See you soon! Bring your lunch and your insightful questions for Mayor McGinn…

Here is a quick snapshot of what we’ll be talking about, from The Stranger:

Specifically, McGinn’s budget proposal includes:

• $2 million to fund a corridor analysis of a downtown to University District line (perhaps along Eastlake)

• $1 million for corridor analysis of a Madison Street BRT line

• $500,000 to study a north/south crossing of the ship canal for pedestrians, bikes, and transit

• $2.5 million to fund the next phase of the development process—the design work—for whichever line is ready first… (Continue Reading: Ballard, U-District by 2018 – The Stranger)


Here’s a novel way to fill a new street-level commercial space: ask those out and about (on that street) what they’d like to see there.

Perhaps taking cues from guerilla-planner Candy Chang, Fast Company reports how one Seattle project is asking passersby to, at least in part, help with their market analysis.


People don’t often show up to town hall meetings unless they have a problem. That means in many cities and towns, there is a gaping hole where creative community voices should be. In Seattle, Swedish developer Skanska is trying to make a dent in the problem by letting the community influence what shops and restaurants go on the ground floor of a new 13-story office building near Amazon’s headquarters (the neighborhood is sometimes called “Amazonia”).

Before beginning construction, Skanska decided to ask the local community what they would like to see in the open-air market space on the first floor of the yet-to-be-constructed building. But Skanska isn’t asking anyone to show up to in-person meetings. Instead, the developer is using an online service called Popularise that lets people submit ideas for local projects and vote on them.

There are 36 ideas for the 400 Fairview project in Seattle, including a Babes in Toyland sex toy store, a brewery, a hot yoga studio, an indoor bocce ball court, a Stumptown Coffee shop, a blow dry bar, and a sushi restaurant. For anyone who isn’t digitally inclined, Skanska has also set up chalkboards at the project site for people to write down their suggestions… (Continue Reading 1 | How One Developer Is Making Sure That Its Buildings Are Shaped By The Community | Co.Exist: World changing ideas and innovation)


Earlier this summer we hosted a presentation and discussion on the city’s efforts to retain and build upon the arboreal inventory which earns our burb its “Emerald City” nickname.

Between 1972 and 2007… tree canopy declined from 40 percent to below 20 percent. Join us at our [August 9] Brownbag Lunch to learn about the Urban Forest Management Plan: a 30-year plan that recommends steps that the City of Seattle should take to restore Seattle’s beloved urban-arboretum character.

One fundamental question persisted: we know that sprawling development has spread like wildfire across the Puget Sound region in recent decades, but has Seattle, proper, really seen that much tree canopy loss?

Today’s University of Washington Urban Ecology Lab Open House provided an answer on one of several presentations of recent research conducted within the College of Built Environments.

Human activity spreading into the foothills

While the city seeks to ensure Seattle grows up with space for trees in our midst, it seems clear the trees in the path of outward-oriented growth are unquestionably at risk.


Los Angeles is more dense than Seattle and has nearly a two-decade head start on building out is alternative transportation system but the idea that La-la Land could be the ideal setting for a 21st Century mobility city may strike some as nutty. Matthew Yglesias makes the case in Slate:

On a recent visit to Southern California, I began my day in Claremont, where I’d spoken the previous evening at a Pomona College event. I walked from a hotel near campus to the Claremont Metrolink station, where I grabbed a commuter rail train to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. From there I transferred to the L.A. Metro’s Red Line and rode up to the Vermont/Santa Monica station and checked into a new hotel. I had lunch in that neighborhood, and later walked east to meet a friend for dinner and drinks in Silver Lake.

My father, a lifelong New Yorker and confirmed L.A. hater whose screenwriting work has frequently taken him to the City of Angels, found the idea of a carless California day pretty amusing. But the city that’s defined in the public imagination as the great auto-centric counterpoint to the traditional cities of the Northeast has quietly emerged as a serious mass transit contender. It’s no New York and never will be—Los Angeles was constructed in the era of mass automobile ownership, and its landscape will always reflect that—but it’s turning into something more interesting, a 21st-century city that moves the idea of alternative transportation beyond nostalgia or Europhilia.

