From the affordable housing policy debates to tracking the $15 minimum wage negotiations—along with every move on the aPodment legislation, the ridesharing compromise, the state budget battles, the tunnel and its swirling office of the waterfront—Fizz has been there. (There's also been PubliCola's picayune obsessions with microparks, bike lane news, and the great tree canopy wars!)
To toast New Year's Eve Day, I've come up with a list of 10 Fizz favorites (along with a few Jolts, One Questions, and Isn't It Weird Thats to round out the list at 14).
Along the lines of yesterday's guest Year in Review essay from Michael Maddux, who correctly identified 2014 as the "Year of the City," I leaned toward favoring Fizz items that spelled out Urbanism as 2014's political center of gravity.
We already made it clear that we LIKED Foster Pepper attorney Thomas Ahearne's performance in front of the Washington State Supreme Court this week when he argued as the McCleary plaintiffs' counsel that the state should be held in contempt for failing to fully fund K-12 education.
Our favorite moment was his sassy (and classy) retort to the GOP gripe that the court needed to respect separation of powers standards and mind its own business: "What is the purpose of separation of powers?" Ahearne told the justices. "Is it to protect government officials who violate the constitutional rights of citizens? Or is it to protect the citizens whose constitutional rights are being violated?"
Fizz followed up with Ahearne yesterday to have him elaborate. He said:
"It's separation of powers not elimination of powers."
"I get a lot of letters from Eastern Washington telling me that separation of powers prevents the supreme court from telling the legislature what to do. People bandying around the phrase 'separation of powers, separation of powers, separation of power.' There is separation of powers, but the question is what's the purpose. And if the purpose is to protect each branch's ability to violate citizens' constitutional rights if they want to, that's not what the separation of powers is. You give separate branches separate powers so that if the other branches are violating citizen's constitutional rights [the constitution says the legislature must fully fund K-12 education, which the court already ruled] you still have a branch left that can stop it. I mean, it's separation of powers not elimination of powers."
And then bam:
Part of this whole discussion of 'separation of powers' and 'the courts have no business telling elected officials what to do with public schools.' We've heard all those kinds of comments before. Because those are exactly the same comments that southern elected officials were making when the courts were telling them they had to desegregate the schools. 'What business do courts have telling us what to do with our schools, we're the elected officials.' When [George] Wallace made his famous stand in the school house door .... he was constitutionally wrong.
3. The Tunnel
WSDOT has created a map, obtained by PubliCola, that shows how much the ground has sunk around the Bertha repair shaft—that's the red circle on the left side of the drawing.
The deep blue, purples, and pink areas represent the worst of it (1.1 inches to 1.39 inches) while the green areas have sunk much less, zero to 0.49 inches.
The deep blue epicenter (ground zero is at Cowgirls Inc.) and the magenta around it—areas that have sunk 1.1 inches to 1.39 inches—are concentrated south of the spot where the tunnel contractor is digging to rescue Bertha, pumping out water so they can hoist part of the boring machine up and try to fix it.
The only tunneling that has happened to date has been south of the repair zone—adjacent to where the ground has sunk the most dramatically.
I'm no geologist, but it looks like there's a relationship between the tunneling and the most susceptible or destabilized earth.
I'm no engineer either, but I'd say proceed with this project at your own risk Seattle.
(Licata, you'll remember, had been frustrated with a dismissive consultant's report to the board that, despite an earlier city council request to look at paths to divesting from fossil fuel stocks, simply belittled the idea.)
Dig deep into the report, and you'll find that even as the consultants lecture the Seattle City Employees' Retirement System (SCERS) on the supposed recklessness of divestment—"We believe that divestment from fossil fuel companies has the potential to reduce expected returns and increase risk in the fund and, therefore, violates the SCERS ... Policy"—there's some actual (though intentionally? inscrutable) analysis ten pages into the report that notes the opposite (FYI, the CU200 are the biggest carbon polluters):
"From a performance perspective, the S&P 500 screened against the CU200 outperforms the standard S&P 500 by approximately 30 basis points over 10 years ended May 2014."
In other words, (in English): Take the CU200 out of Seattle's S&P 500 investment portfolio and employees do better, the report says.
