EarthFix takes a close-up look at the world’s greenest building, The Bullitt Center, which just so happens to be in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
ST3 supports equitable development: An op-ed in the South Seattle Emerald says that Sound Transit 3 will deliver equitable development.
Tackling climate change: How cities like Cleveland can grow and tackle climate change.
North Rainier project: A six-story, 100-unit apartment project is planned for 23rd Ave S and Rainier Ave S just blocks from a future light rail station.
The Pronto saga: The Seattle City Council is entertaining choices between killing Pronto or doing something a little more with the existing system.
Greening Detroit: Detroiters are turning abandoned homes into greenhouses.
Inclusive companies: A new tool highlights the steps toward building an inclusive company.
Eastside Trail: $10 million has been allocated toward rehabilitating the Wilburton Trestle in Bellevue for the Eastside Trail, but will it open by 2020?
Cross-border misery: Swedish residents who work in Denmark are suing their government for delays brought on by new border checks.
Boomtown USA: Seattle has 58 cranes dotting the skyline right now ($), the most of any city in the United States.
Water resource planning: State Supreme Court tells Whatcom County that counties planning under the Growth Management Act must also plan for water resources
Microhousing and hotel: Capitol Hill could be getting 42-unit microhousing project that will also include four floors of hotel units just feet from the new light rail station.
Tying the region together: Seattle Bike Blog says that Sound Transit 3 isn’t about light rail, it’s about bringing our region closer together.
Modern swank: Calgary’s Bankview neighborhood is getting a very whimsical new multi-family condominium development.
Keeping the lights on: Lynnwood is keeping its redlight cameras on.
Growing the bike share: Center city Philadelphia commuters are increasingly arriving by bike.
Moving forward: Redevelopment and preservation plans for the former Value Village building in Capitol Hill appear to be final.
Annexation plan: Lake Stevens looks towards future annexations of nearby unincorporated areas.
Disingenuous editors: Seattle Transit Blog thoroughly rebuts the lies and faux arguments published by The Seattle Times Editorial Board in its against endorsement Sound Transit 3.
“We spoke boastfully in bass voices; we used the word “nigger” to prove the tough fiber of our feelings; we spouted excessive profanity as a sign of our coming manhood; we pretended callousness toward the injunctions of our parents; and we strove to convince one another that our decisions stemmed from ourselves and ourselves alone. Yet we frantically concealed how dependent we were upon one another.”
–Richard Wright, on his childhood circa 1915
A century has passed by and the kids act out just the same. The reasons are like a virus you can’t remove from the bloodstream, something deeply embedded into the fiber of the state of things. There are teens I encounter who try with such strenuous effort to convince everyone they’re stone-cold killers. Sometimes I want to say, “guys. Stop trying to persuade the world how hard you are. We all have emotional highs and lows, tender spots and tickle points… do you really think you’ll be able to get the world to think you don’t?”
But theirs is the solution for when you have a support network of one. Without role models, or with lousy ones, when the home is in a state of collapse and the world outside is even less concerned, when the subtle but immovable might of institutional racism proliferates with an insidiousness nigh impossible to overcome… wouldn’t you entertain a similar attitude if you were afraid and alone in such a hostile environment? What faces do we wear on our way to combat, our way to prison?
AJ fronts as hard an image as he can muster. He’s short, thin, expressionless; the girls would think he was cute if he wasn’t trying so arduously to remove every trace of emotion from his face, all the time. The teenage years are vulnerable ones, and he hasn’t yet crested into that bewitching moment of easy confidence where he feels okay just being himself. These are the years beforehand, when we evaluated the cliques at school and chose one, wearing our false confidence with great energy, trying to be a vetted and existing “type,” for fear that we might be found out as mere individuals who don’t completely fit in anywhere– which, of course, is what we all have in common.
His slanted eyes don’t react when I greet him. I lean towards the philosophy of “trying and failing is the only way to succeed.” Regarding interactions, he seems to lean toward the opposite ethos of “don’t try, because you might fail.” Better to ignore something, for fear of no reciprocation. His friend Marcus spoils the effect, however: Marcus is tall, gregarious, and friendly, with a assured smile and a knack for conversation. I know their names because Marcus introduced us all long ago.
One evening AJ sauntered up from the back, slowly. Marcus was with him, but stayed a few steps behind and looked really awkward. No one else was aboard. AJ stopped right next to me and waited, as if searching for how to begin. I preemptively asked him how he was doing.
