Transit guru Jarrett Walker talks about how predictions of the future are often distracting and loaded when it comes to planning transportation networks. Instead, he says that geometry can show how transportation networks will perform now and in the future since geometry is a fixed variable. Walker also makes other points in his discussion, such as developing transit networks that focus on the liberty of riders to move about an area and that land use planners should be thoughtful in locating dense nodes and urban villages so that transit can effectively serve them.
“I really like the artwork in this building.”
Sitting on the late night bus headed home, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Our base is famous for how awful its artwork is. There are comments you hear not infrequently–how best to eject the art from the premises, whether or not to deface it on the eve of retirement… my driver friend continued. “Like the pictures that look like the old TVs, where they look staticky. I really like those.”
“Are you being serious or sarcastic?”
“No I’m being serious! I feel like I shouldn’t like them but I do like them.”
“Okay. That’s good to hear, I’ll look at them with a new perspective.”
“No, I’m terrible at picking artwork.”
“It’s all good!”
“But I see those and I just think, my kids’ll never see that.”
The evolution of Pike Place Market continues with a physical expansion of the market. In late June, the market heralded the opening of its new MarketFront pavilion, plaza, and artisan retail spaces. Architecture critic Mark Hinshaw has described it as the market’s “front porch,” an apt description since it reaches ever closer to the waterfront and gives the market some shareable outdoor space all its own.
The new MarketFront building now stands where the Municipal Market Building once called home. That building was lost to fire in 1974 and became a surface parking lot. The expansion is a deeply complex space that weaves together public open space, open air stalls for vendors and commercial space for local artisans, and low-income housing for seniors. The expansion also sits atop a parking garage and offers a community center to provide social services. The building flanks the west side of Western Avenue and uses a skybridge to connect with the main Pike Place Market building.
The main MarketFront building is two stories tall (not including parking levels) connecting floor with outdoor ramps and staircases. The top floor functions as a mixed plaza and open air vendor space. The plaza has an expansive overlook offering commanding territorial views of ElliottBay and Puget Sound, and carefully works in benches for seating and reflection. A series of landscaping beds softens and brightens the plaza space. Victor Steinbrueck Park will eventually be connected when a wall separating the public spaces comes down. The rooftop pavilion, which uses a semi-classic architectural design, is where daytraders and farmers can sell their goods. Up to 47 stalls are available to vendors in the pavilion.
The bottom floor functions differently as a place for marketgoers to visit artisan businesses, such as Indi Chocolate and Stove Brewing, which originated in the market and produce their goods on-site. Pike Place Market is calling this area of MarketFront the “Producers Hall,” which is fitting since the businesses literally face a hall that passes through to Western Avenue and the plaza. The plaza on the bottom floor is more expansive than the top and in many ways provides comparable territorial views. Pop-up vendors have taken to using the space on occasion, which offers yet another way to program the space and provide economic opportunities to vendors. Eventually, a landbridge will connect to the waterfront from the southend of the bottom floor.
The overall MarketFront design is modern with exposed concrete, touches of metal paneling, heavy use of cross-laminated timber, and large windows. Art installations are also speckled throughout the expansion. Local architecture firm Miller Hull lead the project design, but was supported by a variety of artists and designers to deliver the final product.
South of the main MarketFront building is the low-income senior housing. There are direct connections for tenants to the main MarketFront building, but it largely functions as its own space using a distinctly different modern architectural design, such as brush concrete and ribbed metal paneling. The color scheme is dark and earthy, which manages to blend with the main MarketFront building. A total of 40 units are located in the building, which includes seven live/work units. The building also houses a staffed neighborhood center on the ground floor level and can be used by the general public.
On Saturday, The Urbanist will be joining Friends of Waterfront Seattle for a close-up look at the MarketFront expansion. The tour will cover the history of the expansion project, community amenities and new vendors that the project facilitated, and plans for a landbridge connecting the MarketFront to the waterfront. Friends of Waterfront Seattle will also stop by their Western Avenue offices to learn more about the waterfront projects and offer a virtual reality simulation of things to come. While the tour is already full, you can still signup for the wait list.
Editor’s Note: This King County proposition wasn’t included in our original primary endorsements post, but better late than never! Vote by August 1st.
We endorse Prop 1: Access For All, the King County proposition with the goal of increasing art, science and heritage funding.
The measure continues our state and region’s unfortunate habit of relying on regressive taxation, adding to our already high sales tax. Specifically, it would raise the county’s sales tax 0.1% or by one cent per $10 spent. Essentials like food and prescription drugs would be exempt from this tax.