Los Angeles has made this remarkable and underappreciated shift because it has never stopped growing. The core Los Angeles municipality never experienced the kind of postwar population crash that afflicted Northern cities… (Continue Reading: L.A. Metro: How Los Angeles is becoming America’s next great mass-transit city. – Slate Magazine)


Capitol Hill Seattle looks at height and other dimensions of the proposed Capitol Hill Station project:

…Allowing the project to go to 85 feet high on all sides will help make getting involved with the project more desirable for developers while leaving room for developments to pencil out even with space left for a market plaza and, possibly, a community center. But the change could rankle some with the possibility of opening the doors to a building 45 feet higher than what is currently legal on the 10th Ave E side. Others, meanwhile, will ask why the developments above a key transit hub can’t be built even higher… (Continue Reading: Issues and opportunities arrive with development of Capitol Hill Station | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle)


Join us Thursday when we welcome our founding executive director, Mayor Mike McGinn, to a brownbag lunch on his plans for rail expansion on Seattle. Come learn how the next round of Seattle rail investments can build on lessons learned from the lines in use and under construction today. While Seattle’s plans may differ from the standard streetcar configuration characterized in the following blog post, check out The Transport Politic’s commentary as good food for thought on land use. We hope you will join us for a great conversation on the future of transit in Seattle.

In the United States, streetcars have assumed a dramatic new prominence, in part because of increasing federal support. In dozens of cities, new lines are under construction, funded, or in planning thanks to local political leadership that recognizes the benefits of such investments in relatively cheap new rail lines. While streetcars are typically not the most efficient mobility providers — compared to light rail lines and often even buses, they are slower and more likely to be caught in traffic — they are promoted as development tools. Streetcars, it is said, will bring new construction and the densification of districts that are served by the new rail lines.

But streetcars alone aren’t enough to spur construction of residential and commercial buildings in neighborhoods with transit service. Just as important are the municipal regulations guiding new development. If zoning prevents large buildings around streetcar corridors, how exactly will streetcars lead to new construction?

A comparison of two streetcar projects — one soon to enter construction in St. Louis and the other about to open for service in Portland — shows that there are very different rules guiding what can be built in the two cities. The result may be that one city sees significant new growth along its corridor and the other sees very little, despite both projects being new streetcar lines. Other cities looking to extract value from their transportation investments should consider how their land use regulations may affect new construction… (Continue Reading Don’t Forget the Zoning « The Transport Politic)


The Seattle Bubble Blog is asking its readers what is most important in the ideal home. The sand and the sea? Size? Scenery? Or, a sense of place? Check it out, and vote:

If I had to choose just one, I’d want a home…

  • with a view
  • on acreage
  • on a waterfront
  • with maximum walkability
  • in the quietest, safest neighborhood
  • with the shortest commute possible

From Seattle Bubble


Finding space in 12th Ave's bike parking rack

Lock up n' shop till you drop

There is some new research into the value of those ginormous bike racks that take up a vehicle parking space or two. Seems like a good topic for the day many will take over a parking space of their choice for a more creative, populous use than storing the typical single occupancy vehicle. Happy PARKing day everybody!

Research makes connection between bike friendly and bottom line

Portland State University researcherKelly Cliftonhas shared more detailed data on her research into how mode choice impacts spending behaviors. After talking to Clifton at the outset of her research and then sharing some initial findings back in July, I learned more about her findings at the Bureau of Transportation’s monthly Bicycle Brown Bag discussion series held at City Hall today.

According to data from 1,884 surveys taken outside various establishments, non-driving customers — those who show up by bike, on foot, or via transit — are often more valuable in terms of dollars spent than customers who arrive in a car. This data flies in the face of the often heard perspective that automobile access should be the highest priority to ensure business success.



The Seattle Design Festival is underway and continues throughout the weekend with great programming. One exhibit that caught my eye is called Tight Urbanism:

This is a mobile exhibit by AIA Seattle’s 2010 Emerging Professionals Travel Scholarship recipient Daniel Toole. Daniel travelled to Chicago, San Francisco, Melbourne, Osaka and Kyoto – cities that continue to transform their alley networks – to study the potentially vibrant in-between spaces of the built environment. The exhibit will connect Daniel’s findings to the less-travelled paths of Seattle’s own abundant alleyways.

Utilizing several mediums, including photographs and sketches, the exhibit is mounted on shipping pallets and casters to keep it mobile and modular. It has been displayed around the city at the AIA gallery, and several alleys including Firehouse Alley in Pioneer Square, and Canton Alley in the International District.

