Intra-party challenge: Two Democrats are going head-to-head for the open Lt. Governor position in Washington.

CA rent control: California has another statewide rent control measure on the ballot ($).

Housing for all: King County has passed a small sales tax that will raise money for housing geared toward people experiencing homelessness.

Land use action: Is a mixed-use Neumos in the cards?

Count the people: The Washington bike and pedestrian count is back this week.

Rezoning Minneapolis: Where will Minneapolis’ next comprehensive plan take the city with rezones?

Selective classification: There are fewer than 300 wolverines left in the Pacific Northwest, so why aren’t they listed as endangered?

Authoritarianism at work: The Trump administration is trying to deny transit funding to cities that the fascist president does not like ($), including Seattle.

Philly downzoning blocked: Philadelphia’s mayor blocks a downzone in the city.

Burnside for bikes: A planned bike bridge connecting to the Burnside Bridge in Portland could come with a signalized crossing to help riders across the Burnside bridge deck.

Coastal doom: The climate crisis could spell financial doom for coastal Florida properties ($).

Many hands: How do development codes have a hand in traffic safety?

Investing in SJC: More clarity on Google’s mixed-use campus in Downtown San José comes into view.

Trip change: According to a report, riders haven’t entirely abandoned transit, they’re just taking much fewer trips.

LVT: In light of the pandemic, could a land value tax result in more equitable outcomes?

Twenty is plenty: 20 mph speed limits have come into force in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Corner stores invigorate: How can a corner grocery store invigorate a neighborhood?

Putting views over life: A San Diego transit agency is trying to construct fencing along a railway corridor for safety ($), but neighbors are trying to block the effort.

Starving Americans: The racist-in-chief at the White House tried to cut 700,000 people from food stamps, but a federal judge has blocked the draconian move ($).

ATL BRT: Atlanta’s first bus rapid transit project is progressing.

Pursue Vision Zero: What is the 94% error?

Apartment ban repealed: Cambridge, Massachusetts has opened up all residential zones for apartments, provided that they come with 100% affordable units.

Open streets: Oakland’s open streets program is still a work in progress, which Strong Towns argues is a good thing.

Pandemic art: Crosscut highlights six art spaces in Seattle that are using unconventional means of showcase amid the pandemic.

Car sewer project: Portland has pulled out of the state highway department’s I-5 Rose Quarter project.

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Stephen is an urban planner with a passion for promoting sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He advocates for smart policies, regulations, and implementation programs that enhance urban environments by committing to quality design, accommodating growth, providing a diversity of housing choices, and adequately providing public services. Stephen primarily writes about land use and transportation issues.

2 COMMENTS

  1. If you upzone Seattle’s neighborhoods is it any wonder that older music venues — really any music venues — are developed into TOD’s or dense housing?

    Housing other than in the commercial core is the most lucrative short term profit for developers. If a small grocery store, music venue, just about any commercial business, can suddenly become a condo tower a property owner would have to be crazy not to build the condo tower, and that is the definition of “gentrification”.

    What “New Urbanism” misses is if you grant or zone one property use much greater profit in the same zone then of course you will get that one use. If a small residential lot can become a three condo project that is what you will get. If a music venue can become a condo tower that is what you will get.

    There is such a fetish for “housing” in Seattle right now the zoning does nothing to protect all the small commercial/retail enterprises that are critical to creating a vibrant retail and pedestrian scene, and some kind of retail density because without retail density retail dies. These small retail enterprises are primarily one story because multi-level retail buildings create so much orphan space above the first level they are not profitable, and expensive to run and oversee, but now they can become three story or more housing projects because housing does profit above the street level.

    It is very difficult to tell one property in a zone it can have a certain height or use, when other properties get much more lucrative heights and use, which is housing. Once you allow more than one story you begin to marginalize the profit of retail and incentivize the profit of housing, because floors 2 through X are actually more valuable in a housing project.

    I have (had) some retail properties on Capitol Hill. They wanted to remain retail, but their property tax was based on the highest use — housing — and the profit from converting too lucrative, and the hassle of managing the property non-existent — they sold out to housing developers. You can see it now on Capitol Hill: housing and residents are increasing, but any kind of one story or local retail is vanishing.

    Most cities fight commercial construction in their cores from eliminating music or art venues, or other less lucrative uses compared to housing, and sometimes historical designation or other tools are used. Seattle is one of the few cities I have seen that has rezoned its residential neighborhoods to effectively eliminate retail in the long term in favor of housing density, which means multiple stories, which is where housing becomes so much more lucrative than retail. Some might argue housing projects should have to provide — or retain — retail, but in reality the lease rates in the new building are too high because new construction is the least affordable of all, and the developer doesn’t want retail: they want housing. So you lose retail, and even more importantly retail density.

    In the long run it doesn’t make for a very vibrant street scene, and leads of course to gentrification and forces out historical minority groups, but that is what zoning that doesn’t understand the most profitable use of the property over ideology will result in. You zone to get what you want. In Seattle that won’t include one story or independent retail, or any retail in residential zones, God forbid an authentic music venue. Just buy some headphones for your condo.

    • I think most folks here would advocate for mixed-use with retail at ground and residential or office above. Businesses sure don’t mind having customers live upstairs from their venue. Your plea for more music venues is interesting – but I wonder if they are dwindling because demand for them is dwindling. Seems like the current generation is more into a new brewery than a new music hall.

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