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diversity likes it because it can put a stop to gentrification. It can make communities "walkable" and not so car focused. smaller streets-bigger sidewalks. Density can work, as long as it includes plans that take into account all income levels-from the working poor to moderate income families to the young workers who have been priced out of the current market. I agree, growth and gentrification will happen, its market driven.

Posted by SeMe | April 17, 2007 3:44 PM

Do the sentiments in this post really require 1260 words to be expressed? Cause I'm thinking there's more like 250-300 words worth of ideas here.

Dense, indeed.

Posted by Sean | April 17, 2007 3:48 PM

I wouldn't chest-thump about SF's token low-income population. It's an insulting example that doesn't disprove the relative impossibility of SF's high cost of living.

Posted by Gomez | April 17, 2007 3:58 PM

Exactly, increasing supply lowers prices. The thing with condos is that the margins are much better on luxury then low-income. First it is not that much more to add luxury amenities to a condo and the returns are amazing. Second height=value especially in Seattle with our nice views. Finally bigger units mean less units to sell but the same or better returns.

We have had a pent up demand for all condos in Seattle thanks to hiehgt restictions.

However eventually and probably sooner rather then latter the luxury market is going to be tapped. At that point you will see the construction of more low-income units because a smaller margin is better then an empty building.

Posted by Giffy | April 17, 2007 3:59 PM

(Pst: Will wrote the post on Horses Ass, not Goldy.)

Posted by exelizabeth | April 17, 2007 3:59 PM

This is what Mossback has been espousing forever now. Keep people from moving to Seattle! I find it hard to believe that anyone is even taking the time to rebut him, since he doesn't have an argument other than "but wouldn't it be nice if the world suddenly reversed itself and I could go back to being someone with a voice that mattered?"

Posted by NaFun | April 17, 2007 4:00 PM

Other than that, yeah. Skip's only relevance these days is being the model for SW's asinine Ask An Uptight Seattlite column.

Posted by Gomez | April 17, 2007 4:01 PM

You need better examples. The Sammamish Plateau is gone, baby. The real action now is in Mill Creek, though that's about gone too, and in farther-flung places like Marysville and Arlington to the north, Orting and South Puyallup to the south. The fact is, we ARE Los Angeles already. The downtown core still matters, but most of Seattle's neighborhoods are irrelevant bedroom communities for workers everywhere in the region BUT Seattle.

Berger's impressions of Seattle in the 70s aren't any more valuable than his impressions of San Francisco (a city he apparently has no understanding of at all). Seattle was a run-down, dead-ass shithole in the 70s, with a crap economy and a crap cultural life. We were about as exciting a place to live as Omaha, Nebraska then. The reason there was no traffic is because there was nothing worth traveling to see.

Posted by Fnarf | April 17, 2007 4:02 PM

"ravaged by cars"? really? i think the main disagreement here is that skip prefers ad hominem arguments while erica mainlines hyperbole :)

by the by, since i work in the industry, i should point out that i know plenty of biotech workers who use the viaduct to get to work from their homes in west seattle. carry on, though...

Posted by jason | April 17, 2007 4:02 PM

Hmm, I didn't even know there was a still Mossback. Nor did I know there was a Crosscut. And when did Knute Berger become Skip Berger?

Not to second-guess Slog and horsesass, but this impassioned response sounds a bit like Hillary Clinton issuing a detailed press release denouncing Dennis Kucinich's health-care plan.

Posted by cressona | April 17, 2007 4:04 PM

Except where you drink and eat burritos.

Large balconies, extended warranties, lots of public space, below market cost retail space (so dying businesses like Cha Cha and Bimbos can stay in business) and of course affordable.

Posted by kush | April 17, 2007 4:06 PM

And with the coming glut of luxury condo units, those will be more affordable too(relative to luxury units now). So those luxury amenities that are kinda rare now and so fetch higher prices will be the norm in 10 years...

Posted by NaFun | April 17, 2007 4:09 PM

No. 5: Fixed it. Thanks.

Posted by ECB | April 17, 2007 4:09 PM

Shorter Mossback:

1) Building affordable housing makes housing less affordable.

2) Creating new places for people to live within the city is elitist. Shutting people out of the city (unless they can afford a ridiculously priced single family home) is egalitarian.

3) Planning for growth causes growth.

Good luck with all that, Knute.

Posted by Clark Williams-Derry | April 17, 2007 4:11 PM

Hmmm, supply doesn't create demand it responds to it...

EXCEPT when it is highways

THEN supply creates demand

I feel like one way or another, Erika is trying to feed me a nice pile of 60's horse shit.

