No, We Don't Need to Kill the Showbox to Get Affordable Housing

Comments

1

Damnit Lester. You're in danger of making the Stranger good again. We're city where even our socialist council member would fight to the death to protect single family homes and their rich voters (even though they're outnumbered by apartment dwellers and even renters in this city). So in that context Josh has a good grip on the reality of the situation.

But you work for a paper that can significantly amplify the voices of those suffering in our housing shortage. Maybe even enough to end single family zoning.

2

(oh, but easy on dismissing luxury housing units - every home built of any type in our city lets another household afford to live here. refuse to build luxury units, and these residents just outbid the less-luxury unit tenants)

3

Killing the Showbox results in, maybe, a MHA fee of $5 million. Possibly much less. That translates into 5-8 one bedroom units. Just saying, razing the Showbox does little to supply affordable housing. And Lester is right (and wrong). You can have the Showbox and affordable housing, if you want it. Lisa Herbold certainly doesn’t. And wrong; single family homes did not cause the loss of affordable housing. Single family homes are where affordable housing is.

3

@2 Yeah well the gaping hole in the density at all cost dogma is this: people want to live here because this is a nice place to live. Turn the entire city into a fucking office park then it kind of seems like it might not be quite as nice a place to live. I guess that is a way to make housing more affordable though.

How about density aimed at maintaining neighborhood integrity? How about if we had a landmarks preservation board that wasn't basically toothless?

4

The cheapest way to live, sans handouts, is in a house.

Numbers are hard, I know.

Also, you hate developers and business.

5

The Showbox has little to do with local music for the most part so I'm not sure why it's relevant to preserving "history". I'm a transplant and I made it my business to study local music history as I am also a music teacher. That being said, it would shock many of you to know that plenty of natives don't know that Hendrix, Ray Carles and Quincy Jones are from the area. It seems like music just popped up around here during grunge and that's where music history seems to start for most people in Seattle. Belltown used to be a haven for jazz clubs which supported and nurtured local musicians. I've never heard anyone tell me how much the Showbox has meant to local musicians. That being said, what will be will be and I will accept it and hope whatever decision is made will make more people happy than not.

6

Is there some particular reason that they can't build the tower above/on top of the theater?
Don't give up your large enclosed spaces without a fight!!
If you look at every other major City, you'll find a lament about the loss of some great theater space/fabulous building echoing throughout the ages.

7

“Most” of Seattle is lamenting? Yeah, sure.

“Most” don’t care.

8

I live in a neighborhood with mixed housing: some single-family homes, some townhomes and condos, and some apartment buildings.

When a single-family home gets torn down (about a dozen on my street for three blocks in either direction over the last few years) it's almost always replaced with million-dollar townhomes or condos.

Zoning laws aren't what's preventing the creation of affordable housing.

9

The Showbox is an ok place to experience musical acts. It’s also an old brick building in an earthquake zone, so our only real course of action is to tear it down before Mother Nature does. Replace it (and the parking lot next to it) with a modern, multi-use tower which contains a club/theatre space. (The best suggestion I’ve yet seen is to put a daycare facility between the ground-floor performance space and the upper stories. Functional by day, sonic insulation by night!)

All we need is civic leadership equal to the task, so it probably won’t happen.

10

Thank you Lester - excellent post. The Stranger is the best venue in Seattle. Period, full stop. If we lose it, we'll never have another. #savetheshowbox

11

@8 You live in the literally 13% of our city where multifamily housing is allowed. So of course land is amazingly expensive there, and only luxury homes are built: that land is extremely scarce.

But what would happen if we doubled that percentage or quadrupled it? Suddenly every single property isn't scrutinized by a dozen developers. As developers buy homes that are on much cheaper land, they don't need to charge super high prices for units. In fact, if they do charge high prices then the developer on the next block doing the same thing will rent out their units first.

Anyway... every one of those overpriced townhouses is making all of our homes less expensive, just by a little tiny bit. Greatly increase zoning throughout the city and the effect on prices would be large and almost immediate.

