City Jul 5, 2016 at 1:34 pm


Thanks, Dan and Heidi. If you oppose rezoning, you're not just part of the problem, you ARE the problem.
I'm curious how the un-reclaimed tidelands at the north tip of West Seattle got zoned for High Rise.
I wish whomever colored that map could've separated all the parks, lakes and other unbuildable spaces from being zoned as "Single Family".
@3, it's still 54% single family when you remove parks and roads.…
I suppose we should start getting used to the terms "yellow privilege" and "yellow guilt".
@5 The racial connotations make me think that those terms aren't likely to become common.
Okay, so, add in a bunch more housing. Modest high-rises with flats in them, like in Vancouver. What makes the prices come down? Isn't the price of housing, which is now astronomical, only going to come down a tiny bit so that it's only obscene? I have no faith that supply/demand curves are going to push the price down so that it'll be affordable for all the folks working for or near minimum wage to live in-city without a zillion roommates.

I'm all for the rezoning. I just don't think it'll be enough without some guarantees of below-market-rate housing stocks.
As an environmental economist I'd like to second Dan's comment and add that there are serious environmental consequences to sprawl. Further, pushing low income people away from the center of a city not only burdens them with longer commutes, it also makes access to social services and other tools that can help people improve their living standards much more difficult. The zoning laws as they exist now are effectively using the government to hand market power to those already at the top of the income distribution. It's the antithesis of progressive economic policy.

For those who want to avoid population density and want their little world stay the same over the years: I hear Montana is is lovely.
@7 Empirical evidence suggests that you are mistaken. Prices don't magically go up as the demand for housing increases and the supply stays the same. If supply and demand forces drive the prices up, then it is reasonable to expect that they would also drive them down.

Some evidence:……

From the Thorson paper:
"Locations with relatively few barriers to construction experience more residential construction and smaller increases in house prices in response to an increase in housing demand. Furthermore, housing supply constraints alter local employment and wage dynamics in locations where the degree of regulation is most severe."
In a democracy, people who do not live in a place do not get a say in what goes on there. You might regard this as unfair, but it is the best system we have come up with so far. If your plan does not benefit people that live there, you are left to appeal to their better nature. Or in your case, insult them. Good luck with that.

Some things you are missing. It is one thing to say if we didn't have restrictive zoning we wouldn't have such a crisis (though Portland has less restrictive single-family zoning and still has a housing crisis). It is quite another to say if we re-zone we will somehow improve our affordability crisis in the near term, which is complete nonsense.

The immediate effect of an upzone will be that all less expensive housing in "desirable" areas (such as un-renovated older housing stock currently used as rental housing) will be bought at inflated prices, and turned into luxury units. This is simply the logic of capitalism, buy low, sell high. This will mean a net decrease in affordable housing in the short-term. It will also hurt current residents to benefit new arrivals on higher salary.

Unless developers dramatically overbuild, or the non-profit/governmental sector exercises far more control than previously imagined there will be no increase in affordability from new building within the decade. Your plan relies on developers either acting out of goodwill to build less profitable structures (hah!), or shooting themselves in the foot by overbuilding (slightly more likely).

Try talking to your staff member Charles Mudede, and ask him why there is no such thing as affordable new construction (he might have something to say about the folly of relying on the market to solve what are issues inherent to capitalism).
@8, show me an example of a metropolitan area that has grown up without also growing out. The most vertical cities I can think of (Tokyo, New York) are in the center of massive sprawl. Also incentives for density and against sprawl are part of the "zoning restrictions" economists talk about when they say zoning restrictions increase the price of housing.

Unfettered market, density, affordability. Pick 2.
@11 Zoning laws aren't a bi-product of capitalism. Free markets wouldn't have zoning laws. This isn't to say that I am against zoning, but I'm just pointing out that your last comment about "relying on markets to solve what are inherent issues to capitalism" is ridiculous. This isn't an inherent problem with capitalism, it's a problem with public policy designed to benefit wealthy developers at the expense of the poor.

Also, using state enforced regulations to push people out of a city and then saying "tough luck you don't live here so it's not your decision" is an awful way to have a society work. The people who can't afford to live there still commute to work there.

