Posts Tagged ‘Seattle’

Seattle is getting WAY better

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Is Seattle getting better? Well…yeah. In my own mind this is so clear that the question is always a surprise.

The discussion is generally about pace of growth. It’s easy to understand slow-growthers’ points, like how cheap everything used to be, the comfort of the familiar, or the ease of parking.

But it’s the big-city traits that impress me, like density, walkability, transit, diversity, and energy. One of the great journeys of life is watching this city turn into something greater.

Some of our neighborhood business and mixed-use districts had better retail in the 70s and 80s, but way fewer people lived there, and these places tended to lack energy. Yes there was parking — it dominated the fringes of many areas, like moats of nothingness. Seattle (in-town) has grown by over 20% since we bottomed out in 1986, and a lot of the growth has gone to urban villages. The difference is even more stark in greater Downtown, where many edge neighborhoods were wastelands.

Of course more stuff in proximity usually means greater walkability. We have physical and policy problems there (the City often doesn’t walk its talk),  but we did then, too.

We’re finally getting light rail, and not just a line but a network. Each new line magnifies the value of the lines that connect to it. Our bus service is less exciting, with service far too limited, due in large part to the 80/20 rule. Because the County might never sober up, we need Seattle to subsidize buses the way the State subsidizes Amtrak, possibly with a levy.

We’ve improved immeasurably on the diversity front. While we’ve lost ground on some fronts as the poor areas have edged southward, Seattle has also had big influxes, such as Vietnamese, Russians, Ethiopians, and others. Today’s Seattle is more worldly and interesting, and as Microsoft can tell you, we’ve gained priceless talent (which I hope we don’t lose due to misguided immigration law).

Parks are another improvement area. Downtown still lacks central green space, but the edges are doing better.

By the way, here is Stephen Cysewski’s astonishingly cool photo collection about Seattle in the 70s and 80s.

Is Seattle getting better?

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Some things never change in Seattle. Like the weather. But wait a minute. The last two years have brought us snow that stuck with a vengeance my childhood self could only have dreamed of. So I guess that’s out.

How about the familiarity of our neighborhoods? There’s actually been a lot of change there. It’s hard to make that old Almost Live seatbelt-hanging-out-the-door-of-the-double-parked-Volvo joke anymore in Ballard, and all the old skid rows now house trendy haunts that stock booster seats.

Dick's burgers are still cheap

What about being a one-company town? The Boeing town that became the land of Microsoft that became Starbucksville is now home to so many little (and not so little) start-ups that it’s pretty hard for us to be pigeonholed as a workforce.

So what hasn’t changed in the last few decades? We still don’t have high-speed light rail criss-crossing the city, but it’s getting closer. And the Viaduct still stands, but supposedly its days are numbered. The Seattle Center and the Market are both growing cobwebs, but Pike Place Market repairs are on the way.

It seems we’re changing a lot. Knute Berger’s Mossback column this month talks about the ways we’ve gotten better. Berger, who admits he more often complains “about more people, more condos, bad traffic, and grocery-bag taxes,” lists “Five things that make even a Mossback happy.”

Among the acheivements: getting greener and making investments in our cultural infrastructure, like the Central Library, the Sculpture Park and neighborhood libraries. Berger says we’re also more diverse, and our food is better.

P.S. Not everyone is happy with all the changes. That irreverent little blog that disses Seattle condos is back up. . .

Should the Puget Sound secede?

Thursday, April 17th, 2008
Greg Nickels
Nickels wants a revolution
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels kicked off a City Club forum today with what he said would be a “provocative” idea.

The Puget Sound region should “declare its independence” and form a more powerful regional government with more authority on decision-making and spending, he said.

“I would look to the Puget Sound Regional Council and I would put it on steroids,” Nickels said at the forum, which also featured Mayor Grant Degginger of Bellevue and Mayor John Marchione of Redmond. “It ought to have a real ability to make real decisions with the money we have.”

The regional government should have fewer members than the current regional council, Nickels said, and more authority over the region’s dollars.

Marchione said he would support having a regional body that functions that way. Degginger said after the forum that while he would support improvement in regional government, he isn’t sure what form it should take.

Nickels mentioned differences of opinion on gun control and transportation. He mentioned the Legislature’s “shot-gun marriage” of roads and transit on November’s failed Prop. 1.

If the region’s economy were extracted, Nickels said, it would be the 25th largest state, or would be a country larger than Venezuela or Equador. But he said the region is held back because the rest of the state doesn’t understand its needs.

“King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County; we have a lot in common,” Nickels said. “I’m serious when I say we ought to look at declaring independence.”