Monday, 20 May, 2019

The Book Lives


This lil’ thing just keeps chugging–thanks to you. We’ve printed a third run of books, in conjunction with my recent TED talk (which will be online shortly; stay tuned!). If you’ve already bought a copy, Thank You!! Tell your friends, your bookstores, book reviewers and others! It’ll be a while yet before this little endeavor is actually sustainable–even when considering how phenomenally it’s been doing.

That’s not just because books are a terrible way to get rich. It’s because I’m Nathan and I can’t help myself, in that the focus from day one has never been profit. When you leave the artists in charge of everything, it’s never about the money, for better or worse… This was always about making the best possible item we could for you, the reader.

This book is about that level of quality but also about something else, something deeper. I used to scoff at material objects– especially the buying of material objects–in a way that I’ve cooled down on in recent years. 

Because objects outlast loved ones.

Sunday Video: How Leonardo da Vinci Made a “Satellite” Map in 1502


Long before satellite was invented, Leonardo da Vinci made highly accurate maps mimicking the above view plan commonly found in satellite-based maps.

What We’re Reading: 5G Has Roadblocks, Decongest Seattle, and Reinvent Infrastructure


5G has roadblocks: 5G has its opponents over aesthetics.

Disney’s unique venture: Would Disney really build a nuclear power plant in Orlando?

Hateful leadership: A newly proposed federal housing rule could deny 55,000 children of immigrant families housing assistance.

Fairer burden for roads: Connecticut’s governor wants to toll highways across the state, ending the free ride to many many motorists.

Mixed use: Chicago is trying to make public housing better with inclusion of libraries ($).

War on Americans: The ill-advised tariff war by Donald Trump will increase the cost of ORCA cards ($).

Decongest Seattle: Sightline takes a deeper look at how decongestion charging in Seattle could work.

Lexington’s greenbelt threatened: America’s first greenbelt may be on its way out.

Highway state of mind: Why America’s roads are actually in bad shape.

Not so smart: Smart cities are not necessarily smart enough to consider people’s feelings.

A better way: How could America spend $2 trillion in transportation funding the right way?

Reinvent infrastructure: Paris has ideas to reuse aging infrastructure in a clever, new ways.

First Hill design review: The latest design review for a new development next to First Hill’s iconic First Baptist Church.

Grotesque grandstanding: Donald Trump is trying to clawback nearly $1 billion in funding for high-speed rail in California.

Eric, Fully


​He had one of those ‘normal’ names. Mono– or duo-syllabic, from the Western tradition: Christian, Jewish, something. Paul. Eric. You know. The kind I can never remember… and also the kind that humanizes a downtrodden face. All names do that, but it’s the ones we grew up with that double up in our mind, sandwiching in between the déjà vu of older memory.

I knew a lot of Erics as a child, grew up around Michaels and Matthews and Carlos’s, but never one with a face this scruffy, shaggy, stubbly, brow-beaten, aged, hollow, and slight. None of the Erics I sat next to in school dragged around a garbage bag large and lugubrious enough for me to fit inside of—or at least, not yet. 

This Eric did, though, and I was sorry to have forgotten his name, because he remembered mine. I’ll have to build up the nerve to ask him again– again– someday. His voice was raspier than a Leonard Cohen buzzsaw, and his name, ordinary as it was, served as a reminder that he was as we are, regular folks trying to make something of ourselves, for a month or for an hour.

“Hey. I went to Georgetown today,” he said. It sounded incongruous, such an innocuous statement declared so hoarsely, from such a scarred, battered, nigh war-torn visage. His was the face you’d have from leaning into a hard wind for six decades. But beneath that gravel-shredding guttural croak: hear the friendliness in his tone!