As for your claims about dramatic overbuilding being necessary for housing prices to come down, I would ask what evidence you have to suggest that's true?

If rezoning would have the effects you suggest, then it would be a big benefit to land developers. But developers aren't pushing for the kind of rezoning Dan is calling for ... maybe you know something they don't - you should go tell them how real estate markets work.
I agree with Dan in substance but his shitty holier-than-thou attitude is not very effective.
Keep doing what we have been doing and hope for better outcomes.
@12 No, allowing people to build how they want rather than restricting them to single family units is not a restriction. That would be easing a restriction.

As for your request for an example - I don't think you get what is being called for. The problem is that under current zoning the city can't grow up and out, only out. No one is saying the city can't grow 'out', just that if you don;t allow higher density in the center as that happens then low income people get pushed far away with very negative consequences. No one is saying that rezoning will make downtown condos cheap. The issue is whether low income households can live close to the city center. I can give you an example of how different zoning leads to very different housing markets: Cary NC and Raleigh NC are very close to each other and have very different zoning. The city that rezoned to allow the construction of high rises (Raleigh) has seen a growth in employment and housing near the city center, with affordable housing that is close (5 minute drive) remaining very affordable. I work with a low income family (very very low) that can walk to some of the most expensive housing in the city in 5 minutes. They have access to decent schools and can easily get to food banks and employment assistance centers. Cary prohibits buildings that exceed 4 or 5 stories, with special permission needed for even those, and as a result the cost of living is high, commutes for low income people are long, and congestion is a big issue. Low income areas are trailer parks on the outside of town.

Your 3 choices at the end - where do these come from? And why are you talking about unfettered markets? No one is asking for that.
Compare and contrast with THIS map: Seattle Hazard Explorer. Tell me where you want to live now.

@7 - Yeah, the "international investment" factor skews the standard "supply/demand" argument all to hell. How can, for example, Vancouver B.C. have astronomical rents AND have properties that are functionally unoccupied? Wouldn't that extra "supply" drop the prices? Well, no, because foreign rich people have invested and now their money lives there.

The only way rent prices will drop is if/when there is a housing bubble pop. Or if activists engage in some sort of activism that causes prices to go down. It will be minorly catastrophic for some, no matter what. If neither of those happen, prices will keep going up despite new housing stock, because new housing stock will come in at "market rate", which is already stupid high.
Beacon Hill has always been sort of dumpy, so when our neighborhood got rezoned a few years back to allow for short platting and townhomes, I think the net effect was good. Lots of ugly old houses are gone, and in their place are new homes that drive up the property value. I don't know who is buying them, or why, but it works for me.

(Let me remind the Slog that I have for years advocated for someone to buy our front yard. However, no one has. We get offers for the house, but not just the yard).

On rezoning: The HALA committee's recommendation SF2 would keep the same height and lot coverage in today's single-family only zones, but allow that same massing to be divided into more affordable forms of housing such as duplexes, triplexes, and stacked flats. This is how much of today's single family zones were originally built (photos from North Seattle of grandfathered small multi-family at the link:… )
@18, I do not about what is the current zoning but there are plenty of neighborhoods in Seattle where there could be way more density. Some quick examples: downtown, SLU, Eastlake, all along and (near) Roosevelt, along (and near) 65th, the U district, the area between Fremont and Ballard near the lake/canal.
@17 - To add an additionally worrisome caveat to part of your last paragraph; during the last housing bust a scenario was created in many large cities in which middle and even high-income earners—some who'd lost their homes, some that were looking but now couldn't qualify for a loan due to tightened restrictions—were now added to the rental pool, causing rental prices to continue to climb.
@18 - here's some background for those who are just tuning in...…
Sounds like good idea
"In a democracy, people who do not live in a place do not get a say in what goes on there. You might regard this as unfair, but it is the best system we have come up with so far."

If people at least had a say in whether or not they get priced out of the place they do actually live in, I might sort of have seen the point here. But they don't, so no. Whatever you think you're describing there (and I'm not sure it is democracy), it's not the best system at all.
@6: I doubt raindrop cares.
@26: You're right. I don't. Words are not copyrighted. People are free to use them any way they want. Except of course YFIACT.
@28, well, people should have good manners. The concepts are not mutually exclusive, Sandiai.
Good work, Dan. Most cities around the country could stand to be upzoned.
Just outlaw new parking.

