273 Replies to “Montreal (Not So) Missing Middle Housing”

  1. A few things worth noting about Montreal. First — and this is objective — it is a very beautiful city. I’ve visited many times, and found it especially attractive. Second, with this much density, lots of people take transit. Prior to the pandemic, roughly 2.3 million people a day rode transit, with about a third of that on the Metro. Third, it is relatively affordable. So much so that it is an example of affordability for housing advocates. For all those reasons, I believe it is a model for Seattle, and hope that we evolve to be more like Montreal.

    1. Just came back from Montreal on a short visit, I agree with Ross’s observation, a really beautiful city. It was so nice to take the metro and buses to various destinations, using a 3-day pass (CAD 21.25) for both modes. Unusual rubber tires on trains, I thought they would be quieter but are actually quite noisy in the tunnels, I can’t recall enough of my experience in Paris metro, tunnels from a long-ago vacation, to compare the noise levels, but Tokyo’s rail lines didn’t strike me as being as loud.

      Other comparisons: I still prefer Pike Place to their public markets. More people ride bikes there. Food was great and a bargain with the current exchange rate. Staying downtown near Old Montreal is the way to go, and probably more welcoming than Seattle’s downtown. I’ll leave out my Chinatown experience for another reply in this thread.

      1. The noise level of different transit systems varies so strikingly. Tokyo’s trains are, indeed, quiet compared to most other cities. I’ve noticed that in the US, systems that are aimed at the middle class (such as suburban trains) are much quieter than systems aimed at the poor (such as urban buses).

      2. I though BART was the loudest metro I’ve ever experienced. That may be based on what you expect. You expect the New York Subway to rattle and shake, but man, BART was loud.

      3. BART also messed up and accepted a bid on new doors a few decades ago that did not meet sound insulation specifications. They kept the problem very quiet. BART accepted the doors because they were desperate to replace the existing ones that were constantly failing.

        It’s situations like this why any rail transit operator needs to have an experienced rail operations manager. It’s much harder to actually run a system rather than to dream on up and draw pretty pictures and talk in grandiose terms.

      4. Marconi Express in Bolonga, Italy from the central train station to the airport for me. But it’s also from how janky the darn thing was as the cab listed side to side as it moved. Not worth the 17€ it costs round trip either.

    2. Did you visit the suburbs – Laval, Longueil, etc. – or just central Montreal? If you did I think you would find the suburbs typical low density and car dominated. Montreal also suffers from having several different transit providers that are not really coordinated – you probably rode on the buses and subways of STM, but there is also STL and RTL providing buses in the northern and southern suburbs respectively, and EXO, which currently provides commuter train and some suburban bus service and soon will provide light rail service as well. These suburban transit services generally don’t have terribly good headways.

      Yes, Montreal is affordable for the same reasons that places like Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh are affordable. I doubt you would want to make Seattle more affordable and more like Montreal by sending high paying jobs to other cities, which is what happened in the 1970s in Montreal when French language laws drove large companies to relocate their headquarters from Montreal to Toronto. But yes, Montreal is a beautiful city, well worth a visit, and is what I imagine Detroit looked like before it was destroyed by redlining, white flight, and rioting.

      1. No, Montreal is not affordable for the same reason Detroit is affordable. Quite the opposite. Montreal is dense — Detroit is not. Detroit is essentially a giant suburb with a tiny center city. Montreal is basically a big city, with a few surrounding suburbs (which I have visited, however briefly). Detroit is also shrinking. While Montreal had a downturn (like Seattle) it has rebounded. The city has added 100,000 people in the last 30 years.

        The idea that you need to have a collapsing local economy to have affordable housing flies in the face of all evidence and various examples. Tokyo is quite affordable, and continues to grow as people from the countryside move to the big city. Since 1950 it has added 6 million people. It added 2 million in the last 20 years. Yet it continues to be affordable. What these cities have in common (in the article I mentioned) is not that they are struggling financially, it is that they have been allowed to add a huge amount of housing.

      2. You are correct Chris: average median income (AMI) is the biggest factor determining the cost of living for cities, including/especially housing.

        You and another person on this blog familiar with Montreal have pointed out the obvious: many areas of Montreal — especially off Island — have the same suburban SFH zoning and density as a U.S city.

        The irony is the video in this article was first posted in another thread. At the time I pointed out the housing in the video is pretty undense. Basically former industrial buildings that are two or three stories, often with large back yards. Just about every non—SFH zone in this region is zoned for greater density, from UGA’s to multi-family to the Mercer Island town center to downtown Bellevue.

        I also posted a link that again shows the obvious: Montreal’s AMI is 14.5% below ALL of Canada including the rural areas, and less than 50% of Seattle’s.

        Tokyo also proves this point. Average net take home salary in Tokyo after taxes is $2671/mo. whereas in Seattle it is $6,325/mo. Which is why mortgage payments to income ratios in Tokyo are 71.04% and 38.6% in Seattle. Plus Tokyo is huge and comparing housing costs that includes a two hour train ride to downtown Tokyo is like including S. King Co. in Seattle’s housing costs.

        What Tokyo has done is create “affordable” housing by reducing GFA. I noted an article in The Seattle Times in which a new housing unit is 95sf. Total.

        I will skip explaining that the cost of new housing which is necessary to implement new zoning makes it the least affordable per sf. The myth is there is a housing shortage in this region which is not borne out by the facts. Virtually every city in the four county PSRC zone can meet their GMPC housing targets without any changes to their zoning through 2044.

        There is a lack of affordable housing, but at 0% to 30% AMI we are talking about supportive housing for folks with no income. That is a different issue. Either you publicly subsidize the housing — very expensive — or you build 95 sf units.

        There are many on this blog who simply dislike SFH zones, which is their right. But upzoning SFH zones won’t create affordable housing, and is not necessary for cities to meet their GMPC housing targets, so they have no intention of doing so. Personally I like the zone in the video, although a city like Seattle would have to carve it out from a UGA zone, and commercial property owners hate downzones. To bad Pioneer Square did become more vibrant retail wise, but without safe streets forget about retail, unless you like shopping along 3rd Ave.

        At the same time I also posted that Toronto’s housing prices have declined 17% this year. Was there a flood of new housing? No. The cost of money for the builder and buyer went up. Seattle’s housing prices are also cooling, except the AMI in this area and especially on the Eastside is still around number 4 in the U.S.

        If housing density were the magic bullet Manhattan wouldn’t have the highest housing prices in the U.S.

      3. “The myth is there is a housing shortage in this region which is not borne out by the facts.”

        Then why are rents/prices rising so rapidly? They didn’t do that in the 80s and 90s. Then 2003 they started rising 5-10% per year when inflation was only 2%. They took a dip in 2008 when people moved away, then in the Amazon boom they started rising faster than ever before, sometimes more than 10% in one year. That coincided with more people competing for each unit, apartments going in 1-3 days instead of weeks, houses selling in 1-6 weeks instead of six months, people overbidding in order to get the unit, etc. If that’s not a housing shortage, what is it?

      4. Mike, rents and housing prices began to increase because AMI increased. If all the new folks who moved to Seattle were low income, housing prices would not have increased faster than inflation.

        You are confusing housing availability with housing affordability. The GMPC housing targets — which I think will end up inflated — are easily accommodated by cities in the four county region without any changes to zoning.

        The zoning from Seattle’s UGA’s to Mercer Island to Kitsap Co. is there, although someone needs to build to that zoning, and right now builders are not building. If you are at Seattle’s AMI, now $115,000, you don’t have a housing affordability issue, even if you must or insist on living alone.

        You begin your housing affordability issue in 2002. In 2008 through 2014-15 housing values plummeted. We will see the same over the next several years, but this time because of the cost of money. AMI and the cost of money determine housing affordability. The zoning already exists in one of the largest four county areas in the U.S. for zillions of housing units.

        Most regional cities and unincorporated areas now realize they can meet their GMPC housing targets with no changes to their zoning. Urbanism in this region is struggling for totally different reasons than SFH zones, at least in Seattle.

        Affordable housing is a tough nut to crack. As asdf2 asked, so people with no income and maybe some terrible life choices get 100% subsidized housing paid for by everyone else through levies.

        Seattle is the leader in the U.S. in following Tokyo’s lead: non subsidized affordable housing will be met by smaller and smaller units, until you get to 95 sf, while Sec. 8 requires 70 sf per bedroom and I think HUD requires 600 sf per unit.

        If you REALLY want housing density let cities permit 95 sf units. Mercer Island gets screwed because a four bedroom house equals the same number against its housing allocation as a studio. MI has 1200 housing units left to meet its 2044 GMPC housing allocation. At 95 sf/unit one town center lot could meet more than half that allocation, although builders won’t build 95 sf affordable housing units in downtown MI BECAUSE THEY WOULD LOSE MONEY.

        But it doesn’t matter. MI like most cities in this region has zoning that exceeds their housing allocation, while some cities like Shoreline and Lynnwood more housing targets because they need the gentrification.

        Chris had it right: lower the AMI in Seattle and you will lower the cost of living including housing, although be careful what you wish for.

      5. “rents and housing prices began to increase because AMI increased. If all the new folks who moved to Seattle were low income, housing prices would not have increased faster than inflation.”

        If there weren’t a housing shortage and somebody tried to raise prices, tenants/buyers would go to the next block and choose one with a lower price, and the increase would fail. The issue is prices rising relative to income, so an ever-smaller percentage of people can afford the units. Otherwise there wouldn’t be displacement, people living ten or thirty miles away from where they want to live, and increasing homelessness. None of those were significant in the 80s either.

  2. Interesting article about home price to income ratios. A Timeline of Affordability: How Have Home Prices and Household Incomes Changed Since 1960? … they say a healthy price-to-income ration is 2.6. (It would take 2.6 years of median household income to purchase the median home). About a quarter of the way down the page they list price-to-income ratios by city in 2019, most affordable to most expensive. Seattle’s ratio is (or was), 5.69. San Jose’s is 9.69. But, cities in the rust belt, like Toledo and Scranton, , are in the most affordable camp, at 2.14 and 2.15. Montreal’s ratio (which I found on another website, is 8.65)


    1. Recent reports show housing prices are declining by around 3% month over month, which for a $1 million house/condo is around $30,000, despite housing starts declining significantly. Rents are also declining, or increasing at a much slower rate, although rents are a lagging indicator due to lease terms, and because the high mortgage rates prevent renters from buying thus placing strain on the rental market. Meanwhile number of sales has jumped.

      When you look at the three main methods of zoning you can see what influences “affordability”, although almost none of the new construction will be less than 100% AMI and will likely require a two income household.

      1. Minimum lot sizes. Although population growth began on the eastside in earnest around 1970, many areas were already platted and were used as summer houses. This led to large lot minimums and smaller summer houses (like what my family moved to in 1970). This was the basic model for the eastside even as population continued to grow because of the size: Renton to
      Bothell to North Bend. Many of these areas were farms or vacant land before development. The price of land depends on location, schools, public safety, and location, but as Ross notes has become more expensive, especially on the eastside.

      2. House size to lot area ratios (regulatory limits). Many of the folks moving to the eastside moved there because they had families. As I noted yesterday, even today MI has an average household of 3.1 persons, even including the multi-family zones. As someone who has raised two kids it is pretty hard to do that in under 3000 sf. Many of the summer homes were smaller than that, and over the years have been remodeled or more recently replaced, and most cities have worked hard to prevent the McMansion. But a smaller house on a big lot does not increase the number of dwelling units or housing, although a bigger house with more bedrooms allows more people to live on that lot (including kids, something urbanists don’t quite understand). Ross is correct that the marginal price on construction declines per sf say from 2000 to 4000 sf (and remember most eastside cities require 2-3 stall covered garages which most buyers demand) which is why building a DADU is usually not economical, but the cost per sf of construction has soared along with the price of land. New codes (the international building code adopted in Feb. 2021), sprinklers, green mandates, efficiency mandates, etc. has significantly increased the cost of construction per sf.

      3. Use. The big differences between “stacked housing” (which is just multi-family housing) and row houses are not nomenclature but: 1. regulatory limits, because multi-family housing usually needs additional height and lower yard setbacks and has a higher GFAR than a row house, and is more economical to build with very large lots; and 2. common ownership. One of the big factors in the affordability of condos is the HOA fees. Not too long ago I posted an article about a new development in SODO that could not sell its affordable set aside units because the HOA fee was over $1000/mo. Recent regulations re: inspection for older condos after the collapse in Florida has increased HOA fees for older condos too.

      From what I have seen from the GMPC hearings eastside cities will be able to meet their GMPC future housing growth targets without amending their zoning (even a city like Bellevue that has I believe a 35,000 growth target) despite population estimates I think are too high, because there is so much land on the eastside already zoned for housing but still vacant, unlike Seattle, large commercial zones to allow housing, and these cities will continue to segregate uses pretty strictly except in the commercial zones in which housing is now allowed. Row houses are more attractive and more desirable than say a condo or apartment but also more expensive.

      I agree with Ross that Montreal is a pretty city. It too segregates uses pretty strictly. What Montreal has from its history of converting industrial buildings to housing is a smallish (2-4 stories) middle housing market (with yards) that places like Seattle do not have, with pretty historical architecture, not the shlock you see in Seattle.

      The way to create that kind of middle housing is not to upzone SFH zones even if politically possible because the lots are too small, but to micro zone parts of the UGA and multi-family zones for this middle housing. The two biggest hurdles for this are it represents a downzone for multi-family property owners which is never popular once upzoned, and the row or town houses would be quite expensive, especially if near good retail like U Village.

      MI has fought over “row or town houses” for some time. Property owners in the commercial or multi-family zone don’t want to build them because it is a downzone unless very very high end ($4 million if new), and the SFH zones are adamantly opposed. Studies show that even with higher GFAR than allowed for a SFH (and some believe these row houses should have a lower GFAR and be quite small), a 1000 sf row house on a 2000 sf lot (which is 10% more GFAR than in the SFH zone) would: A. be very expensive especially if new, well over $1 million; B. risky for a builder because there is a small market for an expensive small house on MI. MI actually has a code provision to allow such a subdivision, but to date developers avoid it because they make more on a full sized, full lot house, and it requires a dedicated public green space, and the city has basically run out of subdivisions more than two lots.

      What the GMPC has learned that some on this blog miss is increasing the housing supply by replacing older more affordable housing with new more expensive housing exacerbates the affordability issue. Seattle for example will place a levy on November’s ballot. The GMPC wants to require that its housing targets break down along AMI bands, like 0% to 30%, 30% to 50%, and so on, but if fact any kind of mandate backfires: eastside cities that want fewer housing growth targets will require half the new housing units be 0% to 30% AMI which no one will ever apply to build so eastside cities will get the smaller housing growth they want.

      The amount of housing and kind of housing does have an effect on price, but is just one factor among many. With the new mortgage and borrowing rates we will see a steep decline in new housing starts for the next five years or so, plus a decline in housing prices, although nowhere near affordable, but maybe within reach of a two income household with 100% AMI which for Seattle today is around $230,000/year combined. If you love your home and plan to live in it for many years it doesn’t matter what the value is. If you are investor maybe time to sell.

      1. “As someone who has raised two kids it is pretty hard to do that in under 3000 sf. ”

        I grew up in a two parent two kid household in an 1800 sq. ft. house, and we didn’t feel particularly cramped. The argument that you absolutely *have* to have 3000 square feet to raise two kids is incredibly elitist.

      2. As someone who has raised two kids it is pretty hard to do that in under 3000 sf. Um, I grew up in a <1200sf house with a sister and two parents. We never felt cramped, though this was small-city WI so we had a decent yard. I know people who grew up in NYC with even less space and no yard, and they turned out fine too. Humans are remarkably adaptable, but it's really hard to adapt to the complete lack of affordable housing.

      3. Skylar, so what you are proposing based on your upbringing is severely reducing GFAR on eastside SFH lots? So even if I own a 10,000 sf lot I can only build a 1200 sf house? Because that will create affordable housing, even though each eastside city will be able to meet its GMPC future housing growth targets within their existing zoning, both minimum lot size, use, and GFAR?

        Interesting. I suppose if no house on the eastside could be larger than 1200 sf it would reduce housing prices, but I don’t see that happening. I also don’t see minimum lot sizes in the eastside SFH zones being reduced as that is a nuclear issue (some try to get around by increasing the number of legal dwelling units per lot like Seattle’s MHA), and even if they were builders would want higher GFAR so they could build just as large a house on the smaller lot, just with fewer trees and smaller yard setbacks.

        I think the best way to understand how much sf a family needs is to raise a family, understanding different families have different goals. It is true many people raise families in very small residences, although that does not mean they would not like more space if they could afford it.

        Like you I grew up in a pretty cramped house (five kids and two parents in around 1800 sf except for an unfinished basement although like you the area was quite rural with huge yards), but as a parent I certainly would not want to do that if I didn’t have to (and as the years went along my parents did “finish” the basement and add an addition like so many eastside summer homes).

        Do I think some current homes are too large? Yes, and I have fought that on MI for many years, leading to the 2017 rewrite of the residential code that reduced GFAR, and removed some gimmicks from the code. But MI like most cities takes the approach it can’t tell you how big a house you can build, just how big your house can be compared to your lot area, although we do have a maximum house size per zone (8400, 10,000, 12,500 and 15,000 sf) to prevent people combining lots and building houses out-of-scale with adjacent houses on one lot. Still I think maximum house size for the R15 (15,000 sf residential) is 9000 sf no matter how large the lot is, which is quite a bit smaller than some HUGE houses that led to this rule.

      4. I think the best way to understand how much sf a family needs is to raise a family

        I raised a family, and I concur with those who feel like your statement is elitist and presumptuous. It is like someone who eats meat every day and can’t possibly understand how folks are vegetarian.

      5. Ross, who cares what you think? I don’t …

        [Editor’s Note: You are in violation of the comment policy. No personal attacks. If this continues, you will be banned.]

      6. I don’t think anybody is proposing prohibiting somebody willing to pay for it from building a 3000+ square foot house to raise their kids in. Simply that a house that large should not be mandatory to be able to buy a house at all. All we’re asking for is an acknowledgement that different people have different needs and different budgets, and need different housing options to accommodate them.

      7. I know plenty of European friends who live in apartments that are 320-500 sq ft in size and feel comfortable wirh their living conditions. Many would argue that 3000 sq ft is a lot of space for 4 people and borders on excessive when a lot of it will just sit empty for most of the day. McMansions like that only exist to show off wealth than be practical places for people to live.

      8. “One of the big factors in the affordability of condos is the HOA fees.”

        That’s one of the things that has deterred me from some condos. To me, the whole point of having a condo is someday you’ll pay it off and then you won’t have to pay the equivalent of rent every month and you won’t have to work as hard, which coincides with middle/retirement age. But if you have to pay $700 or $1000 a month on top of annual property taxes, that kind of defeats the purpose.

      9. “A city’s legal obligation is to meet its GMPC future housing growth targets (even if probably inflated)”

        Its legal obligation should be to accommodate its percent of the actual population, even if it exceeds earlier growth targets. Otherwise you’re shifting the burden to other cities who are building more housing. Or if no city builds housing for this above-target influx, then the housing shortage gets worse and prices skyrocket.

        The PSRC growth targets may technically allow Mercer Island or Ballard to stop when they reach their target, even if they reach it 10 or 15 years before the anticipated time, but it shouldn’t allow it. And Mercer Island shouldn’t be able to say, “We built our target, no more,” if the actual population increase exceeds the target. That’s just beggar-thy-neighbor, nimbyism, “I’ve got mine so screw everybody else”

      10. “Its legal obligation should be to accommodate its percent of the actual population, even if it exceeds earlier growth targets. Otherwise you’re shifting the burden to other cities who are building more housing. Or if no city builds housing for this above-target influx, then the housing shortage gets worse and prices skyrocket.

        “The PSRC growth targets may technically allow Mercer Island or Ballard to stop when they reach their target, even if they reach it 10 or 15 years before the anticipated time, but it shouldn’t allow it. And Mercer Island shouldn’t be able to say, “We built our target, no more,” if the actual population increase exceeds the target. That’s just beggar-thy-neighbor, nimbyism, “I’ve got mine so screw everybody else””.

        Mike, that is the entire point of the PSRC and its implementing agency the GMPC. Every 7 or 10 years the PSRC estimates future population growth, and where that growth will occur (and to come extent should occur), and then the GMPC allocates a city’s housing targets based on these assumptions. Your argument that cities should based future housing growth based on current population is exactly what the PSRC and GMPC are trying to avoid because naturally that burdens Seattle with the greatest future housing growth when Seattle will likely see some of the weakest population growth in the region over the next two decades.

        The prior Vision Statement was through 2035; the most recent Vision Statement is through 2050, but is based on 2018 data. Although I think the future population growth targets are likely high based on ahistorical growth from 2010 to 2018 post pandemic — depending on whether last year’s 1%+ population loss by King Co. is an anomaly or not — the reality is these population growth figures will be reviewed in 7 to 10 years.

        It makes no sense for a city to build or permit more housing than the GMPC tells it it will need. There is no point in you being moralistic about creating additional housing at market rates, which in most eastside cities is not remotely affordable. Some cities like Tacoma, Shoreline and Lynnwood may want to exceed their housing targets for the development revenue and to revitalize and gentrify their cities, but that only means other cities will have lower housing targets next time the PSRC prepares a new Vision Statement.

        One factor some miss is the PSRC/GMPC also estimate and allocate job growth. The 2050 Vision Statement wanted to get away from the model in which all jobs are in downtown Seattle and housing outside Seattle, and move to a cluster model of job and housing centers to cut down on commuting. So the GMPC also allocated job growth, which is harder for a city to meet because it is hard to create jobs. For example, how does Mercer Island force businesses to move to MI with Bellevue and Seattle to the east and west?

        The pandemic and WFH accelerated the PSRC’s goal to spread jobs throughout the region in a way the PSRC could not have anticipated, and much more suddenly than anticipated, although it did accomplish the goal of reducing work commuting. Unfortunately the sudden move to WFH and away from commuting to downtown Seattle has stressed transit budgets when TOD was a key element of the 2050 Vision Statement, and actually incentivized sprawl. It also reallocated tax revenue in a way not anticipated, and will likely have very severe ramifications for downtown Seattle’s commercial development which is a huge source of revenue for the city.

        What the PSRC and GMPC haven’t figured out yet is how to allocate and require affordable housing throughout all the AMI bands. Ideally private industry would do it without cost to the state (who came up with this system) or county, or that cities would fund the affordable housing, but most cities are broke, their stimulus money (like MI) will all be used to balance their 2023-24 general fund budgets, and police and fire CBA’s are resetting with 9% COLA’s when the levy can only increase 1% per year.

        Seattle is asking citizens to pass a levy to build affordable housing because Harrell’s proposed budget has a $194 million hole (without addressing the bridge issues) because IMO the only way you get “affordable” housing is with public subsidies. The irony of course is levies are property based and so are passed onto renters by landlords, although I don’t think a lot of renters understand that, and think levies are free money (which to some degree they are if county wide). My guess is the state progressives would like to force eastside cities to pass affordable housing levies but doubt they would pass. I doubt a county wide affordable affordable housing levy would pass either, UNLESS it relieved eastside cities of their obligation to meet the GMPC’s housing targets, which actually makes sense because to build affordable housing you begin with affordable land, and today that is not 90% of the eastside unless you count SE King Co.

      11. Density advocates keep claiming density makes housing more affordable. Then why is Montreal’s home price to income ration on the high end of the range at 8.65? Seattle’s ratio is 5.69. Montreal is 50% more dense than Seattle, but it’s less affordable.

        – Sam. STB Comment Section’s leading Mercer Island expert.

      12. To add some clarity as to regional body roles, the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) is this region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) whose main responsibility is allocation of federal transportation funding. Through this, PSRC also (via interlocal agreement) has some certification powers over local Comprehensive Plans; if a city is determined out-of-compliance it would not be eligible for transportation grant funding, which is a pretty big deal.

        The Growth Management Planning Council (GMPC) is a King County board composed of elected officials whose main duty is reviewing and approving the King County Countywide Planning Policies (CPPs), which form the basis for coordinated planning efforts in King County. The growth targets for individual cities are in the CPPs and were updated last year.

        Importantly, PSRC does not set the growth targets, but PSRC’s regional planning documents incorporate them. The growth targets are disseminated from the state (the Department of Commerce, specifically) to the individual counties, and then the county and its component cities can allocate the growth target more or less how they choose. King County does this via staff negotiation and ultimately through the GMPC. Cities are legally required to PLAN FOR their growth target, e.g. provide sufficient land and zoning to accommodate the target. However they are not actually required to achieve the target. Cities can also plan for growth in excess of the target, although this has caused issues in the past.

      13. “that is the entire point of the PSRC and its implementing agency the GMPC. Every 7 or 10 years the PSRC estimates future population growth, and where that growth will occur (and to come extent should occur), and then the GMPC allocates a city’s housing targets based on these assumptions. Your argument that cities should based future housing growth based on current population is exactly what the PSRC and GMPC are trying to avoid because naturally that burdens Seattle with the greatest future housing growth when Seattle will likely see some of the weakest population growth in the region over the next two decades.”

        Not future housing growth, current housing growth. If Mercer Island refuses to add more housing because it reached its target years early, then that puts a disproportionate burden on other cities to house the people that the estimate didn’t foresee. The problem is the target was too low, not that Mercer Island was so excellent it front-loaded its construction.

        People live where housing is available. If it’s all in Seattle, then people will live in Seattle, regardless of whether they want to or not.

      14. @Jason Rogers
        Great post. Spot on and very helpful as I still see a lot of comments that misconstrue the responsibilities of the PSRC. The only thing I would add to your excellent explanation is to this part:
        “Cities are legally required to PLAN FOR their growth target, e.g. provide sufficient land and zoning to accommodate the target.” This is also true for the county itself in regard to its unincorporated areas.

      15. “As someone who has raised two kids it is pretty hard to do that in under 3000 sf. ”

        I concur with asdf2, Skylar and RossB’s comments in reply to the above remark. It is remarkably presumptuous. I grew up in NYC in the first floor flat of a duplex my parents owned. Myself and my nine siblings were all raised in that 1250 sq ft flat. We also had tenants in our equally sized second floor flat, and for most of my youth that included a wonderful family that had five children and two grandparents all sharing that space above us.

        We had a small yard in the back that got plenty of use of course, the basement was unfinished and unheated, as was the attic that was simply used for storage for both flats, and there was no garage to speak of which was fine since my family never owned a car while I was growing up. Despite the rather limited space we were very happy living there and I have a boatload of great memories as a result.

