75 Replies to “Weekend open thread: Christmas lights train ride”

    1. Until recently I wasn’t aware of the Dearborn and Jackson Street regrades. It is funny to think that the 12th Avenue Bridge (now known as the Jose Rizal Bridge) was unnecessary, because Beacon Hill was connected to First Hill with a ridge, in much the same way First Hill is connected to Capitol Hill. Nor did I know that Harbor Island is completely artificial, having been built with some of that dirt. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regrading_in_Seattle (I especially like this picture: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regrading_in_Seattle#/media/File:Seattle_-_Dearborn_St_regrade,_1912.gif).

      It is fascinating to think of how Seattle has been modified dramatically over a relatively short period of time. You’ve got the various regrades (60 apparently) along with the ship canal, and all the rivers that changed as a result. The Black river (which used to drain Lake Washington into the Duwamish) essentially disappeared. The Cedar River used to flow into the Black, but instead now goes into Lake Washington. Even before all that the Green and White River changed course (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_River_(Duwamish_River_tributary)#/media/File:Duwamishvalley1899-1959.png).

      Never mind the buildings, roads and freeways. A Northwest Rip Van Winkle wouldn’t recognize the “natural” topography.

  1. With Omicron Raging, what do we think the long term impacts of COVID will be to both society and transit ridership. Will we ever return to normal?

    1. The future is unknowable until it happens. Almost everyone who predicts a year in advance is wrong because something unexpected happens during the year. The most we can say is which trends are more than 50% likely and are probably hard to reverse. It’s hard at this point to see how we can go back to no masks on transit when covid is so transmissible and people have a acquired an Asian mindset about masks hindering flu too. At the same time, other states have gone all-in on no masks and will probably just accept higher death rates, especially as long as it remains a political wedge issue. Covid may eventually become as mild as the flu but who knows whether or when that will happen.

      If the local population continues to increase, which sees no sign of stopping, congestion will increase and transit will increasingly become necessary, and people will ride it who previously wouldn’t, even with covid. Because the irrational scaremongering over transit can only go so far before it’s increasingly obvious that it’s false, and driving becomes less and less attractive because of increasing congestion.

      1. WTH did I just read? That link leads to some of the most inane corporate doublespeak I have read so far in the 2020s.

    2. I expect it’ll take a couple years for things to fully shakeout.

      We’ll still see COVID waves into 2022, and possibly even 2023, but they’ll likely result in less hospitalization and death as immunity increases and anti-viral medications roll out. I assume that supply chain issues and other effects will work their way out of our economic networks by the middle of the decade, but I’m agnostic about any large and long-term effects on patterns of housing, work, commuting, and transportation.

      It does look more and more like the confident (and perhaps celebratory) predictions we heard early last year that the pandemic would lead cities to wither away were premature, at the very least.

      1. I agree it is difficult to understand the permanent changes from Covid because:

        1. No one thought we would still be in a pandemic 20 months later, with a growing feeling it could be another 20 months. So we kept thinking this would end any day and we would, or could, go back to normal.

        2. The enormous amount of federal aid that was funded by borrowing but will end in January with the demise of the BBB bill.

        3. The fact kids appear to have mild symptoms which has allowed the schools to reopen.

        4. The rapid technological shift to WFH.

        The major temporary changes have been the closing of offices and decline in ridership on public transit. State tax revenue is strong, although WFH has changed tax revenue allocation among cities.

        People are back to traveling and social activities, but the shelter in place and WFH policies have shifted consumption from services to goods.

        Unemployment is now under 5%, and will likely decline further when aid begins to end, and many states’ unemployment comp. funds are depleted. and they are seeking extensions for repayment of federal loans force employment comp.

        I think the next big event will be the ending of eviction moratoria, which can’t go on forever. I always thought some federal aid should have been targeted for rent relief. Instead many tenants fell way behind on rent, but spent state and federal aid for other things.

        Once the moratoria end we will have a better picture of future housing trends, especially among renters who can’t move if behind on rent but protected by the moratoria (which also restrict rent increases and have led landlords to leave units empty) and whether the de urbanization we are seeing among workers who can WFH and among Millenials extends to tenants evicted in high cost cities that still have not recovered their service jobs, or employment related to in office employment, and how that revenue loss impacts large cities. Inflation seems to indicate rents won’t go down.

        After that the next key events IMO will be inflation which is the most regressive of all taxes, and the near certainty Republicans will take back at least one house of Congress.

        Maybe the biggest permanent unknown is the depression and anxiety of citizens, and how that appears to cause folks to question the past norms of society. Cities like San Francisco are trying to shift policies on crime, but that could be a hard trend to reverse.

        With the Delta variant and now Omicron I think more people will begin to think this is the new normal, and begin to make life changing decisions based on the new normal. As Bernie notes 20% of all residents in King Co. plan to move in the next few years. We just don’t know where, and how much money they will have, especially if their deposits for last months rent and damage deposit went to unpaid past rent, which means they are broke.

    3. New South Wales is around 93% vaccinated and recorded 0 deaths for some time. Eventually the USA will figure it out. It’ll just be much more slow and painful here because we refuse to take the measures necessary to prevent that.

      It took approximately 200 years from George Washington’s first vaccine mandate in the 1770s to the eradication of smallpox in the 1970s. We can hope this time measures to halt a deadly airborne disease catch on faster.

      In any event, at some point society will get tired of the economic damage in medical bills, permanent organ damage and absentee employees and decide it’s time to do something. So yes, we will at some point go back to normal. Within our lifetimes? That depends on our own actions.

    4. I don’t think we know enough about Omicron to know for sure. If it’s highly transmissible but doesn’t cause serious disease and vaccines w/ booster work well against it, it might do us a favor by quickly getting immunity to the people who refuse to get vaccinated. It’ll be awful for hospitals and health care workers and vulnerable people for a few months but there’s a pretty serious cost to society at large the longer things drag out, plus the people who won’t get vaccinated and the virus itself just don’t care what I think…

    5. I’m most concerned about long covid. I trust the vaccines minimize hospitalization and death, but I don’t want to get covid because so many people have gotten lingering or returning symptoms for months that can sometimes be dehabilitating. So I got my vaccines, I wear masks indoors, I prefer outdoors (parks, farmers’ markets), I limit indoor trips somewhat (I still haven’t gone to a show), but I’m not a fanatic about wearing masks outdoors, never eating in restaurants, getting only delivery, or foregoing my regular shopping and errands.

    6. And I’m glad Washington and King County have such a sensible covid policy, not too loose or too fanatical. I’m really glad about that.