“Hey, me and my friend were kinda hungry tonight,” he said. “I was wondering if maybe we could have, like, five dollars.”
“Aw man, I appreciate you askin’ me, but I gotta say I can’t be carrying no money when I’m workin’. Especially on this number 7, you know? You know how it is. You know I would help if I could, but yeah, best I can offer is this transfer right here, but other than that…”
“I’m helpin’ out in spirit!”
“I know that don’t change things, but you know! I appreciate you askin’.”
“Yeah,” he slurred. “Iss all good.”
We analyzed the five maps the City of Seattle released last month: Aurora-Licton Springs, Capitol Hill, Crown Hill, Othello, and South Park. We also delved into the U District Rezone this week which will be one of the first rezones on the docket and have the most ambitious changes. Now the City has released the rest of the draft MHA rezone maps for urban villages, which includes 21 new maps (see after the jump).
As I suggested in my reaction to the first five maps, the City has used high-rise zones very sparingly. In fact, in the new maps the only use of zoning greater than 95 feet I saw was in Northgate where a few existing NC-125 zones are planned to go to NC-145. My major criticism is that the City should follow the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) committee suggestion to use zones of at least 120 feet to nudge developers out of stick frame construction. Northgate seems to be the only place where that is happening.
Some urban villages are seeing NC-95 which is in the grey area beyond Type 5 construction but shy of heights where concrete or steel construction pencils out well. 95-foot zones are going to struggle to get bids that fully use the zoning, especially without being breadloafs. In other words, NC-95 may not be a meaningful improvement over NC-85 (which was already being built similarly to NC-75).
Criticism aside, expansion of low-rise and mid-rise zones should be applauded and that enacting these changes would mean the affordability requirement–which we just learned is going larger than had been expected–fully goes into effect. This plan would be a major step forward.
Urbanists should hope to see some more aggressive changes, particularly in light rail station areas and especially in light of large “M2” style capacity increases unlocking the highest inclusionary requirement of 11% in high cost areas. Let’s create more M2 areas.
UPDATE (10/22/16): A full copy of the draft MHA rezone maps is available for download, but note that the PDF is over 200MB in size.
We have been covering the selection process all year long for the beefy neighborhood projects that are funded through the Neighborhood Street Fund program, a collaboration between the Department of Neighborhoods’ District Neighborhood Councils and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).
This year, with Seattle’s new transportation levy providing most of the funding for the projects, the final selection of which projects to receive the grants was moved from the neighborhood councils to the Levy to Move Seattle Oversight Committee. On Thursday evening that board selected, out of the 65 projects that made it through the NDC selection process, the ones that will be selected for the program, for design next year and construction in 2018.
In all, 12 projects got the green light to move forward, all adding up to a total project cost of $6.5 million dollars. Costs to conceptualize all 65 projects have already come in at around $700K, with an additional $800K to be allocated for planning costs for the next round of NSF grants in 2018, bringing the total cost for the NSF program to $8 million.
Here are the projects:
SW Spokane Street & Harbor Ave SW
This $300K project at the gateway between West Seattle and Downtown is perhaps most notable for a feature that would be pretty unique in Seattle: a dedicated bike signal that would function on a diagonal across Harbor Ave and Spokane St. Other improvements would attempt to improve visibility and sight lines and extend curbs to square them off. This is one of the most heavily trafficked areas for biking to and from West Seattle. Some “bike ramps” would connect at Avalon but a protected bike lane would require the removal of parking so that will likely go through further community process.
On Wednesday, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) held its second evening open house this week on street repaving plans for 2018. The open focused on various streetscape concepts for three corridors in Southeast Seattle, a follow-on from Monday’s open house which centered on streetscape concepts in Northeast Seattle.
In recent years, street paving projects have taken on the spirit of Seattle’s Complete Street ethos as a way to fully enhance roadways. Instead of just putting down pavement, SDOT also considers what other street improvements may be need for other modes and possible road safety redesigns. These often include improving the visibility of markings and signage, signals, lighting and landscaping, sidewalks and curb ramps, and stormwater facilities. SDOT has selected the following corridors for paving and streetscape improvements:
- S Columbian Way and S Alaska St;
- Swift Ave S, S Myrtle St/Pl, and S Othello St; and
- Wilson Ave S.