Copies of Daniel’s book, Tight Urbanism, which documents his travels through alleys in writing, photography, and sketching, will be available… (Continue Reading: Tight Urbanism | Seattle Design Festival)


Seattle Transit Blog has a round up today of some transit and transit-related improvements coming via federal dollars administered by the Puget Sound Regional Council. In other future-transit news, be sure to join us for our next Brownbag, noon at GGLO on September 27, when we welcome Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, the founding executive director of Great City. Mayor McGinn will share an update on the City’s High Capacity Transit planning efforts within the Center City and from downtown to Ballard.

The Puget Sound Regional Council has opened a public comment period for its Transportation Improvement Program, which will dole out than more than $440 million in federal funds to regional projects, many of which are transit or at least transit-related.  The overview of the Draft 2013-2016 TIP (PDF) has a good breakdown of all the projects by type (i.e., transit, roadway, non-motorized, etc.).  You can also view all the projects on an online map.

While transit accounts for nearly 70% of all projects selected for the 2012 selection process, many are the projects have a strong emphasis on general maintenance and transit operations (e.g., trolley replacement, ferry preservation, etc.)  ”New transit alignment” projects, on the other hand, only get 24% of the transit funds– these primarily consist of things like light rail and fixed guideway expansion.

(Continue Reading: Regional PSRC Funds Up for Grabs – Seattle Transit Blog)


Can investments like the two green streets we looked at during yesterday’s Brownbag help strengthen the economic position of Seattle?

Sustainable Cities Collective has an Urban Land magazine article looking at the role of urban parks in economic development.

Thirty years ago, in response to a perceived public need for a public space worthy of the soon-to-be-renovated main branch of the New York Public Library, the city embarked on a multiyear effort to rejuvenate Bryant Park. Today, the wildly successful result attracts hordes of people on regular, nonevent days, and the park has featured prominently in the emergence of a more welcoming New York City. But often lost in the accolades is the tremendous effect the rejuvenated park has had on the real estate submarket.

After Bryant Park was completed and reopened in 1992, the park renovation and its new management structure had created a strong amenity for the local office market, Ernst & Young concluded in its 2002 study How Smart Parks Investment Pays Its Way. Similarly, the removal of undesirable park elements—among them an active drug trade, prostitution, a persistent urine odor, overflowing trash cans—eliminated a drag on the submarket. As a result, asking rents of buildings bordering the park outperformed those in surrounding submarkets. As better tenants were attracted, the credit profiles of buildings improved and a virtuous cycle ensued whereby the market value of real estate bordering the park increased… (Continue Reading: The Big Park Payback | Sustainable Cities Collective)


The NRDC Switchboard blog has unearthed a short, decades-old french film that was meant as an alarm call to cities around the world, suggesting that to see the urban environment of cities’s outer regions of the future, one need only to visit Los Angeles. LA is an urban environment more dense than Seattle yet unabashedly oriented towards cars. The film is a cautionary tale offering a stark contrast to our philosophy that streets are for people. Join us today at GGLO at noon to learn about two “Green Streets” projects which bring that philosophy to life. But first, here’s that “how not to” video from NRDC…

via Amazing video perspective on Los Angeles, filmed for French TV in 1969 | Kaid Benfield’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC.


Join us Thursday to learn about two streetscape improvement projects aimed at injecting a little recreation into Seattle neighborhoods, greening the urban environment, and making our streets a bit more walkable. New research implies the investment could strengthen Seattle’s competitive edge against competing suburban real estate:

A new report from the George Washington University School of Business finds compelling evidence that demand for real estate in pedestrian-friendly urban neighborhoods significantly exceeds supply. “DC: The WalkUP Wake-Up Call” introduces the term “WalkUP” as shorthand for “walkable urban places,” and concludes: “This research has found that WalkUPs, a niche market 20 years ago, are becoming the market of the future, both in the metro D.C. area and, likely, in the rest of the nation’s metropolitan areas.”

The implications of these findings are significant, as real estate and its supporting infrastructure comprise 35% of all assets in the U.S. Conventional sprawl development consumes land at 6–8 times the rate of population growth, according Chris Leinberger, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the report, and numerous studies link low-density development to higher greenhouse gas emissions.

