Bellevue Should Save Coal Creek from Sprawl Development

Environmental context of the parcels from the sky (Courtesy of Issaquah Alps Trails Club)

Embedded in Bellevue’s Coal Creek wilderness area are a handful of parcels that have been developed or zoned for single-family homes. In 2016 and 2017, the two largest parcels were purchased. Their developer seeks to build 35 new single-family homes on six of the 12.3 acres. After learning about plans to redevelop the two parcels, Save Coal Creek was formed by Issaquah Alps Trails Club in 2016 to convince the City of Bellevue to preserve the parcels as park land.

When I first heard about this initiative, I was reminded of the countless NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) plots to shroud anti-development with plausibly sensible motives. However, my opinion shifted as my research began. Isola Homes, the developer, wants to build 35 single-family homes in the middle of Coal Creek. While it does increase housing stock, these homes would be at the southern border of Bellevue, far from the City’s services and employment core. The developer would basically create 35 new car-dependent households. Unique and valuable animal habitat would be sacrificed and Coal Creek and Cougar Mountain would see more impact at their meeting. This movement isn’t opposition to urban vibrancy, but instead a containment of and rare opportunity to shrink damaging suburban sprawl.

Accusations of NIMBYism fall flat in light of the site’s context. Notice how close the parcels are to Coal Creek, the near enclosure of the parcels by green space, and the wetlands and streams running through the parcels. The city doesn’t need more single-family homes in transit deserts and irreplaceable green space, housing supply should be added with multifamily development closer to the city’s economic and transportation amenities. The site is further complicated by its history and critical nature, which make the dramatic development of the site potentially unsafe and damaging.

Preserving Coal Creek

The coal under Newcastle and what’s now Bellevue formed 35 million to 40 million years ago after a changing climate covered swamp with layers of mud and sand. Compressed plant matter (coal) would eventually be pushed to the surface with the uplift of Cougar Mountain that began 30 million years ago. Later, glacier retreat from the last ice age 16,000 to 16,900 years ago would reveal the steep hills of now Newcastle. This topography would allow coal deposits to emerge with local creeks cutting through the thin layer of soil hiding the resource.

On January 9, 1864, Philip Lewis and Josiah Settle found coal along the banks of a creek by what is now Red Town Trailhead on Cougar Mountain. Over a century of mining, many mining companies and modes of transportation would carve their way through and to the mines under present day Cougar Mountain, Coal Creek Natural Area, and The Golf Club at Newcastle. From 1864 to 1963, nearly 11 million tons of coal would be produced and fuel the growth of Seattle, its port, the wider region, and where else the fossil was destined.

1910 mining camp at Coal Creek (Courtesy of City of Seattle Archives.)

Lance Randall 2021 Questionnaire — Seattle Mayor

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Lance Randall is running for Mayor of Seattle. (Photo courtesy of campaign)

Lance Randall was the first to jump in the Seattle Mayoral race back in September — even before Mayor Jenny Durkan announced she wasn’t running for reelection. He brings a wealth of experience in community economic development. Born and raised in Georgia, Randall moved to Seattle in 2007 to take a job as Business Relations Manager for the Office of Economic Development (OED). In 2015 he took the helm at SouthEast Effective Development (SEED) as director of economic development. Check out his campaign website for more information.

The Urbanist Election Committee wrote and distributed questionnaires to the candidates and followed up with Zoom interviews this month. We’ll roll out the rest of the Mayoral questionnaires this week and continuing releasing questionnaires in other races. The Urbanist will drop our Primary Endorsements in early July. The Primary voting period starts July 16th; ballots must be postmarked by 8pm August 3rd. For voter information or to register to vote, visit the State election website.

Below are Lance Randall’s questionnaire responses. 


What does being an urbanist mean to you? 

The country knows Seattle for its growth and prosperity of the past decade. However, not all Seattleites have been able to share in that prosperity, and COVID has only exacerbated those inequities. 

As the country and world come out of the pandemic, we will search for a city modeling effectiveness, sustainability, equity, and accountability to its citizens. Seattle can be that model city. I want to leverage Seattle’s creativity and ingenuity to model a city where everyone can live freely, create, and prosper.

