The Historic Preservation We Need: Four Floors and Corner Stores

Photo of a single-story duplex in Wallingford, with three-story townhomes behind it.
A non-conforming mid-twentieth century duplex in a single-family zone in Wallingford. Behind it are townhomes built along an arterial.

We cannot escape the echoes of history. I live in and own a house in a formerly redlined section of Wallingford. This house was built in 1916, just north of an industrial district, during a period of rapid development in the neighborhood, 47 years after Seattle was re-incorporated in 1869 on Duwamish lands with a population of about 1,000.  

A neighborhood inventory published in 1976 by Folke Nyberg and Victor Steinbrueck noted that “Wallingford reached its physical development peak in the 1910s” even while lamenting the population decline that started in the 1950s as “families increasingly moved to the suburbs leaving behind a growing proportion of elderly and transient young people.” 

In the midst of this population decline, leaders in the Wallingford Community Council proudly orchestrated a downzoning of residential zones in the 1970s to exclude duplexes and prevent University of Washington students from over-running the neighborhood.  

That decline reversed in the mid-1980s. In the last 40 years — nearly the same amount of time between the construction of my house and the founding of our city — Seattle’s population has grown by nearly 60% from 493,000 to 776,000. Because our single-family homes in Wallingford have obstinately done the land-use equivalent of manspreading for more than a century — taking up an inequitable amount of space despite the population boom — since 1982, the assessed value of this house and land has increased about 1,300%.  

While my single-family house — and a Craftsman to boot! — isn’t unique, it’s also not the only type of home here. This formerly redlined and declining area of Wallingford — and in fact many areas of the neighborhood — is generously sprinkled with housing that became outlawed by the 1970s Wallingford Community Council. 

Closeup of the redlined district in Wallingford. It covers approximately Interlake on the west to the Ship Canal on the east, from Gas Works Park north to 38th.
Redlined district in Wallingford. The C-6 area was described as “very close to a gas plant which is causing a smoke and odor nuisance.” The D-2 are was painted as a “blighted” area adjacent to said gas plan, which is now Gas Works Park. (Map from the “Mapping Inequality” project.)

I bought my first house in Wallingford in 1998, also in this redlined district, with generational wealth. Two homes down the street is a duplex built in the 1940s into which one of the current mayoral candidates moved a couple years later. Across the street is a phalanx of three duplexes. My present block has a duplex built in 1900, a triplex built in 1911, a duplex built in 1950, and another built (somehow) in 1982. That last duplex, assessed for $153,000 in 1982 recently sold for around $1.4 million, an 800% increase in 40 years, a sum that even generational wealth gasps to attain.  

Photo of a single story side-by-side duplex in Wallingford, Seattle.
A Wallingford duplex, a housing form now illegal to build on 70% of Seattle residential land. 

These multifamily homes scattered among the formerly “hazardous” and “blighted” blocks near me aren’t unusual. When we look across the neighborhood, there are about 350 multifamily or commercial buildings in zones where building such homes is banned today. This non-conforming housing includes a couple of condominiums, many duplexes, a healthy number of triplexes and quadplexes, two “rooming houses”, units above corner stores, and even a couple dozen apartments.  

In the 1998 — the year I moved to Wallingford — a group of residents recommended that Seattle reduce density in the new Wallingford urban village area bounded by Aurora Avenue to the west, 40th and 50th Streets, and where Ezell’s Famous Chicken now resides.

Text of the Wallingford Plan advocating to downzone portions of Wallingford.
Pages 22 and 23 of The Wallingford Plan outline scheme to freeze single-family areas and downzone Stone Way. (City of Seattle)

There is somewhat of a pattern to this development. In the 130 years since Wallingford streets and parcels were first platted, most of the neighborhood was built as single-family homes. Nevertheless, hundreds of multifamily homes were built before they were banned completely in 1970s. But these homes tended to be built outside of the district that became the Urban Village. 

Photo of two single-story duplexes in Wallingford.
A pair of now-illegal duplexes nestled among single-family homes in Wallingford. 