        Myself and my other siblings eventually went on to college and careers and families of our own, some staying in the city or the larger metro area and others moving to other parts of the country. Myself and my siblings still love to share stories with one another about those formative years and we typically end up laughing and smiling whenever we reminisce about that old house in the city that we all called home for decades.

      16. Mike, when did I state MI had stopped issuing new construction permits? I said that MI had met its housing targets to date despite the fact prior councils has agreed to more units than would have been legally required. The GMPC’s recent targets have a no new net target for MI but MI still has 1220 new units to go through 2044 from past inflated allocations.

        I suggest everyone look at the link Jason provides to see allocations throughout the region. As Jason notes at the end of his post problems can occur when jurisdictions build more than their housing allocations.

        It is also important to understand different cities build different styles of housing with different capacity. Seattle tends to build many small and micro units because so many Seattleites live alone or don’t have kids whereas on the Eastside a lot of new housing is SFH with 3-5 bedrooms, and often house relatives (or Nannie’s) rather than going to the hassle of an ADU/DADU although the property is zoned for an ADU/DADU.

        However in the next 20 years as the Eastside SFH land — including vacant land — gets built out I think Eastside cities will use multi-family housing in commercial cores to build condos and apartments to meet their housing allocations, especially Bellevue because much of “Bellevue’s” surrounding SFH zones are actually their own cities like Medina, Clyde Hill, Beaux Arts and so on, and these SFH zones have sometimes one to three total new unit allocations over the next 22 years so won’t be adding much housing to west Bellevue. This is basically what Seattle has done for years. But I agree with the PSRC — even pre-pandemic — counties like Snohomish and Kitsap will see a lot of growth as people look for affordable SFH’s because there is lots of vacant land and many now can work from home full or part time.

        One of the hidden reasons for the housing shortage is so many live alone or want to live alone, or as couples, and no longer have relatives living with them. Compare TISGWM’s upbringing with today. Although Tisgwm has fond memories of his upbringing I doubt he repeated the density of his youth as an adult.

      17. No doubt someone will soon post that their entire family of 20 grew up in a closet and it was great, although none of those folks repeated that experience when adults. Of course such living conditions violate HUD and Sec. 8 requirements today.

        Rather than memories of youth a more objective metric is to look at the size of current SFH’s owners and builders are building which usually are targeted at families. Most if not all homes are 3000 sf or larger even though there is no minimum size (except perhaps for the garage). Although most houses on the Eastside that date from the 1970’s or before were small summer homes like the one I grew up in all have either had additions added or been replaced with new larger construction.

        Whether some on this blog agree with houses this large is irrelevant. That is the market. If the lot area exists they want larger houses, and since they want them their councils create and preserve lots large enough to allow larger houses while still maintaining a GFAR that preserves the characteristics of a SFH neighborhood.

        Everyone on MI was quite excited about the 48 proposed Brownstones in the town center because most don’t want to downsize from a SFH to a shared wall unit or common ownership but the estimated cost — with two parking spots — was estimated at around $4 million when completed.

        Of course these larger houses on larger lots cost more, especially if in a desirable area for families. That is just the market, and why a subcommittee of King Co. is trying to figure out a way to increase affordable housing minimums in the housing allocations. Even though many Eastside cities will likely permit more condos and apartments to meet their housing allocations in their commercial cores in the future, since they will be new construction they won’t be cheap, and my guess is they won’t be micro. At least on MI developers bristle at the requirement some of their multi-family units be studios, and really prefer the two and three bedroom units because these multi family prospective buyers on the Eastside (many of whom are coming from the shit show in Seattle) want … drum roll … bigger units, although for cities a housing unit of any size counts toward the city’s housing allocation.

        The point of smaller housing is lower cost although new construction offsets that cost savings (which is why many younger couples opt for a larger fixer upper which is what my wife and I did starting out), which is why Seattle leads the nation in micro housing (although I doubt many Seattleites are happily raising a family in a micro unit). So far affordability has meant less and less GFA per person, or gentrifying neighborhoods of color which of course has the opposite long term effect.

      18. Both the GMPC and PSRC forecasts are subject to faults and political pressures. For example, their forecasts are more projections than agents of drastic housing change. If an area is zoned single family and the population is stable, it’s very presumptive for the forecasts to assume that the area will have a radical upzone. While their system can result in some upzoning, the overall limit of regional housing in the targets and desired buildup of areas near light rail stations lets single family areas off the hook to a large extent.

      19. There is no doubt the 2050 Vision Statement was influenced by ideology and “new urbanism”. Post Pandemic nearly all the assumptions in the 2050 Vision are no longer valid.

        None more so than TOD, which was heavily influenced by ST’s last gasp at manufacturing the Link ridership it predicted in its levies, until the pandemic and WFH put the nail in the coffin.

        The future population estimates drive the housing allocations. An ideological desire for TOD and ST’s political influence led to attempts to upzone areas within 1/2 mile near Link (some of which ST had purchased or condemned at pre upzoning prices).

        Without the peak work commuter TOD in suburban areas makes even less sense than it did pre-pandemic. Even when Lynnwood, Federal Way and someday East Link open I am not sure daily ridership will be much greater than in 2018 considering Northgate Link didn’t move the needle.

        If Link wants to attract more suburban riders from Angle Lake to S. Bellevue the best solution is park and rides because park and rides attract those who want or need to ride transit and serve a huge shed whereas most residents within 1/2 mile of Link — say on MI — will never ride link, while the rest of the Island doesn’t have first/last mile access to Link. MI has 26,000 residents. A mild upzone in the residential neighborhood north of the Link station (the town center is to the south) would add very few riders to East Link, maybe none post pandemic.

      20. “If Link wants to attract more suburban riders from Angle Lake to S. Bellevue the best solution is park and rides because park and rides”

        That’s the most expensive solution though. Taxpayers are paying $50-125K per parking space. Each space is typically used by only one car per day if it parks there from 7am-6pm. The P&Rs at South Bellevue, TiB, Angle Lake, KDM, Federal Way, and Lynnwood were agreed to in the compromise that enabled Link, so suburbanites can use them,. Adding more P&Rs, especially large ones, disproportionally favors the few drivers who use them, as opposed to the many passengers who can’t use them because they’re full, or those who don’t take transit. There’s an economic/social benefit for everybody in building a subway and/or BRT, but that doesn’t apply to expensive P&R spaces.

      21. Why is Ballard’s post-2000 development not New Urbanist?

        In the broad sense it is, as new urbanism is the same as old urbanism. But in a narrow sense, New Urbanism is a master-planned development. Ballard’s growth was individual lot owners doing their own things, not a master-planned development like the Spring District or Redmond Ridge.

      22. Of course, everyone would in theory prefer a larger a home if they had infinite money. But, in the real world, money is finite, so by saying every single house has to be at least 3,000 square feet, you’re effectively saying anyone not rich enough to afford a house that large is not welcome in your neighborhood. Forget about not wanting poor people in your neighborhood, lots of middle class people can’t afford a home that large either. Again, to say that someone who can only afford a 2000 square foot house should be excluded from your neighborhood completely because they don’t have the income to qualify for a mortgage on a 3000 square foot house… I’m sorry, but that kind of attitude is extremely elitist and nothing but.

        Yes, everybody wants larger homes, but money is limited and people can’t always have everything they want. Let’s take air travel, for example. People don’t fly economy over first class because they love the cramped seats. People fly economy because it is cheaper, and if it were possible to fly first class for the same price as economy, of course they would fly first class.

        So, if we take your argument about homes and apply it to air travel, then every airline should just make the entire cabin first class, since everyone prefers first class over coach, charge over $1000 for every flight, and those that can’t afford that can just stay home and not go on vacations. For rich people, such a system would be an improvement, as you would have more first class seats to choose from, and you wouldn’t have to share a flight with people beneath your social class, who don’t want to spend more than $300-400 a ticket. But, for people with more average means, flights would become just plain unaffordable. Maybe the cough up the money for something really important, like a funeral, but otherwise not go at all.

        It’s the same thing with houses. We all wish we could live in a giant one. Most of us can’t, and would rather buy a smaller house that we can afford than be stuck renting forever because the only path to home ownership is to buy something big.

      23. “Of course, everyone would in theory prefer a larger a home if they had infinite money.”

        Minimalists don’t. People who want just a large enough house to meet their needs don’t. People who would rather spend money on traveling or hobbies or investments or philanthropy rather than on the largest house don’t. Because large houses also have large heating/cooling costs, and time-consuming maintenance.

        I grew up in an 11-room house for 3 people. We were unusual: most neighbor families had 2-3 children, and one had 6 children. I remember telling my dad, “We need 11 rooms because we do this in one room, this in another, etc.” My dad said, “But you can only be in one room at a time.” I didn’t understand it until later.

        But in high school, my cousin moved from Nevada and has all her posessions in a Volkswagen (or so I thought), and lived in our guest room for a while. That made a lifelong impression on me. I vowed to keep all my posessions light and easy to move, and at least nominally to fit in a Volkswagen. They don’t literally: it takes 2 pickup truckloads to move, mostly because of my bed and desk and bookcase. But it’s an ideal.

        Then my dad lived in a houseboat, apartments, and a cabin he helped build. I lived with him and his friend in a townhouse in 11th grade. And I saw that was enough.

        My last apartment was a 365 square foot studio. Even then I only used part of the space. The rest of it had furniture or storage but I didn’t go to it much. Now I live in a 650 square foot apartment for two people, and that’s fine.

        “People don’t fly economy over first class because they love the cramped seats. People fly economy because it is cheaper, and if it were possible to fly first class for the same price as economy, of course they would fly first class. So, if we take your argument about homes and apply it to air travel, then every airline should just make the entire cabin first class, since everyone prefers first class over coach, charge over $1000 for every flight, and those that can’t afford that can just stay home and not go on vacations.”

        It’s not quite the same. A plane is something you’re in for a few hours, not something you live in every day. And economy has gotten to be sub-economy, smaller than it should be. I started paying extra for “enhanced economy” or whatever it was called, which gave you the legroom regular economy previously did.

        And before the 1980s deregulation, everything was, if not first class, at least higher quality and more expensive, so it was the equivalent of $500 a flight if not $1000. Middle-class and working-class people didn’t jet around all the time: they used it to move out-of-state, to visit grandma every few years, or for a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

        In the 1980s I remember a speaker from LA talking about how the average length of a phone connection was 11 months, and on weekends the planes would be full of children of divorced parents visiting their non-custodial parent. I thought, “People flying every week? How can they possibly afford that?”

      24. “on weekends the planes would be full of children of divorced parents visiting their non-custodial parent… People fly every week? How can they possibly afford that?”

        Forgot to say, I mean flying up and down the California coast. So between LA and the Bay Area or such. People seemed to do that there in a way they don’t do between Seattle and Portland or Seattle and Spokane.

      25. Anyone who doesn’t enjoy an infinite amount of maintenance headaches and house cleaning would want a smaller house.

      26. Asdf2, I didn’t state every single house needs to be 3000 sf. I said in my experience raising a family of four around 3000 sf was the least I would go if you can afford it, and the market these days seems to believe that as I see very few SFH homes being built on the Eastside these days that are not more than 3000 sf. When I get a chance I will post an article noting how houses in Seattle are getting larger while the number of occupants is getting lower. I am not the outlier.

        Although not living in a 650 SF apartment for two like Mike I raised a family of four in a 2400 sf house which is 600 sf each. Eventually we added one room out of the three car garage for a playroom when my son and his friends got big. But nearly every house in my R-15 zone is much larger.

        I can certainly see downsizing when the kids stop coming home to limit the cost and time and maintenance of a SFH, although I am not sure my wife will. We have a house on Whidbey Island that is 1600 sf and really well designed for two and occasional guests and I could see living there. Especially the yard: a beach of rock and driftwood God maintains. Literally no yard work or watering.

        I agree many prefer row houses and town homes over shared walled condos with HOA fees and boards and risks. A point Mike touches on is many of these multi-family buildings were designed as apartments so often the construction is cheap with a short life expectancy (which means just when the age of the building makes it more affordable it gets replaced). Like many, finally getting a place with a yard and non-shared walls was a big step and I am not sure I want to go back. If we did downsize I would prefer a row house but not in a residential zone but where I could walk to retail vibrancy, although those are expensive. That is a multi-family zone.

        What Ross doesn’t understand because like cars he just has a ideological dislike for SFH he thinks are “elitist” (although he lives in one) is that I think practically and politically it would be easier to create a micro zone for two houses out of the multi-family/UGA zone than the SFH zone, and they would be within walking distance of retail. Ross is so intent on destroying what he sees as the elitist SFH zones he wants to eliminate any zoning not realizing the “middle” (actually smaller than middle) housing he likes like Brownstones and Montral two story historical brick buildings with fairly large backyards will not exist unless restrictive (“exclusionary) zoning protects these zones from surrounding zones with greater regulatory limits because middle housing is not the most profitable in a denser zone, and it isn’t practical in a remote SFH zone with poor transit when Metro’s budgets are already stressed.

        Very large SFH’s like first class on a plane are evidence of wealth disparity, but this is not what we are trying to solve with zoning (or transit) although it blinds some like Ross when it comes to some issues.
        What the zoning we are talking about is trying to do is allocate housing targets and encourage/preserve uses including trees and vegetation many urbanists do not value, and ideally create affordable housing although so far that part has been difficult due to the cost of new construction and the fact some have very low or no income, and it is not in builders’ interests to build “affordable housing”, no matter how small the lot.

        The other thing zoning tries to do is regulate building to lot area, whether a SFH zone, town home zone, very undense multi-family zone like Montreal or Capitol Hill, to bigger middle housing that needs larger lots and roads, to commercial and very tall residential, in part to not destroy all vegetation and trees. When folks on this blog become ideological or begin insulting others on a fairly dry issue —zoning — because others don’t agree with them it makes it hard to have an intelligent discussion. I sometimes wish this blog did not include housing because so few on it understand it, although they understand transit although some still think transit is going to solve wealth disparity.

        In any cases let’s see how the 2024 comp plan updates go, although changing zoning designations on a map sometimes has little effect or backfires.

        Most Eastside cities can meet their future housing allocations with their current zoning and basically that is their only legal requirement other than designating critical areas under the GMA, and even if mild zoning changes are needed for some cities I don’t see them abandoning their traditional zoning that segregates uses. The voters are too emotionally connected to their SFH neighborhoods — whether Renton or Clyde Hill — to allow changes to the zoning by what they see as ideological progressive or to manufacture the ridership for ST, and I doubt Harrell will take on that fight otherwise. Tacoma kind of did, but my guess is like OR and Portland in 20 years we will see those “zoning changes” had much effect, in part because I think the housing construction market will decline or be flat for a long time, a much bigger issue than mild upzones in the upcoming 2024 comp plan updates.

      27. “middle housing is not the most profitable in a denser zone”

        That’s only because there’s such a scarcity of denser zones that it drives the prices up. Leinberger says 33% of Americans prefer walkable urbanism, 33% prefer driveable sub-urbanism, and 33% are equally satisified with either. But the zoned land is 30% multifamily/commercial and 70% single-family. So 13% of Americans live in less walkable areas than they’d like, and fully 66% of Americans would be satisfied living in a Netherlands-like environment. The mismatch between Americans’ desires and the actual built/zoned environment is what drives demands to expand urban villages’ areas or abolish single-family zoning. Because the housing that 13% of Americans want but can’t get, and that 66% would be satisfied with, is only allowed on 30% of the land. That creates fierce competition for the scarce available lots in those areas. That drives up the price immensely, and shuts out small local developers and missing middle housing, who can’t compete with deep Wall Street pockets building large luxury boxes with high rents/prices to recoup the investment within 19 years.

        If we doubled Seattle’s urban villages, or made a large swath of North Seattle 7-story eligible (between 24th NW, 15th NE, and 65th like Chicago’s North Side), or abolished single-family zoning, it would reduce the price pressure on each multifamily-eligible lot, because there would be more lots than developments instead of more developments than lots. There’s only so much demand for highrises and lowrises before the market is saturated. That level is higher than the current urban village capacity, but lower than the alternatives I suggested, especially the latter two. And when large developers have built as many large buildings as they can find affluent residents for, they won’t be interested in the remaining lots. That leaves an opening for smaller local developers and mom-n-pops to build lower-cost missing-middle housing on remaining lots, without being outcompeted by the large developers. And even that market will saturate, leaving the rest as single-family houses, even if their zoning allows more density.

        Then you have a win-win of walkable neighborhoods for everyone who wants them, at lower and less-escalating prices than currently, and single-family houses and single-family areas for those who prefer that.

        The price of single-family houses would rise because the supply would be reduced. But we don’t need to worry about people who can pay $1M for a single-family house. They can get a house if they can find one, or live multifamily if they can’t. What we should be concerned about is those who can’t afford a $1M house, and who can’t currently live in a walkable neighbrhood with good transit because all those units are full, and the artificial scarcity of them raises their prices disproportionately high.

      28. I said in my experience raising a family of four around 3000 sf was the least I would go if you can afford it, and the market these days seems to believe that as I see very few SFH homes being built on the Eastside these days that are not more than 3000 sf.

        You can’t assume that. Unless camping on the sidewalk is an alternative for you, then you have to live somewhere. If the only thing being built is 3,000 sf, then that is what you have to buy, no matter what you actually want, or even can comfortably afford. If a 900 sf is what you want, you can’t just camp in a park until one of the several in the region become available.

      29. What are you trying to state Glenn? That the Eastside has no multi-family housing. That is ridiculous.

        Or are you arguing that new multi-family housing on the eastside — say The Spring District or downtown MI — will be priced so the homeless living on the street will able to afford a brand new unit.

        You can do a search online for new SFH’s for sale on the Eastside to find out how many are less than 3000 sf. I know where I live 3000 sf is very rare, usually older homes. I live in a 12,500/15,000 sf zone and I am pretty sure my house is the smallest except one tear down next to the Roanoke.

        I am not saying everyone can afford a 3000+ sf house on the Eastside, and many of us bought long ago when prices were lower, but I think the extra space is nice to raise a family in, although sf does not determine how the kids turn out (parents and schools do that).

      30. According to the Census, 33 percent of the households in MI rent. Also, average household size is 2.54 persons per household. That suggests that there is a rental market in MI and that half of the households have only 1 or two persons. (If half of the households have 1 or 2 persons and half have 3 or 4 persons that puts the average near 2.5.)

      31. Do you have a link Al. 33% rental seems high. The city’s consultant for the housing assessment needs gave a presentation to the council two weeks ago. He put average persons per MI household at 3.1. I will double check his number. The Seattle Times has an article about home ownership in Seattle by race and states 2/3 of white residents own while only 33% own. However the housing assessment needs is not about home ownership as affordable housing is nearly all rental.

        The MI council previously voted unanimously to not amend its zoning or comp. plan unless required by law as part of its 2024 update since current zoning will accommodate its housing allocation through 2044, nearly all of it “TOD” since it will be in the town center although no clue how many will actually ride transit, especially with WFH.

      32. DT:
        The average citizen doesn’t have the financial means to wave a magic pile of money and make the exact house they want appear exactly where they need to live. What is being built is what generates the most money for the builder. It may of may not be what people want, but they’ll buy it anyway even if it means consuming most of their income because, other than camping on the sidewalk, they don’t have a choice of where to live. The current housing market has little to do with what people want to buy, but is mostly about what people are willing to sell.

        Therefore, to say “this is what is selling, so that must be what people want” ignores the reality of what is happening.

      33. I wasn’t being lazy Al. I just wanted to see the years of data and census you were using. Here is a link to 2022 census data for MI. https://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/mercer-island-wa-population

        As you can see there are differences from 2016-2020 that you linked to.

        Average home ownership for married couples is 82.2% but 66.9% overall which of course is affected by the large multi-family housing on MI in the multi-family and commercial zones. Average household size for a family is 3.03 which the consultant must have been referencing but as you note for for all households 2.54, again reflecting the relatively high percentage of elderly on the Island and the multi-family zone. The highwater mark for growth was unsurprisingly 1970 at 4.73% with growth averaging well over 1%/year since then, and 2% since 2020.

        Total population is now 26,358 which is more than the maximum build out population the PSRC stated MI should not exceed based on infrastructure (26,000) in the 2035 Vision Statement. 71.45% of the Island is white compared to 67.3% for Seattle.

      34. Daniel, the “family” category mainly excludes single person households. That’s pretty much a guaranteed mathematical increase in persons per household. However, single people also have a right to live on Mercer Island and not be excluded from statistics.

        As far as douces go, it doesn’t get better than direct Census info. The Census Bureau has direct access to summary W2, SSI and school enrollment records that private sites don’t. The 2021 population estimate there is listed on the Quick Facts page for MI and it shows very little population change between 2020 and 2021.

      35. Al, I didn’t mean to suggest single people can’t live on Mercer Island, which would be an absurd thing to say, if they can afford it. Living alone is always pricey unless you live in a tiny unit.

        My point was the large number of families with an average 3.1 persons living in any unit is why MI has a majority of SFH zoning (and so many two and three bedroom apartments and condos). The fact is the market just creates larger houses these days.

        Adults living in a SFH have fluctuations in the number of people living with them. For example, my wife and I went from 4 to 2 after 20 years back to 4 this summer. School populations fluctuate over the years depending on baby booms, and one is expected from the Millennials, which is why they are moving to the suburbs. My dad went from 7 to 2 to 1 when my mom died back to two when my sister moved in to care for him. Maybe if my wife and I go to two permanently we will look at smaller housing, although my wife does not seem keen on the idea, our SFH is not that big, and the benefits of a SFH and SFH zone don’t necessarily depend on having kids or relatives living with you. After 20 years just having the two of us — until the holidays or next summer — is a bit of a relief.

        If your point remains MI should upzone its SFH zone I don’t see that happening, really anywhere on the eastside, especially when it can meet its GMPC housing allocations through 2044 with existing zoning, almost all of it TOD in the town center. How can you complain about that? The reality is if around 81% of those in the SFH zone own their housing affordability is not really something that benefits them, is it.

      36. “ Most if not all homes are 3000 sf or larger even though there is no minimum size…”

        I checked Zillow today. Less than half (27) of the 56 homes for sale are above 3000 square feet just on Mercer Island. That’s not counting rental units available.

        Believing in a 3000 sq ft house minimum is simply warped thinking.

      37. https://www.bing.com/maps?q=zillow+mercer+island&cvid=fe1d7e25d6b14ba68aad313dbf1a9ca4&aqs=edge.0.0l9.4541j0j1&pglt=771&FORM=ANNTA1&PC=U531

        I said new houses Al. Few condos are 3000 sf. Most houses below 3000 sf are older, and MI does have some older areas with lots below the minimum 8400 sf minimum (MI has a 40% GFAR cap, or 3360 for a legal 8400 sf lot unless grandfathered, including garage. But even a legal non-conforming lot below 8400 sf is still limited to a 40% GFAR).

        The new houses listed for sale are closer to 4000 sf. which requires a 10,000 lot under the new GFAR standard, which was reduced from 45%. Most cities on the eastside do not have minimum lot sizes as large as MI (8400 sf to 15,000 sf depending on zone) but have a higher GFAR.

        But a single person in a 1000 sf condo or apartment is the same as a family of four in a 4000 sf SFH, except the SFH has only one kitchen.

    2. Asdf2, there isn’t a single code I am aware of that requires a house be at least a certain size and no smaller. That is just the market at work. Most codes I am familiar with actually RESTRICT the maximum size a house can be by using regulatory limits to limit the house to lot area ratio.

      The house I grew up in was an 1800 sf summer house on a 22,000 sf lot on lake Washington. We left a much larger and more polished brick Tudor on lower Capitol Hill for about the same cost in 1970.

      A future owner could either build another 1800 sf house (the family still owns the house and property) or build a 7500 sf house in the zone, maybe bigger. My guess is somewhere in between if not built on spec, say around 6000 sf. But if the lot costs $5 million…

      Of course if progressives get their wish and use state law to require the city to upzone properties within 1/2 mile of East Link —even though none of these folks will ride Link — we will be able to subdivide the property into three separate legal lots and I am retiring to Hawaii (because my house across the street will also be subdividable).

      Will any of the new units be remotely affordable? I certainly hope not.

      1. “ Of course if progressives get their wish and use state law to require the city to upzone properties within 1/2 mile of East Link… we will be able to subdivide the property into three separate legal lots and I am retiring to Hawaii.”

        More housing, and you get to move to another island with impoverished people begrudgingly serving you – your favorite!


      2. AJ is right that other building codes can end up requiring a minimum unit size. Specifications about minimum room sizes can be added together to result in a house’s minimum allowable size.

    3. In trying to find how much the 1954/55 homes in Eastgate originally sold for, I could only find articles that reference Lake Hills and Surrey Down. Surrey Downs homes, in 1953, were selling for around $13,000. And same for Lake Hills. In 1955/56 homes where going for about $13,000.

      “In 1955, Lake Hills was proposed as the largest planned community in the Pacific Northwest. As Seattle Times described it, a “self-contained city in a country atmosphere” (Boswell), integrating education, recreation, shopping, and worship with a carefully designed community of single-family homes. Homes in Lake Hills were about 1000 square feet and faced one another across streets with no curbs, lights, or sidewalks. The development project was inexpensively built on inexpensive land, and met an acute postwar need for middle income housing.”

      1. Thanks for the Lake Hills reference. A relative of mine may be moving to an adult family home there. I visited it last week and was surprised to find a part of Bellevue with no sidewalks, even though I grew up just two miles away. The home is a mile from the B. The east side of 156th doesn’t have a sidewak, and there’s a hard-to-get-to bus stop at one point. The side streets don’t have sidewalks. Fortunately they’re wide enough they’re relatively safe to walk on, and the intersections on 156th have blinking lights to cross. The 226 and 221 go halfway closer, but they’re infrequent and meandering, and the 221 connects only to the 545 and 554 which are half-hourly on weekends. Metro’s future RapidRide list has a potential Redmond-Eastgate line, so maybe in the future I can take Link to Overlake Village and RapidRide 156th to the home.

        I looked at some other homes, and their non-car access was worse. One in Burien on the 131 was in a neighborhood with no sidewalks, and to get to the northbound bus stop you had to cross busy high-speed 1st Ave S with no crosswalk or light, or walk out of the way to get to a crosswalk, and when you get to the bus stops there’s no bench or shelter so you have to stand, waiting for a half-hourly bus that’s often late. My relative has a walker, and there’s no way she’d feel safe on the sidewalkless streets, or crossing 1st Ave S to get to the nearest bus stop, and she can’t walk several blocks to the nearest crosswalk and back.

