Afternoon Jolt

Monday Jolt: Southeast Seattle Loses Out

Southeast Seattle loses out on development and car-sharing opportunities.

By Erica C. Barnett December 3, 2012


Afternoon Jolt

Today's two-time loser: Southeast Seattle. 

During this morning's city council discussion of Sound Transit's plans to build transit-oriented development around light rail stations (Sound Transit's Kate Lichtenstein told the council that the agency aims to "look at [transit-oriented development] in the early phases of our development of plans"), council member Mike O'Brien pointed out a major problem with Link Light Rail in Southeast Seattle: Instead of allowing development on land along the rail route that was initially used for construction staging,

"Southeast Seattle is really a missed opportunity." —Seattle City Council member Mike O'Brien Sound Transit has allowed the land to sit vacant, eliminating dozens of opportunities for transit-oriented development. Where apartments might now stand, there are only barren, gravel-covered lots, separated from the sidewalk or street by cheap wire fencing. 

"On the one hand, Sound Transit owns this asset … and we know that all agencies want to time the sale of their assets to maximize revenue," O'Brien said.

However, O'Brien said, maximizing profits isn't the only factor for Sound Transit to consider.

"There’s a housing shortage in Seattle now. There’s a lot of demand. When we look at affordable housing around transit, there’s limitless demand, and when I see the parcels that Sound Transit owns around the light rail corridor [there is] the potential to create transit for all income levels ... Southeast Seattle is really a missed opportunity." 

And in more bad news for South Seattle on the transit front: the council will vote this afternoon to approve a short-term car rental service called Car2Go. (I reported on Car2Go back in October.) Although Car2Go addresses one of the major problems with its rival Zipcar, allowing customers to return cars to any location in its service area, it (much like Zipcar, which removed cars from the area once it bought out its former rival Flexcar) won't serve Southeast Seattle. People who don't own cars in Seattle's most diverse community, in other words, will still be stuck taking the bus.


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