Here's an op-ed for The Seattle Times. It was inspired by an off-hand remark from a successful candidate for a district election to the Seattle City Council. But I think the idea could have very widespread utility. It is practical, achievable and has significant impact by incremental change.
A Bridge to Somewhere
A Triple Bottom Line for "The Next Seattle"
The City of Seattle cannot create more land. But it can, with other institutions, create more building sites to meet its housing needs. It can seek out “discovered spaces” and encourage "found opportunities" such as air rights on the parking lots at North Seattle College...
More here in this little Discussion Starter to stimulate thinking about the potential at NSC.
I've been pondering the ideas in my earlier post If you truly believe that neighbors should have a decisive role in what gets built... And I made one mistake: I didn't frame the proposal as an answer to the question "Why do so many people hate growth and change in their neighborhood?"
The answer is of course fairly simple: people resist change (in terms of specific new construction in their own immediate neighborhood) because they don't feel that they have any direct stake in it i.e. they don't perceive that they gain anything.
Give them something tangible such as likely increase in property value or cash.
It's hard to do that with proposals which are already zoned to allow, say, multi-family housing "as-of-right" and comply with the Code.
So we are stuck with endless fruitless conflict over proposals which are (in theory) in compliance with the law.
(Query -- why do we have proposals which comply with the Code and take a year to get approved? Answer: we really don't have "as-of-right" zoning in Seattle. We have let's-make-a-deal proposals for an entitlement to build.)
Anyway, want more construction? Give neighbors a tangible stake in new construction,
Concerned about housing in Seattle? Want to think big? Think we need to moderate the cost of land on which to build attached housing? Try this one as a thought experiment:
Allow apartments in every single family zone so long as (choose your own criteria) 75% of neighbors within 250 feet (roughly 1 block) approve.
Means at least a number of things, in my reckoning:
• Burden is on proponent to "sell" the project and persuade neighbors to "vote" for it.
• Neighbors (property owners) would have to genuinely like the design and add perceived value to 'hood, (like a modern-day Fred Anhalt design.)
• Direct monetary payments to individual property owners, which would be allowed and even encouraged.
• City bureaucracy has different role — more freedom for people to shape their own environment with City staff acting as technical advisors.
• Putting it in a slightly different way, all SF zoning becomes a conditional use with major decision made by neighbors.
What are ethics and practicalities?
I don't see any ethical issues. "Zoning" is not a matter of morality but a way of controlling real & perceived impacts. Final arbiter of acceptable impacts should be the people who will suffer/benefit from a proposed building. If a "good design" and $$$ persuades them, then why not?
If we have practical veto downward by neighbors to stop/influence projects -- even those which are designed to meet code -- then why not allow neighbors to control upward?
As to practicalities, obviously the developer will have higher transaction costs. Then again, developer doesn't have to make the proposal if s/he doesn't think it is worth the effort.
• Is 75% too high? Is 250' too far away? Not far enough?
• Should renters have a vote? I don't think so but open to discussion, as is the whole concept of course.
•I can see some sort of sliding scale so that, for example, people who own 2 blocks away get 25% vote etc etc.
• Why should people who live distant (say in West Seattle) have anything to do with, say, a property in Maple Leaf? (Which is at least 10 miles away but within the City of Seattle limits so both subject to City zoning rules.) What is their interest?
• I can however also see a City veto based on some substantial rational basis such as, maybe, with shoreline properties.But the presumption should be that neighbors know best and if they want to vote for a new project nearby, why not?
• I am not suggesting changes of zoning but only site-specific proposals. Neighbors have to see real plans.
• Would there be a maximum massing etc etc no matter what? Probably so.
• And obviously, to me, that basic Building Code and life/safety provisions are not subject to negotiation except with City officials on fine Code interpretations, which happens all the time.