Being an urbanist means supporting and advocating for an urban environment that allows everyone to thrive. This including dignity for the homelessness, economic vitality regardless of identity, revitalizing our music scene and culture, rebuilding our infrastructure, ensuring public safety for all, and leading on climate action and innovation.

What strategies would you adopt to address the homelessness and housing affordability crisis in Seattle, and do you support the charter amendment proposed by Compassion Seattle? 

We must end the undignified neglect of our homeless neighbors by City Hall and our neglected leaders. Over the last decade, the number of houseless individuals has skyrocketed, and actions from City leadership have not supported or stabilized these thousands of individuals. My plan to support our homeless neighbors will reestablish City leadership and accountability, take immediate action to support our neighbors, invest in our mental health infrastructure, and build “Dignity Communities” to centralize resources and support long-term success. 

To address the housing affordability crises, I will focus the resources from the Federal Housing Urban Development Agency to build, acquire, and sustain housing for the homeless. Federal fund utilization will free up other funding so those dollars can be used to build affordable housing for those living well below the poverty level.

The charter amendment proposal is an intriguing approach that seeks to increase and mandate the amount of funding the city must invest to address homelessness. Because the language on this initiative is still being worked out, I will reserve taking a position until a final version of the amendment is agreed upon.

How do you envision the relationship between the city and Seattle Police Department changing?  How do you plan to look after the safety/well-being of Seattle’s residents, especially those in communities who have faced disproportionate use of force from police?

The most important responsibility of our local government is to keep the public safe and protected. To do this we rely on our public safety service delivery system which consists of the Police Department, Fire Department, First Responders and Human Services Providers.  These agencies must be mutually supported and work together as a team. Based on the recent demands for social justice in our country, it is especially important that our Police Department is motivated to improve, and I plan to drive this improvement through actions including: 

  1. Implement checks and balances to address biased policing by some individual officers and ensure that all public safety personnel live up to their pledge to protect and serve.
  1. Implement a comprehensive progressive discipline program for removing officers that are detrimental to public safety before they cause community crises.
  1. Develop and implement a “Relationship-Based Policing Program” for the department to create community trust and partnership. The Police Chief, Commanders, and I will be more interactive with our residents through regular “Town Hall Meetings.” The goal of these meetings is to work with residents to develop a “Community Policing Philosophy” based on organizational strategies, crime prevention techniques and public safety programs.”

MASS Mayoral Forum Shows Growing Consensus Around Urbanist Policies

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Moderator Erica C. Barnett and Mayoral candidates (left to right, top to bottom) Lorena González, Bruce Harrell, Jessyn Farrell, Andrew Grant Houston, and Lance Randall. (Photo courtesy of MASS Coalition)

On Wednesday, five Seattle Mayor candidates squared off in a forum that we co-hosted alongside our allies at the Move All Seattle Sustainability (MASS) coalition and elsewhere. We learned a great deal about the candidates in 90 minutes, so we encourage you to watch the video and check out the transcript. The same coalition is hosting Seattle City Council Position 9 Forum on Tuesday, June 22nd, so don’t miss that either: register here.

The five participating Mayoral candidates were Jessyn Farrell, Lorena González, Bruce Harrell, Andrew Grant Houston, and Lance Randall. Colleen Echohawk and Casey Sixkiller couldn’t attend due to scheduling conflicts. Echohawk sent organizer Matt Remle in her stead to make a statement. Sixkiller didn’t send a statement, but did announce an endorsement this week from an anti-bike lane group with the Orwellian name “Neighborhoods for Smart Streets”.

Sometimes we found broad consensus for urbanist principles. Candidates agreed we need to reduce exclusionary zoning and allow apartments in more neighborhoods. Candidates support the campaign to lid I-5 in Downtown Seattle. All intend to add more bus lanes, make transit more affordable for working class riders, and most ultimately would work toward fare-free transit — though they vary in how much they’d make it a priority.

There were also plenty of points of contention. Most support completing the long-delayed Center City Connector streetcar project, but Randall dissented. Road pricing got support from González and Harrell, a maybe from Farrell, and opposition from Houston and Randall. Most supported automatic camera enforcement against blocking of bus lanes, crosswalks, and intersections, but some had more caveats, and Randall was a no. Candidates mostly supported making permanent and expanding the “Stay Healthy” open streets program, except for Randall who specifically opposed permanent open streets on Lake Washington Boulevard and Alki Avenue.

