Caffeinated News

1. It's hard to imagine this will end well.

Seattle city council member Tom Rasmussen held a meeting at South Seattle Community College in Georgetown last night to unveil a plan he wants to usher through council called Neighborhood Conservation Districts, formalizing the weltschmerz of neighbors who want to stop time.

You've heard it all before. The consultant's presentation outlined the goals of setting up neighborhood oversight of development to: "maintain and reinforce neighborhood character," "accommodate change in a manner that is compatible with the area," and "conserve and enhance existing architectural and cultural identity" among other not-very-subtle themes. 

That didn't seem to be enough for the 20-plus people at the meeting, including former city council member Peter Steinbrueck, though. How did Rasmussen's proposal address “single-family [zones that are] disappearing and being replaced by high-rises?” What happens to single-family homes in low-rise zones that are of "significance?" Will conservation districts be able to preserve large single-family houses in multifamily areas? And what about "intangible elements" that can't quite be captured by architectural standards? How, neighbors wanted to know, do you preserve those?

Talk about preserving "neighborhood character" is synonymous with McCain/Palin utopianism about the "real Virginia."

Rasmussen is retiring at the end of the year.

2. A council meeting of an altogether different drift is scheduled for tonight: Council land use committee chair Mike O'Brien is holding a public hearing on legislation to create 39 pedestrian zones around the city.


The new rules, in business districts from Loyal Heights just below 80th to 15th Avenue Northeast at 125th to Delridge Way Southwest and Southwest Roxbury to Beacon Avenue South at South Columbian Way, would make it more difficult to get waivers from parking maximums, limit exceptions to pedestrian-friendly street-use requirements, prohibit surface parking adjacent to the principal pedestrian street, and prohibit any stand-alone residential development.

You may think this idea, that urbanists are all gung ho about, jibes perfectly well with the preservation rhetoric outlined above—segregating density from single-family zones.

However, the city's Department of Planning and Development report on the proposal makes the fact that density is contagious (as opposed to containable) clear:

DPD added two additional areas (in the Admiral and Aurora Licton Spring Urban Villages) zoned neighborhood commercial (NC) that are located within urban villages but do not currently contain any pedestrian zones. The proposal also addresses a gap in the existing pedestrian zone between the West Seattle Triangle business district and the Alaska Junction business district.
Among the mixed-use topics up for debate tonight: Commercial only at ground level? Or is residential okay too?

3.  "It sounds like it does two things. It sounds like it gives people some relief. And it sounds like it saves local taxpayers a ton of money." —Archconservative state senator Don Benton (R-17, Vancouver)

And he wasn't talking about shrinking the government.

Giving Democrats a boost of hope, that was Senator Benton summarizing his assessment of the voting rights act yesterday during a senate committee hearing on the supposedly controversial bill. House Democrats passed state representative Luis Moscoso's (D-1, Bothell) bill for the third year in a row this session. The bill gives local governments the option of moving to district voting when there's a proven history of racially polarized voting at the polls keeping minorities off school boards and city councils despite large, but not majority, populations.

A costly federal lawsuit is currently bogging down the city of Yakima, a city with a more than 40 percent Latino population that has never elected a Latino to its seven-member city council. 

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