Lots to think about: this is just a thought experiment. smile emoticon
Yes, the idea of even thinking about such an idea is remote. Maybe that's why we'll never progress very far in improving the situation since, my view, is that we seem incapable to even play with "What ifs...?"
Hard to argue with Larry Page on a lot of techno issues but I just don't get this one and would like to hear more of his logic.
Google's Larry Page shares his radical view of tomorrow.
Collapsing house prices could be another part of this equation. Even more than technology, he puts this down to policy changes needed to make land more readily available for construction. Rather than exceeding$1m, there's no reason why the median home in Palo Alto, in the heart of Silicon Valley, shouldn't cost $50,000, he says.
Amazon to make first physical footprint in Manhattan Ho-hum. It's been speculated for years.
But when I visited Downtown Project - Revitalizing Downtown Las Vegas (last week and too briefly, I didn't even get to see the new Zappo's HQ, the old City Hall!) my obvious question was "So, where is the Zappos Factory Store in Downtown LV?"
To Scott Kubly, Director of Seattle's Department of Transportation
Many months ago I received a ticket for speeding in a school zone. (I was 26 MPH and still under the limit for non-school zones, if that's any mitigation.) But it's expensive and I don't want to do it again.
My other "excuse" — I didn't recognize the school zone boundary. I gather that the flashing sign is the exact line but I don't think it is clear enough.
I suggest that SDOT stripe the street surface so that drivers can see exactly where the school zone starts....something like "School Zone Starts Here":
If you have any doubt that better signing leads to better public compliance, then do an experiment: place enhanced signing at only 1 or 2 school zones and see the results after six months.
Of course some cynics think that the City is happy for drivers to flout the law: the danger is actually very low and the City makes a huge amount of money from tickets.
Taking course tomorrow morning on Low Impact Development.
It's an important subject; we need to do more development and better development. You've probably seen some of the cost-effective and charming manifestation of LID at various otherwise ordinary spots:
Here's my constructive crit to the Seattle Sounders Football (i.e. soccer) Club:
Help people learn the rules and tactics of soccer. We beginning fans need Soccer 101. I saw my first live soccer game a few days ago and it was great though I wish I understood its rules and subtleties. I suspect that many Americans who did not grow up with soccer (i.e. anyone over 40?) would watch more if we understood even just the very super-simple basics which most Europeans, Latins, Middle Easterners etc etc know from when they were 10 years old.
To be specific:
All MLS teams etc etc including World Cup should provide two streams of commentary on TV or by ultra-local radio inside-the-stadium.
1. For people who understand the game and its subtleties such as former players of any age and people who grew up with soccer such as in the rest of the world beyond the USA.
2. For most Americans who have little idea and who, for example, do not understand what the goalie can do and NOT do whether inside the boxes or outside. We lack some of the most basic info — (especially the importance of “Off-Side”!)
More educated fans will watch more and be generally engaged and committed. And that is good for the Sounders!
I offer comments other places so might as well reference them here.
I became interested in the Bridge when I put together two (assumed) facts
1. the Northgate Bridge "alignment" will be at least 1600 feet long;
2. many individuals in one spot create "surrendipitous surveillance" and thus safety.
You can see the problem since the Bridge will be long and at many many hours of the day, week and month will have few people actually using it.
I offered comments to relevant decison-makers on the bridge. My concern has been that the bridge will be used by may not work and the Seattle Department of Transportation and its designers must attack the problem at both ends of the bridge and in the middle. So far I am assured that everything will be fine and I await the specifics.
Documents might best be read in order
It's great that the Seattle City Council Considers Ditching "Incentive Zoning" Program. Or it could double-down on the program. Or we could argue about rent control for the next few years here in Seattle and then argue with the State legislature about whether Seattle is allowed to have rent control.
Will the Northgate Ped/Bike be a "Bridge of Dreams"?
We can build a ped/bike bridge. But will people use it?
That depends on safety — both real and perceived.
Figure out how to make it safe. Now. Before the City commits to a particular design.