5. Corporate Contributions
Microsoft, typically an even-handed contributor to Democrats and Republicans at the state level, has contributed at least $50,000 more to the GOP effort in this year's state legislative elections than to the Democrats—roughly $80,000 to $47,000—according to PDC records.
While Microsoft has given to many Democrats such as state house speaker Rep. Frank Chopp (D-43, Wallingford) ($900), senate minority leader state Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34, West Seattle) ($500), state Sen. David Frockt (D-46, N. Seattle) ($500), state Sen. Marko Liias (D-21, Edmonds) ($1,350), along with the senate and house Democratic committees ($950 each)—they've not only done the same to a long list of Republican candidates and Republican committees, but they've given hefty exclusive checks this year ($20,000, $15,000, and $15,000 to the Washington State Republican Party, the GOP state senate PAC, and the King County GOP respectively) that have made the company's partisan allegiance clear this year. (Microsoft did give a $20,000 check last year to the Democrats, and I've included that in the $33,000 GOP advantage.)
It's also worth noting that in the instances that the tech titan has contributed to one of the contested races that may decide control of the state senate, they've contributed solely to the Republican candidate over the Democrat, giving: $800 to state Sen. Andy Hill (R-45, Kirkland), $750 to Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-42, Ferndale), and $1,500 to the one dissident Democrat who caucuses with the GOP, state Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-35, Potlatch), who is being challenged by bona fide Democrat Irene Bowling, the candidate that has netted all the Democratic endorsements.
Microsoft has made the company's Republican allegiance clear this year.
With the stall on transportation funding falling largely on the GOP, thanks to their allergy to taxes, and the failure on K-12 education landing both parties in contempt of court, Microsoft's $50,000 preference for the GOP is curious.
The "Linkage Fee" proposal and the microhousing legislation certainly came into direct conflict yesterday, conjuring up an unmistakable irony in the council's affordable housing strategy.
Summarizing the "Linkage Fee" proposal council member Nick Licata and city consultant Rick Jacobus (who developed the Linkage Fee proposal), explained that the plan addressed the fact that "the market isn't producing affordable housing."
Less than an hour later, the council, mostly through Licata amendments, happily passed its list of aPodment amendments that could curtail housing production. Developers eager to build, testified against the amendments saying it would prevent them from developing microhousing, while neighborhood activists testified in favor of the amendments saying it would help manage what kind of development went up in their communities
You will notice that the Democratic house proposal books $160 million from the closing the estate tax loophole and $110 million from the telecom fix. Hill's senate budget books zero dollars for both items. (It's also worth pointing out that the Democratic proposal has $352 million in "tax preference repeals." Hill's version: $0.)
Yes, after two special sessions, and a court-ordered threat to mail estate tax rebate checks out to people who claimed the exemption, the GOP signed off on the Democratic budget. But Hill is misleading eastside voters.
Hill goes on to quip:
"It’s interesting to note that in recent history prior to 2012, when the House, Senate and Governor were all controlled by Democrats, the only significant tax preference elimination was the 2010 repeal of the sales tax exemption on candy and gum. This was overturned by the voters in Nov 2010."
Sen. Hill is overlooking the fact that it took a two-thirds vote at the time to repeal tax loopholes and despite repeated calls by the Democrats to close a big bank loophole, senate Republicans stalled the legislation in the senate throughout the Great Recession.
Perhaps even more unconvincing, though, was the showing from old-school Seattle groups such as the Seattle Neighborhood Coalition and the Seattle Community Council Federation who had threatened to turn the day into a resurgence of their cause to slow density and development and bike lanes.
Yes, there was an Eastlake business leader with a sign proclaiming Murray as Mayor McSchwinn II, and there were leafleters at the entrance to the hall—"Developer impact fees now"; "Growth controls now!"—and the opening discussion led by CityClub Executive Director Diane Davis did get hijacked by people who wanted to complain about development instead of answering the admittedly leading questions (though important ones) about what people liked about their neighborhoods.
But bike advocates, transit activists, community housing developers, and green urban planners, perhaps not leafleting or raising their hands, came out in equal—if not greater—numbers. And the immigrant (Asian, Mexican, and African) communities also had a strong showing, bringing concerns about basic issues like crime, transportation, jobs, and access to city government.
