A proposal that at first glance seems to threaten Seattle's single-family density drew a firestorm. But more high-quality density could be a good thing. What say you?
Cities change. There was a time when much of Manhattan was farmland and when today’s skyscraper canyons were brownstones.
Yet unease, if not hysteria, greeted the leak of recommendations by Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Committee. Although there has been some backpedaling, they seem to recommend rolling back the widespread zoning that limits development to single-family residences in favor of “small-lot dwellings, cottages or courtyard housing, duplexes and triplexes.”
The draft report notes: “Approximately 65 percent of Seattle’s land — not just its residential land, but all its land — is zoned single-family, severely constraining how much the city can increase housing supply…Seattle’s zoning has roots in racial and class exclusion and remains among the largest obstacles to realizing the city’s goals for equity and affordability. In a city experiencing rapid growth and intense pressures on access to affordable housing, the historic level of single-family zoning is no longer either realistic or acceptable.”
To me, this is a useful jumping-off point for policymaking. It doesn’t have to be either-or. High-quality density doesn’t mean the end of, say, single-family Magnolia. And there are plenty of places along the current and abuilding light-rail line that could see higher densities. It makes no sense to be outraged about the Shell oil rigs and their effects on the climate while preventing efficient, denser in-city construction that helps ease driving and lower CO2 emissions.
But I’m already living the dense life in Belltown and loving it. What do you think?
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Today’s Econ Haiku:
No bullet trains here
We’re exceptional ‘Murcans
Can has Cheezburger