[ Lowrise apartments on 10th Ave, just north of Broadway on Capitol Hill ]

About a year ago the good people of the City of Seattle became exceedingly alarmed about the assault of the awful townhouse. Piling on, I put forth a theory on the root causes of the suckiness, and also pointed out that the City is full of examples of good alternatives to townhouses for lowrise housing, but that we almost never build them anymore.

Tonight the City of Seattle is holding a public meeting on a proposal for a new administrative design review process that would apply to townhouse development. The idea has been gaining momentum. I’m agnostic.

No doubt there are cases when design review can enable a better design response. But I can’t help being skeptical about whether design review will have the power to put much of a dent in the fundamentals that are driving the 4-pack model — condo liability, the requirement to accommodate cars, and inexpensive cookie-cutter design and construction.

When you’re out of ideas, recycle old ones — so I’m posting pictures of some nice old lowrise apartments. We need to figure out the current barriers to this building type, and then dismantle those barriers. Because getting better housing in Seattle’s lowrise zones is about more than just raising the bar for townhouses. At some not too distant point in the future, lowrise apartments like these examples will start to seem a lot smarter than townhouses, and the City’s interests would be well served by enabling more building type diversity in its lowrise zones ASAP.

[ Narrow lowrise apartment near 13th and Spring in the Central District ]