“Our legacy will not be judged on how many skyscrapers we’ve built, but on what happens to Seattle’s Soul.” –Seattle Times, October 20, 2015
For the first time ever, Seattle ranks among the top 10 most densely populated big cities in the U.S. And that’s not a bad thing in and of itself. Living downtown in Seattle where it’s walkable to dining, entertainment, shopping, and even your job, is great.
According to Branden Born, Associate Professor of Urban Design and Planning at the University of Washington, “When density is done right, it gives people more of what they like, and less of what they don’t like in a neighborhood.”
However, there is a tipping point when a Downtown starts to move from all the plusses of density to the negatives. The environment becomes more like that of a concrete jungle with little or no open spaces, minimal light, air, and privacy between skyscrapers, causing an increase in psychological stress for the inhabitants, and results in residents leaving downtown as fast as they arrived.
Today in Seattle there is such an urgent push for funds for affordable housing through the Mayor’s HALA program that the soul of Seattle is at serious risk if we don’t slow down a little, take a deep breath, and get it right. We believe that there are better solutions than the ones we’ve seen proposed.
If we use this time to establish residential development standards in all of the downtown zones to allow taller, not fatter buildings; and require alley setbacks on all new construction, density, affordability, and livability can be compatible and set the stage for a great future for Seattle.
We’re not asking for 6,000-7000 sq. ft. floor plates like Vancouver for the downtown “danger zones” (DOC1, DOC2, DRC, and DMC Waterfront), even though that is what the 5th & Madison condo has…and it is a great example of “density done right”
Good residential standards already exist for some areas of downtown. These standards include adequate tower separation, a limit to the number of towers per block, reasonable alley set backs, and a restriction on the percentage of a lot that a building can occupy. We strongly believe that these kinds of standards should apply to any downtown zone where new residential building is allowed. It's about fairness, justice, and sensible development. We have chosen to live in the urban core because we believe in density, but we expect Density Done Right.