Urban Upgrade

Kid's Play

The Seattle Planning Commission sets its sights on making urban living attractive to families again.

By Josh Feit April 1, 2014 Published in the April 2014 issue of Seattle Met

With urban planners fixated on building bike lanes and nurturing nightlife for the “creative class” of young smarties working at startups, it seems counterintuitive that the Seattle Planning Commission would give much thought to making Seattle more kid friendly. 

But in January the commission published Family-Sized Housing: An Essential Ingredient to Attract and Retain Families with Children in Seattle, which flags Seattle’s bottom-of-the-list ranking among cities based on percentage of households with kids, and sets out to fix it.

SPC connects Seattle’s lack of kids to its lack of affordable housing and makes 11 suggestions. Among them: changing zoning laws so families have options beyond traditionally sized homes, including multifamily housing and smaller houses in single-family zones.

But why are kids important to cities? When you focus on kid-friendly design, SPC executive director Vanessa Murdock says, the results—safer streets, open spaces (“every backyard doesn’t need a soccer net,” she says)—end up benefitting all of us. Speaking of which, when you make cities family friendly, Murdock adds, you curb suburban sprawl, a major culprit in global warming. And raising kids with an urban sensibility now is a safeguard against generations of sprawl in the future.

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