While this year's Seattle City Council challengers and their challengees bicker like squalling children (more on that later), it's comforting to know that others remain focused on managing the boring business of the city. On Monday Peter Steinbrueck unveiled the results of a (hyperwonkish, but surprisingly intelligible) study by two city planners from Vancouver, B.C., who spent the last several weeks coming up with suggestions to improve on the mayor's downtown height and density increases.
Their surprising conclusion? Downtown Seattle will never be truly livable—much less act as a curb on suburban sprawl—unless it's friendly to all kinds of urban residents, including families. Until now, pretty much everyone assumed the downtown of the future would be populated almost exclusively by young, wealthy singles and empty nesters. But consultants Ray Spaxman and Larry Beasley say that without a broad range of downtown dwellers, the city's growth will stagnate. "There are lots of people who actually don't like the idea that they should move to the suburbs when they have their first child, but they don't have the amenities they need [downtown]," Spaxman told the council Monday.
The two planners suggested providing incentives—such as increased height and density, the same incentives the mayor's plan would offer developers who help fund affordable housing—to developers who help pay for things like community centers and open space. The size of such incentives would be determined by how much extra profit developers would realize from building taller, denser buildings. The public would benefit from new public amenities, Spaxman said, and developers would benefit "because it creates things that they can market [to condo buyers] that they couldn't create by themselves."
Back to this year's pre-election squabbles: On Monday, Jan Drago challenger Casey Corr called on his opponent to "join him" in demanding that the Seattle Monorail Project put a new proposal on the ballot by November "or stop taking our money," adding that asking the SMP to come up with a new plan is "meaningless without a deadline." The problem, Drago says, is that she has set a deadline: September, two months before Corr's, when she says the agency should "come up with a realistic solution or end the tax." Monorail board president Kristina Hill, meanwhile, cautions elected officials against moving too quickly, noting that failing "to consider the issues more carefully and do our homework" on the size of the monorail tax is what led the agency into a financial hole in the first place.
Also Monday, Drago won endorsement nods from the Alki Foundation—the political arm of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce—Washington Conservation Voters, and the 37th District Democrats. Four days earlier, the 46th District deadlocked on an endorsement in Drago's race when the incumbent failed to pass the group's stiff 65 percent threshold. Corr, meanwhile, was knocked out in the first round at the 46th, earning just 15 votes. On Monday, Corr didn't bother showing up at the 37th, which didn't give the challenger a single vote.