Jessyn Farrell 2021 Questionnaire — Seattle Mayor

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Jessyn Farrell announced for Mayor on March 18th. (Photo courtesy of Farrell campaign)

Jessyn Farrell is vying to replace outgoing Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, and she brings a variety of experience. Farrell was elected to the State House in 2012, representing the 46th District until she ran for Seattle Mayor in 2017. She finished fourth in that primary with 12.5% of the vote. She was Executive Director of Transportation Choices Coalition from 2005 to 2008, working to pass Sound Transit 2, and subsequently took an executive position at Pierce Transit. Most recently, she has worked at progressive thinktank Civic Ventures as senior vice president. Check out her campaign website for more information.

The Urbanist Election Committee wrote and distributed questionnaires to the candidates and followed up with Zoom interviews this month. We’ll roll out the rest of the Mayoral questionnaires this week and continuing releasing questionnaires in other races. The Urbanist will drop our Primary Endorsements in early July. The Primary voting period starts July 16th; ballots must be postmarked by 8pm August 3rd. For voter information or to register to vote, visit the State election website.

Below are Jessyn Farrell’s questionnaire responses. 


What does being an urbanist mean to you? 

Being an urbanist means making Seattle a place people want and can afford to live in. It means recognizing that the guiding principles of city government must be ensuring everyone in Seattle can afford to live in a walkable, safe, vibrant community that allows them to thrive. By increasing the amount of affordable housing and equitable access to transit, our city can become one where everyone can more easily access services and employment. 

More than a specific set of policies, being an urbanist means taking the project of proving that a densely populated city can work for everyone who lives here seriously — it’s the only way we’re going to transform our society to adequately prepare for the climate crisis while ensuring no one is left behind. To achieve that goal, we must view all our policy choices and the process of developing policy itself as deeply rooted in equity to reverse the effects of decades of disinvestment from communities of color and guarantee that those most affected by policy decisions are included in making those choices.

What strategies would you adopt to address the homelessness and housing affordability crisis in Seattle, and do you support the charter amendment proposed by Compassion Seattle? 

It’s been 5 years since city leadership declared houselessness an emergency. The solutions that we  know work haven’t changed: using a housing–first approach to deliver services and solving the affordability crisis that puts so many working people at risk in the first place. 

First, we must rapidly scale up immediate solutions that get our neighbors off the streets and into stable living. Our city has effective supportive housing programs but is they aren’t scaled to adequately meet the need. At the same time, we know sweeps just don’t work. They further destabilize people’s lives and worsen, rather than solve this crisis. 

Second, we need massive public investment in affordable housing. I’m proposing an “ST3” for Housing– to build on our regional approach to transportation by creating housing that meets the needs of all our people across every neighborhood in this city, especially around our 54 transit centers. 

While I do support the charter amendment, my legal analysis of the text is that it does not mandate the use of sweeps, and has broad latitude to prioritize permanent supportive housing over emergency shelters. At the end of the day the objectives of the amendment are only as good as the next mayor.

How do you envision the relationship between the city and Seattle Police Department changing?  How do you plan to look after the safety/well-being of Seattle’s residents, especially those in communities who have faced disproportionate use of force from police?

Every single person in our community deserves to feel safe. To ensure this reality, we must build budgets to reflect our values. We know that true public safety means more than just a traditional policing response. It must include all of the cultural, social, and economic supports that help people thrive.

State Ferry Fare Hikes Ahead, Preferred Alternative Discourages Walk-On Ridership

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Passengers on a Seattle-bound ferry. (Photo by Doug Trumm)

Fare hikes are on the way for state ferry riders. Prices could rise 2.5% in October of this year and then be followed by another 2.5% increase in October 2022 under an alternative preferred by the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC). State transportation officials need to fill a financial gap in the biennial Washington State Ferries (WSF) budget, which though partially subsidized by the state, has taken a revenue hit during the pandemic, particularly as walk-on ridership has declined with work from home increasing, leisure travel decreasing, and an emphasis on driving to stay away from other passengers. In 2020 alone, ridership collapsed 41% across the board but was particularly acute with walk-on ridership falling 68%.

