Seattle Could Use an Upzone

I recently did a collaboration with the Sightline Institute to study where there are multi-unit residences in single-family zones. These places are the remnants of the time before Seattle (and many other cities) went through processes of downzoning. These downzones, often along with redlining, created huge areas that have restricted the building of housing, and become, especially in recent years, areas of exclusivity and unaffordability. Working people and the middle class can no longer afford to buy even the most modest houses in these exclusively zoned neighborhoods.
Because of exclusive single-family zoning, we have missed out on generations of development of naturally affordable housing, as new construction ages over the years and becomes affordable. Very little multiplex housing has been built in these neighborhoods since the 60’s, so the opportunities for more affordable aged multi-unit housing have not been realized. If Seattle had continued to allow the development of duplexes, triplexes, and quad-plexes in these neighborhoods, instead of downzoning over half of its area, we would not be facing the affordability crisis that we currently face.
See the full, expanded map.

Margaret Morales’ article, which accompanies the map, can be read at the Sightline Institute.

Transportation Demand Analysis

Does Sound Transit need to increase southbound Sounder service? Here are some maps from a  recent project, created in concert with Paulo Nunes-Ueno. We looked at the origins (by zip code), and destinations (by work location and nearest Sounder station) of office workers south of Seattle. This analysis visualizes potential demand for commuter rail, and will help to drive the decision-making process.

Online Mapping

The folks at Carto gave me an expanded membership, so I’m moving some of my data to an interactive online format. Check out my first map….

It shows 66 meters of sea rise on the west coast of Canada, the US, and Mexico, from Juneau, AK, to just south of Mazatlan.

Pavement to Parks

Wallingford has a problem with traffic.

I don’t mean the standard complaint about congestion created on 45th and 50th as people drive back and forth from their homes in Ballard to their jobs in Redmond. The problem is with the people who try to avoid the traffic on these arterials, and instead choose to cut through the narrow residential streets.


West of Meridian Ave, the shortcut traffic between 45th and 50th is dispersed along 3 or 4 streets, with 46th carrying the highest number of short-cutting drivers. East of Meridian, there is only one route that carries all of this shortcut traffic–46th/47th. At one short block, this route makes the jog from 46th to 47th. This unusual offset intersection seems quiet and safe, set in a calm residential area of Wallingford. This is misleading–the large corner radii of each intersection creates a sinuous S-curve, inviting drivers to zoom through at inappropriate and unsafe speeds. This is the location of our proposed Pavement-to-Parks project.


There are two separate but related pieces to this project, and together they perform several important functions. The traffic diverter cuts off the flow of drivers short-cutting through the residential area, while allowing pedestrians and bicycles to pass through. The curb extension narrows the corner radius, and keeps drivers from zipping around blindly, too fast. Both of these elements create important park space, with the potential for events and gatherings, community gardens, and play/sport space for kids and adults. Just imagine the block parties you could have here. Imagine the safe space that would be created not just within the modified areas, but in the section of dead-end street. Kids could have a generous public space, a safe area to play.
This Pavement-to-Parks project could have an initial implementation using curb stops to define and protect the space, flexible bollards to make the park more visible and well-defined, and paint.

With a full build-out (extending the sidewalks and creating permanent infrastructure), here is what it could become…a safe community space, with room for gardens, gathering spaces, and play areas. Here are some possible configurations for the traffic diverter space.


Safe Routes to McDonald International School

I’ve been working on Safe Routes to School issues at the McDonald International School for several years, since before it re-opened in 2012.

I’ve been aware of problems at this intersection, but recently several near-misses have prompted me to make sure the issue has attention from the city, and the simple solution designed and ready.

Here is the problem, animated….


To avoid having to wait in the traffic queue to drop off their kids, drivers are blocking the crosswalk, forcing kids walking to school into dangerous space outside of the pedestrian zone.


After the drivers have dropped of their kids, they will often back up into the other crosswalk in the arterial. Creating an even more dangerous situation as they drive in reverse across the sidewalk.


Here is a description of the problem, described by a parent…

This morning and yesterday morning while my kids and I were walking to school, parents in cars were dropping their children off in the crosswalk on the playground side of 54th Street and Latona Ave N. While I understand this is more convenient for the driving parents than waiting in line to drop off at the designated area down the block, it is extremely dangerous. The danger is twofold, they block the crosswalk so that walkers have to walk very close to the car in order to complete their crossing and the cars need to both back up and drive forward essentially making three moves inside the crosswalk. Children are small and easy to miss in the forward and rear views. Yesterday morning a parent backed into three children, myself and my husband, nearly touching us as we crossed. We were all scared.

This morning I told my kids to go in front of the driver so that we could be sure to be seen. And as I walked in front of the car, I rapped my knuckles on the hood to be sure the driver saw me.  I also spoke to the driver through her passenger side window once I was safely on the sidewalk at the corner of the 54th side of the playground and Latona. I said, “You know if is very dangerous to drop off here.”

What I wished I had said was, “When you drop off here you put my kids and me in grave danger.”

And another…

I also witnessed an incident at pick up.  Same issue (backing up into the crosswalk area) however this was caused from a slightly different situation.  A car wanted to drive westbound on 54th.  However, there was a car heading westbound and due to all the parked cars, there was nowhere for the eastbound car to go but forward to Latona.  Therefore, the westbound car was forced to back up nearly hitting a middle schooler and aging adult.  Had I not seen the car backing up and warned them, they would have been hit.

Here is our simple solution…a curb bulb for this crosswalk.


A curb bulb would fill in the curb space where irresponsible drivers block the sidewalk while dropping off their kids. They will then be forced to proceed to an appropriate dropoff zone, which keeps them from blocking the crosswalk. This will also eliminate the danger of drivers making the dangerous reverse crossing of the Latona crosswalk.

Visibility will be increased with the kids being on the bulb, instead of further back on the sidewalk. The crossing distance will also be reduced for children in the crosswalk, creating an even safer environment.

I’m excited about this solution, and I’m looking forward to making the streets safer for our kids!

Bay Area & Central Sea

Ursula LeGuin did it first–Always Coming Home has a fantastic drawing of this, created in the mid-1980s.

This map shows what central California and the Bay Area will look like when the ice caps completely melt–66m of sea level rise.

The poster is available at Zazzle.

CentralValleyForWeb20150802Burrito Justice did a San Francisco version a few years ago. His map inspired much of the work I’ve done wigh sea rise maps in the past couple of years.

My favorite landforms? Sutter Island and the Isle near Rio Vista. Marin also becomes an island, which makes sense in many ways. Sacramento? Stockton? Lodi? Manteca? Screwed. The historic Tulare Lake re-emerges, but with salt water this time around. Monterey Bay becomes much larger.