The Wallingford Urban Village was created in 1994 with the intention to “deliver services more equitably, pursue a development pattern that is environmentally and economically sound, and provide a better means of managing growth and change through collaboration with the community in planning for the future of these areas.” As a “residential urban village,” Wallingford was intended to provide a “focus of goods and services for residents and surrounding communities but may not provide a concentration of employment.”  

A map of the Wallingford Urban Village before the 2019 Mandatory Housing Affordability rezones. About half of the Urban Village was zoned (the light yellow) to exclude duplexes and apartments. 
The Urban Village is bounded by 40th St on the south, 50th St on the north, Aurora on the West, and approximately Wallingford to Meridian on the east.
A map of the Wallingford Urban Village before the 2019 Mandatory Housing Affordability rezones. About half of the Urban Village was zoned (the light yellow) to exclude duplexes and apartments. 

Despite these goals of equitable services and environmentally sound and managed growth, about half of the Urban Village banned housing other than single-family houses until 2019 (see the light yellow areas in the map above). Only the Stone Way and N/NE 45 St corridors and the blocks along Aurora Ave allowed apartments.  

And here is where the echoes of history become visible like the reverberations of a dinosaur in a Jurassic Park cup. The redlining in Wallingford didn’t serve to segregate Black people as it did in many other Seattle neighborhoods; Wallingford had sundown laws to keep out anyone but White people. (See also this excellent history by Shaun Scott for more on racism and zoning.) 

A 1939 UW thesis by Gordon Beebe drew the connection between housing and environmental conditions, stating, “The gas plant on the north shore of Lake Union has exerted such an effect by depressing the value of residential property which is a considerable distance from it.” We can see this echoed in the non-conforming multifamily housing today. 

There tends to be more multifamily housing in south Wallingford closer to the old gas plant, which closed in 1956. In addition, along the shoreline were an asphalt company, a garbage incinerator, an ammonia plant, and lumber mills. The east side, in a few blocks just up the hill from a legacy industrial zone, saw duplex development in the 1950s and 1960s simultaneous with planning and construction for I-5. The west side is predominantly zoned multifamily between the historically industrial Stone Way and the Aurora Avenue freeway. The few western blocks that remained single-family zoning until this century thus similarly saw a concentration of multifamily development. As we go further north to the heart of the Wallingford commercial district and the Urban Village, there’s fewer multifamily homes.

A two-story brick duplex in Wallingford.
Another mid-20th century duplex in Wallingford. (Photo by author)

The Department of Commerce inventoried the housing south of N/NE 40th St in 1934, finding that 10% of the area was multifamily housing, compared to 9% citywide. Beebe did a further inventory, finding both that only Whites lived in the area and that 21% of the district was substandard housing, compared to 17% citywide. However, Beebe made the claim that the housing quality below N/NE 40th St was starkly lower than north of N/NE 40th St, where the modern Urban Village is located. 

In the map below of Wallingford, I’ve indicated multifamily housing on parcels that were zoned single-family prior to 2019. You can see from the map below that the concentration of multifamily housing is rather light within the Urban Village (the area within the black boundary). I’ve indicated the redlined area with red and the “blighted area” with a purple line. 

An inventory of every non-conforming multifamily building in Wallingford built before the 2019 Mandatory Housing Affordability rezones in a single-family zone. There are about 350 non-conforming buildings in current single-family or Residential Small Lot zones. There are 69 buildings within the Urban Village on parcels now zoned Lowrise 1 or higher. Map by the author. Click image for a larger version.
An inventory of every non-conforming multifamily building in Wallingford built before the 2019 Mandatory Housing Affordability rezones in a single-family zone. There are about 350 non-conforming buildings in current single-family or Residential Small Lot zones. There are 69 buildings within the Urban Village on parcels now zoned Lowrise 1 or higher. Map by the author. Click image for a larger version.

The historical legacy has echoes in political power as well. In the wake of the construction of the North Transfer Station in the formerly redlined district, the Wallingford Community Council formed, stating “Our community is the victim of the automobile. The residential character of our neighborhood is in jeopardy, and we believe it to be essential that major improvements be made. Otherwise our neighborhood, as we know it, will cease to exist.” 

