The Only Future Is Living Small


this is what should be replacing the buildings at Yesler Terrace…
" values of the poor (which are far more urban than the family values of the middle-class),..."

And you know this based on what? I'm not saying it might not be true but I'm also saying I don't believe they are that different in what they might want for their children.

And Vulcan? These are the folks who are pressuring the school district for a downtown school and yet between them and Amazon haven't really raised a finger to make it happen. They expect a financially challenged, over-capacity district to cater to their needs. I wouldn't trust them at all.

I think you mean "dominate," not "dominant" in the first sentence. Nice post. I agree the the lack of children in videos like the second one is a problem. Also how about the cost of that place? Jeez. Ikea does a lot more to bring small living to the masses than guys like this expensive moving walls. I'm reminded of the beginning of An American in Paris. I'd say that Gene Kelly had a more realistic approach to small living than mister fancy NY guy in soho.…
1. vulcan will use the same lego block recta ngular building styles that rise straight up beside cramped sidewalks and without any little porticos, places for benches, miniplazas or urban amenity. (Note, by plaza or amenity I mean things like the well used vest pocket parks in cobble hill brooklyn, or, say, washington square park or dupont circle, thronged with urbanites usuing the space.....not the faux rustic barren and empty way seattle does urban parks like horrible freeway park which no one uses...or desolate denny park....or the barren people less greenswards of the new south lake union park, just a few acres of nothing.
2. the buildings will create ugly canyons without street life.
3. i trust neither vulcan nor city planners.
4. perhaps they should go to an outer neighborhood of paris inside the city limits and simply copy a typical neighborhood of six story buildings with smaller apts. but ALSO cafes, a minisqaure and some freaking cafe tables spilling onto sidewalks without seattle style heavy handed rules about fencing in cafes. and make some spots for sitting and watching the other people. this isn't rocket science it's only been done in about 500 cities in europe and latin america and the caribbean, and yes, we have rain so some arcade type promenades that are covered around the sqaure would help a bit.
do people with money really want to live in a mixed income development? me thinks they'd rather move to bellevue...
@5 Lots of wealthy people live in townhouses near low-income housing in Chicago. The key to success is to build near downtown. So the answer is, yes, people with money really do want to live in mixed-income developments.
improving the moral character of poor people by exposing them directly to the ownership values of the middle-class

Yesler Terrace is mainly occupied by immigrants who already share "the ownership values of the middle class" and who aspire to actual ownership.

As for the rest of the poor, what harm do you see in adopting the middle class values of hard work, saving and investing, small scale entrepreneurship, and opening opportunities to their children? Do you not share these values yourself? What other values would you have them adopt?
@5: We're not talking about the super wealthy, we're talking about the young urban professional class, which has a long track record of moving into and revitalizing distressed, centrally located neighborhoods.
@8 I'm thinking this will end up like belltown - low income housing & $2k/month apartments in a non-family friendly neighborhood. No where for people in the middle to live and a terrible place to raise kids.
@8, agreed. By "wealthy," I mean yearly incomes of 100K-500K. Maybe more in a good year. The super wealthy, at least in Chicago, tend to choose more established neighborhoods, such as Lincoln Park, or live in expensive suburbs to the north.
"At present, children are not a part of the micro-living discourse, and this is why it's not taken seriously. "

No kidding.
@7, Err. So, poor people don't value "hard work, saving and investing, small scale entrepreneurship, and opening opportunities to their children?"? Do you think people are poor because they're lazy and have poor morals?
That 420 sq ft apt is hilarious. A perfect example of what comes of inexperienced designers ignoring the accumulated practical lessons of the past, and substituting wishful thinking and a perverse obsession with putting things "away".
What @ 12 said. Way to wield the broad brush, seandr.
@5 Perhaps those of us that grew up elsewhere (read: east coast, south, midewest) might. We're not so diverse, yet so scared, to actually live next to low-income (read: minorities) as the typical progressive PNW'er. A year after moving to Seattle I had to relocate to CD to just to feel more at previous residence felt so foreign to me as they demographic was 99.9% casper white. Most of which were genuinely nice & open minded folk but spoke of the CD as some crime riddled battle ground unfit to live. Well, I'll take the lower rent, proximity to downtown, & diversity (with relatively very low crime [at least compared to where I grew up I guess]). Is still think most PNW'ers are afraid to live outside the 99% packets of white areas. A form a silent racism?
@randoma: I understood Charles' comment to mean that he thinks the poor don't already share these values, nor should they. If you read my comments, it should be clear that I disagree with that.

But, now that you mention it, many poor people haven't been raised with anything remotely resembling these values. A lot of them haven't been raised at all - dad's nowhere to be found, mom has an addiction problem, and your peer group from similar circumstances offers you nothing but opportunities to fuck your life up. If you don't believe that, then you've never lived in the hood. If Yesler Terrace can pull just a few people out of that milieu, I think that's a good thing.
"At present, children are not a part of the micro-living discourse"

Check out Jessica Langston's excellent piece at Sightline Daily.
@ 16, you said:

As for the rest of the poor [expressly defined in your comment as non immigrants - MfD], what harm do you see in adopting the middle class values of hard work, saving and investing, small scale entrepreneurship, and opening opportunities to their children?