        Another in Magnola was two blocks from Magnolia Center, so it’s near the 24, but that’s a half-hourly meandering coverage route.

        Three more were in Skyway off the 106. One was luckily two blocks from the bus stop and Skyway Library. Another was a mile east, and a third was a mile and a half east.

        The social workers and Medicaid case managers have no idea where the bus routes are or how frequent they are. I had to tell them which streets I could get to, in Seattle (where I live) and Bellevue (where she’s lived for 50 years). I said “Skyway near Renton Ave S’, and they suggested something 1 1/2 miles from Renton Ave S.

        Of course, the homes are low-budget and need the lowest-cost land, and the lowest-cost land is in isolated single-family areas. Because even though Daniel says 80% of Americans prefer that, the vote with their feet and drive up the land costs near retail/multifamily districts and frequent transit corridors. People say, “Coverage routes are in low-density areas where everybody has a car and drives anyway.” That fails when a low-income person has to live there, or when somebody without a car has to go there because they’re there. It also fails for people under 16, people who can no longer drive, people who have temporary disabilities, and people whose car has broken down. In other countries there would be frequent or semi-frequent transit everywhere so it wouldn’t matter, and they wouldn’t force low-income apartments and social-service homes into isolated single-family areas without transit because that’s where the lowest-cost land is and they don’t adequately fund subsidized housing.

      2. I looked at Crossroads Connect to get to the Lake Hills home. That’s Metro’s uber-like service. Thus far I’ve been able to avoid Uber/Lyft and taxis, but this is an archetypal “last-mile” problem I might be doing every week or two. It turns out Crossroads Connect was a one-year pilot that ended due to lack of ongoing funding. It was a partnership between Bellevue, Metro, and a state grant, to get coverage to the east Bellevue area that has spotty transit.

        But Metro’s East Link restructure draft has something completely different. It plans to delete all fixed-route service east of 156th. So no more 226 or 221. Instead it would expand Crossroads Connect to serve that area. And that’s the area I grew up in, on the 226 near where Northup crosses 8th. I had an hourly route that went to downtown Bellevue, downtown Seattle, Overlake Village, and later Redmond. I took it to junior high and high school, to the Bellevue retail districts, to church, and to friends’ houses. Sometimes six days a week. At the time it was considered the best transit could be in a post-1945 America so I didn’t question it. I was glad I lived in the 20% of the Eastside that had an all-day bus route. And now I’m glad I lived there before this Crossroads Connect conversion. I’d hate to use an app six days a week to summon an unscheduled taxi, waiting an arbitrary amount of time, and sometimes missing my transfer in Crossroads or Overlake Village.

      3. That 1st Ave S thing really bothered me. I crossed it twice on two different days. It’s a four-lane arterial like 23rd but higher speed. In Seattle cars often stop for pedestrians but in Burien they didn’t. There was so much traffic I had to go halfway and wait in the middle for a gap, and the middle is so narrow you can’t help jutting into the car lanes. I’m afraid to get in front of cars in case they can’t stop, and since I don’t drive I don’t have a sense of how much distance they need. So I wait for a gap, or about to step in to hint fir somebody to stop. The first time, a car just blared it’s horn at me. I wanted to shout, “All intersections are legal crosswalks.” I looked and saw the double yellow line even had a gap at the intersection.

        The second time I got to the middle and had to wait a while, and then a car started approaching behind me. I hoped the car ib front of me would stop before the car behind me got to me, and fortunately it did.

        I saw three other people crossing: an elderly person with a walker, somebody with a dog, and somebody going to the bus stop. So it’s something neighborhood people do.

        It’s one thing to encounter this twice, and another every week for the next severak years. That really raises the likelihood I’d eventually get hit by a car. And my relative with a walker wouldn’t feel safe at all so she couldn’t take the bus. She’s gotten hit by cars multiple times just crossing 2-lane Seneca Street from the 2 to Virginia Mason clinic, which is supposed to be a safe area for pedestrians, but some cars won’t wait for a slow elderly person to finish crossing. Once it caused a foot problem that lingers to this day. And that’s on top of no sidewalks on the side streets. So I really hoped we could find a better home and wouldn’t have to fall back in this one. Fortunately, the one in Lake Hills is above average, the 156th intersections have blinking lights if they don’t have a stoplight, and the sidewalkless side streets are wider and lower-volume.

        I wished 1st Ave S had blinking lights or a flag you could carry. The first time I held my hand up as if carrying a flag, but that was when the car blared his horn at me.

      4. That sucks about 1st in Burien, Mike. A redesign is really needed. I avoid that road whenever possible, whatever mode.

        It’s not about education and enforcement. Those are the 2 least effective Es. It’s a highway right next to a limited access highway. Fast, through traffic should be taking 509.

        I honestly wouldn’t have stopped for you either, given the design. I have heard too many times about the first lane stopping, and the 2nd lane not, or a car zooming around the stopped car and the ped getting waxed. Happen to my boss’s daughter on a much friendlier street than that.

        It needs to be dropped to 1 lane with a turn lane or refuge, narrow it and post it at 25. Particularly the area in downtown, and maybe a zone in front of the adult family home.

    4. A big reason for this might be because Montrealers just aren’t that concerned with owning property. For many people, housing legitimately comprises a huge chunk of someone’s net worth (my grandfather, a bank president in the Philippines, said, “If you have property, you have money.”). For many Montrealers, housing is just housing, nothing more. Therefore, Montrealers don’t mind renting in perpetuity, even if they have the income for a house, condo or townhouse. (I believe this YouTube channel covered that different concept in another video.) That high percentage of renters might reduce heavily the supply of housing for those who want to buy, therefore jacking the price up.

      Also, the city of Montreal is entirely on an island, and the resulting land scarcity helps inflate real estate prices in the city proper. What real estate prices are like in the Montreal suburbs and environs (outside of Laval, also a separate island), I wouldn’t know.

      1. From what I can tell, homes (for sale) in Montreal aren’t that expensive. These are houses: https://www.realtor.com/international/ca/montreal-quebec/house/. There are several for under half a million. The first one I looked at is about 8 miles northeast of downtown. That seems competitive, if not simply more affordable than Seattle.

        Looking at apartments (i. e. condos) is the biggest difference. You can see plenty of places with two bedrooms under 300K. A lot of these are right in the heart of the city. You just can’t find that in Seattle. I mean literally — I did a search for 2-bedroom condos for under 300K in Seattle proper and Redfin came up empty. You can get a 2-bedroom condo at that price by going to the northern or southern suburbs. But if you are willing to live that far from town, you can buy a house in Montreal (https://www.realtor.com/international/ca/3920-rue-beaufort-brossard-quebec-110079623452/).

        Keep in mind, Montreal is just a bigger city. Absent zoning, bigger cities are more expensive. You would expect Montreal to be a lot more expensive than Seattle. The only reason Montreal is cheaper is because Seattle’s zoning is so restrictive.

        What is true of Montreal is true of big cities in Japan. Tokyo is the biggest city in the world, and growing. There is tremendous demand there. Yet it is less expensive than tiny Seattle. Our zoning laws have created a cartel, which pushes prices up.

      2. Ross, you miss the key metric:

        Average salary in Montreal is $40,070 CD which is 15.8% lower than the average salary in Canada of $47,497 CD. Average total household income in Montreal is $82,589 CD with an after tax average income of $53,721 CD.

        It isn’t the size of a city that primarily drives housing prices — or Mumbai would have the highest housing prices in the world — it is the wealth of a city. Monaco has a relatively small population but very high housing costs. Granted, if average incomes in Montreal were the same as in Seattle or the Eastside I would expect Montreal’s greater population would result in housing prices higher than Seattle.

      3. I think a big factor about housing in Montreal is that it’s freezing cold and often snowy. For those that haven’t lived in a climate like Montreal, let me mention a few things:

        1. It can take up to 20 minutes to clean snow off if a car. Montreal has lots more snowy days than Seattle has. Using transit is much more desirable if possible.

        2. It’s bitterly cold to walk outside when it’s -10c — so minimizing outdoor walking is a factor in Montreal. Walking 4 blocks in that weather is like walking many more blocks in temperate Seattle. Plus, snowy paths require shorter steps unless you enjoy slipping and falling — adding even more time. Thus, residents seek to have homes closer together so outdoor walking is minimized.

      4. Montreal has substantial suburban sprawl well off the island. The island doesn’t constrain land or housing supply there. In fact, they’re building new car-centric subdivisions 25+ miles from downtown while surface parking lots sit next to downtown Metro stations. They have poor/minimal growth management, and their major transit investments are focused in outer areas rich in swing voters; not urban ones rich in transit demand. A good example of that was their dumb extension of the orange line to Laval when it already had commuter rail service, but the green line had dangerous 40 year old cars running and overdue, dangerous maintenance needs.

        Montreal is a long, narrow island surrounded by land on all sides once you cross the river in question. Plenty of areas east and west of downtown are further from downtown than suburbs are, despite being on the island. Montreal’s housing is cheap primarily because its economy and population have been stagnant for decades. There’s just less demand. It’s nothing to do with the island or any zoning magic.

    5. Mike, I don’t know where you get these percentages from, but your central thesis is over decades politicians have zoned their cities contrary to the voters’ wishes. That just isn’t true. Harrell’s trouncing of Gonzales in large part due to Gonzales’ pledge to abolish SFH zoning proves that. So did the bruising fight over the MHA. And this is Seattle.

      Abolishing SFH zoning on the Eastside is just as suicidal for a politician as it was for Gonzales. It is a common mistake to think that what we want is what every other person wants, or just a majority of others, especially if it hasn’t occurred in decades of zoning.

      You lived in a 375 sf apartment and only used half. That suggests to me you are likely outside the mainstream. But make your thoughts known to your council person for the upcoming update of the comp plan. I probably wouldn’t write to Harrell because we already know how he and his voters feels. Max out the UGA’s under their current zoning before dispersing all this growth throughout remote Seattle that will only result in more drivers driving long distances.

      Re: the comp plan updates I am familiar with on the Eastside councils have already promised to not touch SFH zoning to meet housing allocations (considering many are up for election this year and next). Which is why the Master Builders Assoc and progressives who don’t even live here want the state to do it, except the state can’t identify a result to support upzoning SFH zones, especially with such strong opposition from voters AND local councils: 1. Upzoning around East Link with more people who don’t ride transit when East Link is at least 3 years away and few will ride it and there is plenty of existing (and future) park and ride space; and 2. New construction in the SFH zones won’t be remotely affordable. 3. It is not necessary to meet housing allocations, 4. there is no transit in these zones and Metro doesn’t have the funding or ability to serve them (micro transit), and 5. the neighborhoods are not remotely walkable.

      If you want to live in The Netherlands move there. In 33 years living on MI no one has ever said they want to live in The Netherlands. I have been there and lived several years in Europe and I don’t want to live there although I could. I only met one person the last 50 years from The Netherlands who married an American and they lived in a 5000 sf SFH, had multiple cars, and seemed to like it.

      1. “If you want to live in The Netherlands move there.”

        That would require qualifying for immigration; being accepted; learning Dutch; finding a job there; abandoning my country; and moving thousands of miles away from my family, partner, friends, contacts, and the familiarity of home. All to escape ideologically extreme and unsustainable land-use policies. People in a democracy like the US have a right to advocate for the policies they think best and to try to influence the government to do so, without their only choice being to move to another country where sane land-use policies prevail and walkable neighborhoods are the default choice.

      2. Zoning was far from the only issue in the Seattle mayoral race. Nor was it even the biggest issue. Harrell campaigned on getting homeless people off the streets – and quickly – while Gonzalez was more wishy-washy. It was the homeless situation that was, by far and away, the biggest issue. That is why Harrell won by so much. Not zoning.

      3. Yes, but also because Harrell ran a much better campaign. González ran a very poor campaign. She conceded the homeless issue to Harrell, even though it was Harrell that voted against increased funding for the homeless. Worse yet, she never hit Harrell on zoning, and the connection with homelessness. This isn’t rocket science — there is ample evidence supporting these two ideas:

        1) Our overly restrictive zoning has pushed up housing prices.
        2) Our high housing prices have increased homelessness.

        Yet González completely ignored this argument, deciding instead to focus on some BS about how Harrell handled the allegations against Murray (a stupid decision that ended up backfiring on her). In other words, the election *could* have been mostly about zoning (and its relationship with homelessness) but González made it about something else, and that is a big reason she lost.

  3. RossB: excellent. I visited Montreal for three days in January 2003. I did not visit the highlighted areas, but did see close in areas with retail below residential. It was very walkable. The video showed two-way cycle tracks; when researching what SDOT was doing on Broadway, I found a few articles from Montreal. Other tangential comments: the Montreal metro was similar to that of Paris with rubber tires and the same green paint job. The limited access highway through the center city is buried. In Seattle, Eltana serves Montreal style bagels on Stone Way North and 12th Avenue East.

    1. “I grew up in a two parent two kid household in an 1800 sq. ft. house, and we didn’t feel particularly cramped. The argument that you absolutely *have* to have 3000 square feet to raise two kids is incredibly elitist.”

      And you probably walked five miles in the snow to get to school, and held three jobs while attending school and pulled yourself up by the bootstraps. What you don’t state is if you raised a family in an 1800 sf house.

      You don’t absolutely have to have 3000 sf (and many want more). There is nothing “elitist” about wanting a bigger house to raise a family. I wish some on this blog would cut with the privileged and elitist crap like they grew up in Africa.

      I grew up in an old summer home on Mercer Island that was less than 1800 sf with five kids and two parents, so your living conditions sound palatial to me, although I would not state it makes you elitist. I never had my own bedroom until my last year in HS. The strange thing is I am 63 and have never lived alone, ever, and for the last 20 years have lived in a 2400 sf house with four of us, or 600 sf/person. Finally when my son and his lacrosse friends became taller than I am we had to convert one of our three garage stalls into a playroom. Wasn’t cheap but man was the extra space wonderful.

      If you have the lot area and the city has a GFAR ratio that preserves the yard setbacks and character of the neighborhood so you can’t build a McMansion build whatever you want. I am not going to tell parents how much sf they need based on my upbringing 50 years ago, or that they are “elitist” because they want a home office or great family room or bedroom for each kid or laundry room or theater or three car garage.

      If you personally have not raised a family you really don’t know how much a family needs in SF.

      1. I believe in SFH zoning. You are right 3,000 ft² is not enough to raise a family. When I was growing up, we lived in 9500 ft². This allowed for each of us to have our own playrooms, and each of our own nannies had their own private sitting room. The staff had their own areas too, including sleeping accomodations for the chef, butler, and driver. Anything less than $4,500 ft² is barbarian and uncivilized. If you’re going to live in something that’s small you might as well consider yourself a caged animal.

      2. Tom, I am blessed to be a third generation local. I have never successfully gotten into the SHA or KCHA waiting lists due to unlucky lottery results. Were it not for my family, I would be homeless.

    2. I think my first time at Eltana in Stone Way was about 5 yrs ago when I took a friend to Archie Mcfee’s. He had not been to that newer location yet. They had coupons for free bagels if you spent a certain amount. That is how I ended up with a bacon wallet and Jesus action figure. Tasty bagels. We spent more on the spreads they had.

  4. I had previously refrained from commenting on the placement of the ST3 CID station, as it is a sensitive topic with well-informed experiences and opinions on all sides. But now, having just vacationed in Montreal this past weekend (my first time), I got a chance to visit its Chinatown in the evening, and my experience strengthened my support for a more rider friendly ST3 station near Seattle’s CID stores/restaurants/services.

    There was a short section (Rue de la Gauchetiere?) that was closed off to cars. It was clean (no visible dumpsters like in Seattle’s CID) and packed with people of all ages, most of whom seemed to be locals. The restaurants in this block are also packed, and actually even those on the perpendicular street which are not closed to cars, but it was definitely way more pleasant walking through the pedestrian only section. This made my wife and I think, why can’t we have this type of clean and safe street within the CID, that many people wouldn’t mind walking in the evening after dark?

    It’s sad that station construction on 5th will have unavoidable impact to nearby CID businesses, but some of the opposition is based on loss of parking or car access. In the long run, though, more CID patrons will prefer pedestrian only streets where available, and they are the ones who will stop to go and shop at stores, not the car drivers who are just passing through. There is no question in my mind the way forward is to support pedestrian/bike/transit friendly business locations, and it will be self-defeating to insist that the CID oppose that trend.

    I am not discounting that CID businesses will suffer more from a ST3 shallow station construction on 5th, but the best approach is to see the long-term benefit and really work with the community, constructors, stakeholders to minimize the impact to the shortest amount of time possible.

  5. I don’t really understand the point of “missing middle housing”. As far as I can tell, this sort of architecture made sense back when we had more primitive technology (in both transportation and construction). But now 6-story buildings are far more efficient, in terms of not only land use, but also labor and materials. Let’s not let our fear of tall buildings get in the way of cheaper housing.

    1. Some might argue 6 story height limits are middle housing. It depends on the architecture and massing. Others would argue that if 6 story buildings “are far more efficient, in terms of not only land use, but also labor and materials” why not 12, or 24 stories? Or like downtown Bellevue 60 stories. I don’t see where height necessarily translates to more affordable housing. Often just the opposite.

      The practical reality is 2-3 story middle housing like in Montreal or Brooklyn (especially if the architecture has some design and is not cookie cutter cheap like in so many areas in Seattle) in a mixed use zone tends to create a good mixed use “urban” zone, and Montreal’s zoning is mostly by accident by history. 6 stories becomes oppressive and you lose the retail, and there is no point to a mixed use zone without retail. We see this on Mercer Island: the five story mixed use buildings are not very conducive to a vibrant retail zone.

      Why are Ballard and Capitol Hill vibrant neighborhoods? Who knows, but they are. Urban Planners, which is the definition of the light sciences, don’t know either. Other areas in Seattle are dead. Would a six or twelve story height limit in these neighborhoods kill that vibe? I believe it would, and believe the 14 story height limit in the CID will kill that vibe too. Not every Seattle neighborhood needs to be like downtown Bellevue. Luckily steel framed buildings with elevators and underground parking need around 22 stories to pan out, so for now the CID is still the CID although the push is on by developers to raise the height limit in the CID to … drum roll … 22 stories, so it can look just like The Spring Dist. when it is developed.

      Sone believe height is the most important regulatory limit because height more than anything else determines a zone’s character, and what “use” you end up with in a mixed use zone. Start getting to tall the units tend to be high end, and even taller and commercial dominates.

    2. Lowrise density (row houses, triplexes, etc.) can still be materially cheaper if they don’t require vertical conveyance – unless you can point me to 6 story walk-up new builds? IIRC, ADA requirements are stricter for ‘midrise’ and high-rise.

    3. The point of emphasizing “Missing Middle” is to remember that there value in allowing housing forms that provide a transition between lower density outer neighborhoods (where less people are interested in living due to distance from goods and services), and higher-density neighborhoods (where more people are interested in living due to access to goods and services). Today, the assumption is that the middle-density housing forms that were popular and affordable in the mid-to late 20th century (bungalow courts, dingbat apartments, etc.) are now largely uneconomical to build because of regulatory limits, not economic limits; hence discussions of a “missing middle” in new construction.

      For example, Sam’s hypothetical of a high-rise apartment/condo tower in an otherwise low-density neighborhood is ridiculous (and therefore not worth engaging) not because of NIMBYism, but because high-rise housing in an anotherwise low-density neighborhood would be logistically ridiculous in terms of inadequate public and private services regardless of the residents’ choice of transportation mode. A new high-rise residential tower on the periphery of Downtown makes sense because there are plenty of stores and businesses to support the needs of the residents, long-established high-density transit, and other needs, and naturally (historically), density grows outward from a core economic engine. Allowing the “missing middle” between areas of high economic activity and low economic activity allows new housing to be created without the major investment required for 6-story mixed-use apartments, but allows space for new residents, which engenders customer base for new local business, which (over time) attracts more interested residents, which then makes it economical to redevelop the middle-density housing again into updated, higher-density forms. Simple, natural growth.

      The culture of a neighborhood is created by the nature of its residents, not the nature of its buildings, so when housing is allowed to gradually densify over time, the change in character of a neighborhood is similarly gradual and acceptable.

      1. Would the “brownstones” like those in Brooklyn be an equivalent of these three-story Montreal walkups?

    4. There isn’t that much difference in terms of density between 3 and 6 stories. But there is a huge difference in terms of what people will accept, and want around them. Most of Seattle is zoned for single family housing, and yet you can’t build a six story house. It can be very wide and deep, it just can’t be tall.

      Building of the type that Montreal has would be a dramatic increase in density (you saw the numbers — Wow!). Yet they wouldn’t get the kind of opposition that six story buildings — of any type — gets. You are far more likely to get literal NIMBY opposition from potential political allies with a city-wide change to six-story buildings. Many, many people (who support an increase in density from a general standpoint) would object because they don’t want to live next to a big building. But homes the exact same height as what is currently allowed — but with a lot more density — is far more likely to happen.

      1. You can build a three-story house in Seattle? I know there there are Queen Anne-style homes which have a “garret” level with one or two rooms and gabled windows, but a full three story home (other than a daylight basement)? Where does the City allow that?

      2. The lowest density zone allows structures up to 30’ if your lot is 30’ wide, but the FAR is 0.5, meaning that if it doesn’t really make sense to build a 3-story house when you could just have a 50% wider two-story house.

      3. You can build a three-story house in Seattle? … Where does the City allow that?

        Pretty much everywhere. It is really based more on height, rather than the number of stories. But it is fairly common to see new houses that are that tall. For example, this is a new one in my neighborhood: https://www.redfin.com/WA/Seattle/1910-NE-120th-St-98125/unit-A/home/116890. Here is one in Tangletown: https://www.redfin.com/WA/Seattle/5847-McKinley-Pl-N-98103/home/304474. I knew someone who rented that one. The first floor is quite functional — it has a large room (that could work as a bedroom or play room) and a bathroom. The second floor has a kitchen and living room, while the third floor has bedrooms. There is even access to a rooftop deck (but I don’t think that counts). Very vertical.

      4. Thank you. I guess that with eight foot ceilings and a pretty flat roof, one can get three floors in 30 feet.

      5. This shows the hypocrisy of single family zoning. A 3 story 5000 SQ ft foot for just one household? Perfectly ok. Split the same building space between 5 households? Suddenly, it’s not ok anymore.

        And, of course, the business of single family zoning being necessary for tree preservation is also a joke. Chopping down all the trees to build a giant mansion for one person is considered perfectly ok. While building even a simple duplex that preserves existing trees is considered not ok. Etc.

      6. This shows the hypocrisy of single family zoning. A 3 story 5000 SQ ft foot for just one household? Perfectly ok. Split the same building space between 5 households? Suddenly, it’s not ok anymore.

        Yeah, exactly. The rules are really designed to preserve a lack of density. Even aesthetic arguments are BS.

        Which is not to say that folks aren’t worried about aesthetics. If you ask people why they don’t want density, the first thing they will tell you is that the don’t want a big apartment next to them.

        The crazy part is that is just as possible with single family homes as with apartments: https://goo.gl/maps/xLHZPHqeHyTwnoeo9. Same with the idea that you are preserving the “look and feel” of the neighborhood. If anything, small bungalows being replaced by McMansions is a much bigger change than replacing them with townhouses or apartments (the latter being more middle-class).

        That is why I think we can convince enough people to modify the zoning codes. Simply saying “More Density!” is not going to win many votes. The “all or nothing” approach has failed miserably, in many ways. But pushing for attractive, high density, low rise development (like in Montreal) could very well get widespread support. The existing rules are focused on density, but most people don’t care. If you allowed — and encouraged — converting houses to apartments, you would likely get a lot of support. Keep the house, just add density. Unfortunately, like so much of our code, it does the opposite.

        We need policies that encourage density, while encouraging attractive and relatively short structures. This means getting rid of the parking requirements, along with FAR, setbacks and the like.

      7. To add to Ross’ point, dwellings are the only land use primarily limited by number of units per lot as well as parking spaces per unit. The rest of the land uses in zoning codes are regulated by height, setback, sq feet and FAR — but don’t vary based on the number of “units”.

        And units are defined by where kitchens and locked doors are located. These are things that can quietly be changed without filing permits in a house. Most cities have tons of “illegal” apartments as a result.

        The solution is ultimately to regulate residential like every other land use — height, setbacks, sq feet and FAR only. The only reason that units are counted go back to the days when residents didn’t want “renters” on their block (a code term for POC back in segregation days). Of course, they would opine that “renters” are “blight” in a neighborhood to be prevented.

      8. “To add to Ross’ point, dwellings are the only land use primarily limited by number of units per lot as well as parking spaces per unit. The rest of the land uses in zoning codes are regulated by height, setback, sq feet and FAR — but don’t vary based on the number of “units”.

        “The solution is ultimately to regulate residential like every other land use — height, setbacks, sq feet and FAR only.”

        Al, you miss the entire point I have tried to make over and over. If the regulatory limits in a SFH zone remain the same no matter what the “use” is it does not create more housing. Height, yard setbacks, impervious surface limits, GFAR limits, parking minimums, are what create the character of a SFH neighborhood. But with the relatively small lot sizes if the regulatory limits for a SFH stay the same you won’t create more housing by changing the “use” for the lot. The number of bedrooms actually declines because now each unit needs its own bathroom, kitchen, entry, etc.

        The reality is each of the zones has all kinds of restrictions or requirements that other zones don’t have. Some require retail and onsite parking for retail. Some require green space set asides. Some require a certain percentage for affordable units, and almost all multi-family zones require a certain mix of studios, one, two and three bedroom units.

        Today if you want you can rent out any number of bedrooms in a SFH. In fact the state just eliminated any restrictions on the number of unrelated people who can live in one rental house (depending on the fire code). Converting this into some kind of separate legal dwellings each with their own kitchen, bathroom and entry plus living room reduces housing on the lot, or even worse creates a shared condo style ownership which would be nightmare.

        The other two big problems are either you are converting the most expensive land per sf for housing, or you are going to gentrify poor areas like south Seattle, which is a huge issue before the GMPC today. Pretty soon Seattle won’t have any POC unless they are rich.

      9. “That is why I think we can convince enough people to modify the zoning codes. Simply saying “More Density!” is not going to win many votes. The “all or nothing” approach has failed miserably, in many ways. But pushing for attractive, high density, low rise development (like in Montreal) could very well get widespread support. The existing rules are focused on density, but most people don’t care. If you allowed — and encouraged — converting houses to apartments, you would likely get a lot of support. Keep the house, just add density. Unfortunately, like so much of our code, it does the opposite.”