This apocalyptic concern for the “residential character” — though not for the destruction wrought by the automobile — persists in the heart of the neighborhood, including a 2017 Wallingford Community Council-led stunt funeral for the “neighborhood voice”. The opposition to the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) upzones of the Urban Village came largely from residents north of N/NE 40th St, the area with a lower density of non-conforming housing sprinkled throughout the single-family houses. The south end of neighborhood, having less economic power due to environmental degradation, saw more multifamily development. The north end, having experienced less of it, came to see single-family houses as their birthright character, and thus strongly opposed the change. 

A non-conforming mid-twentieth century apartment building in a single-family zone in Wallingford. (Photo by author)

This power has been employed to concentrate multifamily housing in “less desirable” locations. In the first half of last century, this meant locations such as near a gas plant. Today, this means along arterials that we know are harmful to residents health and safety. During the MHA battle of 2015-19, Seattle Fair Growth was formed by a group of long-time Seattle homeowners including a former Wallingford Community Council board member and a current Seattle Council member’s legislative aide. Their foundational argument was that current zoning — zoning that concentrates new housing along arterials — was more than sufficient for our needs. Seattle Fair Growth used their power to weaponize environmental review to delay implementation of a minor rezone. (Only 6% of single-family zoned land was upzoned for MHA, while all multifamily land was.)  

Irwin’s Bakery, at Bagley Ave N and N 40th St, is zoned single-family. It would be illegal to build this community favorite today. (Google Maps)
Irwin’s Bakery, at Bagley Ave N and N 40th St, is zoned single-family. It would be illegal to build this community favorite today. (Google Maps)

But sometimes the echoes of history are lost. Neighborhood conversations opposing new construction tend to forget that our historical development patterns gave us corner stores within walking distance of most homes. They’ve lost the concerns prior residents had about the negative impact the automobile had on the neighborhood and our local businesses. Most every new multifamily building is greeted with outrage on Nextdoor or the Wallingford Facebook page that there won’t be an off-street parking spot for each new home, despite many of us in single-family homes not having, or not using, our own off-street parking.  

This new construction is also condemned for the quality of construction versus that of all these old houses, complaints that, as Beebe reminded us, are certainly not new and that many of our century-old homes were subjected to decades ago. 

Another persistent complaint is that new construction simply enriches developers, despite our neighborhood being named for the developer John Wallingford. What this ignores is the vast wealth that accrues to homeowners, wealth gained not by creating housing, but by simply holding it. Across the street from Hamilton Middle School, a multifamily development within the urban village is garnering organized opposition. The single-family house was sold to the developer in 2020 for $1.19 million, a 22% profit over the purchase price in 2018. All told over the last 30 years, this parcel increased in value by $1.05 million, or 845%. 

Research done by Microsoft in 2019 found that Seattle lacks nearly 200,000 affordable homes. Today — after 100 years of reducing where apartments, condominiums, duplexes and quadplexes can be built, and despite the 2019 MHA upzones — approximately 70% of the land where housing can be built is restricted to only single-family homes. The result is we’re seeing older and smaller apartments in multifamily zoning torn down and replaced by larger buildings. We’re seeing older single-family homes demolished not to house more people, but just to create more house. In Wallingford over the last decade, we’ve seen about 100 single-family homes demolished and replaced by newer, larger single-family houses. There’s currently two dozen in the permitting process. The map below tells that story, the yellow dots new single-family houses, the yellow squares pending construction.

Map of Wallingford showing all development sites over the past eleven years. Many dozens of the development sites are for single-family homes.
The Seattle Housing Growth Report maps housing constructed over the last decade. The yellow dots are new single-family houses. 

And here’s another echo from history. The redlining in Wallingford created economic separation. This same economic separation is raging around us today. About 47% of Seattle renters are rent burdened, which both drives homelessness and flight from the city. This economic and housing policy choice has hollowed out the Central District, where the percentage of Black residents has plummeted from 75% to 15%. Seattle’s Black population is at its lowest percentage since the 1960s. Median income for Black households is less than half that of White ones. And 73% of Black households rent. Meanwhile, the Black population in King County has risen dramatically. This points to an undeniable reality: our housing policy has created a new redlining, not one drawn on maps, but one implicit in our Zillow valuations.  

