On Urban Density: We’re Not All Goldilocks

Photo adapted from "Urban Canyon" by Diego Torres Silvestre

This post originally appeared on Better Institutions on April 20, 2014. Goldilocks is the story of a selfish young girl who breaks into another family’s home, eats their food, and destroys their property. She has a very self-centered perception of what’s “just right,” and she’s perfectly willing to trample on the rights of others in […]

DPD on Sinks: Social Plumbing, Too

Shapiro 4

Scott Shapiro of Eagle Rock Ventures sent the following letter to Department of Planning and Development (DPD) and City Council staff on proposals from DPD to regulate sinks in microhouisng. I’ve written about the strange obsession that some people on Council and others have about sinks (I called it social plumbing). This is a good […]

NIMBYs: The Koch Brothers of Land Use


When I first met with Mike O’Brien and his lead staff person on land use, Esther Handy, she told me, “I’m here to look out for the little guy when the market can’t.” I think Councilmember O’Brien and Handy are sincere in their desire to accomplish advances toward the goals of social equity and justice. We […]

Microhousing Council Briefing on Friday

On Friday afternoon the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee had another look at recommendations from the Department of Planning and Development on microhousing. Here is what DPD is proposing: Define “micro-housing unit” and “micro” under Residential Use within the Land Use Code. Prohibit micro-housing developments in single-family zones. Apply a design review threshold […]

Design Review: Stealing From the Future

Cassandra and Friend

As I have already pointed out, the Department of Planning and Development has proposed design review for new microhousing projects as a way to assuage anger and fear of a band of neighbors opposed to the product.  But why, in a city where it is liturgical for politicians to state their commitment to ‘affordable housing,’ […]

Council’s Response to Innovation:Raise the Rents on Microhousing?

More Rules

The latest chapter of the Department of Planning and Development’s (DPD) efforts to limit innovative housing solutions in response to angry neighbors is being drafted and will be presented at Friday’s meeting of the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee. After a lengthy appeal the legislation is back and will be considered by the […]

Hard to Find the ‘Incentive’ in Incentive Zoning


  This post originally appeared in the Spring edition of The Voice, NAIOP’s semi-annual government affairs newsletter.    Recently, the City of Seattle has placed an emphasis on what it calls incentive zoning, a program that charges a fee in exchange for granting additional Floor Area Ratio (FAR) for new housing and non-residential development. This […]

Corn Dogs, Housing, and Innovation

corn dogs City Market

I was asked to write an opinion piece for Publicola yesterday comparing the reaction the Seattle City Council had to ride sharing programs to the reaction they are contemplating to small-lot housing. The truth is I already did that in a post not too long ago. To me, the comparison is obvious. Small-lot housing is […]

Small Lot Hearing This Friday

We’ve been hearing  about the problems with small-lot legislation being considered by the City Council. Here’s what David Neiman a local architect says about the problems created by the legislation because of it’s efforts to placate a small group of angry neighbors:  These defects are known to the planners at DPD.  They understand them and fully appreciate […]

Take My House? Please Don’t.

Downzoned Dreams

More and more single-family homeowners are beginning to feel the unintended impacts of the Department of Planning and Developments misguided efforts to satisfy angry neighbors. Here’s another example from the Facebook feed. Take my house, for example. Here’s an architect’s sketch of my house with the simplest, most cost-effective addition. Too tall for our 2,520 sf lot, […]