On Other Blogs Today
On Other Blogs Today: Planning, Driving, Walking, and Speeding
Our daily roundup.
1. West Seattle Blog takes a look at neighborhoods' responses to an online survey the Department of Planning and Development did earlier this year asking residents, property owners, businesses, workers and visitors what they'd like to see in the city's dozens of pedestrian retail zones, which, WSB points out, "don't necessarily align with what you might think of as neighborhood business districts."
Pedestrian Retail Areas (PDAs?) are commercial areas, often including retail below housing, that are easily accessible to pedestrians, not just by car.
Neighborhood meetings tend to be dominated by single-family residents arguing against low-income or multifamily housing in general. Which is what makes the results from this survey so interesting.
Although there were some comments along the lines of "too much low-income housing which does not support the businesses" and "How about you stop ruining our area and put a cap on over-development? What's so wrong with a little green space? How about development that allows for some sunshine to be visible from the street where the tax paying citizens walk?," there were also a lot of thoughtful comments about how to do mixed-use right, and strong support for making it easier for small businesses to open retail at the ground level of apartment and condo buildings.
In fact, there was strong support for requiring commercial uses on the ground level of new buildings, an idea that has prompted pushback in places like Capitol Hill, where residents successfully organized against legislation that would have allowed commercial uses on the ground floor of some low-and mid-rise multifamily buildings within a quarter-mile of light rail stations.
Here's a sample (comments aren't organized by neighborhood, but you can get a sense of the areas people are talking about): "There is a real lack of retail in First Hill, especially pedestrian-focused retail.The major arterials that run through First Hill are NOT the place for pedestrian-focused retail. Work is needed to chart the future for this rapidly growing neighborhood.
"Way too heavy on commercial/entertainment. People driving in the area never think to look for residents walking."
"We need retail. The Goodwill site was supposed to be the needed retail for the neighborhood and the adjacent neighborhoods inclusive of the ID and SODO build out but a small group of NIMBY's killed it off."
More on pedestrian retail areas here.
2. Speaking of pedestrians, Streetsblog, sassing finance blog NerdWallet, asks wryly: "Don't you hate going to a really lively city with a pulsing street life? Where there’s a lot going on and people can walk from one place to the next? You might if you’re trying to drive there.
"Once again, NerdWallet had delivered the windshield perspective on America’s cities."
On the list of the site's worst cities to drive in, based on debunked ideas like city "overcrowding" ("Weaving though trolleys, cab drivers, pedestrians and cyclists can be difficult and dangerous") and whether the city has a lot of precipitation, Seattle makes the cut at No. 6, as do New York City (No.1) and San Francisco (No. 3). Detroit, of all places, makes the list at No. 2, largely because car insurance is expensive there.
If you want to live in driver heaven, be my guest: Move to Wichita, Oklahoma City, or Fresno, three of NerdWallet's "best" cities for cars. I'll take a walkable neighborhood with good urban transit, bike infrastructure, and plenty of density over Fresno or OKC any day.
4. The Urbanist had such a different take he might as well have been at a different meeting: He says some cyclists were concerned that the new streetcar won't include protected cycle tracks on much of North Broadway, as originally proposed; the cycle tracks were removed when the north extension was redesigned as a center platform, rather than one station on each side of the tracks—better for transit users, but less great for cyclists.
5. At the Seattle Times, Danny Westneat has a good gotcha following up on Jim Brunner's scoop about the city's decision to hire a for-profit brand promotion blog, Brand.com, by writing press releases and promoting them on Google.
"The Brand.com stories, which were supposed to Carrasco and City Light as green visionaries, don’t read as if they were written by humans," including sentences like, "Another unique option offered by Seattle City Light, and will hopefully continue to spread across the United States, is Green Up.”
6. Personally, as part of the vast anti-car conspiracy, I'm a lot more outraged by another story in today's Times, about a lawyer named Joe Hunt, who got out of a traffic ticket for speeding through a school zone on the grounds that the Greenwood sign, which said a 20mph speed limit would go into effect "when lights are flashing or children are present," contained two words more than state law allows.
In addition to refunding Hunt's $189 fine, the city will now have to spend an unspecified amount of money to replace 40 signs in school zones around the city to read "when flashing" instead.
According to Harborview, a person hit by a car at 20mph has a 95 percent chance of survival; that rate plummets to 55 percent at 30mph.