I wrote to SDOT to ask how designers planned to consider personal safety.
The answer? SDOT will look at it later when it finishes design:
Issues of personal safety will be addressed thoroughly in future stages of design development; at this point the team’s focus is understandably focused on the alignment and the type of bridge structure.
I hope they can do so but the issues are substantial. Consider the distances.
Crossing I-5, First Avenue NE to W side I-5 — about 550 feet.
Crossing Bartonwood Sanctuary, west side of I-5to College Way N — about 1050 feet. Total about 1600 feet. That’s about 7 city blocks, a good walk.
There is limited or no natural surveillance.
You ask about “Surveillance”?
Yes, go back to Jane Jacobs “eyes on the street”.
Natural, informal observation is the core irreducible essential for public safety. Ask SPD.SDOT's own Pedestrian Toolbox states
Despite the fact that pedestrian overpasses or underpasses can help meet some of the Plan’s goals, careful consideration should be given to potential negative impacts on the pedestrian environment, including:
personal security risks if pedestrian bridges or underpasses lack adequate lighting or surveillance;
How do we create surveillance with the Ped Bridge?
It is an isolated facility which starts at one isolated spot to another isolated spot. There are no observers parallel to the Ped Bridge 20 feet up in the air above I-5 or sitting in middle of natural open space.
There are no opportunities for natural surveillance.
Cars driving by at 55-60 MPH on I-5 may helps on portion of alignment But what can they see?
Then, moving west, once a walker or biker is past the west edge of I-5 there are no observers at all. Bartonwood Sanctuary is an open space.
So SDOT needs to answer how to create security during off-peak hours.(Off-peak is after 9 PM, weekends, when school not in session. I assume that there will be enough traffic during school hours but even there we should ask.
Obviously great lighting and camera and panic buttons are a start.
Are they enough? I don’t know.
It’s obvious that
1. Great lighting is no help if no one can observe;
2. Cameras can (and will be) vandalized;
3. Panic buttons tell the police that a crime has already happened.
Best to ask the experts: cops and designers expert in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, or CPTED (pronounced sep-ted). Ask now.
Ask them now before City has created a high-crime bridge on which only the foolhardy will pass.
"But more importantly ...What have been Hillary Clinton’s major, signature accomplishments in her long career in public life? What did she achieve in her eight years as First Lady exactly? What stamp did she put on national policy in her time as Senator from New York? What were her defining and singular achievements as secretary-of-state?"
Peterson, the transportation secretary, said in a letter to STP's Dixon on Monday: "As to the cause of the current tunneling stoppage, we have all agreed that it is highly unlikely that the well casing is the only issue facing the machine."
If her argument is true, the team confronts deeper troubles than unraveling some mangled steel.
I love the way Lindblom (the reporter) leaves those "there-will-be-another-shoe-to-drop" at the end of many of his stories.
Like this one:
If her argument is true, the team confronts deeper troubles than unraveling some mangled steel.
"It's a McDonald," said Martha Anderson, the general manager, "not a senior center."
Uh...maybe a McDonalds is indeed a third place and can/does act as a senior center. And it should be and McDonald's might want acknowledge it and figure out how to integrate the third place into its business model.
See Ray Oldenburg's The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community. It is on Brent Toderian's The 100 "Best" Books on City-Making Ever Written? (but not high enough on the list, IMHO. Olderburg's concepts are one of the most original and core obervations in all of urban planning. The "third place" is and should be at the center of all walkable urbanism.)
I've never been to a TED and listened to only a very few. So my initial impression had been favorable to Bratton's critique — We need to talk about TED — as in "I love Chinese food but I am always hungry an hour later."
But then Bratton said, disparagingly, "We invest our energy in futuristic information technologies, including our cars, but drive them home to kitsch architecture copied from the 18th century."