I don't see anything in Charles' comment to suggest that he meant that "he thinks the poor don't already share these values, nor should they." To me, it's clear that he was speaking of the kind of top-heavy moralism that is meant by "improving the moral character of poor people by exposing them directly to the ownership values of the middle-class."

Now, you correctly point out that many immigrant families already have these ownership values. In some ways, immigrants are much more likely to be the kind of independent entrepreneur that right wing talking heads like to say they champion, as opposed to entrenched billionaire dynasties whose wealth is all on paper whom they actually serve. In that sense, Charles' point is proven - the "rest of the poor" don't need exposure to it because it's already next door.

Where you go wrong is stating that "the rest of the poor" are all the opposite. The things you describe @ 16 are certainly endemic to the experience of the American urban poor, but they are not the reality of every American urban poor family. There are hard working people, with families that the men do not abandon, where the parents are sober and the kids go to school regularly. Again, proving the point that the poor are already well exposed to these values.

Their main problem is institutional racism. Urban poor are almost entirely minorities, and recessions for us are depressions for them. Hard work and solid family values (real ones, not fake-ass moralistic ones) don't mean that they'll stop being the first to be laid off and the last to be hired. They'll also be a lot less likely to get small business loans than immigrants, who are assumed to be inherently dedicated and hard working, while the "rest" are assumed not to be.

You and I have our differences, but I generally believe that you're a person who wants the best for everyone. So it's telling how deep this kind of thinking goes when you express it.
@ 17, that looks interesting, and I'll have to read it later (got things to do now). But I'll say this - I scrolled through and saw all the photos of... small houses with yards.

Charles is anti-house and anti-yard. So it will be interesting to see what he has to say.
@19 IIRC the homes she looked at were generally in rural areas, and she wondered if small living in an urban environment would be more challenging without forests to play in. I'd argue it's much more stimulating to play in the urban jungle.
Those views and that location are too precious to waste on poor immigrants.

Seattle is the only city I've lived in that does such a good job of convincing non-white people to live in self-created ghettos. Once Profanity Hill goes middle-class white (now with a hill-climb!), how much longer can Dearborn remain "Little Saigon"?

Am I the only person who looks at the Hawaiian restaurant on 12th and Boren and wonders how they can afford so much unused real-estate?

Has Seattle displaced this many non-white people since the Internment days?
@21 has a point.
many of the micro-apartments being produced are as 147 sqft and smaller - about a third of what is shown in the video.

for anyone with kids, the idea of rooms with sliding walls and little space for toys, kids clothes, books, etc will see this as a failed design.

we certainly need to buy and store less stuff. and smaller units are necessary, no doubt. but let's at least declare a minimum habitable space for human beings in Seattle. San Francisco is trying out 220 sq ft. NYC 275. We allow and are producing units half that.

@21 See:…
and does anybody see the irony in the demands for less space and consumption, yet we are all in a big circle jerk over the millions of square feet of office space for Amazon who sells LOTS OF JUNK THAT WILL NEVER FIT IN OUR MICRO-APARTMENTS
@21 Oops....maybe this link will work
@21 the only poor people you will see in the new Yesler Terrace will be cleaning the facilities and pulling your coffee.

this has been a land grab from the get go.
@27 --

I believe the city when they promise the displaced residents the right to rent the new, below-market-rate housing they'll eventually rebuild.

I hope those people don't miss their gardens, their impromptu parks, their abundant free parking, or their multi-room apartments. I hope they enjoy their new concrete-walled, bed-bug ridden concrete high-rise.

But hey, it'll have sprinklers and an elevator that works at least 80% of the time.
@ 28, you raise a good point. Microliving sounds like a great setting for epidemic. Don't anyone misinterpret that - that just means any mass illness like colds, not just ones that may be deadly. But with the return of bedbugs and whooping cough...
@27, 28, Mudede: Have you even looked the Master Plan? Maybe you should before you opine on how it's going to suck.

The SHA committed to 1:1 replacement of existing subsidized housing on site. Current residents get to come back if they want, like in previous redevelopments. There is additional housing targeting various AMI levels for workforce housing underway. There will be parks, pea patches, and parking. No one can afford to build a "concrete high-rise" anymore, so the SHA housing will be wood-framed and 6-7 stories (AKA 5/1), max. Some of it will be lower.

The SHA developers aren't money-hungry assholes, they're trying to build decent, modern public housing in the middle of a period of government austerity. It has to self-fund. And they have a track record of doing it well: High Point, Rainier Vista, New Holly, where there is market-rate housing mixed throughout.