12

Yeah Matt, that neighborhood would, short-term, lose housing units, and long-term, would be more expensive than before.

Affordability is one hell of a selling point, Stranger Geniuses.

13

@11: My fellow engineer, increasing density in areas zoned for single-family housing (SFAs) is a real loser, politically and as housing policy.

Politically, it represents the most pain for the least gain. Of the many excellent reasons Cary Moon Lost the election, my #1 favorite (it had plenty of tough competition) was her insistence on going this route to get more housing. Neighborhood NIMBYs will fight it tooth and nail, and being (for the most part) middle-class white people, their opinions matter to the media.

If it somehow succeeds, it’s the slowest way to get more housing (see @8) and once density increases, how do the new residents get there? It’s not like we’re planning light rail lines to reach every neighborhood, nobody likes more busses in a SFA, and per-capita parking numbers drop.

Meanwhile, Belltown will get a new light-rail stop, and thousands of new residences can be added far more rapidly than by the slow process of tearing down this or that old house for a multi-plex in Outer Ballard.

14

@13 Take a look at frequent service map. It's walkable from most of the city. And the full bus service map? Covers almost everywhere in the city within a 10 minute walk. Since we're predominantly a bus city, we're well covered for transit to the neighborhoods (compared to rail cities that need to concentrate housing at nodes).

Is it hard to change zoning? Sure. But as I mentioned more than half our population lives in multifamily housing - squeezed into that 13% of land area. And more than half of our population rents. Upzoning directly benefits this majority of voters, that don't get automatic wealth in the bank every time their housing prices go up.

Building in the suburbs (someday I'll stop calling Bellevue a suburb) trades time for money. Making everyone commute an extra half an hour - even on a train - is a poor compromise. And because people tend to value their time this won't actually drop housing prices much in the city.

Requiring distant travel as part of your housing policy? No thanks.

15

Frequent service map: https://seattletransitblog.com/2012/10/03/seattle-every-15-minutes-or-less/

16

@14-15 - those "frequent" service maps do not show where tranist service IS frequent, it shows where service is SCHEDULED every 15-minutes or less at some point during the workday, which is a very lax definition of frequent. One bus breaks down - or is so full that the driver won't allow any more passenges on - and now you're standing in the cold rain for 30 minutes.

17

@14: Adding more busses through neighborhoods costs money and worsens traffic.

“...more than half our population lives in multifamily housing - squeezed into that 13% of land area.”

Manhattan Island has far less than 13% of the world’s land area, yet also has a huge number of residential towers. Does that somehow mean no one wants to live there?

“Requiring distant travel as part of your housing policy? No thanks.”

Do you know where Belltown is? Pike-Pine corridor? Stadium district? There are plenty of new residences in all of those places, none of which are “distant travel” to downtown. Some are walking distance.

Leap into the buzz-saw of neighborhood NIMBYs all you like. Let us know when you’ve finally given up.

18

"The Showbox" is a placeholder here.

Insert anything somebody ELSE holds dear, and you'll find a lot more sense in Feit's argument.

This is how NIMBY works. It's not about "mah water view," it's about thousands of little bits and pieces of the City's geography, each of them held to be irreplaceable by someone, somewhere.

All it takes to understand this is a little bit of empathy.

19

@1: Unless something has changed since I last looked, SFH dwellers are not outnumbered by Apartment dwellers. There are more apartments than SFHs in Seattle, but in the aggregate, while the numbers are close, more Seattle residents still live in SFHs.

20

@6 ftw

Historical designation only means they need to save elements of it. Insist on a 100 story mixed income residential tower with the bottom 10 floors mixed use commercial and a guaranteed Music Performance Hall on the bottom.

21

@17 By outlawing density in 80% of the land where housing is legal, you make the areas you list extremely expensive.

"Does that somehow mean no one wants to live there?" Quite the opposite. But that doesn't help housing prices. Surprisingly, Manhattan has restrictive zoning as well - if they upzoned they'd see housing prices go down as well.

