Election Results Maps Show Single Family Surge Propelled Centrists to Victory

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Bruce Harrell dominated along the coastal ridges, while Lorena González's areas of strength were limited ot area like Capitol Hill, the Central District, Columbia City, Westwood Village, Fremont, Greenwood, and Lower Queen Anne. (Viz by Jason Weill)

Single family zones overwhelmingly swung for Mayor-Elect Bruce Harrell, Councilmember-Elect Sara Nelson, and Seattle City Attorney-Elect Ann Davison, as new precinct-level final results map verify.

Harrell’s 17-point victory over Council President Lorena González was the most resounding, while Davison (the first Republican elected in Seattle in decades) won by just four points over abolitionist Nicole Thomas-Kennedy. However, the pattern of denser multifamily areas supporting more left-leaning progressive candidates remains pretty consistent across the races.

For Harrell this meant nearly a clean sweep in some of Seattle wealthiest enclaves. Some Laurelhurst precincts gave Harrell more than 90% of their votes and most Magnolia precincts more than 80%. Meanwhile 98% of Broadmoor backed Harrell, and he cleared 94% in one View Ridge precinct (a ritzy area west of Magnuson Park that isn’t shy about announcing its view corridor status). Seward Park, where Bruce Harrell lives, gave 82% of their vote to him, while González barely eked out victories in the core of West Seattle Junction, where she lives, while losing the rest of the peninsula pretty handily.

Most of North Seattle was a blood bath, too. González had showed more strength there in the primary — when Harrell and González together took nearly two thirds of the vote. However, it appears the third of the electorate the pair didn’t win in the primary broke heavily toward Harrell rather than her, flipping some of those precincts.

González had precincts where she cleaned up, but not nearly to the degree that Harrell did in view corridor land. A good precinct for González topped out in the 60% range rather than the 80s and 90s that Bruce managed. And that proved decisive, especially when paired with a strong turnout advantage for older homeowners over younger tenants living in the denser core of Seattle.

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda won by 19 points over civil engineer Kenneth Wilson, but she also saw her greatest strength in dense urban center as opposed to the single family view corridors that were a bastion of strength for the centrist slate. Most coastal precincts are still red in Mosqueda’s map, but the interior is so solidly blue that it more than canceled out that advantage. Dominating urban villages and carrying the interior appears to be the formula for progressive candidates to win, but only Mosqueda pulled it off facing a lackluster opponent. Harrell, Nelson, and Wilson all ran on preserving single family zoning, but that issue alone didn’t appear decisive given Wilson’s struggles. A recent poll found adding density in single family zones is popular among voters, although less so with seniors who are the most reliable voters.

The pattern of single family zones preferring more conservative candidates and apartment-heavy urban villages breaking for progressives has been persistent in recent elections. The difference in the 2021 election appears to be how strongly single family zones broke for the centrist slate and turned out in greater numbers than denser precincts. U District turnout in particular seemed abysmal. Precinct maps from 2019 shows progressive Council candidates ran up their totals in the dense core neighborhoods to a greater degree while not losing single family zones quite so badly.

Sunday Video: Why You Don’t Hear About The Ozone Layer Anymore

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Vox recounts how the international community came together to combat depletion of the ozone layer and why the ozone layer is no longer of critical environmental concern.

The View From Nathan’s Bus: Something Early

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No child is born taciturn. What makes some men so? What wrongs have they suffered, what kindness of theirs thwarted, scorned, ridiculed? Fragility is what drives the urge to present a deadened exterior, and no creature is more fragile than the human male. How tantalizing it is to embody invincibility, especially in the spaces which all but demand it: armies, sports, prisons. The street. You do it long enough, and you might even begin to believe your facade. So rough, so tough. You speak no longer in sentences, but assertions. You dominate. It is at this point the last part of your soul’s capacity for love drifts off, and its final slumbering thought is, “well, at least this is easier.”

But is it worth losing your ability to feel? What is living if not feeling? Are not the harder thing, and the right thing, usually the same?