The fare change proposals

On Tuesday, the WSTC met to consider fare change alternatives and tentatively select a preferred one. A final decision on a fare change plan is not yet set in stone, but could come in August and seems likely to be the stated preferred alternative selected by the commission.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) developed two revenue neutral options to keep the ferries budget solvent, meeting the requirement to raise an $9.1 million over the funding allocated by the state legislature. Alternative 1 increases vehicle fares and passenger fares alike by 2.5% in October 2021 and then again 2.5% in October 2022. Alternative 2 differs by increasing vehicle fares alone in October 2021 by 3.1% and then by 2.5% in October 2022 for both vehicles and passengers. In essence, walk-on passengers would get a break in fare hikes for 2021 under Alternative 2.

Example of the fare change options using the Bainbridge-Seattle route. Note that vehicles are charged both directions and passengers are only charged in the Seattle-Bainbridge direction. (WSDOT)
Example of the fare change options using the Bainbridge-Seattle route. Note that vehicles are charged both directions and passengers are only charged in the Seattle-Bainbridge direction. (WSDOT)

Yet, the WSTC unanimously selected Alternative 1 as the preferred option to move forward with. This was despite the policy reasons that WSDOT cited for choosing Alternative 2 with some commissioners handwaving them away.

Andrew Grant Houston 2021 Questionnaire — Seattle Mayor

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Andrew Grant Houston is running for Mayor of Seattle. (Photo by Jessica Rycheal, courtesy of campaign)

Andrew Grant Houston was one of the first candidates to jump into race to replace outgoing Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. Well known in urbanist circles as Ace of @TheUrbanAce handle on Twitter, Houston is a queer Black and Latino architect, environmental advocate, housing activist, and a high-risk individual who lives on Capitol Hill. He’s a member of Share The Cities, the Sunrise Movement, and Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council. He also is a boardmember with Futurewise and recently served as interim Policy Manager for Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda. Check out his campaign website for more information.

The Urbanist Election Committee wrote and distributed questionnaires to all the candidates and followed up with Zoom interviews this month. We’ll roll out the rest of the Mayoral questionnaires this week and continuing releasing questionnaires in other races. The Urbanist will release its Primary Endorsements in early July. Primary ballots are due August 3rd. For voter information or to register to vote, visit the State election website.

Below are Andrew Grant Houston’s questionnaire responses. 


What does being an urbanist mean to you? 

I believe that being an urbanist means being in favor of the benefits that come with living in a city: walkable, vibrant, full of culture. Being a good urbanist means fully acknowledging and putting the effort in to correct the grotesque, and in many ways still ongoing, history of urban renewal and top-down planning that actively eliminated Black and Brown communities. It means providing space for all while reducing commutes and pollution. It means ending exclusionary zoning. It means accessibility for everyone.

What strategies would you adopt to address the homelessness and housing affordability crisis in Seattle, and do you support the charter amendment proposed by Compassion Seattle? 

I do not support the charter amendment or Compassion Seattle, period. People experiencing homelessness need one thing: affordable housing. I will create more permanently affordable housing at the scale we need to help those our current systems fail. This requires ending exclusionary zoning. When we allow all types of housing in every neighborhood of Seattle we will finally see a decrease in houselessness.

Still, I recognize that even if we cut every piece of red tape tomorrow, it will still take three years for new housing to come online. So I will immediately expand tiny homes as a short-term measure to alleviate homelessness, treating it like the emergency it is. Without housing, people lack stability and safety. In that same vein, I will immediately stop any encampment sweeps. Forcing people to move from one unsheltered place to another while tossing so many of the items they worked so hard to retain does nothing but harm. 

My office will be housing-first and people-centered. In the long term, preventing homelessness also requires better social services and livable wages. We will work to make sure policies even beyond housing prevent people from slipping through the cracks and into homelessness.

How do you envision the relationship between the city and Seattle Police Department changing?  How do you plan to look after the safety/well-being of Seattle’s residents, especially those in communities who have faced disproportionate use of force from police?

The relationship will change for the better, and that means less police interactions and using our scarce dollars for true public safety. Between 2010 and 2020, we nearly doubled SPD’s budget but are not twice as safe. On top of that, the City bargained away accountability measures fought for by the community while increasing officer pay. We even pay extra to officers for wearing body cameras, which they’re already required to do! Reform of the department is necessary, however we must build public safety alternatives outside of the department for true public safety.