We invest our energy in futuristic information technologies, including our cars, but drive them home to kitsch architecture copied from the 18th century. The future on offer is one in which everything changes, so long as everything stays the same. We'll have Google Glass, but still also business casual. (emphasis added)
...which means ALL cars. Very stimulating blog post on The Biggest Public Policy Opportunity of Our Lifetimes
Here is an intriguing new device: Superpedestrian - The Copenhagen Wheel.
The red device on the rear wheel is a power supply.
My personal question is "How much does it help me in trying to go up a hill?" e.g. the hill to my house...from say NE 65th Street (Whole Foods) to Cloud City Coffee in Maple Leaf i.e. going up Roosevelt. Hardly a huge hill but enough to notice.
I am sure that a technologist would be able to figure out the "foot pounds" (or whatever) needed to cycle up a slope on my own effort and then how much supplementary power needed (and supplied, one hopes) by the Copenhagen Wheel to make me feel as if I was riding level. And that will be the measure in the real world of consumers: "perceived effort" with "riding level" the ideal.
The Boeing Everett factory makes the 747, 767, 777 and 787. If Boeing builds the 777X elsewhere, 777 work would end soon after 777X starts up in 2020, and by then the 747 jumbo jet would also likely be gone. That would leave most of the massive assembly plant, the largest building by volume in the world, an empty shell. (emphasis added)
* Better customer service at Amazon than Apple.
4. And a suggestion.
The Amazon guy and I fell to chatting and he warned me that eventually Amazon would stop supporting my iPad One. And I guess that in 10-15 years, sure, maybe. I demurred.
My iPad One is still a fine little tool (as are the early KIndles.) So maybe rather than just making orphans, Amazon (and Apple and I guess Android-based builders too) should keep supporting the older models to give to poorer communities and regions.
Why not establish a trade-in program? I want to buy an iPad Mini with Retina (sorry Jeff, you get plenty of my money anyway!) and Apple should take my old iPad, give me a credit on a new model and then give the old iPad to some poor school district, third world etc etc
I just got off a Delta flight and I really don't like flying economy, which is too bad since that is what I can afford. It was a really painfully uncomfortable experience. Ugh. I will avoid long distance travel unless I really need to or someone invites me and send me a Business Class ticket..
I tried to do use Google Maps on my recentr Delta flight and coudn't. I e-chatted with a rep at Gogo and she said that it is supposed to work but apparently many other customers can't.
So do specific airlines block passengers from using Google Maps in air? Or what? I couldn't get a clear answer -- whether there was a glitch on one flight? or the airlines can block it? or what?
I believe that many people would use inflight internet if they could use Google/Apple Maps in their seat on a plane. I know I would. And I hate to tell Gogo and Delta but I'd probably pay more.
While the problem with Netflix (see link) was in fact a non-problem, there is indeed an issue with older Apps for the iPad One.
I'll go back over the issue. If you delete an account on an iPad One -- in order to say to give it or sell it -- to establish a new one, the new user should get the Apps from the iTunes Store since the App is linked to a particular account, even if it is free software.
I will continue to check with Apple and Amazon, and again to the chief execs. If anyone can offer any assistance to help solve the problem, please contact me.
One of those heartwarming thanksgiving stories.
I configured an old iPad (Model One) for a friend and her daughter. In particular they wanted Netflix the App for movies when traveling.
Goldy can be extremely interesting. Yglesias almost always is and to boot has a good sensibility and knowledge about city planning.
But my point: a commenter made the following remark directed to yet another commenter. Tracking?
"You should be promoting an actual doable agenda and holding her to that, rather than taking up crucial bandwidth defending her idiotic fantasies about implementing world socialism from a Seattle council seat."
Yup. Well said.
So what is a "doable agenda"? I'd like to hear about what -- if anything -- the City can do in the area of health care for ALL citizens of Seattle.
Can the City of Seattle, through its buying power, can help lower the cost of group health insurance?