Posted by Johnny | April 17, 2007 4:19 PM

What was the Strangers position on judy nicastro's save the low cost housing plan and first right of refusal and rent control and all of her anti developer positions (til the WAMU guy)?

Posted by kush | April 17, 2007 4:30 PM

"And yeah, we fucked up on light rail, way back in the “good old days”—1969, when Seattle voters rejected Sound Move."

We, Erica? Were you even here?

Go back to Texas.

Posted by joykiller | April 17, 2007 4:30 PM

hmmm... if a developer could make money of a high rise, and be required to offer low, middle, and upper priced units, that would seem to be a good thing. a major problem seems to be that the uppers don't want to live anywhere near the lowers.

Posted by infrequent | April 17, 2007 4:40 PM

Blah blah blah. Here's the real money graf from the Mossback piece:

A bigger, denser Seattle is no panacea for sprawl; it's no assurance that what we love about Seattle today will still be affordable or even available in the future; it means sustaining a vastly larger and more complex city in an extremely sensitive ecosystem, Puget Sound, that our devotion to growth is already destroying.

I think this is the point of his column: A denser downtown doesn't keep you city from sprawling into the suburbs. To prove it, he uses the example of San Francisco and the emergence of Silicon Valley. In other words, it a city/region is successful -- which all cities and regions aim to be -- it's going to bring in a lot of high-paying jobs and a lot of high-paid people seeking places to live. This pushes out the poor people, to an extent. And this pushes out a city's "charm" (defined as "experiences and memories"), in some capacity.

Rather than attack him on that point, I think he deserves more ridicule for his sociological/environmental take on the argument. If we grow too much, Mossback says, we risk destroying the natural crap of Puget Sound. OK. But who's interested in protecting environmental stuff? And who ends up paying for it? Hint: It ain't the poor people.

What I took from this and just about all coherent Mossback columns from the past 1,743 years is that Seattle is changing into a rich-people playground, and working schlubs who edit alt-weeklies and thus never moved up the income chain can't afford to play here any more.

Mossback calls this a travesty. I call it evolution. Or intelligent design.

Posted by horatiosanzserif | April 17, 2007 4:42 PM

San Francisco and Vancouver have some striking similarities. They are both about 49 square miles and both are peninsula cities with ample waterfront. In the 1980's San Francisco attempted to cap new growth by placing strict limitations on new development downtown. At the same time, Vancouver began its experiment with slim residential towers in the central city.
30 Years later, SF faces a tremendous housing affordability crisis. Limiting new growth, forced middle class homebuyers to move into units that would have gone to lower class residents, resulting in exploding housing prices and that have forced poor people forced out of the city.

By allowing new housing to absorb increased demand, Vancouver was able to channel new growth into its downtown while keeping prices more sane citywide. Established single family neighborhoods were spared some gentrification pressure because new growth was steered toward downtown.

ECB is right. You cannot stop growth. There are macroeconomic forces at play that are acting independently of policy makers at city hall. If Seattle were to halt residential growth it would do so at its peril. Housing prices would increase and the city would lose residents to the suburbs.

Moreover, the city would lose out in regional decisions like 520. With a smaller percentage of the region's population, the city would become increasingly irrelevant.

Posted by paulish | April 17, 2007 4:51 PM

And yeah, we fucked up on light rail, way back in the “good old days”—1969, when Seattle voters rejected Sound Move.

Seattle Voters approved Sound Move in 1996. the 1970 package that failed was called Forward Thrust.

Posted by Frank Bruno | April 17, 2007 5:13 PM

"But who's interested in protecting environmental stuff? And who ends up paying for it? Hint: It ain't the poor people."

Ever heard of the environmental justice movement?

Posted by Dan | April 17, 2007 5:36 PM

Thanks Frank #21- also over 50% voted for it. And the economy sucked here - 3 years later the famous billboard went up - the freeway had just barely opened and many other Forward Thrust votes did pass - like cleaning Lake Washington.

Just curious but how does Atlanta compare for density, transit modal split, and greenhouse gases etc.?

Posted by Kush | April 17, 2007 5:39 PM

Skip Berger is the dumbest motherfucker ever to put finger to keyboard in Seattle. (Or actually, on the Eastside, because that's where he lives.)

Posted by Grant Cogswell | April 17, 2007 5:52 PM

I am so sick of the "affordability" arguement Mossback and others use. Too bad you can't live at Central Park West, Malibu, Madina, Queen Anne, where ever. If you can't afford it grow up, that toy is not for you. Here's the ugly truth, the truth you are not part of, some one CAN afford it.