      1. Yeah, I think long-term symptoms are a big unknown. The vaccines (and especially the booster dose) do limit infection risk, and you can’t get long-term symptoms without being infected. There is also some evidence that some cases of long-term symptoms come from severe illness, and the vaccines were even better against that.

        All that said, though, basically the entire population will be infected many times throughout our lives, and interventions beyond vaccination only have a limited effectiveness especially after true costs are accounted for. The big individual thing we can do now is making sure our first infection is after vaccination and the big thing as a society we can do now is making sure our healthcare systems survive the next few months; everything else is inevitable. Fortunately, our elected leadership seem to have realized this with Omicron, where Biden and Inslee are both talking more about risk of severe illness rather than simple case numbers and risk of infection.

  2. From a recent Norada Real Estate Investments piece on the current market here in our area and their forecast for 2022….

    There’s a lot of data here, so I’ll just cite one excerpt from the article:

    “Last month, the median single-family home in King County sold for $820,000, $695,000 in Snohomish County, and $515,000 in Pierce County. Each county saw a less than 1% change from October. King County’s $820,000 median is up 12.25% from last November. According to new data released Monday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, Snohomish and Pierce counties saw even larger increases: 22.8 percent and 15.7 percent, respectively.”


    1. Yes, prices and rents have been rising faster in Pierce and Snohomish than in King, and faster in South King County than in Seattle, for almost ten years now because they’re starting from a lower base. Before it was just working-class people getting priced out of Seattle and moving south, but now it’s middle-class people too and they’re going to areas they wouldn’t have considered ten years earlier. They’re competing with the people already there and driving the prices up. In higher-priced areas, only higher-income people have a chance so there’s less competition.It looks like prices are headed toward equalization across King County, and Pierce and Snohomish Counties too. They’ll never be exactly equal because there’s only one Space Needle, one Bellevue Square, one Pike Place Market, one area within five miles of downtown, etc. But in general people are moving to the lower-priced areas and driving the prices up, so they get closer to the higher-priced areas, and the ones who previously code afford the lower-priced areas are shut out completely.

    2. One tidbit from the article:

      large cities with a strong network of educational institutions always create an opportunity for those who want to own rental properties

      I was looking back in November for information about the Mayoral race in Bean Town. One of the candidates (don’t remember if it was the winner) had a proposal to require schools to provide more dorm rooms. UW could easily do this if they had robust transit to Sand Point and offered dorm rooms at branch campuses.

      1. UW could easily do this if they had robust transit to Sand Point

        I’m not sure that many students would covet living in Sand Point, but if the UW built dorms there, couldn’t they just pay Metro to boost frequency and the span of service on the 75 and 62?

      2. There’s already a ton of UW students living out at Sand Point at their Radford Court complex.

      3. Metro already boosted transit service between Magnuson, UW, and Roosevelt station with the addition of the 79, at least relative to last year. It’s too new to know what ridership is like but it means that there’s now weekday service on 75th, in addition to all-day/all-week service on 65th and Sand Point.

    3. UW was a 70% commuter school when I went there in the 80s and lived in the dorms. Then in the late 2000s it vastly expanded the dorms on Campus Parkway and south of it because a new UW president thought living on campus gave a better education, especially for freshmen. The 2008 recession gave an opportunity to accelerate the plans when construction labor was cheap. So the university has already partially done it. But the dorms aren’t as affordable as they were when I was there, the new style is luxury, like gigabit internet years before anyone else had it and a gym downstairs, but you pay through the nose for it, sometimes more than a similar-sized apartment would cost. The UW is chasing foreign students paying high out-of-state tuition since its state subsidies have dwindled, and doesn’t care about the high cost of dorms because it can find students to fill them. So expanding dorms universally would just lead to more of those. Also, is there a problem with people not living on campus? The UW regents may think so, and I liked spending all four years in dorms and being able to walk everywhere and the clubs I was in that met at all hours, but I don’t think that others who lived in apartments or at home got a bad education. And transit is better now from a larger area so you can participate in off-hour activities and still get home with time to study.

    4. This is the data for the tri-county region for the last ten years, as compiled by the Washington Center for Real Estate Research (WCRER) at the University of Washington. This is also the data utilized by WA State’s OFM in their reporting on housing sales.

      King County Median Home Price
      2011 $344,900
      2012 $367,700 (+6.6%)
      2013 $420,500 (+14.4%)
      2014 $449,600 (+6.9%)
      2015 $486,100 (+8.1%)
      2016 $566,200 (+16.5%)
      2017 $637,700 (+12.6%)
      2018 $689,900 (+8.2%)
      2019 $677,700 (-1.8%)
      2020 $729,600 (+7.7%)
      Entire period (+111.5%)

      Snohomish County Median Home Price
      2011 $242,400
      2012 $261,900 (+8.0%)
      2013 $299,100 (+14.2%)
      2014 $328,700 (+9.9%)
      2015 $358,900 (+9.2%)
      2016 $391,700 (+9.1%)
      2017 $439,300 (+12.2%)
      2018 $482,100 (+9.7%)
      2019 $493,000 (+2.3%)
      2020 $549,100 (+11.4%)
      Entire period (+126.5%)

      Pierce County Median Home Price
      2011 $193,500
      2012 $194,700 (+0.6%)
      2013 $217,700 (+11.8%)
      2014 $231,900 (+6.5%)
      2015 $251,900 (+8.6%)
      2016 $279,000 (+10.8%)
      2017 $315,700 (+13.2%)
      2018 $347,400 (+10.0%)
      2019 $372,200 (+7.1%)
      2020 $424,300 (+14.0%)
      Entire period (+119.3%)

      The data for 2021 is incomplete and thus has not been included since these numbers reflect the median selling price for all homes for the entire 12-month period. Hopefully, I avoided any typos in the transcription from my worksheet.


      1. The Bellevue Reporter ran an article Survey data suggests how the pandemic has changed attitudes toward housing in King County with the byline, “More than half of King County survey participants say they will move in the next five years. ” That seemed like a really high percentage of home turnover. But the US Census reports (2019) only 81% of people in King County are living in the same house as a year ago. That number includes renters which I would expect move more often. The Census also reports 970,000 housing units for King County. Rough estimate from some real estate sites is ~40,000 homes were sold in the last year which is 4% of the total. Expand that out over 5 years and it’s 20% or 1 in 5.

