Seattle’s Land Use Code blog grew out of a sense of frustration with the glacial pace of change in Seattle when it comes to land use. Having worked at the City in the Department of Neighborhoods and as a
I get it. But what about taking a look at the bigger picture? How do we make our code speak to our larger goal of growing sustainably? I kept feeling like we needed to blow up the code and start all over again. I also recognized that the code is a complicated document. Why not conduct my own audit of the code? Maybe in reading it I would find that perhaps the code isn’t all that bad. Or I might find some ideas for a rewrite. So the blog was born.
So far, I am still convinced that we are far too old fashioned about land use and our code reflects that. We spend far too much time building legally binding boxes into which coming growth must fit. Why not focus on use first then conform the standards around that use? Why do we continue to “zone,” putting some use in one place and other uses in other places? What we need is not just a pig in our parlor, but to invite the whole herd in. Change is always tough, but we’ve got lots of growth coming and we’re going to have to develop a post Euclidian code that, ironically, takes us back to principles of land use that were common before the rise of the automobile.
Roger Valdez is a former city council and legislative staffer, consultant, and research associate at Sightline Institute. He has an interest in land use and urban livability and writes for a variety of local blogs and online publications.