. Especially if a DADU is allowed for a SFH.
You also begin to eliminate the rental housing a family needs. Progressives and urbanists tend to be myopic on this issue because so few have kids, and assume everyone lives alone, so must the poor. .
Finally, new zoning requires new construction to implement it, and of course builders look for older and more affordable SFH to demolish and replace with multi-family housing, and look to build as expensive housing as the neighborhood will bear. So you may gain housing “units, but you lose total housing GFA, and you reduce affordable housing.
Right now few SFH landlords are going to expend the cost to convert a SFH into multi-family, especially if the regulatory limits remain the same, and especially in Tacoma where multi-family rental rates won’t cover the cost of the land and new construction (especially with the increased costs of construction) for a SFH lot.
First, SFH everywhere are appreciating like crazy, and when that landlord wants to sell selling a SFH leaves many more options.
Second the total rent won’t be appreciably higher, despite the cost of the new construction.
If there is one group progressives and urbanists fundamentally misunderstand it is builders/developers, who tend to lean hard right. Too bad progressives and urbanists are so adverse to swinging a hammer.
Let’s just be honest: the desire for most to eliminate SFH zones is part envy and part a feeling SFH are privileged. Give a progressive a SFH in Blue Ridgebabd suddenly they would be the most ardent supporters of SFH zones.
Politically don’t look for Harrell to touch SFH zones. One he doesn’t have the time to wait for upzoning to work, two he has more pressing needs, three his voters are opposed, and fourth he can’t afford to expend the political capital.
Instead like Adams in NY with BLM and crime patrols Harrell needs to publicly distance himself from the extremists in his party, and that includes upzoning the SFH zones, because those voters all voted for Gonzales, and she got crushed based on policy because otherwise she is a qualified candidate. She ran a good campaign. It was her issues the voters rejected, and I think the move back to the center in Seattle will continue to accelerate. So there is no gain in affordable housing or politics for Harrell to address SFH zoning. Elections have consequences. It is why it always a good idea for a party to be realistic in any election.
Daniel – you’re quite mistaken about the politics of the Tacoma rezone. I live here and I’m getting mailers in support of the re-zone from the Master Builders and the local Realtor’s alliance. Meanwhile, the News Tribune ran an op-ed by members of the local Sierra Club chapter and the Audubon Society opposing the re-zone.
The idea that this is a plan pushed by “progressives and urbanists” with no input or support from developers or builders is completely at odds with reality.
The three main goals of “middle housing” are:
1. Create housing at different price points.
2. Create “walkable” neighborhoods.
3. Create multi-family housing that is comparable in scale with the SFH zone.
I have already addressed affordability. And these upzones apparently will maintain the same regulatory limits as the SFH zone. Otherwise every structure — including a new SFH — would have the increased regulatory limits that would ruin the scale and consistency of the SFH. It is the regulatory limits the determine the “scale” (but not use) of a SFH zone.
So middle housing in a SFH zone by definition won’t create additional housing GFA, and will require additional kitchens, bathrooms and entrances for each unit. So actual living spaces (bedrooms and living areas) decline in multi-family housing in a SFH zone through upzoning.
This leaves two other critical issues to accomplish the three goals.
1. Walkability requires transit, and because there is insufficient off-street parking if density is increased.
Current transit budgets can barely serve urban areas. Frequency and coverage for transit in every upzoned residential neighborhood is financially impossible.
You see this in Honolulu’s upzoned residential neighborhoods where streets are jammed with parked cars, and yards are converted to parking lots, which definitely changes the character of a SFH zone, that usually has covered onsite parking requirements that cannot include the yard setbacks.
Until you can guarantee transit coverage and frequency for every upzoned SFH zone you can’t guarantee walkability, and like Honolulu (and some Seattle) the neighborhood turns into a parking lot, although even Seattle does not allow parking in yards. Yet.
2. Whether the property owner must live in one of the units. This is the most important factor for a SFH zone, and was the most contentious factor in Seattle’s upzones. Otherwise you turn the properties into absentee landlord rental properties, with a transient rental population (especially in Seattle where a landlord can’t even vet a tenant), and yards and buildings that are not kept up because the absentee landlord lives in an Eastside SFH only zone with a gardener, and I know plenty.
If the property owner does not live onsite you have totally changed the character of a SFH zone, that mostly includes families and children. These are the folks who elected Harrell and Davison to address crime and public safety.
As noted in the comments on The Urbanist piece, the wealthy north and west Tacoma neighborhoods are fighting upzoning.
And practically speaking, in Seattle the best places (if the goal is to increase affordable housing) for upzoning SFH zones are in the less expensive neighborhoods in South Seattle, except the primarily Black residents are opposed because they fear white gentrification will displace them, which it will based on history.
I agree the upcoming 8 year cycle rewrites of cities’ comp. plans will be contentious. On the Eastside, after the updated housing targets through 2044 look for Eastside cities to declare they are “built out” in their comp. plan updates, which means they can’t or won’t amend their zoning to meet post 2044 housing growth targets, that were quite low on the Eastside in the recent update for cities that wanted low future housing targets because the Eastside cities made it clear they would revolt, and there is really very little the county can do to force a city to upzone.
Of course unlike Seattle most eastsiders own their homes, so dramatic increases in property values are not a bad thing.
The issue for Seattle’s comp. plan rewrite (and a central theme in the council elections on Mercer Island ) will be a council in favor of upzones, and a mayor opposed, with the political winds favoring the mayor. Plus look for South Seattle residents to use the racist card to oppose upzoning, and they are right. Upzoning is racist.
As an Eastside property owner I know upzoning Seattle’s SFH zones will mean more Seattle families moving to the Eastside, and my house appreciated 37.5% in 2021, just to date, so I guess upzoning in Seattle is not all bad, but it won’t create walkable SFH zones or affordable housing, and could ruin Seattle’s crown jewel: its SFH neighborhoods, now that the downtown core has been ruined by the same misguided progressive council policies.
Brendan, I completely agree the MBA and developers are major influences for upzoning, and have posted about this many times.
Oddly enough the Democrat party and MBA and some “environmental” groups like Forterra have gotten in bed together, with ST’s help.
The progressives truly believe SFH zones are privileged, and density will solve income disparity and global warming, while the MBA is in it for the money in a one party state. ST is desperate to manufacture the ridership estimates it promised in the levies.
But the MBA has little interest in upzoning poor Seattle SFH zones. They covet large Eastside residential zones.
The progressives as usual are naive, their politicians just want the campaign donations, and the MBA — through its phony PAC “Affordable Housing Council” (because it is awkward for D politicians to partner publicly with the MBA) want upzoning to build lots of new, very expensive multi-family housing, except multi-family housing is very risky today.
Daniel – I find your argument paradoxical. At one point you say that the Tacoma up-zoning plan is ideological and being pushed by progressives/urbanists who don’t understand builders/developers. But then you turn around and say that, yes, of course the MBA and builders/developers are supporting the up-zoning in Tacoma. You (I think?) attempt to resolve the contradiction by claiming that builders/developers have no actual intent of building or developing in “poor Seattle SFH zones” and only support up-zoning because they want to build in East Side locations. However, that does absolutely nothing to explain why builders/developers are in favor of a plan that lets them build triplexes in Tacoma.
Perhaps you are right and the support for “low-scale residential” in Tacoma is all a long-con on the part of builders/developers to obtain permission to build more MFH on the east-side of King County… but that seems a bit elaborate, doesn’t it?
You actually lose housing GFA when converting a SFH (certainly a rental) to multi-family housing if the regulatory limits are the same
So what? The important thing is that you have more places where people can live.
No you don’t Ross. Take a rental SFH with four bedrooms, the kind of housing I lived in for years. You can house four adults, or a family, with a shared kitchen and two shared baths.