The most symbolic moment of the day was this: Former City Council member Jim Street (as if it wasn't already symbolic enough that a council member from the 1980s and early 90s was leading the discussion on the so-called neighborhood movement) concluded his session by telling the crowd how excited he was that this new generation was taking up the cause to revive the process. The group assembled in the chairs, however, was a graying crowd.
It was the chatty group in the back of the hall, speaking with the city staffers—the most energized crew in the room, it seemed—talking about parklets, bike lanes, mixed-use housing, the new watefront, and artist spaces, that seems to already have revived the city and moved on beyond the endless meetings into projects such as the Westlake bike lane with specific timelines and dates already on the calendar.
9. A New Coalition
More on the unified theory theory—the progressive pitch that economic issues, environmental issues, urbanism, social justice, and even hot-button social issues (choice is a health care issue and therefore an economic issue) are all connected: Immigrants' rights group OneAmerica was in the house again yesterday when Move King County Now gathered reporters to make the case for an April ballot measure to save Metro bus service.)
(We say "again," because OneAmerica Executive Director Rich Stolz was on hand to testify in front of the King County Council earlier this month when the council held a hearing on the proposed ballot measure.)
The usual suspects in the fight for public transit—labor, business, the disabled, King County government itself, and leading local transit advocates from Transportation Choices Coalition—were there too, but OneAmerica Votes board president Sudha Nandagopal made the social, racial, and economic justice case for saving Metro bus service, which faces an immediate 17 percent cut in service if voters don't pass a $60 vehicle license fee and a 0.1 cent sales tax increase. The proposal also comes with low-income fare and a rebate on the vehicle license fee for low-income households.
"The immigrant community," Nandagopal said, referring to the block she lives on where "everyone speaks two languages," will "feel the brunt of these cuts."
"We can raise the minimum wage," she added, alluding to the headline-grabbing $15 minimum wage campaign that the press and the left are focused on, "but," and this is the unified theory part, "if we're not funding this system than it's not going to work."
Her point: Paying low-wage workers more money won't improve their lives if they can't get to their higher-paying jobs
10. (The Same Old) Far Right
Moving on from flip to grandiose.
Check out this (must-watch) four-minute-plus, Mel Gibson-style campaign video from Tea Party conservative Rep. Matt Shea (R-4, Spokane Valley).
In a video that declares "Wake Up Washington," Rep. Shea, who has sponsored bills to undo Obamacare, to increase access to guns, and to institute parental notification for abortions, lays out his vision so he can see a "God-honoring constitutional republic .... and a God-honoring state of Washington restored."
The vision has something to do with cutting welfare and food stamps, "a well-armed people," and returning to a gold and silver standard against "paper and fiat printing by the Federal Reserve."
That's former Fed chair Alan Greenspan pictured above with those, um, subtly Satanic eyes.
11. Weyerhaeuser to Seattle(This was a Jolt)
In a move that echoes the 21st Century changeover from the suburban campus model (think Microsoft and well, Office Space) to the city model (think Amazon in South Lake Union), Weyerhaeuser's board approved plans to move the $8.5 billion Fortune 500 wood products company from Federal Way to Pioneer Square this afternoon.
Here's CEO Doyle Simons' email to staff today, where the pull of urban values is evident—from Doyle's rap about transit access to his pitch about attracting new talent to "one of the country's fastest growing cities."
From: Doyle Simons
Sent: Tuesday, August 26, 2014 2:00 PM Subject: Headquarters decision
As you may know, we have been evaluating options for the best place to locate our corporate headquarters. This process is now complete and our board of directors has approved the decision to move our company headquarters from Federal Way to 200 Occidental Avenue in Seattle.
The move will occur in mid-to-late 2016. We will be the sole office tenants of a new building, which we will Lease.
It will be constructed to meet our needs and is large enough to accommodate future growth. All our Federal Way-based functional and business staff teams will move to the new location.
We will divest the land and buildings associated with our Federal Way campus. Our research and technology teams will continue to occupy a portion of the Weyerhaeuser Technology Center through a contractual agreement with the eventual new owners.
There are two main drivers behind this decision.
First, the size of our Federal Way campus is too large for our needs. The capacity in our current buildings is more than triple what we need, even in anticipation of future growth for our company. In addition, operating this 430-acre campus is very costly.
We evaluated a wide range of possible solutions, including retrofitting our technology center and moving into existing buildings at other locations. Ultimately we decided to remain in Washington State and that occupying this new building in Seattle was the best option to serve our current and future needs.