Photo of a three-story McMansion in Wallingford side-by-side with the old 1.5 story Craftsman that was demolished to build it.
Inside the Wallingford Urban Village, a 1.5 story Craftsman sold for $650,000 and was replaced with a $2.25 million 3-story 3450 square foot single-family home. This construction was permitted before the MHA rezone upzoned it from SF-5000 to LR1 (M). (Left is Google Maps; right is from the King County Assessor)

And for my fellow Wallingford homeowners: don’t think we’re immune. With the median house value topping $800,000, our generational wealth is increasingly insufficient for our children to live in the city in which they were raised. Instead of fighting against neighborhood change and housing, we can instead embrace it and shape it so that we can welcome back those who’ve been displaced, and so Generation Z will have equitable opportunity to build a more welcoming Wallingford and a better Seattle.  

A very large and boxy three-story house in Wallingford.
Another Wallingford 4190-square foot megahome that replaced a modest house. This new house does contain an accessory dwelling unit. 

Since 2010 we’ve averaged just 6,600 new homes per year, only a meager percentage of those affordable. We need a vision for massive and sustainable public investment in housing that commits to eliminating the deficit of affordable housing in five years. We need a robust discussion about whether design review, a hurdle homeowners created in 1994, achieves better buildings or if it simply results in expensive delays and environmentally destructive and costly modulations. We need vigorous innovation in financing, and land use, and building standards if we’re going to create 15-minute cities this century let alone this decade.  

Coming soon is a major revision to the Growth Management Act. Our housing policy with concomitant transportation, environmental, and economic plans must be improved. Washington State legislators this season punted on many housing bills, even ones that would have offered the most gentle density in keeping with “neighborhood character”. And worse, we still aren’t earmarking enough money to fund public investment in the hundreds of thousands of homes we need. 

This year is a mayoral election, and housing opportunities must be central to the conversation. It’s time to stop debating whether we should end the duplex ban across all of our residential land. The Seattle Planning Commission resoundingly concluded in 2018 that we must expand the forms of housing permitted across all of our residential land.  

Two years later with a housing crisis that has only worsened, the question before us is now whether the historical development model of single story duplexes and two story apartments is adequate to the massive deficit in housing we face today, or if we need more. 

I say, let’s go bold: open the city to at minimum four floors and corner stores across every residential parcel. That’s what a 15-minute city requires. It’s what our teachers, and nurses, and paralegals, and artists, and line cooks need. It’s what our kids will need to find a home in the city in which they were raised.

I for one would be near first in line to volunteer my home for redevelopment according to housing patterns proven around the world.  

Want to take action? If you’d like to ensure that Wallingford becomes more welcoming to new neighbors, you can join the campaign to ask the Seattle City Council to review historic preservation and its role in undermining equitable housing across Seattle.

Want to learn more? Here’s a few resources: 

Correction: Data around the number of single-family home demolitions replaced by larger single-family homes was corrected.

We hope you loved this article. If so, please consider subscribing or donating. The Urbanist is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that depends on donations from readers like you.

Paul Chapman lives in Wallingford and advocates for progressive urbanist causes. You can follow him on Twitter at @PoulChapman.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Michael F

Hey Paul. The caption you provide on the Seattle Growth Housing Report is incorrect, as is your claim that “over the last decade, we’ve seen about 150 single-family homes demolished and replaced by newer, larger single-family houses.” The majority of the yellow dots you indicate to be “new single-family houses” are actually old single family that have been demolished and replaced with denser housing.

The yellow dots represent residential permits for single family dwellings, including new construction and demolition. Some yellow dots represent houses that were demolished and replaced with apartments. And because of how the map is rendered, when a single address has one permit for the demolition of a single-family dwelling and a second permit for the construction of a multi-family dwelling (usually a 2 or 3 unit townhome), the dot appears as yellow.
e.g. the two dots on the south-west corner of Whitman and 45th represent two single family homes that were demo’d in 2015 and replaced with 8 rowhouses.