If the regulatory limits remain the same you maybe get three separate LEGAL dwellings, each with their own entrance, hallway, kitchen and bath. But they are so small they only house one person (because generally a couple has two incomes and don’t want such a tiny unit. So you house three in separate legal dwellings vs. four in the SFH.
This is why Eastside neighborhoods with SFH zoning and larger lots have the same density (person per house) as Seattle.
The property owner doesn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars to demolish a SFH to build multi-family housing with three bathrooms and three kitchens to receive the same rental income.
Daniel, why do you think that a City Council cannot place less stringent “regulatory limits” on multi-family housing in otherwise restricted neighborhoods. Is there some RCW that mandates the same regulatory limits foe all areas of a city zoned for the same “use”?
Because if not, then let them do it.
@Daniel — Every economist would tell you are wrong. If there is a bigger market for single family houses than there is for duplexes, then the latter just won’t be built. Simple as that. The market is artificially restricted to favor one use (single family). As a result, overall housing costs are too high. Yes, there are people who share a house, but not that many. It is rare that they would share it with, say, a father and his two kids. Yet there are thousands and thousands of people who rent one bedroom apartments in that situation. Of course they (or we) would rather have a big house, or a much bigger apartment, but you take what you can afford.
I think what is going on in Tacoma should be seen less as an alternative to what Seattle did with the “Urban Villages” and more as a forerunner to what Seattle can look forward to in its coming comp plan revision.
My sketchily informed history is that Seattle created “Urban Villages” in the mid-90’s. At almost the exact same time, Tacoma was creating what it called “Mixed Use Centers”. As far as I can tell, these were very similar strategies. In Tacoma, the MUCs were centered on commercial districts within SFH neighborhoods/areas. Proctor, Sixth Avenue, the Lincoln District, etc. The idea, much like with Urban Villages, was to confine growth to small areas that were along transit corridors, where there was pre-existing commercial activity and services, and (importantly!) to more or less keep hands-off with single family neighborhoods.
Fast forward 25 years and Tacoma, much like Seattle, is seeing the limitation of this strategy. Combined with the high salience of the “missing middle” discourse, that has led to an interest in reforming zoning across the city and increasing density in single family areas.
The fight in Tacoma has really been about the different grades of missing middle. The rezone of all single family to “low-scale” allows for ADUs, duplexes, triplexes, townhouses throughout and maybe quads and small apartment buildings at busy intersections. The Mid-scale, on the other hand, looked to allow larger apartment buildings (3 and 4 story) along transit corridors and as buffers around the MUCs.
My take is that the NIMBY’s looked at the low-scale and, while they didn’t love it, they decided they could live with it. The mid-scale, on the other hand, has been greeted with massive outcries that it will destroy the city.
I hope Seattle can do better. Technically, Seattle allows triplexes everywhere, but the restrictions are so onerous that few have been built. I would do the following:
1) Get rid of all parking requirements.
2) Allow Brooklyn style townhouses everywhere. Each house can be split into three units. There would be more houses to buy, as well as more apartments/condos as a result. Height limits should match the existing single family code. Get rid of the FAR limits and lot coverage limits. Keep the front and back yard limit if you must.
The side limits are tricky. At a minimum, newly subdivided lots should have no side restriction. The tough part is going further, and getting rid of them on all the lots. At worse, I would require the neighbor to agree to no side limit (this means the neighbor can make a few bucks by negotiating). This becomes essentially Brooklyn or Montreal — neighborhoods with as much density as any found in Seattle.
3) Similarly, I would allow apartments on bigger lots. Again, with the same height restrictions.
In terms of restrictions, the focus should be on height. Incentives for preservation (of existing structures and trees) are fine.
2) Yeah, I’ve always thought a very straightforward improvement would be to allow for no side limit as long as both parcel owners agreed.
Side limits are a fire issue. Both the spread of fires from one structure to another and access for fire fighters. Just one example of why no zoning is a terrible idea. Virtually all of the codes and regulations were written to address a problem that occurred.
False; fire codes are independent from zoning regulations. That’s a simillar red herring as when people say lot coverage rules are needed for drainage. Leave the building codes and other health & safety rules as-is.
5 feet of space isn’t a fire break.
While almost all construction codes were written to address a safety issue, arguably almost all residential zoning codes were written to appease landowners’ desires to maintain exclusivity of their properties and the properties around them. Side limits are not a fire issue, and if they were, they’d be in the extensive Fire Code.
Materials, not geometry, are the main constraint on safety.
If setbacks were necessary for fire safety, then the relaxing of setbacks in the past twenty years would have led to more multi-building fires. Several cities that used to have deep setbacks have started allowing building up to the sidewalk in some areas, like was normal in the 1920s, yet haven’t had an increase in fires jumping buildings.
Shared common walled housing usually requires sprinkler systems, which is a significant cost for the builder, and there are additional fire protections for shared wall or multi-family housing.
In fact, King Co. recently eliminated the exemption from updated fire codes for older existing multi-family housing (and the state adopted the new international building codes that increase construction costs), so most expected these older, more affordable, wood framed multi-family buildings to be demolished and replaced with new condo construction based on the legislature’s relaxation of the long tail on new condo construction warranties, except the pandemic has created a lot more hesitancy in building new multi-family developments.
Mandating sprinklers — as we learned on MI — also costs the city a lot of money. Main water line diameter is determined by potential capacity, not actual or general use. A house sprinkler system uses a tremendous amount of water, and that water capacity for a fire(s) must be calculated in the diameter of the water lines. So the city is required to install new and much larger water mains (which then determines sewer and storm water line diameter) to meet the potential capacity from mandated sprinkler systems, and often the impact fees developers pay neglect this increased cost to the city.
OK, I’ll try posting this without the link to the source document in hope that’s what’s sending this comment to the WP Spam que.
From the City of Olympia document”Review/Residential-Setbacks.pdf”, Setbacks are intended to allow sufficient space between buildings for fire protection, to allow adequate yards, and to avoid nuisances for neighbors.
The state may have a minimum setback as you said. Its assertion that it’s essential for fire protection may or may not be true. That doesn’t mean that all the city setbacks deeper than it are also essential. Cities did reduce some setbacks, and they weren’t sued for violating state law or opposed by their fire chiefs.
the state may have a minimum setback as you said.
Huh, who/what? I certainly never said or implied that any setback’s are State mandated. It’s all local jurisdictions (City of Olympia, not the legislature). As such it’s a huge jumble of competing interests and there’s no one size fits all. One factor is fire safety. I’d agree that it’s not going to be the mainstream issue when there’s a push to change it. It’s like front setbacks. Historically it was done to try and line up houses which was thought to be desirable. Then people started to think it made neighborhoods look like a military base and setbacks were used to create a more irregular look. But the practical reason for front setbacks is to allow for ROW easements so things like sidewalks and utilities can be added in the future (or, worst case for the home owner… the street gets an added lane.
Fun factoid, building parapets became code in London after the great fire. It really doesn’t take a huge amount to make a big difference. But everything changes. Very few if any new homes use cedar shakes (kindling) for roofs anymore; which used to be common in the NW. Ditto for siding which is now more likely to be cement board than cedar. Homes are inherently safer. The majority of FD calls today are medical aid.
Certainly you can change side setbacks. Kirkland has been using the six pack model on Rose Hill. The “development” typically has an access road down the middle of three houses on each side of the reconfigured lots. And the new construction adheres to much stricter fire codes than the 60’s vintage houses that were bulldozed. It can all be done but there’s a ton of other considerations (water pressure, sewer capacity, power, etc.) that have to be considered when you change zoning to increase density.
That’s just the nuts & bolts. From a land use standpoint you want to consider transit, school capacity, et al. Which is why the “build it and they will come” meme is just silly.