Rich people hate transit.
"a shitty progressive." Dan'd know.
Thanks for calling this like it is, Dan. This is the status quo right now: we build these wonderful bikable, walkable, transit-served neighborhoods (cc: Wallingford) and then oppose any efforts to allow more people to live in them (cc: Wallingford Community Council), forcing them into cheaper, far-flung communities where they have no choice but to drive everywhere they go, spewing carbon into a rapidly changing atmosphere. If your aesthetic preferences for how your neighborhood looks or feels take precedent over your environmentalism, your environmentalism was never really deeply felt in the first place. Let's treat this like the climate crisis it is, not a "I got mine, fuck everyone else" situation.
here's a longer wonked out take on it:…
Oh yes! Please, privileged white man and white girl, please tell us how upzoning and density in the CD, Colombia City, Rainier, Beacon Hill. etc....catalyzing and incentivizing gentrification, is somehow "progressive". This is smarmy urbanism at its best.
The commenter NotPaidByDevelopersToComment has it right:

A) The YIMBY movement's main *impact* is liberalizing zoning and permitting in poor and often non-white neighborhoods. This "#YIMBY"ism isn't a blow against racist housing policies, it's a 21st century update to them!

B) Government does not "add housing" and can not control supply. The only lever government has for private development is a marginal impact, higher or lower, on the rate of profit of that development. In some of the most over-priced markets, like San Francisco and Oakland, many thousands of new units have been permitted for a long time with no work starting.

YIMBYism is just a straight up big box of lies and its main impact is to accelerate displacement and gentrification.
Dan, I love you, but I have to ask ... It's a safe bet that you presently live in a single family home, in a neighborhood of only single family homes, right? One wonders how you and your neighbors and friends who also own single family homes in heighborhoods of only single family homes would feel were a bunch of multi-family, mid rise and high rise properties to suddenly flood your single family tree-lined neighborhoods. How much would you love it, when that high rise gets build on either side of your house? How cool would you be with the accompanying traffic, noise, sudden density?

And if such neighborhoods are so desireable for the city's overall well being, Dan, then heck, go ahead and lead by example: move the hell out of your house today - put it right on the market - and move into a triplex in a neighborhood of only multi family houses and buildings - the more people packed into your immediate neighbors' structures, the better, right? And damn, man, start a movement in your neighborhood - sign up everybody on your street, at least - demanding that the city allow multi family units and buildings on your street. Why have you not already done this?

Sorry, but sitting there in your house in almost undoubtedly, a neighborhood of only single family homes (mother in law 'apartments' don't count), plus the occasional corner store, while preaching that such zoning is evil is pretty lame. You often decry NIMBYs, Dan - I wonder, as an adult, how many multi family homes you have owned? Or has it all been single family houses, and if so, why is that? And why, with the voice that you have in this town and have had for years, have you not started that petition for the immediate rezoning of your neighborhood?

I say this as someone who grew up in Boston on a street of all 2 and 3 family homes, and presently lives in a multi family house in a mixed zone neighborhood, and has since 1999.

How about instead of removing single family from the urban villages, many of which do have a lot of character and diversity and more density that the SF 5000 category suggests, we change the definition of single family in the villages, or in all of Seattle, to allow or even incentivize existing structures to go to duplex or triplex and allow more unrelated people to live in the same structure? That increases choice, increases density some, and provides for more affordable family sized housing that doesn't also create a boon for greedy developers who bulldoze older homes to put in UGLY boxes, rented or sold at market rate to Amazon and Microsoft employees that often have more income than the people in the houses on 3000 sf lots, that fill the lots and block light and air for their neighbors. People don't necessarily oppose the loss of single family in itself - there is lots of it. People oppose the loss in livability to the place they call home. Not an investment - their home, big, small, ugly, pretty. That doesn't mean they don't think affordable housing options aren't important. It just means there are more appropriate ways to do so than blanket rezones that planners decided based on looking at Google Earth from their desks. Funny - NO zoning changes up by the huge houses at Volunteer Park, despite being near a park, near schools and good transit -- all characteristics of places the City says should be upzoned. Hmmmm. . .

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