      2. So they’ve all more than doubled in just ten years, at a time when inflation has been 2% or less since 2000. Rents have been similar, although not quite doubled. This is an emergency;; why do the counties keep treating it as no big deal? I’m not so concerned about houses because anybody who can afford a house can afford an apartment, and they’re choosing to have a larger unit and yard. But I am concerned about renters, especially below-median ones, whose wages have barely budged. (The 15% minimum wage jump has sometimes doubled wages, but that’s still not enough for an apartment so that’s still a problem.)

      3. @Bernie
        Thanks for the reply. I would caution against extrapolating too much from either data source, i.e., Census Bureau migration data and housing sales data. They are indeed connected but that connection is a complex one. You mention one such complicating factor, renters, but there are many others such as deaths and estate settlements, newly constructed housing units, family structure and cohabitation changes, etc. Here’s just one example. A family takes in an elderly parent or grandparent who can no longer live independently. Said elder owns their (previous) home and that property becomes a rental income-producing housing unit for the family. The end result is one definite migration and a possible second one (depending on when the rental unit goes on the market and where the tenant comes from) and no reported housing sale. Anyway, while your point is understood, I think it’s important to keep in mind what the data is actually measuring in each case and not to make too many extrapolations.

        I’m passing along the following related link since I think you and some others would enjoy reading it. I do hope that City Lab does a follow-up piece early next year so we have a better understanding of the trends.


      4. @Tisgwm I’ve seen similar analyses: the exodus from cities was small, it partly reversed in 2021, and most people moved within the metropolitan area or nearby region. San Francisco to Walnut Creek or Sacramento or Stockton isn’t that much of a move. The trend of the 2000s is Millenials and Z-ers moving back to cities, and anti-urbanists predicting they would switch to the suburbs are they get older and start families and become like the boomers. It’s still unclear how that will end up. The most we can say is that the suburbs may have increased a bit, but just a but.

        The homeless/crime problem in downtown Seattle is distinct from this. It may be causing suburbs to gain market share, but it’s for different reasons than the covid telework migration or people just getting tired of cities. And like the other migration, it’s small. Seattle’s population has not gone down noticeably. Some apartment buildings in SLU and downtown have many vacancies, but that’s localized to those buildings. And it’s inseperable from the large swath of new construction that came on the market all at once in the past few year, and their top-market prices that deter people. Any little change would have led to a large number of vacancies in those buildings anyway.

        The most worrying thing about housing now is, any pause inconstruction will create pent-up demand, that will cause prices to spike up. That happened during the Depression-WWII halt in construction, again in the 2008-2012 halt, and now it seems to be happening again. The housing shortage is so acute that any pause in construction causes prices to spike. Because people are still moving to the area, children are being born, young adults are moving to their own place, divorces and abusive spouses split one household into two, etc.

      5. Reading the Bloomberg CityLab link one thought came to mind. That is, the aging of America. As the article concludes, much of what’s happened since the start of the pandemic is a compression of what would have occurred over say 5-10 years instead of 1-2 years. It’s not just the pandemic that’s helped this along but the easy money policy of the fed and now mortgage rates that are substantially lower than inflation. Perversely, your best investment is debt.

        Also, as noted in the article, some very large and expensive urban areas, like SF, are seeing significant net decrease. CA as whole lost a congressional seat for the first time in history. Some of this can be attributed to the aging population; people retire and become snowbirds. Some of it is lack of migration and immigration. CA agriculture and industry is losing market share to foreign competition. Industry that remains like container shipping is becoming more and more automated. And the bay area is no longer the only game in town for tech.

  3. The digital displays at U-District Station seemed to be displaying train arrival times when I was there this evening.

  4. One thing we know about 2022 is that State Senator Doug Ericksen did not live long enough to reach it. After spending much of 2021 railing against public health policies designed to curb the spread of COVID-19, Ericksen ignored the official advice not to travel to El Salvador without being fully vaccinated. After testing positive while there and finding out El Salvador does not have access to a supply of monoclonal antibodies, he got a medivac flight to Florida. Once there, little was heard about his condition, or confirmation he was still there, until Friday’s announcement from the State Senate Republican Caucus that he had passed away.

    If you haven’t gotten vaccinated against COVID-19, please do. We don’t know much about how these vaccines will do against omicron, but we do know that most of the people dying of delta were unvaccinated, and that delta is still around and still spreading. Death from the delta variant was pretty much totally preventable in nearly all cases.

    We also know that masks are highly effective against the transmission of respiratory viruses. For now, they are the closest thing we’ve got to the universal respiratory coronavirus vaccine.

    1. btw, I am NOT a medical doctor. If you think you have a medical condition that contraindicates getting a vaccine, please seek advice from a trusted medical professional before acting on the above advice. But do seek that advice, as many of the reasons people give to not get vaccinated aren’t backed up by the medical professionals.

      Every major religion also supports the vaccines. If you have religious questions about the morality of a vaccine, talk to someone in your faith group’s leadership who has researched the questions you have. You might be surprised at their answer.

    2. I agree with you completely, Brent, but would like to add that there is very good evidence that receiving a booster provides good protection against infection from Omicron (likely close to what being “fully” vaccinated during Delta), in addition to excellent protection against serious disease. Get a booster if you haven’t already.

    1. Then the County or state or someone should make it easy to get booster shots.

      I’ve tried several times over the past few weeks to get a booster shot before Christmas vacation. The only appointments I found – at two places out of a couple dozen I checked – were the day before I leave, so I couldn’t take them for fear of side effects. And on top of that, I needed to go through each pharmacy’s questionnaire before they even let me see whether they had open slots.

      If the government believes everyone urgently needs to get a booster shot, they should make booster shots readily available.

      1. I think your point about overall ease of getting booster shots is valid. Anecdotally, I’ve heard several stories from friends and family members who experienced difficulties obtaining an appointment. I know when my spouse and I scheduled ours thru Costco Pharmacy in late November we did not experience this for ourselves, but we did notice that within a day of making our appointments that there were few openings to be found throughout Costco Pharmacy’s booking system. And recently one of my nieces, who is starting a new job and wanted to get her booster shot before her start date, also had some difficulty obtaining an appointment. So I guess the questions I have center around the cause(s) of this perceived bottleneck. Is the issue a matter of vaccine supply? Or is the problem simply one of limited pharmacy resources, e.g., staffing?

      2. I got my booster shot in mid-October but when I tried to make an appointment I had to go through a questionnaire which was not that difficult. When I completed that I found that the first appointment available at the U Village QFC Pharmacy was 2 weeks later which I took. When I got the shot the pharmacist who administered the shot said that they had been busy with people who wanted the booster shot but also other people getting their 1st or 2nd shot.

