1. Remember the pod apartment craze?
And then remember when the city council passed rules ramping up the regulations on pod apartment production in 2014?
We flagged the early signs exactly a year ago in 2015—after the council rules had been in place for a while—that pod apartment production was dropping dramatically. And Seattle Weekly reporter Casey Jaywork followed up tracking the further demise a few months later.
Well, earlier this month, pod apartment architect David Nieman wrote a piece on his blog lamenting the latest chapter. His post is titled: “The War Against Micro-housing is Over. Micro-housing lost.”
Congregate housing production, which peaked at over 1000 units per year, has been reduced to a trickle. Going forward, the SEDU development that largely took its place will be virtually indistinguishable in density and unit size from conventional studio apartments. Barring any future changes, microhousing in Seattle is essentially done. There will be a few projects around the margins (mostly ours) that will continue to keep the format alive in the technical sense. But in terms of providing an affordable alternative to conventional development at a production scale where it can make a meaningful difference? Nope. Game over.
2. Scott Bonjukian, the urban planner behind the movement to lid I-5 downtown, wrote a comprehensive takedown this week of I-123, the initiative on the August 2 ballot to rebuild a stretch of the Viaduct and turn it into an elevated park.
While Bonjukian is a little sanguine about the resources to make good on the city’s preferred, existing plan for the waterfront, which banks on potentially controversial local improvement district taxes, his critical assessment of I-123’s alternative plan is spot on.
Building the garden bridge on the area currently assigned for the new Alaskan Way would force the street westward, where space is currently designated for the pollutant-filtrating plants, bike path, and wide pedestrian promenade. These areas will be narrowed or removed altogether under the I-123 proposal, and waterfront visitors will walk underneath a towering structure on narrowed sidewalks and closer to traffic. The plan also appears to create a significant amount of on-street parking, a wasteful use of Downtown land and a likely cause for traffic conflicts not anticipated by current plans.
The environmental consequences will be significant, as stormwater laced with oils, metals, and other pollutants will no longer have a place to be filtered and cleansed before running into Elliott Bay. This will directly impact the young salmon that are being attracted to the shoreline by the new seawall’s shade and habitat.
The garden bridge would also completely disrupt the vision for connecting Pike Place Market to the waterfront and the Seattle Aquarium. A new lid and ramp over the north end of the street will offer stunning views, new green space, and room for the planned Aquarium expansion, but it won’t be possible if Alaskan Way has to be rerouted from the adopted plan. The preserved 400 feet long section of the old viaduct between Pike Street and Union Street would also forbid this important connection.
A coalition behind the “Vote No on I-123” campaign is composed of several local organizations, including: the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Seattle chapter; the Seattle Parks Foundation; Seattle Aquarium; the Downtown Seattle Association; the Alliance for Pioneer Square; and, of course, Friends of Waterfront Seattle. The coalition hosted a panel discussion last week that focused on the positive aspects of the official plan, and the panelists emphasized that $44 million in public funds has already been spent on design.
The speakers also noted that the I-123 campaign’s attempt to compare itself to the High Line is inappropriate, as that project in New York has a completely different urban context and is an adaptation of existing infrastructure. Martin’s garden bridge would be taller, completely new, and require elevators and 1,000-foot-long ramps to access. In fact, landscape architect James corner was the lead designer on both the High Line and Waterfront Seattle, and he dismisses the garden bridge as a “dumb idea”.
3. Be sure to check out the editorial we published yesterday challenging the Seattle Times’s reactionary defense of district neighborhood councils.
We also published a news story on this week’s district council summit in Delridge.