@19 Yes, last time I looked this was very close. But when looking at potential voters, I'd exclude most children.

22

No, surrounding areas could potentially see prices drop. In the immediate vicinity the supply is temporarily reduced, which means potentially higher rents and then higher rents again due to increased property value.

They sure don’t build run down joints with character like they used to.

23

“By outlawing density in 80% of the land where housing is legal, you make the areas you list extremely expensive.”

I wasn’t disputing that point. I was disputing your claim that new residences have to require long commutes. Again, upzoning SFAs will be the most difficult option for the least gain in number of new residences — and commutes will become longer in the upzoned neighborhoods. Feel free to dispute that point any time you like, because you have yet even to try.

“But when looking at potential voters, I'd exclude most children.”

The neighborhood NIMBYs will organize far more of their potential voting base than will the apartment-dwellers. You need to account for that reality when counting the Council votes needed to upzone.

“Manhattan has restrictive zoning as well - if they upzoned they'd see housing prices go down as well.”

I’m from New York, and you’re delusional.

24

Yeah well the gaping hole in the density at all cost dogma is this: people want to live here because this is a nice place to live.

Total bullshit. People want to live here because there are jobs. Holy shit, the Seattle you think is so wonderful, so precious, so desirable -- the one with just the right mix of old apartments and lovely little houses -- existed fifty years. And guess what? The population went down! From 1960 to 1980 the population went down, as about 50,000 people left town. Why was that -- was Seattle just not hip enough, like bell bottom jeans? And what about the sudden increase in the 80s, continuing to the present day? Did people in America suddenly come to some sort of epiphany , and wake up one morning thinking "Holy shit, Seattle is the place for me -- fuck Detroit, fuck Saint Louis -- I'm moving there!". Of course not. Those other places lost jobs, and we gained them. It really is that simple.

25

@13 [quote]
My fellow engineer, increasing density in areas zoned for single-family housing (SFAs) is a real loser, politically and as housing policy.

Politically, it represents the most pain for the least gain. Of the many excellent reasons Cary Moon Lost the election, my #1 favorite (it had plenty of tough competition) was her insistence on going this route to get more housing. Neighborhood NIMBYs will fight it tooth and nail, and being (for the most part) middle-class white people, their opinions matter to the media.
[End Quote]

Total bullshit. Moon never had the guts to support changing the single family areas. If she did, she might have won. Sure, she was unqualified, but she would have differentiated herself. Instead she tried to appease the NIMBY vote, while trying to be more "edgy" and "urban" to get the endorsement of The Stranger.

The politics are very simple. Every time a candidate runs on the issue, the NIMBY candidate loses. It has happened repeatedly with city council members. But when it comes time to actually do something, the representative chickens out. Meeting are held in the neighborhood, and people bitch and whine and the council backs off. HALA is a great example. The committee was formed by the former mayor. The plan they came up with -- after months of work -- was a compromise. It didn't go nearly as far as many people wanted, but at least made progress. As soon as the meeting began, the whole idea of changing the rules ever so slightly (to allow more back yard cottages and basement apartments) freaked out a bunch of people. Next thing you know, the former, feckless mayor cut that entire section from the proposal, and that was that. It wasn't based on the way people voted, but only the cowardice of a mayor who refused to address real problems in this city, while trying to just please everyone (notice how he never bothered to ask questions about the stupid streetcar?).

26

@24

I read somewhere that populations in all American cities declined during the decades of postwar suburbanization, and then eventually rebounded as all the farmland within an hour's drive of the city centers was bought up, subdivided, and developed into residential housing.

Probably just foul liberal propaganda, though. Can't trust anything but your own superior brain-thinking these days.

27

“Manhattan has restrictive zoning as well - if they upzoned they'd see housing prices go down as well.”

I’m from New York, and you’re delusional.

Well, the man who actually wrote the book on the subject disagrees. In Matt inglesiases book, "The Rent Is Too Damn High: What To Do About It, And Why It Matters More Than You Think", he does mention Manhattan as being one of those places where the rent is too damn high because of overly restrictive zoning. There is a reason why Tokyo is way more affordable than New York, and even more affordable than Seattle -- zoning.

