In the meantime, here's Roger Valdez's (mostly) thoughtful response to Lynn Thompson's piece on the Roosevelt density debate in this morning's Seattle Times, in which Thompson took at face value claims by neighborhood leaders like Jim O'Halloran that they "support density, up to a point."
O’Halloran’s spin works, up to a point; the point where it disintegrates into crypto anti-growth rhetoric parroted by the Seattle Times. There are three reasons why it’s easy to see the NIMBY in O’Halloran’s supposed magnanimity toward growth.
First, the argument depends on the idea that growth is an impact that has to be absorbed. That’s false. All those people, all that traffic, all that height bulk and scale are going to increase the value of property in Roosevelt. The upzone doesn’t just help the property owner who is going to develop, but it also helps all the people living around the new development, especially single-family homeowners. Current homeowners and renters benefit from coming businesses and amenities. Growth isn’t an impact at all, and O’Halloran and his friends will all cry themselves to the bank when the rezones go through and they get a thriving, dense, awesome neighborhood.
Second, O’Halloran believes that it’s his right to decide how much growth to “take.” He and his committee feel that it’s democratic that people who are got to the Roosevelt neighborhood first should determine how many people should come after. It’s a form of reverse red lining based on who lives in Roosevelt now. “We got here first,” O’Halloran is saying, “we decide how many come after us!” That’s a bad way of doing business. Imagine if the first pioneers to the Northwest could slam the door behind them. Seattle wouldn’t exist. None of us would be here. New business, ideas, and jobs come when more people arrive. They have to live somewhere, and Roosevelt is a great place for them to live.
Lastly, O’Halloran and his allies like to say that upzones aren’t necessary. I wrote a post at Sightline a year ago tackling the concept that we “have enough zoning.” It’s a stubborn argument because it uses numbers, and often numbers can be confused with the truth. The fact that Seattle has a lot scattered parcels of land zoned at 65 feet doesn’t mean we can accommodate coming growth. Part of the reason that the market is driving more development in Roosevelt is because people have successfully fought it elsewhere. All those people that could have lived at Waldo Woods, the Goodwill site, and Pioneer Square are going to have to go somewhere. They should go to Roosevelt not Maple Valley. Jim O’Halloran is willing to allow them to come—up to the point it makes him uncomfortable.
In fairness to Thompson, I don't think she's "swooning" over O'Halloran's arguments, nor do I think her piece is quite as credulous as Valdez suggests, but his points are well taken: Density produces value, people have to go somewhere, and you can't build a wall around city limits to keep newcomers out.
Want to weigh in on the Roosevelt debate? Get up to the Roosevelt High School auditorium for tonight's 6:00 public hearing at the Roosevelt High School auditorium, 1410 N.E. 66th St.