Monday, 24 June, 2019

Unlike Seattle, Golf Really Is Dying

Interbay Golf Center used to be a landfill. (Credit: Interbay Golf Center)

Last week, The Seattle Times ran an article headlined, ‘Study questions ‘best use’ of golf courses Seattle operates’. The article stems from a report that the City commissioned in 2017. The report was apparently due a year ago, but was only recently released, as reported by Erica C. Barnett at the C is for Crank.

A number of candidates immediately jumped into the fray, including former councilmember Heidi Wills on her campaign facebook page. “The City is wasting time and money studying the best use of our city’s golf courses. These green jewels are our inheritance,” she opined.
Merely studying what the best use of rarely used 528 acres (11%) of Seattle’s city-owned open space — amidst an open space shortage, a housing crisis, and rapidly devolving climate situation— is a waste of time and money, Wills alleges. The city’s report is mostly full of fluff, seemingly tilted to elevate the importance and forthcoming increased usage of municipal golf into the future, in order to justify the large expenditures it will require in coming years. Unsurprisingly, the data indicates the opposite.

Total rounds are in freefall. (Credit: City of Seattle Golf Study)

Golf’s Severe Lack of Diversity

The data shows a disturbing lack of diversity, heavily tilted toward men being the dominant user — no municipal course in 2016 saw more than 17% of users were female, and half saw as little as 10%. This isn’t really surprising, golf has long had a diversity problem, as well as a troubled history of misogyny. Also worth noting, according to the report, nearly 70% of players stated they don’t actually play most of their golf in Seattle. The report doesn’t have any data on racial diversity of users, but notes that until the 1960s, minority golfers faced significant discrimination.

City Council Approves Affordable Housing at Fort Lawton and Extends Showbox Moratorium

Fort Lawton has been lying unused for many years. (Credit: Doug Trumm)

On Monday, the Seattle City Council took a big step in approving a rezone and development plan for the Fort Lawton site. The legislation will pave the way for an affordable housing complex with more than 235 homes to move forward. The city council also extended what amounts to a moratorium to block redevelopment of the Showbox and several other pieces of land use and housing legislation.

Fort Lawton

The redevelopment area of Fort Lawton has been rezoned from single-family residential to Lowrise 2, which will the denser affordable multifamily project to proceed ahead. This culminated a 13-year process with many delays and appeals along the way. The city council adopted the recommended redevelopment plan proposed by the Seattle Office of Housing. According to the draft redevelopment plan, the housing mixture, tenure of households served, funding, and sponsors will include:

  • 85 dwelling unit units for seniors. The units will be designed for supportive housing and set aside for households making at or below 30% of the area median income. Catholic Community Services of Western Washington and United Indians of All Tribes Foundation will sponsor these units. The total cost is estimated to be approximately $28.3 million with $9.1 million in funding coming from Seattle.
  • Approximately 100 dwelling units will serve low-income families and individuals. The apartments will include some two- and three-bedroom units and serve households making up to 60% of the area median income. Catholic Community Services of Western Washington will sponsor these units. The total cost is estimated to be approximately $40.2 million with $7.7 million in funding coming from Seattle.
  • Up to 52 “self-help” ownership homes. These dwellings will serve households making up to 80% of the area median income. Habitat for Humanity will sponsor these units. The total cost is estimated to be approximately $18.4 million with $4.7 million in funding coming from Seattle.

The proposed redevelopment, however, still suffers from lack of direct access to 30th Ave W. Residents will unnecessarily have to walk or bike long distances to access the local street network and other amenities.

The Final Head-to-Head Vote for the Crown of Seattle’s Worst Intersection


After weeks of deliberation and hundreds of votes, we’re down to two finalists for Seattle’s worst intersection in 2019.

Now in its seventh year, the worst intersection in Seattle competition brings out the very best of the worst by inviting readers to nominate and campaign for those crossroads that impede commutes and frustrate people on foot, riding bikes, or riding the bus.

The two finalists advanced from a crowded field of over 16 nominees. One of them has been crowned the worst intersection before. The other is certainly well qualified.

Readers of The Urbanist voted for former winner Denny Way & Stewart St ahead of Mercer & 9th in South Lake Union. Denny & Stewart (& Yale) advanced past many worthy nominees in South Lake Union, so many, in fact that there was an extra play-in round to narrow down the options. Denny & Stewart was voted Seattle’s worst intersection back in 2017.