How would you handle it? Do nothing? Let the 60 years of lead paint & asbestos fall down on the heads of the residents because it's more authentic?
@30 --
We, as a city, have done this before -- on the same location even -- and we've never done it well. New Holly and Highpoint work because they're not in the city core.

Make no mistake... SHA is selling the "good" land so they can fund revitalization, not more affordable housing. Hence 1:1.

We're not housing the poor, we're clearing a slum.

Do nothing? Of course not. How much it would cost to rebuild those old, cheap-ass barracks into modern cheap-ass barracks?

Actually, doing nothing sounds fine to me - SHA has acknowledged the units are liveable and could remain so into the future with modest upkeep (and SHA is notorious for skimping on maintenance on projects in order to create/strengthen the rationale for demolishing them in favor of Hope VI projects), and we ought to be using the funds they are raiding from numerous sources (including the housing levy and State Housing Trust Fund) to build more units rather than pissing them away to replace existing units in order to make way for a massive upscale development project - a project that Hallivulcan surely will make a pretty penny from, indeed.

@31: we've revitalized Yesler Terrace before? do you mean when the "slum" was built in the 1st place? or that there have been plans to redevelop that property before that have not come to fruition?

rebuilding those "cheap-ass barracks" would cost a lot, actually.
@21, the Hawaiian restaurant can afford to have that much unused space BECAUSE it's 12th and Boren (that's the old Lloyd's Rocket, btw). It's unused because it's unusable. For starters, it's a former gas station, and building large on the lot would involve contamination mitigation that will forever scare off development.

In addition, nothing of interest or value will ever be built on that section of Boren/Rainier, by design. That stretch was ripped out of the city by the automobile planners in the 50s, about the same time as Yesler Terrace was too, and well before the freeway went in. The entire area, including YT now and YT in the future plan, is an anti-urban wasteland with no through streets and no place for retail and no place to escape the onrush of car traffic. Recent development is worsening, not lessening, this effect.

In addition to that, the Lloyd's Rocket site has had fancier uses try to go in but they've been shot down by the neighborhood, who are terrified that people might be able to get an alcoholic beverage there, so close to a school. The school people regard well-dressed people with a cocktail in their hand like you and I regard armed terrorists. This kind of NIMBY "neighborhood involvement" by shortsighted bluenoses who complain endlessly about the lack of opportunity but oppose any kind of business activity is one of the main reasons blighted neighborhoods can never get off the schneid.

If they really wanted to do YT right, they'd level the entire site, put the street grid back in, including at least two more over- or underpasses on the freeway, and build rowhouses with four-story apartment houses on the corners with full-floor shops underneath.
I've worked in Yesler Terrace. It's a dump. Some of the buildings are boarded up because the sewer systems have collapsed. The buildings are full of encapsulated lead and asbestos. It needs to go.

btw, before the interstate came through, it was actually about twice the size it is now. Isn't that interesting?
@34 --
After the Broadway Streetcar opens, Lloyd's Rocket gets replaced by a Starbucks and Little Ethiopia on 12th gets turned into apartments a block at a time.

Have you seen the buildings overlooking Waid's lately?
How long would it take SHA to re-coup the costs of replacing the existing units as is or with four-story taxpayers on each corner?

New plumbing, new electric, new sewer, new heat, new insulation, modern safety?

YT has to be a bitch to maintain, right?

I bet we could make up the difference in grant-money alone.
That tiny apartment looks like a clever design for, say, an RV. As a place to live I'm not sold. In ten years the rolling walls will be coming off the tracks and the appliances will be breaking, and they'll be impossible to replace because everything's custom. Not to mention that this seems to be a "living space" in terms of just eating, sleeping, and sacking out on the couch. There's no space to, say, leave a project you're working on out until you're done.
"If they really wanted to do YT right, they'd level the entire site, put the street grid back in, including at least two more over- or underpasses on the freeway, and build rowhouses with four-story apartment houses on the corners with full-floor shops underneath."

Yup, Fnarf has it right. Those high-rise apartments surrounded by park space and streets that don't really go anywhere are way too "Tower in the Park." Where are all those pedestrians in that video walking to?
charles : thanks for keeping the urban dialogue going. i'll continue to lurk for the gallery ...
The street grid of the existing Yesler Terrace is not that different from the adjoining street grid. As for interstate crossings, where would they be? Fir is a dead end, Washington and Main have impossible grades. The interstate obliterated any continuity that was there.

No one is more old-timey than I, but restoring whatever grid was there originally is like hoping you can have breakfast at the Ballard Denny's or cocktails in the Marine Room. It ain't gonna happen.

@29 My students live in dormitories tht have a great deal in common with the micro-living arrangments that Charles keeps promoting. And you are right--they are ideal environments for spreading disease. This time of year we start having epidemics of colds and flu. Generally, if one person on a hall gets sick, they all do.

Granted, they are high school students, and who knows how much they share coffee mugs/kiss/come into other forms of close contact. But high density environments with a lot of shared facilities are ideal places to spread contagion, and micro-living facilities are, by definition, high density environments with shared facilities.