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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sprawl Project Hits Snag

posted by on November 30 at 20:12 PM

A new, sprawl-promoting, habitat-endangering freeway in Pierce County - the so-called “cross-base highway” across Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base - has been opposed by environmentalists since it was first proposed more than 20 years ago. Nonetheless, its inclusion in the proposed Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID) made it more likely than ever that the state Department of Transportation (WSDOT) would finally get to move forward on Washington’s first new freeway in years. Yesterday, several environmental groups, organized as the Cross Base Coalition, put a snag in the state’s plans, announcing that they plan to sue WSDOT, the Federal Highway Administration, and Pierce County over the $289 million highway. The groups will argue that the highway violates state and federal environmental law.

In letter of intent to sue, the groups argue that the freeway will drive out equestrian businesses and slice the largest remaining oak woodland-prairie left in Washington in half and destroy or isolate 3,000 acres of grassland and woods, for which highway builders offered to buy just 358 acres in compensation, according to the Seattle Times. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, those prairies represent some of the rarest habitat in North America, home to “at least 29 species of federal threatened, endangered, candidate and sensitive plant and animal species.”

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I dunno if this will surprise you or not, Erica, after our many viaduct contretemps, but on this one I'm behind you 100%. This project should be stopped. Again.

Posted by Fnarf | November 30, 2006 6:19 PM


I would also add that this is very bad news for RTID - the coalition that just helped pass the City of Seattle street tax probably won't hold for RTID. I smell burning toast...

Posted by Mr. X | November 30, 2006 8:34 PM

I read the link Buddy posted. While I agree the Stranger engages in some NIMBYism, I can't believe the comments under the linked article. Those Weekly lovers must have some serious insecurities from all the Stranger-bashing.

Posted by him | December 1, 2006 12:31 AM


No, the Weekly were quite right in pointing out the hypocrisy of the Stranger now that their ox is being gored. ECW finally figured out what all of us horrible neighborhood NIMBY's have been saying all along - that development for its own sake and without restraint will kill what makes Seattle great, and is driven as much by greed and an acquiescent City government (and, currently, easy loan money) as it is by true market demand.

That said, I loved the piece, and share ECB and the Stranger's desire to preserve what I agree is an irreplaceable Seattle neighborhood. Welcome to the party, Capitol Hill Kool Kidz....

Told ya so!

Posted by Mr. X | December 1, 2006 2:45 AM

Duh - ECB in sentence #2. Sorry!

Posted by Mr. X | December 1, 2006 2:46 AM

Yeah, that article was laughable and jaw-dropping in its hypocrisy. And it wasn't just that it shows a bunch of density champions to be, deep down at heart, a bunch of NIMBY density foes when density comes knocking in their own neighborhood. No, what really blew me away was its unwillingness to really confront the irony of it all. Of course, it doesn't help that you have the typical Erica C. Barnett prose: angry, shrill, humorless, and as lacking in perspective as the declarations of a Marxist revolutionary.

There are two really sad things about that story:

  • It suggests that all of us who are density and transit supporters really are not sincere in our convictions when push comes to shove. And I can tell you that's just not true. It's not true for me. And although I don't know it for a fact, I bet FutureWise (formerly 1,000 Friends of Washington) isn't bitching about the yuppification of Capitol Hill. FutureWise just happens to be the leading density advocacy organization in the state, and they're based right in that Pike/Pine neighborhood.
  • There really is something of a point to be made here, but it has been completely lost in the whole "our neigborhood is going straight to hell thanks to the developers and the yuppies" rant. The point is, how do you bring density and development and gentrification to a neighborhood while at the same preserving the character of the neighborhood?

Let me speak to that. I happen to think Fremont is an example of "smart gentrification" -- where it still preserves the character and uniqueness of a neighborhood. Yeah, Fremont no longer has its dives, and I'm not shedding a tear over them.

Anyway, I think we all can agree that it would have been a disaster if Seattle had gone ahead and let some developer demolish the Pike Place Market back in the '70s or whenever. In contrast, I believe Pittsburgh demolished a lot of distinctive old buildings around the same time. Now that they're trying to attract residents to their downtown, they're kicking themselves over having gone too far.

Also, a few days ago The New York Times did a story about how Cincinnati's previously impoverished Over-the-Rhine neighborhood is going through a renaissance (i.e. a gentrification boom) just five years after being the scene of riots. What was the secret ingredient for that neighborhood's revival? The historic, old buildings.

And therein, I believe, lies one possible answer. It's not the establishments that you have to save; it's the buildings. To some extent, I imagine that's already being accomplished to some extent through whatever historic building protections we now have in place. (Maybe I'm wrong.) Then again, if that's the criterion, I'm not sure you're saving Pike Place Market.

So you see, it's a tough, tough issue -- not exactly the kind of issue that can be addressed the way The Stranger decided to address it.

Posted by cressona | December 1, 2006 8:44 AM

You reap what you sow, and we told you so.

Posted by Gomez | December 1, 2006 9:49 AM

Cressona is exactly right: save the old buildings. Even -- maybe especially -- the crappy ones. At least some of them.

Posted by Fnarf | December 1, 2006 10:17 AM

While I'm with Cressona on the need to preserve existing buildings, if Fremont is a shining example of successful "smart gentrification" preserving both the character and affordability of a neighborhood, we're even more fucked than I thought.

Posted by Mr. X | December 1, 2006 10:56 AM

Mr. X: While I'm with Cressona on the need to preserve existing buildings, if Fremont is a shining example of successful "smart gentrification" preserving both the character and affordability of a neighborhood, we're even more fucked than I thought.

"And affordability?" Please don't put words into my mouth. "Affordability" has become one of the most loaded, misleading, and ultimately meaningless words in the PC universe.

If a landlord can charge more for rent or a seller can put up a home at a higher price, that's an indication that it must be affordable for someone. And if it's not, then the marketplace corrects itself, as it seems to be doing now -- moreso in other parts of the country.

If something is more desirable, it costs more money. To me that's a sign of success, not failure.

Posted by cressona | December 1, 2006 11:03 AM

It's implicit, Cressona, unless you think that running people out of their longtime neighborhood due to rising rents is a really groovy side effect of gentrification (which, evidently, you do).

Thousands of others see it differently - unfortunately, a lot of them have been forced out of the City.

Posted by Mr. X | December 1, 2006 11:44 AM

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