Last edited 6 months ago by Michael F

Thanks to the new DADU rules, any longtime Wallingford homeowner with a 4,000 square foot or larger lot could use windfall home equity to build a precise replica of little old Wallingford houses (these are about 1,000 square feet), condo-ize and sell it for half the market rate of what these older homes cost to a grateful family and still make a profit–and create both more affordable home ownership and preserve the look of old (formerly) working class houses at the same time.

little old wford.jpg
Last edited 6 months ago by Bryan
Sarajane Siegfriedt

Paul Chapman is fixated on finding fault with Wallingford. Did Wallingford pass sundown laws? No, they applied to all of Seattle north of the Ship Canal, plus Magnolia, Queen Anne and West Seattle. Did Wallingford pass exclusionary zoning? No, the Wallingford Community Council is part of Seattle and doesn’t have the ability to legislate.

Was racially restrictive zoning outlawed in the 20s? Yes, but zoning per se is not racist but classiest, and blame for the racist lenders and Realtors, the actual authors of redlining and racist covenants, is omitted. And where on the map are red lines in Wallingford? Missing, because they applied to the Central District, where Black families were allow to purchase homes, and not to Wallingford. The areas on the map indicating industrial uses near the Ship Canal are not racial redlining. We who care about history demand accuracy.

Also your reference to Seattle Fair Growth (one of 27 appellants) as responsible for the MHA appeals has a link to SCALE, the actual sponsor.

Last edited 6 months ago by Sarajane Siegfriedt

The fact that Wallingford (but to my knowledge not other North Seattle neighborhoods, at least not yet) is trying to do a very specific, very big, very reactionary thing by grossly abusing historic preservation law to continue the dark tradition of exclusion all of North Seattle is implicated in seems like a pretty good reason to focus on Wallingford at this time.

Plus, he lives there! If people were trying to do this wicked, cynical thing to my neighborhood, I’d be pretty focused on my neighborhood to.

Ryan DiRaimo

Great article. I don’t get why so many people in our city fight against being a city. Seattle is a city, not a suburb. We do not have the space to spread out single family zoning across 30 square miles. Manhattan is 20 square miles, Barcelona is 39 square miles, Paris is 40 square miles. Seattle’s single family zoning takes up THIRTY SQUARE MILES.

We aren’t a small city, just a small minded one.

Developers built all the city you see today, in different eras, and profited the whole way. It’s called business. A new car costs 10X more than a used one because we have enough supply of cars that we don’t all fight over the muffler dragging one that has 200,000 miles on it. This is simply supply based economics.

Since 2010 Seattle has had 3,000 single family homes torn down and replaced by new single family homes, a net gain of 0. You want to know why this is a housing crisis? That’s why. We artificially restricted our ability to grow. Had we allowed a gain of homes in new construction, our older homes (like the older cars) would still be cheaper.

Zoning doesn’t prevent demolition, it only prevents what goes in it’s place.

Last edited 6 months ago by Ryan DiRaimo

Fantastic piece, Paul.

I lived in a Wallingford rental from 2000-2005 (ironically, it was once a 2-plex, 4/1 up 2/1 down; the city had forced the landlord to not just return it to single family status but to rip out at least one appliance from the basement kitchen, to make sure she didn’t try and rent it as a duplex again when they weren’t looking). It was in an older part of Wallingford with row houses, duplexes, and small apartments scattered throughout the single family homes.

I didn’t know or care about housing policy at the time, but the experience inoculated me against the view that exclusionary single family zoning is necessary for a neighborhood to be desirable, successful, attractive, etc. The neighborhood was extremely desirable, and neighboring homes we appreciating at faster rates than the already quite rapid citywide rate.

Oh and we were forced to waste a perfectly good bedroom, costing each pretty broke housemate 100 bucks or so, because of Seattle’s reactionary 5 people max-unrelated-per-unit rule.


open the city to at minimum four floors and corner stores across every residential parcel.” As a person who has lived in the skinny townhouses and the single family home, the big thing that would change my mind on the need to retain a single family home would be <5min to a park. Let’s update that bold statement to “corner stores and PARKS”.


Agreed Dianna. But more parks are not being advocated for, and developers building these dense tall homes are allowed to take down old mature trees to do so.
So, we get less affordable neighborhoods, that are more dense and building shaded, with fewer trees, and no new open spaces.

Ryan DiRaimo

Why are new cars always more expensive than used ones?