It already has 10,000 or so employees covered by health insurance and so it has staff who know the health care delivery systems and how to purchase it etc etc
What could the City do in using its expertise and buying power in the area of health care?
I will be the first to say that I know nothing about health insurance except that I have it and I like it. But there has to be some way that the City of Seattle, as a robust institution, can do something. If it could be then health insurance for all Seattleites would be a useful element in -- if you want to call it that -- a "socialist agenda."
Would Kshama Sawant have allowed Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to make and sell computers for a profit? That's an obvious question if you read Sawant's Why Socialism? pages on her campaign pages.
She starts with this claim:
...governments that merely regulate the excesses of capitalism are incapable of escaping the system's inherent flaws and grotesque inequalities.
I can't figure out why we can't regulate rather than having to own. But it's an interesting point for discussion. She expands a bit but then it's just more assertion:
But as long as corporations are privately owned, no matter how regulated they are, they will be locked into a system of cut-throat competition and our entire society will be structured around one fundamental purpose – maximizing short-term corporate profits, not the needs of humanity or the environment.
Mere assertion. BS, really. "[N]o matter how regulated they are" is a long time. Surely there must be many potential regulatory mechanisms to control the behavior of a corporation. Ok, another good point of discussion.
But then she gets specific and proposes "taking the top 500 corporations that dominate our economy (the Wal-Marts, Exxon-Mobils, United Health Groups, Halliburtons, Microsofts, etc.) into public ownership." So if you start thinking about it she is including Costco, Microsoft, Nordstrom, Amazon (of course!) and of course Apple.
So I wonder if she would have allowed Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to even start their company to make and sell computers, and actually hoping to make a profit. Their profit to use or share as they liked.
Or would she have said something like "Sure go ahead and make computers but if your company gets to sell $X million per year then The People will 'take' your company."
The idea is chilling not only because of its stupidity, its counterproductivity, at so many many levels but specifically we'd miss out on the joy of using an iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad etc etc since it's inconceivable that a committee of The People would ever create such great works of technology.
I hope that Sawant can find a convincing to explain it all away though I kinda doubt she can. And I hope that I am being unfair. But Sawant specifically raised the issue of "taking" large companies of Apple's scale. So it's fair to ask if there ever would have been Apple? Would there be a dampening effect on the certain knowledge that enormous success would be "taken"? It would be intertesting to hear Sawant discuss societal prosperity. Seattle has had quite a few entrepenurial successes. Would Sawant be seriously saying that if you succeed we will take you? Not that we will regulate you, which I think is fair and appropriate and necessary. But that we will take your company -- whether for just compensation or not. Sounds screwy but that appears to be what she is saying.
For the first time, driverless cars will soon be making their way through the streets of the U.K. Slowly. The electric powered "pods" can carry 2 people, and will operate on designated pathways in the town of Milton Keynes, north of London.That is a huge development. An experiment to be sure. But huge in implications, as big or bigger than the evolution of the horseless carriage around 1900.
Good predictions don't necessarily correlate with access to secret data, in other words. Indeed, said Philip Tetlock, a University of Pennsylvania professor who heads the project, too much information can sometimes overwhelm analysts and decrease their forecasting accuracy. This problem of separating the essential "signal" from the chatter of "noise" has been well known to scholars for decades. But it seems to have been forgotten by modern-day intelligence agencies in their push to collect.
The NSA obviously operates on the theory that more data are better.
Could geography, by which we mean the physical geography and in particular the natural geographical features such as landforms, terrain types, or bodies of water that are largely defined by their surface form and location in the landscape, be the last hope of the planet's ever expanding, continuously transforming, and increasingly identical and indefinable urban territories to remain distinguishable and to gain a particular identity in the future? Do hills, cliffs, valleys, rivers, oceans, seas, lakes, streams, canals, or any other kind of geographical feature have the power, in an ever more globalized world in which progressively cities and their architecture look the same, to provide meaning and significance to places, their inhabitants, and users or will all such elements only contribute to an identity that is merely like a mantra as Rem Koolhaas predicted once in "The Generic City"?
