Somebody Help Me Out Here

When I read the letter below that landed in my inbox the other day, I couldn’t help thinking that the author and I must be from different planets. On my planet, human activity is pushing ecological systems to the breaking point, CO2 levels are reaching unprecedented levels, and scientists are telling us that if we continue business as usual that within 100 years we’ll lose most of the species on earth. On my planet, it has been established that compact development patterns reduce resource use and greenhouse gas emissions by increasing the viability of alternatives to cars, particularly transit. On my planet, there are countless examples of cities with compact development in which communities are thriving and people — including families with children — have a great quality of life. In my city on my planet, people are responding to the global crisis by working to change development patterns and logically want to see these efforts focused on the new light rail station areas.

If the author of the letter and those who are aligned with his views are not, in fact, from another planet, I am at a loss to explain their position. Can anyone help me out here? I believe these people actually do care about the fate of the planet, but if so, what is their alternative plan? I strongly suspect that the truth is they have no alternative, but I am trying to keep an open mind.

The text of the letter follows (the attachment referred to is here):

“Hello All,

Son of CRA is upon us. Please read the attachment on the forwarded e-mail thoroughly.

This year, 2008, the City intends to focus their efforts on SE Seattle and the station areas. There are many clues as to the City’s intentions in the document. The first is that the City wants to up-zone vast areas in order to “promote ridership goals for the regional line” (last sentence on page 3 of 5). This is the tail wagging the dog. Since it doesn’t appear that Sound Transit is going to reach their ridership numbers (and thus jeopardize further federal funding), the residents of SE Seattle are gong to be forced to accept a significant increase in density surrounding the platforms. The extent of the area that will be under the gun, so to speak, is hinted at on page 4 of 5. The third to the last bullet on the page sates that the radius of the development will be “within a 10 minute walk” of the platform. That’s 1/2 mile folks, not 1/4 mile. The encroachment on the single-family neighborhoods is going to be more than significant. And lastly, the City will again employ the tactic of divide and conquer. On the last page, sixth bullet from the last, the City wants “workshops and small group discussions”. The residents need to overwhelm the meetings and let their outrage be heard.

While this directly affects Mt. Baker/N. Rainier Valley, Columbia City, and Othello, we are all at risk. SE has the most seriously understaffed police precinct in the City, and we’re going to get lord knows how many new residents with this scheme. There’s also the issue of where to educate all the new children. But to me, the most serious problem is where are all these people gong to work and how does the train fit into that equation. The only employment centers that the train serves are downtown and the airport. It doesn’t serve Southcenter (#2 employment center in King County) and it won’t serve UW until some time in the middle of the next decade (#1 employer in Seattle). So, we’re going to get all these new residents with all their automobiles, and there will be no parking for them, since the City Council in their wisdom eliminated the parking requirement in the the station areas. The grand experiment will be held at our expense.

I know we are all busy this time of the year, but perhaps it’s time to reconstitute MCOM (or some entity like it) and start up a game plan to take on the City again. I’m game, are you?

Doug Cargill

P.S. The forces of ever increased density are already lobbying the Council and the Mayor.”