“the practical reason for front setbacks is to allow for ROW easements so things like sidewalks and utilities can be added in the future”
Those setbacks are fine. The objectionable ones are deeper setbacks purely to give it a less urban look.
Southwest Airlines had another employee punched by an overly-entitled passenger. It’s high time to cut these incidents off at the source. I bet nearly all the incidents would go away if airlines were mandated to require proof-of-vaccination to fly domestically.
Obviously, the mast majority of unvaccinated are not thugs. But the thuggery on airlines is all about entitlement to not follow public health rules. The first rule the thugs are not following is the advisories to get vaccinated for COVID. Once someone does that, their common sense to follow masking rules on the plane should go way up.
The vax-proof mandate would be welcome by most airlines too afraid to impose one on themselves unilaterally. It would obviously be justified as a way to slow the spread of future variants across the country.
In the case of holiday travel to see relatives, such a mandate might save thousands if not tens of thousands of lives, as wannabe passengers finally get around to getting the free shot(s) they have been putting off.
OTOH, demand for flying would probably go up. I’m sure airlines want that but just haven’t realized that is what will happen when passengers are assured everyone on board (including staff) is fully vaccinated.
If SWA won’t take common sense measures to protect their employees (not just from the thugs but from other employees), I’m done with them.
Apparently, the single-family zoning issue is now being talked about by at least some progressives at the national level, not just locally:
On the one hand, it is good to see the issue get more attention. On the other hand, the Vox author is essentially asking Democrats in Congress to commit political suicide, and I don’t blame them one bit for not doing so. Like it or not, swing states and swing districts are full of suburban NIMBYs, and Democrats have to win the votes of at least some of them in order to win. Driving them into the arms of the Republican party accomplishes nothing except to throw all other Democratic priorities under the bus.
So, yes, I do believe single family zones need to be upzoned, and that the impact of modest proposals such as allowing duplexes is so tiny that nobody would notice. But, it needs to be done at the local level with buy-in from residents. National Democrats would be well advised to stay far, far away from it.
Obama included SFH zoning in his platform, but like asdf2 cautioned wisely never pursued it. Trump tried to make it a campaign issue but it didn’t seem to get much traction because the Feds don’t have jurisdiction. Cory Booker tried to tie it to federal Highway funding but like his presidential bid it went nowhere. (Moral: don’t run for President if you don’t have a wife, even if you went to Stanford and are a Rhodes scholar, because that will be the only issue for women voters).
Many D’s at the federal level are very wealthy and live in exclusive gated communities like Pelosi. A spotlight on their housing could be embarrassing. For example, it killed McAuliff’s election when it was disclosed he sent his kids to exclusive private schools. Rarely mentioned is Georgetown DC won’t allow the subway to serve it because of the riff raff on public transit.
Asdf2 is right: SFH zoning is a very sensitive subject in the suburbs, and too toxic to pursue when there are usually bigger fish to fry. These are the swing voters, and they will definitely vote on that issue alone because it goes to the heart of their neighborhood. Trump almost won, and R’s look to sweep the midterms. Do they need another issue other than CRT in the suburbs?
I really doubt Harrell will pursue it with all the crises he has to deal with (like a recent report noting an exodus of commercial tenants from the downtown core), and considering how contentious the last upzone was with so little result, especially if South Seattle begins to claim racism, and the press begins to examine the houses and neighborhoods Durkan, Constantine, Harrell and the council live in. After all, upzoning was Gonzales’ top issue, and that did not go well.
I also think with Rogoff’s departure for dishonesty ST will stop trying to manufacture ridership through zoning, which will remove a lot of lobbying money from the upzone movement. The fact is ST badly lied in its levies, so why compound the issue and lies with unpopular zoning.
Finally the pandemic has fundamentally shifted housing trends. I don’t know if the changes are permanent, but I wouldn’t want to be a developer building multi-family at this time, especially in Seattle. Maybe zillion dollar skyscrapers in The Spring Dist., but I doubt that is the goal for progressive upzone advocates, but they just don’t understand builders and developers have diametrically opposed goals from upzoning than they hope for, and it is the developers and builders who create housing, for a profit.
No one takes all the risk to build and develop — including banks — for fun or the good of society, and every successful developer I know lives in Medina, Clyde Hill, Mercer Island, Laurelhurst, etc., and voted for Trump. If you are a progressive these are not your teammates.
Yes, of course, developers are motivated by profit. But, so is every other business. We don’t disallow grocery stores or auto repair shops from opening up because they are profit-motivated, yet, somehow, in the business of housing, people want to. At the end of the day, we have a supply/demand imbalance and there are only two ways to fix it – increase supply or reduce demand. “Reduce demand” implies making the city so miserable that people don’t want to live there anymore, so I much prefer increasing supply.
I should also say that I actually have money invested with a few housing developers (all outside Seattle), and I’ve seen the sales pitches that they use to justify high rents that will translate into high returns for investors. Usually, they all involve some kind of supply constraint that makes it difficult or impossible for other developers to build something big alongside them.
In other words, the greedy, profit-motivated developers (or at least the smart ones) are fully aware that just building a bunch of luxury apartments does not automatically guarantee that they will rent for a high price. The high price comes from the fact that they are located in an area with a limited supply and high demand. Thinking of it this way, the big development firms actually benefit more from cities preserving single-family zoning than abolishing it. Preserving single-family zoning may prevent a firm from building, but it also prevents their competition from building, which means their *existing* properties will rent for higher amounts. On the other hand, liberalized zoning may allow each individual firm to build more buildings, but the profits on each building will be less because the competition will also be building more housing and undercutting them in the rental market. Liberalized zoning also means that the most greedy and savvy developers will recognize that the market is likely to become oversaturated, and simply avoid that city altogether, as the profits will always be higher building the last apartment building allowed in another city, who’s zoning is more restrictive.
Asdf2, you miss the point. We do restrict where gas stations, auto repair shops, Costco’s, and grocery stores open. It is called use zoning. And if an allowed use in the zone they have the same regulatory limits as every other use.
So you really don’t create any additional housing by upzoning SFH zones, although you may increase the number of legal units, and everyone gets their own kitchen and bathroom, which drives up cost per person.
. I guess you could allow a Costco or grocery store in a SFH zone but it would be very small, the size of a house.
We have multi-family zones for a reason. The buildings need to be very large to scale. Not four or six stories, but like Bellevue: 40 and 60 stories, which requires special infrastructure.
Like all housing, if new it won’t be affordable, but since the goal is to just increase housing supply (which you don’t do by upzoning SFH zones with the same regulatory limits) then you need real height, and total lot coverage, and tiny units.
There’s no shortage of gas stations or auto repair shops, or space where more are allowed if necessary. Every household needs a housing unit, while dozens of households share one gas station or auto repair shop the size of two houses. Auto repair shops are closing, according to a friend whose family owns a multigenerational one that will close soon, because recent cars don’t break down as much and repairing them requires expensive resources that only their dealerships can make cost-effective.
>Rarely mentioned is Georgetown DC won’t allow the subway to serve it because of the riff raff on public transit.
This is a myth. Take a look: https://wamu.org/story/19/11/12/why-doesnt-georgetown-have-a-metro-station-it-goes-beyond-nimbyism/
OK, that’s ridiculous. The more units, the cheaper the housing. Perhaps an example could make sense.
Imagine you have a big lot, with an old house. It sits inside the SFH 7200 zone. You tear down the house, subdivide the lot into three, and build three big houses (on fairly big lots).
Now the same lot, but with different rules. Instead of three big houses, you build a dozen houses. Or two dozen row houses. Or an apartment with 40 units. Or maybe you build a mix, based on where the demand is.