Ryan DiRaimo

Seattle has more park space per square mile than Manhattan


We did the upzoning of 27 neighborhoods just like the Urbanists (which are many times developers and architects) wanted. The Urbanists said this would create affordable housing – everyone opposed saw the truth – that the upzone was written for developers to benefit developers. It would only create the housing that would give the developers the highest profit for the least cost. Thus every lot in upzoned area is being built up with skinny tall rowhouses that cost upwards of $800,000.00 each. The land is denuded of vegetation and trees creating a larger heatsink effect. And no impact fees mean taxpayers are the ones saddled with the cost of improving sewers, electrical grid, traffic controls, roads and schools. Oh and since the developers don’t need to provide parking – the neighborhood has to absorb the impact of the cars that come into “no-car” developments too. It’s no panacea.

The better way would be to put job centers not just in downtown but also surrounding cities like Everett, Tacoma, Shoreline, etc. Also, ban REIT’s from purchasing houses in Seattle so people who want a house have less competition. Those things could bring prices down some.


The better way would be to put job centers not just in downtown but also surrounding cities like Everett, Tacoma, Shoreline, etc.

In other words, sprawl. Yeah, that would be great for the environment. Rather than get rid of a few trees in the city to build apartments, we can get rid of lots of trees in the suburbs to build big houses on big lots! Heck, we can create way more heat sinks there, while thrashing a more natural ecosystem — sounds like a great plan. The great part is, all of this new development won’t help developers, unlike the development in the city.

Sorry, but more dense development is better for the environment and it leads to lower prices where people want them (in the city). Of course it helps developers — just like more food helps farmers. I never understand why people think that those who build homes are somehow evil.

Ryan DiRaimo

It has created affordable housing. All the new projects pay into the program and the city is building more of it. A skinny rowhouse is contributing to that fund, a single family $2M mansion new construction is exempt from it.

Your anti developer talk is really bizarre since Wallingford was named after John Wallingford, their first neighborhood developer. In fact, most of Seattle that you’re pining for was built by developers who profited and moved on.

You don’t build housing, they do. I don’t ask my accountant to be my doctor either.


Funny that this shows pictures of duplexes “nestled“ into single family zones, but doesnt show the modern towering million dollar 1400 ft skinny row homes that do nothing to provide affordability at all, only displace lower income families renting some of these older properties.

On my Block in Wallingford a converted craftsman two unit affordable duplex, “nestled” into the neighborhood each unit renting for $1400 and $1000 respectively, was sold, the low income tenants kicked out, and seven, yes count that seven, million dollar skinny row homes are being built in their place for more [ad hominem] like Paul with his generational wealth.

So far I haven’t seen any old affordable homes that Paul despises, knocked down and in their place new affordable units with the same rent erected.

So at the end of the day, Paul suggests we up zone everything , Accelerating the loss of older beautiful historical homes in livable neighborhoods.

What we get in return are hugely expensive row homes for more tech Bro’s just like Paul with his generational and tech wealth, and we lose affordability, increasing gentrification for people of modest means already there.


[Ad hominem]


The land value of a single family teardown in Wallingford is over $700k, so, relative to single family houses, it is a significant improvement.

But that’s why we need lots of ‘plexes and other small apartment buildings in order to get down toward homes within reach of many more people than either houses or townhomes.

Last edited 6 months ago by Bryan
James Gannon

It’s not 1994 anymore. If you want to pay all the working people involved in building a home a decent wage like – lumberjacks, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, painters, landscapers, etc. it’s going to cost a bit of money. 700k for a home in a high cost of living area is a good deal if everyone involved in building that home gets a living wage.

Stephen Fesler

Jeff: Please see our comment rules. You have violated the ad hominem and peppering the comment thread rules. If you violate them further, you will be banned.


I am posting this from a visit to a neighborhood in Houston that has all the problems described where land value goes up, but zoning doesn’t.

Just like Seattle, land values went way up over the past 10-20 years. Just like Seattle, developers aren’t allowed to build townhomes, rowhouses, or anything like that. What you get is giant 4,000+ sq. foot mega-homes, that still host just one family. Some of the houses around me are huge, about the size of a 12-15 unit townhome development in Seattle – for one house.