I am not against the $15/hr wage.
But I hope that people will realize that the people who are now making $9.19 an hour (in Washington State) are not necessarily going to be making $15/hr. Some of those people will but as jobs turn over, who would you hire:
• Someone you were paying $9.19/hr?
• Or someone who just entered the labor market and willing (all you artists and writers) to work minimum when (and if) it is $15/hr?
There may be some surprises.
Yes there may be a new and substantially higher minimum wage but that different people may be filling those minimum wage jobs.
Quote from Philip Weiss: "Journalists should tell their readers if they're Zionists"
$5.60 per ounce to produce oregano
$56.00 per ounce to produce marijuana
I've been starting to follow surveillance issues (e.g. NSA, etc) and ran across a post at a blog I have started to read: The Kris Paper, and the Problematic FISC Opinion.
That last line just jumped out at me: did Kris realize what he ws writing? Doesn't "The possibility of a civil liberties advocate in the FISC is a more significant and difficult issue" stricke you as an odd and troubling statement? One would have thought that every member of the FISC would be a civil libertarian. Along with a host of other things. But one would have hoped that every judge on FISC would have a deep, sincere commitment to the freedoms on which our Constitution is based. Yet an extremely accomplished observer of the FISC. Kris, suggest that such commitment to civil liberties (as opposed to Federal Security State Supremacy?) would be problematic.
Then again, what is the opposite of a "civil libertarian"? I don't really know but maybe opposite of "civil libertarian" is "authoritarian" in which case Kris statement makes sense.
* My initial take is that many establishment experts in this field are so bamboozled by the layers of law and procedure relating to privacy, along with some legitimately knotty problems, that there is not a lot of fresh thinking.
Spokesmen for the C.I.A., N.S.A. and F.B.I. all declined to comment on the precise nature of the warning and why it was not forwarded, citing the investigation into Mr. Snowden's activities.
Half a dozen law enforcement, intelligence and Congressional officials with direct knowledge of the supervisor's report were contacted for this article. All of the officials agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity because of the continuing criminal investigation. (emphasis added)Can you believe it? Six officials leaked and will get away scot-free. Totally sicko.
The first implication of the attack is on Nairobi's urban development. Will the city choose to become more open or more closed? With its population set to double to eight million in the next decade or so, design choices are powerfully relevant. The poor are already excluded from prosperous life by security arrangements. The temptation will be for more reinforcement. But if walls get higher, and those who drive cars between fortified points are further separated from those who go on foot and live in crowded places, the result will be a metropolis that is uncompetitive and unsafe.
Every U.S. soldier is taught the importance of complying with law, including international law, in every task he or she undertakes. They are also taught that dishonor or worse follows from violating this law. Many of the soldiers and all of the lawyers involved in the Syria planning will surely feel at least a little uneasy about a military action that the President acknowledges does not pass the test of international legality.
That's the real bitter irony. Compromising the law to an effective end is one thing; but then to be unable to help ordinary Syrians and then to damage the USA in so many ways (both aspects, simultaneously) makes it all the sadder.
The storyline also offers a bit of caviar to tease those who fancy themselves gourmets of high culture. White, as drug dealer, is known on the local meth scene by the moniker "Heisenberg", a cute play on the idea of "indeterminacy" (just who is White is tantalisingly elusive; and trope that is literalised when a lookalike is actually hired to confuse the police).
A state appeals court will hear arguments on the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 suit to invalidate the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to build a new Sonics arena in SodoI have no dog in this fight but I can see the larger point — had the SEPA process (prior to the MOU) revealed truly horrendous terrible environmental impacts, the City could say "No Mr. Hansen, no can do at that site. Please find another." And Hansen (and the City) would have had less investment, both financial and psychological.