He was a master of the hard front, and I wasn’t about to criticize him for it. You get your heart railroaded enough times and the animal urge to protect yourself makes the decision for you. Shut down time. This man’s face said Closed for Business to any stranger, with one difference: he still looked people in the eye. The principal difference between street smarts and book smarts is the former demands direct engagement with one’s immediate present. A ready awareness. He may have been taciturn, but he responded to me at least half the time, stalking quickly past me after putting his bicycle on the rack.

Me, giving the upward nod: “How’s it goin’?”
Him, gruffly: “‘Sup.”

Me, calling out as he zipped past me to get his bicycle: “Thanks man.”
The deep voice: “Yup.”

Six Urbanist Holiday Movies That Don’t Happen In New York

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Few films critique tacky-tacky suburban life with as much acuity as the cult classic Edward Scissorhands directed by Tim Burton. (Credit: Squirmelia, Creative Commons)

It’s been a year, and we’ve said some questionable things. As we draw to a close the grand national celebration of colonization and move to the next celebration of frosted capitalism, let’s keep in mind the true meaning of the holidays: movie watching! Seattle’s season of The Dark Wet means plenty of time to pull the blankets around and enjoy an evening of holiday cinema with the ones you love. You deserve it more than a mouthful of soap.

Just like all the seasonal traditions, Christmas movies come with expectations. Family, carols, redemption, and nutmeg. There’s also a few other tropes that touch on the experience of living in the city. So what happens if we consider a few holiday films in the light of our experience as promoters and appreciators of city living? What’s good fare for an urbanist holiday movie night?

The holidays are the perfect time to see urbanism at work. The private introspection of the new year, the solitude of winter, the dissociation after Thanksgiving gluttony. Match that with the season’s public ceremonies and festivals and family obligations. It’s a recipe for personal growth taking place on the most outgoing of festivals. What is Scrooge’s character arc but a private transformation played across his public appearances in the past, present, and future?  

Except, we have to leave New York out of this. With movies like Miracle on 34th Street, New York’s role in filmmaking made its own holiday weather, conveniently creating Christmas tropes with the city as the (brightly lit, gently snowy) star. Manhattan in winter is a holiday crutch as simple and flimsy as Tiny Tim’s. The city itself is a shorthand for complexity and traveling there is the basis for a whole genre of finding oneself movies. Those are all great, but too often it’s just window dressing to make the actual story seem deeper than it is.

In reality, the full spectrum of the “holidays in New York” movies fall somewhere between Elf and Ghostbusters 2. Someone has arrived in The City! Watch their unique personality bounce off some gruff locals. Blue disposable coffee cups to show how “hard” the city is to crack. Cue a montage of a decorated Macy’s (or a stand in), then there’s a sing along, and someone’s covered in syrupy goo. The only question is whether the entering force is innocent or malevolent. The story is about someone learning the True Meaning of Christmas. The City is a cardboard set.

We can do so much better than New York at the holidays. Here are six urbanist holiday movies that get out of Manhattan and into some real seasonal feelings. 

Holiday Video: What’s Wrong With Gas Stoves?

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Climate Town takes on the topic of gas stoves and the natural gas industry. Is it time to bury those stoves and the industry?

What Everyone Took Away from Seattle’s 2022 Budget

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The Seattle City Council approved the City’s 2022 budget on Monday after a few dramatic last-minute amendment showdowns. Advocacy groups quickly set to work framing their victories and pointing to losses to be rectified in future budgets.

For example, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways pointed to the tripling of the Vision Zero safe streets budget and climate justice group 350 Seattle celebrated $16 million for the Seattle Green New Deal and $194 million for affordable housing. Much of the drama hinged around the police budget this year, and groups were framing it in a number of different ways.

Perhaps the biggest last-minute fight was Council President Lorena González’s proposal to remove 101 vacant and unfillable “ghost” positions out of the Seattle Police Department (SPD), which would have freed up $19 million. Pro-SPD and anti-accountability forces, rallied by a eleventh hour scare tactic video by interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz, beat back that amendment and it failed on a 5-4 vote (more on that here), even as González decried the misleading cynical ploy. This means SPD will keep a privilege no other City department has to reserve staff positions in future budgets (draining other departments of resources) even though it can’t fill those positions in the near-term due to its officer training pipeline being maxed out.