Lorena González 2021 Questionnaire — Seattle Mayor

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Lorena González is running for Mayor of Seattle. (Photo courtesy of González campaign)

Council President M. Lorena González is among the crowded field to replace outgoing Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. González was elected in 2015 as the first Latinx City Councilmember in Seattle history and would also be Seattle’s first Latinx Mayor if elected. She grew up in Central Washington as the daughter of migrant farmworkers. González graduated from Seattle University School of Law and went to work as a civil rights attorney, “fighting for the rights of workers, victims of wage theft and employment discrimination, and victims of police misconduct and sexual abuse,” as her campaign website puts it.

The Urbanist Election Committee has followed up on our questionnaires with Zoom interviews with the candidates. We will release our Primary Endorsements in early July. We’ll roll out the rest of the Mayoral questionnaires this week and move on to other races. Primary ballots are due August 3rd. For voter information or to register to vote, visit the State election website.

Below are Lorena González’s questionnaire responses. 


What does being an urbanist mean to you? 

It means building a vibrant city that works together and works for everyone, not just wealthy landowners.  Seattle is a beautiful city and thousands of people move here every month because of our urban cores in various neighborhoods throughout the city.  But it is time to scale up and do their part to make Seattle a world-class, livable, walkable city for everyone.  I dream of a Seattle in which every neighborhood is livable, safe and complete with access to child care, affordable housing, multimodal transportation, grocery stores, community spaces, high speed internet, good jobs, and energetic small business districts. Prior to COVID, I chose to use public transit as my primary mode of transportation; leaving my car garaged.  I was able to do that because I live in an urban village with frequent transit options, including the C Line. I believe that every neighborhood in Seattle should have access to the same and, in doing so, we will improve our quality of life and help combat climate change.  I want more people to have equitable access to housing choice, more ways to get around and more to see and do as a method of building community connections.

What strategies would you adopt to address the homelessness and housing affordability crisis in Seattle, and do you support the charter amendment proposed by Compassion Seattle? 

As mayor, I would advance a human- and trauma-centered approach that focuses on transitioning people to safe and affordable permanent housing. I would expand our crisis response system, build more rapid & transitional housing, prioritize mental health services and access to jobs and income, stabilize the human service provider workforce and reform our exclusionary zoning laws. It is challenging to describe my vision on this issue with this word limit, but I am happy to discuss them further with you.

However, coming up with solutions is not the next mayor’s primary challenge – the challenge is scaling those solutions to be effective long term. The next mayor must be someone who can bring the council, business, labor, county, state, federal officials and other stakeholders together to find additional resources to fund the solutions at a scale that meets the challenge, without cutting other essential city services.  As Mayor, I will hire a Deputy Mayor of Housing & Human Services, who will be my partner on solving for and prioritizing solutions to end this humanitarian crisis every day of my administration.  

Regarding Compassion Seattle, you can read my initial response here.

How do you envision the relationship between the city and Seattle Police Department changing?  How do you plan to look after the safety/well-being of Seattle’s residents, especially those in communities who have faced disproportionate use of force from police?

For almost 20 years, I have worked on police reform and accountability; first as a civil rights attorney and now as a councilmember.  In my term, I’ve expanded civilian oversight of the police department, making it easier to sue the police for wrongdoing, and started demilitarizing the police force and shifting resources into critical social and human services, including supporting participatory budgeting. I will build on this work as the next Mayor of Seattle.  Additionally, the next Mayor will be responsible for appointing a new police chief, negotiating a new contract with the police guild, fulfilling a commitment to participatory budgeting and further right-sizing the police department and laying out a vision for how we re-imagine policing in our city. My experience, not only as an elected official, but also as a civil rights attorney and a woman of color, who fought for victims of police abuse, will guide how I approach these critical decisions.

Midweek Video: How Highway Noise Barriers Don’t Solve All

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Highways are the bane of cities creating all kinds of awful pollution, including noise pollution. To mitigate noise, sound barrier walls have been installed in some areas. However, they’re by no means a panacea and can make noise pollution worse in some cases. Cheddar explains the problem and other strategies that may be better.