28

@25: “McGinn and Moon both signaled support for more density by allowing backyard cottages, duplexes, and triplexes in single-family zones. (In deference to NIMBYs and the Seattle Times, city leaders have backed away from this idea.)”

https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2017/06/05/25189157/mayoral-candidates-except-jenny-durkan-showed-us-their-answers-to-the-chamber-of-commerce-questionnaire

Whether a Mayor Moon actually would have done this or not, I have no idea, but if you believe she was lying on the Chamber’s questionnaire, please tell us why.

“But when it comes time to actually do something, the representative chickens out. Meeting are held in the neighborhood, and people bitch and whine and the council backs off.”

Behold the power of the neighborhood NIMBY! Thanks for the confirmation.

29

If it somehow succeeds, it’s the slowest way to get more housing (see @8) and once density increases, how do the new residents get there? It’s not like we’re planning light rail lines to reach every neighborhood, nobody likes more busses in a SFA, and per-capita parking numbers drop.

Why would it be the slowest way to get housing? If anything, it would be the fastest way to get new housing, since you would greatly increase the amount of land where housing could be added. All development is based on someone, somewhere deciding to change the land use. Maybe they want to add a basement apartment, or build a backyard cottage. Maybe they are moving, and someone else wants to replace that largely empty lot with a bunch of row houses or an apartment. Allow growth in more places and you will get a lot more growth.

Oh, and you really don't have to build light rail everywhere. Buses can do really well for the kind of growth we are talking about. The city could double and triple in size and we would muddle along with buses. In fact, the more density in the single family areas (places like Magnolia) the more likely that they will have decent bus service. As it is, the most densely populated area of the entire state doesn't have light rail service. Yet Belltown manages just fine, and has for years. I'm not suggesting that most of the city become like Belltown, but at the very least they could become like Wallingford or Lake City (areas that aren't going to get light rail service either).

30

@28 -- OK, then she was simply talking out of both sides of her mouth. During the KPLU debates she completely ignored zoning, and in fact criticized Durkan for suggesting that the housing problem could be solved by changing the zoning rules (something that Durkan denied she ever did). Shit, just look at her fucking platform from her website. It is still there. She writes an entire article about housing, and not once suggests even the smallest change to zoning (https://medium.com/@CaryMoon4Mayor/my-first-100-days-as-mayor-housing-affordability-emergency-plan-4d23ce070a80). She emphasizes over and over the idea that speculators are responsible for the increase in prices -- it was a major part of her campaign -- but never actually addresses zoning. She thought she could simply triangulate Durkan (bullshit just enough to please folks from The Stranger) while not upsetting the NIMBYs. It backfired. She didn't pick up the endorsement of people like Barnett (or Feit for that matter) or any of the Sightline folks. No one who wants to see major changes in the zoning laws bothered to support her, because her stance was just the usual bullshit.

As far the other point I was making, it obviously went over your head. The political power of folks at meetings is exaggerated. Call it a left wing silent majority if you will. When an election is held, and one candidate starts spouting out about "protecting single family homes", and the other one says we should allow growth, the first candidate loses. It has happened several times recently. But when some politicians attend a meeting, they chicken out. The point I am making is that the politicians shouldn't be such wimps. Most of the city supports more growth, because most of the city is more concerned with the sky high housing prices, rather than the change in the neighborhood.

31

@26 >> I read somewhere that populations in all American cities declined during the decades of postwar suburbanization, and then eventually rebounded as all the farmland within an hour's drive of the city centers was bought up, subdivided, and developed into residential housing.

Right, and you also read about the tooth fairy, no doubt. Look, it really isn't that hard to research. Cities grow, some shrink. Yes, suburban flight was big in the post war era, and now there is a move to the city. But that doesn't explain why Detroit, for example, has about 1/3 the population it did in the 1950s. Or why Saint Louis had about 800,000 people, and now has about 300,000. Or why Phoenix or San Diego have grown each and every decade for the last hundred years.

