Probably fewer than 5 percent of homeowners I spoke with supported smaller lot sizes, more duplexes, triplexes, town homes, or small condo or apartment buildings in their neighborhood.
I STRONGLY disagree with Rick Mohler’s recent Op-Ed, [“Seattle neighborhoods need to embrace land-use changes,” Opinion, June, 20]. There were a couple of things about his views on single-family neighborhoods that were of real concern to me, and should be of concern to others, too.
First, Mohler presented complex issues as one-liners with one-line responses as solutions. For instance, the many concerns associated with “increased land-use flexibility in single-family neighborhoods” were dismissed by simply stating that “the same concerns were voiced in Vancouver, B.C., but none of those concerns have come to fruition.”
My initial response to such a statement has to be: What were the concerns and who said they didn’t come to fruition? Documented, actual proof instead of simple, one-sentence dismissals are what I expect from the academic community. Unfortunately, overly simple, one-sentence dismissals to complex housing problems are what I expect from politicians. I know because I am one, and I have heard rhetoric like that for too long.
However, my real concern is with the points raised by Mohler that deal with adding more density to single-family neighborhoods. It’s as if the dreams of the people living in those single-family neighborhoods were not only dismissed, they weren’t even considered.
Aren’t their dreams just as important as some urbanist’s?
It seems no one ever talks about the expectations of people living in single-family neighborhoods, whether they own the home or rent. Last year, I spent a long, three-day weekend walking, talking and listening to the housing dreams of people living in a couple of Tukwila’s single-family neighborhoods. Tukwila has the most diverse population in the region — possibly one of the most diverse in the entire nation. So I listened to citizens from a variety of faiths, racial and cultural backgrounds, income levels, ages, family situations, in both rental and owner-occupied homes.
What I learned was virtually no one — probably fewer than 5 percent of those I spoke with — were supportive of smaller lot sizes, duplexes, triplexes, town homes, or small condo or apartment buildings on their streets or in their neighborhoods. And it didn’t matter whether they self-identified as Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, atheist, black, white, Hispanic, Asian — you name it.
They had chosen to live in a single-family-housing neighborhood and did not want their neighborhoods to change. Not having to share a roof or a wall or a yard with another family, however you choose to define family, mattered a lot to the citizens I talked with. They didn’t worry if the lot across the street from them had someone from a different race, culture or religion. But they definitely did care if the lot had something other than a single-family home on it.
Having a home with your roof, your walls, your yard where you can plant flowers, vegetables or rocks, if you so choose, does matter. What’s more, having people next door and across the street who value that freedom also matters. It’s a dream, maybe not the American dream for everyone, but it sure is the dream for a lot of Americans. And those Americans choose to live in single-family neighborhoods — or dream of living in one.
To officially consider killing dreams by changing land-use regulations without including the dreamers is risky, especially for elected officials — as it should be.
Finally, several citizens wanted to know if such changes were being considered in communities such as Mercer Island, Medina, Broadmoor or Clyde Hill. And if not, why not? Do dreams matter more in wealthier neighborhoods?
The views I’ve shared here are mine and not necessarily shared by other elected officials. But maybe they should start to worry about them.