Isn't It Weird That

Isn't It Weird That: Mudslides and Urbanists

A weird thing we noticed about the mudslide and the urbanism debate.

By Erica C. Barnett March 27, 2014

Isn't it Weird That

Isn't It Weird That ... In the midst of the ongoing tragedy in Oso, David Miller, a Maple Leaf Community Council activist and likely city council candidate in 2015, when seven of nine currently at-large council seats will be elected by geographical district, is blaming "urbanists" for contributing to the mudslide? 

Miller, who ran unsuccessfully for council in 2009, took to Facebook today to respond to comments by Cascade Bicycle Club lobbyist Brock Howell lamenting that there were no policies in place in Snohomish County to prevent more than 100 people from living in a zone known for mudslides and floods (something the Seattle Times' Danny Westneat has also pointed out).

Miller wrote, "If neo-urbanists spent even half as much time badgering suburban city governments about sustainable development as they did in Seattle skewing the conversation to the FALSE topic of needing more zoning capacity inside Seattle, the Puget Sound metro area would be a lot more sustainable." 

(The debate Miller's referring to is multifold, but it includes the question of whether the city should increase allowable building heights, typically by a couple of stories, in some multifamily neighborhoods). 

After some back-and-forth with Howell and other folks on both sides of the urbanist/anti-urbanist divide, Miller added that the mudslide was "A failure of our urbanists. Instead of focusing on land use issues in our suburbs, they've been fooled by developers in Seattle into thinking there is a zoning problem inside the city."

As Howell and others pointed out, it's possible (even preferable) to hold more than one idea in your mind at the same time: Paving farmland and allowing people to live in flood-prone areas is a bad thing, and additional development capacity in cities helps prevent suburban and exurban sprawl. 

We have a message out to Miller.


Show Comments