This leads to the second driver for this decision — positioning ourselves for future success.
A critical goal for our long-term success is to continue to attract and retain top talent, especially given the number of retirements we anticipate in the next several years. Seattle is one of the country’s fastest growing cities, offering a larger pool of talent than any other location in the Puget Sound region. It also has the power to draw talent from across the country and internationally. Choosing a location that positions us for the best possible recruiting and retention success is the right strategic direction for our company, and is consistent with our focus on people development.
We understand this decision will significantly affect the commute experience for many people. We chose the south downtown area of Seattle because it is optimally located for public transit from multiple directions. We are committed to continuing to subsidize the cost of transit using commuter programs in the region and will share more details about how that will work as final decisions are made.
I know this is a lot to take in and that you will have many questions. We have created a website to house all the information we have about the move, including images of the new building and a comprehensive Q&A. As more details are finalized, we will post them on the site.
Weyerhaeuser has a long history in Federal Way and this campus has served us very well over the years. Moving to Seattle is an important step forward for Weyerhaeuser, and I’m personally excited about the opportunities it will bring to our company and employees as we continue on our journey to truly great.
Specifically, the company is moving into the space at 200 Occidental between Yesler and Washington.
(And because I thought this was the most noteworthy news of the year ... here's a follow-up I filed in the following morning's Fizz.)
Re: Yesterday's huge news about Weyerhaeuser's decision to move from suburban Seattle to Seattle proper (Pioneer Square), we're going to jump in early with a Fizz LIKE.
We LIKE that after electing a socialist city council member and a gay mayor, and after passing a paid sick leave ordinance and a $15 minimum wage law, Seattle scored a Fortune 500 manufacturing company that contributes mostly to Republicans.
12. Another Jolt (starring our favorite elected of 2014, Bellevue Mayor Claudia Balducci)
Bellevue mayor and Sound Transit board member Claudia Balducci cast a symbolic 'No' vote today as the ST board voted overwhelmingly to place a 25-acre operations and maintenance facility adjacent to the Spring District, the planned mixed-use development along Bellevue's Bel-Red corridor.
Calling it an "the ironic choice" because transit is supposed be an "incentive for transit oriented development," Balducci said "the trade off is sacrificing the future vision" of Bellevue.
Three sites were up under consideration: a Lynnwood school district property that butted up against a single-family zone and a wetland (and that wasn't big enough to hold storage track); a Bellevue office park known as the Plaza 520 that's home to 100 businesses; and to Balducci and the entire Bellevue City Council's chagrin, the BNSF site across the street from the Spring District, a planned Her-style mixed-use development in the walkshed of the future 120th St. light rail station.
Calling it "the ironic choice" because transit is supposed be an "incentive for transit-oriented development"—the Green Metropolis mash-up concept that puts housing, transit, retail, pedestrian and bike corridors, and jobs all together to foster density—Balducci said "the tradeoff is sacrificing the future vision" of Bellevue.
Balducci called the decision "troubling," noting that the maintenance base would "take a quarter slice" away from the developable land. "One of the very reasons you build a fixed-rail system is because it gives this tremendous incentive for transit oriented, dense, development, that is exactly what we want to see, it's what all our land use plans say we want, it's what we talk about at the Puget Sound Regional Council, and at our cities and at our counties. And we are going to take the most valuable core, the quarter mile around the station, and take a quarter slice out of it, and take it out of play. It's an unfortunate thing to have happen, and I'm going to oppose the selection of this site." (Her Bellevue colleague, City Council member Jennifer Robertson, who testified before the vote, said they would lose 800 multi-family units, 1.8 million square feet of retail and office space, and $6.1 million annually in property, B&O, and sales tax revenue.)
Balducci also complained that Bellevue had been planning the Spring District since 2008 (based on light rail development) and was angry that the Spring District maintenance option had just been brought to their attention in the past year.
Green ST board colleagues such as Washington State Department of Transportation Director Lynn Peterson and Seattle City Council member Mike O'Brien voted with majority against Balducci, but made a point of seconding her remarks and expressing frustration over the difficult choice. Mayor Ed Murray voted with the majority as well, but without making any remarks.