The former champion will face off in the finals against NE 40th St, NE 40th St, and 7th Ave NE in the University District. This intersection has the unique distinction of having four intersecting streets with the same name. In last week’s semifinal competition, this five-way intersection beat another five-way intersection, Rainier Ave S, S Jackson St, Boren Ave S and 14th Ave S. The latter intersection at the border of the International District and Seattle’s Atlantic neighborhood had twice as many unique street names as the winner, but it received fewer votes.

Latest Seattle Subway Vision Map Refines the Metro 8 Line, Adds Edmonds to Network

Seattle Subway 2019 Vision Map. (Credit: Seattle Subway)

Seattle Subway isn’t an organization to rest on its laurels. Fresh off Sound Transit 3 (ST3) success–with voters greenlighting 62 miles of light rail and two bus rapid transit corridors–Seattle Subway continues to keep an eye on the next transit measure.

This is a yearly ritual for all-volunteer-run organization; this year Seattle Subway Executive Director Keith Kyle said the tweaks are geared toward zeroing in on lines that are attractive for future transit measures. As you can tell from the map, Seattle will be a centerpiece, but there are some interesting additions for the suburbs too. The major differences from past maps (like the 2018 and 2017 versions) include extending the Aurora line to Edmonds, picking up Shoreline along the way and extending the Metro 8–named because it would turn the perpetually late Route 8 bus into a workhorse rail line–line to Belltown and Pike Place Market.

“There’s a lot of people really excited about the Metro 8 line,” Kyle said. “So we kinda spent some time thinking about what would it look like if you could really pull in neighborhoods that aren’t getting great service. How would you improve service to a lot of dense areas? I haven’t seen a version of the Metro 8, for example, that serves Belltown before or that tries to serve the [Seattle] Waterfront.”

With the 2019 tweaks, the Metro 8’s eastern terminus would be Mount Baker and its western terminus would be Pike Place Market, pulling in the Waterfront, which will soon get a big-time makeover. Along the way, it’d pick up Belltown, Denny Triangle (interlining with the Green Line’s Denny station), South Lake Union, Summit Slope (aka East Capitol Hill), and Western Capitol Hill with a 15th Avenue stop. From here on, the Metro 8 follows the same course as last year’s version–next stop Madison Valley, where it’d connect with a Madison Rapid Transit line that the map envisions crossing Lake Washington to Kirkland and interlining with the planned Issaquah line from the ST3 map. It’d also serve the Central District with two stops and Judkins Park, connecting with East Link.

Sunday Video: Amsterdam’s Removing 10,000 Parking Spaces


Streetfilms shows how Amsterdam is removing 1,500 street motor parking spaces per year to create green space, bike parking, and active park space. Amsterdammers appear to be supportive of the program.

What We’re Reading: Segregated Life Expectancy, Decarbonizing Zoning, and Housing First


Seattle’s golf courses: Seattle has four public golf courses. What should be done with them ($)?

Where HOAs prevail: A new study indicates that homeowners associations prosper in wealthier areas and where government is lacking.

Segregated life expectancy: Where you live, block by block, matters in life expectancy according to data.

Banning life safety: Texas has made a grave mistake in banning live-saving red light cameras.

Banking on banking deserts: In some areas of America, there are “banking deserts” and the post office could be a solution to that.

Escalate escalator priorities: David Cole says that Sound Transit should be taking station escalators much more seriously.

Liar-in-Chief: Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan lied that expanding highways would be good for the climate and the author of a study cited by him, and others, strongly pushed back against the assertion.

Decarbonizing zoning: Sightline explains how allowing, duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes on blocks could lead to a 20% reduction in carbon emission per dwelling unit.

Probably not falling: Seattle probably has not really seen a 20% drop in unsheltered homeless.

CA progressives want inclusivity: A study of Californians suggests six in ten residents want to end single-family-only zoning near jobs and transit, and the numbers are higher amongst those left of center on the political spectrum.

Speeding up delivery: From a financial standpoint, could Sound Transit open light rail as far north as Mariner Park-and-Ride sooner than planned?

Housing first: Finland’s homelessness rate continues to drop while Europe’s rises. The difference seems to be that the country is putting housing first for all in need.

Showbox sagas: The Showbox owner has terminated the lease on the venue.

Latino Urbanism: Streetsblog takes a look at what communities can learn from “Latino Urbanism”.