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | April 17, 2007 6:09 PM

"If the market responds to demand (by increasing the supply of housing), housing won’t suddenly become cheap, but affordable housing will be much easier to come by than it would be in Skip’s no-growth paradise."

Not if the increased supply of market or above market housing comes from demolishing or converting the city's affordable housing stock to make way for new units. Which is what's happening in Seattle and every other major new economy city in the world.

"What we do know is that the poor are being driven out of town by a lack of affordable housing. Building more dense, affordable housing will help remedy that—putting a moratorium on new development won’t."

Yeah so what are the ecotopia people going to do in response? Their alliances with corporate liberals and downtown developers are just getting us crumbs and pie in the sky promises about livability for all. The root of the problem isn't market forces, but government failure to channel market forces toward a more equitable future. Developers are regulated up the wazoo about design but barely at all when it relates to preserving any kind of real affordability. Pro-density hype mischaracterizes this issue. The name calling or blaming Skip or Charlie Chong is a total distraction from the fact that if greens don't appeal to working class renters, they'll have to get in bed with the devlopers to get anything done, and their ecotopia will be an exclusive yuppie playground.

Posted by wf | April 17, 2007 6:12 PM

I am so sick of the "affordability" arguement Mossback and others use. Too bad you can't live at Central Park West, Malibu, Madina, Queen Anne, where ever. If you can't afford it grow up, that toy is not for you. Here's the ugly truth, the truth you are not part of, some one CAN afford it.

Gee, that's real enlightened, but what's green about forcing service workers to commute long distances to their jobs polishing the preciosity of your lifestyle? Or teaching your little Oliver and Dakota?

Posted by Dan | April 17, 2007 6:36 PM

Just figured I'd repost from the thread on this topic below (who says us Lesser Seattleites oppose recycling?) - it's not like ECB has made any new arguments in this post. The more things change...

Gordon Gecko lives - greed is good, all growth is good, and those who oppose us must be EVIL REPUBLICANS!

Y'all might try actually studying the Growth Management Act - it has as its fundamental underpinning this little concept called Concurrency that the City has all but officially abandoned when it comes to accomodating new growth (for example - in order to accomodate all of the growth that occurred in West Seattle over the last 10 years, you NEEDED the Alaskan Way Viaduct to provide tranportation concurrency - and replacing it with nothing runs directly counter to the intent of the GMA).

Been to the suburbs lately? They're still growing faster than Seattle is - high-density condos (many of which are second homes for retirees, by the way) in Belltown and South Lake Union notwithstanding.

If you make it easier and more profitable to tear down the housing that exists (as the City has, and as the Stranger actively encourages everywhere but where its staffers go to drink), more expensive new construction will take its place. Try not to act surprised that the middle class are leaving the City because of this (not to mention the diaspora of people of color from the CD and SE Seattle - been down MLK lately?)

I'll add a follow-up thought, for those still reading - urban density advocates at DCLU and Sound Transit planners basically ran an entire lower-income population out of town in SE. I hope you're all proud...

Posted by Mr. X | April 17, 2007 11:47 AM

Posted by Mr. X | April 17, 2007 6:49 PM

You, Will, Gomez, Fnarf and the other Morons in your shabby echo chamber don't have have the brain or writing talent that Knute has on the top of his pinky fingernail.

Posted by Prefers Mossback any day | April 17, 2007 6:53 PM

Oh, and great post @ 26, WF - not that the true believers here will be willing to process it (the Stranger and most Slog posters do a bang up job proving the dictum that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, particularly where land use in general and the GMA in particular are concerned!)

Posted by Mr. X | April 17, 2007 6:53 PM

So lets say we do mandate affordability. Not by subsidizing development in inherently affordable areas, but by saying requiring a condo developer to sell x numbers of units below x price. If those condos are actually worth more then that why won't the buyers simply resell for a profit.

If you restrict resale then you isolate those homes from the market driving up prices else were. Instead of bitching out condos in belltown we should be developing an effective development tax structure to generate revenue to build housing were it can be affordable. Couple that with an effective transportation system and your good to go. Being poor means you don’t get to live in the most desirable areas. However, with pragmatic solutions at least it won’t mean not having a place to live at all.

Posted by Giffy | April 17, 2007 7:10 PM

Savage had a post about the $20,000 1950 house that is now worth $900,000 - that's about a 6.7% return - BTW $20,000 in 1950 was alot - and clearly Seattle is more expensive but the real problem is the division of income in this country and health care costs. Erica's latest favorite industry biotech both adds to cost of health care and adds big bucks into the housing market.

Posted by kush | April 17, 2007 7:29 PM

FNARF Wrote:
"The reason there was no traffic is because there was nothing worth traveling to see."

