Puget Sound Regional Growth Draft Plan Centered Around Transit

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The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) has put out a draft proposal for VISION 2050, the multi-county policy document to guide regional growth through the Year 2050. The VISION 2050 plan is the next permutation of VISION 2040, the current regional long-range growth plan, stipulating how population and jobs should be allocated by geography type in the counties of King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Kitsap. By 2050, the region is projected to grow by another 1.8 million residents and 1.2 million jobs.

Trend of population and job growth in the Central Puget Sound. (Puget Sound Regional Council)
Trend of population and job growth in the Central Puget Sound. (Puget Sound Regional Council)

The regional growth plan provides a broad framework on how counties and cities should address a variety of planning topics, such as housing, the environment, economic development, infrastructure, transportation, development patterns, open space, and climate change. This ultimately affects how local land use decisions are made through designation of Urban Growth Areas, zoning, and development regulations as well as how the PSRC allocates pass-through funding for things like local and regional transportation investments.

Through mid-month, the PSRC is taking public comment on the draft proposal.

A growth plan centered around transit

In the draft proposal, the PSRC is moving forward with a plan that most closely resembles the “Transit Focused Growth Alternative” evaluated in the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement issued earlier this year. Generally speaking, that alternative performed best across different environmental topics and metrics than the “Stay The Course Alternative” and “Reset Urban Growth Alternative”. The Regional Growth Strategy in the plan would allocate 65% of regional population growth and 75% of regional job growth within Regional Growth Centers, Manufacturing/Industrial Centers, and near high-capacity transit. Only a small proportion of growth would be allocated to occur outside of Urban Growth Areas.

Midweek Video: An Intro to Urban Wastewater Systems

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Have you ever wondered how urban stormwater and sewer systems in cities work? Dave Amos walks through the history of these systems and the pros and cons of modern ones in use.

Councilmember Mosqueda Proposes Capitol Hill Location for First Pedestrian Superblock

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In 2015 SDOT conducted a pedestrianization pilot on PIke Street with the help of the Capitol Hiil EcoDistrict. (SDOT)

Yesterday, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog broke the story that Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda has a spot in mind to introduce ‘superilles’–or pedestrian superblocks modeled off Barcelona’s–to Seattle. Her proposed location buttresses Pike Street for three blocks east of Broadway and mirrors where the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) conducted a pedestrianization pilot in 2015. Councilmember Mosqueda said she would like to get the superille implemented by the end of her first term.

“This is something I’d love to start exploring in 2020,” she said. “This is definitely on the wish list of accomplishments before my term is up.”

Councilmember Mosqueda indicated the outcome of the 2019 election–with seven city council seats up for grabs and four of those lacking incumbents–could set the stage for Barcelona superblocks. Electing car-centric candidates could also serve as an obstacle–and not the good kind calming out streets. If you’re looking for candidates with the vision and drive to make superilles a reality, The Urbanist’s Primary endorsements generally seek to highlight candidates in that mold. (Expect General Election endorsements by October.)

Speaking of endorsements, one of the reasons The Urbanist Election Board cited for endorsing Councilmember Mosqueda back in 2017 was her passion for pedestrianizing streets: “She also easily drops urbanist catnip on the campaign trail, highlighting the value of things like Barcelona’s superblocks,” the election board wrote. She brought it up both on the trail and in her endorsement questionnaire: “I would also like to look at other cities like Barcelona–where they have created ‘Superblocks’—large nine square city blocks as an intentional urban mobility plan to reduce traffic and cut pollution. These Superblocks have led to greater social and cultural opportunities, slowed traffic, and allowed for more pedestrians in dense urban areas throughout their growing city. That is the type of innovation we can create in our city.”

