Erica Barnett’s column in this week’s Stranger focuses on sidewalks. It is a great rundown of the politics of sidewalks, street improvements and today’s tension between developers and neighborhoods.
But I would suggest that, like many issues, single-family politics drives the sidewalk discussion.
Last weekend I was visiting family in Tacoma. Someone walked in and said “What is the deal; you have the last unpaved street in Tacoma. Gravel? What gives?”
- Tacoma’s road to the future?
A heated discussion ensued about why the project didn’t happen. “We wanted asphalt and rolled curbs. The City wanted sidewalks that would have slashed into people’s yards and been outrageously expensive.”
I piped up and said “actually the way it is right now is best for everyone, especially for China Lake. If the street was paved, it would create a huge drainage issue because of the new impervious surface. That would create a huge expense and a bunch of dirty water. The road now has much better drainage. Gravel is the way to go. Keep it the way it is!”
Everyone looked at me for a beat with a bit of bewilderment and disdain—as if I had just spoken in Latin—and then continued their debate about sidewalks.
No offense to Tacoma. The opinions expressed there are the same ones that drive the sidewalk debate in Seattle. The bottom line on sidewalks is that they are often needless status symbols creating more impervious surface which is expensive to mitigate. How about those swales?
The next time you hear someone saying “for crying out loud, we don’t even have sidewalks!” think about Palantine NW pictured here.
We don’t always need sidewalks to support pedestrian-friendly and pedestrian-safe neighborhoods. And they shouldn’t be a litmus test as to whether a neighborhood has favored status with the City.
Sidewalks add impervious surface which we have to mitigate with huge drainage projects. Let’s focus on how we move pedestrians safely, not creating more sidewalks. Progress can be less sidewalks!