And there is now, Fnarf?


Posted by Jensen Interceptor | April 17, 2007 7:49 PM


Not if the increased supply of market or above market housing comes from demolishing or converting the city's affordable housing stock to make way for new units.

So what's the alternative? If smaller and more affordable (at the moment) apartment buildings aren't torn down to build larger, more expensive housing, how will that help the laws of supply and demand? Rich people will still want to live here. Demand will go up for any and all decent housing and eventually even shitty apartments will become unaffordable. There are plenty of shitty apartments in San Francisco and New York that rent at market rate. Not tearing down affordable housing does not magically keep that housing affordable.

Gee, that's real enlightened, but what's green about forcing service workers to commute long distances to their jobs polishing the preciosity of your lifestyle?

Development is going to help create jobs. Is it better to preserve affordable housing in the city, at the expense of creating more jobs, than to force workers to commute? All in all, I would vastly prefer having to commute to my job than have no job at all. Besides, our population is going to continue to grow. Someone is going to have to commute. Unfortunately, market forces are going to force poor people out of the city (and to become commuters). That's going to happen whether we desperately try to cling to the status quo or embrace density. Reread my response to #26, if you need a refresher.


The middle class is moving out of the city because single family homes in Seattle are ridiculously expensive. How will capping development help? The only homes real middle class people can afford in Seattle are condos. Put a cap on condos and watch even more middle class people leave.

Posted by keshmeshi | April 17, 2007 7:56 PM

Perhaps it's time that Grant Cogswell remove his tinfoil hat and receive this message: I live and rent in Seattle. I think even Erica knows that.

Posted by knute berger | April 17, 2007 8:28 PM

San Francisco is a far greater city now than it was in the 1970's, and San Jose sucks but who gives a fuck!

Seattle will be a far greater city in ten-twenty years and Bellevue and Auburn will be huge but who gives a fuck!

Fuck 'em and live and let live.

Posted by Andrew | April 18, 2007 10:56 AM

The real problem with Mr. Berger's lazy, pot shot parade of a column is these four sentences:

"We know that these green-backed policies are making the city more unaffordable. They are helping to drive the poor out of town. They are displacing long-standing communities. They are changing the scale of a once-egalitarian city that featured few poor people, few rich people, and a lot of folks in between. This old middle class Seattle is now seen as unsophisticated, not worthy of protection, backward even."

We certainly don't know that Seattle's housing boom is a major factor in driving up prices, although perhaps Berger is referring to growth management policy as a whole. You could easily make the opposite argument--that the creation of so much new housing in the city has served to limit price increases--although there's no way to prove that.

There are many factors that have contributed to the dramatic rise in housing prices in Seattle since the 1970s and most of them aren't evil. Things like people renovating and thereby increasing the value of old homes and apartment buildings, young white couples buying homes in traditionally Black and Asian neighborhoods, high-tech companies creating new jobs, Seattle's newfound status as a hip place to live, plus just general economic prosperity. Which of these trends does Berger propose to reverse?

Times have changed in Seattle since the 1970s when (as Fnarf correctly pointed out) the city was a backwater. I give a lot more credit to environmentalists who are looking ahead and trying to shape the future than I do to old newspaper columnists who just sit and whine about how things were so much better back in their day.

Posted by J.R. | April 18, 2007 11:07 AM

keshmeshi: my point is that the claim that the current situation is green is untenable.

Posted by Dan | April 18, 2007 11:58 AM

keshmeshi: my point is that the claim that the current approach is green is untenable.

Posted by Dan | April 18, 2007 11:58 AM

late edit there.

Posted by dan | April 18, 2007 12:00 PM

How long have you lived in Seattle now, Knute? Eight months? Because that's how long I've been gone and when I left you were living in Kirkland. Sorry I missed YOUR big life transition. I left Seattle because it was clear that small-minded people like yourself were the loudest voices in the room and were letting it go to hell (and I don't mean through densification). Welcome to Seattle! Sorry you weren't living there when it was great. What drove you to finally give up on the Eastside?

Posted by Grant Cogswell | April 18, 2007 5:10 PM

Probably self-righteous knobs like you.

Posted by monofail | April 18, 2007 6:23 PM

There's a design review meeting tonight at the Yesler community center (937 E. Yesler) on two big new Broadway projects (6:30 and 8 PM). One's one lot south of Denny on the west side of Broadway, the other's on the east side just north of Pine.

Posted by Dan | April 18, 2007 6:42 PM

Posted by Johnny | April 23, 2007 11:52 AM

Posted by Johnny | April 23, 2007 11:52 AM

Posted by Johnny | April 23, 2007 11:52 AM

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