“That’s cool,” I said. 
“I’m going to apply for a job down there. I got a paper application.” 
“That’s right!” I replied, my memory jogging to life. “You got all kinds a stuff going on. Last time we talked I remember you were takin’ class somewhere.”
“Yeah I am.”
“Sweet. What classes are you takin’ again?”
“Accounting, I’m doing accounting, gardening—”
“Gardening that’s right—”
“And woodworking. I don’t wanna spend the rest of my life wearing a coat downtown, collecting cans.”
“Gets kinda old after a while.”
“Yeah. Plus you only make $67 a day. I’m gonna do building maintenance. Sweeping the floors, fixing up the bathrooms, changing light bulbs and stuff.”
“I like that kind a work,” I said, without irony. “Working with your hands. Feels good, like you’re really doing something.” 
“Yeah. It’ll be good,” he said. “I was a janitor before.”
“Oh you’ll get it then, you got prior experience.”
“Hope so. Anyways. I’ll let you drive. I thought I would tell you that though. I’m going up to Wenatchee next week.”
“What’s in Wenatchee?”
“It’s my hometown.”
“Oh cool. How’s the weather up there these days?”

He wasn’t a homeless person. He was a homeless person with an interest in gardening, who’d been a janitor, was enrolled in classes… who spent nights planning, musing on the future. 

Who thought about his hometown.

How many others coming upon his streetraggled form tonight will know of his secrets? What will they miss? Or will they have their kind eyes on, the eyes to see all this man is, was, and might ever be?

“Go get ’em,” I said, as he left. 
He grinned.

MASS Coalition Sponsors Series of Council Candidate Forums


The five Seattle City Council candidate forums will focus on mobility, housing affordability, and the climate crisis.

The election is fast approaching. Signs are appearing, candidates are jockeying for money and endorsements, and our city is pondering its identity. It seems we are at an inflection point and which path we choose could hinge on this election. Who wins these seven council races will determine how we deal with the problems of housing cost, homelessness, transportation, and climate change.

Ahead of the August primary election, the Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) Coalition is organizing a series of forums in five of the seven Seattle City Council districts. (Details at the bottom.) It’s a great chance to hear the candidates define and defend their positions.

Tale of Two Seattles

People seem to be living in different realities. In one, Seattle is dying and can only be saved by turning back the clock, turning to brutal crackdowns, and turning our back on racial equity efforts. In another reality, we’re going through a painful rebirth with a promise of a brighter future on the other side.

To people who think Seattle is dying, we are Free-attle. Homelessness and the crime they associate with it are caused by people moving here to take advantage of us and the solution is to criminalize poverty and chase people away. They think that businesses is being driven away by a profligate Seattle City Council that is wasting our money on bike lanes and social services. Led by the likes of Brier Dudley, this crowd holds sacred single-family zoning and home ownership as the one true path for the “middle” class. The kind of socialism they love is car-based: free unbridled access to all roads and abundant free parking. They think this is the election to wipe out Seattle’s progressive majority.

Vote for Seattle’s Worst Intersection: 2019 (Round 2)


Last week, we asked you to narrow down a slew of Denny intersections, and you did.

2017 winner Denny & Stewart advanced, while 2015 winner Denny & Terry narrowly lost to Westlake & Blanchard. Boren & Lenora also advanced. These three intersections will now compete against others across the city that were nominated.

We now have a bracket and a real competition! There are 16 reader-nominated intersections lined up for you to choose from in this week’s worst intersection survey.

The bracket is organized to support geographic diversity in the competition and this year’s regions are color-coded on the map below as follows:

  • South / West (south of Yesler and not downtown, includes West Seattle)
  • Northeast (north of 520 and east of I-5)
  • SLU / Central (South Lake Union and downtown)
  • SLU / North (West South Lake Union and areas North of South Lake Union and West of I-5)

Last year’s winner is located in Rainier Valley, and even though that intersection is being improved, there are plenty of other intersections worth considering from that area. Unfortunately, none of them were nominated this year.

Still, there are plenty of bad intersections across the city that are awful for all modes.

In making your choices, consider the intersections that are the worst for walking, biking, and busing (odds are they are bad for driving as well).

Review the nominations thread as you consider your decision and submit your vote by Friday May 24. We’ll announce the 8 intersections that advance the following week.

