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By Erica C. Barnett September 30, 2014



1. The Puget Sound Business Journal and The Urbanist report that Vulcan plans to develop a residential tower up to 24 stories high in South Lake Union, with as many as 300 new residential units.

What's more exciting about the proposal, though, is that it includes a woonerf (pronounced, approximately,  "vone-erff")—a park-like street in which all users, from walkers to cyclists to wheelchair users to people in cars, intermingle.  

The street, the PSBJ reports, will be similar to the Bell Street Park in Belltown, with a series of "'street rooms,' which are like small parks, causing drivers of motor vehicles to slow down some and creating open space where pedestrians and bicyclists would have priority over cars."

More accurately, it's a shared-use street where no user has priority over any other; as The Urbanist describes them, woonerfs are "shared spaces that give visual cues and implement physical elements to encourage automobiles to yield and slow to other users." Exhibit A: Seattle's most venerable tourist attraction, Pike Place Market—the only place in the city where pedestrians are allowed to walk right in the street. 

2. Hard as this may be to believe, lo these many years into the tortuous battle over creating a safe path for cyclists through industrial Ballard, the "Missing Link" of the Burke-Gilman Trail has suffered another setback.

The Seattle Times reports that the Seattle Department of Transportation says it switched consultants on the trail's environmental impact statement after opponents, representing maritime and industrial businesses in the area, objected to their latest choice, SVR Design, which worked on the preferred option for the missing link. 

The Times' Jonathan Martin uses the delay as further evidence that the city should give up on its preferred route, which has the support of cycling and pedestrian advocates, and adopt an alternative "protected bike lane" (as opposed to a separate bike trail, along the lines of the rest of the entire 27-mile Burke-Gilman Trail) proposed by the attorneys for the industrial businesses that have successfully stalled the preferred route for years.

Although Martin notes that at least a new bike lane would be safer than the unprotected, treacherous on-street route that cyclists must currently navigate, his main argument for supporting the business-backed alternative and opposing the city's and cyclists' preferred option is this: "old Ballard industrial and maritime businesses—the ones that every mayor and City Council member say they value—could feel like they’re not being slowly pushed out of the city."

Because making businesses "feel" better, apparently, is more important than making sure that cyclists actually are safer. 

3. Citylab (a project of The Atlantic) is hosting its second-annual gathering to discuss "Urban Solutions to Global Climate Change" in L.A. this week.

In advance of the event, it asked leaders from cities around the globe to submit one great idea that has worked in their city. The top 10 ideas—reflective "cool" roofs in NYC, the "Xtreme Park Makeover" project in Johannesburg—got us thinking: What would Seattle's "big ideas" include? @jfeit has a few suggestions: 

4. The LA Times reports on the fraught racial politics of Eastern Washington, where at-large voting has helped keep Latino/a candidates off the seven-member City Council. As the Times reports, although 41 percent of Yakima is Latino, the city has never elected a single council member with a Spanish surname. 

As the U.S. District Court of Eastern Washington wrote in its opinion concluding that Yakima's local election system violates the federal Voting Rights Act, 

Yakima’s present political reality is colored by a history of official discrimination at the polls, consistent racial bloc voting, and an election system that stacks the deck against minority voters. While Latinos in Yakima have disproportionately low education, income, and health care levels, they struggle under the at-large system to elect their preferred candidates—and to no avail. No Latino has ever been elected to the Yakima City Council.

5. The Seattle Times features a guest op/ed by Tenants Union director Jonathan Grant and Puget Sound Sage organizer Ubax Gardbeere, who argue that the Seattle Housing Authority's new welfare-to-work style "Stepping Forward" proposal, which would quintuple rents for some public-housing residents deemed capable of working by the agency, regardless of their language abilities, family size, or ability to find a living-wage job, is inhumane and unrealistic.

"The problem," they write, "isn’t that tenants aren’t already working hard; in a post-recession job market, full-time high-paying jobs are not out there. According to the National Employment Law Project, since the recession began there are nearly 2 million fewer jobs in mid- and higher-wage industries. The largest growth is in lower-paying service-sector jobs."

As we've reported, community meetings on the "Stepping Forward" proposal have been dominated by low-income tenants and tenant advocates who argue that the rent increases will lead to displacement, eviction, and homelessness for many of the city's lowest-income and most vulnerable residents. 

6. KIRO Radio sat down with incumbent U.S. Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D-WA, 1) and her Republican opponent, Pedro Celis, to talk about immigration reform, education, foreign policy, and the minimum wage, among other issues.

Although both candidates, KIRO reports, were short on details (after a half-hour with each candidate, KIRO's Colleen O'Brien writes, "I'm still having a tough time nailing these two down"), Celis was especially vague—particularly when asked about his plans to balance the federal budget, which he declined to discuss because, he said, the budget is "so complicated"—promting the exasperated O'Brien to conclude:"So, voters in congressional district number one, let's not talk about the issues, they're complicated."

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