1. Seattleites (and particularly Millennials) LIKE Airbnb, according to polling of Seattle voters done by David Binder Research and released by Airbnb this week.
The city council, thinking they’d hit on a populist issue, recently stepped in to regulate the sharing economy trend, but have put the legislation on hold to reevaluate. And (if these polling numbers are close to accurate), it’s no wonder.
Some of the stats: Nearly 80 percent of voters support letting people rent out their homes on Airbnb—79 to 14. Meanwhile 55 percent of voters think Airbnb is “good for the city” because it provides an alternative way for tourists to visit town and it allows locals to make extra money. Voters also liked —66 to 34 percent—that the model brings tourist dollars to the neighborhoods rather than to downtown.
Also, a plurality of voters, 43 percent, versus a minority 16 percent, say they’d support a politician who strongly backs home sharing. That number hits 50 percent among Millennials.
Indeed, Millennials are all in on home sharing at a much higher level than other voters. They’re at 93 percent support for Airbnb overall and nearly at 70 percent when asked if they thought the trend was good for the city.
One thing the poll didn’t ask, though: What do you think about hosts renting off-site? That’s the practice (when owners rent out secondary property where they don’t live) that would be phased out by a city council proposal being pushed by council member Tim Burgess.
2. The Obama administration LIKES Urbanism—namely the latest iteration of it outlined in Seattle’s own HALA report to connect density to affordable housing. They also LIKE our parking policies and DISLIKE parking requirements.
Identifying cities as the octane of the national economy while flagging steep housing prices as a barrier to full inclusion in that city renaissance, the White House released a “Housing Development Toolkit” this month.
The intro sounds like it was written by Seattle’s own Urbanist provocateurs at Sightline.
Over the past three decades, local barriers to housing development have intensified, particularly in the high-growth metropolitan areas increasingly fueling the national economy. The accumulation of such barriers – including zoning, other land use regulations, and lengthy development approval processes – has reduced the ability of many housing markets to respond to growing demand. The growing severity of undersupplied housing markets is jeopardizing housing affordability for working families, increasing income inequality by reducing less-skilled workers’ access to high-wage labor markets, and stifling GDP growth by driving labor migration away from the most productive regions. By modernizing their approaches to housing development regulation, states and localities can restrain unchecked housing cost growth, protect homeowners, and strengthen their economies.
Locally-constructed barriers to new housing development include beneficial environmental protections, but also laws plainly designed to exclude multifamily or affordable housing.
It gets even better. The Obama administration, using Urbanist language like "transit oriented development" comes out against off-street parking requirements!
Parking requirements generally impose an undue burden on housing development, particularly for transit-oriented or affordable housing. When transit-oriented developments are intended to help reduce automobile dependence, parking requirements can undermine that goal by inducing new residents to drive, thereby counteracting city goals for increased use of public transit, walking and biking. Such requirements can also waste developable land, and reduce the potential for other amenities to be included; a recent Urban Land Institute study found that minimum parking requirements were the most noted barrier to housing development in the course of their research. By reducing parking and designing more connected, walkable developments, cities can reduce pollution, traffic congestion and improve economic development. Businesses that can be accessed without a car can see increased revenue, increased use of alternative modes of transportation, and improved health outcomes for residents.
These requirements have a disproportionate impact on housing for low-income households because these families tend to own fewer vehicles but are nonetheless burdened by the extra cost of parking’s inclusion in the development. The significant cost of developing parking – from $5,000 per surface parking spot to $60,000 underground – is incorporated at the start of the project, which can impede the viability and affordability of the construction.
And they name check Seattle’s progressive parking policy.
In 2012, Seattle’s city council voted to relax parking requirements, eliminating requirements in center-city areas with frequent transit services within 1⁄4 mile, and reducing them by 50 percent in neighborhoods outside of those centers given the same minimum level of transit service – sparking a wave of new development, including hundreds of units with no associated parking spaces. The study that accompanied this legislative change found that parking reduced the potential number of units at a site and increased the expected rental costs by 50 percent for a building without parking as compared to that with the mandated level of surface parking.
One thing President Barack YIMBY Obama LIKED, but now DISLIKES about Seattle, though, is how we went from the pod apartment poster child to a bad example of over-reguating. The White House report notes: "In Seattle, the city has nearly 800 micro-units with another 1,500 or so in the pipeline—more than any other city—yet, changes to the zoning code will disallow future approvals of such housing."
3. Finally, I LIKE a city planning design idea from Chicago I heard about at the National Association of City Traffic Officers (NACTO) conference this week.
Chicago DOT deputy commissioner Luann Hamilton described a waterfront revitalization project that turned a bleak stretch of Lake Shore Drive into a pedestrian friendly destination, reconnecting the city to the water.
The organizing principle was to divvy up stretches of the pedestrian boulevard into “rooms” so that each segment had a different theme, transforming any walk along the stretch from a lovely, but basically static walk, into one with dynamics and surprises. Dividing the walk into an entertainment zone, a lunch plaza zone, and a family friendly zone, for example, created a new pedestrian hub for the city.
If our own waterfront ever reopens in Seattle, the sequencing idea is a solid one to consider.
Something else I learned at NACTO: That ped friendly design feature between 11th and 12th that links Chophouse Row up through Plum Bistro out onto 12th (and the courtyard off Pine St. that winds through to Boylston) is called a "Punch Through."