The study builds on a Brookings Institution report by Leinberger and Mariela Alfonzo, Ph.D., of New York University, which defines a ten-point scoring system for rating an area’s walkability. Analyzing six different types of WalkUPs in the D.C. metro area, the report finds that for each 6% improvement in a neighborhood’s walkability score, rent prices for office and retail space increase 7%, apartment rents increase 6%, and home sale prices go up $133/ft2… (Continue Reading Walkable Neighborhoods Replace Suburbs as Preferred Real Estate –


This Thursday, we’ll take a look at two neighborhood park projects that promise to vastly improve the streetscape for residents of Belltown and Ballard, and those traveling through those neighborhoods on foot or by bicycle. But when we make improvements in public space, what are the private property ramifications? How do we ensure that a rising tide lifts all boats? A Sustainable Cities Collective digs into the potential unintended consequences of a shovel-ready civic improvement planned for the other Washington:

A proposed park on Washington, D.C.’s 11th Street Bridge is set to bring together two neighborhoods of distinctively different socioeconomic classes. Currently, the 11th Street Bridge in Southeast D.C. still carries traffic, but a new bridge is being built for vehicles, offering an opportunity for developers to plan a park to connect the city’s Capital Hill and Anacostia neighborhoods, with the intention of revitalization. Creating a park on the bridge will also allow for easy pedestrian access between the two neighborhoods. This is important because the Capital Hill and Anacostia neighborhoods are vastly different in regards to the economic conditions of residents. The Anacostia River that runs beneath the 11th Street Bridge is a dividing line between class and race. NPR notes that “The [Anacostia] neighborhood on the eastern side is more than 90 percent black and is relatively low-income in comparison with the western side.” While a park built atop the 11th Street Bridge would create open access between the two neighborhoods, there is consideration as to how the revitalization could raise property values, resulting in displacement for some of the area’s lower-income residents. Oramenta Newsome, who works with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation told NPR that the result of the park would likely raise property values, however, she defended gentrification and believes the improvements can benefit everyone. NPR notes:

“Newsome calls the east side of the river the “last frontier.” Gentrification is only just starting to happen here. In order to keep a mix of incomes in the neighborhood, Newsome says, the city needs the right mindset about how the bridge fits with other development plans.”

Consideration for the effects of gentrification on the surrounding area is a good start. The mindset Newsome mentions isn’t always part of infrastructure decisions. For example, New York City’s High Line elevated park resulted in increased properties values, with a 103 percent increase between 2003 and 2011, according to the New York Times the High Line opened in 2009, but property values spiked after it’s opening. Such drastic increase resulted in reduction of diversity and even decreases in profits for area businesses. Jeremiah Moss, writing for the NY Times adds that “[i]t’s easy to forget that until very recently, even with the proliferation of art galleries near the West Side Highway, West Chelsea was a mix of working-class residents and light-industrial businesses.” Not anymore. The High Line has created an elite neighborhood with condos only the rich can afford. On the effects of gentrification on communities, the Natural Resources Defense Councils Kaid Benfield writes:

“My own belief is that we should be working for revitalization that encourages mixed-income neighborhoods in which new residents and businesses are welcomed while displacement is avoided or minimized.  But make no mistake:  that revitalization must continue to take place in America’s cities. It is absolutely essential if we are to have any hope of a more sustainable tax base to fund civic restoration and improvement, a more equitable civil society, and a more environmentally sustainable pattern of growth that reduces sprawling consumption of the landscape while bringing our rates of driving emissions down central locations with moderate or greater density and nearby conveniences facilitate walking, transit, and shorter driving distances… ”

(Continue Reading Gentrification’s Side Effects | Sustainable Cities Collective)


Check out this example of rethinking automobile-oriented development… What are some of your favorite places in Seattle that used to be all about cars, and now are increasingly about people?

Kathleen OBrien recently returned to the former site of a derelict Sears Auto Store and now the award-winning high performance headquarters for RiceFergusMiller. This urban Infill project reveals how a sustainable built environment is about so much more than bricks and mortar. In 2009, James Jenkins and I met with RiceFergusMiller principals and staff to lay groundwork for sustainable goal-setting for their new office and studio. They had just purchased the old Sears Auto Center near their existing and crowded digs in downtown Bremerton and wanted to showcase sustainability. In addition to OBrien & Company, Shawn Oram from Ecotope participated in the workshop, bringing a depth of building energy expertise and innovative spirit.RFM was still in the process of cleaning up the building at the time to see what they had. As prelude to the workshop, we carefully and I mean carefully! wended our way through the abandoned structure that in the 80s had been an anchor for Bremertons retail business core. Old signage gave us an inkling of what it must have been like at its peak, but it was truly a mess. However, it was hard not to get too excited. Here was an existing building in a downtown that was crying out for revitalization, with a team invested in all three aspects of sustainability — environment, economy, and social benefit… (Continue Reading: RFMs Sustainable Urban Infill Project Transforms: More than Bricks and Mortar – Building Capacity).