On the other hand, the Council rejected efforts by Councilmember Alex Pedersen (and a smaller proposal by Andrew Lewis) to pump millions of rainy day funds into SPD hiring incentives and overtime pay. They also passed a few minor cuts to the Mayor’s police budget, but ultimately funded her proposal to hire 125 new officers next year.

Only city to reduce its police budget two years in a row

A Solidarity Budget coalition statement celebrated progress in reining in SPD spending. This year the coalition took the unprecedented step of proposing their own budget from scratch instead of only reacting to the Mayor’s proposal (I helped craft the transportation and housing sections).

“Building on last year’s uprising in defense of Black lives, the 2022 Budget shrinks the Seattle Police Department’s budget footprint for the second year in a row, the only major U.S. city to accomplish a reduction,” the Solidarity Budget coalition wrote in a press release. “The budget now goes to out-going Mayor Durkan to approve, setting the stage for incoming Mayor Harrell to follow through on the City’s commitments to racial equity and environmental justice.”

2020 $409 million and SPD position authority for 1497 officers - Last budget before uprising, approved in Nov. 2019.  2020 mid-year revision - $401 million - Rebalanced budget negotiated b/c of pandemic shortfalls and during height of 2020 uprising (July - Sept 2020).  2021 Budget: $363 million and 1357 position authority and 1343 fully-funded armed officer positions - negotiated from September - end of November 2020. 2021 budget also removed parking enforcement officers and 911 dispatchers from SPD.  2022: $355 million, 1357 position authority and 1200 fully funded armed officers. Budget negotiated from September - end of November 2021.  SPD’s budget has decreased 13% since 2020. Seattle is the -only- major city to reduce its police budget two years in a row. 134 vacant, unfillable SPD positions are carrying over into 2022, which will continue to artificially inflate SPD’s budget.
The Seattle Police Department budget is down $54 million from a high of $409 million in early 2020. (Graphic by Solidarity Budget)

Solidarity Budget member Travonna Thompson-Wiley of Black Action Coalition pointed to work that remains to be done.

“Our community continues to feel the pressure of a global pandemic, climate crisis, and housing crisis,” Thompson-Wiley said in a statement. “With Solidarity Budget, we fight to ensure the most vulnerable folks have access to resources that will truly help Seattle thrive. Previous city budgets have not reflected the cries from our community — cries for help with housing, childcare, food access, and more. Those same budgets continued to prioritize the investment in harm and not in care. When will Seattle protect poor and working class folks? When will Seattle actually invest in care? Our Solidarity Budget is the best hope to protect our wins and protect our people.”

Snohomish County Contemplates Growth Scenarios Ranging from Urban Infill to Sprawl

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Townhouse structures lined up on a block in urban unincorporated Snohomish County. (Credit: Photo by the author)

Like many local governments, Snohomish County has kicked off their comprehensive planning process to meet a state-mandated deadline to update the county’s 20-year growth plans. Known as the 2024 Comprehensive Plan Update, the county has begun its scoping process to identify differing alternatives to support growth in the years ahead. Three alternatives have been outlined as part of the initial scoping process, including two genuine growth alternatives that would support expected levels of population growth through 2044. However, one of those alternatives would open the door widely to much greater urban sprawl.

Under agreed upon regional growth plans, Snohomish County has signed onto growth strategies centered around transit-oriented urban infill. Exact growth targets are still in flux, but the medium range projections suggest that population in the county could grow by another 308,352 residents by 2044. That would bring total county population to 1,136,309 residents. A high range projection has yet to be fully updated but could mean that the county would need to plan for about a further 200,000 residents beyond the medium range projections, but traditionally the medium range projections have most closely tracked with actual growth trends making it the more likely outcome.

Snohomish County, of course, has many cities located within it that are also responsible for planning for additional growth, taking shares of the county’s overall growth targets. That means that the unincorporated portions of the county represent a smaller share of the total county population growth under the targets, though the county maintains a very large urban unincorporated area ripe for infill between Lynnwood, Everett, and Mill Creek.

