If Seattle’s MHA set a city-wide precedent, then a push by wealthy Wallingford homeowners to turn single family zoned areas into federally designated historic districts could be a new variation on restrictive covenants. The city’s MHA overview document contains a note on just this issue, stating MHA would, ‘Make no zoning changes in federally designated historic districts and critical shorelines.’

Historic Wallingford’s recommended historic district boundaries

Historic Wallingford’s proposed ‘Historic’ District boundaries encapsulate nearly 50% of the Wallingford Urban Village planning area, including almost all of the low-rise and single family zoned sections in and around the Urban Village itself.


Munich’s pedestrian zone. foto by author

For the last few years, and in the run up to the November election, U.S. cities led by Democratic councils and mayors have seen an increase in claims they are ‘too far left’ — as if there was either something wrong with that (nope), or that it was unique in either the past (nope), or the present, globally (again, nope). For much of the last half century, left-leaning leadership in cities has been the norm — especially throughout Western Europe. The run up of the industrial revolution through WWI was also a flashpoint for left-wing local governance. …


Passivhaus social housing in Vienna

The City of Seattle owns a deep portfolio of buildings, while also overseeing a steady progression of new construction — schools, libraries, fire stations, office buildings— it is a long list. Many of these buildings were constructed before modern energy codes. Some need seismic retrofits. The lighting and mechanical systems in these buildings are slowly being rehabilitated for better energy efficiency.

This is a positive, but the pace for these changes is slow. Furthermore, there are several new projects in planning or under construction, that are being built to today’s energy codes —which will be obsolete in the coming years…


As our city starts to open back up, several issues are becoming quite apparent in our urban villages. In many, there is inadequate space on sidewalks to adequately social distance. There is also inadequate space to order and wait for food from restaurants for pick up. And given that restaurants will be extremely limited in the number of patrons that can dine in them, they will need to utilize the space in their parking lots or adjacent streets to allow dining with proper distancing measures.

This is an opportunity to prioritize businesses and pedestrians like none we’ve ever seen. We…


Easy to social distance on pedestrian streets

Yesterday, the Mayor’s Office announced on KUOW that several parks would be closing. Later in the afternoon, those specific parks were announced. The mayor claims, likely correctly, that some people haven’t been social distancing properly. Instead of using the opportunity to educate residents, and increase open space so residents can social distance properly, the former prosecutor decided that the people shall be punished. I believe this shortsighted measure will cause an increase in covid19 cases.

In all, 15 parks will be closed over the weekend. These parks represent some of the largest in the city, some of the few places…


The city’s plan for pre-approved DADUs shouldn’t require uncompensated labor.

It has been nearly two years since Mayor Durkan directed the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections to fast-track pre-approved designs of backyard cottages. At the time of the announcement, the Mayor’s Office stated, ‘The City will hire architects to develop several standard architectural plans for backyard cottages that could be built and permitted more quickly and at a lower cost to residents.’

In July of 2019, over a year after the mayor’s office announced the city would hire architects to do this work, Durkan signed an Executive Order that stated this intent again, ‘directive to Seattle Department of Construction…


praha, foto via author

This year has been unbelievable. Early in the year, I accepted an offer to work for a firm doing innovative public work outside of Munich. In April, I moved to Bayern to start the process of obtaining my work Visa, finding a place to live, and all the minutiae needed to begin a new life abroad. It’s not the first time — I did this 15 years ago, when I worked in Freiburg — but back then the process was incredibly easier, and I wasn’t married with kids. It is amazing how much that changed things.

Being here in Germany…


Regensburg’s car-free plazas are a delight (foto: mike eliason)

This week, the International Energy Agency announced that growing customer preference for SUVs are leading to increased emissions.The gains in carbon emissions due to SUVs have decimated all emissions saved from electric vehicles. Today, there are 165 million more SUVs worldwide, as there were in 2010. In that same time period, less than 10 million electric vehicles have been sold. According to the IEA, in 11 years, electric vehicles will still make up less than 1 in 14 vehicles on the road. The report goes on to state:

‘If consumers’ appetite for SUVs continues to grow at a similar pace…


Passivhaus-Wohnanlage Kaisermühlenstraße, Wien. Foto by Mike Eliason

Actually, Seattle needed a cohesive and comprehensive Wohnungspolitik forty years ago, but late is better than never. What is a Wohnungspolitik? The literal translation is Housing Policies, but I think a more nuanced translation is Housing Politics, that is, the activities rather than the ideas — though both are important. Wohnungspolitik sets the direction for affordable housing policies, how rents are regulated, what rights renters have, how cities grow, where cities grow, and who has the right to them. Wohnungspolitik can be a means of guiding a city to be more inclusive and equitable. …


This is a two-part series! The first part was a brief overview of the GMA, King County’s Urban Growth Boundary, and how we ended up with neighborhood plans. The second part will go into what the neighborhood planning documents actually say, what neighborhood planning did, and how Seattle’s homeowner-dominated neighborhood planning codified anti-renter bias, and where Seattle is headed…

Neighborhood plans are a weird thing. Many people have zero idea of their existence or history, and some of its most vocal defenders weren’t even living in Seattle during their creation. In many cases, the boosters of neighborhood plans are also…

mike eliason

dad | designer | writer | Noted shill for housing. interests: Baugruppen, architecture, passivhaus, mass timber, staedtebau, not for profit housing

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