Of course the latter leads to much cheaper housing. It is the same use (housing) but far less restrictive. This is basic economics. You are forcing people to buy more land — land most aren’t interested in. They just want a place to live.
This is why Japan and Germany have much cheaper housing. How they actually encourage such housing development is quite different (https://www.sightline.org/2021/05/27/yes-other-countries-do-housing-better-case-2-germany/#1622131578593-6d9d6b72-2192).
Changing zoning doesn’t create a supply of new housing. It creates more opportunities for developers to choose from but I haven’t seen any evidence that lack of develop-able sites is limiting housing supply. Number one, right now there’s just not enough tradesmen or even laborers to meet current demand. And “completed” units are on hold for months waiting for things like refrigerators, furnaces, etc.
All that aside, when you talk about tear down houses being redeveloped it’s almost a guaranty that what gets build will be upscale and more expensive than what was replaced. Whoever owns the land when it’s up zoned reaps a windfall and new techies have more choices of stone countertops and exotic hardwood floors for their one person “household”.
Harrell made clear in his campaign debates that he favors targeted zoning changes which is the only thing that makes sense. You can’t just change density in an area without upgrading sewer, water, power, etc. You can’t provide transit if you don’t target development in concentrated areas. This was just one of the issues González got crushed on.
Seattle is a huge city area wise. It has loads of industrial zoned land that no longer has “industry”. Much of that is along the existing light rail and more along existing established transit routes. Seattle has the resources to create multiple Spring District like urban villages without wrecking the existing neighborhoods or paving parks.
Exactly. I could cite many, many examples from my surrounding area to illustrate why Daniel has this so wrong. Here’s just one:
This infill development sits on two parcels that are similar in size to my own. The parcel to the west where the existing older, modest rambler still sits was at some point short platted to create a parcel in the rear with an easement. That resulting parcel had a newer two-story modest home that was razed when the developer’s master plan was approved. The parcel to the east, which at one time also had an older rambler sitting on it until it too was razed, was combined with the aforementioned short platted rear parcel into the master plan. The developer has now constructed a cluster of 23 condominium townhomes on these two former parcels. Even if the two older homes that had existed on the two parcels had housed 6-member families (two parents with four kids) each, that would mean housing for 12 people in total. Now, even if these new townhomes only house an average of two individuals each, they will provide housing for 46 individuals.
There’s another example not too far from me as well where the current owner also sits on a lot that is similar in size to my own (just under a half acre) and is presently building two duplexes on a newly created short platted parcel, retaining the existing rambler home on the rest. This ultimately will create five housing units in total where previously the parcel contained just one.
This is all possible because of zoning changes the county put into place in the last two comp plan updates.
Strictly from a densification standpoint, there is no question that these types of infill developments would not be happening without the changes to existing zoning.
One final example from my youth. I grew up in NYC in a large family that lived on the first floor flat of a converted Victorian. There were a dozen of us in total, though not all of my siblings lived there at the same time. We had tenants who lived in our second floor flat and that added another nine residents (two parents, five kids and two grandparents). All told, this one old structure housed some 20 people while I was growing up. This was only possible because the city did not restrict creating duplexes out of these types of relatively larger homes.
Guys! There are many types of zoning restrictions. I think that as long as heights are not compromised, mere SFD zone abolishment will barely be noticed.
The setback and parking requirements could be shaved and probably should be — although that has can be technically done leaving SFD zoning restrictions in place.
Another point: Without general or widespread definition changes, upzoning raises land property values. That reduces the affordability of denser development. There are many components to housing costs — and localized upzoning makes land more expensive.
This is all possible because of zoning changes the county put into place in the last two comp plan updates.
You say county zoning changes. Where is this? Does the increased “density” just mean sprawl? Creating housing units isn’t a problem. We’re building at the capacity of the the existing workforce. But if these “freelance” developments just create a more car dependent society is it really a win? Or, does it just compete with projects that might have been done inside Seattle or at least closer to the committed mass transit investment.
“Does the increased “density” just mean sprawl?”
No, sprawl is low-density construction on the edges. The ST District is a reasonable approximation of where infill development is reasonable, and the boundary was chosen for that reason, even if it is flawed. The problem is not multifamily infill, it’s single-family lots larger than the older Seattle lots. Those are what don’t scale well and push everything apart. There are arguments both ways on whether exurban new urbanist developments like Redmond Ridge and Snoqualmie Ridge are beneficial or harmful — they should be closer in, but they’re not the worst of the problems.
So sprawl I’d define as single-family house expansion in Marysville, Woodinville, Maltby, Highway 9, Spanaway, Covington, Maple Valley, etc. Not anything in Bellevue, Renton, or south Lynnwood because their sprawl was decades ago.
“when you talk about tear down houses being redeveloped it’s almost a guaranty that what gets build will be upscale and more expensive than what was replaced.”
The same thing happens without upzoning when a house is replaced wtih a McMansion. The difference is only one family can live in it instead of two or three or eight, and its size makes it among the 10% most expensive housing units.
“right now there’s just not enough tradesmen or even laborers to meet current demand.”
That’s a problem but we shouldn’t use it as an excuse to prolong restrictive laws. We should have upzoned three decades ago and then much of the construction would already be done. We shouldn’t set up 2042 for the same mistake we made in 1992. And it takes years to change laws, so we should start now.
“Harrell made clear in his campaign debates that he favors targeted zoning changes which is the only thing that makes sense.”
That could mean anything. Where does Harrell think it makes sense? For instance, would he allow midrises in Northgate beyond the mall lot, or around Mt Baker Station? Would he upzone lower Wallingford and east Ballard (“West Woodland”), or 16th-22nd Avenues in the CD and Capitol Hill, or the blocks around California Ave SW, or between MLK and Rainier Avenues? Those are some of the places where upzones are most needed.
“[Seattle] has loads of industrial zoned land that no longer has “industry”.”
And it’s protecting that land for blue-collar jobs and future local-manufacturing and urban-agriculture needs. If transcontinental shipping becomes unviable due to climate change or political changes, we’ll need to return to local manufacturing and local agriculture. It’s a separate debate whether to convert those areas, and we shouldn’t make it under duress just to avoid impacting single-family homeowners.
“Another point: Without general or widespread definition changes, upzoning raises land property values. That reduces the affordability of denser development. There are many components to housing costs — and localized upzoning makes land more expensive.”
In my comment above, I was restricting my commentary to the issue of densification only and not addressing the issue of affordability, the latter being a much more complicated matter.
Perhaps you’ve seen this excellent piece in curbed.com from 2020?
The SFH parcels in my area that are comparable in size to my own parcel that have not been upzoned like mine has* actually have higher land value assessments which have increased at a slightly higher annual rate. Of course, even though tax assessments are supposed to reflect the true market value under state law, they are not a perfect indicator and they tend to lag actual market activity.
*In the almost twenty years that I’ve owned my property it has been upzoned twice from urban low density residential class R-8400 to urban high density residential class MR.
“You say county zoning changes. Where is this? Does the increased “density” just mean sprawl?”
Adding to Mike’s excellent commentary above….
This is in Edmonds, in the unincorporated area of Snohomish County. So that’s the entity that controls land use and zoning matters throughout this neck of the woods.
No, this is not sprawl. These are infill developments that have already been upzoned for higher density residential housing. The county has its own population, employment and housing targets in its comp plan on top of what the incorporated cities have earmarked. This is one of the strategies being employed to achieve the intended goals with regard to new housing units. If I have any gripe about the county’s approach it’s that they need to stop cherry-picking and increase the reach of such residential upzoning.
I think there is a lot of confusion over the various SFH upzoning proposals on this blog, without quite understanding the different zoning applicable to a SFH zone.