At the time, urbanists didn’t know how serious Mosqueda was about pedestrian superblocks and if it would really be something that could became a reality in her first term. Given her comments this week, she seems very serious about it, and the primary thing standing in the way could be who else is on the city council by the end of the year. For example, it’s hard to imagine somebody like Alex Pedersen, who skipped the Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) coalition candidate forum and has opposed transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure, being supportive of the idea. But some other candidates–like The Urbanist-endorsed Shaun Scott, Kshama Sawant, and Tammy Morales–appear much more supportive of it.

In 2015, SDOT studied closing Pike Street to car traffic, choosing busy summer nights when pedestrians tend to spill onto the streets. (Credit: SDOT)

Before we get ahead of ourselves, here’s how the superille that Councilmember Mosqueda has suggested might work. The City would install traffic diverters on the interior streets of the rectangle outlined in blue and would generally prohibit motorists from traveling through the middle. Automobile traffic would still be allowed on the peripheral streets, in this case E Pine Street, 12th Avenue, E Union Street, and Broadway. Ridehailing pick-up and drop-off zones could be sited along these peripheral streets. Meanwhile people walking, biking, scooting, and rolling would be allow to permeate the superille at will and have a grand old time sans car traffic bearing down on them. See the diagram below for a visualization.

Housing Choices Survey: Help Make the Case for the Density Battles to Come

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Row-houses in Seattle's Central District. (Photo by author)

2019 is shaping up to be a significant year in the history of residential zoning in Seattle, and despite the dramas that accompanied the passage of “citywide” implementation of Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) and backyard cottage reform, hang on to your seat, because the most exciting times for land use reform in Seattle might be to come.

In the very near future the City will decide which eligible land use actions to opt into under the recently passed Washington House Bill (HB) 1923. Some of these eligible land use actions, such as allowing duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes in detached housing zones, could be a significant impact to residential zoning across Seattle.

But in order to take a bold stance on zoning reform, the Seattle City Council will need as much support from the public as it can get.

That’s why if you can, you should testify in favor of SEPA reform at the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee meeting on September 4th. Because HB 1923 provides SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) safe harbor for eligible land use actions, the City has some steps to complete regarding changes to SEPA before it can opt into land use actions under HB 1923.

Members of the crowd that has used or, depending on your viewpoint, abused SEPA lawsuits in the past to slow down MHA implementation, backyard cottage reform, and individual projects, such as affordable housing at Fort Lawton, have already come out to voice dissent against pending SEPA changes. It’s important that supporters come out in force too.

However, if heading over to the City Council Chamber for a 9:30am meeting is not something you can squeeze into your Wednesday agenda, there are still other two immediate actions you can undertake to express your support for zoning changes in Seattle.

Durkan on Vision Zero: “We’ve Got To Do More”–But Money Doesn’t Change Culture

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Last month, days after the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) finished installing a paint-and-post protected bike lane on 8th Avenue between the Convention Center and Denny Triangle, Mayor Jenny Durkan appeared at a podium next to the bikeway flanked by City staff and advocates. Her appearance there, introduced by SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe, marked the first time the Mayor has appeared at an event focused on bike infrastructure in her first 21 months on the job.

Celebrating the opening of a bike lane is notable, considering that grand opening ceremonies for the bike lanes previously completed under Mayor Durkan’s watch were skipped: the final costs for both the 7th Avenue bike lane and the extension of 2nd Avenue bike lane were published at around the same time, drawing criticism for being much higher than anticipated. Many saw last week’s event as an indication that the Durkan Administration might be trying to get bicycle safety advocates to warm to them. But it would be tempting to read too much into a perfunctory event to capitalize on the completion of Bicycle Master Plan mileage funded through the Washington State Convention Center addition, which contributed $6 million toward the interim protected bike lane that’s there today and its permanent form to be completed in 2023.

For me, the most important thing that happened at the event came after the prepared remarks, when the Mayor was asked (by Heidi Groover of The Seattle Times, in the first question of an impromptu press conference) if the Durkan Administration is treating the street safety crisis in Seattle with the urgency that’s necessary. The Mayor’s response:

Absolutely. As I said, Sam Zimbabwe and I have been talking repeatedly about this and we’ve got to make sure we go in a different direction. We’ve had far too many conflicts and collisions and crashes between pedestrians and bikes and vehicles and streetcars and light rail and we want to double down on that to make sure sure that we go in the other direction. In a city of our growing size, we’ve got to do more to protect people, not less.