In all those cases, it was economics. In the case of Seattle, the loss coincided with a major downturn in Boeing employment, just as a major tech employment increase has resulted in an increase in population. More jobs, more people.

32

@8 has perfectly nailed the empirical reality of the current tidal wave of residential construction that is densifying Seattle. Even before HALA fully kicks in, there is plenty of zoned capacity for huge amounts of low and mid rise apartment building construction, yet in SF neighborhoods where modest SF houses are being knocked down they aren't being replaced with modest apartment buildings. Instead, increased density comes in the form of $800,000 townhouses and luxury buildings stuffed with studios and >$2,000 per month one bedroom apartments. An additional irony is that 30% of the new apartments in downtown Seattle, where growth is the most intense, are vacant, which proves that there is no shortage of this type of housing.

https://www.businessinsider.com/seattle-apartment-market-faces-onslaught-of-new-buildings-2018-1

Josh Feit and other Libertarian free market cheerleaders are thrilled by upzones because HALA's MHA requirements would produce a whole 600 affordable apartments per year, or a whopping 6,000 over the coming decade, a number that is laughably tiny compared to need. This number of low income apartments should be seen for what it is--a miniscule drop in the bucket compared to the 24,554 apartment units under construction and the 35,009 units in just in the 2018 development pipeline, and counting only units in buildings with 50+ apartments, and equally staggering numbers of apartments built in in recent years and those that are likely to be cranked out in future years until the economy crashes again, which means the total number during the current expansion is tens of thousands of units higher. Given that 92% of these new apartments are luxury housing affordable only to people who make at least the area median income (currently ~$80,000), the current development pattern does zip to alleviate the homelessness emergency, provide housing for the tens of thousands of Seattle workers, disabled people and retirees who make less than 30% AMI, or address in any meaningful way the acute shortage of housing for people who make 30-80% AMI.

It is also a fantasy to think that building very tall buildings will drastically increase the supply of affordable housing. Very tall buildings are inherently expensive to build because they require expensive, space occupying HVAC, multiple elevators, etc., and lots of parking in absolute terms, through perhaps not in terms of spaces per dwelling unit.

Finally, this entire discussion begs the question of whether it is for Seattle or any city to grow this fast. The current pace of development far outstrips the rate at which we are building public transportation, schools, and other public infrastructure. It is nice to think everyone can ride the bus, but consider the fact that in Manhattan FAR more people ride subways than buses because of massive rush hour gridlock. Having lived in Manhattan for eight years I know this from direct experience. At the present past of rapid transit buildout, It will take the Seattle many decades if not more than a century to building anything approximating NYC's mass transit capability. Even if we manage to Manhattanize Seattle, it will be Manhattan without subways, which is a very grim thought.

Amazon can fuck off as far as I'm concerned. The way it is ravaging our city just isn't worth it. I pity its next municipal victims even though they're bringing it on themselves with enormous public subsidies. For insight into the way we are enriching some of the richest people on the planet, check out this 20 minute talk by investigative reporter Maria Tomchick, who in this video of an event last week called "Why Rules Seattle?" starting at 31:00 lays out how the Seattle Housing Authority, aided and abetted by the City of Seattle, has actually DECREASED the number of very low income apartments that used to exist at Yesler Terrace, Holly Park, Ranier Vista and Highpoint by selling developers land for as little as $6,000,000 per acre that is worth tens of $millions per acre the minute it is covered with new luxury apartments, hotels and office buildings. It reminds me of the way banks create money out of thin air simply by loaning money. We will never solve our housing problems if we keep going about it in these same failed, deeply corrupt ways.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBzB3aCcXBY

As for the Showbox, a city as wealthy as Seattle could easily afford to find a way to preserve it. A city as poor as Albuquerque found a way to preserve its beautiful old KiMo Theater, and at one point the city itself offered to buy it. Fortunately, some civic minded angels stepped up and staved off the wrecking ball. It is an astonishingly beautiful building, albeit, still a short one, and a thriving cultural hub, not a fake one like the hundreds of venues in Josh Feit's fake count.

https://www.cabq.gov/culturalservices/kimo/about-the-theatre

33

Well, Seattle hase been on the top ten, if not top 3, as the best places to live for over 30 years. All kinds of polls.
The whole east side of 1st and Pike is low rise. One would think a smart architect could figure in the Showbox. Nevertheless, that is Prime real estate, it's downtown where people work and there is no commuting like outside neighborhoods.
Wouldn't it be nice to preserve SFH while absorbing growth. You know, like the Showbox, once it's gone, it's gone.