There are three main zoning regulations: 1. minimum lot size; 2. use (i.e. SFH, multi-family, commercial, industrial; and 3. regulatory limits (height, yard setbacks that determine footprint and yards, impervious surface limits, parking limits, and sometimes Gross Floor Area To Lot Area Ratio, or GFAR).
So let’s look at the four different upzoning proposals, and why some won’t work practically, and why some probably won’t work politically.
1. The first proposal raised by Ross and some others had to do with changing the use zoning in the SFH zone. The proposal argued that addtional housing (as opposed to additional legal dwellings) could be created simply by allowing multi-family housing in the SFH zone, and the character and scale of the SFH zone would be preserved by maintaining the existing regulatory zoning limits.
In fact, this is what Seattle recently did when it increased the number of legal dwellings (ADU’s, DADU’s, main house) on a residential lot from 2 to 3, but maintained the regulatory limits.
My comment was this plan does not increase actual housing, and in fact decreases it, because now each separate legal dwelling requires its own kitchen, bath, and entry, whereas those are shared in a rental SFH, which is the most affordable mode of rental housing, especially if the multi-family housing is new construction. https://www.bing.com/maps?q=rooms+for+rent.&cvid=c64c0e6f226b4f529577816efe07b35d&aqs=edge..69i57j0l8.6193j0j1&pglt=299&FORM=ANNTA1&PC=DCTS
The number of legal dwellings increase, and become much smaller, but not the total housing, or bedrooms.
One other concern I raised with this proposal is the lack of parking for the increased density, when there is such poor transit service to these SFH neighborhoods. I was in Honolulu when I posted my reply, and explained how upzoning residential SFH lots had turned the lots and streets into parking lots. Just because onsite parking is eliminated does not mean people get rid of cars, especially when there is inadequate transit service.
Finally, although Ross may be correct the smaller dwellings will be less expensive to rent than a whole house, for the property owner the total rent is not much higher, so why spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to convert a SFH house into separate legal dwellings with separate bathrooms and kitchens if the total rent increase won’t repay those construction costs? Plus as Ross points out, the annual licensing requirements for ADU’s in Seattle are pretty onerous.
The main political objection to this Seattle type upzoning is not requiring the property owner to live onsite, in a city that prohibits a landlord from vetting tenants. Probably the most important characteristic of a nice SFH neighborhood is a majority of houses are owner occupied, and so are kept up much nicer than an investment rental house with an absentee landlord, and the tenants are not transient.
Seattle’s upzone also increases the cost of a SFH for buyers wishing to live in one because the investor now has three possible rental sources. The NY Times on Sunday noted one in six homes purchased in the U.S. today is by an investor who has no plan to live in the house. If you really want to increase housing, reinstate the requirement the property owner live in one of the dwellings on the property.
2. Then Ross proposed his favorite form of housing, Brooklynn style Brownstones. Some like this kind of housing, and some hate it. It tends to be tall and narrow so terrible for disabled and elderly owners, and quite expensive, with new wood row houses in Seattle selling for around $800,000 each. In fact, the Mercer Island council hopes to permit a project of brownstones, but in the commercial zone, with each starting at around $3 million with two parking spots each.
But like Brooklyn it is very urban housing, usually appropriate in areas with very high population density, and excellent transit.
To accomplish Ross’ vision he realistically notes regulatory zoning and minimum lot sizes would have to be amended, a huge zoning change, and much different from the original proposal that maintained SFH zone character by maintaining SFH regulatory limits despite use.
Of course if you lower minimum lots sizes and change the regulatory limits in a SFH zone you increase housing. But that is a totally different argument than the original proposal, and comes with much higher political resistance.
You also destroy the character of the SFH zone. Ross and some others believe height is the only meaningful metric for SFH zoning character, but in fact side yards (and not sharing a common wall), and yards that create vegetation, along with minimum lots sizes are just as important, if not more so.
So yes this proposal would turn Blue Ridge into Brooklyn, without the transit to serve it. It won’t be affordable, and of course the argument is why not allow seven story buildings if more housing is the only goal, considering this proposal will destroy the SFH neighborhood character anyway.
There are three big issues with this proposal:
A. It is politically unlikely.
B. An issue urbanists tend to ignore is schools, probably because so few have school age kids. Schools take an enormous amount of land, because buildings are usually one story for seismic safety, ballfields, stadiums, loads of parking, and so on. For example Mercer Island has 26,000 residents, and just spent $100 million on a new elementary school to join the three others, an over-capacity middle school, and a high school, with a stadium and many sports fields. Capitol Hill has 32,000 residents and Magnolia has 22,000, and those neighborhoods are already over capacity for schools. One huge complaint about the PSRC (other than its population growth estimates are inflated) is it provides no funding for the increased density.
If you increase density for families you need more schools, and that land will be very, very expensive, unless you build the schools in parks.
C. The same increased regulatory limits apply to any structure in a zone, whether Brown Stones or a SFH. That is the fundamental flaw urbanist planners miss when they talk about middle housing, and a mix of housing in a zone. Since all allowed uses get the same regulatory limits in the same zone, over time they all reach the maximum regulatory limits, which is why downtown Seattle is all tall office towers. There just isn’t “mixed housing” in a zone over time. So a new SFH house will have no yard requirements, no setback requirements, and no parking requirements.
3. The third proposal Ross proposed was to simply eliminate minimum lot sizes in the SFH zone, and any regulatory limits except height (which makes no sense if the goal is to create as much housing as possible considering the SFH zone is destroyed by the other changes to regulatory limits).
He would abolish parking limits despite the terrible transit to these neighborhoods, and side yards and impervious surface limits. The only regulatory limit he would maintain is height, which really is not the main regulatory limit that determines the character of a SFH zone.
This would definitely increase housing but would of course destroy the character of a SFH neighborhood, and would be politically sensitive, and again raises the issue why not just increase height to the maximum for a wood framed structure, seven stories, and allow a builder to build anything it wants within that height limit, if we are trying to increase housing. If you are going to eliminate side yards, front and rear yards, minimum lots sizes, and lot vegetation, which completely destroys a SFH zone, why maintain SFH zone height limits?
Of course a SFH would have the same regulatory limits, and would be like a castle.
4. The fourth proposal(s) is from Tisgwm based on what sounds like a master planned project in Snohomish Co. Now Snohomish Co. has a rather notorious reputation for zoning changes to favor special friends, and recently the PSRC update included Snohomish Co.’s desire to develop more rural lands. https://www.theurbanist.org/2020/11/05/vision-2050-has-passed-on-to-visions-2024/
The other proposal sounds like a simple infill upzone, which will increase housing, but be something different than a SFH zone.
Again, if you completely change SFH zoning in lieu of a master planned multi-family community or upzone you have eliminated the SFH zone, and that just becomes a political issue, and this developer was able to obtain special zoning, that often resembles spot zoning, not uncommon in unincorporated Snohomish Co., and why just about every eastside unincorporated area in King Co. either incorporated or was annexed by a neighboring city: King Co.’s terrible land use policies that were mostly political favoritism, without impact fees for schools, roads, water and sewer infrastructure, police and fire, and so on.
Will unincorporated Snohomish Co. residents complain when they are asked to approve a $100 bond to build more schools to meet the new density when the developer paid almost no impact fees for their “master plan” project. What do you think.
5. The problem I have with any of these proposals is the proponents don’t explain what the goal of the increased density in a SFH zone is, certainly with a 30′ height limit.
If it is affordable housing, new construction is the least expensive and usually begins by demolishing the oldest and most affordable SFH houses, and takes decades, and affordable housing needs transit, but there is no money for transit to these residential neighborhoods.
If the argument is simply supply and demand will create affordable housing for those under 100% AMI, that also misses reality, and how builders and developers operate. You are increasing the supply of NEW construction, which any builder wants to be as expensive as possible, and will be in an expensive residential neighborhood, not affordable housing. Will the development in The Spring District create affordable housing? Of course not despite thousands of new units.
