Deep Walkability, a $15 Minimum Wage, Indie Record Labels, Trees, and Other Important Things for Cities

PubliCola Likes and Dislikes.

By Josh Feit July 11, 2014

We let former KUOW host Steve Scher host this moring's Fizz Likes & Dislikes drill, but that doesn't mean I didn't have a bunch of stuff to get off my chest as well. 

So, here are some of my own Friday Likes & Dislikes.

1. For months Seattle Department of Planning & Development (DPD) analyst Patrice Carroll, who's managing the city's big 2035 Comprehensive Plan, has  presented three potential options for accommodating population growth in Seattle (we're expecting 120,000 new residents by 2035): 1) an urban village strategy that directs the majority of growth to slightly mixed residential and commercial hubs around the city (the current strategy) such as Columbia City, Lake City, Crown Hill, Morgan Junction, Fremont, and Eastlake; 2) an urban center strategy that directs a bigger percentage of the growth to totally mixed commercial and residential centers such as Downtown, the U. District, South Lake Union, and Capitol Hill; or 3) a light rail strategy nudging the majority of growth around light rail stations.

But this afternoon, Carroll told a roomful of planning nerds and neighborhood activists (at Transportation Choices Coalition's monthly brownbag lunch forum) that a fourth option is now in the mix for the Comp Plan update.

Carroll said DPD is considering a transit strategy, which would expand the light rail strategy to also include mapping growth around bus hubs.

LIKE this new focus because it would add two more "nodes" to the map, expanding options for increasing density from 38 spots around the city to 40. (The light rail option also has 40.)

Carroll says they haven't fleshed out the new transit focus option yet, but the latest Comp Plan update document describes it like this: "Alternative 4 – Transit Focus (Adding to Alternative 3 [light rail focus] ... an additional emphasis on existing villages with very good bus service)." 

The more places around town that are officially slated for growth, the better.

"The idea of deep walkability extends the idea of walkable neighborhoods. A city with Deep walkability is one that is built in such a way that people can move easily by foot, bicycle, and transit not just within a neighborhood but between neighborhoods."

2. Which brings me to something else I LIKED hearing at today's meeting: Futurewise Executive Director Hilary Franz brought up "Deep Walkability" which expands the idea of building walkable neighborhoods to making it easy to walk between neighborhoods. 

In concert with adding more locations in the Comp Plan to concentrate density, "Deep Walkability" is like setting up a pile of Trader Joe's pop-up sponges (imagine they're Seattle's different neighborhoods) to expand and bump into one another.  

Franz says: 

"The idea of deep walkability extends the idea of walkable neighborhoods. A city with Deep walkability is one that is built in such a way that people can move easily by foot, bicycle, and transit not just within a neighborhood but between neighborhoods."

She continues: "The reason this is important is that if you have neighborhoods that are largely inaccessible to each other, you are still pretty much car-dependent. The effect of which is still increasing cars on the road, fewer transit riders, and fewer people moving around and through the community in a way that enhances their experience and their health." 

3. Speaking of Franz's Futurewise—they're the environmental non-profit that has taken it upon itself to defend the Growth Management Act in a fight for density and transit—they're currently putting together a "community conditions" report which crunches data on access to education, health care, grocery stores, transit, and parks in different neighborhoods around Seattle. 

They also measured another key ingredient to smart density that—to many people's surprise—urbanists care about too: the city's tree canopy.

(I reported on this last week and found that activists promoting stronger tree canopy protections were unfortunately using faulty data to say that tree cover had decreased.)

But Franz says her data shows that tree canopy has indeed decreased by three percent citywide over the last ten years—and by eight percent in poorer neighborhoods. 

File that under DON'T LIKE. 

4. We've already reported on the GOP-consultant behind Forward Seattle —the group that's trying to undo the city's new $15 minimum wage law. (It's the Gilpin Group, which is also working against this year's parks funding measure).

Well now, here's something else we DON'T LIKE about the group's campaign: Their signature gathering firm, as reported today on their campaign finance reports, is Citizen Solutions. 

Citizen Solutions is the same firm Tim Eyman uses. And, after facing serious complaints of fraud, Citizen Solutions came under attack from Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman.  

Forward Seattle, which is being funded by North Seattle business woman Faye Garneau, former Starbucks President Howard Behar, Dollar Rent-a-Car, Cactus, Flying Apron, 7-11, and Belltown Pizza among several business interests, paid Citizen Solutions $37,000 to collect signatures in June.

5. File this under my fixation on innovation districts—and specifically, how music needs to be part of that equation: I LIKE this CityLab article documenting how Indianapolis' successful Asthmatic Kitty record label has been key to the city's arts economy revival.

.. the label’s manager initiated a conversation with members of the local music scene, leading to the formation of The Music Council. Made up of a diverse cross-section of music professionals, the council includes representatives from local blogs, indie labels, the chamber of commerce, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and educational institutions. Its goal is to influence city policies that might foster growth for the music scene while also developing the city’s creative economy.

“One thing music brings to a city are these creative small businesses that have a huge impact on the creative economy of the city,” Beeler says. “It is really important for our city to think about how we can get more of these businesses into our ecosystem. That’s where the Music Council is heading … looking at bands, venues, publicists, videographers as creative small businesses.”

These efforts give credibility to the city’s music scene as a creative economic cluster 

6. Finally, I DON'T LIKE that an article about Seattle in Bloomberg this week (the news peg was that we're the fastest growing big city in the country) gives short shrift to our historic $15 minimum wage law, relegating the news to a closing aside in a section under the header: Gun Violence. 

An article that sets out to explain Seattle's popularity, but fails to examine the major Seattle news story of the year, one that's packed with meaning about our culture, doesn't (as they say) get it. 



Show Comments