It’s worth watching what happens in Seattle today: Its council will vote whether to allow taller buildings and denser construction in 27 neighborhood hubs and some other areas – affecting about 6 percent of land zoned single-family.

But the more interesting story is the zoning proposal that didn’t occur, as told in the Seattle Times:


It was July 29, 2015, and Seattle stood at a crossroads. A panel convened by then-Mayor Ed Murray had recommended buildings in neighborhood hubs and denser housing options everywhere, angering some homeowners who wanted to shield blocks of single-family houses from development.

So Murray made a decision still resonating today. City Hall would leave most of those blocks alone and move ahead with upzones of one or several stories only in and around the 27 hubs and along arterials, he said, sacrificing the more controversial proposal in order to protect a deal with developers that could yield thousands of apartments for low-income households.

The strategy may have paid off, because the council is expected to approve the targeted upzone plan while requiring developers to include some low-income apartments in their buildings or pay into an affordable housing fund. …

“It was the smart move, 100 percent,” Councilmember Rob Johnson said. “I learned an important lesson, which is to have a controversial element of your plan that you can surrender.”


The whole story is worth the read: so many of the issues Seattle is dealing with are similar to (hell, exactly the same as) Vancouver.  


  1. I understand the realpolitik that comes in to play on these things but holy hell am I tired of new density getting pushed onto arterials. Utterly backwards that the people living in lower priced, denser, eco-friendly housing have to put up with the noise and pollution of busy streets.

    This is the compromise Vancouver has been living with for decades now: new housing only allowed on arterials and brownfield. It’s a failure for liveability and affordability. The new compromise must be apartments everywhere, with varying height restrictions. Let condo people live on quiet streets!

    1. Agreed. This issue has been brought up many times and is always ignored.

      I’ll mention again a long-term solution… or at least a partial solution: Start zoning for small-scale commercial and medium density on streets parallel to our arterials and start building the “second city”. Like a parallel universe. If we’re going to densify, even slowly, we need to accommodate more commercial activity and it could front a kinder, gentler environment – one street over.

      Leave the existing arterials to gas stations, muffler shops and big-box. Give us a choice that includes urban amenities without the noise stench and carnage.

  2. Gerald Sutton Brown would smile reading such comments. He would have never allowed what we mandate. People who live in environmentally responsible dense communities pushed into the least liveable areas.

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