Another point worth mentioning is that large yards mean more square feet of yard that has to be maintained, meaning more hours per week that all the neighbors have to listen to (and breathe the exhaust from) lawnmowers and leaf blowers. Of course, I support tree preservation – especially large trees. But, large grassy yards provide minimal neighborhood value.


But, large grassy yards provide minimal neighborhood value.”

+1 – an actually constructive impact fee would be some annual charge per square foot for open space on your property that isn’t under tree cover. Since the city can lower or waive fees for lower income people, this would give folks who can afford to pay for a preference for un-treed space to address its relatively worse environmental impacts.


Side yards are generally wasted space, but I think front yards are an underappreciated part of the urban fabric, particularly in ‘missing middle’ scale neighborhoods.

Ryan DiRaimo

What’s worse for gentrification, a tech employee buying a townhome or a tech employee buying some old home for a million dollars?

Seattle has lost 300 homes a year to demolition since 2010 and all have been replaced by single family homes. A net gain of 0

If they were spacious rowhouses or sixplexes, we could have avoided more demolition and built a net gain of 5,000-15,000 homes the last decade. But when you limit what goes on site, people look for more sites.

Zoning doesn’t prevent demolition, it prevents what goes in it’s place.


“Zoning doesn’t prevent demolition, it prevents what goes in it’s place.”

Well said. We have a $1M single family teardown that’s now a huge $2.5M single family house on our (Wallingford) street that’s easily big enough to have been 4 x 2 BR apartments or condos. (Ironically, it’s next door to a grandfathered duplex).

No aspersions on the folks who built it and live there, if that’s what they want and they had the means, good for them. But force of law shouldn’t have banned the possibility of the old house to have been turned into something more affordable.


I agree with all of this (although I would call it “3 floors and corner stores”). The point being that zoning should focus only on height. Not density, not FAR, not side setbacks, just height. A typical set of row houses in Brooklyn, Montreal, or San Fransisco are not especially tall, but have lots of people. They are also gorgeous. These are places where lots of people live, and lots of people visit. The same is true of Amsterdam or Paris. People really need to understand that height does not equal density. You can be surrounded by structures the same height as the existing houses, but containing way more people.

Instead what we have is what some have called a “grand bargain“. Put big apartments and stores next to busy streets, while in most of the city, large lots contain only one house. In Wallingford it is bad enough — in many parts of the city there are much bigger lots. As a result, very big, old lots are subdivided, but only allow a handful of (huge) houses on lots over 7200 square feet. These are the neighborhoods where affordable housing would be built — if it was allowed.

It is crazy to think that much of what appeals to people would now be illegal. Nice apartment buildings without parking. Corner stores. Charming old apartments. For an interactive view of things, check out this map. You can turn on and off layers. If you turn on “Within SF Zones” you can see lots and lots of multi-family housing in Wallingford, and plenty of other older neighborhoods.

Zoning is a relatively new concept, and while a lot of it made sense, much of it has to be considered a huge mistake.


“I for one would be near first in line to volunteer my home for redevelopment according to housing patterns proven around the world.”

But you already had the chance to provide affordable housing to someone in need, Paul. [Ad-hominem attacks removed]


The author Paul Chapman removed a link in the above comment to an article about himself that shows his duplicity. Basically the article points out that Paul the author of this article, appealed to the city to reduce his property taxes, was successful, while at the same time he was calling out others for resisting higher taxes.
Also, Paul was supportive of the up zones around his neighborhood, but when asked By the city if the area should be expanded, he declined to say anything, or include his house and block in that area.

Douglas Trumm

The article linked was just one long ad hominen attack and is clearly vitriolic. That is against our comment policy. Your information is also wrong. Paul did advocate for an expansion of the Wallingford Urban Village along with the rest of Welcoming Wallingford, but the City opted to punt on expanding most urban village boundaries during the MHA rezones. This had everything to do with organized opposition to MHA, not “hypocritical” advocates.


That is my point, Paul didn’t advocate for expanding the boundaries of the urban village because his own house was just out of the boundaries.

Douglas Trumm

Hayduke, if you continue to violate our comment policy we will ban you. Personal attacks are not welcome here.


What in the removed article was incorrect?
Did you not advocate to lower your property tax?