        So even back in October it was busy and now with the advent of the virus variant it is even busier now which is good with people getting vaccinated or others getting their booster shot.

      3. Followup: I tried to schedule a booster shot through Bartell’s Drugs for after I return from vacation, but I found out they didn’t even let me schedule it because I’m not in a specifically high-risk group!

        I sent an email to the state Department of Health complaining.

      4. I went to the Amazon SLU clinic for all my shots. It has a lot of capacity so you can probably get an appointment the same day. You may have to fill out the questionnaire before you can see which times are available, but it’s through Virginia Mason so I don’t mind as much as I would giving my information to a chain pharmacy.

      5. Public Health is chronically under-funded, and staff and health departments, hospitals and pharmacies are all burned out and many are simply quiting. Thats why you are struggling to get booster shots.

        The missed opportunity with the end in sight in the spring, if
        only we could have gotten up over 80% before delta, was a huge hit to the mental well being of health workers.

        They aren’t willing to work 12 hour days anymore. They arent willing to work weekends. They dont feel society is pulling in the same direction as they are, so why should they sacrifice themselves, their mental health, and they personal relationships.

        They are done.

      6. You could try getting the booster shot during your Christmas vacation in whatever city you’re flying to. Depending on the local politics over there, demand might be quite a bit less than over here.

        If anybody is visiting family in eastern WA, I would expect you to be able to walk in, get the shot, and walk out, with no lines, whatsoever.

      7. Strangely, I found it easier to schedule the first shot than the booster. Still haven’t been able to get the booster yet. I was using the King County scheduling web site, but it doesn’t really work anymore – the list of places near me with “appointments available” is really a list of places near me that do not, in fact, have any appointments available.

        I think I’m going to just get on the phone tomorrow and call every place I can, and see if anyone has availability that way.

      8. I’m guessing it is lack of available doses that is pushing booster appointments weeks out at Kaiser, and unavailable at the Seattle clinics, if you aren’t senior or immunocompromised. Regardless, I think the health care providers I doing the right thing by giving priority treatment to these two categories and having the rest of us cool our heels.

        Getting first and second shots into arms, including the pediatric doses, remains higher on the triage list.

        Also, Moderna is hinting they might offer booster doses at full strength instead of half, based on lab results for immune system response. They’re also moving forward with the testing of an omicron-specific booster, but omicron is going to be everywhere before that can get through the FDA process.

        Learn to love your masks.

      9. Not sure about King, but here in Pierce it is staffing. Plenty of doses. The executive gave us only a fraction of our needed budget. We can’t hire and retain people when we can only promise them a month or 3 of employment.

        King is substantially richer, so they are likely doing better, but not great. You still need qualified people to jab you.

      10. Public Health is chronically under-funded, and staff and health departments, hospitals and pharmacies are all burned out and many are simply quiting. Thats why you are struggling to get booster shots.

        Bingo. Healthcare in the good ol’ USA is mainly for-profit and is definitely run as such. Staffing the bare minimum for normal times ensured more profit, but had the negative feedback loop of people quitting when the bare minimum wasn’t even close to enough during a global pandemic. The medical industry is not able to adjust quickly in both capacity and labor. It’s similar, but different to the “just in time” manufacturing that’s collapsing global supply chains worldwide.

        I know a few friends that are pharmacists and there’s plenty of vaccine supply (both initial and boosters). With local pharmacies, there’s typically one pharmacist on staff that is authorizes to give shots. Availability of appointments is limited to allow the pharmacist to have time fill prescriptions as well. There’s not enough money to be made from shots, so it’s not worth it for most pharmacies to bring in additional staff.

      11. The chickens are coming home to roost after decades of low pay, long hours, unstable schedules, and sometimes no benefits or sick leave. Another thing is the retirement of the baby boomers, and people close to retirement age that are retiring earlier. If you want motivated healthcare workers, restaurant workers, grocery-store clerks, truck drivers, teachers, etc, you have to pay them a living wage. And not pretend that they can afford the median rent or house price, or that the below-median and subsidized units aren’t full.

    2. The King County covid dashboard shows the omicron spike has started. The 7-day average was hovering along at 32-45% of the August 29 peak, but shot up December 12th and is now at 79% of peak. Hospitalizations and deaths are still low at 26% and 27% of peak. (The charts no longer show before August 25 or last year so I can’t compare the previous peaks. I couldn’t find the data elsewhere on the site, so I wrote to the county and asked them to put it back online.)

      Seattle was hovering at 40-60% of the 8/29 peak, and shot up December 12th and has now reached the peak peak. Hospitalizations and deaths are still low, at 27% and 23% of their September peaks.

      I don’t think it’s just vaccine refusal. Omicron is more transmissible, vaccines are weaker against omicron infection, the call for everyone to get a booster was very recent, some people are having trouble getting appointments, mask wearing is more lax, schools are open, large entertainment events are open, people travel interstate and internationally, December holiday gatherings have started, etc. Several cases were traced to a set of wrestling tournaments early this month. Western Washington has been pretty good about vaccines relative to the rest of the country. Part of it is just inevitable like delta was. If you don’t close the border like Australia did, or have high lockdown/mask compliance like Taiwan or South Korea, omicron will inevitably get in and spike like delta did.

  5. You can get shots here. It may take some minor effort, and there are a few barrier that shouldn’t exist that do, but there are plenty of clinics giving shots. You may have to wait a few hours if you go on a weekend, but if you take some time off on a weekday, and do a little bit of legwork, you can get your shot.

    Try your GP. Try the health department’s websites. Pierce is running multiple clinics a day. I’m sure King is to. I recommend an appointment, but it’s not necessarry. Show up and you will almost certainly leave with a booster in your arm


    It’s not as easy as it should be, I agree. I’m trying to fix that, in Pierce. But it’s still pretty easy with a modicum of legwork.

    Reach out if you want to come slum it in Pierce, and are struggling to navigate the system.

    1. Oy veh! For someone that part (most?) of the city council already considers a right wing apologist this really isn’t going to make him any friends. Why pick this fight now? At least get the West Seattle Bridge wrapped up before changing horses.

      Besides, Zimbabwe actually was shift more focus back to the cities roads and bridges. He just had years of apathy to outright hostility to overcome.

    2. That’s one tweet and Erica’s interpretation of why he was removed. I hadn’t heard Zimbabwe was the most anti-car SDOT director we’ve ever had. If that was the case, transit activists completely missed it. We thought Zimbabwe was just an ordinary, competent director, somewhat pro-urban as any good city director is, but not waging the war on cars to end all wars on cars. I hesitate to question Erica because she heavily fact-checks, but this may be an overreaction. And Harrell SAID during the campaign that he’s a longtime major transit activist. Well, Harrell, which way is it?