Kids need a healthy climate: According to a new report, if climate goals are not met in timely manner, 2,700 deaths are predicted to be precipitated per year by extreme heat alone in American cities.

Call to Action: Attend the Backyard Cottage Public Hearing at Seattle City Hall Tuesday


The first public hearing on Councilmember Mike O’Brien’s backyard cottage proposal is Tuesday June 11th, and housing activists under the umbrella group More Options for Accessory Residency (MOAR) are hosting a rally at City Hall at 5:15pm right before the hearing to turn people out. The policy has been delayed for years due to a legal appeal by the Queen Anne Community Council, but now the proposal is moving forward.

Passing the City’s Preferred Alternative would generate an additional 2,460 homes over the next decade, the City projects. It is likely that trend would continue over future decades, gradually and gently densifying single-family zoned areas, which consume roughly 65% of buildable land in Seattle.

This is a big opportunity to provide homes for thousands of people in Seattle and potentially reverse population stagnation and even shrinkage in some of Seattle’s single family neighborhoods. Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are an opportunity for multi-generational housing and present a hope for younger generations to be able to stay in an increasingly expensive city at all.

Some strengths of the ADU proposal that are worth highlighting include:

  • The single-family status quo is bad. Single-family teardowns are converting Seattle neighborhoods to exclusive enclaves for the rich. ADU production has been tepid in Seattle under existing stringent rules.
  • A McMansion Ban will help fix this, gearing new housing toward the middle class rather than millionaires. The size limits would have blocked (or shrunk) 47% of new single-family homes built in Seattle since 2010, according to a Seattle Times analysis, because that housing has skewed toward mansions.
  • ADUs open up opportunity to age in place. The option to add a cottage helps homeowner keep their property by supplanting their income with a rental property.
  • ADUs provide a more affordable housing option in single-family zones. The average size for a new single-family home has climbed past 3,000 square feet in Seattle, and the cost for a new single-family home is often over $1 million. Meanwhile, ADUs smaller size (under 1,000 square feet) presents a more affordable alternative and discourages mansion construction.
  • Not having an owner-occupancy requirement allows more flexibility and will result in more homes. The latest draft doesn’t have a requirement, although previously a one-year single occupancy requirement was in place to add a second ADU. Dropping the requirement is good because it would lead to fewer homes and potentially could drag out construction impacts. Mayor Jenny Durkan has suggested she supports an owner-occupancy requirement.

The hearing is also a good opportunity to call for improvements to the legislation. Ideas include:

Bike Lanes Belong on Arterials

Stone Way hosts a lot of destinations, construction, and people biking in a painted lane. (Photo by Doug Trumm)

The last year in Seattle has been pathetic for safe streets, equitable mobility, and climate action. Mayor Durkan has been killing safe streets projects left and right—including 35th Avenue NE, with an associated bike lane. The bike lane was going to provide direct and safe access to schools, a neighborhood library, businesses, and homes. However, instead of prioritizing safe streets, the mayor decided climate arson, deadly 12-foot wide lanes motorists are using as speedways, and free car storage were more important. The Mayor and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) need to fix this. Protected bike lanes belong on arterials — yes, in Seattle — and probably in your city, too.

Seattle has grown rapidly — it grew by only 8.5% from 1994 (the year the urban village strategy was adopted), to 2005 (the year I moved to Seattle). Since 2005, the city has grown by over 30%. In less than 14 years, Seattle grew by nearly a third. At the same time, as Gene Balk noted in his piece, ‘Some Seattle Neighborhoods are untouched by rapid population growth. Why?’ — this tremendous growth has not been balanced. A fraction of the city has seen nearly all of the growth, the direct result of a misguided urban village strategy (that never had to be reviewed with the Race and Social Justice Initiative) that was largely co-opted by a small number of homeowners to keep apartments and affordable housing away.

At the same time, we have a zoning map today that has not evolved much from the ‘snapshot’ zoning map of 1923. Multifamily land in much of the city is limited to arterials — and this is a huge problem for equity, climate, and mobility. By limiting new development to arterials, we focus housing and businesses and mobility on the most congested, polluted, unsafe, and noisiest streets. This is antithetical to any notion of livability. Luckily, there are solutions, being adopted the world over, that work to reduce the pollution, noise, and danger of these arterials. Protecte bike lanes? They’re a major part of this solution.

Bike Works

Bike Works