The campaign supporting Prop 1 addressed the tax equity issue: “Until both the Washington constitution and authorizing legislation are changed, we are limited to the sales tax to raise money for needed programs like Access for All.”
Local preservationists were dealt a significant victory today in a Supreme Court ruling that partially settled the primacy of Seattle’s preservation ordinance. The unanimous decision reverses a lower court’s decision on whether or not the City of Seattle’s preservation laws apply to property owned by the University of Washington (UW) and could serve to inform similar disputes where a local jurisdiction asserts its development regulations on property of other state agencies.
The case arose from the UW’s desire to demolish the More Hall Annex and replace it with a new computer science building. The building was originally constructed in 1961 to facilitate a nuclear reactor, but the UW eventually decommissioned and removed the reactor in 1988 leaving it empty for well over 20 years. When the UW began to move toward demolition in 2015, a modern architecture preservation group known as “DOCOMOMO” nominated the structure for landmark designation under the City of Seattle’s preservation ordinance. Following that, the UW sued in order to obtain summary judgement that preservation ordinance could not apply to the UW for various reasons. The UW succeed in their suit in the lower court and demolished the structure last July.
However, the City of Seattle appealed the case to the Supreme Court to settle the issue. A chorus of other ogranizations, such as the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Washington State Association of Municipal Attorneys (WSAMA), and Futurewise, joined the City of Seattle and DOCOMOMO in defense of the City’s preservation ordinance and its applicability to the UW’s campus. In review of the case, the Supreme Court considered four key questions:
A. Is the Regents’ “full control” over UW property “except as otherwise provided by law,” as expressed in RCW 28B.20.130(1), subject to limitation by applicable state statutes?
B. If so, is UW a “[s]tate agenc[y]” that must comply with local development regulations adopted pursuant to the Growth Management Act (GMA) in accordance with RCW 36.70A.103?
C. If so, is the [local preservation ordinance (LPO)] a local “development regulation” that was “adopted pursuant to” the GMA in accordance with RCW 36.70A.103?
D. Is UW a property “‘[o]wner”‘ as defined by SMC 25.12.200 such that the LPO applies to UW’s Seattle property?
In answering the first question, the court said that other state statutes can indeed limit the UW’s Board of Regents’ authority on property controlled by the UW. “To have full control of the university and its property of various kinds, except as otherwise provided by law,” states RCW 28B.20.130(1). The court held that the RCW is “unequivocal” that UW Board of Regents have full control on university property, except when its limited elsewhere by statutes. In the courts’ determination, that includes a large body of laws. Obvious statutes include the Shoreline Management Act, State Building Code Act, and Growth Management Act (GMA). The only cases where other statutes would not take precedence is when there is specific overriding statutes or direction by the Washington State Legislature to Regents that exempt the university from other bodies of law, such as Seattle’s preservation ordinance.
However, in further discussion on this point, the court noted that there are indeed statutes that may limit the scope of Seattle’s preservation ordinance:
UW also points to RCW 28B.20.700, which empowers the Regents “to provide for the construction, completion, reconstruction, remodeling, rehabilitation and improvement of buildings and facilities authorized by the legislature for the use of the university” as proof that it cannot be subject to the LPO via the GMA. Unfortunately for UW, this statute says nothing about demolishing any buildings, and it does not give the Regents any authority over buildings or facilities on UW property that were not authorized by the legislature for the use of the university. However, UW is seeking a holding that the LPO cannot ever be applied to any UW property in any way. There are certainly factual scenarios where the LPO might conflict with the Regents’ specific authority and thus be inapplicable, but again, those scenarios must be considered in their specific factual contexts.
On the second question, the court held that the UW is a “state agency” and therefore subject to the GMA in accordance with RCW 36.70A.103. “The term ‘state agency’ is not defined by either the GMA or the regulations interpreting it,” the court said. The prevailing interpretation of the courts is to use ordinary meanings when a term in statute is not defined.
On the third question, the court refused to make a determination on whether or not Seattle’s preservation ordinance was adopted as a local development regulation under the GMA. Instead, the court said that the merits of that issue would need to be determined by the Growth Management Hearings Board and that the UW would have to file a petition for consideration on those grounds.
On the fourth question, the court provided a technical and protracted discussion about disputes over the interpretation of terms, including “person” and “corporation” as it relates to ownership and the preservation. Ultimately, the court determined that the UW is a property owner covered by Seattle’s preservation ordinance.