      I’m not particularly worried Harrell will shut the door on transit/bike/ped improvements. I expect Seattle will continue through in its lame way, like it was under Durkin.

      1. Let’s see who he namesvas SDOT head. He won on the votes of folks who probably aren’t pro bike, Pedersen supporters, not urbanists ECB follow-up tweet suggests he is proEV, so hopefully he puts more charging stations or give condo owners more rights to demand charging in their garages.

      2. I see transit, bicycle and pedestrian improvements as different things. Often, improving one doesn’t significantly affect the other two (except for many pedestrian improvements).

      3. I didn’t see the quote in Erica’s tweet in the link to Harrell’s site or in the public announcement quoted in The Urbanist, including the quoted section on balanced transportation and the importance of cars and EV’s (which other than carbon emissions are the same structurally). So like Mike states, this is probably her interpretation of the very public firing of Zimbabwe, and statement he will look outside SDOT for a replacement, which suggests Harrell has issues with the SDOT dept. and wants a complete revamp.

        I am not sure what a more “balanced” transportation plan actually means, and don’t know which constituency is driving this. But I can guess.

        The downtown business and retail associations are likely driving this decision. It doesn’t help that the Seattle Times has a front-page article today comparing construction in Bellevue to Seattle. From speaking to Seattle commercial agents occupancy is way down in Seattle, and occupancy is the long-term bellwether whereas construction is often a lagging indicator because the permitting is completed years before.

        Bellevue takes the approach it does not have an issue with folks driving to downtown Bellevue, as long as the cars are out of sight and underground. Developers claim they can’t afford all the underground parking, but it turns out of course they can, although Seattle bought into this based on ideology. The Seattle Council has waged a war on cars, and it hurts retail and commercial downtown enterprises when you have Bellevue across the lake with a lower tax base.

        Of course, nothing has been better for cars than the pandemic and WFH, even with all the empty bike lanes and buses. There is no traffic congestion (which hurts tolls and HOT lane revenue), there is plenty of parking in downtown Seatle, and prices for parking have declined. We drivers may look back at these days as the golden days of driving.

        But for downtown Seattle merchants hopefully that passes and we get back to having tens of thousands of commuters and shoppers coming into downtown, with safe and clean streets ready to revitalize the downtown. Public safety, homelessness, crime, and downtown vibrancy are the issues Harrell won on, along with SFH neighborhoods. Those five issues killed Gonzales.

        For me, this comes down to parking. Shoppers and diners like “obvious” parking, even if it is not free (and the competition across the lake has free parking for shoppers). People who drive simply spend more than those who take transit, even when transit is seen as safe. SDOT could do much better on the operation of downtown streets and light sequencing, and maybe Harrell wants someone who is going to consider cars in the equation.

        But what is needed is more parking that is reasonably priced if downtown businesses want more shoppers and restaurant goers. You can’t have 90% of regional trips by car but design a downtown retail center for the 10% who take transit and spend less. Of course any kind of downtown revitalization begins with office occupancy in the future, which depends on WFH and public safety, and that will be a very hard trend to reverse.

        It would be great if Harrell’s focus was on the $3.5 billion in unfunded bridge repair and maintenance, but like Bernie notes Zimbabwe arrived in 2019 and inherited this mess from an irresponsible council (and citizenry). You don’t wait until the W. Seattle bridge has to be closed to perform repairs, because you spend the same amount — or more because everything is rushed — but have a bridge closed for two years. The council raised the car tab fee to raise $7.5 million/year in order to bond it to raise around $70 million, but the council needs to be allocating closer to $70 million every year for bridges, for 30 years, and that comes from the transportation fund.

        And then there is the looming operations deficits for Metro and ST. At some point running transit at 50% estimated ridership requires a levy, or reductions in service, or higher fares.

        I would also hope the street car along 1st is killed. That is the epitome of SDOT IMO.

        Harrell takes over a city in triage. He needs to focus first and foremost on business, because business pays the bills. Complete the convention center, clean up the streets, bring back the tourists, retain the commercial tenants, create more obvious parking for folks visiting Seattle to shop and dine, and somehow find the money to fix the bridges, and hope the retail and dining vibrancy returns. Those are the nuts and bolts of running a city, something the council is clueless about.

        Seattle has all the advantages, including the cruise industry and port. If Harrell cleans up the streets and addresses crime my guess is the revitalization will begin in the office space and commuter sectors, which will trickle down to the retail and dining, if there is adequate parking. The last thing Harrell needs now is some big fight over SFH zoning or more bike lanes. None of the bicycle groups endorsed Harrell, so don’t expect a seat at the table. Transit is a critical infrastructure; bikes are not.

      4. Downtown Seattle already has tons of parking. There are even signs telling drivers how many empty spaces there are in each of the major garages. The only thing left to make the parking more obvious is to destroy downtown altogether by tearing down entire skyscrapers and replacing them with surface lots.

      5. “I am not sure what a more “balanced” transportation plan actually means,”

        I still don’t understand it either. The original quote as posted by East Coast Cynic in the December 17th open thread was, “We must create a balanced transportation ecosystem – increasing safety and decreasing travel times by bolstering transit, improving sidewalks, protecting bike lanes, and recognizing the role of cars and new electric vehicles.”

        (NB Bernie: I searched for a Seattle Times article but couldn’t find one, the first several sources were the Seattle Bike Blog, the Urbanist, Reddit, Twitter, a city council thank-you to Zimbabwe, and the STB comment itself. The first four I don’t see as more reliable than STB.)

        “Recognizing the role of cars” could mean either more deference to cars or less deference to them, or one program priority or another. So it’s unclear whether he’ll increase or decrease the role of cars, or how much in either direction. So it’s premature to panic, and we may be pleasantly surprised.

        Electric vehicles are in the same situation: the statement could mean anything so it really means nothing. We should begin transitioning to an electric-vehicle infrastructure. That eventually means ubiquidous charging stations, maybe even 2:3 to apartment parking spaces, because how else will the cars get charged? But we mustn’t put all our resources into electric cars and preserving GP lanes and parking lanes, and neglect transit, bike-lane expansion, or pedestrian improvements. It’s not clear which of these Harrell wants to do. Time will tell.

      6. Downtown had surplus parking even during the Seahawks celebration and the Women’s March. If those didn’t fill up the spaces, it’s hard to think of what would. It’s not that downtown has too little parking, it’s that much of it is in garages, and the people who are complaining want low-cost street parking instead. But large cities have garages, because they’re large cities and surface parking doesn’t scale.

