Can't Say 'No'
I want to thank you for Philip Dawdy's fine article on downtown Seattle facing up to its future ["Time to Grow Up," Aug. 10]. Having recently spent time in Portland's Pearl District and Yaletown in Vancouver, I've found myself wondering why Seattle hasn't done a better job of evolving into a place people can afford and where they want to live.
Shortly after reading Dawdy's story, I was driving on Western and realized what was wrong with the development at the north end of downtown. At almost every turn, Seattle hasn't had the guts to say "No" to a developer. Sure, there have been height limits, but the buildings along Western look cheap, are architecturally ugly, and were built to the sidewalk's edge.
Given the quality of development that has occurred in the past, I have no confidence that Seattle's leaders can get it right.
Robert T. Nelson
This Ain't London
Why is Seattle so obsessed with invoking terms such as "urban" and "density"? Why the promise—ongoing for the 10 years I have known the city—that hundreds of hip, well-heeled residents are about to descend on downtown (now a faceless canyon of condos)? They haven't shown up yet? The perfect excuse to build more atrocities.
Pieces such as "Time to Grow Up" [Aug. 10] are not unique in recycling the words of billionaires, developers, and their flunkies in government. But Greg Nickels isn't trying to change "the Seattle way of doing things." He completely embodies it—just as the invocation of "row houses" in London for "neighborhood" feeling typifies know-nothing journalism.
I've lived and worked in London (commuting from Seattle) for decades. Contemporary London offers few useful "neighborhood" models; it is a harsh, difficult, very expensive world. The typical English worker has been priced right out of central London—especially in such "houses" as those around Russell Square.
Visitors who are impressed by London's vibrant landscape need to realize its patrimony is protected—the humble and industrial just as much as the carved and curlicued. Moreover, both are championed by Ken Livingstone, a mayor with real, active principles. No billionaire could convince him to bulldoze his city's past for profit. This doesn't stop London's architectural progress. It does, however, mean that concepts such as relative height, bulk, and scale—defining characteristics of any "neighborhood"—are actually looked at seriously. Here, in a small setting where they consequently matter more, these and other sections of the municipal code are grossly ignored.
Seattle absolutely is not London, Boston, or Vancouver. So, instead of always throwing around the names of other cities, why not look at conflicts of interest, speculation, code violations, and civic graft (and genuine downtown vacancy rates) right here and now—in Seattle.
Seattle's Suburban Skies
This was a good article ["Time to Grow Up," Aug. 10]. As it correctly points out, city neighborhoods like Belltown are unable to lure families away from the suburbs because they lack affordable family housing, perceived safety, and amenities like good schools, open space, grocery stores, etc. I think a lot of urban dwellers (full disclosure: I live in Belltown) have come to take perverse pride in living in a place that is not welcoming to children and families. That's why it's easy to have contempt for the suburbs as the opposite of the city. If we do succeed in building an urban core that is friendly to families (as it appears Vancouver has), then perhaps we will have "suburbs in the sky."
Thank you for fleshing out the intricacies of Greg Nickels' downtown density proposal, which sadly lacks the comprehensiveness of Vancouver ["Time to Grow Up," Aug. 10]. He once again demonstrates that the challenges families already face trying to live in the city simply isn't part of his thinking. Seattleites would do well to be vigilant over this plan, which is fueled by developers whose main interest is profit. It may be "time to grow up," but we've got a mayor whose policies we need to baby-sit.
Candidate for Mayor
Rick Anderson's assertions concerning the Seattle Monorail Project finances were incorrect [Buzz, Aug. 10]. SMP has been spending well less than half of his claimed amounts of $1 million per week and $7 million since June 20. In fact, during that period, SMP has been spending $350,000 per week to pay all agency costs, or just under $2.5 million. At the board's direction, SMP has also taken aggressive steps to reduce costs.
Also, in place of the monthly committee meetings Anderson criticizes the SMP board for canceling, the board is meeting every week to cover all of the issues involved in figuring out next steps for the project.
It is ironic that Anderson refers to a civic death chorus surrounding the project. Four years ago, many of the same critics and entities called for an end to Sound Transit's efforts using many of the same arguments. Instead, Sound Transit board members and staff worked to make improvements, and it's now being heralded as a transit success story. Sound Transit turned itself around, and we are working hard to do the same.
We acknowledge and regret that we've made some mistakes, and we're working carefully and deliberately through an action plan to come up with a financing plan that the public will find acceptable.
It's irresponsible to publish expenditure figures without any foundation and premature to call for an end to a transit project that will provide a clean, efficient alternative to being stuck in traffic.
Acting Board Chair, Seattle Monorail Project
Rick Anderson responds: Hill wants you to believe SMP has cut spending by more than 80 percent since its finance plan collapsed. That's untrue; SMP did not go from spending an average of $2 million a week ($52 million in capital and operations through June 2005) to spending $350,000 a week for "all agency costs" in July. She excludes the heavy capital expenditures that, by SMP's own figures, continue to push all weekly costs to more than $1 million.
Six Feet Blunder?
Thanks for ruining Six Feet Under for me [Dategirl, "The Blunder From Down Under," Aug. 10]. After getting ready to watch season four on DVD when it's released later this month, I was excitedly (but patiently) anticipating the final season, albeit in due time. Ever heard of a spoiler alert? Yeah, most decent columnists (e.g., Heather Havrilesky of Salon.com) make use of them. I suggest that Dategirl employ them in future articles before she pisses off any more readers.
Los Angeles, CA
Dategirl responds: If I'd run the column before the show aired, I probably would've done that. But now that you've pissed me off, you should also know that Claire loses a leg in a car wreck with her new lawyer boyfriend (who is decapitated in the accident), Durell and his brother get taken away by Protective Services, and Brenda gives birth to a baby with a cleft palate. Oh, and Maggie—she's pregnant, too. Hopefully her baby won't be deformed, but we'll never know.
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