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Guess That City

2011 April 29
by dan bertolet

What city goes in the blanks in the quote below?

The civic culture of ______ values democratic process more than it values results. So we have created a system for decision-making that just takes a really long time. I want it to be easier to get a good project approved in ______ than a sprawl subdivision out at the edge of the region. Right now, it takes years for even modest-size apartment buildings to be approved.

How about this one? Does the same city fit, perhaps?

We have the opportunity to take a much bigger share of regional growth than we have been. If ______ were willing to allow more physical change, it would not only be a big win for the environment, it would make the city more affordable. If ______ decides that it doesn’t want to grow, it’s going to follow the path of smaller boutique cities like Boulder, Colo., and become so expensive that only the ultrawealthy can live in the city. …What’s at stake is whether we want to have a living economy or be a combination bedroom community and tourist town.

One more time:

The biggest challenge we face in this region is suburban sprawl. We continue to channel growth into locations where people have to drive for essentially every trip because they are too low-density for transit. Sprawl is inefficient, wastes land [and] is not an ethical way to organize our settlement patterns in an era of climate change. The way forward is planning to intensify, grow along transit [and] add jobs in______ .

The obvious setup here is to mislead you into thinking it’s Seattle, but you’re too smart to fall for that. Right?

Answer after the jump…

The city in question is San Francisco, and the quotes are from a recent Wall Street Journal interview with Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR).

The last quote could apply to dozens of cities nationwide. The middle quote is more relevant to Seattle and other “creative class” cities such as Boston and Austin.

But regarding that first quote, those of us Seattleites who follow planning issues (read: dorks) would no doubt be inclined to claim that dubious distinction as ours and ours alone. Could it be possible that any other city on the planet suffers as much as we do from the decision-hindering dysfunction known as the “Seattle Process?”

Maybe it’s a west coast thing. (Though that would imply that Portland isn’t really on the west coast, given the rate a which light rail, street cars, and bike lanes have been sprouting up there.)

One more thing: How come Seattle doesn’t have an organization like SPUR that gets to mouth off about sprawl in the WSJ?