If the goal is to eliminate the privileged and “racist” history of SFH zones, the folks most opposed to upzoning SFH zones are Blacks and minorities, because they will be displaced by white gentrification, even though their neighborhoods are the prime areas for increased desnity for affordable housing because the underlying land is the least expensive.
Look Seattle can do whatever it wants, and that is why we have elections. These proposals are not needed for someone with a 100% AMI income, that just for one allows around $2600 for rent or to buy a place. They won’t create affordable housing for those with less than 100% AMI incomes because those require public subsidies, and begin with the least expensive land as possible. There is no free lunch.
And they will meet fierce political resistance, and most understood the last upzone of SFH zones in Seattle was very contentious even though it won’t affect any of the wealthier SFH zones, which is the point, and Black neighborhoods know that.
The eastside takes a different approach. Preserve the SFH zones, but increase housing (and retail) density in the urban core, something Seattle did in Belltown, but not many other areas.
This creates retail density, and better urban and walkable areas, in their view. It also creates very expensive SFH zones, but since most own not too many complaints, and a Seattle property owner who actually lives in their house can always move to the eastside, although the differential between eastside and westside SFH prices is expanding rapidly, so you won’t get the same neighborhood house on the eastside for the same money, which as someone who has grown up in this region blows me away. Who ever thought Issaquah would be more expensive than Seattle for a SFH.
The other option is like Durkan, and move to or create neighborhoods with CC&R’s that supersede zoning.
“There are three main zoning regulations: 1. minimum lot size; 2. use (i.e. SFH, multi-family, commercial, industrial; and 3. regulatory limits (height, yard setbacks that determine footprint and yards, impervious surface limits, parking limits, and sometimes Gross Floor Area To Lot Area Ratio, or GFAR).”
We’re just citizens expressing policy directions. The politicians know these regulatory issues and can modify multiple laws simultaneously to implement the policy direction. There are nonprofits who research these things and can suggest a technical strategy if the politicians need help. When I say “Abolish single-family zoning” I don’t mean just #2, I mean allow the kinds of 1960s courtyard apartments Seattle has and residential neighborhoods like Brooklyn, Paris, and Edinburgh have. The politicians can figure out how to get there; they just need to make a commitment to do it, and not wait twenty or thirty years for it.
“addtional housing could be created simply by allowing multi-family housing in the SFH zone, and the character and scale of the SFH zone would be preserved by maintaining the existing regulatory zoning limits.”
It works in Vancouver BC. Duplexes and small apartments mix with single-family houses in Kitsilano, and the neighborhood still looks residential, leafy, lowrise, and they are some of the most sought-after addresses. And the residents can walk to frequent bus routes and sometimes current/future Skytrain lines.
Still, I disagreed with the comments that we should leave the height limits, FARs, and setbacks as-is and that it would not change the neighborhood at all. It would be different from the existing neighborhoods in some cases. But it would still be acceptably residential and leafy, and it’s only hysteria that’s saying it would bring a concrete jungle and drug-addict criminal renters.
“In fact, this is what Seattle recently did when it increased the number of legal dwellings (ADU’s, DADU’s, main house) on a residential lot from 2 to 3, but maintained the regulatory limits.”
Vancouver allows (D)ADUs everywhere, and it’s a sensible idea. But it won’t fully solve the problem because that’s still pretty low density so it can’t fit very many people. We need a plan for 150,000 units above the current trend, and that will require expanding multifamily areas beyond the 30% of the buildable land where they’re allowed now. Expanding ADUs/rowhouses can be a secondary part of the plan but they can’t be the only thing.
“My comment was this plan does not increase actual housing, and in fact decreases it, because now each separate legal dwelling requires its own kitchen, bath, and entry, whereas those are shared in a rental SFH”
It’s hard to live in a single-family house when you’re just renting a room, because the houses weren’t designed for that, and neither were the yards or neighborhoods. They were designed for a nuclear family of two adults and some children. Some houses may be more adaptable than others, but you can’t say it’s an across-the-board solution, or that most renters should have to live in that.
And you’re assuming the renters are single. What about a mother with children or a small family? Are they supposed to live in one or two children’s rooms in a house? All of them?
There’s also a limited number of older “affordable” houses. Not enough for the entire current and future population. If we do nothing, those houses will gradually increase in price and become less and less affordable.
And most of that single-family housing is a mile or more away from frequent transit or shopping/jobs.
“I was in Honolulu when I posted my reply, and explained how upzoning residential SFH lots had turned the lots and streets into parking lots.”
I have never heard of SF lots turning into parking lots. Surface parking lots don’t generate much money, so usually the owner would want to do something more lucrative with them, or is just waiting for upzoning or market interest.
“Just because onsite parking is eliminated does not mean people get rid of cars, especially when there is inadequate transit service.”
Car storage is their problem. We should be focusing first on upzoning areas that do have frequent transit, like Wallingford, outer Greenwood, and around Aurora, California Ave SW, and 35th Ave SE, NE 8th Street in Bellevue, 104th/108th Ave SE in Kent/Renton, etc.
“The main political objection to this Seattle type upzoning is not requiring the property owner to live onsite,”
I could go either way on that.
“Probably the most important characteristic of a nice SFH neighborhood is a majority of houses are owner occupied, and so are kept up much nicer than an investment rental house with an absentee landlord, and the tenants are not transient.”
That’s a red herring. Neighborhoods can be successful with either mostly owners or mostly renters. There are other ways to design the houses and lots than the cities have heretofore considered. If we improved the social safety net there wouldn’t be so many people living paycheck to paycheck and under stress and instability, and they’d have more time and energy to take care of their living spaces.
“An issue urbanists tend to ignore is schools”
That’s another solvable problem. Vancouver has schools everywhere. Seattle shot itself in the foot by selling school land during a short-term children dip.
“Schools take an enormous amount of land, because buildings are usually one story for seismic safety, ballfields, stadiums, loads of parking, and so on.”
There’s the problem right there. Why are the buildings one story? Why does every school need an attached stadium? Why concentrate on parking rather than transit? These are design decisions for a Futurama vision of schools and neighborhoods, not necessities. And seismic safety my foot. If schools can’t be more than one story for seismic safety, then no building could either. Recent multistory buildings have reinforced stairways to withstand an earthquake or other disaster, the percent of people who can’t use stairs occasionally is small, and schools can have reinforced refuge rooms for those who can’t go down the stairs, and the fire department knows about those refuge rooms and will check them.
“One huge complaint about the PSRC (other than its population growth estimates are inflated) is it provides no funding for the increased density.”
They should complain to the state and ask for funding. The state should be oriented to doing that.
“If you increase density for families you need more schools, and that land will be very, very expensive, unless you build the schools in parks.”
You can put schools in regular buildings. They can look like apartment or office buildings.
“The same increased regulatory limits apply to any structure in a zone, whether Brown Stones or a SFH. That is the fundamental flaw urbanist planners miss when they talk about middle housing, and a mix of housing in a zone. Since all allowed uses get the same regulatory limits in the same zone, over time they all reach the maximum regulatory limits, which is why downtown Seattle is all tall office towers. There just isn’t “mixed housing” in a zone over time. So a new SFH house will have no yard requirements, no setback requirements, and no parking requirements.”
Downtown is all highrises because it’s downtown. Upzoning the entire city or region wouldn’t lead to midrises/highrises everywhere because demand would be saturated long before that. The reason prices are rising so fast is buildable land is so limited it can command a premium. If you allow enough lowrise that the market is saturated, then smaller developer who are currently priced out and mom-and-pop homeowners can build smaller buildings on some of the remaining parcels. They won’t build midrises/highrises because they aren’t interested or can’t build such a large building but they can build a smaller one. The net result would be a more even scattering of multifamily, rowhouse, duplex, and single-family houses across the landscape, with the most units rather close to frequent transit and commercial arterials, and the more isolated areas being less desirable or more for the rich (who can afford the single-family houses with the views and have cars and will keep them single-family).