34

@31

Yep, just liberalist propaganda. Gotta be real careful what you read out there.

36

Boko haram bro. They’ll scare the shit out of him.

Someone who bothered to figure out what their phones do should give the call center a ring and record it.

37

@36

If you take one hit every 15 minutes or so instead of blasting 5-6 in a row to empty the bowl, the high won't knock you over like that when it lands.

38

Dude I’ve smoked moss

39

Dude I’ve smoked moss, take two.

40

"Developers are so hungry to develop the land the Showbox sits on partly because we are in fact not developing on the site of every single-story building in the city."

Bunk. regardless of zoning in the rest of the city, developers would be just as hungry to develop the Showbox site because of it's location, period.

41

@28, @30: “As far the other point I was making, it obviously went over your head. The political power of folks at meetings is exaggerated.”

Our point is that the neighborhood NIMBYs always win. It doesn’t matter if you were correct as to why the neighborhood NIMBYs always win; the only point is that the neighborhood NIMBYs always win, which is why it’s futile to fight the neighborhood NIMBYs (who always win). We need to — and are — building elsewhere.

42

@41 I agree. And the question should now be: why do NIMBYs always win? I propose it's because of the Seattle Times - a newspaper with a mostly suburban readership base that helps make every hint of an upzone into a war. In the past the Stranger has been complicit in this - and other than the occasional slightly positive story tends to be silent at best and NIMBY (or at least anti-developer) at worst. This goes against the fundamental interest of their readership.

Why do news publications matter? Because as a generally progressive and educated city we're quite capable of voting against our own interests if it's in the name of the greater good. SF homeowners can and will vote for upzones if they believe it will make their city better. Even if it's a minority of homeowners, combine that with an activated renter pool and we could move mountains.

43

I'm a SF homeowner. I'm for whatever increases my property values. If the laws are changed so that I'm allowed to build a 20 unit apartment building on my 8,000 sqft lot, great. I'll tear it down and build an apartment building and make a lot of money off the rent. Or I'll sell it to a developer and they'll do it. If the laws stay the same, then my house increases in value because it is a finite resource and I'll make money renting it out for $5,000/month or sell it for over a million and make a lot of profit. I'm indifferent because I own the house and no matter what, it will increase in value. That's why I chose to purchase a house versus renting an apartment. That and I hate sharing a wall with people. Apartment living was really awful.

We live in a capitalist society and everything in the end boils down to money. The sooner you realize that and get with the program, the less stressed you'll be worrying about what other people are doing.

That's my two cents.

And also, never been to the showbox, didn't know what it was until all the hubbub started, but I'm sure there is a way to eat your cake and have it too. Too bad it's south of safeco, I think it would be an easier sell to keep it/restore it what have you if it were closer to downtown.

44

@43, you are clearly talking out of your ass to the point where you didn't even realize that Showbox IS located roughly 100 feet from Pike Place Market.

45

God forbid we tear down a tiny old building in the heart of downtown... RIP Showbox, you will be reborn one day in the form of a cool unique venue that an entrepreneurial transplant will open.
The times they are a changin, quityourbitchin

46

@44 Yup. I had no idea where it was and don't care. I did type in Showbox into google and it came up with one in Sodo, and I stopped there.

As far as talking out of my ass, not sure why you'd say something like that. Did something I type offend you? God forbid people think differently than you.