        That is the definition of very expensive housing. I like the housing in Montreal Ross references, although the reason it is attractive and was preserved is because it is converted warehouses and industrial buildings, which were only preserved BECAUSE OF ZONING RESTRICTIONS, and luck. My guess is these units per sf are some of the most expensive in the city. Just like the restrictions on development in Ballard and Capitol Hill make those areas some of the most expensive.

        Preventing a McMansion is pretty simple: use your regulatory tools: yard setbacks, impervious surface limits, height limits, and GFAR limits. That is what we did on Mercer Island. Simply reduce GFAR to 40% and adopt pretty large setbacks and remove any deviations like we did and end of McMansions.

        Of course if you increase the regulatory limits in a SFH zone, which would pretty much be necessary to pencil out any multi-family housing, then the SFH gets the same regulatory limits. So to really make some kind of multi-family or row houses work on smallish SFH lots you need looser regulatory limits, whereas if you want to prevent McMansions you need stricter regulatory limits, because any allowed use in a zone gets the same regulatory limits.

        I think Nathan had it right. There are some areas in urbanish areas like Ballard in which a transition zone between taller multi-family/commercial/retail and SFH zones is beneficial for row or town houses. They are usually very expensive per sf, and it is easier to microzone row or town houses out of the multi-family zone than SFH zone.

        For example, in a suburban city like MI the SFH zones are adamantly opposed to row or town houses in the SFH zone, or any effort to reduce minimum lot size in the SFH zone, but a proposal to build 48 very high end ($4 million) Brownstones in the town center on a large parking lot for the Farmers Building was popular with everyone. Unfortunately the property including parking lot was purchased by Riot Games — although no one will move in until 2025 — and the Brownstones scrapped despite very high interest by Islanders looking to downzone, but not to some remote residential neighborhood (which is what they are living in now). The good news I suppose is Riot Games will help MI meet its GMPC jobs targets, although right now the GMPC is not counting WFH towards future job targets which I think will fundamentally change job targets.

      10. Daniel: Suburban strip mall and indoor mall parking lots, often with vacant commercial spaces, are definitely low hanging fruit. You can at least get some of the NIMBYs on board by arguing that putting development there can help “preserve” the heart of their own neighborhoods, meanwhile the next generation of homeowners, some of whom previously lived in these developments, might end up being less “get off my lawn.”

      11. Brandon, you are correct many eastside cities plan to allocate their GMPC housing targets to their multi-family/commercial/mixed-use zones, and not to the SFH zones. In fact most already have zoning that will allow this without upzoning any zones. The land and zoning are there to meet the housing targets through 2044.

        Some cities are doing exactly what you suggest in their commercial and retail areas: for example, The Spring District anticipates developing many of the parking lots, although the housing won’t be affordable. I know Kemper Freeman has often lamented that he has around $500 million in land tied up in his surface lots at Bellevue Mall, but that parking is what his coveted customer wants and Bellevue Mall is the foundation of his real-estate empire all along Bellevue Way. Of course he has massive underground parking at Lincoln Square north and south, but women don’t like underground parking. What is Capitol Hill but one long strip mall along Broadway. Why not convert that retail space to housing?

        Retail is a very precious thing. Many if not most eastside cities segregate out retail because otherwise housing will consume it (as office space consumes housing if in the same zone). You can’t have retail without parking, even in Seattle (compare 3rd Ave. with U Village) so what you are arguing for is eliminating retail for housing if you eliminate the parking because underground parking is too expensive for these low rise small retail malls. Why, if the city has the land and existing zoning to meet its GMPC housing targets without eliminating retail space which is so hard to nurture?

        The reality some on this blog don’t get is the GMPC housing targets don’t require very many cities to change their zoning to meet their targets, and my guess is the housing targets will be adjusted down next time around due to lower population growth than estimated. Plus cities like Shoreline, Tacoma and Lynnwood want more housing growth because they need the revenue and need to gentrify their cities and neighborhoods, which lowers everyone else’s targets.

        One thing the GMPC was sensitive about was trying to allocate more housing targets to those cities and councils that wanted more housing, although one problem is so many want to live on the eastside but those cities are not keen on more housing because they don’t need it. There is some tension there, especially with Sammamish because Sammamish does not have much commercial area to allocate the housing to.

        Zoning for housing is not suppose to be some ideological or progressive tool to change how people want to live, or because they don’t like SFH. The first rule under the GMPC is find out which cities want more housing and give more to them, and less to those who don’t want it, and then let each city figure out how to zone for it. Upzoning SFH zones is not necessary to meet these housing targets, and does not create affordable housing.

      12. Daniel, you miss my pont. While other zoning categories have other requirements, none limited by number of units. Instead, they are measured in things like square feet. Even hotels are regulated by square feel even though codes specify number of spaces per room.

        For example, where is there a retail code that does not allow a developer to rent to only 4 commercial tenants in a 30ksf shopping center? The codes generally let them create many more spots that they can rent separately.

        I know it’s really hard to see that we shouldn’t treat residential by counting units because that’s the traditional way that codes were written. I’m simply pointing out that commercial buildings can carve out more spaces to rent, while residential buildings cannot. Look at how many renters are in a self storage warehouse!

        Changing how we measure density would not necessarily change the character on MI. They could keep their precious FAR and setbacks. It’s just their parking would not be something like 2 spaces per unit but instead would be something like 1 space per 1000ksf. So if you build a 4Ksf you must provide 4 spaces — a car for you, wife and two kids. But if you need a caregiver to push you around in a wheelchair in years to come, you could carve up your house and they could have their own homes yet be close.

        It’s how most of the cities around the world work, and how homes were built in the 19th century in the US. It’s only been since the Supreme Court banned racial segregation zoning did units start becoming the measuring stick. People even used to be allowed rooming houses anywhere in a city!

      13. “What is Capitol Hill but one long strip mall along Broadway. Why not convert that retail space to housing?”

        A strip mall is a row of 1-2 story businesses with a shared surface parking lot in front. Broadway doesn’t have a surface parking lot so it’s not a strip mall. That’s what makes Broadway pedestrian-friendly and urban, while strip malls car-centric and suburban.

        All the new buildings on Broadway for the past two decades do have several floors of housing. There’s the three at the Roy end where Safeway and QFC used to be, a couple south of them, a couple at the light rail station, and the one across from the college. The 1-2 story retail that doesn’t have housing is nevertheless pedestrian-friendly and contributes to the cozy urban vibe — the opposite of a strip mall. Even Dick’s is exemplary: it’s front-to-back rows of surface parking are narrow, and the ordering/eating counters are directly adjacent to the sidewalk, making pedestrians first-class citizens rather than second-class. It’s rewarded with crowds of pedestrian customers, which improves the ambience of the retail district.

      14. What is Capitol Hill but one long strip mall along Broadway.

        I tend to just skim some of the longer comments. I didn’t even read that comment until Mike quoted it. It shows that skimming (and largely ignoring those comments) is probably the best answer. How do you refute something so absolutely absurd? I suppose you could explain what a strip mall is for starters. Then write about Capitol Hill, along with maps, charts, and other data. All of it to refute a ridiculous statement. What a tedious waste of time, for a statement that is obviously trolling.

        It would be as if I claimed that a chicken is a duck. Good luck refuting that.

      15. Daniel has a problem with word definitions. Sometimes I clarify them for him, other times I clarify them so new readers unfamiliar with transit/urbanism won’t be misled.

        Strip mall: A 1950s-style row of 1-2 story businesses with a shared surface parking lot in front. E.g., the block south of Bellevue Square.

        Urban: A walkable neighborhood in a non-rural area. It can be highrise like Belltown, 7-story like Pike/Pine/Summit, 2-4 story like 15th Ave E, or small single-family houses near these like the Central District, or 2-4 story examples like Paris or Montreal or The Netherlands. “Urban area” can also refer to the entire built-up part of a metropolitan area including low-density suburbs and exurbs, in contrast to rural area; e.g., Kitsap County (growth area) as opposed to Skagit County (rural). Houses do NOT have large setbacks around them, most businesses do NOT have surface parking lots in front, there’s usually a mixture of housing and businesses, and buildings are ideally narrow and deep rather than wide and shallow, or at least have a facade that looks like that. All these are to maximize pedestrian convenience, and the last is for traditional vertical aesthetics.

        (Note: Surface parking lots inside or behind, or front-to-back rows on the sides, are more acceptable than in front. One or two rows in front is more acceptable than several rows. Two rows in front of something denser than a strip mall is better than a strip mall.)

        Transit-oriented development: a building oriented toward a transit stop; i.e., the shortest walking path. The building is usually denser than townhouses or a strip mall.

        Transit-adjacent development: a medium/high density building whose entrance is NOT the shortest walking path to a transit stop. Especially large buildings where you have to walk around two or three sides and/or through a large parking lot to get to the entrance. Or clusters of such buildings that could be TOD but aren’t, like the Galleria in north Dallas, or Eastgate.

        New Urbanism: A walkable neighborhood, usually referring to post-1970 developments in suburbs or exurbs. The same design in a city is just urbanism or pre-WWII design. The best example here is the Issaquah Highlands, which has a mixture of close-together houses and multifamily, within walking distance of a supermarket and Target and a regional transit stop. Snoqualmie Ridge is isolated and has only minimal retail. Redmond Ridge is isolated and I didn’t see any retail. Other examples are along Westside MAX in Portland, notably Orenco Station, and also Hillsboro Station, and in parts of Beaverton. The Congress for the New Urbanism originally intended to build wakable pre-WWII style neighborhoods in both cities and suburbs, like Ballard or Lake City, but it got stymied by zoning restrictions and was forced to build mostly in suburban/exurban brownfield and greenfield sites like the Spring District or Redmond Ridge), where it could get multiple acres and permission for density and reduced parking minimums.

    5. It’s also a matter of ownership and property upkeep. Most 6-story buildings are rental housing owned by large corporations and financed as investment projects. They must have elevators and common hallways. They must also go through a long, elaborate approval process that includes heightened fire safety requirements which adds months if not years until the housing is ready for occupants.

      The Montreal housing allows for easier homeowner purchases and even the ability to own 2-3 units and rent out the extra units for income. It’s also a great concept for extended families. Finally, many designs aren’t markedly out of a street’s character and fit in nicely with single family dwellings.

      1. “It’s also a matter of ownership and property upkeep. Most 6-story buildings are rental housing owned by large corporations and financed as investment projects. They must have elevators and common hallways. They must also go through a long, elaborate approval process that includes heightened fire safety requirements which adds months if not years until the housing is ready for occupants.”

        Multi-family housing rental buildings require the property owner to hold onto the property for a very long time to return their capital. A smaller builder cannot do that because they need to sell the development when completed to fund the next project, and there is tremendous risk in holding onto this kind of property as 2008 and the pandemic showed. REIT’s are the biggest builder of multi-family construction, and for many reasons including taxes and the requirement their investment pool have a certain percentage of capital invested in property they prefer rental properties, not condos. Or did.

        The state tried to incentivize more condo construction because smaller builders can sell those when completed to repurpose their capital by reducing the long tail on warranties for new condo construction so they could get insurance and thus a loan, but all that did is incentivize builders to renovate or replace older already zoned multi-family buildings (rental or not) with new, much more expensive construction that actually reduced the amount of affordable multi-family housing, which basically is the only kind of affordable housing. Buy low, build, sell high.

        The stock market has lost $10 trillion in capital since Jan. 2022. REIT’s have been badly hit, both commercial and housing. Interest rates and construction costs are too high, so REIT’s are scaling way back on construction, as are private SFH home builders. The recent DECLINES in property values — especially commercial and large multi-family projects — is putting tremendous strain on REIT’s and investors are bailing.

        So look for way fewer housing starts of all kinds over the next five years, and with federal borrowing rates going from 1% to probably 5% this year to higher next year payments on the debt will become a heavy drag on federal spending. A local government can zone all they want but unless they are the one building the housing they can’t force builders to build when the market is bad.

        Recently the new government in Great Britain announced tax cuts and energy subsidies and the currency tanked jeopardizing its vast pension system, so the government backtracked. Already calls are for the U.S. government to begin a policy of austerity because otherwise inflation will result in the bond market forcing government borrowing rates so high is it will begin to consume the discretionary budget. Same thing at the state and local level.

        Over the last 10 years through quantitative easing 1, 2 and 3, followed by the Covid stimulus packages, the market was perfect for property developers of every kind. Thus we had lots of housing (and office) starts and high housing and office prices. We thought that was bad. Even worse, which 2008 proved but who remembers 2008, is when housing starts plummet but even worse housing prices begin to decline while adjustable rate mortgages reset. If you have cash — like Warren Buffett after 2008 — you probably will be able to get some great deals on housing in the next five years and owners default out.

      2. Over the long term, business cycles go up and down. Even if conditions are not favorable for building right now, in a few years, that can change.

        In any case, this is hardly an argument against upzoning. If builders aren’t building anyway, than what is a city to be afraid of?

        This falls into the theme of several DT comments, that developers somehow need cities to protect them from making bad business decisions. It is not the job of cities to vet whether a building project makes financial sense; that’s the job of the developer and their lenders, since there the ones whose money is at stake.

      3. “This falls into the theme of several DT comments, that developers somehow need cities to protect them from making bad business decisions. It is not the job of cities to vet whether a building project makes financial sense; that’s the job of the developer and their lenders, since there the ones whose money is at stake.”

        Just the opposite asdf2. Zoning protects citizens and communities and neighborhoods from developers, although developers and builders are not going to build if it isn’t profitable.

        For example, I support the more restrictive zoning for Capitol Hill and Ballard compared to other parts of the city because those zoning restrictions help create the neighborhood. That doesn’t mean I think those two areas are “elitist”. It is the city and citizens who bear the brunt of the costs of development, from roads to water and sewer lines to police and fire to schools to park acres per 1000 citizens. Which is why the Supreme Court held cities have the authority to zone. Do you think the two and three story buildings in Montreal Ross points to would exist without restrictive zoning?

        Unless of course you are arguing for eliminating all zoning and the Growth Management Act. I disagree with that and it hasn’t worked where tried. The abusive zoning under Ron Sims in unincorporated King Co. is why so much of the county (certainly those parts that funded King Co.) either incorporated or sought annexation which has left King Co. a shell of its former self and constantly begging for levies to fund things.

        You do what you think is best for your city and I will do what I think is best for my city. Each has its GMPC housing growth targets, and must decide how to zone for those although most can accommodate even the ahistorical estimates from the GMPC without amending their zoning.

        There is obviously a lot of animus towards SFH on this blog, much of it irrational IMO when those same folks argue for zoning restrictions to create two, three, four, six story multi-family houses or row houses which is the definition of restrictive zoning, but I figure the SFH neighborhoods in Seattle can take care of themselves, and Harrell has bigger things on his plate than another bruising zoning fight.

        If someone can come up with a proven method to create truly affordable housing without public subsidies I am all ears, and they may want to let Harrell and the council know before they place a very expensive affordable housing levy on the ballot (which of course renters get to pay for too, although I doubt they understand that).

      4. “I support the more restrictive zoning for Capitol Hill and Ballard compared to other parts of the city because those zoning restrictions help create the neighborhood.”

        What Alice-in-Wonderland inversion are you living in? Capitol Hill and Ballard have more density and multifamily housing and taller buildings than most neighborhoods like Wallingford or Beacon Hill or Greenwood, so how can you say they have stricter zoning than those neighborhoods? The only parts with looser zoning than Capitol Hill and Ballard are the three urban centers: downtown, the U-District, and Northgate. First Hill has a disproportionate number of highrises, but most of them are old, it’s an extension of downtown, and First Hill does not include east of Broadway that would bring the average neighborhood density down.

      5. Daniel, you’d be hard pressed to find many 3k+ sqft homes in Ballard, but you will find plenty of families – living proof that middle-density housing is perfectly appropriate for families. I know of multiple families that live in the new 1-1.5k sqft townhomes near my house. What do you say to them?

        Zoning does not create Ballard’s attractiveness. Before housing capacity was expanded by the Urban Village, Ballard was sleepy and geriatric. Upzoning in the Urban Village allowed more people to move to Ballard, and these people have fostered a vibrant and growing service and retail core.

      6. I support the more restrictive zoning for Capitol Hill and Ballard compared to other parts of the city because those zoning restrictions help create the neighborhood.

        Those neighborhoods were created before zoning. Most of the places people find especially attractive in those neighborhoods were built before zoning, or have evolved with fewer restrictions.

        In contrast, neighborhoods like Kingsgate were built with very restrictive zoning. Is Kingsgate a stronger neighborhood than Capitol Hill or Ballard? That seems like a big stretch. All have Wikipedia articles, but Kingsgate just lists the date of annexation, and census data. In contrast, Capitol Hill is treated almost as if it is a small town. Same with Ballard (which was a small town, long before it was zoned). It isn’t just Wikipedia — there are numerous websites detailing the activities in Capitol and Ballard. They both have their own blogs, and at one time, their own newspapers. Kingsgate has a website, which features its ice rink, and that’s about it. Mostly it lacks distinction, unlike the neighborhoods whose character was formed before restrictive zoning, and has evolved because the zoning isn’t very restrictive.

        To be clear, in all of these cases there is preservation. At least I assume there is — I’m not sure what is being preserved in Kingsgate. But in Ballard and Capitol Hill, particular buildings are preserved, while much of the neighborhood has been allowed to grow organically (or at the very least, more organically than most of the city).

      7. The middle housing you like in Montreal was built well before zoning. But it is restrictive zoning that has Preserved it. Same with Brooklyn and a thousand other neighborhoods surrounded by much greater density that predate zoning that cities adopted because living conditions in large cities became uninhabitable.

        (I grew up on lower Capitol Hill in the 1960’s and it was quite different than today and I doubt the Capitol Hill you see today was created before zoning).

        What you might like in a neighborhood others might not. On the Eastside and MI folks like their SFH neighborhoods, and valuations would suggest so do many others. Most over 30 don’t really want to live or even visit Capitol Hill, and I find the retail there schlocky unless you are young, at least among those I know. I live minutes from Capitol Hill and haven’t been there in decades. Why?

        If the zoning for Capitol Hill were allowed to match that in Belltown or First Hill you would have a much different neighborhood. Much more housing, taller buildings, higher rents. Which is why local Capitol Hill groups jealously protect their zoning. Good for them.

      8. Kingsgate in the 1980s was a P&R and a single-family neighborhood, and maybe a couple multifamily apartments. The Wikipedia article is a minimal stub that many cities otherwise without articles have. I don’t know who enters the large demographics section in all of them, or why they do. The whole article is clearly statistics from a statistics reference as if written by a bot. Apparently nobody loves Kingsgate enough to add custom details. Or maybe nothing happens there because it’s generic suburbia.

        In contrast, more people than the entire population of Kingsgate love Capitol Hill, and Ballard, and Fremont, and the U-District, and Greenwood, and Beacon Hill, and Rainier Valley.

      9. “I grew up on lower Capitol Hill in the 1960’s and it was quite different than today”

        Yes, families with children lived in the apartments in the Summit area. My friend in north Lynnwood was one of them in the 1970s. She walked to Queen Anne High School because the 8 bus didn’t exist then.

        “I doubt the Capitol Hill you see today was created before zoning”

        Some of it did. Zoning started around the 1920s, like the 3-story Summit studio I lived in. But it was much looser then. Corner stores were allowed, and many areas around Seattle were lowrise that became single-family in the 1970s, or the heights were lowered, and SRO hotels were outlawed. (SROs used to be all over 1st and 2nd Avenues and in the Summit area. Visible street homelessness started when the SROs were closed with no replacement.) Zoning was restricted in the 1950s, and further in the 1970s, essentially blocking the unbuilt part of the zoning capacity. Many grandfathered apartment buildings and corner stores couldn’t be built now. And those are what make a lot of the character of the neighborhood.

      10. “Most over 30 don’t really want to live or even visit Capitol Hill, and I find the retail there schlocky”
        Really disrespectful to call the gay neighborhood of Seattle schlocky because it doesn’t cater your lifestyle. For many of us in the LGBTQ community it is our safe haven to be ourselves with no judgment from others. Lots of wonderful small businesses are there and cater to the community. And I know plenty of older people who enjoy the neighborhood as well, so I find that reasoning questionable.
        There is no reason to call Capitol Hill’s retail schlocky, if people want bland boring gentrified retail there’s plenty of places for that.

      11. Zach, I don’t know what you talking about. Retail on Capitol Hill isn’t very gay oriented, unless you think Dick’s is gay oriented.

        I lived for a couple years just off Broadway in the mid to late 80’s. I thought Capitol Hill was much more gay then. Oldest land use story in the book: gay community discovers a run down area which Capitol Hill was in the 1970’s, the area becomes hip, the straight folks move in, the area gentrifies, gays get priced out and find another area. Look at lower NY all the way to Harlem today if you want a good history of the migration

        Personally I don’t find the retail or restaurants on Capitol Hill very good although it has been a while. My 19 year old daughter sometimes goes there to bargain hunt and people watch, and my 21 year old son and his friends go drinking there no doubt for the young girls. I used to go the Roanoke pretty regularly when I was his age for the same reasons . Just because the retail on Capitol Hill is not my cup of tea (or my wife’s) at my age has nothing to do with your sexuality. Although I do still like a Dick’s deluxe once in a while, and remember the Mexican restaurant where we would split a roast chicken with rice and beans and drink marguerits but that was in the 80’s (is it still there) and for a while some of Seattle’s best restaurants were just west of Broadway but they all moved. A close friend married a hostess from one of those restaurants.

        I am sorry though Capitol Hill is the only place you feel safe as a gay person. I thought Seattle was more tolerant than that.

      12. In any case, this is hardly an argument against upzoning.

        No, none of it is. If you think that Daniel’s statements are some sort of cohesive and consistent argument, you will be sadly disappointed. That just isn’t his style.

        This has been the pattern for Daniel for quite some time. Daniel just throws out various statements that have nothing to do with the original point of discussion. On the same content thread he makes several absurd assumptions. I’m not sure if it is just the rambling of a reactionary conservative, or an attempt at trolling. Just look at the various statements, just ripe for controversy:

        Multi-family housing rental buildings require the property owner to hold onto the property for a very long time to return their capital. A smaller builder cannot do that because they need to sell the development when completed to fund the next project…

        The state tried to incentivize more condo construction…

        Already calls are for the U.S. government to begin a policy of austerity because otherwise inflation will result in the bond market forcing government borrowing rates so high is it will begin to consume the discretionary budget. …

        I support the more restrictive zoning for Capitol Hill and Ballard compared to other parts of the city because those zoning restrictions help create the neighborhood…

        There is obviously a lot of animus towards SFH on this blog, much of it irrational IMO when those same folks argue for zoning restrictions to create two, three, four, six story multi-family houses or row houses which is the definition of restrictive zoning, but I figure the SFH neighborhoods in Seattle can take care of themselves, and Harrell has bigger things on his plate than another bruising zoning fight.

        If someone can come up with a proven method to create truly affordable housing without public subsidies I am all ears, and they may want to let Harrell and the council know …

        I could go on. These are only a handful of the statements he has written. You get the idea. There are so many of them, it is like playing argumentative whack-a-mole. There is no theme here, other than “I know these things, and you don’t.” Each one of these comes with no reference, no evidence, and no reasoning behind them. Many are ridiculous. Others run in complete opposition to ideas repeatedly presented here — including ones that he has presented. For example, notice that the last two are in opposition — Harrell is disinterested in zoning, but let him know if you want to change zoning. But that last statement is perhaps the most telling. Let me repeat just the first part, this time in bold:

        If someone can come up with a proven method to create truly affordable housing without public subsidies I am all ears…

        Bullshit! You aren’t “all ears”. The “proven method” was presented in the very first comment of this post. It is right at the very top, so it isn’t hard to find. If you were “all ears”, you would have read it. It includes a link to the argument in more depth, which in turn includes plenty of references. This is proof, and you want more, I can provide it (I have before, several times). You completely ignored this and failed to make counter-arguments to this, because you aren’t the least bit interested in anything that refutes your illogical, unreasonable opinions.

        You aren’t “all ears”, because there isn’t a single comment here that shows the slightest interest in anything anyone else has to say. Compare this to what other people write, and have written for a long time. Yes, we argue — sometimes very strongly. But we often come to a consensus, and change our opinion. My opinion on a lot of these matters have evolved over time, as I’ve listened, and gained more information. Sometimes these opinions lead to significant changes in policy.

        For example, just the other day I rode the monorail, and commented to my son-in-law that we on the blog helped get ORCA approval. I remember the whole process. I assumed — like so many — that the only reason people took the monorail was to go into the Seattle Center. It was used mostly by tourists. Yet people on this very blog wrote about how they take the monorail all the time — to their apartment, in Uptown. Interesting. Then people mentioned how the monorail operates. It is owned by the city, but run by a private contractor. Again, interesting. The contractor has a long term contract of ten years. Even more interesting is the fact that it was coming up for renewal. The city generally rubber stamps the agreement. I suggested we ask the council to put in that agreement that they accept ORCA cards on the monorail. It is easy to be cynical when it comes to politics, but this is how politics works (I know from personal experience). So a lot of us wrote to the council, and now the monorail accepts ORCA cards. This is what we, on this blog, are capable of, if we have a good, reasonable discussion. My son-in-law (a very bright man with a ton of governmental knowledge) was very impressed.

        I can’t imagine Daniel offering anything valuable in that discussion. I can easily imagine him saying it is only used by tourists, just like he makes the claim that no one under 30 visits Capitol Hill or no one at all likes Pioneer Square. Is there a point to those statements? Of course not.

        Like several people here, I’ve given up. There is no reason to ban him, but there is every reason to simply ignore what he writes. At most I will skim to see if he actually offers up something of value, but I am tired of him making the same unfounded, illogical, sloppy arguments. Trying to refute all of these ridiculous statements is just too time consuming. I suggest that others do the same. Like the old cranky uncle at Thanksgiving dinner, perhaps we should just ask him to pass the mashed potatoes while we focus on having a more useful discussion.

      13. “Multi-family housing rental buildings require the property owner to hold onto the property for a very long time to return their capital.”

        Christopher Leinberger in “The Option of Urbanism” says Wall Street investors in multifamily and retail/office buildings look to recoup their investment in 19 years. After that they don’t care because they’re on to the next investment. This has led to buildings with a 20-year lifespan, where they’re substantially deteriorated by then. Because the assumption is that they’ll be torn down and replaced by another building that meets the new market trends. And if the building remains for 30 or 40 years and just keeps deteriorating and only lower-income people/businesses will put up with it in its latter days, that’s not the investors’ problem.

