From Heidi's post last week about legislation to limit new construction that's being considered by the city council's planning and land use committee...
"I own property on Harvard Avenue," the woman in the photo above said during a public hearing earlier this month, just before choking up. "A lovely little two bedroom town house where we’re going to have 44 high-density apartments next to us. So my husband’s and my dream of moving into Seattle and living where we’d only need one car or no car—I’m not sure that’s a dream anymore because of the way the street’s going to get turned upside down due to this infill project."
How the "infill project" and torn-up street were destroying her dream of urban living was not exactly made clear, but she continued: "It shouldn’t always be about the next residents that are coming into town." The crowd applauded. "We’re very, very fortunate to have a robust economy here in Seattle," the woman said. "But it shouldn’t always be about the people that are coming. What about the people that are here?"
Dear Sad Town House Lady,
If your home is less than 20 years old—and I'm guessing it is, as there weren't that many town houses on Harvard Avenue before the mid-1990s—I can promise you that the people who lived on Harvard back when your town house was being built hated it (and some hated you) just as much as you hate the new apartments going up on Harvard today.
Scores of old, single-family homes all over the city were torn down in the late 1990s and into the 2000s, including many on Harvard Avenue, and replaced by be-gabled, lot-packing town houses. And the people who were there then—the people living here before you moved to town with nothing but a dream, a large down payment, and the option of having one car, two cars, or no cars—they hated your fucking town house. Your urban dream home was the blight destroying the character of Seattle neighborhoods back then. I remember walking by a new town house on 11th Avenue the day its large picture windows were being installed. The next day when I walked by that town house, all those brand-new (and very expensive) picture windows had been smashed. Bricks were thrown at them by angry neighbors who saw town houses as a threat to their Seattle dream.
You don't have to take my word for it. Here's then-mayor of Seattle Greg Nickels doing something to placate neighbors angry about town houses like yours back in 2008:
Bowing to complaints about ugly buildings invading neighborhoods, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels proposed Tuesday that city planners review all designs for new town houses. He also proposed the first major zoning overhaul in two decades of Seattle's multifamily neighborhoods. While they cover only 10 percent of the city, they've had greater growing pains as homes were bulldozed for new construction in the last development boom.... "Condominiums and townhomes allow people an entrée into owning their own homes, so that gives them a strong stake in the community and is a good thing for our city," [Nickels] said. "However, we have had some challenges, particularly with townhomes."
NIMBYs back in 2008 complained bitterly about Nickels's plan because it didn't halt construction of new town houses and they feared developers would continue to "bulldoze older buildings" and build more town houses.
Was your town house built after 2008? Then you live in a town house that some of your neighbors—people who in 2008 could say, "It shouldn’t always be about the people who are coming! What about the people who are here?!?"—didn't want to see built. But no one is breaking the windows of town houses today. All those new town houses all over Capitol Hill eventually came to be accepted as just another type of neighborhood housing stock. They've blended in and the controversy over town houses has been nearly forgotten.
And the new apartments you went to City Hall to complain about? They'll eventually blend into the neighborhood, too. Maybe you'll still be living on Harvard when that day comes, Sad Town House Lady, and maybe you won't. But growth and density are here to stay. You, on the other hand, are free to go.
I'm not addressing the central nonsense of Sad Town House Lady's public comments: Nothing about that new apartment building prevents her and her husband from staying on in their town house and continuing to get around the city without a car. The apartments going up on her block don't make her neighborhood any less walkable—the QFC won't be farther away when that new apartment building is finished. Unless "but now we'll have to get two cars!" is a coded threat to move out of the city, i.e., a threat to move to the suburbs, where every individual needs their own car to get around. If that was what she meant, well, she and her husband would probably be happier in the suburbs.