At this morning's meeting of the city council's land-use committee, committee chair Sally Clark (who told PubliCola recently that she thinks Mayor Mike McGinn handled the issue of density around the Roosevelt light rail station poorly) and Tim Burgess (who wrote a letter to the city's Department of Planning and Development asking them to increase density around the station) got into a (polite, naturally) sparring match on the issue. (McGinn and Burgess have proposed allowing buildings about 20 feet taller around the Roosevelt light rail station; opponents of the idea, including some neighbors, say residents in the area weren't consulted about the proposal).

During an otherwise routine briefing on neighborhood plan updates in South Seattle, Burgess asked city planning director Marshall Foster, somewhat rhetorically, whether "the recent discussion about Roosevelt impacts your thinking about, especially, the station areas" in the area, prompting Clark to respond, "And in what way do you mean that, council member Burgess?"

After Burgess asked Clark if she really wanted him to answer that, she continued, "I do. I think it's a good discussion, and it brings in a lot of issues [like] what is the market prepared to do ... and how do we do this in partnership [with the neighborhood], where it's not perceived as government doing something to an area but as all of us taking advantage of an amenit ythat we all invested in."

Burgess's response:

"That's a nice framing. So, the way I negatively talk about it is, I don't want our city---me, you, anybody---to wake up in 10, 15, 20 years and say, gosh, why'd we do that? ... We have a almost once in a generation chance here to get it right and to do what I refer to as controlled density, where we place residential units and jobs---very closely related---to create the kind of urban environment that we're looking for in those areas, while at the same time being able to protect our single-family neighborhoods. ... There's lots and lots of reasons why we would want to design areas of our city for lots of people."

Clark responded that she worries that neighborhoods will end up "derelict and underused" if the city approves too much density and no one moves in, and Burgess responded by citing Barcelona, where existing residences and businesses have been preserved while density has increased around them. Clark responded: "Maybe we can apply to the European Union," she said. "Private-property interests complicate our world."

Editorializing here: Clark may have gotten the last word, but I think Burgess won the argument.

 
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