On Other Blogs Today
On Other Blogs Today: Megaprojects and Microhouses
Our daily roundup.
1. Senate transportation committee co-chair Curtis King (R-14, Yakima) tells the AP he believes a consultant, former WSDOT Alaskan Way tunnel project coordinator Ron Paananen, who was just hired to review three state megaprojects, including the tunnel, has a conflict of interest.
In reviewing the tunnel, Paananen will be put in the position of either saying he did a good job, or that he didn't, which does seem like a pretty iffy situation.
Brand new WSDOT director Lynn Peterson (who has not returned a call from PubliCola) has said she has no concerns that Paananen will not be completely thorough and objective in reviewing the three magaprojects (the other two are the Columbia River Crossing and the SR 520 bridge replacement), and Gov. Jay Inslee's spokeswoman, Jaime Smith, told the AP that Paananen will be reviewing WSDOT's "internal processes," not the projects themselves.
2. City council member Mike O'Brien, who has signed on to a proposal that would increase the level of benefits (like affordable housing) developers would have to provide if they want to build taller in South Lake Union, explains his reasoning on his blog, where he argues that the current "incentive zoning" system is not actually producing much affordable housing.
Currently, the city allows developers who want to build more densely to pay into an affordable housing fund "in lieu" of actually building affordable housing; because the "pay-in-lieu" option is cheaper than building actual housing, developers consistently choose it.
O'Brien, along with his colleagues Tom Rasmussen and Nick Licata, is proposing an increase to the "pay-in-lieu" requirement, in the hope that if paying into the fund becomes more expensive than building housing on site, developers will decide to build housing instead. The council will discuss the proposal Monday at its South Lake Union committee meeting.
O'Brien is usually a reliable Mayor Mike McGinn ally, but McGinn has said he wants to move forward with the SLU upzone without increasing the level of required benefits.
3. If you wondered why Seattle doesn't have more accessory dwelling units—also known as backyard cottages (detached ADUs) or mother-in-laws (attached ADUs)—Sightline has a handy guide to the rules governing ADU development in cities from here to Vancouver, B.C. to Boise.
It turns out Seattle's "Accessory Dwelling Unit friendliness" scores significantly lower than places like Vancouver, where mother-in-law apartments are extremely common. Turns out Seattle's "ADU friendliness" scores significantly lower than places like Vancouver, where they're extremely common: Among other things, we require on-site parking, require the property owner to live on site, have lower occupancy limits, and have a mandatory minimum lot size.
4. We've made the case before (well, Josh has) that city planners are like club DJs. Both are trying to answer the same questions: How do I make this theee place to be and how do I make it last? Josh was drawing the connection between arts and city planning that PubliCola has always believed exists; you'll remember we had a FilmNerd and MusicNerd column when we first started.
With all that in mind, we were thrilled to read Michael Seiwerath's guest column in City Arts magazine this month.
In an essay about the new 12th Avenue Arts Building groundbreaking (where Seiwerath's Capitol Hill Housing, he's the executive director, is turning a parking lot into an artists' paradise), he makes the same connections. Seiwerath riffs off Jane Jacobs' theories about new ideas emerging from old buildings to talk about basement clubs, theater clubs, and city sustainability.
5. We've written quite a bit about Car2Go, the one-way carsharing service that opened in Seattle last December and plans to expand its service area later this year.
But here, via Seattle Transit Blog, is one factor that didn't occur to me: The fact that Seattle's paid parking spaces are well managed (that is, they aren't underpriced, leaving few spaces available per block) makes Car2Go work.
With Car2Go, you just pull up to (almost) any empty spot in the service area, park, and leave the car for the next person. No need to waste minutes circling the block for parking. If the city didn't have paid parking, Car2Go would be impossible.