3. The third proposal Ross proposed was to simply eliminate minimum lot sizes in the SFH zone, and any regulatory limits except height”
I disagree with categorically keeping heights or FAR the same. These need to be set to a reasonable level, like what our peer cities that have a more balanced housing stock have,
“This would definitely increase housing but would of course destroy the character of a SFH neighborhood, and would be politically sensitive,”
It’s getting to the point that we have to start challenging these sensitivities, especially when they’re based on nonsense like “character of the neighborhood”. Again, Vancouver, Boston, Paris, and Chicago’s North Side are different examples of what we could aim for. The politicians need to explain these to people and defend them. The Overton window has been changing and will continue to change. Ten years ago no politician would dare suggest eliminating single-family zoning or expanding urban villages, but now some are and are sometimes winning seats. It’s only a matter of time before Seattle recognizes it’s not a small town anymore and can’t keep 70% of the residential land single-family-only. And that it needs widespread full-time frequent transit to go with it, as its peers Vancouver, San Francisco, and Chicago have.
I’ve spent enough time writing so I’ll stop here.
Of everything you write Mike, you blow off the one point I raised that urbanists always blow off: the space and costs for more schools.
Now I think your estimate of another `150,000 housing dwellings is wildly inflated, and don’t know where you get that from, what size of dwelling, or what area you are talking about (because there is more than enough SFH zoning in Kitsap, Snohomish, King and Pierce Counties without a single upzone to accommodate 150,000 new homes), but if that number were true you will need lots of elementary, middle and high schools.
Claiming you disagree with federal building requirements for schools, or kids don’t need playgrounds or stadiums or sporting fields, is a cop out. Schools have building requirements that are not going to change, just like the state is not going to relax the international building code requirements it just adopted to make building housing cheaper.
If you want urbanism and density you have to pay for it. That includes the infrastructure, including water and sewer lines, and it includes schools. So if your zoning doubles the density for a residential area in Seattle you need to identify where you will double the elementary, middle and high schools, and all the things schools need. The cost of those schools makes the ROW costs for ST look like chump change, because you don’t build schools along I-5.
All the rest is political, because zoning is political, but if you don’t understand the fundamentals of zoning you can’t understanding zoning and development, and what creates a zone, and what eliminates it. At this point the political momentum does not support upzoning residential zones in Seattle, or certainly the eastside, so this is probably moot.
If the decision is to double density through upzoning residential neighborhoods to accommodate another 150,000 housing units, you need to identify where the schools are going, and who will pay for those new schools, ballfields, parking lots, stadiums, etc. That is the entire point of the GMA: plan before you permit or zone.
“I think your estimate of another `150,000 housing dwellings is wildly inflated, and don’t know where you get that from”
It’s the city’s or county’s own estimate I got from the newspaper. I think Durkan has mentioned it. What I’m not sue about is whether it’s for Seattle alone or the county as a whole, so I’m not sure whether all or only part of it needs to be in Seattle. That’s the number the city/county estimates would saturate the market so that prices/rents would stop rising so rapidly and displacing people from Seattle, so that everybody who wanted to live in Seattle instead of the suburbs could do so. The displacement stated in the 1990s, and in the heady 2012-2018 Seattle was adding 9 housing units for every 12 new jobs, so a large backlog has accumumulated.
“you need to identify where the schools are going”
Now you’re grasping desperately at straws. The city has never mentioned schools as the reason it can’t upzone. The reason is political: current single-family residents don’t want it. Or at least some of them don’t and they make a big issue out of it.
“Claiming you disagree with federal building requirements for schools, or kids don’t need playgrounds or stadiums or sporting fields, is a cop out”
What? There’s a federal requirement that every school have a full-sized football stadium adjacent to it? That’s either incorrect or the federal requirements are really messed up, because requiring so much land for a school makes the neighborhood less walkable, and that harms children and adults too. Of course schools need some kind of field for physical education, but for a specific organized sport that requires a large area they could go to a central field; it doesn’t have to be steps away from the math class.
“That is the entire point of the GMA: plan before you permit or zone.”
The point of the GMA was to set minimum growth quotas for cities so they couldn’t all sluff the entire burden onto somebody else. That was leading to nobody accepting growth and unchecked low-density sprawl on the edges, which is bad for the environment. The planning for schools and things came along with it but that wasn’t the point of the GMA. So saying that if a city doesn’t plan schools it shouldn’t add housing and that’s perfectly fine, flies in the face of the GMA. The GMA’s purpose is to ensure that needed growth occurs. It underestimates the amount of needed housing but it recognizes that some is needed.
No Mike, you are confused about the purpose of the GMA: the GMA was designed to force cities and counties to PLAN for growth. Growth requires roads, water and sewer lines, schools, parks, and the other factors identified in the GMA, through their comprehensive plans. https://mrsc.org/Home/Explore-Topics/Planning/General-Planning-and-Growth-Management/Comprehensive-Planning-Growth-Management.aspx Cities and counties have broad discretion in planning for that growth, as long as they plan for it, and delineate the different urban/rural areas.
Here is a link to R.C.W. 36.70A.020 with some of the elements of the comprehensive plan. https://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=36.70A.020 One of the key element often litigated over is section 12:
“12) Public facilities and services. Ensure that those public facilities and services necessary to support development shall be adequate to serve the development at the time the development is available for occupancy and use without decreasing current service levels below locally established minimum standards.”
The key in section 12 is that growth, or density, does not decrease current service levels, which includes everything from schools to traffic congestion.
The current political approach under the PSRC is to inflate future population growth to require TOD. This has been expanded by the MBA to include upzoning, especially residential development, in part because ST is desperate to manufacture its ridership levels estimated in its levies. Where “infill development” once meant urban growth areas it now means anything within the rural delineation, even if in Snoqualmie.
However the ST realignment and pandemic have pulled back the curtain, and everyone now knows those ridership levels will never be met, in part because the population growth estimates were inflated, and since Rogoff is gone he will get the blame for the dishonesty, and already the Board has thrown him under the bus for the Board’s failure to do its due diligence.
The GMPC sets housing growth targets, and recently set targets through 2044 (based IMO on inflated population growth targets from the PSRC). https://kingcounty.gov/~/media/depts/executive/performance-strategy-budget/regional-planning/CPPs/2021-CPP-Update/GMPC-CPP-Amendments-061621.ashx?la=en
This year saw for the first time push back by eastside cities, especially
Sammamish. Fearing this fight, the GMPC mostly allocated future housing growth to cities that wanted it, like Shoreline. Many eastside cities like Mercer Island, despite getting a light rail station, got a zero housing growth target through 2044 (although our prior council agreed to an inflated growth target to please developers we are still working through, but most expect a downzone in our next comp. plan, mostly to due with DADU’s).
It is actually the GMA eastside cities will use to state they are “built out” in their updated comprehensive plans, and why this year’s council and mayor elections were so critical. These cities will claim they cannot plan for and accommodate the infrastructure for increased housing and populations, in large part including new schools, without decreasing current levels of service, but also the costs of new roads, water and sewer lines, police and fire, and park to 1000 resident ratios.
Your approach in which you simply upzone areas and add density and figure out the infrastructure and planning later is exactly what the GMA was designed to avoid. Under the GMA you begin with the infrastructure, and costs for that infrastructure which existing residents have to pay for, before you increase density or upzone, because the infrastructure upgrades must be in place by the time of occupancy, not after.