        “The Seattle Council has waged a war on cars”

        Go to Paris and London if you want to see a war on cars. Paris and a few other cities are actively removing a hundred or two parking spaces per year on principle, to expand BRT lanes, bike paths, and sidewalks. London has a peripheral congestion toll, and the money goes to transit alternatives. Seattle has done none of this. The only bus-lane conversions downtown were to cope with buses vacating the tunnel and the unprecedented ridership growth in the mid 2000s that has led to 3rd Avenue having the most buses on one street in the country.

        Surplus office space downtown is not a bad thing: it means space is immediately available when new companies inevitably come, without more construction. Central Seattle has had an unprecedented amount of construction the past two decades, and I’m tired of going around closed sidewalks and bus stops, so a reprieve would be nice The losers are the building owners, but that’s their shareholders’ problem.

        “Bellevue takes the approach it does not have an issue with folks driving to downtown Bellevue, as long as the cars are out of sight and underground. ”

        So it’s OK for Bellevue to force cars into garages but it’s not OK for Seattle to? And they’re not out of sight and underground when they’re moving or entering the garage.

        “what is needed is more parking that is reasonably priced if downtown businesses want more shoppers and restaurant goers.”

        We can’t have a sustainable society when the true cost of parking is hidden from drivers and paid by everybody except the one currently in the parking space. This is why we need robust alternatives to driving, so that people can get around conveniently without driving. Like in German, Swiss, Dutch, and Danish cities, both large ones like Seattle and small like Bellevue and Kent.

        “There is no traffic congestion”

        That doesn’t help people who can’t afford to drive, are too elderly or disabled to drive, are under age 16, or don’t want to drive. And for climate and environmental reasons we must have robust alternatives to driving.

        “Public safety, homelessness, crime, and downtown vibrancy are the issues Harrell won on”

        None of that has to do with car policy, except in the sense that a high volume of cars decreases liveability and vibrancy.

        “It would be great if Harrell’s focus was on the $3.5 billion in unfunded bridge repair and maintenance”

        Hopefully he will address that. But the thing with bridge replacement and repair is, you also need to improve bus/bike/ped access, not just rebuild it exactly as it was. That’s where the opposition to just replacing bridges or directing most of the resources to bridge and road maintenance comes from. The 520 bridge was originally built with no sidewalk or HOV lanes. That was a mistake that needed to be corrected in a rebuild.

        “bring back the tourists”

        The tourists have been back since last summer, as has hotel occupancy. It’s office workers and people going to events who are still missing.

        “Transit is a critical infrastructure; bikes are not.”

        Bikes could play a major role in transportation with the right infrastructure. There is some attrition from transit to biking and walking in that case, and that’s a good thing. Bikes use less resources and space than almost any transportation technology, and its infrastructure is cheap. Here, I’m rereading “Walkable City” by Jeff Speck, and I got to the bike chapter yesterday: In Portland, “for the cost of one mile of freeway — about $50 million — we’ve built 275 miles of bikeways.”. Or this: “The typical bike lane handles five to ten times the traffic volume of a car lane twice its width.” and, “Ten bikes can park in the space of a single car.” And, “In Amsterdam, a city of 783,000, about 400,000 people are out riding their bikes on any given day…. School buses are uncommon… 95% of ten-to-twelve-year-olds bicycle to school at least some of the time… Fully 27% of all trips [in The Netherlands] are made on bicycle.” (All in the Step 6 chapter.)

        “None of the bicycle groups endorsed Harrell, so don’t expect a seat at the table.”

        I hope he’s mayor for all Seattlites, not just those who voted for him. It was a close choice between two people, or three or four in the primary, and people could only choose one.

      7. Here’s a good rebuttal to the Daniel Thompson premise that businesses succeed or fail, solely on ease of driving and parking, and that people who walk or bike are meaningless: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-12-08/for-store-owners-bike-lanes-boost-the-bottom-line

        – Many business owners tend to assume that a much higher percentage of their customers arrive by car than actually do.
        – While drivers do tend to spend more money per trip, non-drivers tend to make up for this by making more trips.
        – Removal of parking for bike lanes in other cities’ business districts did not create the apocolypse for local businesses that many feared.

      8. Two of Portland’s most thriving retail areas are NW 23rd and inner SE Hawthorne-Belmont. As areas that came to exist around streetcar lines built from the 1880s-1910s, they never had much parking.

        Few places in inner Portland have as much parking as Lloyd Center. It’s had a death spiral and plans are to demolish it and redevelop it soon.

        So it definitely seems to be the lived experience here.

      9. I drove to the CBD this weekend for the first time since maybe 2015 this weekend. What a stressful, unpleasant nightmare. A far cry from my usual experience of getting off the bus or train, and having plenty of time to walk around and get something to eat before the show or game. The process of driving through densetraffic frantically looking for parking consumed all of our time, and ended up eating chips and gummies for dinner. Never again.

        If we were on foot or bike, we would have had plenty of time to enjoy a meal or shop.

        There are a number of studies that support bike lanes and a walkable district is an important factor allowing business to thrive.

      10. Are you willing to park in a garage? There are usually hundreds of spaces open, and there are displays on the streets telling which garages have how many spaces open.

      11. Getting off at olive, i saw nothing of the sort. It simply took a while to figure out how to even find the entrance to the garage down at 7th and pine.

        20 minutes of circling and then another 15 to insert and extract yourself from the the molton core of the earth.

        Doable, just not pleasant. Too many cars in one one place. Honestly we should just cordon off the CBD to cars so noone is tempted to make my mistake.

      12. To be fair asdf2 misstated my post. I was discussing with Mike what Erica’s tweet might mean, and what Harrell means by better balancing transportation, and ensuring cars are part of the mix (if Harrell said that). My hunch is retailers and commercial property owners will have a bigger say in a Harrell administration, and discussed what I thought they will advocate for.

        Of course those walking to retail are an important subgroup of shoppers, whether it is Bellevue or downtown Seattle. I never said they were not. The key there is population density, because the ultimate key is retail density. I am not sure what kind of population density Seattle has around Westlake. I also don’t know how that is counted. If I drive to work, but then go shopping, did I drive or walk? Has the absence of commuters who don’t walk to downtown Seattle but may shop there hurt retail, and are they considered walkers even though they may live in Issaquah?

        I also stated I think transit is critical infrastructure because of the number of people using transit. The number of actual bike trips in Seattle, let alone to shop at downtown retail shops, is very small. I don’t see bike lanes to Costco.

