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Urban Nexus: Density And The Single Family Craftsman

2013 March 21
by Jessie Israel


NOTE: The following post contributed by Great City is part of a series from advocacy groups supporting the proposed rezone in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.


Two decades ago Seattle set off on a path to preserve neighborhood mojo, attract jobs, and ensure neighborhoods had a robust supply of urban housing. Neighborhood planning efforts in the 1990’s were predicated on the assumption that to preserve Seattle’s single family neighborhoods, we were going to have to maximize development in our Urban Village neighborhoods and Urban Center neighborhoods to accommodate future population and job growth. After decades of striving towards perfection in transportation planning, we also added that funding transit infrastructure needed to be a core element of neighborhoods designed to absorb the most density.

Creating dense urban housing that attracts families—in the same way a Wallingford Craftsman attracts families—will require a rich mix of affordability, design, and amenities. And I am certainly not the first to point out the logic that more housing inventory makes cities more affordable by offering supply to meet demand. A broader city-wide conversation about the types of housing we want to incentivize to meet our city’s needs over the next 30 years is overdue. But that conversation shouldn’t be shoe-horned in at the eleventh hour, as some Councilmembers are now attempting to do with the South Lake Union rezone. Rather, it should happen with thoughtfulness, technical specialists, and a clearly articulated vision for what we seek to achieve. Housing is a critical component of a carbon efficient, affordable, and livable Seattle, and addressing the challenge is going to take our best thinking, innovation, and leadership.

As our Seattle City Council considers the long awaited South Lake Union rezone, I encourage neighborhood planning advocates to get involved. Density in South Lake Union and other urban centers means preservation of a single family home lifestyle in other parts of our City. It means less sprawl, less regional traffic, and more equity for our infrastructure investments. Now is the time to move the South Lake Union rezone forward and finally enable the kind of development that will bring all these benefits. Lackluster, underdeveloped “bread loaf” projects will fill the void in the short term if we once again make perfection the enemy of good.


Great City Board Member Jessie Israel recently participated in Eric Becker’s film short on Placemaking & Seattle.  Watch, read and get involved in the conversation:

Photo of South Lake Union from Eastlake Ave by Dan Bertolet – click to enlarge.