You’re correct about section 12 of that chapter of the GMA statutes, though you should have also included a citation of the definitions included in the previous chapter:
“(20) “Public facilities” include streets, roads, highways, sidewalks, street and road lighting systems, traffic signals, domestic water systems, storm and sanitary sewer systems, parks and recreational facilities, and schools.
“(21) “Public services” include fire protection and suppression, law enforcement, public health, education, recreation, environmental protection, and other governmental services.”
Overall, cities and counties have been turning out woefully inadequate comp plan updates and there is an argument to be made that in general most, if not all, of these comp plan updates are not in full compliance with the GMA. For example, the cities and counties typically include a Transportation Element (TE) in their published plans that discuss the jurisdictions’ transportation needs, concurrency and LOS statistics, etc. at length. But the other areas included in “public facilities” and “public services” generally do not get the same treatment.
I do disagree with some of your earlier points, which I’ll address in a separate reply. Here, however, I agree with your larger point about the INTENT of the GMA being about more than planning for population and employment growth and housing needs.
Thanks for the addtional cite Tisgwm,
When it comes to a Transportation Concurrency Ordinance that requires a city or county to adopt certain levels of traffic congestion, in 2019 I had to appeal to the GMHB to get the Mercer Island City Council to adopt a TCO, that was first due in 1995. Ironically the TCO is now one of the city’s stronger arguments against the proposed bus intercept on MI, or was until the recent restructure, although you can hire a traffic engineer to say just about anything.
There are two approaches to comp. plans: most cities like MI have general comp. plans with a lot of lofty goals and flowery language, (and very importantly a land use map designating uses for different zones and minimum lot sizes), but then rely on the implementing development regulations to implement the plan’s policies. Part of this was because a comp. plan can be amended only once per year, but in another appeal to the GMHB we obtained an order requiring Mercer Island to create an annual docket for code amendments as well, that allows any citizen to suggest a code amendment for no fee, and limits code amendments to be docketed once per year, due to endless code amendments at council meetings at 11 pm with virtually no notice or public participation.
In another appeal to the GMHB a group of us contested the prior council’s attempt to adopt vague comp. plan amendments without the concurrent development regulations, which was just a ruse to avoid the most important aspect of the GMA: transparency in planning. Development codes are intentionally written in a language the ordinary citizen cannot understand, but with Facebook and Nextdoor citizens like me can explain the amendments to them, and whether they are consistent with the lofty language in the comp. plan. Generally the GMHB will hold the development regulations supersede the comp. plan, but there must be consistency between the two.
The other approach is a very detailed comp. plan, but those are rare, and cumbersome, because you still need implementing development regulations, and end up having to amend the code and Plan every time you make a change.
What happens with most cities is between the mandatory 8 year update of their comp. plans they elect different councils with different visions, and so like Mercer Island their comp. plans become a mish mash of policies and amendments.
For example, our comp. plan vison for dedicated bike lanes in the town center to access the light rail station (although ST neglected to include many covered, secured bike lockers, and few leave several thousand dollar bikes chained up outside right outside an escalator to a light rail train) was basically eliminated by code amendments using the bike lanes for street retail parking.
The GMA intends broad discretion for cities and counties, so make sure you elect council members who support your vision. I am not sure what comments in my post you disagree with, but the fact is within the broad outlines of the GMA a city can design and plan a city their citizens want, even though you may have a different vision.
Anyone who has ever appealed something to the GMHB will tell you the burden is extreme to overturn a council’s decision under the GMA, unless like Kittitas Co. the actions obviously conflict. As Kittitas Co. argues, it has too much rural land, and too little money. The Central Puget Sound GMA is extremely reluctant to risk conflict with local cities.
So the one big change I have seen recently is in the housing growth targets set by the GMPC, and the opposition by eastside cities, because if a city objects there really is little a county or citizen can do over something like housing growth targets, an issue Futurewise (which is much different today) will pursue.
So the GMPC through 2044 made a wise tactical retreat and allocated future housing growth to cities that want it, and will zone for it. Mercer Island is a little unique in that we are a high capacity transit city because we got light rail, but really did not want light rail, and the stations are next to a very old and very wealthy residential neighborhood to the north that King Co. would like to upzone within a 1/2mile radius due to the light rail, but will never be upzoned, a fight King Co. really does not want to pursue, or can really enforce.
“…but in another appeal to the GMHB we obtained an order requiring Mercer Island to create an annual docket for code amendments as well, that allows any citizen to suggest a code amendment for no fee, and limits code amendments to be docketed once per year…”
I’m surprised that you had to take these steps. I just assumed that MI would already have the docket process for the GPP amendments in place by now. It’s not like the GMA has just become law here in WA.
Snohomish County’s docketing procedures are explained pretty well here. Does MI have similar documentation posted on its website?
Oh, and my disagreements center around one of your earlier posts, not this particular preceding one.
We do now Tisgwm. The amendments are technically “suggestions”, and the there is no fee, but also no obligation for the council to add them to the next year’s docket for review by the planning commission.
Mercer Island had a very bad and very progressive council until recently. Their land use policies were very unpopular. It took a group of local lawyers to figure out what was being done in secret (which also included some disastrous decisions on light rail), to correct those (thank you Facebook and Nextdoor that allow a citizen to explain this to the lay citizens), to file appeals, and eventually to get a new council and planning commission, city manager, city attorney, HR dir., parks director, finance dir. et al, and appointment process.
The damage had been done though. A city is allowed to increase its property levy only 1%/year, that even with new construction which is exempt that does not cover inflation, or COLA for police and fire.
So cities need levies to maintain full services, including social services. The old MI council wouldn’t listen and placed Prop. 1 for a six year $28 million levy on the ballot that Islanders could have afforded, except the citizens were so angry at policy Prop. 1 failed by 57.5%, which led to a lot of cuts to services.
The parks levy expires in 2023 and brings in around $1 million, and the council needs to find a permanent funding source for a school resource counselor in every school (very rare for cities, and why parents of special needs kids flock to MI schools), and so the new council which is much better (especially on land use and parks) is hoping a 2022 levy passes.
I tell the MI city council the same thing I try to tell some on this blog: you will always need levies. I think the new MI council has the opportunity to correct things and pass a levy, but think ST has zero chance for a very long time to pass a levy (and we all know WSBLE was predicated on ST 4), and if you think the operation funding assumptions for ST are not as bogus as the capital assumptions you are very naïve. ST is going to need an operations levy pretty soon, but there is no chance it will pass. Just ask Mercer Island or LFP.
The biggest problem I notice is how the climate is changing and we’re all going to die in five years or less but people still have other concerns! It doesn’t matter if you have a job or not, or if you have a new car or nice new pants (or even if you wear pants)! We’re all going to die. It will happen soon!
We should rebel against an uncaring society and tear it all down! Destroy the infrastructure of every country and humans will be unable to harm the planet! The problem is humans and we can solve that problem by getting rid of them all! Except of course, those of us who understand the problem and are eager to solve it!
Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. It took decades and even centuries to build up the effective and fair parts of society and infrastructure we have now. The biggest growth came after the triple whammy of WWI, the Depression, and WWII, which gave people a sense of wanting to work together and sacrifice so that everybody wins. (“Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”) That has been unraveling since the 1970s and we need to keep it together and build on it as much as we can. If we destroy it, it may take another similar catastrophe like WWII to put it together again, and that’s not guaranteed because it may have the opposite effect.
Then you write, “County employees refuse to take public transit like buses or light rail in Seattle even if escorted.”
What an interesting logical deduction to make. That employees are afraid to ride public transit like buses or light rail, because they have presumably asked for an escort to Sounder and ferry…other public transit services?
I could see the appeal of King Street Station is that it is right across the street from ID – so it would be a convenient place for both Link and Sounder commuters. They would just have to cross the street.
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