Peterson addressed the process issues, saying "the lesson learned" was that Sound Transit needed to update its performance measures when evaluating future projects to "not just be transportation related, [but] actually land use related as well." She summarized today's decision (which she voted for) as "the best transportation choice, but not the best land use choice."
After the board voted to pick the Spring District site, they passed an amendment to study ways to mitigate stymied development potential, by looking at new configurations—moving a maintenance base parking lot, for example building on top of the south portion of the maintenance base. (An Urban Land Institute report commissioned by ST has already begun exploring ways to try and enhance TOD at the BNSF site.)
April Putney, a lobbyist for Futurewise, the state's leading smart growth advocacy group, who characterized the Bel-Red plans as the "largest TO opportunity in the region," was cynical about the mitigation plan. Criticizing ST's planning—and recommending that the agency "adopt stronger TOD [standards] that actually have an impact" she said in the future TOD "shouldn't be a question of mitigating, it should be a question of siting."
However, everyone wasn't as torn up about sacrificing a potential site on future development. Mark Sparks, head of VMG Studio 520, a video production company at the other Bellevue site under consideration, the so-called Plaza 520 site—a low-rise retail and business office park adjacent to an Acura dealership west of 405 and just south of 520 on NE 20th St. at 130th Ave.—noted that "big-money" interests were simply making promises about the Spring District. "Don't turn your back on those who built this community," he said about Plaza 520, noting that 101 existing small and mid-size businesses (including VMG) would have been displaced under the Plaza 520 plan.
13. Another Jolt (featuring the State Budget and McCleary)
Testifying against the legislation in front of Sen. Hill's committee meeting yesterday, Justice started out making one of the points we made in Fizz: Revenue growth for the next biennium isn't enough to even cover the status quo going forward—"much less make additional investments in education," as Justice put it.
The Washington State Supreme Court's McCleary decision puts the state on the hook for an additional $2 billion in K-12 funding for the next biennium and another $1.2 billion extra in the biennium after that—on top of the the roughly $15 billion per biennium that's needed to cover existing costs. Hill's legislation, Justice told Jolt, doesn't address the real budget problem because "he just rearranges the money without adding any."
Of course, the Republicans haven't said that Hill's two-thirds plan would fulfil the McCleary obligation. But that leads Justice to make another point, which reveals the legislation as more of a soundbite than a solution. "They haven't said that," Justice admits, "but you still have to fund McCleary."
And Justice goes on to make a more devastating point about Sen. Hill's current budgeting scheme in general (the house Democrats are guilty of this funny math as well, by the way.) Justice tells Hill that his supplemental budget falls $70 million short.
Hill takes umbrage at Justice's point. "Well, I was interested." Hill begins skeptically. "You said you thought the senate's proposal was $70 million short and yet it balanced, it met the four-year balanced budget requirement."
Cue up the math. And the Jolt: Justice points out to Hill that the balanced budget requirement puts a 4.5 percent floor on revenue growth for budgeting. That is: the budget can assume revenues based on 4.5 percent growth or actual projections, whichever is higher. Revenue growth over next four years is projected to be only about 4.3 percent, $104 million less than 4.5 percent growth in Hill's plan. Hill's budget leaves an ending balance of $35 million. So, "if you back out the additional revenue that's assumed [$104 million]," Justice tells Hill, "then you're facing a $70 million shortfall."
"Got it," Hill says. "OK."
Justice told Jolt that Hill's budget "was not based on reality."
Indeed, the actual increase for the fiscal biennium (2016 and 2017) is 4.3 percent (see page 71) and (see last page) Hill's senate budget is based on 4.5 percent growth which gives them $104 million that doesn't actually exist.
In addition to showing up Hill's two-thirds bill as pure messaging without any substance, Justice's entire testimony is worth watching because she hits another point: Prioritizing education funding can't be done in isolation. Hill's proposal forces "deep and devastating cuts to other things kids need to be good learners such as access to food, health care, and a stable home," Justice says, clearly bullet-pointing the other mainstays of the general fund that are at risk.
To complete that point about holistic budgeting responsibilities, Justice hints at the McCleary logic that's lit a fire under education funding, telling the committee the state could be in danger of "violating federal and [state] constitutional requirements." Justice notes that additional cuts—on top of the recession era's $10 billion in hits—would put the state at risk of being unable to pay for debt service, prison costs, and the state's share of Medicaid.
