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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

December 19, 2008 at 4:00 PM

Downtown development

Grow a conscience

Concerning Lyn Tangen’s hyperbole that President-elect Barack Obama and Gov. Christine Gregoire are looking to stimulate the economy while Seattle leaders are pushing a plan to slow business developers is as truthful as distortions she lays out in her argument against a new proposed Seattle “incentive zoning law” [“Seattle’s proposal to boost affordable housing would in fact discourage it,” Times, Lyn Tangen guest commentary, Dec. 15].

It sounds to me that the existing zoning is not generous enough for the few developers capable of building in downtown these days. The community needs to hold a carrot to their noses before they might move forward. When one entity owns a good chunk of the “downtown gateway” and another holds a better part of the undeveloped remainder, this commentary smacks of a shakedown.

What Tangen and her cohorts at Vulcan need is a conscience more than incentive.

Agreeing to pay a paltry $6 million against the asset value of their holdings in the neighborhood seems disingenuous. I do agree with her that there should be no need for this type of legislation because as a community we should know to do the right thing. The notion that “about 25 percent” is subsidized and a supply of other affordable housing is available is left open to whom she may be referring too.

The community is reacting to change instead of controlling it. And if developers are unable to sell their wares, it may be they’re proceeding with the wrong agenda. As an architect here in Seattle I have seen only a less-than-mediocre built environment come to fruition so far.

Incentives are not the real issue, as are the personalities involved in the decision-making process.

Where are the folks who can do the right thing?

— Mark Thomson, Seattle

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