47

@5 The Showbox has little to do with local music? That's pretty far off the mark. Ever since Modern Productions rented it for a show in 1979, before which it was the Talmud Torah Bingo Hall, it has been the home base for probably hundreds of local bands. They've opened for touring bands, they've headlined shows, and sometimes when they're giant international successes, they've come back and done shows there.

We aren't even using the luxury apartments that are already built. We don't need more of them, we need more ordinary affordable apartments, and houses too, until developers start building larger apartments for families. We also need music and artists and all the things that made Seattle wonderful in the first place. If we don't leave room for that, we've just recreated the boring, homogenous suburbs vertically.

48

It's just a theater..

49

It's not a matter of convincing the city council to increase density in single family neighborhoods. You have to convince the majority of voters to do it. Investors and developers want the opportunity increased density brings. Also, the new Onni building will contribute a much more in tax revenue than the existing Showbox.venue.

50

@42: And If it’s not the big, bad, suburban Seattle Times, then how do you proceed? What if the reason(s) the NIMBYs always fight has nothing to do with a newspaper?

Also, you haven’t yet made the case for upzoing being for the common good, for improving our city, so no one has any reason to vote for it.

51

@29: "...you would greatly increase the amount of land where housing could be added."

In little dribs and drabs, here and there, at essentially random intervals, you would slowly get denser neighborhoods. In non-SFA neighborhoods, we can build block after block after block of new residential (or, better yet, mixed-use) towers clustered around existing and future light-rail stations. The necessary increase or improvement in transportation infrastructure is already underway -- as is the residential and mixed-use construction. This isn't some distant hope of someday maybe defeating the SFA NIMBYs -- who, you know, have stopped upzoning plans every time, so far -- this is real, it's happening, and it's already causing housing prices to soften.

"Oh, and you really don't have to build light rail everywhere. Buses can do really well for the kind of growth we are talking about. The city could double and triple in size and we would muddle along with buses."

That's a recipe for traffic disaster. There are no current plans to introduce grade-separated transit into most SFA neighborhoods. Therefore, the existing road network must absorb any increase in density. That road network was designed to support single-family homes via private automobiles. It cannot effectively have capacity added, because it's all built to the limits as is. We'd have to add far more busses than we now have to alleviate any increase in road traffic, and even that may reach limits of road space.

Our neighborhoods' transportation improvements, IF they were ever made, would be reactive to whatever growth happened to take place. That is a far less efficient way of improving transportation than in planning for residential towers near existing or future light-rail stops.

"As it is, the most densely populated area of the entire state doesn't have light rail service. Yet Belltown manages just fine, and has for years."

I live in Belltown. I commute via the light-rail stop at Westlake Station. It's a ten-minute walk from the front door of my residential tower.

"I'm not suggesting that most of the city become like Belltown..."

Good, because it can't. Belltown is adjacent to, and connected to downtown by, SIX wide boulevards (conveniently labeled "First" through "Sixth" Avenues for your ease of recollection) which run parallel and close to each other. Even if Seattle's only form of transportation was donkey carts, Belltown's residents would do better than anyone else in the entire city in their commutes to downtown.

Slowly increasing density in SFAs means slowly straining -- and perhaps overloading -- their local transportation infrastructure. That means a slowly declining quality of life for the people who live there. Anyone can see this, which is why you won't defeat the neighborhood NIMBYs, no matter how many names you call City Council Members for obeying the NIMBYs.

52

@51 "Therefore, the existing road network must absorb any increase in density. That road network was designed to support single-family homes via private automobiles."

No, the road network in many neighborhoods was designed to support multi-family housing and in many places, corner commercial. Prior to 1923 Seattle had no single family zoning, and lots of Seattle was downzoned in the 50s through 80s:

http://www.sightline.org/2018/05/23/this-is-how-you-slow-walk-into-a-housing-shortage/

http://www.sightline.org/2018/05/24/the-narrowing-of-a-neighborhood-wallingford/

53

@53: A map of Seattle in 1923 shows essentially the same city grids we have now, only the city limits were slightly north of Green Lake. We already have traffic jams along neighborhoods’ arterials during some rush hours. Adding more density to the neighborhoods won’t alleviate those jams, to say the least.

