Community Post

P-I Article About Ballard – Soundoff Goes to Interesting Places

The Seattle P-I published thier bi-monthly article about the destruction of the Ballard neighborhood last night. The Soundoffs are ACTUALLY interesting, if one can skim past the resident cranks and trolls in the making that seem to haunt that venue. Issues of develoment, the role of DPD, the role of zoning, and the Growth Management Act are being shared. Aspirations about our Seattle, ranging from ignorant to informed, selfish to understanding, and emotional to historically informed, along with ranges in between are being posted.

The article is at:


0 thoughts on “P-I Article About Ballard – Soundoff Goes to Interesting Places

  1. Really interesting stuff.

    It seems like there’s way too many contradictions contained within some Seattle residents:
    How can you be an environmentalist, but opposed to channelling population growth into existing business districts in a big city?
    How can you be green but be so concerned about making sure you can drive and park anywhere in the city?
    How can you complain about the lack of mass transit choices for your neighborhood after having turned down a concrete proposal to bring rapid transit to that same neighborhood only a few years ago?
    How can you be opposed to suburban sprawl and then throw a fit when instead you get a few more neighbors in the big city you live in?

    Look – we live in a very popular area. People want to move here and live here for the same reasons you do: it’s beautiful, temperate, and culturally rich. You can’t wall off the entire Puget Sound area and say “sorry, we’re closed.” So the question is, where should all those people go? At the end of the day, there’s basically two choices: soul-less suburbs that stretch up into the foothills and wipe out what remains of the region’s natural beauty, or you make room in the city with denser, smaller, more sustainable apartments and townhouses.

    The vast majority of Seattle is zoned for single-family houses and will remain so for the foreseeable future, but people are still up in arms when the few multi-family areas actually gain more families.

    And I’ll be the first to admit that much of our recent development is seriously lacking from an aesthetic point of view. It’s definitely a process problem that we need to improve upon. But to be honest, most of the time our desire for top-notch design is going to be at odds with our desire for affordable housing. Sometimes we’ll have to compromise and pick one or the other, with 23rd & Union being a perfect example.

  2. I agree that it’s not SO much about appearance as it is ‘fit’, size mass, scale. And, really what’s inside the built structures. The people, the services, the ability to walk somewhere and do all your regular errands.

    I have a particular concern that we NEED a low density multi-FAMILY zone. I predict we will probably will see parts of Mad Valley re-zoned MF the way the housing stock is. I think sub-division or duplexes that CAN support a small FAMILY is an important option to preserve. The L1 homes, although needing some tweaking, are actually more affordable than house a couple of blocks away because you are signing up for $100-200 in rehab. I lived back east and we did not have that need for 3 feet of property on either side of a home. Maybe people in Seattle will get over it and realize that you CAN raise a family in a townhome, or a large apartment. I’m specifically concerned that DPDs current proposals will slam the door on MF housing that is large enough and truly low density so families can live in it. Might not be real popular today, but wait a few years…

    Also, the back of Cap Hil into the Valley really cannot support the coverage by building without an infrastructural investment that the Mayor said he absolutely will not entertain. I’m talking about cisterns, sewers and more open space.

    At the same time, I’d like Madison, Union, Cherry and Jackson streets to be real low rise commercial stretches — not 3 grocery stores on one, a bunch of restuarants (that people end up driving to) on another; rather ‘main streets’ that leverage the facts of our bus lines and daily needs for goods and services.

    I think the problem is that people move to an area because they like it, and then changes are ocurring that make it into something that they may or may not like anymore. Better if we get together and determine what WE want and affect the change.

    I pulled some particular points in the soundoff that I think expressed alot of good stuff, even if they were talking about ballard, you cound insert Central Area wherever you see Ballard for the most part:

    ‘Here’s how it works: first you make the city dense. Really dense. Driving in the city becomes and expensive pain. You let people feel the pain for a few years. Then you ask them if they’re willing to pay for mass transit, and since they know cheap, plentiful parking and easy car commutes are NEVER coming back, they vote “Yes, please!”, and after twenty years you have a livable dense city. As long as there’s the “escape valve” of being able to easily drive, people won’t pony up for serious mass transit.’

    ‘The growth management act pushed for more urban housing to slow sprawl and reduce highway commuting. These are good goals. To obtain these benefits we have to build housing in Seattle, and new single family housing is Seattle is not an affordable option. So lets appreciate what the condo and apartment developers are contibuting to keeping our region healthy. As a Ballard resident (in a not very affordable single family house I should admit), I’ve been pleased by more residents in the Market Street neighborhood. Ten years ago this neighborhood was not a great place to be at night. As people move in, it is getting more people friendly. Protecting a few landmarks is a worthy effort. Getting upset about the general construction of multi-story condo and apartment buildings seems to be opposing change to preserve a Ballard that wasn’t around in the mid ninties when this building boom started.’ (My response is that there HAS to be affordable housing for families KT)

    ‘Let me just start off by saying that I am a proud Ballard townhome owner. I picked my location based on the fact that I didn’t have to rely on using my car. I am within walking distance of everything I need (work, library, bank, parks, dinning, concerts, bus stops etc.) I know that my house doesn’t have the character that a craftsman has, but to me it’s not just the character of the house that makes up a neighborhood, it’s also the character of the people who live in those homes. It amazes me how many sneers I get from folks when I tell them I live in a townhome. I am being judged not on the qualities of my character but on the qualities of my home.’