        The link from asdf2 is pretty skinny on examples, and as the link noted for eons retailers have disfavored bike lanes in lieu of more parking. Some question the conclusions reached from the example in Toronto. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/650443 Even the pro bike group who wrote this article is fairly non-committal about the benefits to local retail — especially in a downtown core — from more bike lanes. I think this kind of analysis, and advocates, will probably have a smaller seat in a Harrell administration, which was the ultimate point of my post.

        Cam’s experience was exactly what I was describing about “obvious” parking. He was willing to pay (and parking compared to two round trip transit fares is not that much different) but he couldn’t FIND parking.

        It doesn’t have to be street parking; in fact Bellevue has almost no street parking. But it has lots of obvious underground parking. Even just an app with available underground parking around Westlake (which as Mike notes exists today in pretty significant numbers) and easy directions to the parking would avoid the frustration Cam went through, because it is the frustration of finding parking. It isn’t like the technology isn’t there already considering Google has mapped the world.

        I think Erica’s tweet if accurate means retailers and commercial property owners will have a bigger seat at the table. They have historically favored more parking over bikes, and I doubt the example from asdf2 will sway them. I think they will object to street changes that they see as ideological, but that they see as detrimental to their businesses. I guess bike advocates can prove them wrong, but the burden will now be on the bike advocates. Harrell cannot afford to lose any more downtown retail businesses.

        But at the same time Harrell has much bigger problems then just car or bike access. Right now, the retail area has too little retail density, and as a quasi-outdoor mall it does not have the street scene to attract a lot of shoppers. But that is a symptom. Harrell and the retailers have a lot of work to do before bikes vs. street parking — or more obvious parking — become main issues for downtown Seattle retail. If there is no place safe downtown to leave your bike while you shop that suggests bigger problems than bike lanes.

      13. “The key there is population density, because the ultimate key is retail density. I am not sure what kind of population density Seattle has around Westlake. I also don’t know how that is counted. If I drive to work, but then go shopping, did I drive or walk? Has the absence of commuters who don’t walk to downtown Seattle but may shop there hurt retail, and are they considered walkers even though they may live in Issaquah?”

        There are many complex issues here. The most useful measure is population-weighted density (not population density), which counts how many people are within a short distance of each person. That accurately describes people’s experience: that most of Manhattan is pretty high density, and most of Los Angeles is not. If you use only average density, you come to absurd conclusions like “Los Angeles is denser than New York City”. That’s not what people feel on the ground or why urbanists flock to New York City and shun Los Angeles. New York and Chicago have large high-density neighborhoods, which is what city-loving people and walkers want. But their average number is dragged down by their low-density suburbs and lower-density outer boroughs. Los Angeles and San Jose have more medium density everywhere. New York’s density is spiky, while Los Angeles’ and San Jose’s density is more even. But people don’t live in citywide averages, they live and shop in specific neighborhoods. What they’re looking for is whether the half-mile around them is dense or undense, walkable or unwalkable. Population-weighted density gets at that the closest, but is unfortunately not a common measure in the media.

        When I say density, I usually mean either the number of housing units, or how many and how diverse the businesses/services and people around you are. Downtown Seattle has high overall density but low residential density, but each resident is in a dense multifamily building. So it’s high in one sense but low in another.

        From a population-weighted density perspective, somebody from Issaquah who parks in a garage, walks a couple blocks to a shop, and walks to a couple other shops or stops in Westlake Park before going back home, is mostly a walker I would think. Some cities have garages at the edge of their retail center and ban cars within it, and this person from Issaquah parking in a garage and walking to several buildings is similar to that.

        Conversely, if they park in Pacific Place and take the elevator up to the movie theater, they’re not much different than a Bellevue Square shopper, so I’d call them a driver. And if they came by bus and walked a couple blocks to a shop and back to the bus stop, I’d call them a transit rider, even though they did walk a couple blocks. But I’m not sure if that’s how the academics count it.

        The issue of walking downtown is not really to downtown but within downtown. Only a few people can walk to downtown.

        “I don’t see bike lanes to Costco.”

        There aren’t many bike lanes anywhere. Downtown has only a few, and some of them end at an arbitrary block and don’t connect to the others. That’s what the bike-network vision wants to fix. I biked to Costco SODO when I had a bike, and put groceries on my rack, and rode all the way through downtown on the way. (On 2nd, 4th, and Westlake before the bike lanes or streetcar. 4th downtown was the most unsafe street in the city because of the volume of medium-speed cars right next to you. 4th Ave S was all right because of the wide shoulders, so it didn’t really need a bike lane, and it would be a strange place to put it because the predominant usage is industrial trucks.)

        “Even the pro bike group who wrote this article is fairly non-committal about the benefits to local retail — especially in a downtown core — from more bike lanes.”

        It depends on other aspects of the city and the prevailing public attitudes. Bikes can bring a major increase in business, and “Walkable City” has examples. But it depends on the neighborhood’s walkability, diversity of destinations, retailers’ attitudes, and the public’s attitudes. All those can strengthen or weaken the bike-retail effect. But we’re a long way from that one-line tweet or Harrell’s position or the Downtown Seattle Association’s positions, so I think we’ll have to leave the merits of downtown-bike expansion on retail as unknowable until er get more information.

        increasing bike-retail downtown is not a priority for me. But completing the bike network downtown in general is a priority, because it affects not only people biking to downtown shops, but people biking through downtown because it’s in the middle of many corridors. Seattle is an X centered on downtown, so many trips go through it. Both my former U-District to Costco and U-District to the Bainbridge ferry, and my current Capitol Hill to Costco and Capitol Hill to Uptown. And if I’m going through downtown sometimes I’ll stop to eat, shop, or go to the library.

        “Cam’s experience was exactly what I was describing about “obvious” parking. He was willing to pay (and parking compared to two round trip transit fares is not that much different) but he couldn’t FIND parking.”

        Yes, and now that we know he wanted a garage but couldn’t find one, we can ask whether Stewart Street needs a parking display or better wayfinding to the garages. I’m not a driver so I don’t understand these things. I just see the displays somewhere, maybe on 4th Avenue? I don’t know if they’re everywhere drivers need them. And I have long thought the wayfinding should be better. It doesn’t help to know the WAC has 75 spaces if you don’t know where the WAC is.

      14. The thing about parking displays is, we don’t know how many drivers are like Cam and just want convenient garage information, vs how many shun garages because street parking is cheaper or going into a garage adds overhead. That’s something we’d need to know to strategize better: do we focus on improving the garage signs and apps, or on convincing people that street parking for everybody is unrealistic and impossible.