What are the alternatives?

As part of the environmental review process, Snohomish County has begun with SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) scoping to solicit feedback on environmental topics to be reviewed, mitigation measures to be considered, and alternatives. The latter is perhaps the most important aspect of this because it will set the tone for anticipated environmental impacts and mitigation measures that may be required to support a chosen alternative.

Lynnwood Link Light Rail Extension Officially 50% Complete

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A photo of an active construction site with trailers in front of a light rail line.

Sound Transit has announced a big milestone for the expansion of Link light rail in the Puget Sound region. The Lynnwood Link Extension is officially 50% complete and on target to open on schedule in 2024. At a press conference held in front of the busy construction site for the Mountlake Terrace Station, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff thanked the construction crews for their “extraordinary efforts” keeping the project both on time and on budget during the challenging conditions created by the Covid pandemic.

A photo of a man wearing an orange construction jacket and baseball hat standing at a podium.
Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff at the site of the future Mountlake Terrace light rail station. (Photo by author)

When the Lynnwood Link Extension opens in 2024 riders will have access to 8.5 miles of additional light rail serving four new stations, Shoreline South/148th, Shoreline North/185th, Mountlake Terrace, and Lynnwood. An infill station is planned at 130th Street in Seattle, which is currently scheduled to open in 2025 one year after the rest of Lynnwood Link, after advocates pushed back on initial plans to delay that opening to 2031 or beyond. The station at 130th Street will provide quick bus connections to Lake City and Bitter Lake and a planned (but not yet approved) rezone could seed an urban neighborhood around the station in area currently stifled by single-family zoning.

A map of the Lynnwood light rail extension showing stations at Lynnwood City Center, Mountlake Terrace, Shoreline North/185th, and Shoreline South/145th.
A map of the Lynnwood Link light rail extension. (Credit: Sound Transit)

“This milestone is one of many,” Rogoff said, expressing optimism that the recent passage of President Biden’s Infrastructure and Jobs Act will help unlock funding for projects like Link light rail expansion. The $3.1 billion project already includes up to $1.17 billion in funding from a grant agreement executed by the Federal Transit Administration. The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) also provided the project a $658 million low-interest loan, which was refinanced in 2021 as a result of lower interest rates, a move that will save local taxpayers an additional $150 million to $250 million.

Once the extension is running, light rail trains will arrive and depart every four to six minutes during peak hours, and trips between Lynnwood and Westlake Station in Downtown Seattle will take an estimated 28 minutes, the agency said.

Everett City Councilmember and Sound Transit Board Vice Chair Paul Roberts spoke with enthusiasm about the Link’s further 16.3 mile extension to Everett, estimated to be completed sometime between 2037 and 2041. “Behind me is the track to the future,” Roberts said, explaining how his city will benefit from the certainty Link light rail will provide to regional commuters who now often face challenging and unpredictable traffic conditions on Interstate 5.

Roberts also highlighted the importance of Link light rail as the “most environmentally sustainable system in the country,” a fact made possible by the 10-year agreement Sound Transit entered into with Puget Sound Energy in 2019 to power the Link with 100% carbon free electricity. In addition to power from Seattle City Light, which runs primarily on hydroelectricity, Sound Transit also receives energy from the Green Direct program providing renewable energy from the Skookumchuk Wind Facility.

A photo a concrete pillar where light rail tracks under construction end.
A view of where Link light rail currently terminates in Lynnwood. The area near the future Lynnwood City Center Station is slated for massive redevelopment through the ambitious Northline transit oriented development project. (Photo by author)

Sound Transit is currently in the process of scoping out possible alignments for the Everett Extension, and public comment on the process is open until December 10th through an online open house.

Nicola Smith, mayor of Lynnwood, spoke about the positive changes light rail is bringing to the city she has led for nearly eight years. Transit-oriented development (TOD) in Lynnwood, which is planned in both the Northline and Alderwood Mall areas of the city, will bring dense, walkable, and transit-connected neighborhoods into a landscape currently dominated by strip mall style development. These changes are attracting newcomers to Lynnwood, Smith said, with more and more people arriving in the city every day.