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1. KIRO reports that state Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-46, N. Seattle) unsuccessfully pushed a bill that would require residents in single-family areas to be notified when a developer wants to build on a so-called "substandard" lot—a lot smaller than what's allowed under current zoning codes.

Small-lot proponents like Smart Growth Seattle argue that the real intent of requiring notice is to give neighbors time to file environmental appeals, slowing the developments down and making them prohibitively expensive. 

Residents in single-family neighborhoods like Laurelhurst, Phinney Ridge, and Green Lake have complained that the tall, skinny houses that have gone up on such substandard lots are "in their backyards" (nope, they're separate lots); that they "loom over their homes" (they're no taller than the zoning code allows, and there's no legal way to prohibit "looming"), and that they're destroying the "character" of single-family neighborhoods (some people just don't like modern architecture). 

Although Pollet's bill failed, he explains to KIRO that the reason he pushed it—and will again—is that the skinny houses "are monstrosities, they ruin neighborhoods, they literally destroy the value of the houses next door." 

The city actually placed a moratorium on small-lot developments last year, so everybody can take a deep breath.

City council member Mike O'Brien's Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability committee will get a briefing on small-lot developments at 2:00 this Friday; expect the anti-skinny-house contingent to be out in force. 

2. The Atlantic Cities takes a look at what one large city, Boston, is doing to close its gender wage gap; in Boston, women make 83 cents for every dollar men make. (That's better than the national average, 77 cents. In Seattle, it's 73 cents.)

Boston's initiative, called "100% Talent: The Boston Women's Compact," is a pledge businesses sign to open their books and assess their wage data. Once they've done that, they choose three strategies to put in place to close whatever gap exists, including interventions like subsidized child care, a gender-blind application process, and standardized compensation. 

As I noted in my post about Mayor Ed Murray's first State of the City speech, Murray—who has otherwise shown a commitment to gender wage equality—didn't mention women or Seattle's gender wage gap, the highest in the nation, once during his 45-minute-long remarks.

Fortunately, life has gone on without the tunnel. Better than expected, in fact. Traffic volumes on the viaduct have absolutely plummeted since tunnel construction began—from 110,300 trips a day in 2009 to just 62,000 three years later. That's a 40 percent decline!  

3. Hmm, this is starting to sound familiar: The AP reports that, according to WSDOT, it will be "months" before the tunnel-boring machine, "Bertha," resumes operations. Bertha has been more or less stopped since early December; workers are trying to figure out the best way to fix damaged seals around a bearing in the machine's cutterhead. 

Fortunately, life has gone on without the tunnel. Better than expected, in fact. (For the sake of discussion, we'll just ignore the possibility of a catastrophic earthquake that destroys the viaduct). According to Sightline, traffic volumes on the viaduct have absolutely plummeted since tunnel construction began—from 110,300 trips a day in 2009 to just 62,000 three years later. That's a 40 percent decline!

The reasons: People have switched to transit; trips have "disappeared" due to traffic congestion (if you know the road will be clogged, you're less likely to take an unnecessary car trip); some drivers have moved over to I-5 and surface streets; and car traffic overall continues to decline. 

"At this point, nobody knows if Bertha will ever get moving again, let alone complete her job," Sightline's Clark Williams-Derry writes. "But given these figures, maybe it doesn’t matter."

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