The numbers—62 percent of eligible developments since 2001 did not use the building incentive, creating just 616 units of affordable housing over the past 13 years—indicate that the city's main program to create affordable housing isn't working.
The numbers also showed that the incentive zoning program's target market, those making between 60 and 80 percent of the area median income (about $45,000 for one person), already have access to housing they can afford—83 percent of rentals were available to people making 80 percent of AMI. The real need, the city's own study showed, is for people making below 50 percent of AMI (about $30,000 for one person), who can afford just 37 percent of units on the market.
We asked O'Brien, an advocate of incentive zoning—he fought to raise the fee last year from then- mayor Mike McGinn's $15 to the council's $22—if the new data had changed his mind about the program.
"It's really important that we dig into the numbers at a deeper level—because it's a little inconsistent. Actually it's really inconsistent with what I hear when I'm out every day in the community, which is, 'my rent's going up. I'm being kicked out. I can't find another place that I can afford.'"
O'Brien said it's "hard for me to characterize it as 'the program's not working.' It's certainly not as robust as one would hope."
He continued: "One thing that gets brought up all the time is 'why are you guys spending so much time on incentive zoning?' That it should be a broader-based discussion. 'Don't make the development community responsible for all the affordability needs in this city.' And I don't disagree with that."
Of course, the city does have other programs to produce affordable housing—the voter-approved housing levy, for example, and the Multi-Family Tax Exemption credit for developers who build low-income units in mutli-family housing projects—programs that have produced about 4,000 units and 2,500 units, respectively over the same fallow period for incentive zoning. "We do have a housing levy," O'Brien said. "We do have a MFTE. [Incentive zoning] is a piece of that. We're going to need a variety of tools."
O'Brien, reminding me that he has an economics degree (he was the CFO at local law firm Stokes Lawrence) says he agrees that increasing supply in general is part of the answer (another troubling number in the city study is that a potential 4,000 residential units went unbuilt under the struggling incentive zoning program).
But O'Brien isn't placing his full faith in the free market. "The [thing] we hear all the time is: 'This is just increasing the cost of producing market rate units, and supply is really the answer.' I agree that supply is a big part of it, but I don't believe that 100 percent of our effort focused on supply is going to answer the problem."
O'Brien says he's tasked the city's consultants to seek out the developers who declined the incentive to find out exactly why. "Is it because the economics of the incentive program are so burdensome? I do believe that developers, at the end of the day, are going to make a decision that makes the most sense for their bottom line. And so if that's the case, we really need to understand that because then I don't think the program is getting us what we need."
But, and even though the data already seems to indicate the bottom line isn't working for developers, O'Brien suspects it's not that simple. It could be, he says, "that these projects actually came on line a couple of years ago ... when the market was different and people just didn't want to build larger buildings. .. Or is it a developer that just doesn't do high-rise? I imagine it's a little bit of everything out there."
As for the apparent miscue on affordability—that the incentive zoning program is geared toward building "workforce housing" that's already available on the market—O'Brien also thinks the data is more nuanced than the top-lines indicate.
First of all, he notes that there's a wide range between 51 percent and 79 percent of median income, and the policies may have to be "more surgical" so there aren't gaps between available housing. He worries, for example, that someone may be living in housing that's affordable at 50 percent when they could actually jump to 60 percent, but only housing at 80 percent is available. "They're taking up resources for lower-income people, and we need to find the right-size unit that they're ready to step into."
O'Brien says: "If you're a single individual making making 80 percent of AMI, about $40,000, there are studios and one-bedroom apartments at market rate that seem to be available. But when you step up to two or three or four bedroom units, there's really hardly anything affordable to people making 80 percent AMI. It's not just about percent of AMI, it's the housing size. And maybe we want to start focusing our resources there."
And another subtlety O'Brien noted: People making, say, 120 percent of AMI may be choosing to live in cheaper apartments, which are then unavailable to people making less.
O'Brien acknowledged that the new data were challenging the conventional wisdom. "I'm definitely seeing stuff that's new to me, and that's great," he says. "And I need to make sure I'm willing to step back and reevaluate how we would design a program that's effective."
