2019 Year End Recap

mike eliason
5 min readDec 18, 2019
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 has been both difficult and rewarding. It has been incredible hard to leave friends and family, and there has also been a fair amount of uncertainty in a lot of this adventure. That being said, it has allowed my kids the opportunity to see things I did growing up abroad, and an experience I never thought I would be able to share with them. They are pretty sold at this point on trains and maisonettes.

I didn’t write near as much as I had hoped to in 2019, but there have been some good ones. Here are the highlights…

The year started out with a proposal to turn the National Guard Amory in Seattle’s Interbay into a dense, mass timber, social housing ecodistrict. I ended with an appeal for housing and climate activists to show up for this, and show up they did. Just last week, Ray Dubicki had a terrific writeup on what could be in store for the site, now that the Department of Commerce has wrapped up their work.
Let’s Build a Dense, Climate-Resilient EcoDistrict in Seattle’s Interbay, via the Urbanist.

This was followed by a piece on zoning and land use here in Germany, where modern zoning was invented. I wanted to highlight the diversity of housing in our city, and note that we have detached houses next to apartments, and somehow the world hasn’t ended. It has been great living in a place where single family zoning doesn’t exist, and so getting around by foot or bike is greatly realized.
Abundant Middle Housing, via medium.

At the end of May, I met up with PNW housing activist Galen Herz in Nuernberg, after arranging a last-minute tour of a 6-story, affordable, family-friendly, multigenerational baugenossenschaft (building cooperative) being erected in the outskirts of the city. The tour was incredible. The building will be energy efficient, includes a variety of unit sizes in its 31 different homes, and even includes a kindergarten on the ground floor. It is virtually impossible to build anything like this in the U.S. — and we need to change this and drastically. Can anyone connect me with AOC, please?
A multi-generational, family-friendly Baugenossenschaft, via medium.

In June, after the Seattle Times ran a piece on the city’s public golf course study, a number of city council candidates (most of whom lost) came out opposing the findings. One of them even claimed merely *studying* whether this was the best use of a 9th of all of Seattle’s open space was, ‘wasteful.’ I dove into the details of the study, and since all of these courses will be transit adjacent in the next few years, apparently gave the NIMBYs the yips. I am told this was the 18th most read article on the urbanist this year. Rock!
Unlike Seattle, Golf Really Is Dying, via the Urbanist.

In June, I detailed how if the city is going to take livability, safe streets, and mitigating climate change seriously, we need to keep adding bike lanes on arterials (and likely why your city should as well). Post carbon cities will be a thing of beauty, but we need to be rapidly laying the groundwork right now.
Bike Lanes Belong on Arterials, via the Urbanist.

An offensive op-ed was published in July of this year, claiming that a growth cap on new housing was, ‘Colorado’s strongest climate action plan.’ Strangely, a cap on housing doesn’t cause people to stop moving or having kids — so I detailed out why the op-ed was not just absurd, but that the growth cap was in fact climate *arson*.
An In-City Growth Cap Is Climate Arson, via the Urbanist.

In early October, after Shaun Scott sailed through to the D4 council primary, I appealed for an active *Wohnungspolitik* (housing politics) for cities like Seattle. Seattle is now a majority renter city, but social housing, and apartments, are illegal in nearly 80% of the city. There is no means for middle and working class residents to buy or ensure stable housing. Seattle needs a strong, progressive movement that will push for dense, equitable, affordable, livable, climate-resilient neighborhoods.
Seattle needs a Wohnungspolitik, via the Urbanist.

After the International Energy Agency announced that SUVs were decimating all of the gains in carbon reductions from switching to EVs, as well as leading an increase in pedestrian deaths, I called for cities to ban SUVs. I’m a big proponent of car-free streets and neighborhoods — and if we’re going to have livable cities where kiddos can safely bike, then we will need to ensure oversized trucks designed to maim and kill pedestrians have no place on our streets.
Electric Cars Are Not Enough: We Should Ban SUVs to Save Lives and Curb Emissions, via the Urbanist.

This year, after observing a number of NIMBYs claim that MHA decimated Neighborhood Planning (hint: it did not), I wrote a 2-part series on the invidious history of Neighborhood Planning in Seattle, and how it was co-opted by anti-housing forces. I dove into the language of the actual plans (incredibly anti-renter) and laid out how for the last 20 years, those plans have actively prevented the city from being more inclusive. Luckily, the city legalized more ADUs and DADUs this year, and passed the modest affordable housing rezones of MHA. Of course, homeowners are once again suing to prevent affordable housing from being built in more of the city. But it is important to know about the processes anti-housing forces have used over the years to stifle abundant and affordable housing.
How Seattle Designed Neighborhood Plans to Inhibit Inclusivity: Part 1, and Part 2, via the Urbanist.

In November, after some debates about construction quality and low-energy buildings in the EU and the U.S., Lloyd Alter invited me to guest author a piece for Treehugger on why construction innovation in the U.S. is lagging elsewhere. I didn’t hold back, but frankly, I don’t have a lot of faith the U.S. will ever catch up to Europe on construction innovation any time soon.
Why is architecture and building so different in Europe? — via Treehugger.

And… That’s a wrap.

Frohe Weihnachten und alles Gute fürs 2020!



mike eliason

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