        “A smaller builder cannot do that because they need to sell the development when completed to fund the next project”

        A smaller builder might keep the building for 50 or 100 years, and actually use it themselves, and pass it down to their children. They’re also more likely to be local, so even if they don’t personally use the building, it affects their community. They might also build it higher quality, knowing they will keep it for a long time, and they’ll maintain it well so it will last that long without deteriorating.

    6. Vancouver also has more missing-middle housing than Seattle, like in the Kitsilano neighborhood. Duplexes and small 4-8 unit apartment buildings that retain a leafy-green ambience and not too large a scale, so you barely notice it’s not a strictly single-family neighborhood.

      1. Vancouver is ahead of us, but is still more like Toronto than it is Montreal. https://viewpointvancouver.ca/2019/10/17/the-grand-bargain-illustrated/

        Vancouver would probably be fine if it wasn’t for the huge increase in demand there (owing in part to Hong Kong no longer being a British protectorate). Similarly, Seattle would probably be fine if it wasn’t for the big increase in demand caused by Amazon (and related tech companies). We now have a more liberal set of laws for (D)ADUs (which Vancouver allowed years ago). This, along with the tiny areas we allow new apartments might be adequate if not for the huge demand in the city.

  6. Speaking of Montreal housing, I want to take a tour of Habitat 67 the next time I visit the city. I love the architect’s concept, and I’ve wondered why nobody’s really tried to expand on that idea since.

    1. There are several videos on YouTube if you can’t get to Montreal. I don’t think a developer could replicate or even approximate the design and charge the going dollar per square foot (in any market) and still make money. In the video I noticed that the concrete walls are relatively thin ; it must cost a fortune to heat each unit in the Montreal winters, especially as they seem to share so few walls.

  7. TriMet’s FX2 line has opened, but is it faster?” It was originally conceived as a bus rapid transit line, but today TriMet doesn’t even want to refer to it as that.

    Among other problems with the route, instead of serving inner southeast Portland, the line now crosses the Tilikum Bridge. This means it has to cross the Union Pacific mainline, sometimes resulting in extremely long delays. It adds service from Division to South Waterfront, but southeast Portland already has the 9, 17 and 19 that make this connection, so I’m not sure it is especially valuable.

    Based on my experiences, where the former #4 (later #2) Division bus was frequently overcrowded, TriMet’s first use of articulated buses at least adds some needed capacity to the line.

    From Gresham Transit Center to downtown Portland the route takes about the same amount of time as the previous #2 (nee #4), but a key segment along Division is faster.

    I’m not convinced that this is the way to get more riders on transit.

    1. Why would somebody take this from Gresham to downtown Portland when there’s MAX? Why would they even build it for this when there’s MAX? It may have a unique coverage segment (Powell Blvd is not Burnside or Hawthorne Street, etc), but the downtown Gresham to downtown Portland time seems irrelevant?

      1. The total travel time isn’t exactly relevant, except that they aren’t saving any driver hours by doing it this way.

        It’s a bit like the difference between KCM 70 and Link from UW to downtown: only the end points are the same, but there’s 15 miles of different route with different connections.

        Division is not easy. East of 60th it’s a busy thoroughfare, but west of there it’s narrow and very congested. There’s very little support for dedicated lanes here.

    2. That guy at the eliminated stop probably just cut a few months off his kids’ lifespans. Most college kids can walk two extra blocks to a bus stop. Sure, there are people with disabilities who can’t, but if one of this fellow’s kids were disabled, you can bet he would have mentioned it.

      1. By far my biggest problem with that part of Division is it can be a very long distance between safe crossings, just to get to stops on the other side of the street.

        If you have to walk ½ mile just to get to an intersection to cross, I’m not sure the stop elimination is such a problem.

        I’ve not been on that part of Division in a while. They have done quite a lot of work aimed at not killing quite as many pedestrians, so they may have added a few more traffic lights now.

    1. Interesting video Al. But I have a problem with developing rural and farmland with hotels and retail at the very end of a train station in the middle of the country. I would have opposed the developers’ plan. I thought the goal of urbanism was to get more folks to live nearer where they work. This project makes The Spine look reasonable.

      Developers love to draw pretty pictures of planned communities with hotels and roads and tall buildings replacing farmland they bought based on existing zoning with the hope they can bribe local councils to dramatically upzone the property. They call it progress.

      What happens. The pretty plans almost never work out. Who wants to stay in a hotel in Wa Wa at the end of a tail line that doesn’t even connect with a major urban center. The retail never materializes as planned because retail is very fickle, and the only thing left are the SFH which is what the developer wanted in the first place.

      It seems the better approach was to just enlarge the park and ride and my guess this was funded with federal money. . I suppose the council did what most do, rezone farmland SFH which was the developers real desire, and mo doubt they made a nice profit developing rural and farm zoned land.

      I am trying to think where we could do this in this region. Waive the GMA, find a huge parcel of farmland, upzone it, run a highway (oops train) to it, and praise progress.

      Personally I would like to see the amount of public funds to build and operate a train to Wa Wa from nowhere.

    2. They put the station in the middle of a rural area known for its dairy farms. It’s like if Sound Transit put a Link station a mile outside of downtown Carnation, Wa., and some urbanists started walking away from the station and into the rural landscape, complaining it takes a while to walk to places.

      1. No they didn’t, Tom. Did you not see the zoning map in the video? The parcels are literally surrounded by denser zoning categories. It’s also not usual for a city in that part of the country to not proactively upzone a parcel so that they can get more freebies from developers in exchange for changing the zoning.

      2. Here is the Wiki link to WaWa (apparently one word) although it looks like any data is only through 1989. “According to Cynthia Mayer of the Philadelphia Inquirer, as of 1989, population estimates ranged from five families to 265 families. Mayer said that “one longtime resident on Wawa Road” estimated that it was five families, while 68-year-old Walter Kirby, the head of the Wawa Farms Association, estimated that it was 265 families.

        “In 1989 Bruce Clark, the manager of Middletown Township, said that the township, as paraphrased by Cynthia Mayer of the Philadelphia Inquirer, “doesn’t really recognize Wawa as anything more than a neighborhood.””

        Here is the Wiki link to the station which reopened in August 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wawa_station

        “Wawa was chosen as the new terminal due to its proximity to the heavily travelled U.S. Route 1, in addition to the headquarters of convenience store chain Wawa. The new Wawa station, which was briefly referred to as “Middletown” for its location in Middletown Township, was under construction in late 2020. The ADA-compliant station will have high level platforms, a ticket office, food service, and a parking garage. SEPTA will also construct a new railcar storage facility and crew bunker at the former Lenni station site.”

        “Wawa station is estimated to be used by about 950 commuters on a typical weekday….As of May 2018, the total budget has been revised to $177,900,000 with construction being complete in 2021.”

        “On July 27, 2022, SEPTA announced that convenience store chain Wawa acquired naming rights to the station for $5.4 million in a 10-year deal. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for Wawa station was held on August 18, 2022, with SEPTA and Wawa leadership in attendance including Wawa President and CEO Chris Gheysens. Following the ceremony, a train with a Wawa advertising wrap took a trip on the extension from Wawa to Elwyn. Regular service began on Sunday, August 21, 2022. On August 22, Wawa provided free celebratory coffee, pretzels, and drinks to commuters. With the opening of the station, the Media/Elwyn Line was renamed the Media/Wawa Line.”

      3. https://www5.septa.org/travel/stops/wawa-station/

        600 parking spaces with 300 available which may reflect WFH. Also surprising there are no bike racks.

        Here is some info on the station and a good photo. It does have an underground pedestrian path. “The new Wawa station will be ADA compliant and have a pedestrian underpass, as well as the 600-space parking deck and easy access to U.S. Route 1. It’ll also have bathrooms (!), an amenity provided at some RR stations, but not all.”

        “For a while. Way back in 2006, Wawa Inc. sold a 4.7-acre tract of land to Delaware County, with the intention that it would later transfer to SEPTA. At the time, reports said the project would cost $51.3 million and take five years to complete.

        “By 2018, the project’s budget had grown and the date of completion moved to 2021. COVID-19 and supply chain issues caused additional delays, spokesperson Green said.

        “The final cost of the project was $197 million.”

        It appears the 950/weekday ridership is a goal, not actual current ridership which is likely lower if the park and ride is only half full.


    3. Daniel, I think you may have missed the part of the video that talks about the location being a light industrial reuse site.

      The curious thing about your comment is that you have routinely talked negatively about infill, slightly denser middle housing development. We wouldn’t need rural land if more of our cities allowed denser development. If you really feel that we should avoid developing raw land, then you should be advocating for more TOD. Where should new development go if we are to house another million residents?

      The PA developers assessed that there was a market for denser development, and the new station project was originally funded in anticipation of denser development. The development was later scaled back only as a function of local zoning and not because of the market.

      To protect public investment, it’s why I feel that any new rail station that any city wants the regional public to fund should only happen if that city provides the right adjacent land use to make the investment valuable. Stations should be earned rather than deserved.

      A final comment is that Northeastern US suburbs often began as small villages with denser housing. Historic town centers are pretty ubiquitous near Philadelphia. The idea of a new town center is less hard to fathom there.

      1. From what I heard the undeveloped site was zoned SU 1 that included dairies and R-1, 1 acre residential lots, although subsequent plans did attempt to use the zoning for offices. I still don’t see how this development in any of its five phases is any kind of urban TOD, and am not surprised by the opposition from people WHO LIVE THERE. If rather than a train it was served by a highway urbanists would have a fit. Comparing Wa Wa to parts of Camden NJ by the snarky teenage narrator was ridiculous to me.

        I wish the narrator would have done a better job showing how successful the current development is, especially retail and hotels.

        The point of the PSRC and GMPC is to plan for future growth. You don’t build enough units for an additional 1 million residents immediately, and every 7 to 10 years you revisit those assumptions with reality. Just look how much has changed since March 2020. Nearly every bases for TOD has disappeared. Transit ridership has declined because many no longer need to ride it. They still work and shop, now near where they live — many work where they live — they just don’t commute to urban areas. It is a brave new world. I now walk to work.

        I am not opposed to multi-family zoning, but I do prefer traditional zoning that segregates uses. I agree with Seattle planners UGA’s are a better way to condense more affordable housing near transit (TOD), which helps develop retail if crime is not an issue, but also agree some of the UGA or multi-family zones should have micro zoning for row houses because otherwise property owners and developers won’t build it. But those row houses will be very expensive per sf if in a nice neighborhood. If in South Seattle they will be occupied by white people.

        Your beef is with your own city. Seattle upzoned residential lots to allow three separate legal dwelling units with no restrictions on the number of tenants (except by the property owner) but that part of the MHA just proves changing zoning designations doesn’t create housing, especially if you don’t change regulatory limits that has taken me a thousand posts to explain to some.

        It really isn’t the development that is the issue with TOD these days. It is the transit. So few are riding transit, and now Link is moving into the Wa Wa’s of the region and runs along freeways. So either TOD will only appeal to affordable housing who have to live next to I-5 or it is a ruse to upzone commercial areas like The Spring Dist. for people who have no intention of riding transit. But on the Eastside upzoning commercial areas is much, much easier than upzoning residential areas.

        Do what you will in Seattle. The burden is on the urbanists, transit fanatics, and SFH haters on this blog to change Seattle’s land use after a mayor was elected in a landslide to protect those SFH zones where all the money is, and after a bruising fight over the MHA. Like politics zoning is very local. Make your neighborhood better, which is often harder with more density.

        I don’t think any Eastside city plans to upzone SFH neighborhoods, certainly not to help ST manufacture ridership for a light rail line few will ride. Some like Issaquah have created a mixed use housing zone (which is what I am recommending Seattle xarve3 out of a UGA zone), Issaquah Highlands, that my niece recently moved to after selling her place in Belltown because it had become unlivable despite — or because of — the density, and she loves it although it isn’t cheap, but less expensive than a SFH in Issaquah. To be honest, if Seattle got its shit together I think it would take some pressure off Eastside office and housing costs.

        I don’t know how many times I can repeat this. City’s must plan and zone for their future housing targets. Fortunately the four county area including Kitsap is so huge a million additional residents requires very little zoning change. Plus places like Shoreline and Lynnwood want more housing because they need the revenue and to revitalize their cities.

        Places like MI did create TOD. It is called the town center and surrounding multi-family zones that are within walking distance of buses and someday light rail, although few use it. But since we on MI don’t hate SFH zoning just because there is no plan to change it, God forbid for transit.

        We will meet our housing targets. They will be in the town center next to transit with some infill SFH although few will take transit even with empty park and rides. It will be very expensive, and much of the new construction will replace older more affordable housing. All we really need to do is get smarter about mixed use zoning so we don’t lose more retail space. But we are not going to amend our zoning for transit, especially post pandemic, and our housing allocation does not require that or recommend that unless you get a lot of political donations from builders like our 41st reps.

        Focus on the zoning where you live is my advice, because rarely does someone understand someplace else. You don’t see me trying to rezone Seattle. Instead I left.

      2. “I still don’t see how this development in any of its five phases is any kind of urban TOD”

        You missed the first proposal at 0:50? (And they’re rounds of proposals, not phases.) I can’t even keep track of your personal definition of TOD. The point is people could walk between the station, housing, retail, offices, a hotel, and open space. The housing is mixed so it can fit a larger number of people, but still with less-dense options for those who want them or have the largest families.

        Who is harmed by the development? Nobody was displaced because it was an abandoned institutional site. The argument that it would increase traffic was only true because it wasn’t designed walkable. If it had been walkable it might have reduced traffic, especially if some nearby residents moved from car-dependent locations to it and reduced their driving, or maybe their children would have.

        “now Link is moving into the Wa Wa’s of the region”

        We’d need somebody familiar with that part of Pennsylvania to say whether they’re comparable at all.

        “Issaquah Highlands, that my niece recently moved to after selling her place in Belltown because it had become unlivable despite — or because of — the density, and she loves it although it isn’t cheap, but less expensive than a SFH in Issaquah.”

        Did you just praise a New Urbanist development? Did you say a unit there costs less than a typical single-family house in Issaquah? Did you say it wasn’t too dense? Do you and I agree the Issaquah Highlands is one of the better examples of a new master-planned neighborhood in suburban King County? Did you notice it’s within walking distance of a regional transit stop? Or that that’s where the Eastside restructure proposes 4 express buses per hour to Bellevue and 2 to Mercer Island, both connecting to Link for Seattle?

        So the first Wa Wa proposal would have been like a scaled-up Issaquah Highlands, with more offices and a hotel.

      3. I wish the Issaquah Highlands would have been infill development somewhere else rather than greenfield development there. But now that it exists, what matters is the people who live there or could live there in the future, rather than where it could have been built in the past.

      4. If rather than a train it was served by a highway urbanists would have a fit.

        Um, er, ah, the station is “served by a highway”, four-lane, divided US 1, the first generation of I-95, to be specific.

        That’s why it’s placed where it is, as an “intercept” for regional bus and auto traffic.

        I will certainly grant that ridership is as yet only “aspirational”, but there was a good reason for a one-station, mile and a half extension from the former terminus at Elwyn. Elwyn is alongside a skinny county road about a half-mile south of US 1. That’s a bit too far for most people to walk to and from the buses there. They would change in Media, but to get to the station the bus has about a mile of fairly congested townscape.

        The cost of the project of course has soared so per additional rider it perhaps wasn’t a good investment, but the operating cost will be essentially nil; this is an old “Pennsy” line so it’s electrified.

    4. It should be mentioned that Wawa gets 19 trains on a weekday — and trains run until 10 pm. It’s true daylong regional rail unlike Sounder South.

      As explained in the video, train service to this community was discontinued decades ago. It technically is service restoration rather than purely new service.

  8. I get the impression that this post is being used more for ideological purposes than that people are learning about Montreal from current or former residents there or understanding its context. The “missing middle” housing in the YouTube clip has its benefits, but it’s hardly why housing is cheap there. Seattle’s economy is almost the opposite of Montreal’s. Seattle is known for its mild climate, while Mtl reached -35 when I lived there. You’re not walking anywhere in -35 air. The culture, language, water, and topography are all different, too. If we allowed “missing middle” housing on every lot in Seattle tomorrow, we still wouldn’t get cheap Montreal housing.

    1. This is an open thread. Feel free to talk about anything related to transit — you don’t have to focus on Montreal. This is a transit blog, and it may not be obvious why the video was posted. I more or less explain the reasoning in that first comment. At the risk of repeating myself, I will explain in more detail.

      The video shatters various myths about density. People pushing these myths are often at opposite sides of the issue. One is that you can’t have density without very tall buildings. Clearly that isn’t the case. Just look at the numbers, and compare that to most of Seattle, or even cities with higher buildings (remember to do the conversion). By the way, this is also the case in places like Brooklyn.

      The second is that density is ugly. While a more objective argument, I think most people would agree that Montreal is very pretty, even with all of that density.

      As for whether we would get cheap housing by allowing more missing middle housing, there is ample evidence for this, not limited to Montreal. Montreal is simply one of many cities mentioned here: https://www.sightline.org/2017/09/21/yes-you-can-build-your-way-to-affordable-housing/. The idea that you need highrises to get low housing costs is just as misguided as the belief that you need highrises to get density. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary. There is also plenty of evidence showing what most would consider obvious: If you liberalize the zoning, housing becomes cheaper. https://furmancenter.org/files/Supply_Skepticism_-_Final.pdf

      1. New density at least in the U.S. tends to be ugly and cheap looking. Montreal and say Brooklyn (and Portland) did a much better job preserving their historical buildings (with restrictive zoning). I would be surprised if a developer in Seattle (or Mercer Island) built historical brick buildings as part of new multi-family housing, let alone with backyards like in Montreal. The Brownstones proposed for downtown Mercer Island were going to be I believe a kind of faux brick, and would have been very expensive. It is too bad Seattle did not preserve more of its historical buildings. There are virtually none on the eastside. I can’t really think of an attractive commercial or multi-family building on the eastside. Plenty of pretty homes but not the other.

        Ross is correct high rises can be more expensive per sf than low rise multi-family buildings (although “middle housing” definitions tend to run from 2 stories in Montreal and Brooklyn to seven stories in parts of Seattle), and individual town houses owned fee simple can be quite expensive too. What Montreal proves is it is the wealth of the city (and even neighborhood) and surrounding areas that is the primary factor driving housing costs.

        “Liberalizing” zoning does not always mean cheaper. For example, The Spring District was massively “liberalized” and I doubt those housing units will be “cheaper” than whatever they replaced. The new construction near the U Village runs from $2300 to $6000/unit. Mercer Island “liberalized” building heights in its town center from two to five stories and that resulted in expensive new construction replacing the older more affordable existing housing even though there is “more” of the new housing.

        If you have an area zoned UGA or tall multi-family few developers will build two or three story multi-family, let alone something pretty like in Montreal with pretty big backyards. You will get development up to the maximum of the zone, and if there are no design requirements you likely won’t get retail space, parking for retail, back yards, lot vegetation, or a very attractive building, which is why so much new multi-family housing looks the same. The REIT’s and developers never live in the zone or their development, and their only duty to their investors is the return on their investment.

        If you want what is essentially a multi-family micro zone like Montreal you will have to zone for it. It is “exclusionary” zoning in Brooklyn and Montreal that preserved that historical development over the decades although a developer could make a profit replacing that housing with taller and newer and uglier buildings if the zone allowed. If you want retail you will need retail density and retail space requirements despite building heights are only two or three stories and that means a fairly large area and lots unless you are doing row houses, and ideally you have transit nearby.

        For me that means downzoning part of the UGA, which is never easier once you have upzoned it, so usually some kind of tax break is offered, especially if the design requirements (brick facades or back yards or lot vegetation) are required.

        We both like the two story multi-family housing in Montreal, with large backyards and neighborhood retail. I doubt Seattle can get developers to build as pretty of buildings as Montreal, but maybe the same scale and neighborhood retail. I think the SFH zones will be successful in preventing an upzone in the SFH zone, especially with Harrell (and certainly on the eastside) and think a microzone in a UGA is the ideal area, not unlike the town houses Nathan describes in Ballard (but with trees).

        If the hump to getting this kind of two and three story multi-family housing is upzoning the SFH zones I think that is a peak too high, and unnecessary, so it won’t get build, and the SFH zone has lots that are too small, poor transit, and would not have the density and zoning for retail density. So basically you would end up living in a quasi DADU in a remote residential neighborhood with no walkable retail and very poor transit, and you can do that today under the MHA.

        Probably the hardest thing to both zone and realize is a mixed use zone like in Montreal. It isn’t super profitable for the developer, the property owner probably takes a downzone, developers don’t like onsite retail space and parking, let alone backyards or trees and vegetation, and creating a vibrant retail area is as much luck as anything. For example, if I just looked at a map I would think University Ave. next to a major UW and transit and hip young people would be the perfect zone for Montreal style housing and zoning, but developers are not interested. They all want to build down by U Village that IMO is much less attractive and convenient than the Ave.

        Oh well….if I had to guess the SFH zones won’t be upzoned and it is highly likely Seattle will get pretty Montreal style “middle housing” anywhere in the city. About the best you can hope for is Issaquah Highlands, and that is suburbia and began as a multi-family zone with some micro zones.

      2. “I would be surprised if a developer in Seattle (or Mercer Island) built historical brick buildings”

        They’re building fake brick buildings. I don’t know what the material is but it looks nice. The buildings are made to look retro, with vertical orientation and traditionally-placed decorations. By vertical I mean it’s made to look like townhouses with vertical lines between them, even if they’re not really unit dividers. That avoids a too-horizontal or boxy feel. The decorations and molding more simplistic than old buildings have, but at least they’re a nod to traditional design. And the buildings usually come out to the sidewalk or have just a small setback.

      3. Interesting Mike. Where can I see of some of the new faux brick buildings.

        Whether to have buildings setback or come out to the street has been a debate for a long time. We have tried both on MI and you can see both in downtown Seattle.

        Originally the preferred design was façade setbacks, ideally with outdoor seating or vegetation, especially the taller the building. The problem was you got these wind swept concrete facades with lame vegetation and huge stone planters no one sat in, so it was like a huge empty space next to the sidewalk. The “plazas” were just as bland and lifeless as the facades, and the retail was way away from the street (if there was retail, often the plaza was the public amenity instead of retail).

        So then planners and designers began switching to facades that came out to the streets with tall ceiling heights at the street level or mezzanines and lots of windows. The feeling was that would bring retail and dining vibrancy right out to the street, and bring the pedestrian into the indoor space which would condense people. It works, but only if you have really dense retail/restaurants that are welcoming to pedestrians. Otherwise the massing of the building and façade — especially if tall — can be overwhelming. Without dense retail — especially with arrogant and imposing building facades which were quite popular — it was like the building was forcing you into the street (like 3rd Ave.) and the windows were like mirrors.

        Two pretty good examples are the old Rainier Tower and the Columbia Center (which has one example on fourth and one on fifth.

        In the end it comes down to retail density, and retail façade density, because that is what makes an area walkable. More outside seating and dining is gaining popularity. For years planners really didn’t know what the significant public amenity was for additional height, and lurched from plazas to trees to vegetation to setbacks to having facades come all the way out to the street until realizing it was retail vibrancy, although you really can’t zone for that because so much is luck and out of the planner’s hands.

        Now we know the significant public amenity all these designs are trying to create is retail density, which means walkability, that mixes the pedestrian on the street with the customer inside (depending on the pedestrian of course) which creates a perception of safety. But developers and building managers don’t like retail (or didn’t pre-pandemic when offices were full), or retail parking set asides, and so they leased out the retail areas to non-retail businesses, or left it empty.

        Today some of the ideas to force building owners to actually site retail in their buildings — even at a loss — is to require walk off free parking if the retail parking set aside in the original plan is not used, or actual financial penalties. Seattle shouldn’t be subsidizing retail downtown (although it should do a better job cleaning up streets) property owners should, although they claim they simply cannot attract any retail with the current conditions, and the loss of Macy’s and Bartell seems to prove that. It would be interesting to find out at what rent retail would return to 3rd Ave., even if zero.

      4. New density at least in the U.S. tends to be ugly and cheap looking.

        “Liberalizing” zoning does not always mean cheaper.

        This is just the latest example of controversial, illogical and contradictory statements made by Daniel. I get it Mike — you figure he might have some point to make — some reasonable assertion that is worth refuting. That clearly isn’t the case. I’m not saying that Daniel is a troll. Maybe he actually believes all of the things he is writing, but just can’t come up with a well-reasoned argument to support it (let alone one with evidence). But like a troll, he keeps throwing out these type of outlandish statements that are just begging to be refuted. I will admit, it is very tempting (kind of like shooting fish in a barrel, these assertions).

        I’ve bent over backwards to find common ground, as it will, with Daniel. I’ve given up. I’m not saying I won’t ever agree with something he says (if I can find it, buried under yet another very long, rambling comment). I’m saying that it isn’t worth the bother. Even when we agree, his supporting arguments are usually so weak and easy to refute that it isn’t worth the bother. It becomes a straw man, but in this case, not one he is destroying (which he so often does) but the basis for his argument.

        I welcome differences of opinion. I really do. But more than anything, I want clear, well-reasoned statements, and I’m afraid that Daniel has so few of them that I now just skim over his comments to see if he has written anything worth responding to, only to find more of the same like this.

      5. I’ll make a list of fake brick buildings in southwest Capitol Hill, since that’s where I live. The one that most comes to mind is on Harvard Ave E behind the Broadway market. I won’t be able to confirm them in the dark so I’ll have to do it tomorrow.

      6. Mike, are you saying you know of actual fake brick (like, plastic) cladding, or are you referring to brick facades that are very common as a finish?

      7. I don’t know what they are but they don’t look like traditional bricks yet they have a bricklike appearance.

      8. I checked three recent buildings and they’re all real bricks so I may have been mistaken. I thought I’d seen buildings that appear to be bricks but aren’t. But these buildings have clay bricks with mortar in between. The buildings I checked are the Terravita at Pine & Belmont, Hot Cakes on East Olive Way, and the townhouses on Harvard a block north of the Broadway Market (not west of it — the market building goes all the way west to Harvard).

      9. Mike, a wall can be “faced” with “real bricks”, but thay aren’t load-bearing. You can often tell by looking for “bonding” wherein a minority of the bricks are half as long as most. In a genuine structural brick building there will be two thicknesses of beicks stacked one next to the other, with the bonding bricks holding the two stacks together.