Compared to the Northeast Seattle paving corridors, the Southeast Seattle streets that SDOT has picked are markedly more concerning from a speed standpoint. Each of the the Southeast Seattle corridors currently experience speeds above the posted speed limit. The lowest average speed is at 32 mph (Wilson Ave S) in the 85th percentile (the speed at which 85% of motorists drive)–2 mph above the speed limit. Shockingly, two corridors clock in at more than 5 mph over the speed limit. Swift Ave S has an average traffic speed of 38 mph–8 mph over the speed limit–which is likely due to the combination of a hill, few conflicts at the edge of the road, and the fact that it leads directly to I-5. And the highest traffic speed is found on the S Columbian Way and S Alaska St corridor which averages 39 mph, a full 9 mph over the posted speed limit.
Only two of the four corridors in Northeast Seattle exceeded the speed limit and just one saw average speeds above 35 mph, that being a small hill segment on 35th Ave NE clocking in at 37 mph. Traffic volumes on the Northeast Seattle corridors are generally lower as well, meaning that while there is some speeding occurring, it’s happening at considerably lower rates than Southeast Seattle. Yet in the past five years, the Northeast Seattle corridors collectively have had 414 collisions and two fatalities whereas the Southeast Seattle corridors have only had 292 collisions (this is a fair comparison since the lane miles of the corridors in Northeast and Southeast Seattle are about the same).
A common theme with each of the three draft streetscape concepts for the Southeast Seattle paving projects should be fairly apparent: smaller lanes, improved bike facilities, and street designs that will likely push roadway speeds to fall.
Seattle Subway has been working hard lately to let folks know about Regional Proposition 1. Better known as Sound Transit 3, Proposition 1 is a transportation measure on the November ballot that guarantees expansion of light rail, commuter rail, and bus service throughout the Puget Sound over the next 25 years. In this latest video, Seattle Subways makes the case that a YES vote is needed to get the ball rolling on these projects. They point out that having approved projects now makes it more likely that the region will be able to get Federal dollars to speed up project timelines and that cities can also work to reduce delays by streamlining paperwork and required environmental studies. So take a gander at the video, then grab you ballot and vote YES on Proposition 1.
Below is an interview transcript with Victoria Basolo. This transcript is part of a series of interviews that are meant to shed light on how experts think about inclusionary zoning. You can see a full listing of all the transcripts here. This transcript was lightly edited for clarity.
Owen Pickford (OP): Are you familiar with what Seattle is going through right now with inclusionary zoning?
Victorial Basolo (VB): I’m not. I don’t know the specifics of what Seattle is doing.
OP: Do you want a quick background on what Seattle is doing and how we got here?
VB: Yes, please.
OP: Almost five years ago they implemented an incentive zoning program in one, small neighborhood in the city. It wasn’t used very much and it didn’t produce very many units. So over the last four years they started looking at doing something different. Initially they were looking at a program called linkage fees. There was a huge amount of push back. They convened a huge group of stakeholders and over the course of two years they developed 65 recommendations. The center piece is mandatory inclusionary upzones. They’re going to implement inclusionary zoning with an upzone in many different parts of the city that are called urban centers. These are basically areas of the city with capacity to grow.
VB: I don’t know the particulars but if you upzone a property the current owner gains in that upzoning, upzoning typically increases the value of the property. If a developer has to buy that property it just makes it more expensive to them. If a developer owns the property and you say, “Hey we’re going to let you upzone. We’ve just given you something.” That’s the best time for cities to negotiate for inclusionary units. It really matters to developers the cost of the land is really important. If a developer purchases the property before it is an upzone, the property will likely be more valuable after the upzone, it is a regulatory induced windfall. However, if the upzone occurs prior to the purchase by the developer, it does not have this effect because the land value is already embedded or capitalized in the price of the land.
OP: Yep. So the plan is, and they’re probably going to start doing this at the end of the year, they will actually do the upzones and the inclusion at the exact same time. It will be part of the planning process where they draw little lines around neighborhoods and say this neighborhood is going from x to y and while it’s happening it’s going to be required that 10% of your units built are affordable or something like that.
VB: So the market effect on the land of the increase is theoretically absorbed in down-pricing it because of the inclusionary. Is that the idea?
OP: That’s the intention I think, yes.
VB: This approach should work depending on the percentage of set-aside units required in the development. Ten percent will likely result in a win for the developer in terms of gain from upzoning compared to cost of including a small percentage of affordable units. Of course, if the percentage (or number) of affordable units is too small, then the policy will not serve many households. Still, inclusionary approaches should never be considered THE policy, but rather one tool in a hefty toolbox.