May Day and Mayday

As the latest downcycle of our fanastically cruel economic system continues to shred the design community, my motivation has hit the wall. 

Your turn.  What’s on your mind?  An open thread.  Or something. 

19 Responses to “May Day and Mayday”

  1. Ben Schiendelman

    You could come to the Seattle Transit Blog meetup on Monday. Most of us are interested in the same things you are, maybe meeting some new and similarly minded people will help motivate you?

  2. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    A small bit of density good news from the long view: A Documentary Chronicles the History of Arlington’s ‘Smart Growth’ Planning and the Ascendance of Metro. Now less than half drive to work and 18% don’t even own a car. More at the Arlington [VA] County website.

  3. FreshEgg


    I want to at least take this opportunity to Thank You for your advocacy and work on this highly informative blog. As a specialist in urban infill mixed-use buildings, your blog has become essential daily reading… Also greatly appreciate the pragmatic AND tolerant take on many volatile issues e.g. “cut the crap” [my quote] on What Is Green.

    Keep up the good work.

    Not going to make you feel any better but the current climate for building in Puget Sound is devastating and you are not alone. Been busting ass trying to keep some work in the office for the last 6 months but to no avail. I’m fresh out of ideas.

  4. seven

    I’ll admit I don’t know much about anything in the design community.

    The way this city looks has become unmotivated and tired too. The sacrifices that are being made for growth by way of aesthetics is terrifying to me. It would be immature to suggest that aesthetic considerations could possibly take precedence over economic or environmental considerations.

    “We shape what we build, thereafter what we have built shapes us.”

    Those of you in the design community have a tremendous responsibility to consider what those designs do to the mood and behavior of a city. This economic downturn will subside and things will change. I really hope that architects, urban planners and those who have the power and position to design and tweak the community in such powerful ways realizes that it is more important to do what is right to a community and not be so grounded in all these useless modern fancies. Maybe everyone will be able to participate in it that way.

    This blog is on the good side. Thanks.

  5. Keith

    This is my best idea as of late:

  6. Keith

    This has been my best idea as of late:

  7. brad

    this is the proposed building at the old deano’s site. Any opinions?

    I’m personally very happy with the proposal. I like the open courtyard, I like the town-homes that don’t look a thing like the other townhomes we have in the neighborhood, and I like the ’empty-boxes’ that create negative space and break up the monotony.

    I’m worried that cost is going to be an issue. How often do designers get their cool designs approved, only to scale back to something ugly when financial reality sets in?

  8. Joshua Daniel Franklin


  9. Ped Xing

    When motivation hits a wall and you’re feeling cranky about current development (or lack of it), maybe it’s time to brush off your copy of ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ by the late, great Jane Jacobs. Her keen observations of urban neighborhoods and biting critiques of the planning status quo are timeless.

    And it would be good timing…her birthday is Monday, May 4th. This weekend there are hundreds of Janes Walks in Canada, and 20 in the US to celebrate her birthday and raise awareness of urban issues.

  10. JoshMahar

    Here’s a good one for density complexity. Check out this project in the CD:

    Its one SFH being replaced by five new townhomes. Sounds reasonable on the surface. But here’s the catch, the now-standing SFH is already divided into 6 residential units, one more than the proposed townhomes.

    Granted the old units are probably much smaller, but I would say you are probably replacing about 8 people with maybe 12 – 15. That’s not even double. Plus, the current SFH is historic, affordable, and only takes up half the lot, leaving way more greenspace that could be used a garden, goats, chickens, or what have you. Oh, did I mention that the SFH was built in 1901 and has no parking. Correct me if I’m wrong but the new buildings are required to have one space per unit, total = 5. So which housing form is more sustainable here?

    I’m not trying to go all mossback on you here but I think this situation is more the norm, rather than the exception and its an important issue in the affordability discussion.

  11. Kathryn

    There is a historic inventory here:

    I don’t think they got everything, but a scan of Central Area streets indicates that there is a historical character interest here.

    I would have preferred that the existing house be preserved with its current use and maybe a new building added to the land.

    Zoning does not really translate to uses, either from an income perspective or economic development perspective, both of which are components of sustainable neighborhoods — homes, jobs, goods and services nearby for a variety of income levels.

    How many of those Neoghborhood Commercial buildings have deep enough retail spaces for the inventory back room required for even a small hardware store, for example?

    Thinking that overlays and other mechanisms may be needed in the code.

  12. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    JoshMahar, that’s nothing other than a tragedy (well, except for whoever cashed in I suppose). It’s not complex and as you point out it’s not density either. The code that more or less requires townhomes like that is broekn and the city is trying to figure out what would work better.

    Kathryn, the NC buildings I’ve seen have a great variety of sizes in commercial space. Have you been to the newish City Hardware in SLU, for example? It’s quite small but a really great neighborhood resource. (Oh, and unfortunately Seattle’s historic inventory provides zero protection as you probably know.)

  13. dan cortland

    Josh Mahar,

    Yeah, that’s what happens when density is defined as “units” of housing and a studio apartment = 1 unit = a 5 bedroom rental SF house. Define density in numbers of people and things might change.

  14. Kathryn

    The proposed MF code calls for use of FAR, except in the L! and L2. I’d rather it uses FAR for those as well. but, I’d also like a minimum density for each zone, based on minimum number of bedrooms and maximum square footage per unit. Trying to force the L3-4 to build up to code instead of underbuilding frankly..

    But, if there is an existing house on the property, let’s figure out a way to get it kept. Incentives could include reduction in parking requirements, for example.

  15. Kathryn

    Oh, and Josh you are going to get 5 town houses which will each have 2 ‘master bedrooms’, translating into 5 couples/roomate situations and maybe one kid. Lucky if 12 people end up there.

  16. Bailey

    I want to second FreshEgg with another thank you for this blog, Dan. I have such admiration and gratitude for the passion and wit of your posts. Thoughtful, insightful, informed. Thank you for taking risks, not being afraid to offend, and keeping the dialogue going on these vital issues.

  17. joe

    Funny that none of these comments deal directly with the building in question, Olive8. One it’s own, sure, O8 is somewhat monotonous and uninspiring. But when coming down Pine and facing downtown, I cannot help but be struck by the architectural variety in that dense pack of towers on that block, and how O8 seems to reinforce the beauty of the older buildings near it. Through contrast, everything surrounding it seems to become more special, a better representative of the era in which it was build- even the drone-like Bell Tower almost takes on a retro cool. We can all agree that O8 is a much better building than Bell Tower, and sitting side by side we see just how far we have come.

    And I was walking down Olive the other day in the sun and was pleasantly surprised to see the entire sidewalk cast in blue light, due to the sun hitting the blue plastic wings that encircle the top of O8. I’m sure it was an unintentional bi product of the design, and was at best a temporary addition to the streetscape, but for just that moment, brief as it was, it was pretty neat.

  18. Matthew

    Great blog! Would love to see some better coverage of the monstrosity that has been 10 years in the making at the top of Beacon Hill – aka “The Slow Dig” aka “The Hole” aka “Underground Light Rail”. The blue wall is down, and the crews are still up all night trying to hit a deadline (delayed two years BTW) in July. The Beacon Hill Council has been doing community involvement on the high transit area for six years, and the powers that be are prepared to ignore this entirely.

  19. front lace wigs

    Ultimately it is my desire to have a blogg as nice as yours. what is your secret?

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