Concluding their remarks on the case, the Supreme Court stated that:
The Regents enjoyed over a century of plenary authority over UW property. It is understandable that UW is resistant to changing that structure. It is also understandable that UW takes offense at any suggestion that it does not sufficiently value its own historical resources. However, it is up to the legislature, not UW, to grant, expand, restrict, or rescind the Regents’ authority. The plain language of the current statutes provide that the Regents’ authority is subject to limitation by applicable state statutes, including the GMA’s provision that state agencies must comply with local development regulations adopted pursuant to the GMA. UW property that is located in Seattle is thus potentially subject to the LPO absent a specific, directly conflicting statute. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of UW and remand for entry of summary judgment in favor of the City and DOCOMOMO.
The case is an important statement on the intersection of local development regulations and the freedom–or restriction on freedom–of decision-making afforded to other public agencies that own land within cities and counties. The outcome of the case could have future implications for similar cases between local jurisdictions and other creatures of the state. But perhaps most importantly, the case emphasizes fairness as the WSAMA argued in their amicus brief. The GMA “is unworkable if development regulations are not applied equally.”
Featured image courtesy of Joe Mabel via Wikipedia.
A new public plaza space in Eastlake has gotten its blessing from the Seattle City Council. Constructed by a private developer, the 4,573-square foot plaza occupies a small 23-foot wide strip of public right-of-way on E Howe St. The plaza space provides the beginnings of a functional pedestrian connection from Eastlake Ave E to the Fairview Ave E. Future development will fully bridge the gap in the connection to provide an important downhill pedestrian corridor. Prior to the development, E Howe St west of Eastlake Ave E was unopened public right-of-way.
In December 2014, the City granted a subterranean street vacation of E Howe St to the developer so that a connected underground parking garage could be built. As a condition of the street vacation, a public benefits program from the developer was required. The developer chose to satisfy that condition by creating a unique public street that includes public artwork, pedestrian-oriented lighting and seating, and landscaping along E Howe St. At the confluence of Yale Pl E and Eastlake Ave E stands a sculpture by Mike Phifer called “Renuion.”
The developer had to seek a street use permit from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and approval from the City Council, which was granted for an initial 10-year term. Conditions of the street use permit put the onus for street maintenance and repair on Greystar (the property owner) for as long as the permit exists. The public benefits of this should be obvious, but there are also some small monetary benefits to the City, too.
The annual fee for the street use permit is approximately $5,100. SDOT bases the annual fee on assessed value of right-of-way to be used. Other inputs in the permit fee calculation include how much right-of-way impact that the use would pose (known as “alienation”) and an 8% rate of return. In this case, that’s estimated to be $140 per square foot at a 10% right-of-way alienation–a relatively small right-of-way impact.
While the plaza will serve the wider public, it also provides direct benefit to two new four-story mixed-use buildings flanking it. The new structures are oriented toward the pedestrian street and even include building entrances that open onto it. Nearly 100 new dwelling units–a mix of live/work and apartment units–are interspersed throughout the buildings. And two ground floor retail spaces are located at the confluence of Yale Pl E and Eastlake Ave E.
Together with the plaza, this type of infill development shows how creative and fine-grained design can deliver valuable community goods.
On Tuesday, the Seattle City Council got an update on the proposed Roosevelt RapidRide corridor. Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) staff shared details on the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) for the line, a required milestone for federal funding, which point to a transit line mimicking the one conceived in earlier drafts. Buses on the Roosevelt RapidRide corridor would provide much more frequent and faster service from Roosevelt to Chinatown-International District than comparable bus service running today. SDOT hopes to launch the line in 2021, to line up pretty closely with the opening of Link Light rail service to Northgate. The plan, however, is a somewhat watered-down version from the one presented last year. Both bike and transit advocates will finds things to like and dislike.
Readings To Challenge Your Urbanism
“Without theory we can scarcely claim to know our own identity.” – David Harvey
So you think you’re an urbanist, right? Cities are magnets of diversity. Cities are more sustainable then sprawl. Cities encourage better social capital, democratic participation, and inclusivity. Cities are centers of technological innovation, economic growth and job creation. In total, cities are our future, and your unwavering belief in the growing metropolis guides your urbanism.
The urbanist is a student of and specialist in planning our cities, advocating for necessary policies and infrastructure.
But maybe, just maybe, you’re not an urbanist!
Have you questioned what truly underlies your beliefs and understandings in how cities best function? Does your educated knowledge and rational understandings of the urban supplant that of others living within our urban spaces?