Sucking Wind In Olympia

Today brings yet another in the endless progression of reports on how climate change is now projected to be more severe than originally thought:

Scientists at a climate change summit in Copenhagen said earlier UN estimates were too low and that sea levels could rise by a metre or more by 2100.  The projections did not include the potential impact of polar melting and ice breaking off, they added.  The implications for millions of people would be “severe”, they warned. Ten per cent of the world’s population – about 600 million people – live in low-lying areas.

But apparently our legislators down in Olympia didn’t get the memo.  As reported at Publicola — the go-to source for Oly action  — three climate change-related bills are sucking wind.

Sucking hardest is a bill aptly named “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” a.k.a. SB 5735, which was originally intended to establish a cap and trade system.  But legislators caved to pressure from the business community, and the watered down bill no longer requires a cap.

Next, a bill that simply sucks:  SB 5840 would undue the mandate established by Initiative-937 back in 2006 to achieve 15% renewable power generation by 2020.   Read Jay Inslee’s Seattle Times opinion piece for the skinny.

Lastly, the Transit-Oriented Communities bill, which has already had its density provisions gutted, is reportedly now stalled over objections that the affordable housing requirements are too stringent.

UPDATE:  I shouldn’t have neglected to note the recent passage of two pieces of legislation that violate the spirit, if not the letter of the WA State law mandating a 50% reduction of vehicle miles traveled by 2050.  First, the Senate vote to approve funding for the deep-bore tunnel, and second, the governor’s approval of a federal stimulus spending package that includes $71 million for freeway widening projects.


20 Responses to “Sucking Wind In Olympia”

  1. JesseJB

    Im not surprised about the TOD bill. Only in Seattle would something so no-brainer get shot down in the name of keeping the status quo.

  2. Andrew

    That TOD bill was 50% a sprawl bill. They wanted to put zoning that would double the size of towns like Sumner because they had 8 trains running through a day. It was half ridiculous, and was doomed from the inception with stupid stuff like that in it.

  3. Sara

    Andrew @ 2: How do you define “sprawl”?

    Sumner has to take a share of the region’s growth, under GMA, so why not plan for more compact growth near the station? That isn’t sprawl. Good growth management doesnt mean that all growth should be directed to Seattle and Bellevue. Every city in the region needs to accommodate more growth, including Sumner, Kent, Auburn, so why not encourage that growth to occur along our transit investments?

    And as it so happens, Sumner had a population of 8504 in 2000, and under its current comp plan, is planning for a population of 12,250 by the year 2022, for in increase of nearly 50%. Doubling in size by 2040 or 2050 is a real possibility, so let’s make sure that the growth happens in a way that makes sense.

    The Seattle-Tacoma Sounder line had the single largest jump in ridership of any commuter rail line in the nation last year, and last November’s Prop 1 will increase capacity on that line by over 65%. So if Sumner has to accommodate growth anyway, just as every city in the region does, seems like it makes sense to encourage that growth near the commuter line. Sumner seems to think so, which is probably why their 2004 comp plan directs much of the future growth to their downtown area with access to rail.

    Furthermore, you seem to share the typical lay misunderstanding of the TOC bill that the legislation would have somehow forced development to occur. No. The original legislation would have required that zoning ALLOW for more density near transit stations, but growth would have happened as the market dictates. Sumner wouldn’t have doubled in size overnight. But as station areas build out over the next 50-100 years or so, Sumner may very easily double in size. And since our buildings and infrastructure investments can last that long, good planning necessitates looking long-term now.

  4. Ellery

    That sounds better than cities like Sumner annexing unincorporated areas to accommodate future growth at a lower density. I believe that would be the definition of “sprawl.”

  5. Sara

    Exactamundo, Ellery.

  6. andrew

    @4 That’s a very narrow definition of “sprawl”. By your definition, and a bad one. If a place is developed at some low-density level (auburn hills for example) and gets annexed by a city (say, auburn), but adds no people or land, that’s sprawl?

    That’s a joke, a terrible defintion, and it makes no sense.

  7. andrew

    @3 The GMA is stupid if it dictates that Sumner adds 4,000 people.

    You are totally and completely crazy if you think that those 4,000 people would ride Sounder, which even with it’s growth, has fewer than 10,000 passengers a day. That’s both directions, not one-way. Don’t be ridiculous and think just because there’s rail access that those people will take the train.

    I Sumner already planned on putting the people around the station, than what good was that provision in the bill? If Sumner didn’t plan on that, and you are going to cram them around the station but they are still driving to work in Tacoma or Bellevue, what’s the point?

    It makes much more sense to say “hey Sumner, you have no jobs and you’re shit-far from everything you get to grow only a little bit” and say “hey Bellevue you have a lot of jobs and are shit-close to everything, you have to grow a lot”.

  8. Matt the Engineer

    I think @4 is talking about Sumner + surrounding areas all at exurban SFH density levels, not annexing just to annex.