        It’s possible for facing to have half-sazed bricks included in a bonding pattern, but most makers don’t bother.

      10. I believe that bricks are a pretty “skin” for a building but can no longer be the structural support for one because we live in an earthquake area. Bricks look great — but add weight to a building compared to other skin materials depending on how they are made.

      11. Al, thanks; that makes a lot of sense. The bricks are probably adhered to the exterior board to keep them from rattling off in a shake.

      12. As far as I’m aware, there’s been little-to-no new structural brick structure constructed in the USA or CA in the past 50-odd years, mainly due to building code restrictions making it far less economical than stick and concrete. Materials are cheap and labor is expensive, today; for a labor-intensive masonry like bricklaying, it’s far more efficient to just paste a brick facade onto a concrete wall.

  9. Going home from Downtown Bellevue, I waited for a 249 over an hour Sunday and it never showed up. The bus tracker said it was going to show up, until the scheduled time came and went, and nope, the next bus is in 50 minutes. Hmm, well that happens pretty often, and then the bus will show up 20 minutes late. But after another 20 minutes, nope – no bus.

    There were no reroutes mentioned on the King County Metro web site (I checked when I first got to the bus stop). I tried calling Metro, but they weren’t answering the phone, because it was Sunday. Then I looked at the unofficial Puget Sound Transit site, and they had a reroute listed. I walked a couple blocks up, and saw that, yes, the street was blocked. But no sign at any of the bus stops, and as mentioned, there was nothing listed on the official web site.

    Coincidentally, my wife was waiting for the same bus, at a different stop, and she called me asking where the bus was. She had been waiting over two hours. There was no reroute where she was. Apparently two trips were cancelled? The web site said nothing about these particular trips. There was a special schedule for the day that supposedly omitted cancelled trips, but these two were still listed.

    Ended up taking a different bus over to where my wife was. I got there about 5 minutes before the third 249 should have shown up, but we didn’t bother waiting for it. It’s usually 10-15 minutes late at that portion of the route anyway… with the reroute downtown, probably it would be even later, if it showed up at all. We got a taxi home.

    We’ve been putting it off, but it’s probably time to move back into the city… the infrequent schedules out here are just catastrophic with typical American levels of transit reliability.

    1. If you’re been riding the 249 for a few years or more, I have a question. We all know it runs infrequently, but I have a question about reliability. Has it always (pre-covid) been as unreliable as your Sunday experience, or has reliability gotten worse since covid?

    2. The thing about routes like the 249 is, if there are no passengers and no traffic to delay it, the bus really should be consistently on time, all the time. If it isn’t, that means problems with either the bus itself or the bus driver, which should be within Metro’s power to fix.

  10. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/seattle-uw-leaders-working-on-solutions-after-a-violent-weekend-in-the-university-district/ar-AA12ySpD?cvid=11ded9125b4e4745bf6bb2d83d9534b1

    My son is a student at UW. His friend witnessed the shooting. Very sad and scary. “UW President Ana Mari Cauce on Sunday called the gun violence a “public health crisis” in a news release.

    I always thought this area would be ideal for the kind of multi-family housing/mixed use zone you see in the Montreal video, but the retail has all shifted to U Village and so has the higher end housing development. Just like transit, safety is a deal breaker when it comes to property development. What you find from University Ave. west is pretty terrible multi-family housing, and is what you get with a blanket and disjointed UGA zone. Just awful.

    Too bad city planners did not really study this area and micro zone it for something prettier and more vibrant like the historical section in Montreal in the video, although that zone has very little density for a UGA, often just two stories with large backyards.

    I remember former President Emmert wanted to buy the land from the campus to the west side of University Avenue and incorporate it into the UW campus to wall off the area in order to remove the criminal element and revitalize the retail in the area. I always thought that was a very visionary idea, but he left before it could really get any momentum. If you read UW parent blogs many parents of prospective parents are shocked at The Ave., which is why the UW tries to avoid the Ave. and have parents and prospective students tour U Village.

    On a separate note, Tokyo has announced a new housing product: a 95-sqauare foot apartment. “With its high property prices and the world’s most populous metropolitan area, Tokyo has long been known for small accommodations. But these new apartments — known as three-tatami rooms, based on how many standard Japanese floor mats would cover the living space — are pushing the boundaries of normal living.”

    Seattle is the leader in the U.S. for micro-housing. Without public subsidies and a high average median income (something Montreal fortunately does not have which is why its housing is relatively affordable, because the cost of housing reflects the AMI) the only way to create “affordable” housing is to make it smaller and smaller, until you get to 95 sf., and then claim you have created “affordable housing”. That is one of the ironies under the GMPC housing growth targets: any permitted housing unit counts against the target, so look for more and more studios on the eastside in mixed use town centers although builders don’t think they fit the demographic. At 95 sf/unit Mercer Island could meet its remaining GMPC housing targets in a very, very small space in the town center.

  11. Speaking of Canadian “missing middle” housing, here’s what’s on with another city up there that lacks the missing middle. Lot of reasons, but it looks like exclusionary zoning or redlining is not just an American thing. https://youtu.be/cjWs7dqaWfY

    1. “it looks like exclusionary zoning or redlining is not just an American thing”

      “No, it is definitely not. In this essay, the author is Canadian and looks at just Canadian cities: https://viewpointvancouver.ca/2019/10/17/the-grand-bargain-illustrated/?fbclid=IwAR1yAeWGDUzZjG8vLaBPhwJPYh9fxm0tIuVXUbfLVYFqbT1f7zJy5H7s7D0

      I read this blog post but didn’t see anything about redlining in Canada or exclusionary zoning. The only comment I read that had anything to do with “equity” was:

      “There’s really not much choice. We’ve used up the green fields and most of the brown fields; equity requires that we look to every neighbourhood to take its ‘fair share’ of growth. We obviously need new forms of housing and tenure, different from what has come before. And we need a lot more of it.”

      (The reality is Canada’s (and especially Vancouver’s) housing affordability issues began when Canada began selling citizenships to uber wealthy Asians in order to revitalize its economy. https://shorexcapital.com/canada-to-sell-citizenship-to-60-millionaires/#:~:text=Beginning%20on%20Wednesday%2C%20Canada%20will%20accept%20500%20immigrant,it%20was%20found%20to%20be%20riddled%20by%20fraud. The new residents needed to establish residency and so purchased — or actually built — very expensive houses that were allowed under Canada’s lax SFH zone regulatory limits at the time but were wildly out of scale and design with the existing housing. So naturally local citizens were unhappy with the increase in housing costs, and out of scale development. Not surprisingly, many of these new residents from Asia preferred very tall and glass buildings for their housing, and also got into the local development game.)

      Actually, this quote is what the PSRC 2050 Vision Statement recommends, except rather than upzoning SFH zones or allowing mixed use zoning throughout every zone the 2050 Vision Statement sees a vision of traditional zoning but deurbanizing JOBS, not housing. People will work closer to where they live because their cities will zone for and create jobs for those who work there, and therefore commute less. Up until Covid it was hard to get businesses to abandon the urban concept as defining an important business. The pandemic just did the work for the PSRC.

      It will still be traditional zoning: a town center with surrounding multi-family zones surrounded by SFH zones in order to condense and densify retail, not unlike Mercer Island. The “equity” will still exist because each city will be required to plan for and permit its allocation of housing from the GMPC, although creating jobs is more difficult.

      Although I don’t know how much credence to put into a one-person urbanist blog I think the author’s talk about a “grand bargain” is not historically correct. Post WWII (and before) people began to leave cities for suburbs for schools, a bigger house, and less crime and congestion. Many of these new suburbs were their own cities so a “grand zoning bargain” with the city they left was never contemplated, and these cities actually wanted their own commercial/retail areas (which is why the eastside has its limited retail spread out over a huge area) but businesses still felt they had to be located in the urban core, mainly in the tallest and most imposing building. It wasn’t like Seattle suddenly got rid of its SFH zones.

      The “grand bargain” was between the cities they left like Seattle and Vancouver and the developers. Developers — especially commercial office space — wanted very tall glass and steel towers like NY because they thought those looked impressive, would attract the best tenants (which they did), and maximize profit per sf. It made sense at the time because the large cities and even the suburbs wanted commercial space condensed, or felt that was the only option. It is hardly surprising that some developers saw the opportunity to exploit these same huge regulatory limits for very tall steel and glass residential towers, especially the new urban migrants to Canada from Asian cities like Hong Kong.

      I think it is a mistake to look for “equity” in today’s zoning. Redlining was abolished by federal law in 1968 (and many states had abolished it well before 1968), and if anything gentrification has been brutal on historical Black neighborhoods. Multi-family housing in The Spring Dist. or even Issaquah Highlands is not equitable. Even the uber progressive PSRC does not recommend abolishing SFH zones to meet future housing targets, which are pretty mild when you consider the four-county area, and today WFH which allows someone to live far away from the urban core. This reality is this area has endless “green fields and most of the brown fields” in the four-county area already zoned residential, even though most cities I know plan to meet their GMPC future housing targets in their commercial and multi-family zones.

      Abolishing SFH zoning is a recent urbanist concept. Before that urbanists were the biggest supporters of very tall commercial and residential housing in the downtown core. I agree in very urban areas it might make sense, hence UGA zones that were once SFH zones. It won’t create “affordable housing”, (and tends to produce very unattractive and uncoordinated development IMO), and to work will require eliminating the regulatory limits for the SFH zone which will destroy the character of the SFH only zone, so naturally the SFH zones are opposed, have significant wealth and political power (and most councilmembers on the eastside live in a SFH zone), and believe additional housing should be focused in the commercial/retail and multi-family zones near transit and walkable retail, with a mix of housing sizes. As does the PSRC.

      I always find it very odd that self-described “urbanists” want to allocate future housing in remote residential neighborhoods with no walkable retail and no transit, and wonder if abolishing SFH zoning is just a kind of class warfare. I mean how many urbanists on this blog plan to move to a remote residential neighborhood on Mercer Island if it is upzoned to two or three units (and today each residential lot can have a DADU although they are expensive to build and expensive to rent)? At least the PSRC does not see abolishing SFH zoning in its 2050 Vision. It certainly won’t create affordable housing.

      1. ““No, it is definitely not. In this essay, the author is Canadian and looks at just Canadian cities: https://viewpointvancouver.ca/2019/10/17/the-grand-bargain-illustrated/?fbclid=IwAR1yAeWGDUzZjG8vLaBPhwJPYh9fxm0tIuVXUbfLVYFqbT1f7zJy5H7s7D0”

        I read this blog post but didn’t see anything about redlining in Canada or exclusionary zoning.”

        translation: “the post doesn’t use the phrase “exclusionary zoning,” so it’s clearly about something else”
        second translation: “I read the words but didn’t understand them”

        “I always find it very odd that self-described “urbanists” want to allocate future housing in remote residential neighborhoods with no walkable retail and no transit”

        they also want walkable retail and transit between these neighborhoods. your comprehension of “urbanism” is asinine.

      2. Nathan, I think your definition of “urbanism” is very strange, or I don’t understand it. Upzoning remote residential neighborhoods to allow maybe two or three separate legal dwellings with no transit is urbanism?

        Since when. Do you really think retail will migrate to these remote residential neighborhoods, or they will become “walkable”. We can ‘t even get enough retail in our town center that is right on I-90 and will have a light rail station to create any kind of retail density. Look at the Ave. with its housing density. So you think retail will magically appear in the steep residential zones if allowed. The reality is you have never run a retail business, and everything is theory to you, and other people’s money. Leave retail to the pros.

        The reality is you have a good job and make almost AMI for Seattle today ($115,000). You are not the person the PSRC or King Co. subcommittee on housing affordability is concerned about because you have such a high income, although you naturally want the moon when it comes to housing for you, because zoning for you is all about you. They are trying to figure out how to house the truly needy, not highly compensated poseurs like you, and that is a hard nut to crack without public subsidies which of course are property based and are passed onto renters, and every housing agency I know and have worked with like ARCH will tell you it starts with affordable land.

        A good rule of thumb: if you can’t afford to live someplace that is not the place to site affordable housing.

      3. Yes, if new retail is allowed near new housing, then new retailers will want to tap into the growing customer base. I thought Mercer Island was desperately trying to retain retail space. If MI’s new developments can’t find tenants, maybe it’s because MI actually has an abundance of retail space. Have the landlords tried lowering the rent?

        Also, the East Link train station hasn’t opened yet, so why would there be retail abundance due to its construction?

        You are obviously incapable of understanding how someone can understand and advocate for someone else’s wants or needs. I’m not sure what my income has to do with it, except that it allows me the comfort and stability to waste time arguing with morons on the internet. You’re a literal multi-millionaire in property value alone, and yet you admonish me as a “poseur” for advocating for the legalization of denser housing & commerce via loosening/elimination of many zoning restrictions, and for advocating for increased support for transportation alternatives via taxes on private transportation and personal wealth? You’ve got to be joking.

        “if you can’t afford to live someplace that is not the place to site affordable housing”

        Daniel, this line demonstrates your particularly cruel moral philosophy which has no empathy for people who are not like you in wealth or stature. Go back to NextDoor and hang out with the Karens. At least there you’ll continue to be vindicated in your cruelty.

      4. “if you can’t afford to live someplace that is not the place to site affordable housing”

        “Daniel, this line demonstrates your particularly cruel moral philosophy which has no empathy for people who are not like you in wealth or stature. Go back to NextDoor and hang out with the Karens. At least there you’ll continue to be vindicated in your cruelty.”

        No Nathan, this is not cruel. It is realistic. If the funding is fixed the amount of affordable housing an agency like ARCH can build depends on the cost of the underlying land and construction. I suppose ARCH could build affordable housing in Clyde Hill, but all of its budget would be consumed with maybe one unit. That is cruel. The key is to build as many affordable units with different AMI points as possible with the amount of money. You don’t see the city of Seattle building affordable housing in Laurelhurst.

        “Also, the East Link train station hasn’t opened yet, so why would there be retail abundance due to its construction?”

        So are you saying places along East Link in Bellevue to Redmond (and Lynnwood and Federal Way Link) are not developing right now in anticipation of East Link, or entering into leases with existing property owners, and they should wait until it opens (whenever that might be). The fact is this is also a busy bus stop, or was pre-pandemic. It is about the best TOD in the region, in theory. 3000 fairly affluent town center residents in a safe walkable town center within walking distance of several different buses and soon East Link, although historically they have not taken to transit.

        “Yes, if new retail is allowed near new housing, then new retailers will want to tap into the growing customer base. I thought Mercer Island was desperately trying to retain retail space. If MI’s new developments can’t find tenants, maybe it’s because MI actually has an abundance of retail space. Have the landlords tried lowering the rent?”

        I don’t think you understand retail or retail density. MI did lose quite a bit of retail space in the mixed-use buildings, but even then the town center has a hard time attracting retail with Seattle to the west and Bellevue, Factoria, and especially Issaquah to the east, with a town center with a pretty high density that would be much less dense in the residential zone. Without retail density you can’t attract retail.

        You just don’t like the concept of SFH zones. I understand that. There is no moral imperative to upzoning SFH zones, but if you don’t like them ideologically that is understandable. But the residents in those SFH zones do like them, a lot, so you have the classic political fight because land use is just politics. My advice is to focus on your own neighborhood, at least at first. See if you can eliminate SFH zoning in Ballard. If not, I would not get my hopes up for Laurelhurst, Washington Park, or God forbid the eastside.

        You are correct the retail rents are too high, but in a mixed-use zone housing is much more profitable than retail and so the developers don’t want retail, or retail parking set asides. But then my guess is retail will struggle in The Spring District too. Retail density is a very fragile and difficult thing to nurture. Remote residential lots that are very expensive to rent are not going to attract retail. You are being foolish there. Visit MI’s town center and see the retail that exists and thrives and the huge amount of parking they need, like QFC, Met Market, Walgreen’s, Rite Aid. Then to get an eye opener visit Issaquah’s retail areas. I don’t think you quite understand the typical eastside shopper.

      5. The comment ad hom policy should be evenhanded and apply to everyone, not just Daniel. If Daniel said anything like this to any of the commenters or esp bloggers here … “Daniel, this line demonstrates your particularly cruel moral philosophy which has no empathy for people who are not like you in wealth or stature. Go back to NextDoor and hang out with the Karens. At least there you’ll continue to be vindicated in your cruelty.” … His comment would be deleted and he’d be banned, as he was threatened with recently.

        Oh, and before my comment is deleted as comment policy whining …

        凸 (`o´) 凸

      6. Thanks Sam, but I am pretty immune about comments about me. Nathan tends to get emotional and personal, but I think it is important to leave his comment up because I think it highlights that sometimes best intentions harm the intended beneficiaries. Siting affordable housing in the expensive residential zones would create much less affordable housing with the same limited dollars, which is why housing groups don’t do it, and wouldn’t even with upzoning.

        It reminds me about a speech Bill Gates gave. Like many new to Africa philanthropy, he sought the holy grail: a vaccine for malaria that had eluded many before him. Except he learned hundreds of millions would die during the elusive search, getting rural African citizens to take vaccines is very difficult, some vaccines need to be kept at cold temperatures, and there was a much simpler and more effective method: cheaper and more mosquito nets, because most get bit at night.

        Granted this was not as historical as a vaccine would be, but using techniques learned from Microsoft his group was able to negotiate the price of a net from 10 cents/each to well under one cent, so they bought millions and millions of nets. And it worked.

        He also was stunned that the folks familiar with Africa told him to not use doctors and nurses from America, because the conditions and humanity often overwhelmed them, and they were expensive. Instead, the aid agencies and medical groups used almost exclusively Indians who were not shocked by the humanity, approached the job without moralization, were quite qualified, plentiful, and were cheap. Especially with any kind of vaccines.

        I think it was Richard Pryor who went to Africa on a tour and came back a changed person because it was so much different than he thought it would be for a Black American. One of his great lines is that in Africa there are no lactose intolerant folks. In some ways that sums up a lot of the progressiveness I see in this region, even when well intentioned.

      7. My understand is that ad hominem is a personal attack as a way to discount an argument. His argument that I’m a poseur because he believes my income is too close to AMI is much closer to true ad hominem than anything I’ve said. Well, maybe my assertion about his understanding of “urbanism” was a bit much. However, I do believe it is cruel (and also incredibly illogical) to say that affordable housing should not be provided in places where housing is already unaffordable. But maybe it’s too “emotional” to think minimum-wage earners shouldn’t have to commute 30 or more miles each way to be near jobs (usually serving rich people).

        Regardless of my beliefs about his character, I try to keep my responses directed at the things he says, not who he is as a person. If someone else were to comment with the frequency and volume that he does, I’d attack those posts, too.

        Similar to what RossB expressed recently, my general experience with Daniel’s comments is that they’re ~70% irrelevant rambling, ~25% anti-urban nonsense, and 5% insights into the preferences of a fiscal-conservative who over-uses the term “female” to describe women. He very rarely expresses opinions for changes to transit or land use that would benefit anyone other than himself. What that says about his character is an exercise for the reader.

      8. “My understand is that ad hominem is a personal attack as a way to discount an argument.”

        You’d think that, but the moderators continue to allow Sam to be called a troll, and that definitely qualifies as a personal attack as a way to discount an argument.

        Then of course there is the unmoderated gender based harassment on these comment threads. Certain people here have free reign to do as they please, ToS be damned.

      9. In case you haven’t noticed, there is very little going on with the blog these days. People who used to monitor and moderate have been largely absent. If you feel like someone has passed over the line (by making a gender based harassment) please specify the comment and I will remove it. That won’t be tolerated.

        As for Sam being called a troll, I think everyone knows that Sam likes to stir things up. I think it is largely in good fun. If Sam finds the term offensive, he can let us know and we’ll try to put an end to it.

      10. Repeatedly and intentionally migendering, with intent to harrass. Pretty much the definition of malicious harassment.

      11. Repeatedly and intentionally migendering, with intent to harrass.

        I assume you mean misgendering. That is a strong accusation, and I honestly don’t know why you think I would do that. You clearly don’t know me.

        It is quite possible I have used “he” when I should have used “she” or “them”. Or vice-versa, or some other combination. It is an easy mistake to make, given how none of us have actually been introduced. The names we use don’t have any gender associated with them, leaving us to guess. I assume someone named “Daniel” for example, prefers “he, him, his”. But for all I know, they don’t. Even if I know that someone prefers “she”, it is easy to use “he” by mistake, given that they share the same letters.

        If I ever — I mean ever — used the wrong gender for someone here, I sincerely apologize. I would never purposely do that. So please, again, tell me where I used the wrong gender, in referring to someone on this blog. I can’t correct something unless I know what it is.

      12. Sadly my email only goes back to the latest example, and as it was moderated I cannot provide a quote. It was on May 15th, 2020 at 7:41 pm on the article “With Uber’s investment, Lime is getting back into the local bike share game”. In general, I would say you have done this to me approximately five times, including two in the same comments section. As such, I feel this is an intentional, repeat behavior. I will admit though it has been a couple of years since your last incident.

      13. I’m still not sure what it is I did. It is hard to see how something was intentional when I don’t even know what I did. Just to be clear, I do know what misgendering is. But several comments in, and I still have no idea what gender you prefer, let alone what one I used incorrectly. No matter what, I can assure you it was accidental.

        I did accidentally call Alon Levy a “he” (as many other people have). But Alon corrected us, and now I catch myself. I would never do that intentionally, nor do I think anyone who regularly comments on this blog would do that. I don’t know why you would assume that. Who the hell would come on a blog like this and purposely use the wrong gender? That just doesn’t make sense. For all our disagreements, I would assume that the people on here are more mature.

        I think the first thing to do at this point is please let us know what pronouns you prefer.

      14. I have repeatedly told you I am not a “he”, as this started with your comments of “Come on, man.”. That you have no memory of this long standing issue or my responses to it only further confirm my suspicions. Other posters use female pronouns for me as direct result of these conversations, yet you can’t even recall they happened. Your words may say you’d never intentionally misgender, but your attitude and actions clearly say something else.

      15. I’m sorry. I sincerely am. I have gotten in the habit of using “come on, man” quite a bit on this blog and I’m afraid I let it slip (with a woman) and ignored the obvious gender ramifications. I will avoid using the phrase for that reason (or shorten to “Come on”).

        Look, with all do respect, A Joy, you are merely one of many commenters here. You aren’t a regular. Rarely do I seek out your comments. For what it is worth, when actually referring to you, or something you have said, I avoid using a specific gender. I may not have done so initially, but I have done so for a while. In the back of my mind, I do remember making a mistake with your gender, but I couldn’t remember which way it went. I thought maybe it was the same as with Alon, and you preferred “they”. Now I know you are a “she”. Given this really long thread for a simple misunderstanding, it will forever be lodged in my brain, for better or worse.

        But again, the idea that I am somehow doing this on purpose is absurd and a personal attack on my character. Why would I randomly use the wrong gender every hundred comment or so, and only with you? Why the hell would I, or anyone else do that? That makes no sense. I get why some asshole would do that in person — as an attack on their appearance — but I have no fucking idea what you look like. That just doesn’t make sense as an insult, let alone one that I have ever made (and believe me, I’ve made some damn good insults). Holy Shit, it isn’t that hard to figure out my actual name (unlike you). You really think I would make a sexist comment, over and over, given my history, let alone interest in writing editorials?

        Look, I do get angry and frustrated sometimes with some of these comments. I let this anger get the better of me, and sometimes I lash out. Everyone from Martin to Daniel knows this. But I would never make such a petty and pointless insult as purposely using “he” to someone who is a “she”. That just doesn’t make any fucking sense. I would question their intelligence. I would call their comment ridiculously stupid, and part of a pattern. If I wanted to violate the policies of this blog and insult someone, I sure as hell wouldn’t call someone by the wrong gender. I would make a much worse and more straightforward attack.

    1. Seems appropriate for that situation! Anecdotally, living near two major hospitals I don’t notice the ambulance sirens anymore. I have also lived in rural / sprawl areas where I was lilted to slumber by planes landing and freight train horns. When I moved further from the railroad tracks I had trouble sleeping. Fortunately, unlike the Blues Brothers, I did not live within 4 feet of the rail. Is this common?

      1. The hotel and hotel room was real. It wasn’t a set constructed for the movie. Same with the train and tracks outside. All real. It is the L in Chicago. Same with the close distance between hotel and tracks. Real. The only fake part was how often the trains ran. The producers paid the CTA to run them back and forth for that scene.

        I like this quote from the article … “The number of SRO hotels dropped from 300 with 30,000 rooms in the early 1970s to 200 with 15,000 rooms in the late ‘90s, according to the Single Room Operators Association.

        “Nobody said they were the greatest, but they were affordable,” said Ed Shurna, executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.”

        So if there were 30,000 single room occupancy hotel rooms in the early 1970’s, and 15,000 in the late 1990’s, I wonder how many there are today? It seemed like they served a valuable service. It’s a shame they are disappearing, and not just in Chicago.


      2. My last apartment was across an intersection from a hospital, and ambulances and fire engines came by regularly. Lived there 5 years, still winced every time they sounded off.

        Now I live under one of SeaTac’s takeoff paths, and get planes flying over at all times of the day and night.

        Not everyone gets used to these things.

  12. https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/realestate/toronto-home-prices-are-down-17-as-sales-and-listings-plunge/ar-AA12CvXV?cvid=0961e68ea0be428983ef58c34fe69ae6

    Here’s good news, unless you purchased a home in Toronto at the height of the market.

    Right now the Toronto market like many other housing markets is experiencing very few sales, which as the article notes is probably propping up prices and is usually a precursor to further price declines.

    As the economy cools (Amazon just announced it would suspend hiring for its retail division), adjustable rate mortgages rise, and those who bought housing as an investment see the investment drop below their purchase price, owners will be required to sell, and another 10% drop if not more is likely. We could retrun to pre-pandemic housing prices and likely will.

    And that is if we have a soft landing. Vancouver’s market is somewhat skewed by the out of country money flowing into its housing market, but China and Hong Kong are slowing too. The multi-family market has been damaged by the loss of $10 trillion in the stock market and disfavor of property as an investment today.

    The recent YouTube video on middle housing in Vancouver (are these middle housing videos ever done by someone over 21) makes an error: there isn’t a housing crisis, there is a shortage of affordable housing, which is usually the difference between the area’s AMI and the lower band of income. 0% to 30% AMI usually suggests supportive housing will be required and that requires public subsidies. The biggest problem is in the 30% to 70% AMI market for two groups: those who live alone so only one income must cover the housing although they need less GFA but still need a kitchen, bathroom, etc.; and low income families who can’t live in a studio, or shouldn’t. Two people in Seattle earning even close to AMI do not have a housing problem.