This Friday Is Bike Everywhere Day

SDOT brought in extra bike racks to accommodate all of the cyclists who turned out for a recent bike cafe event at Washington Hall in Central Seattle. Photo by author.

Don’t let the rainy forecast stop you from participating in one of the biggest cycling celebrations of the year.

Cascade Bicycle Club estimates that last year about 20,000 people across the Puget Sound region participated in their annual Bike Everywhere Day on May 17th. Despite this year’s gloomy forecast, Cascade hopes to beat that number and get even more people out on bikes and participating this year. Celebration stations across Seattle and in neighboring cities will be curbside with food and drinking, games, and opportunities to engage in bike advocacy.

Credit: Cascade Bicycle Club

Recent months haven’t been very kind to Seattle’s cyclists. News that the protected bike lanes planned for 35th Avenue Northeast had been cancelled was quickly followed by the revelation that Move Seattle Levy was running short on bike funds and that SDOT was going to have to make hard choices about what transportation safety projects to put on the shelf.

But not all is doom and gloom. The independent oversight committee that oversees the Move Seattle Levy has requested additional funding for implementing the Bicycle Master Plan. And last January, bike counts surged over previous records; more than 34,000 trips by bicycle were counted by Seattle’s three bike counters than had been counted in 2018, an increase of 27%.

The city is moving forward with plans to build protected bike lanes on Pike and Pine that will connect Capitol Hill with Downtown, which will open up an important east-west corridor cyclists of all ages and abilities. Additionally, SDOT is moving forward with plans to construct another protected bike lane on East Union Street, and currently has an E Union St protected bike lane community survey posted online for people to complete until May 31st. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) project team will also be hosting a community meeting at 20/20 Cycle in the Central District on Saturday, May 18th, from 1 to 4pm.

Plan Cities for the Working Class not for Real Estate Tycoons, Sam Stein Urges in ‘Capital City’

Capital City is out on Verso Books.

Samuel Stein’s new book Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State aims to challenge urban planning orthodoxy. Writing from a socialist perspective with New York City as his case study, Stein recounts how urban planning arose to meet the needs of capitalists, industrialists, and colonizers. Today, urban planning is firmly within the grips of the real estate state–an unholy alliance of global finance and megadevelopers–which is more powerful than ever, Stein argues.

After all, the president is a landlord and real estate tycoon, he points out, and his signature tax cut helped real estate developers most of all, furthering a pattern of preferential treatment for rich developers (and their bankers) while the working class continues to languish.

In fact, the conventional policy prescription for cities often amounts to stoking gentrification in Stein’s estimation. Hand out upzones and developer tax breaks and the ensuing supply boom will lower rents for all, the logic goes. Stein isn’t buying it.

In place of “gentrification planning,” Stein offers a radical alternative based on building renter power, threatening mass rent strikes, enacting rent control, building public housing in spades, and transforming urban planning to center historically marginalized voices. He admits that road is less certain and some radical solutions are still being formulated and fought for against the tremendous power of the real estate state. But Stein would rather be in the fight rather than reproducing the same inequalities of the past.

If you’re interested in hearing more from Sam Stein, you have two chances this weekend as part of Red May. At 7:30pm Friday May 17th, Stein will be on a panel titled Neoliberal Seattle: The City as Investment along with Mimi Sheller (Mobility Justice), Cedric Johnson (The Neoliberal Deluge: Hurricane Katrina and the Remaking of New Orleans), and filmmaker-Seattle City Council candidate Shaun Scott at The Summit. On Saturday May 18th, Stein will be doing a talk and book launch at Elliott Bay Book Company starting at 7pm.

Do homes filter to the working class?

As part of his argument, Stein seeks to knock down the justifications and defenses proponents of business as usual have put forward. One big defense is that building more housing automatically helps the working poor through lowering prices. The theory of filtering (or sorting) would suggest as wealthier people leave older housing and move into new housing, that older housing will become more affordable for everybody else. Stein holds that filtering or sorting rarely happens in practice. One reason why, Stein wrote, is the phenomenon of rich people buying homes for investments purposes and not even living in them.