  9. andrew

    I pressed the button early, what I meant was:
    It makes much more sense to say “hey Sumner, you have no jobs and you’re shit-far from everything you get to grow only a little bit” and say “hey Bellevue you have a lot of jobs and are shit-close to everything, you have to grow a lot”, than it does to say “Hey Sumner, you have eight trains a day going through your little town, you now can put 8,000 people around that station if you want to.”

  10. Sara


    During the same time period, Bellevue is expected to grow by nearly 25,000, and Seattle by over 50,000. So, yes, I agree with you that it makes sense for Sumner to grow by a little and places like Bellevue to grow by a lot. And so follows the GMA.

    Most growth should be directed to cities with jobs, yes, and in fact, the vast majority of population growth is targeted to jurisdictions with or near job centers. But not all growth will be so confined. Some folks want to live in smaller towns. So let them have Sumner. Maybe some folks will commute by train, some will drive. Some will be children. And some will be retirees looking for a compact and walkable community, quieter than Seattle, but with good transit to the bigger cities. The point is that we can provide an array of housing and community choices in our region while still being environmentally and socially responsible.

    “Sprawl” is development that creeps outside of our urban growth area into rural and resource lands, or low-density auto-oriented development inside or outside the UGA.

    I do not consider planned compact growth in existing cities with transit to be sprawl.

    As for what 1490 would have done that cities are not doing already…it would have included modest density thresholds with strong affordability requirements, and required design guidelines, open space plans and consideration of transportation demand management measures. It would have required comprehensive sub-area planning in these station areas. Many cities were doing something along these lines anyway, to one extent or another, and the bill would have strengthened those efforts.

    What remains in SHB 1490 is still an important step forward, and we are hoping for its passage out of the House tonight.

  11. andrew

    I don’t agree with that definition of sprawl. Adding thousands of people and walmarts and a drive-through starbucks to Black Diamond isn’t sprawl by that definition but it is by mine.

  12. Sara

    Black Diamond doesn’t have commuter rail. And I think my definition captured auto-oriented WalMarts and drive-thru Starbucks.

    I’m not saying direct growth to Sumner instead of Tacoma. I’m saying direct growth to Sumner instead of Bonney Lake or Orting. Tacoma, where there are more jobs and better transit, still gets the bulk of growth.

  13. David in Burien

    Andrew–Aren’t you in Japan right now? Have you been drinking too much Calpis? Take it easy, babe. Sara’s a pro. We’re in good hands here.

  14. andrew

    I just don’t think eight Sounder trains a day means you should put thousands of people, most of which won’t ride the train, in Sumner. You should put no more people in Sumner.

    Or you can put more people in Sumner, but no more parking. That one I’ll agree with, they might actually make the ride the train. I just think that having a commuter rail station doesn’t make Sumner magically better than South Hill (which has a pretty good bus transit center). And it doesn’t matter whether you put people who drive to Bellevue in Sumner or in Bonney Lake if they both drive to work.

    I should take it easy, you’re right. it’s not the calpis, it’s the bottled tea. I am just getting way too much caffeine than is good for me.

  15. Sara

    I’m with you on the parking. Now go get some sleep.

  16. ktstine

    good exchange above. i think one of the points of GMA is that we can’t “put” people anywhere! the region is growing and will continue to grow and there ain’t nothing we can do about this! so i agree with sara in that we need to provide an array of options for people everywhere. if there is a rail stop in sumner and all the housing around it is sprawling and requires you to have a car….bingo! everyone will drive a car. people, no matter where they choose to live, will make decisions about how to live based on the options they are presented with. let’s please find a way to ensure that there is at least some moderate density around transit in smaller outlying towns.

  17. Bill B

    1490 RIP.

    The problem with light rail is it is not a rapid transit system. If light rail ever made it to Sumner, how long would it take to get to downtown Seattle?

    We need to think harder and longer about how to get this right.

    Many of us are ready to get busy with that effort. We feel the urgency, we recognize the opposition to the ideal. 1490 wasn’t quite right however…

  18. dan bertolet

    OK Bill Bradburd @17, it’s all in your hands now. When you’re done thinking longer and harder you let us know. Since you believe 1490 deserved to fail because it “wasn’t quite right,” I can’t wait to hear all about your solution that will be perfectly right.

  19. Joshua

    Sara, thanks for fighting the good fight in the legislature. Bill, I also await your perfect plan. But, please, take your time. God knows we’ve got plenty of it.

  20. Bill B

    @18, Dan

    Actually many of us are in support of TOD, no sprawl, affordable housing, etc. But its not “all in my hands”. Its in “our” hands to support legislation that will achieve the common objectives THAT WE ALL HAVE. Remember there were a lot of forces bigger than us that could have- and may have – stopped the bill. It was not a few neighborhood people.

    I have talked with Sara about a post-mortem summit between all of the “factions” to reassert this common ground – and assess the most effective way to move forward together. And as a way to prevent a lot of finger pointing and name calling.

    She is interested. Hopefully you can join us.

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