    This just goes to show the cost of money has a huge effect on the price of housing, and more importantly an immediate one. Even though we will see a pretty steep drop in housing starts in the next five years if the Fed keeps rates high — or just normalizes them — we will see a decline in housing prices, but also more defaults on mortgages.

    One salutary effect IMO is declining housing prices — especially if accompanied by declining rental rates — will flush a lot of the investors out of the housing market, because just like stocks with rising interest rates cash is the best investment today with a real return of over 4% with zero risk when other investments are declining in value. One non-salutary effect is large cities like Seattle realize tremendous tax revenue from construction, and are already reeling from WFH.

    Any kind of zoning changes, whether regulatory or use, won’t be possible in this area until the 2024 comp. plan updates are adopted in late 2024, and even then it will take several years to amend the implementing development codes to enact any change in zoning the comp. plans include, which I doubt most cities will approve because they don’t need zoning changes to meet their GMPC housing targets. I would not be surprised if, like beginning in 2008, by the end of 2024 the bigger issue is the decline in housing prices and the defaults rather than housing costs, except for the lowest band of renters and that is mostly supportive housing.

    If there is any market to look at it is construction and permitting in the UGA’s and commercial housing areas like downtown Bellevue, because these are often REIT’s and involve national investment. IMO this market got overheated during the zero interest days of the past decade. If these are flat or decline in permitting and construction then upzoning other parts of the city won’t do much, especially if housing costs are declining anyway and that upzoning requires investments from local smaller builders. Construction is a lagging indicator; permitting a leading indicator.

    I still think Seattle especially should review its UGA zones to see if some kind of master planning for distressed areas like University Ave. with tax breaks isn’t a good idea to try and create something prettier and more vibrant like the admittedly mild density multi-family housing in the Montreal video. Multi-family or affordable housing does not always have to be ugly or cheap looking, and I think Ross made that point in regard to the SFH objections to multi-family housing, although it goes deeper than that (and as the Vancouver YouTube video notes multi-family housing in the SFH zone if accompanied by changes to regulatory limits eliminates any lot vegetation, a defining characteristic of a SFH zone).

    Although a lot of the property west of University Ave. has already been developed with higher zoning allotments (and is pretty bad and incoherent IMO) I still don’t think it is too late to do something right along University Ave. and maybe east. But that would take lower interest rates and a better environment for new development, and IMO would probably require the UW be a partner. Very unlikely, except Emmert did propose it some time ago and he was a bright guy. It would probably have to be mostly reserved for students and the area cleaned up, but it would become a vibrant area in the city rather than what it is today. Who wouldn’t want University Ave. and east to look like the mixed use zone in the Montreal video? It would take 20 to 25 years to realize but 20 to 25 years will pass no matter what we do.

    1. Seattle needs to stop all houseless sweeps until quality housing is built for our houseless neighbors. By quality, I mean 800-1000 square feet per houseless resident. We need to tax the rich 75-90 percent. Those making over 150k per year, should be taxed heavily. They should house, feed, clothe, and provide entertainment for our houseless neighbors. Eat the rich! Power to the poor

      1. Blah-blah-blah. If this isn’t some stupid snark, I’d remind you that this isn’t a CPUSA meeting, Comrade.

      2. Yes, tell that to people paying $1500 month for a studio apartment that homeless people should get a larger place than they have, all at taxpayer expense.

      3. “Yes, tell that to people paying $1500 month for a studio apartment that homeless people should get a larger place than they have, all at taxpayer expense.”

        Isn’t that the point of the upcoming housing levy in Seattle? I think Sec. 8 housing must be at least 70 sf/bedroom, and HUD 600 sf/unit, and kids must share a bedroom. But those paying $1500/mo. for a studio in Seattle will end up paying for the housing levy — and every other city and county levy — too because they are property based and will be passed onto renters.

        Under the new law I don’t think there is any minimum sf per tenant, at least if government subsidies are not involved. Even a bedroom per tenant is not required. As I noted in a prior post, the two groups that are most disadvantaged by high housing costs today are those who live alone and so must pay 100% of the rent and utilities when the only solution there is smaller and smaller housing until like Tokyo you get to 95 sf, and families in the 30% to 70% AMI band who need more space than a studio.

        Although the post was sarcastic, Seattle already does tax the rich with its head tax, which is how the city hopes to cover the $194 million deficit in its upcoming budget Harrell just announced. But if I were Seattle I would be worried about Amazon’s unwillingness to discuss its new hiring freeze with Seattle, and recent public comments it plans to move its employees to where they want to work and where they live and to areas that “value business”. In the past Seattle just assumed the 25,000 eastside Amazon workers would be new hires, and not relocations from Seattle. I am not so sure about that now.

        To be honest, I think the legislature’s goal is to create affordable housing without it or the counties raising taxes. How does it do that. Forcing cities to pass separate housing levies, because affordable housing needs public subsidies, even though those levies get passed onto private tenants.

        The hammer I think will be threatening cities like on the eastside with abolishing SFH zoning in lieu of housing levies, but the problem there is eastside cities can pretty easily meet their (probably inflated) future GMPC housing targets pretty easily in their multi-family and commercial cores without touching SFH zoning, (and those new tenants or owners will be very rich to boot).

      4. Without an increase in the total supply of housing, all the taxes for affordable are all for nothing. Every home given to someone by the city must come from outbidding someone else for limited housing supply, is which means every homeless person housed just gets balanced out by a housed person somewhere else going homeless. No matter how much tax money you take from the rich, the problem is never solved.

        And, hence the paradox because the only way the housing supply can increase is looser zoning rules and new construction. Even if the new housing itself is initially expensive, its presence helps reduce demand pressure on the overall market and, in time, new construction eventually becomes old construction.

        Yes, it’s not a magic bullet and takes years before the benefits are realized, but it’s still a necessary condition to be able to realize any progress on the housing issue, ever.

      5. Isn’t that the point of the GMPC’s housing growth targets and allocations asdf2? To estimate future housing needs and allocate the growth throughout the region? Is there something more you want the GMPC to do? My guess is it’s housing growth projections will actually prove to be a little high in the next to 7 to 10 years. .

        Has any city in the four county area indicated it won’t try to meet its allocation?

        We are not debating the need for future housing but where and how to site it, which is why there is the GMPC and why cities have discretion to zone.

    2. Cash does not have “a real return over 4%” at this time. Sure, one can get 4% on some un-insured “money market” investments (not really “cash”), but with inflation at 8%, that’s still losing money. If inflation is 8% and the stock market nominally declines, one is losing a lot more. So holding cash is relatively a better use temporarily.

      But it’s not “making money”; it’s just losing it more slowly, and one can’t time the bottom with confidence. Warren says a bottom is being formed, and he has a lot more money than I do, so I respect his opinion.

      [Yes, I understand that “Warren says” is an oxymoron. He doesn’t “say” anything useful except at the B-H annual meeting. But he is buying stuff.]

      1. Good point Tom. I should have clarified the real return was based on whether other investments are declining in value, and of course inflation. We are in a market in which losing money more slowly is the name of the game.

        Buffet is fortunate his funds have $100 billion in cash. I think his mantra is buy when others are selling and sell when others are buying. A lot of my daughter’s college fund is in Buffet funds, but they are still down pretty significantly, and we don’t have 10 years this time as she is in college.

        Buffet did quite well buying up distressed SFH after the 2008 crash and then repurposing them as rentals. I think he invented that market. The big differences between 2008 and today are the amount of the federal debt, and after the 2008 financial meltdown inflation was virtually zero so interest rates were virtually zero for the next 14 years.

        With the Fed no longer buying treasuries as part of its quantitative tightening and raising interest rates treasury markets have an imbalance between sellers and buyers, which means federal borrowing rates are going to increase pretty significantly fast. Fiscal policy (austerity) is going to have to match monetary policy to get inflation under control, without all the capital gains taxes in the past and 1% federal borrowing rates while Social Security is getting historic COLA’s. The NY Times has a warning about this for Pres. Biden today https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/new-york-times-report-warns-of-rising-debt-says-it-is-a-political-problem-for-biden/ar-AA12BXRS?cvid=2a45417d034e4e01974f251c061542aa (and Biden has reduced our strategic petroleum reserve to levels not seen in decades to lower gas prices for the midterm elections).

        What does this have to do with transit and housing? None of the federal infrastructure bill has actually been allocated or authorized, so don’t count on $1 trillion, and municipal COLA’s for police fire and CBA employees are resetting at 7% to 9% in this area killing municipal budgets. Building across every class is going to slow significantly, so arguing over upzoning is almost meaningless.

  13. Has anyone seen an “open one bedroom”, where the bedroom has no door or window? A guy next to me in a vaccination line said some new buildings in Seattle have these. He’d never seen them in California, and I’d never heard of them either. I’ve seen studios with a bed alcove, and 1 BRs with a “den” or “extra room” that can’t be called a bedroom because it doesn’t have a window, but not this. He said there’s a loophole in the law that if a bedroom doesn’t have a door, it doesn’t need a window either, and some buildings are using this to charge more for the room. To me it defeats the purpose of a 1 BR, to close the door and shut out the sound of the refrigerator, or so that two people can be alone sometimes. But if this is happening, it’s something else to worry about, “1 bedrooms” that aren’t really 1 bedroom.

    1. I would be pretty angry if I was renting a one room “closet”. I am fortunate to not have to make that decision. I used to see some pretty shady shit in the U-District in the early 90’s. One was a room on a roof. It was actually on a tilt. My friend had to put wood blocks on one side of his bed. But it was 150 per month including utilities. And he was 19. So he dealt with it. It was just south of Ravenna Blvd on 15th Avenue Ne in a house with about 12 makeshift rooms.

      1. I had a closet in SF at 43-1/2 Downey Street three blocks from Haight and back in ’69. It was a “walk-in” closet, so there was enough room for a sleeping platform and a jewelry making desk; no window though. I had a huge 49-star flag tacked up on all four walls (except the door) and the ceiling.

        It was cool. Don’t knock closets for sleeping, at least in San Francisco where it never really gets hot.

    2. One of my friends just moved into an apartment building on Capitol Hill (https://www.northwestapartments.com/harvard-house) and their apartment is billed as a 1-bed but the “door” to the “bedroom” is a sliding door and the “bedroom” does not feature a window.

      I hadn’t thought about it, but if I were to classify the apartment, I’d consider it technically to be a studio, although there is a floor-to-ceiling divider between the bed-space and living-space.

      1. “… if I were to classify the apartment, I’d consider it technically to be a studio, …”

        I am pretty sure that it falls under “studio” in most building code rules. That’s why the sleeping areas are not fire-protection-rated rooms with escapes possible out a window.

      2. It is interesting that they call it a 1-bedroom, though. I wonder how it’s reflected on rental registrations.

      3. I’ve seen those advertised as studios elsewhere, but I think Al is right, those are studios from a fire code standpoint. The one I stayed in LQA had a floor-to-almost-ceiling sliding door; didn’t go all the way to the ceiling, so wasn’t a wall per se.

  14. The state legislature recently eliminated any city-imposed cap on the number of unrelated persons living in a rental unit(s), subject to the fire code. Cities are just now incorporating this into their codes. A landlord however can impose limits.

    Unfortunately, this legislation — no doubt designed to be “equitable” — is backfiring. Rentals in wealthier neighborhoods are more valuable and so landlords more restrictive on the number of tenants. However “slumlords” who manage run down properties generally in lower income areas are more willing to cram as many tenants as possible into a unit, and so far fire marshals have not determined a safe number of individuals per sf or bedroom (although Sec. 8 does have limits).

    With Seattle’s MHA that allows three separate legal dwellings per residential lot I have heard of up to 19 tenants living on a single residential lot, which is think is abusive to the neighborhoods and neighborhood, but then I don’t live there. I don’t think this kind of legislation is going to warm SFH zones to multi-family zoning.

    1. The issue of number of units per lot and residents per unit are different, Daniel. They often are addressed in different coded. I think you know that.

      It’s theoretically possible for only three people to live in three units on a single lot, and theoretically possible for 20 people to live in a huge single family house. Of course, fire codes kick in to restrict how people can ultimately occupy a home but zoning codes are way more restrictive than building codes about these concerns..

      There are fire codes, building codes and zoning codes. The first two are pretty much directly driven by residential safety and health concerns. Zoning codes are more about aesthetic and character objectives. Things like height in a zoning code can have a relation to public safety (a non-ladder fire truck cannot easily put out a fire in a tall building, for example, which leads to height limits) but most zoning codes have more arbitrary restrictions.

      1. I understand that Al. As I noted, the state legislation prohibits a city from using its land use or building codes to restrict the total number of unrelated persons living in any legal dwelling. Before that I think MI limited the number to 6 or 8. I know on Greek Row houses can have up to 45 tenants, like when I lived there long ago. I don’t know that I would want a fraternity as my neighbor though.

        Each legal dwelling now has no restriction — no matter what size — except under the fire code, but as I noted fire Marshals have not addressed what is a safe maximum number, and it would be overwhelming for any fire dept. — especially one as small as MI’s — to review each rental property to determine whether the number of residents is safe when there is nothing under the international fire code addressing this (although there is plenty on sprinklers, ingress and egress from bedrooms which is probably why windowless bedrooms have no door). Maybe in the future the international fire code will adopt regulations on this issue, perhaps based on sf. I do know both Sec. 8 and HUD have minimum standards for sf per person, but not WA state if federal subsidies are not involved.

        The irony I suppose is some properties in this region are moving to Tokyo’s 95 sf per person housing allowance, and of course that will affect the poorer tenants, and probably make it very hard for a sec. 8 or HUD applicant to get housing in some areas of Seattle since they come with sf requirements. I really don’t’ know how many folks want to live in a house with 15 other unrelated persons without a bedroom for each tenant or couple and five strangers per bathroom, but my guess is this is the new way to house the poor.

        Although it was eastside suburban cities that first objected to the new law (that was not well publicized) it turns out landlords in these cities usually are renting out expensive units and so limit the number of tenants themselves. It is the poorer neighborhoods that are seeing rentals with an unusually large number of tenants, probably because rents are lower and the properties beat up, and I am not aware of the Seattle Fire Dept. reviewing a single property for too many residents. However the example with 19 tenants on a single residential lot was on Capitol Hill.

        I agree land use or zoning codes are mostly subjective and primarily driven by aesthetics and politics, and also things like condensing retail, protecting schools, different housing sizes for families and singles, maintaining lot vegetation, having density meet infrastructure like roads, water and sewer liners, school capacity, meeting transportation concurrency standards, and so on. Building codes are objective, and now in WA subject to the international building code.

        As I always say, land use IS politics. A city can pretty much decide its own zoning as long as it meets its housing growth targets, and complies with the GMA on critical areas. The rest is discretionary, and pretty much politics as the citizens of a city decide what kind of city they want. For example, I don’t tell Seattle how to zone, or Bellevue or Medina, and figure the citizens can figure that out for themselves, although I usually bet on the folks with the money and political juice in these fights. If you don’t like it move to another city, like so many in Seattle are doing.

        The biggest problems with upzoning SFH neighborhoods by force some don’t understand on this blog are: 1. it isn’t necessary to meet future housing growth targets; 2. it violates the PSRC’s vision of allocating more housing in dense areas next to transit (TOD); 3. the SFH zones are well organized in any political fight, especially smaller cities; and 4. it won’t create truly affordable housing (30% to 70% AMI). So there really is no moral imperative to uzpone SFH zones, unless you just don’t like them or think they are privileged or don’t like trees and lot vegetation or can’t afford one although prices are dropping.

        t understand on this blog

      2. Daniel, occupancy limits are set in the IBC and the IRC model codes and enforced by fire marshals. It’s stipulated as a ratio of occupant to square foot. In the IBC, residential has a 200 gross load factor so 1 occupant per 200 SF.

  15. DT: “Abolishing SFH zoning is a recent urbanist concept. Before that urbanists were the biggest supporters of very tall commercial and residential housing in the downtown core.”

    Different urbanists think different things. Ideals evolve over time. The context changes. City policies don’t necessarily reflect urbanists’ ideals. Seattle’s urban villages are a compromise between urbanists and nimbys.

    The primary commonality — between both highrise advocates, lowrise advocates, and townhouse advocates — is walkable neighborhoods. Residents should be able to do some errands and visit people within a 10-minute or 20-minute walk, so that fewer trips require a car or or going several miles.

    Seattle has a not-very-good model: a few islands of urban villages in a vast sea of single-family houses. The villages are far apart, so people have to travel miles between them, too far to walk. Many villages are too small, so they don’t have a complete choice of destinations. There aren’t enough village units for everybody who wants to live in one. Those that can’t have to live in an isolated multifamily building or a SFH they don’t want to be in. The suburbs are worse: in Seattle 70% of the buildable land is single-family; in some of the larger suburbs it’s 80% or higher.

    One better model is San Francisco’s neighborhoods or Vancouver’s West End and and Kitsilano/west Broadway area. The West End has condo towers with full-sized supermarkets and schools. Kitsilano is missing middle housing mixed with SFH. Both are continuous over a large area, not small islands. This allows a lot of destinations to serve a lot of people. Bus routes have continuous destinations and housing, and grid transfers have even more of it. As opposed to, say, taking the 48 from Mt Baker to the U-District, or the 73 or 65 from the U-District to Jackson Park.

    Paris and Boston are similar to these two, I gather, although I haven’t been to them.

    Another level up is Chicago’s North Side, where most buildings are 3-10 stories, but there are still some scattered SFHes and rowhouses.

    Another level up is Manhattan, with highrises downtown and midtown, but most buildings are 4-10 stories.

    The Congress for the New Urbanism specifically does not build highrises. It builds lowrise neighborhoods, like Vancouver’s Kitsilano/Broadway area, or the Issaquah Highlands.

    Some urbanists like myself used to focus more on highrises, but have since come around to the idea that lowrise neighborhoods may be better overall, and that highrises should be a small part of the mix. There’s been compelling evidence that lowrise Paris fits a lot of people. That what’s wrong with bad American lowrise is not intrinsic, but the excessive space between buildings and for parking lots and garages and car lanes: things that push everything apart and make it harder to walk or bus to them. The Netherlands has rejected both the low-density and highrise extremes, and is building all new neighborhoods as missing middle sized.

    “It won’t create “affordable housing””

    But it will slow the price increases for market-rate housing. Prices are rising because a lot of people are competing for the same number of units. If we don’t build a greater rate of housing, prices will skew ever higher relative to income, and a larger percent of people will need subsidized housing.

    “I always find it very odd that self-described “urbanists” want to allocate future housing in remote residential neighborhoods with no walkable retail and no transit”

    Nobody expects or wants density to flock to the eastern CD or the isolated parts of Magnolia before the closer-in areas are built up. And developers won’t, because they’d have difficulty selling/renting single dense units in an isolated area.

    The minimum urbanist concept is to expand the urban villages outwards, so that new units can leverage existing destinations and transit. So expand Mt Baker, Columbia City, the U-District into Wallingford, etc.

    The next level up would be to close the gaps between nearby villages. Again, you’re focusing the growth within the ring of outermost urban villages.

    Another level up would be to abolish single-family zoning citywide, allowing lowrise everywhere. This wouldn’t result in all houses being bulldozed, or a lot of multifamily buildings in isolated areas away from transit and supermarkets. Growth would still expand out from the existing urban villages. Because that’s what people who buy/rent such housing want. And even if others don’t put a high value on walkability, it’s good to have it anyway. If they can walk to the store, maybe they will sometimes, even if it takes ten years. That’s a reduced number of car trips.

    Abolishing single-family zoning is also a kind of fairness. It gives lotowners equal opportunity, rather than telling some they can build denser than others. Then it will be the market that decides what gets built where, rather than overly restrictive zoning.

    “I mean how many urbanists on this blog plan to move to a remote residential neighborhood on Mercer Island if it is upzoned to two or three units”

    They’d prefer to move to downtown Mercer Island. Or a satellite neighborhood like that elsewhere on the island. Downtown Mercer Island has very restrictive height limits, so the best thing Mercer Island could do would be to loosen downtown zoning and perhaps expand downtown. Then more people could live within waking distance of Link. And it wouldn’t matter as much if the rest of the island stayed the same.

    “At least the PSRC does not see abolishing SFH zoning in its 2050 Vision.”

    The PSRC is also a compromise between urbanists and nimbys, heavily weighted toward nimbys. A better PSRC would have policies like The Netherlands or Paris or Vancouver or Chicago.

    1. The kind of density you want to avoid is like the Bothell-Everett Highway or Eastgate, where five-story residential buildings or office buildings abound but it’s completely unwalkable. Where it’s an enormous hardship to walk from a building entrance to an infrequent bus, and forget about walking to the store or any other retail/service.

    2. Jane Jacobs herself overestimated the minimum heights for a vibrant neighborhood. In “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” she advocated for 4-5 story walk-ups, based on her experience with Greenwich Village, and because 5 stories was the most people would walk up without an elevator, and elevators raised the price of buildings. But after she moved to Toronto her son lived in The Annex, a 2-4 story neighborhood. The Annex has an excellent walkable environment, a vibrant urban life, people walking to stores that have produce bins outside, etc, even though its hight is lower than her nominal minimum. That’s when she realized she may have overestimated the minimum size.

  16. How’s this: If parents have to drive their kids between school, soccer practice, tutoring, the library for studying, the movie theater and shopping for school supplies, because it’s impractical for the kids to walk or take transit between them, then the design of the city is wrong.

    In the past parents often told their kids to pick up a few groceries on the way home from school. That’s something we’ve lost.

  17. There hasn’t been much activity on Page 2 over the last few months, but there is a post there now that I think is worth reading. I would say more, but the comments should really be on that post (not here).

  18. FYI, Sound Transit has a survey about ST Express – Link connections at Roosevelt and Northgate. Basically asking whether people would prefer a bus schedule that is synced up with Link in theory, but more prone to cancellations, or a more reliable schedule that isn’t synced up to Link.


    I strongly prefer the latter. And cancellations aren’t even my top reason. The 522 schedule is very confusing, with weekday daytime buses coming every 10, 16, or 20 minutes depending what time of day it is and which direction. Just make it every 15 minutes all day both ways.

    1. One significant problem I’ve seen with ST synched schedules is they significantly underestimate how much time it takes to get from the train to the bus. I’m sure the old 373 schedule was supposed to be synchronized with Link, but in reality you had to run up the escalators and the pedestrian bridge to make it work the way Google maps says it should have.

      Synchronized schedules really only work when there is a really short distance between the two lines. Otherwise one leaves just as the other gets there, and you actually maximize the wait time.

      1. At least the time it takes to get between train and bus is something you can some control of. You can walk up the escalator if you’re worried about missing bus, or just stand if the bus isn’t coming for awhile anyway.

        It’s no different then when you’re driving, approaching a traffic light. If it’s green, you try to speed up to make it. If it’s red, and not likely to turn green for awhile, you may as well coast and reduce speed, since racing to the red light won’t get you home any sooner.

    2. I agrée with all of you guys. I’ll add that in 2024 (hopefully), Link trains run every 5 minutes as a base and 4 minutes peak! That’s less time than a transfer might take. Timing transfers to Link on the trunk is just downright silly when they will run so frequently.

      Frankly, I’m surprised that this is even debated. When I see surveys about these things — as opposed to surveys about practical problems — I really begin to either doubt the intelligence levels of planning staff or the intelligence level of a pushy Board member that doesn’t understand how to make a bus + train trip.

  19. I agree with Glenn. As I see it, there are three considerations when it comes to synchronizing schedules: frequency, schedule consistency and transfer consistency. Transfers and schedules have a range. Some people can get to a platform very quickly; others can’t. Same with the vehicles. A train might be a couple minutes late, but a bus could be much later.

    My guess is it is a bell curve. For a given daily bus trip you could plot the times that passengers arrive at the platform. Some arrive very quickly (the bus was early and they ran). Others arrive late.

    With infrequent connecting service, I would aim to fit most (or all) of that curve onto the next vehicle. For example, consider a bus to an hourly ferry. The bus runs anywhere from 2 minutes early to 5 minutes late. Riders take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes to get on the ferry. Thus you want the bus to arrive 20 minutes before the ferry leaves. Some riders, on occasion, have to wait a while on the ferry, but you don’t leave anyone waiting an hour (or even a half hour).

    Link is a different situation. The range is similar, but the train is a lot more frequent. It doesn’t take that long to get to the platform, but my guess is if you plotted it out, the range exceeds the frequency of the train. You can try and time it, but there is no obvious approach. Do you focus on worst-case trips (minimizing the number of people who just miss a train) or do you average out the wait times?

    I think the best solution is to just run both the bus and train as often as possible. The only time I think it makes sense to try and time it is when the train is running very infrequently. In the case of Link, at most I would try and time the late night trips. The buses are more consistent then (with less traffic) and you could probably come up with a time that works for just about everyone just about every time. That would make for a much easier to understand schedule.

    But I would not sacrifice frequency at that time. Late at night, the trains run every 15 minutes. If ST can’t afford to run the buses that often, they should run them every 20. They shouldn’t skip a few runs, just to try and time things better. There are too many people who take the 522 without taking Link.

  20. If Sound Transit continues to hit delays getting the Belleuve line open, can they at least run additional trains between Northgate and International District, so that north Seattle gets its promised frequency upgrades? A lot of the long-term ridership on the 2-line is going to come from the segment that overlaps the one-line, and there’s no reason why that part needs to be held hostage to the I-90 bridge crossing.

    1. It seems like something the new CEO should explore; to see if a segmented opening of East Link would be ease the difficulty of trying to open all the new stations of East Link, FW, and Lynnwood between late 2024 and 2025. ST’s progress reports have been warning about potential programmatic capacity issues with all the openings happening nearly simultaneously. An extra year of double-frequency from downtown to Northgate would probably be well-appreciated by all involved, except maybe the escalator repair-people.

    2. I would think it’d be easier to turn the trains at Judkins Park, based on the location of the pocket track west of that station. ID to Judkins Park is such a short distance it would probably take fewer trains than if they turned them at the shop complex in SoDo.

    3. IDS is a terrible place to reverse. However, there is a scissors just west of Judson Park that would very nicely. It would give folks from the Rainier Valley headed to the north end of downtown or points north a quick ride.

      1. The tracks connecting Judkins Park to the DSTT have been removed for whatever repair ST has. It’s probably going to be a while before they reopen. So for extra service, it’s the SODO loop or nothing.

