We really should pay more attention to local government in Seattle; they’re dealing with so many of the same issues.  And they have a city council structure which many would advocate for us as a replacement for our ten-member council (plus mayor), all elected at large.

The Council consists of nine members serving four-year terms, seven of which are elected by electoral districts and two of which are elected in citywide at-large positions; all elections are non-partisan.

It will surprise you not at all that their major issue is housing affordability, and that they too are struggling with the question of how much of the city should be rezoned for higher density – and whether neighbourhoods should be treated differently with respect to density and affordability.  Here’s the latest from the Seattle Times:

Some potential battle lines were drawn Friday as Seattle City Council members debated trimming a plan to allow denser construction in the hearts of 27 neighborhoods while imposing affordable-housing requirements on developers.

Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda and M. Lorena González, who represent the city at large, spoke out against attempts by certain district-based council members to reduce upzones proposed for some blocks of single-family houses. …

The upzones plan would allow developers to build one or several stories higher in neighborhood nodes already zoned for apartments and along commercial corridors while also loosening restrictions on nearby blocks now reserved for single-family houses. As currently proposed, it would affect only about 6 percent of Seattle’s single-family lots, according to the city. ….

Friday was the first chance for Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Rob Johnson and Mike O’Brien to pitch amendments that would scale back upzones proposed for certain areas in the districts they represent. They said converting a number of single-family blocks in West Seattle Junction, Wallingford and Crown Hill to residential small-lot zones rather than to low-rise zones would result in gentler changes that would be better received by existing homeowners.

 

Comments

  1. Yes much to learn.

    Perhaps a double decker 4+4 lane new Lionsgate bridge incl wider or double decker W Georgia plus highway exiting south, without traffic lights, to start?

    Hopefully we won’t lose the tunnel boring machine when drilling the UBC subway tunnel …

    1. Yes much to learn. What didn’t you learn, Thomas, on all the regrets of last century’s disastrous highway projects?

      1. I am just saying that Seattle has a massive highway into and through its downtown core. Like anything in life that has pro’s and con’s. I think we need to accommodate more through flow of goods and people and only buses and bikes ain’t cutting it. As we all know N Van is choke full of traffic and is the highway east of Port Mann.

        We cannot add more and more people and just pretend they all love to bike or take the train or bus.

        For example, Boundary Road ought to be a highway and extend over a newly built bridge onto teh highways in Richmond to accommodate the numerous trucks going around the city.

        Massive new tolls on highways, bridges and tunnels would finance this easily. You want speed: you pay for it. It is absurd to have free highways. I bet a majority of W- or N-Van residents would hardly blink at a $2-4/crossing toll if a new Lionsgate or Second Narrows bridge plus tunnel allowed them fast throughput from W Van or N Van to airport, Burnaby, Richmond or downtown. W Georgia could be a tunnel as could be South Granville.

        1. Yes, still so much to learn. More road space just encourages more driving in a vicious cycle. It solves nothing. Road pricing *would* discourage driving, and doing so would ensure the roads we already have are more than enough. So you’ve got half the lesson right.

          What if Seattle or Portland proposed removing all the urban freeways within their cities? Insanity, Right? Absolutely nuts! Only a complete idiot could propose such a thing.

          But we live in a city in which the urban freeways were all removed… at the correct time – before they were built. We a have similar size, economy and west coast culture and yet traffic here is no worse than there. What’s the difference between building massive freeways then removing them, and not ever having built them at all?

          The former generated unnecessary traffic, car dependence, more noise, more pollution, more carnage, destroyed and disconnected neighbourhoods cost a fortune and solved exactly nothing. The latter didn’t.

          1. The difference is that you can get to downtown Seattle in roughly 30 minutes from any suburb. Also the interstate hwy system facilitates more business activity than any Canadian can even understand. The freeway should have been built to downtown but instead Vancouver choose to save worthless 60 year old(in the 1960’s) wood frame houses. Vancouver and its council will spend Vancouver into bankruptcy. The virtue signaling and gross hypocrisy of Vancouverites is astounding. Its the most un-Canadian city in Canada. I hope that the Chinese find a better place to invest their money, as will certainly happen, and watch as Vancouver goes into a depression….that it deserves.

          2. Cars will be with us for a century or more. As they become more electric, they pollute less and will become quieter. They might even be autonomous or shared, minibus like even. Not investing in road ( nor subway / train ) infrastructure was a gross mistake in MetroVan. We can’t allow mass immigration and mass concentration / construction of towers to continue in areas like UBC, N Van, W Van, Surrey, Richmond or Langley without adequate transportation infrastructure. Where’s the new Massey tunnel widening ? A decade past due. Where’s Lionsgate widening plus commuter train? Two to three decades past due. Ditto Second Narrows. Where’s the fast public transit on the North Shore or into deeper parts of Surrey, Richmond or Langley?

            Riding around in more yet slow wobbly busses or a few more bike lanes is NOT the answer here !

            We can’t allow new construction to continue without adequate people moving infrastructure .. using ALL modes ! There’s a major disconnect here in Vancouver as seen by the Langley-Surrey flip flop for example. Voters want rapid transit but city planners offered a cutesy slow traffic clogging tram. UBC subway isn’t even approved yet and Massey tunnel delayed yet another decade ! Hello.

  2. And how does upzoning guaranteed to help affordability? When I look at Westbank’s Oakridge project it is pretty obvious that feeding the public that line is a sham. Unless your priority is Transit Oriented Development for millionaires, which is a niche market Westbank seems to have found.

    1. Upzoning makes total sense but what is missing is affordable or market rentals within these new gleaming shiny towers. By law it ought to be at least 33%, better 50% rentals per new building, and 50% of that at 50% of market rents based on some income criteria.

      I live in such a building at UBC. Each unit that has a second rental suite attached is legally one title but physically two units. That should be the new norm in ANY new building say over 6 units esp along existing or proposed subway lines.

      Say a 2BR 1200 sq ft market condo is $1.8M (or $1500/sq ft) without a rental suite. The same condo with an attached 600 sq ft market rental suite might that rents for $1800 might be $2.3M ( ie 500,000 for the rental unit) and $2.0M if that same rental suite is deemed “affordable” with certain income criteria say $900/month.

      Builder would usually have rental units on lower floors and not as high end upgrades, and would price market units for sale accordingly. Only owners vote on strata board. Condo fees are allocated per sq ft / unit factor like any condo building.

      Since these rental condos are close to a subway with easy access to the two largest employment centres in Vancouver, downtown and UBC, they will be easy to rent and as such should not be a detraction to buy market condos that consist of two physical units but are one legal title. UBC ( and I believe SFU also) can do it, why not Vancouver ?

      Rentals, esp sub-market rental not profitable for developers so additional density not necessarily worth a lot of cash to city, developer nor current land owner.

      The missing unmentioned / under-discussed issue is that cities are addicted to CAC and DCC cash to pay for (generally too many and generally overpaid) staff. Rentals do not provide this cash. Cities pay lip service to “we want rentals” on the one hand but then want loads of cash that only market condos provide on the other hand.

      If province forced all cities to amend zoning laws to necessitate 33-50% rentals per new building (and 50% of that to sub-market rentals) cities would get less addicted to market condos and far more new rental units would follow automagically, even at Oakridge Center.

      ==> How many rental units are mandated in this ten or so tower Oakridge project ?

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