What We’re Reading: Rose Quarter Boondoggle, Unite, and Modest Rent Stabilization

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LRT saved: Phoenix voters defeated a Koch-backed effort to block light rail expansion in the city, ensuring that projects will continue moving forward.

At risk architecture: A famous example of Japanese Metabolist architecture could be on the way out in Tokyo.

Delayed implementation: Tolling will finally start ($) on the SR-99 tunnel on November 9th.

Rose Quarter boondoggle: Oregon’s unnecessary highway expansion of I-5 in Portland is likely to get a full environmental review.

Leaving Americans behind: Because the region is “too wealthy,” King County has lost grant funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for local emergency shelters and food banks.

A primary determinant: The 30-minute commute has long determined our urban history, explains CityLab.

Leisurely hangout: Why do Singaporeans love the Changi Airport, their local aerodrome, so much?

Unite for your rights: Crosscut talks with union organizer Alex Gallo-Brown about labor.

Invest in labor: Richard Florida says that the future of the Middle Class depends upon upgrading service jobs which a fast growing number of Americans rely.

Transfer of wealth: The New York Times highlighted how Opportunity Zones, a major policy priority from the occupant in the White House, is becoming a windfall for the rich ($) instead of the communities it was supposedly meant to help.

Comeback, faltering, uncharted: Shelterforce asks what the future of Black urban middle and working class neighborhoods are in America.

Sexist system: Streetsblog highlights how our transportation system is biased against women.

Modest rent stabilization: California’s governor and state legislature leadership have come to agreement on terms of capping residential rent increases across the state.

Regeneration opportunity: The historic Molson brewery site in Montréal could be fully redeveloped.

Map of the Week: There’s no need to debate any longer over what constitutes the Midwest because it’s been mapped based upon respondents’ opinions.

MASS: Now is the Time to Make Streets Safer

Evening commute.  Cyclists and pedestrians are traveling out of downtown but first they need to get across Mercer.  (Photo: Mark Ostrow)

Our region faces a car-dependence crisis. Traffic is among the worst in the country, and recently announced congestion delays cost us $3.1 billion a year. At the same time, the more we drive, the worse our prognosis is for a livable climate future. The majority of Seattle’s climate pollution comes from road transportation, with about half of the total emissions from cars, trucks and SUVs. And the negative impacts of our dependence on cars fall disproportionately on low-income people, immigrants, people of color and disabled people. 

This is who is most likely to live near busy highways and busy streets with poor air quality and high pedestrian fatalities. Disabled and poor people are most impacted and least able to afford mitigations to deal with smoke, heat, floods and other severe weather impacts of climate change. Low wage workers and communities of color are also most likely to be priced out of homes near employment centers like Seattle and Bellevue, facing long car-commutes in areas poorly served by transit.

The MASS Transportation Package, released last month by the Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) Coalition, includes long overdue policy reforms and investments in sidewalks, bus lanes, and bike paths that our growing city needs. It’s not a comprehensive vision for transportation in Seattle, but rather a set of projects and policies we believe the City can advance rapidly in 2019 to take concrete steps to address the climate crisis. 

City Council will vote on three of our policy proposals on September 3rd, and will consider additional pieces of the MASS Transportation Package throughout this fall. The first three pieces of legislation include:

Sunday Video: How Norway Designed a More Humane Prison

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Prisons in America are usually designed for efficiency and to reinforce punishment by design, but their outcomes are often very poor for inmates and staff alike. Norway and Western European counties have flirted with designing prisons to be healthier and much more humane to prisoners, which Vox explains in this video.

Urbanist Advertising Partner: Kaiser Permanente

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Urbanist Advertising Partner: Bike Works

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