On Other Blogs

On Other Blogs: Gay Marriage and Density

By Erica C. Barnett July 9, 2012

Speaking of PubliCola's sabbatical, here are a couple of great posts we missed while we were gone:

1. Towleroad had a clip last week of State Sen. Steve Litzow, a Republican from Mercer Island (R-41), arguing  in favor of marriage equality---part of a series called “Why Marriage Matters” supporting Ref. 74, the marriage equality bill, which gay marriage opponents are challenging on the statewide ballot. (Litzow, as we noted in Fizz this morning, has been endorsed by the Service Employees International Union 775, the liberal home health care workers' union.)

Litzow, one of just four Republican state senators to vote for the marriage bill, makes the case for marriage from a Republican POV, arguing that big government shouldn’t have the right to dictate who a person can marry. “One of the key tenets of being a Republican is the belief in personal freedom and individual responsibility, and there is nothing more personal than who you marry,” Litzow says in the ad. Last month, opponents of marriage equality turned in 232,000 signatures to put R-74 on the statewide November ballot. (In apparent contradiction to his pro-choice stance on marriage, however, Litzow voted against the Reproductive Parity Act, which would have required companies that pay for maternity care to also cover abortions.)

2. We’ve spent years arguing that Seattle’s overwhelmingly single-family zoning is a major reason our housing prices are so high: By artificially limiting the amount of land available for dense new development, the city guarantees that demand for housing will always outstrip supply, driving prices up. But here’s one factor we’ve never considered until now: Forcing single-family housing developers to build large front yards that are rarely used for anything except gardening (Seattle law requires front yards at least 20 feet deep) takes  millions of acres of developable property off the market.

By Seattle Transit Blog’s back-of-the-napkin estimate, front yards have consumed around 120 million square feet of land in Seattle, an acreage that works out to about $32,000 extra dollars per house. Nothing we can do about that now, of course, but it is an argument for development standards that allow houses next to sidewalks, like the row houses that are already common in cities from San Francisco to Boston.
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