Even if you could defeat the neighborhood NIMBYs — and plenty of evidence shows you can’t — you still don’t have the surface transport capacity to support an upzone.

54

@53: "A map of Seattle in 1923 shows essentially the same city grids we have now"

Exactly my point. (Maps from 1941 also show that much of the grid was designed for streetcars: https://seattletransitblog.com/2018/02/15/preserving-seattles-streetcar-history/)

" Adding more density to the neighborhoods won’t alleviate those jams"

It just might be the case that making Walk Scores go up and reaching the density needed to support frequent transit reduces vehicle miles traveled:

http://www.sightline.org/2018/06/20/if-you-lived-here-youd-be-home-by-now-how-neighborhoods-can-kick-their-car-habits/

55

@54: “Exactly my point.“

You left out the bit about Seattle then ending at 85th Street. What happens if we increase density in that vast swath of the city which now exists north of those old maps? Where’s the surface transport capacity for all of those persons to commute daily?

“It just might be the case that making Walk Scores go up and reaching the density needed to support frequent transit reduces vehicle miles traveled...”

I’d figured you were operating on that fallacy. Increasing density does not automatically drive (pun intended) an increase in walkscores. It’s the other way around: increasing walkscores allows for increasing density.

When I wrote about the design of our current neighborhoods and local roads, I probably should have used the word “redesign,” because that’s what happened after the pivot toward SFAs and automobiles in the time after 1941. Almost all of the non-SFA elements were removed, and replaced by single-family houses. To use the modern term, their walkscores were drastically reduced. Increasing density, just by itself, won’t increase walkscores, because most of the sites which had been zoned for shops or businesses now have single-family homes on them. Therefore, their new residents will still have to leave their neighborhoods for commuting and other reasons, using that same surface grid which can’t be expanded.

As mentioned previously, I live in Belltown. Many of my neighbors work for Amazon, and can stay in Belltown (or walk to downtown) for shopping, culture, and entertainment. That makes Belltown a neighborhood of very high walkscores, exactly because Belltown is zoned for multiple uses (and is within walking distance of downtown).

Retrofitting every neighborhood in the city for the mixed-use it once had would likely also require re-zoning some SF lots back into commercial use, and/or raising height limits on existing commercial properties. Do you love hearing the phrase, “character of the neighborhood”? I certainly hope you just can’t hear it too often enough, because adding even more changes to your upcoming plan will elicit that delectably wonderful phrase even more frequently and ferverently from the NIMBYs.

56

"To use the modern term, their walkscores were drastically reduced."

Well said indeed.

"Retrofitting every neighborhood in the city for the mixed-use it once had would likely also require re-zoning some SF lots back into commercial use, and/or raising height limits on existing commercial properties."

Of course!

"Do you love hearing the phrase, “character of the neighborhood”? I certainly hope you just can’t hear it too often enough, because adding even more changes to your upcoming plan will elicit that delectably wonderful phrase even more frequently and ferverently from the NIMBYs.
Therefore, their new residents will still have to leave their neighborhoods for commuting and other reasons, using that same surface grid which can’t be expanded."

Right. So the (as you say) NIMBYs' position will be that their ideal must prevail, at the price of making everyone else miserable... I'll take the over-under on their constantly punching everyone who isn't an affluent auto-centric suburbanist in the face leading to change sooner rather than later.

57

“NIMBYs' position will be that their ideal must prevail,“

It seems to be doing just that, yes. Your plan to change that is, um — what, exactly?

“...at the price of making everyone else miserable...”

I live in Seattle, and I’m really happy. So I won’t be joining your little crusade against the NIMBYs.

“I'll take the over-under on their constantly punching everyone who isn't an affluent auto-centric suburbanist in the face leading to change sooner rather than later.”

Hope is not a plan, dear.

Meanwhile, new residential construction in places with high walkscores is actually causing housing prices to soften. No NIMBY-punching needed.