      2. Sounds to me as though they’ve got more than the floating bridge they’re working on. I don’t see how that area could possibly be impacted by the floating bridge stuff, unless it’s the same bad quality concrete?

      3. The plinths beneath the tracks on the curve from Judkins to DSTT were the wrong dimensions. Probably would have led to a very bumpy ride and excess wear on the tracks and trains.

      4. I expect that by the time that ridership reaches levels at which 5 minute headways are needed on the north line, the plinths will have been replaced and the trackway tested between IDS and Judkins Park. Of course that may be wrong, but if so, ST is hopelessly inept. Yes, there are a “lot” of plinths in that 3/4 of a mile, but really, the work is supposedly not that complex on any single support.

        I do like the SoDo loop, especially for peak fill trains, because there’s no reversing required; the train just motors around the loop. True, “slowly”, the speed limit is I think 15 mph. But that’s a lot quicker than reversing, and doesn’t foul either platform track.

    4. I don’t particularly care where these extra trains turn around – be it International District, Judkins Park, Stadium, or SODO – so long as Northgate to downtown gets 5-minute all-day service frequency.

  21. Autonomous taxi in San Francisco ($). The service is called Cruise, with 30 cars. It drives cautiously, with a maximum speed of 30 mph. One part of the article says it’s a Chevy Volt and another part says it’s a Mercedes, so I’m not sure what that means. It’s monitored remotely and has a call button to speak with a technician.

    “[The] cars do not exceed about 30 mph, and they shut down in heavy rain, fog and snow.” Fortunately that’s not a problem in Seattle. All those people who think robotaxis will replace transit and owned cars, what will they think about fair-weather cars? And rainy days are when people most want taxis.

    1. It’s not like when it’s raining, you can’t get a taxi at all, you just get one with a human driver. I also expect this limitation to eventually get removed once self-driving tech is tested more in the rain.

  22. The California HSR saga ($).

    It’s so frustrating that when other countries build high-speed rail, they actually finish them and they become like highways. And they already have several high-speed lines so they know how to build them, and new ones will probably be finished and not have huge cost overruns. California tries one and it struggles to be completed. So all we’re left with is a few trains and buses that are slower than driving and run only a few times a day.

    1. I cannot defend the California HSR Commission’s project choices but I understand that they never did have enough funds to build the whole line.

      I don’t know why they didn’t embrace the Bakersfield to Palmdale to Burbank section first. That seems to me to have been the best early win scenario. That 3+ hour transfer and bus ordeal between Bakersfield and LA could have been reduced to about 90 minutes or better with no transfer.

      Even so, traveling the Central Valley is tedious — and both Bakersfield and Fresno have metro areas way more populous than Spokane (about 1M each) so there will be some early benefit.

      The CalTrain electrification funding assistance is great too. It’s going to benefit the 101 corridor and enable better service into SF.

      Of course the whole line needs to be running to maximize the ridership. The project saves California from building two new airports — in the Bay Area and in the LA region — so it’s too bad that funds cannot come from that pot of revenue.

    2. They wanted to launch in the Central Valley because they thought it’d be the easiest section for land acquisition, construction, and would be fastest to deliver. I don’t think they were wrong, but that they wholly underestimated the difficulty of completing the project without the assistance of international expertise.

      The Bakersfield-Palmdale-Burbank section has significant political and engineering complexity. They thought that the section with the least complexity would be easy. It was not.

    3. My main issue iwith that article is with the Morocco comparison. It’s a bit of apples to oranges in terms of how the Al Boraq train came to be. That project existed on some level as a prestige project for the King of Morocco and his Kingdom. It gets into the same problem as when people complain about the extent of China’s HSR system compared to the US. Yes, it’s extensive but it’s also a nation that isn’t really democratic and has a lot less political red tape due to the authoritarian nature of the state which means it can tell citizens to pound sand if they need the land for a government project. And I’m aware eminent domain exists in the US, but the government is cautious in using it unless absolutely necessary. I feel like a better example would be any of the European HSRs like France, Germany, or Italy and how they were built out. Even Japan’s Shinkansen had a lot of critics before it opened and then they went away afterwards. I think there’s a lot to complain about CAHSR but I think the article isn’t that great in terms of explaining it.

      1. And it’s definitely possible to fight eminent domain in court endlessly — q.v. Burke Gillman missing link.

  23. LA Metro’s K Line opened this weekend!


    Of course, it’s opening three years late — and the last 40% to the LAX peoplemover won’t open for another 1.5 to 2 years if no further delays happen. It’s nice for local Crenshaw destinations — but it still won’t be a big game changer until the whole line opens.

    Meanwhile, the wait continues for SF Central Subway and DC Metro’s Dulles extension Phase 2. They’re both delayed several years too but should open in the next few months.

    1. From what I heard, the K line got absolutely screwed by contractor failures.

      The Regional Connector project is also way behind schedule. The only project that seems to be coming along on-time is the Purple Line extension.

  24. What’s going to be built next to the Downtown Redmond Station Link station. The first link is the website for the large project, and how it will look, and the second link is a map of the area. I believe the project will be between 164th and 166th, and 79th st and Cleveland st.

    I think it would be kinda cool to live in an apartment with a close view of the station.



    1. The urbanizing of Downtown Redmond has been remarkable, with both the townhouse complexes north of 79th. Street and the mixed-use apartment/condo buildings. The light rail stop will only increase its attractiveness for those who want to get to Bellevue and Seattle without a car. Likewise, my little niece in Beacon Hill loves to visit Redmond Town Center with her grandmother, and East Link will make that trip easier.

      1. I think the Downtown Redmond station area will be one of the best neighborhoods of all the Line 1 and 2 station neighborhoods. Overall. Other station areas will beat Redmond in certain categories, but overall, downtown Redmond will be hard to beat. And by overall I mean factoring in everything like schools, crime, walkability, parks, amenities, etc. Plus, the area is flat, unlike East Main and Downtown Bellevue, etc. And, the area isn’t hemmed-in by a freeway, like Northgate, TIBS, Overlake Village, etc. It’s where I’d tell someone to move to who wanted to live near a Link station and wanted to live in an apartment.

        “But Sam, isn’t there like more stuff to do on Capitol Hill and in the U District? And downtown has museums and stuff.” That’s why I said best overall, dumbass.

  25. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/09/opinion/business-economics/freight-train-mismanagement.html

    “Our infrastructure isn’t built for these “monster trains,” which are now so long that many no longer fit the tracks designed to allow trains to pass one another. These trains are almost always overseen by a crew of just two people, who must walk for miles if a problem is found, in all kinds of weather. The trains are difficult to control, and if weight is unevenly distributed along them, they may break apart or even derail.”

    Nationalize ’em.

    1. “which are now so long that many no longer fit the tracks designed to allow trains to pass one another. ”

      This is also how freight has retaken priority over Amtrak; since Amtrak will always fit on the sidings, Amtrak gets to wait while the freight train lumbers by, despite supposing to have federal priority.

      The freight companies have had decades to figure out how to operate effectively and efficiently, and have only succeeded by creating inhuman working conditions. Stealing a joke from a podcaster: “To paraphrase Voltaire, Precision Scheduled Railroading is neither precision, nor scheduled, nor railroading.”

      Nationalization and electrification are the only way forward.

    2. Nationalization would also make reasonable scheduling of regional transit farcless onerous expensive.

      Schedule for humans and the planet, not for stockholders and CEO bonuses.

    3. “Stealing a joke from a podcaster: “To paraphrase Voltaire, Precision Scheduled Railroading is neither precision, nor scheduled, nor railroading.””

      My dad used to say, “The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, Roman, nor an empire.”

    4. Railroads are essentially monopolies. In that circumstance the invisible hand of the market has had its’ fingers snapped off.

      They are a vast, expensive, public good that are unlikely to face substantial in-kind competition. They are clearly being both poorly utilized and underutilized given their value.

      They are far more effective as something like public utilities when this happens.

    1. If you are looking for a sunburn in February, and heatstroke the rest of the year, Scottsdale is your town.

      Why are you comparing two places with some of the worst land use and lowest quality of life for the buck (on my personal scale – I know some people like both places) in all of America to each other? Are you trolling or serious?

      1. Bellevue and Scottsdale are good comparisons demographically and location wise relative to the central city they are suburbs of. Both do not have a coveted temperate climate. I think being near a world famous golf course in a walkable neighborhood is desirable.

    2. That is an $820,000 house, 15 miles from the center of town, and you are calling it affordable? What?

      There are plenty of houses in Seattle suburbs for less than that, including ones much closer. You can find dozens of houses in Shoreline, for example, let alone in the southern suburbs for less than that. Hell, even West Seattle is often cheaper than that (https://www.redfin.com/WA/Seattle/2507-SW-Portland-Ct-98106/home/472162). That is in the city itself, and much closer to downtown. This is in Seattle, a city that can’t sprawl as easily as Phoenix, simply because it is physically constrained.

      But that is all beside the point. 800 grand is a huge amount of money. To say this is “affordable” is absurd.

      1. The definition of “affordable” is in the eyes of the beholder. What’s affordable to one person, may not be affordable to another.

        This is part of what makes arguments about affordable housing so exasperating, since anytime someone uses the word “affordable”, I don’t know what the mean. Affordable to them? Affordable to someone with 100% AMI? 80? 30? 0%?

        In any case, there are plenty of people in the Seattle area to whom $800k is affordable, but $1.2M is not.

      2. https://realestate.usnews.com/real-estate/articles/what-is-affordable-housing

        There are legal definitions about what affordable housing means:

        “The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines affordable housing as housing where the occupant is paying 30% or less of the gross income on total housing, including utilities.”

        How to create affordable housing is easier said than done.

        0% to 30% AMI housing is effectively supportive housing. 30% of zero gross income is still zero. If someone has 0% to 20% AMI there is something else going on, and the real question is whether that person has the ability to increase their AMI with appropriate help and treatment because a lifetime of subsidized housing, or worse supportive housing, is tremendously expensive, and ironically usually funded by property taxes that burden other renters and property owners.

        Seattle’s AMI is now $115,000. 30% equals $34,500/yr., or $2875/month for rent, so those folks even if living alone do not have a housing affordability issue. Neither do those earning 75% of AMI ($2156.25/mo. for rent) although I do think there is some grief in spending 30% of gross income on housing.

        30% of $115,000 equals $34,500/yr. AMI and 30% of that equals $10,350/yr. or $862.50/mo. for rent. Not much in Seattle available for $862.50/mo. except a room in a house although my son pays $1000/mo. for a two-bedroom apartment at the UW he shares (the unit is $2000/mo. although fairly old). Minimum wage in Seattle is close to $17/hr. and someone working 40 hours/week at $17/hour would earn around $35,000/year, so the assumption is someone earning less than minimum wage full time has other issues.

        The first issue is the very large number of people who live alone in Seattle. $862.50 is not much for a single person earning 30% of AMI to rent a place, but just two folks earning 30% AMI would have $1725.00/month for rent, and those are folks in the lowest non-supportive housing group (30% AMI).

        The cost of living alone becomes more apparent when you get to 50% of AMI. 50% of $115,000 equals $57,500/yr. 30% of that is $17,250/year for rent, or $1437.50/mo. which can afford a place in parts of Seattle for one since the unit can be quite small. But if there are two people sharing a unit and both make 50% AMI they would have $2875/mo. for rent and utilities, which would afford a very nice place in Seattle.

        So the real issue in this group (30% AMI and above) is living alone.

        The second group is families because they need more space, and often only one parent can work full time with the cost of daycare (at least until the kids get into school). If both parents worked and earned 50% AMI they would have $2875/mo. for rent which would afford either a SFH depending on size and neighborhood or a larger apartment.

        Obviously the most difficult issue is the single parent household with kids, and not surprisingly that is where we see most of the poverty. Shitty dads are probably the biggest issue in the U.S.

        One of the problems with the most affordable form of housing — renting a room in a SFH — requires communal housing with strangers, including sharing a kitchen/refrigerator and bathroom, and that is always risky, and sometimes those folks are not the best roommates. Plus the landlords are often slumlords in this kind of living, and these houses in the less desirable and in less safe parts of Seattle. If there were some way to screen tenants and have a process in which prospective tenants could meet one another and choose/control their roommates, I think this form of housing would be more appealing to some. One way to do this is require the property owner to live onsite.

        If people did not live alone (including single parent households) you really have a supportive housing issue, not an affordable housing issue, because even at 30% AMI two people sharing a unit can afford a unit. Two people earning 50% AMI (which is mandatory minimum wage) or one earning 75% and one 25% would have $2875/mo. for rent, which is not an affordable housing issue.

        Instead Seattle is approaching the issue based on an assumption nearly every person needing affordable housing must live alone, in part because what we are really talking about is supportive housing and those folks often have issues which makes roommates difficult, which means their own kitchen and bathroom and living room, when many families of four share these (but also control their roommates). So Seattle’s response is smaller and smaller units, which are of course more expensive per sf since each has its own kitchen, bathroom and living room, and no one to share utilities, and often are new to boot, making them the least affordable per sf.

        The final issue is how much to ask those not receiving public subsidies but who are below 100% AMI, or even at 50% AMI, to subsidize the housing for those below them who have to live alone, and who sometimes made some bad life decisions, or wont’ take steps to increase their AMI. There is no free lunch, unfortunately, especially in a state/county/city that raise most of their tax revenue by property taxes that get passed onto property owners and renters alike.

        Seattle has that choice this November. Library levies, King Co. Park Levies, transit levies, school levies, general property taxes, housing levies increase everyone’s housing costs, none more so marginally than those below 100% AMI.

        A subcommittee of the King Co. Council thinks they can solve this problem — without having to use public funds — by mandating that cities create a certain percentage of “affordable housing” as part of their GMPC housing allocations, including 0% to 30% AMI, 30% to 50% AMI, and so on all the way up to 120% of AMI (which seems excessive to me since someone with a 120% AMI would have over $3000/mo. to spend on rent even if living alone).

        Unfortunately, these councilmembers are not builders or developers so they don’t quite understand builders don’t build housing they will lose money on, and many cities would love to require 50% of their GMPC housing targets be 0% to 30% affordable housing because that would effectively cut their housing targets in half through 2044 because no one will apply to build it or build it.

        The unfortunate reality is we don’t have a housing availability issue, or even affordability issue, we have a supportive housing issue, and that requires two things: 1. public subsidies; and 2. a real effort by those receiving public subsidies to increase their AMI in order to contribute more toward their rents so there is more money to go around to others, which is why low barrier shelters and giving homeless hotel rooms without requiring treatment drives so many eastside cities crazy.

      3. “Seattle’s AMI is now $115,000. 30% equals $34,500/yr., or $2875/month for rent, so those folks even if living alone do not have a housing affordability issue.”

        And those who can’t afford the 40% rent increases to $1000, $1600, or $2000 in the past decade have been driven outside the city boundary, thus artificially increasing AMI. We need to look at both the situation in Seattle and the situation for people displaced from Seattle, because it’s one metropolitan area.

        I’m focused on is those making between 30% and 70% AMI, because they need a break too but are usually ignored, as if solving the bottom 30% will solve everybody’s problems. These people don’t have a problem holding a job: it’s just their jobs don’t pay enough to cover the inflated rents, which have risen far faster than wages. Some of them are working 2 or 3 jobs or 80 hours a week to keep themselves and their families housed.

        “The first issue is the very large number of people who live alone in Seattle.”

        It’s too much to expect everybody to have roommates in spite of changing demographics and the breakdown of family support structures. Those are larger issues than just people wanting to live alone as a luxury, and will take a longer time to resolve.

        In the 1950s one wage-earner could own a house and raise a family. In the 1970s Elizabeth Warren’s mother as a single mother could keep her house and raise a family on minimum wage. In the 80s I could still get a room in a 3 BR apartment on minimum wage (although it was an especially good deal). That’s what’s missing now: housing prices have risen far faster than wages. That’s the problem we need to address.

        Even if somebody wants a roommate, you can’t just find a good or compatible one like that. And if you pick a bad one they may pull a knife on you or not pay their obligations. So expecting everybody under 70% AMI to get a roommate right now is unrealistic.

        “One of the problems with the most affordable form of housing — renting a room in a SFH”

        And most SFHs weren’t designed for it. They were designed for a 2+2 family, 1 bathroom in the master bedroom and one other bathroom, hollow doors, car-dependent unwalkable design, useless front lawn that has to be mowed, etc.

        My relative is probably going to move in a group family home, and it’s one of the SFHs you praise. This one did a particularly good job: the residents live on the main floor, the owner’s family in the basement, it’s all retrofitted for so many people and their extra needs, and it even has some greenery and beauty. So that’s possible. But it’s still in an unwalkable location, and you can’t expect every house to be so easily adaptable. I visited somebody in Vancouver who had a room in an SFH, and I didn’t like how much the SFH layout and atmosphere and yard still impacted it.

        “Instead Seattle is approaching the issue based on an assumption nearly every person needing affordable housing must live alone, in part because what we are really talking about is supportive housing and those folks often have issues which makes roommates difficult,”

        Only because you’re looking at a subset of the cost-burdened. One subset has behavioral problems or needs extra services. Others just need a price they can afford. Many don’t have family or friends they could live with. In this fragmented society where people often don’t know their neighbors (in both apartments and now SF neighborhoods too), it can be hard to build those relationships. Finding a roommate one is comfortable with, and can predict it from first meet, and can get their own room with a full door at least, can be difficult.

        “a roommate one is comfortable with, and can predict it from first meet, and can get their own rom with a full door at least, can be difficult.”

        These are inadequate because they can’t fully address the 150,000 person backlog of cost-burdened or underhoused people. They’re just a step in the right direction. There may be other approaches that would be better, but first society has to acknowledge this is a problem that must fully be solved. Then a solution will fall into place.

        I also disagree philosophically with putting the entire burden on new multifamily developments. They didn’t cause the problem; the entire society did. First by closing the SRO hotels in the 1970s without providing a replacement. Then by letting housing prices rise faster than wages since 2003 and doing practically nothing about the increasing housing shortage as cost-burdening rose up the income scale. It would have been much easier and less expensive to nip the problem in the bud in 2003 than to let it fester into an ever-increasing crisis now.

        “The unfortunate reality is we don’t have a housing availability issue, or even affordability issue, we have a supportive housing issue”

        No, because you’re ignoring people who don’t need support services and make up to 70% AMI but still can’t find housing at 30% of their income. Or if they do manage to find something, it’s 10-30 miles away from where they want to live, in an unwalkable area, with skeletal transit. You’re expecting them to live in an extraordinary hardship.

      4. This middle level of cost-burdening is “workforce housing”: the situation baristas, warehouse workers, school teachers, firefighters, medical grunts, etc. are in — the people who keep society functioning and provide services to the rest of us.

      5. https://www.apartmentguide.com/r/apartments/Washington/Seattle/under-1200/?boundingBox=-122.770,47.193,-121.612,47.832

        This is Zillow’s guide to apartments for rent in Seattle. You can select the maximum price. At 70% AMI for even a single person ($2000/mo. rent) there are plenty of places for rent in the city center if that is what you desire. At $1500 and $1200/mo. there are still some units available although the main difference is location and size. At $1000/mo. which is above 30% AMI, the availability drops off.

        “No, because you’re ignoring people who don’t need support services and make up to 70% AMI but still can’t find housing at 30% of their income.”

        No I am not ignoring them. At 70% AMI a person who must live alone has $2000/mo. to spend on rent so they can find housing. For those at 50% to 30% all I am saying is it is hard to create affordable housing for those who must live alone.

        “Or if they do manage to find something, it’s 10-30 miles away from where they want to live, in an unwalkable area, with skeletal transit. You’re expecting them to live in an extraordinary hardship.”

        Isn’t this my argument for why to not upzone remote SFH zones that are unwalkable and have skeletal transit, even without the small lot size, high cost per sf for the lot, and strict regulatory limits? The reality is the lower your income the more sacrafices you will have to make about where you live. I don’t really know how to lower housing prices on Capitol Hill or Ballard, unless I suppose you go really micro, like 95 sf.

        As I noted in my original post, defining affordable housing and creating/preserving it are two different things. If public subsidies are involved that means everyone else is paying, including those with AMI’s below 100% because property taxes flow through to tenants, so I really don’t want tax dollars going to someone who insists on living alone and has a 70% AMI and $2000/mo. to spend on housing. And I am afraid this whole “upzoning” will use the private market to build new construction that is affordable and not 95f sf magic bullet is a fantasy.

        Otherwise Seattle would not be floating a housing levy this November, and the state would not have allowed King Co. to raise the sales tax to fund emergency housing.

      6. “Isn’t this my argument for why to not upzone remote SFH zones that are unwalkable and have skeletal transit, even without the small lot size, high cost per sf for the lot, and strict regulatory limits? ”
        No place should be exempt from upzoning, rural or urban. The fact that you want defend such a 1950s mentality on housing is amusing. The 50s suburban experiment failed and failed hard. It has now reaped what it’s sown, and the sympathy well for it has dried up.

      7. If anyone wants to hear about the difficulty of building affordable multifamily housing in certain parts of the US from a builder’s perspective, the podcast Masters In Business interviewed Michael Levy, CEO of Crow Holdings. They are large multifamily homebuilder.

        He said where housing is needed the most, it’s also the most difficult to build. He said his company likes to focus their building in the southeast and southwest due to millennial migration trends, and the fact it costs much less to build in those regions. In Houston, he said it costs much less to build than in California. He gave an example where it might cost his company $150,000 per unit to build in Houston, but the exact same building would cost $450,000 per unit in California. He said the difference in cost can be attributed to increased land and labor costs, but additional regulations is a bigger factor.

      8. “It’s too much to expect everybody to have roommates in spite of changing demographics and the breakdown of family support structures. Those are larger issues than just people wanting to live alone as a luxury, and will take a longer time to resolve.”
        Pretty much, I’ve been burned by multiple roommates over the years till I was finally able to get my own apartment. It different being friends with someone vs living with them. You get to see them everyday at their best and worst, warts and all so to speak. Which changes the relationship completely in my opinion. And while I’m on good terms with most of my friends who I’ve roommated with over the years. I think we all recognize that being roommates didn’t work out for most of us.

      9. Portland Heights and Southwest Hills are no longer single family zoned. What do those neighborhoods look like today?

      10. So, let’s say we wanted to build subsidized housing with taxpayer money, but do no upzoning. Where would it go? The only place to put it is to wait for a one of the few parcels on what tiny pieces of land are already zones for multifamily, and pay through the nose to outbid all of the for-profit developers. Not only is this a very inefficient use of taxpayer funds, it also means each “affordable unit” replaces a market rate unit on a 1:1 basis (because, even in the multifamily areas, there are still limits to how high you can build). Now, the supply of market rate housing is less than if the affordable housing were never built, which means the price of market rate housing is a bit higher, and a few people get pushed off the edge who otherwise wouldn’t, and end up in a state where they too need government subsidy to avoid homelessness.

        The end result is just a big game of whac-o-mole that never ends, leaving no more people housed than simply doing nothing, while causing an enormous drain on taxpayer money. This is not rocket science, but the pigeonhole principle. You just can’t fit 800,000 pigeons in 700,000 pigeonholes, no matter how much money you spend subsidizing pigeonholes. You just can’t.

  26. Anyone thinking of moving to Canada should be aware of a new law taking effect January 1, 2023. From that date there will be a two year moratorium on foreigners buying residential real estate.

    1. That moratorium is only intended for foreign investors who are just there to park money, not temporary or permanent residents who can still purchase property.

      1. Forgive me for not having much sympathy for people who are rich enough to afford second homes.

      2. Canada is concerned about a quadruple whammy:

        1. The Canadian dollar is very low against other currencies, especially the U.S. dollar, giving foreigners a material advantage.

        2. When mortgage rates are high investors paying cash have a huge advantage over residents who need a mortgage to buy a house.

        3. Housing prices in Canada are dropping because of high mortgage rates which is good for foreign investors paying in cash but bad for Canadians.

        4. Canada’s AMI is lower than many other peer countries like the U.S.

        This is a perfect recipe to have large amount of housing stock purchased by foreign investors who will cause housing costs to rise while Canadian incomes won’t and most residents have suffered losses in the stock market. I think the role of the investor is overlooked when it comes to housing prices, especially rents.

        Of course, it wasn’t too long ago Canada was selling citizenships to wealthy foreigners which ended up increasing housing prices in some cities.

  27. This is a really late thread comment, sorry. I watched the video a second time and noticed something I did not notice before. In the second neighborhood Notre-dame-de-grace, they showed mostly 2 story homes near the curb and a driveway between them. Not as mutch density. But if you watch the video scroll across the fronts of the homes you will see 2 garages at the back of each driveway. Shared driveways. That is a
    good use of space for someone who wants to own a car. I grew up in houses with shared driveways in Ballard and Fremont. So it is not foreign to me. I don’t see it in new single housing construction. I also think that housing towards the front of the property is a good idea. Very small front yard and bigger back yard. I remember my mom making the front yard look perfect and letting the back go brown because she wanted our house to look better. The back yard was just average. And I was the one who kept it up. For 2 bucks a week. It would have been more useful to our family to have a bigger back yard than 2 small yards. There are some exceptions, of course, but most people use the front yard as an extension of the positive appearance of the front of the house. So that could definately be smaller. And still have the same space. For me the video showed me how space can be used more effectively.

    1. Mercer Island has many shared access drives, especially on steep slopes, although at some point each house has their own driveway leading to their garage.

      Some of the older houses on Galer and Capitol Hill where I grew up accessed their garage through an alley behind the house although often it was only a one car detached garage. Alleys were popular play areas for kids. Alleys in a residential zone were considered a waste of space and are no longer used in newer development.

      Today most suburban style homes have the (two and three) car garages in front. This cuts down on the amount of impervious surfaces from running an access drive to the rear of the house and also uses the front yard setback for the driveway.

      I have long advocated for shared driveways in town centers like MI. One of the benefits of a strip mall is you have one or two access points for many businesses.

      On MI just about every town center business has one or two access driveways just for their business. . Some small properties like McDonald’s have two for the drive through with heavy car traffic.

      This makes walking on the sidewalk more dangerous and less even. .it reduces the area for street trees. It also makes it difficult to locate dedicated bike lanes along the outer edge of the street because of all the access drives. Finally it makes it hard to eliminate center turn lanes for more street parking.

      Adjacent businesses should have to share access driveways along their property line to their parking lots IMO. This alone would cut in half the access drives bisecting the sidewalks.

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