Maybe it's because the numbers are so startling, but in the end, O'Brien is reluctant to totally embrace the new findings. "One of things we saw, at least on the top line, was there's a lot of housing in Seattle today that's affordable to people making 80 percent of AMI. That starts to shift some of the thinking. But it's also really important that we dig into those numbers at a deeper level and really understand what's going on—because it's a little inconsistent. Actually it's really inconsistent with what I hear when I'm out every day in the community, which is, 'my rent's going up. I'm being kicked out. I can't find another place that I can afford.'"
Oh, and just one more to turn '14 into '15:
15. File this under the picayune obsession category that I noted up top: Urban Planning.Make that: Bad Urban Planning.
You would think the Stadium light rail station at South Royal Brougham Way between 4th and 6th Aves.—presumably designed with light rail commuters in mind—would be easily accessible by foot to and from the stadium from many directions.
My dangerous, circuitous, and inhospitable walk between Safeco Field and the light rail station last night taught me otherwise. There is, evidently, a single defined path on game day. But make one false move—like missing the unmarked doubleback loop off Royal Brougham—and suddenly you're in a concrete no-man's land that offers no out for pedestrians.
This major flaw makes it clear the station area planning was done without concern for people who are walking.
A light rail station design that only offers one access point—to and from the stadium—in the map of surrounding streets, demonstrates botched planning.
A light rail station design that only has one access point from the map of surrounding streets is botched planning.
I was at a fundraiser last night—the Chocolate for Choice event for NARAL Pro-Choice Washington at the Terrace Club, a large room on the concourse level of Safeco. As I was heading out, a few friends announced drinks at the Elysian, the bar-food joint across the street from Safeco and Century Link on 1st.
Sounded great, but Erica, who'd been a judge at the event, was crashing from all the chocolate and asked if I'd walk her to the light rail first.
I told my pals I'd meet them in 20 minutes, and headed out to the Stadium light rail station with ECB.
Stepping out of Safeco heading east toward the station, we were promptly funnelled onto Royal Brougham Way with no other option but to take the overpass south out onto 3rd. We continued south on 3rd, evidently missing the loop back and around, and were making the fatal mistake of walking out into the streets around the stadium district and expecting to walk to the Stadium station.
There was no formal way to cross over to 4th, so we dashed across the street after walking a few frustrating blocks south.
There was also no way to walk safely north along 4th, nor did 4th appear to lead to any cross streets that would take us the block east to the light rail stop, so we headed south hoping for a cross street to take over and double back—all the while being dragged further south instead of north to the station.
We eventually hit Massachusetts, but one block in, we hit a dead end. So we walked along a weird access road down to Holgate where we cut east again, trying to find a route north back to the light rail. At this point, Google maps indicated we were equidistant from the Stadium station and the SoDo stop further south.
We were intent on getting to the Stadium station and looked north trying to find a ped-friendly route. There wasn't one, so (after watching a transit cop pass in his car), we headed north up the E3 busway. And were eventually met with "Pedestrians and Bikes Prohibited" sign a few blocks in.
In a defiant teenage mood at this point—the street grid as laid out wasn't working for us—we ignored the sign and walked along the intimidating road 10 minutes north to the light rail stop. Although, in a final F-U from whoever designed this anti-ped maze, the light rail station was chained off from the path. In a triumphant act of defiance, we hopped over the chain.
The train came, and I started back toward the stadium district, thinking, "Okay, maybe the route from the stadium to the Stadium station isn't clear, but surely, the route from the Stadium stop to the stadiums must be spelled out clearly."
From the station, I crossed the street to the west at Royal Brougham Way and was immediately blocked by a highway on-ramp and a fence by the train tracks. I ended up walking on a worn dirt path on the west side of 4th where I eventually came upon an elevated unmarked ped breezeway.
Should I take the unmarked elevator somewhere? I came across a hall that led out onto some stairs, and—in an evening of cartoonish visual metaphors ("Dead-End" signs, chains in front of light rail stops, barbed-wire fences), I finally had to give in and break out laughing as I came upon the gigantic, empty parking lot on the north side of CenturyLink field.
The symbolism that I had been losing ground all night in a stadium district designed exclusively for cars couldn't have been clearer.
I crossed the massive lot, passing a lone woman (the second pedestrian I'd seen all night) going the other way, and crossed the street to meet my friends an hour after setting out.