    ‘I understand the concerns of change but we as the Ballard community are not going to get anywhere bickering with each other about who or what belongs or doesn’t. I challenge my neighbors to get to know each other, both old and new, and we’ll probably see that we have more in common than we thought. I have made it my goal as a “new” resident to support the community all I can, whether it’s shopping at the Ballard Market, drinking coffee at Bambino, or having a cold one at the Sloop, and when the day is through I can be proud to say that Ballard is my home, change and all.’

    ‘They also see inappropriate tax breaks, corner-cutting, illegal labor, unreasonable allowances/variances, and shoddy construction for NON-affordable housing, condos, and conversions now, tiktok. The tax base will actually suffer more from that in the long term. The downturn is only beginning. Seattle is not immume from it, just late to the party, as usual, and historical. That is something the newcomers and equity locusts will find out soon.’

    ‘There are affordable-housing developers who can still make a reasonable and solid structure for a profit. They don’t require granite and stainless steel and then overcharge for it. They are not greedy.’

    ‘It will be interesting to see how many MORE of these new condos and townhouses are going to be rentals that no one can afford, by next year. Affordable housing impacts the bottom line the most for those who need it. Many of those are the same people who maintain the infrastructure and services you take for granted. Those who don’t need it, still need to support the infrastructure and services used by themselves and everyone else in common.’

    ‘Sustainable and intelligent growth is not what is happening now.’

    ‘If it’s too far to walk, eat closer to home, or use public transportation or bike. That’s how dense living works.’

    ‘I must admit I used to be a bit of a public transportation snob, but 4 months ago I accepted a challenge from amused friends and sold my car, and I now take the bus, (absolutely LOVE it), EVERYWHERE except for long-distance trips where I can rent a car, or go w/ a friend. I live in downtown Seattle and for me, walking and busing is the way to go, so those able bodied folks who grumble about not being able to find parking in front of wherever you’re going, try some public transportation, bike, or get your butts walking – you will be pleasantly surprised at how good it can be for body and soul. (No parking frustration, no road rage, no parking lot freeways during commute times, no high gas prices, insurance/car payments, and actually giving back to your community overall.’

    ‘Here’s where we can start to have a conversation. It’s a good thing to question the city’s planning wisdom, or lack thereof, and infrastructure investment, and where affordable housing fits into the mix. (BTW – many of these so-derided projects are actually smart urban infill, and once housing corrects itself will become much more affordable.) But until now, crack jokes notwithstanding, it’s been a bunch of folks complaining about the changing face of a neighborhood. The problem is that many of you guys moved from Ballard 30 years ago because you didn’t like the little Scandinavian burg you grew up in. And you left your aging parents to deal with the crap hole laughingstock it was becoming. And now there’s a group of people moving in who are passionate about the neighborhood, it’s possibility and quality of life and all you can do is ignorantly complain about yuppies not talking to you in cafes, “cheaply built condos” and not being able to get a $1 cup of coffee as you “drive through regularly.” Maybe it’s simply not your neighborhood anymore.’

    ‘What is with the P-I and its endless stories about people whining and moaning about how Seattle is changing? Seattle is a CITY. That’s what happens to vibrant, thriving cities – they grow, evolve and change.
    I live in Ballard in one of those generic townhouses people detest, and I love it. We could have spent the same amount on the fixer-upper that used to be on the lot, but didn’t want to renovate an old house. Not everyone wants to live in a single family home and deal with yardwork and the upkeep an old home requires.
    Condos and townhouses provide DIVERSITY in housing. You know, choices. What’s wrong with that? Both options increase density, which is a positive thing in a growing city. The alternate is to build more single family homes and increase sprawl.
    Ballard is changing. Get over it, people. That’s a fact of life in a desirable city.’

    ‘For those who complain of the direction Ballard is taking… that too many people live here and prices are high and the neighborhood is stripped of character with only cell phone shops and Quiznos on every block, I have news for you: that is not what Ballard is now. That is what Ballard would have become without the infusion of money and image makeover that have happened really in the past 5 years. When I moved to Ballard post the earthquake and riots there was 911 and Boeing packed up its HQ. We had the dot com bust. There was a fair amount to like then … but there were a lot of empty storefronts and a fair number of homeless and transients. When a neighborhood has a lot of empty real estate who will move in but chain stores? Thank goodness that they haven’t gotten too large a toehold outside of the 15th Ave. corridor. I lived in DC suburbs most of my life. We had strip malls and strip malls. I never had small neighborhood bakeries or a local museum or a beautiful beach or great locally owned restaurants where I was known and welcomed. I never had shops and galleries selling clothes and art made by locals and wine bars featuring great wine made in my state. I never had great green markets and supermarkets. I didn’t have local dog parks and top music venues. I couldn’t walk to everything. I couldn’t catch a bus within 2 blocks of my house that would take me to within two blocks of work.

    You all don’t know how well you still have it.’ (Amen KT)

    ‘I’ve been here going on 40 years now, off in the northeast end toward Lake City. If you really want a scare, take a look at what really tacky condos and apartments do to a community when mingled with endless used car lots and fast food places. Ballard remains a paradise (well … relatively speaking), in comparison!’

    ‘No, seriously … I despise developers in principle because they have no interest in the neighborhoods that they invade, and they almost invariably negatively impact the local quality of life. It could be otherwise, if only the city would put more effort into forcing them to provide adequate parking, attractive street level facilities and affordable prices. Like most profit-making enterprises, they’ll take advantage of whatever loopholes the city offers to make more profits.

    Yeah, we do need more affordable housing in the city. Exerting a bit of control over its creation would not be amiss.’