This week Dan Bertolet, who formerly wrote the urban planning blog HugeassCity, is launching CityTank. It's a collection of short essays making the case for cities (what makes them work, why they're crucial to sustainability, and why anti-city bias is misguided). My favorite one so far is by local developer/restoration godsend Liz Dunn, who defends the philosophies of national planning treasure Jane Jacobs. This graph is about a problem Seattle faces—oversized developments:
She also pointed out that bigger projects mean more egregious errors. Design is subjective, but we can probably all agree that big-block sites do not, as a rule, seem to inspire the architecture profession’s best work. Unlike skinny infill, the big shiny mistakes aren’t easily absorbed into our existing urban fabric. And when they replace older pieces of granular city that have real value in terms of both function and identity, for newcomers and old-timers alike, we shouldn’t be surprised if density becomes a dirty word.
Here's Dunn's whole piece.
My take: Seattle needs more density but we need to do it right. Cities have the authority to establish reasonable zoning regulations. And one of those regulations in Seattle—unless there is a demonstrable public benefit of constructing, say, a skyscraper that requires a massive footprint—should be a ban on developments that take up more than half a block.