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Friday, July 11, 2008

“Growth Is Coming and With It Change.”

posted by on July 11 at 16:40 PM

For those who are still mad at Roger Valdez, former head of King County’s tobacco prevention program, for pushing for (and rigorously enforcing) Seattle’s indoor-smoking ban, here’s something to put on the plus side of the ledger: An op/ed he wrote in today’s P-I, which makes the case that everybody just needs to calm down about the pace of change in Seattle. And he has some smart suggestions for keeping the things and places that make neighborhoods work, without opposing development as such.

Where will all the new people live? Where will they park? Are they going to be noisy? Are they going to make me late for work by slowing me down in traffic or in the latte line? Are we paving over all the great old places to accommodate condominiums? Are all the old crusty bars getting taken over by newcomers who don’t like smoke, noisy bands and want fancy beers?

We love our permeable society but are conflicted by change, especially when it comes to our neighborhood in the form of housing construction. And people with Obama’s “Change” bumper sticker on their car are just as likely these days to have one that says “Free Ballard.”

Response to the demolition of the Ballard Denny’s is a great example of this internal conflict.

One commenter on the P-I’s blog summed it up this way: “People building the condos couldn’t care less about the fact that current Ballard residents don’t want more of them built …. It’d be nice if for once people could stop thinking with their wallets and do something that could make the community happy.”

That is what many think in Greenwood, Belltown, Capitol Hill and all over Seattle’s neighborhoods. How do we provide services, housing, open space and bus service for all the new people without demolishing everything we love about Seattle? Are we turning Seattle into a soulless Everyplace with no character?

Unless we ban new development and put up walls around our city (what would that do to our character?), the growth is coming and with it change. What can we do?

We could expand the existing transfer of development rights program for landmark buildings beyond downtown into other neighborhoods. The program allows an owner of a historic property to sell her development rights to the city. If that owner’s property rights allow six stories of development, that capacity could then be sold by the city, later, to a different developer who wants to build higher somewhere else. In that way we can preserve low-rise historic buildings and their existing use while actually increasing the number of new housing units.

We could use our land-use code to create incentives for developers to preserve existing uses, such as community arts and cultural venues, in exchange for increasing the number of units they can build. Incentive zoning, which trades such public benefits as community use for more housing units, is an example of a way to create needed housing while preserving elements important to a neighborhood’s character and community.

Finally, we need to radically rethink zoning. Zoning exists to protect the health and safety of the public, not regulate developer profit. But it is our code, and we should experiment with it, creating rules that focus on project outcomes rather than just height. […] Too often our existing code forces developers to design and build conservatively and allows neighborhood involvement only in the form of protest and appeal.

Dig it.

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Erica wtf?
For starters this guy lives on Beacon Hill which is way down the list for neighborhoods that have densisity or have undergone much change.
Secondly, you should have caught on that he contradicts and negates himself.
He starts his second bullet point with this: "We could use our land-use code to create incentives for developers to preserve existing uses, such as community arts and cultural venues, in exchange for increasing the number of units they can build/"
He ends his third bullet point with this: " Why not set aside the code and allow developers and neighborhoods to work together toward projects that are profitable and promote neighborhood character."

He is both for and against having a code.
To say that constant change is here to stay is a cliche and should not be congratulated.

Posted by Zander | July 11, 2008 7:35 PM

Shorter Valdez:

STFU and make my consulting gig(s) running City pseudo-public involvement "processes" manipulated to ram density down your neighborhood's throat easier...

Posted by Mr. X | July 11, 2008 8:32 PM

Zander @ 1 -

Please elaborate on the ass-in-head first point of yours. How exactly does living on Beacon Hill immediately discredit one's comments--whatever those might be--about city planning?

Posted by Kaypro | July 11, 2008 11:52 PM


I actually believe people should live the life they advocate whether they live on Beacon Hill or not.
Were you unable to find the contraditions in Valdez' piece?
BTW I am guessing you meant head-in-ass but maybe you are way limber than the rest of us as well.

Posted by Zander | July 12, 2008 2:10 AM

Condos create future incentive towards height and density. Apartment buildings and such in the future will have to be built to similar standards.

In short, no more fucking townhouses.

All the city needs to do is to stop suckling at the teats of the developers and mandate a minimum amount of affordable apartments in each development or the funding of a certain amount so agencies like HRG can start building more places people can live. We really need more housing in the 40-140% of median income range. Right now we're building townhomes for the 250-300% range. And their footprints are eating up potential density!

Not cool.

As far as feelings of community? Not the developers' problem. Keep your neighborhood vibrant and force the condo set to assimilate or stay inside all day.

Posted by AJ | July 12, 2008 10:49 AM


You know, if we just zoned for 40 to 100 story tall inexpensive residential rental apartment buildings surrounded by greenspace mini parks instead, it would be a LOT less disruptive.

Build them where transit stations are.


Posted by Will in Seattle | July 13, 2008 11:10 PM

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