      15. The thing about bike lanes, the whole premise of bikes vs. cars is a false one, anyway. Even if not one person ever rides in the bike lane, it’s mere presence increases separation between the sidewalk and the street and discourages speeding by narrowing the road. This means a more pleasant environment for people walking from store to store, including those who get to the first store by driving.

        By contrast, the extra car lane doesn’t even benefit drivers except in periods of bad traffic congestion, which is largely confined to rush hour. During off peak hours, unnecessarily wide streets invites drivers to drive too fast, but provides zero benefit to those who wish to obey the speed limit.

        So, to the extent that a more pleasant walking environment helps drive business by encouraging people to walk from store to store vs. shop at one store and immediately get back in the car to go home, bike lanes are already good for business, even if zero bikes actually ride in them. Whatever additional business results from customers actually riding in the bike lanes is just an added bonus.

      16. asdf2, have you never used a turn lane or a passing lane?

        The ‘make streets more pleasant’ is a general argument for a road diet, not a specific argument for a bike lane. There are many ways to use the space created by removing a lane or making vehicle lanes narrower; bike lanes are just one option.

      17. That’s true. But, once you’re already road dieting a street, the bar for how much bicycle use you need to justify making the space a bike lane vs. a patch of grass or a wider sidewalk is very low. Especially since a painted bike lane is usually the cheapest use of the space anyway, since it’s just paint, and doesn’t require any curb work.

  6. The Snohomish County Council recently took advantage of legislation passed in Olympia last year to increase the local sales tax rate by .1% to address the lack of affordable housing in the county.

    This was a councilmanic measure. It passed 3-2.

    The ordinance is countywide and thus will increase sales tax rates across all communities within the county. Certain communities, like Lynnwood, Mill Creek and the SnoCo portion of Bothell, will see their rate increase to 10.6%, the highest rate in the state.

    My rate here in unincorporated Edmonds will increase to 10.5%.



    1. King Co. also adopted the 1/10th of one percent sales tax increase for emergency housing, but missed the deadline of Sept. 30, 2021, which allowed cities in King Co. to opt out of the County tax and adopt their own sales tax increase for their own housing funds. I think that raised our total sales tax rate to 10.1%.

      I believe every eastside city except Mercer Island (which missed the deadline) opted out of King County’s sales tax increase because there is a lot of mistrust between King Co. and eastside cities about how to spend the money, and the approaches to take when it comes to homelessness, especially if King Co. plans to use the sales tax from cities to buy distressed hotels in those cities and move the homeless there.

      It is an interesting debate whether housing must precede treatment as King Co. now believes (hotel room), or treatment must begin with housing (congregate shelter, enhanced shelter room, subsidized housing depending on sobriety or work), but the reality is that at $65,000/year per hotel room King Co.’s hotel policy is not sustainable, although it is much quicker at removing the homeless from parks and streets than the traditional shelter migration.

      Whether it is an enhanced shelter room or hotel room, unless at least some of the homeless are rehabilitated to the point where they can contribute 30%, 50%, 80% or 100% toward their housing costs the “migration” from the street bogs down, and agencies run out of money. The folks most disadvantaged are those left on the streets because all the hotel rooms and shelter cots are filled, and those stuck in shelter cots or mats because the enhanced shelter rooms are filled.

      The best approach I have read is to use housing vouchers for the homeless without addiction or mental health issues to free up the shelter beds and hotel rooms for the others (although I am not sure a landlord would accept a voucher today with the eviction moratoria), except then you are transferring untreated homeless to other cities. My guess is Harrell was planning on forcing the homeless in parks and on streets into congregate shelters, which is what they did in the past, but the Omicron variant might complicate that.

      1. Thanks for the reply, Dan. The pushback the council here is getting now is the manor in which this increase occurred, i.e., a councilmanic measure, that ensured its passage. The council took advantage of the changes made to the existing statute allowing this taxing authority with the state legislature’s passage of HB 1590 last year. Several folks I’ve spoken to already view this as an end-around play and they are not happy about it. As I’m writing this, I’m still waiting to hear back from my district’s council representative.

        Simply scroll down to the bill as passed to read the changes made by the legislation.


      2. I wish they’d put as much energy into eliminating homelessness as they do to complaining about a concilmanic measure.

      3. No Mike, the citizens pay the same 1/10th of 1% sales tax whether it goes to the city housing fund or King Co. The cities don’t think King Co. has wisely spent its revenue for emergency housing and they can do better. Hard to argue with them.

        Plus there is the fundamental disagreement between Eastside cities and King Co. over the hotel vs. shelter approach, and the feeling King Co. is simply a proxy for Seattle, and Seattle policies have contributed to the problem in Seattle. It isn’t a regional problem in their view, it is a Seattle problem, and hopefully Harrell addresses it because that is why he was elected.

        I am not here to debate whether that is correct, but it is how Eastside cities feel, and it is their money.

        Had King Co. enacted the tax by Sept. 30 cities would not have had the option to opt out. Personally I think it is time to split King Co. into two separate counties.

      4. The program only started last year; King County had hardly time to do anything when the cities opted out. They pay the same amount but it goes to parochial city programs, which generally exclude non-city residents, and some of which at this early stage appear to be headed toward ineffectiveness, either because they’re too small or because nimbys sabotage the siting of services.

        Splitting the county or state is not going to go anywhere. Different people want a different boundary, and in fifty years the issues and the positions of the cities may be different and they’ll wish they had a different arrangement or hadn’t split.

    2. In other words, the cities are opting out in order to not take the homeless problem seriously, or to house only their own homeless populations. But it’s a regional problem and needs to be addressed regionally, with all cities doing their fair share. Homeless people from the suburbs have historically migrated to downtown Seattle because that’s where most of the services and support are, and they faced hostile conditions in their burb. So Renton complaining about King County leasing a Renton hotel for non-Renton homeless misses the point that some of the hotel residents may have originally come from Renton before they migrated to Seattle. Even if they didn’t, the suburbs need to have homeless resources in proportion to the city’s total population in the county. We can make exceptions for tiny towns like Beaux Arts or remote isolated towns like Fall City (no bus service except 2-hour weekday-only shuttle), but not for large cities like Renton or Kirkland. There shouldn’t have been an opt-out, but now that there is, the suburbs need to be part of the regional solution and not just weasle out of it by saying they’ll only take their own homeless or by not getting around to providing the services because nimbys oppose it.

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