Seattle Is Getting Dense


Filed Under Latest News on Jul 13 

How’s your mother-in-law unit doing? No, this refers to a detached, semi-detached, or attached separate living unit on a property with a main unit. Also called a secondary suite, a granny flat, a garage apartment, or a basement suite. In Seattle, density and infrastructure are pressing issues apparently. Traffic backed up to a crawl, commuters dozens deep at a single bus stop waiting for one that they actually squeeze into. New developments demanding those sewer and water lines and all the other services needed to make a sub-division livable. And municipal planners wondering whether to delay development until adequate infrastructure is in place, like Redmond did during the first big boom in the late 80’s and 90’s.

The concept is called concurrency: infrastructure build out has to be concurrent with development. No added roads, services, schools … no development. On the other hand, density might offer a way to lessen the pace of suburban sprawl, but still means that existing infrastructure has to be expanded to make sure all those public transit riders don’t have to wait in a chilly PacWest drizzle to board their bus to work. In other words, Seattle has a wonderful problem that places like Las Vegas and Cleveland and even Miami would love to have: a prosperous local economy that has a strong niche in the global economy (several in fact), and needs to spend some more on public infrastructure because people have good jobs and need to get themselves to and from those jobs and their kids to and from school.

Pushing the density envelope, (more dwellers squeezed into the same urban or even suburban space), are urban environmentalists that want us all to live in modest-sized apartment buildings at least 4 or 5 stories tall. Next step for them is to bulldoze the suburbs and turn, Redmond for example, into farmland. Then existing distant farmland would be allowed to slowly return to wilderness. And coyotes and buffalo would roam the continent again, as God intended. Ok, coyotes already do, and they don’t mind the suburbs apparently. Rebelling against the concept of density, are those suburbs that are so wrapped up in municipal building codes that even putting a sidewalk down would require several all-night city council sessions to change the law, assuming the council votes for more flexible building codes. Clearly this is a local problem with a plethora of local solutions. And if folks in say, Dallas, want to clamp down on secondary suites because they tend to attract illegal migrants as renters, that is their decision. Density is up to each municipality to deal with as they see fit. From Seattle to Miami.