November 27, 2013 at 7:34 AM
Change is difficult, but the city can’t cling to the past
Thanks to The Seattle Times for urging me to step outside my comfort zone in order to gracefully accept the micro-housing being constructed without any parking allotment: the apartments and condos being built with inadequate off-street parking and other high-density, low-parking plans for my Ballard neighborhood [“A coherent affordable housing strategy needed,” Opinion, Nov. 21].
September 17, 2013 at 6:27 AM
In a recent editorial, The Times repeated claims that density is good for Seattle because it “creates more vibrant, walkable neighborhoods.” [“How to build denser Seattle neighborhoods,” Opinion, Sept. 9.]
Well, I beg to differ.
Seattle’s vibrancy is not enhanced by the current policy of blindly permitting “density” housing no matter how it looks, nor how cramped or jampacked. Just take a trip to Ballard and gaze at the monstrous and hugely unattractive high-density nightmares at 15th Avenue and Market Street.
Only a Pollyanna could call this the face of a “vibrant” city when, in fact, it is merely a glorified block tenement obscenely out of place in terms of size and style. Such disastrous results, and others like it throughout the city, are the predictable end product of Seattle’s single-minded policy of density at any cost.
Planners have drunk the density Kool-Aid for too long and too deeply, without realizing that today’s apartment-dwellers are predominantly young. It’s a good bet they will look positively on raising future families away from Seattle’s cramped rabbit-warren-like living spaces, migrating instead to nearby communities that offer more choices while they approach growth with a creative balance rather than a zealous insistence on density.
James Kobe, Seattle
September 10, 2013 at 7:31 AM
House doesn’t belong
So the builder feels the home he is shoehorning into a neighborhood fits the character because there are a variety of styles? [“Feeling the squeeze,” page one, Sept. 9.]
I spent my high-school years in the house on the north side of the behemoth being built. Reading this article it dawned on me that the construction I’d glanced at down the block when passing by recently is the same house The Times article talks about.
Having grown up in that neighborhood, I disagree with the builder’s assessment of the situation; the house is too big, it doesn’t fit the style or character of the neighborhood as it is designed.
Most of the homes were built in the 1930s, with a few coming in about 20 years later. Yes, homes are “raised,” but only because some are on a slope and most have daylight basements.
Just because a developer “can” build something, it doesn’t mean he or she “should,” nor does it give carte blanche to determine what “fits” the character of the neighborhood based on his or her own preferences.
It is obvious to this former resident that the developer defends his rights without what seems a clear understanding that a certain responsibility goes with those rights.
Cathy Aldrich, Shoreline
May 3, 2013 at 6:06 AM
Affordable housing is scarce because of strict regulations
Rachel Myers’ op-ed bemoaned the lack of affordable housing in Seattle [“Affordable housing is a myth for struggling King County families,” Opinion, April 28]. The “cures” were the same we always hear: Squeeze developers to sell below market, more government funding and prohibit landlords from turning away Section VIII applicants.
The next day, a Seattle Times editorial attacked an innovative-housing product and the entrepreneurs who are privately addressing the problem [“Seattle should impose controls on ‘aPodments,’” Opinion, April 29]. Why is low-income housing so scarce here?
Seattle smugly regulated the flop houses out of business with code stipulations that made housing low-income people prohibitive, throwing hundreds out on the streets. Is an indigent human being safer and better off getting drunk in some fleabag hotel or shooting up in a brier patch on Lower Queen Anne?
Every land use, insulation, lead paint, energy, sprinkler, plumbing, electrical, or anti-discrimination-code upgrade dissuades more owners from renting at all. Present landlord-tenant laws so burden property owners that getting rid of a bad renter is like pulling teeth. It involves lawyers, the sheriff and months on end while the tenant refuses to pay and trashes the place on the way out.
Jeffrey Howard, Redmond
April 2, 2013 at 6:33 AM
A response to housing costs
I enjoyed Lynn Thompson’s story “Big houses, small lots” [page one, April 1] but noticed two curious omissions: Nowhere in the story does she mention supply and demand or Seattle’s soaring rent.
Larger houses are, in part, a response to high housing costs in Seattle; because the cost per square foot is so high, it makes sense to build as many square feet on a given parcel of land as possible.
If Seattle genuinely wants affordable housing, the only real solution is to allow developers to build taller in more places, thus increasing the supply of units and decreasing the price from what it would otherwise be.
– Jake Seliger, Seattle
March 30, 2013 at 6:02 AM
Boom is bust for buyers
I have been following recent news coverage of the “reviving” housing market with considerable and growing dismay, because invariably there is a built-in bias favoring sellers and related industries over homebuyers [“Bust to boomlet: Housing turnaround stuns industry,” News, March 21].
It may be fine for house flippers, investors and tract builders to continue to push prices upward, but for buyers it is a disaster, regardless of the harder-than-ever-to-get low mortgage rates.
We have friends who have been house hunting for months now, and have pre-approval and the means to make a substantial down payment. But there is no inventory, because the banks have been sitting on their growing stock of foreclosed and real estate-owned properties for several years now, in a successful ploy to push prices higher. As a result, every time a buyer finds a house and makes a full price offer, he finds him or herself already out of the running, as investors and flippers muscle him or her out of the way with cash offers, many of them from overseas.
By far, most of the houses now available other than new construction (10 houses per acre now, with no land, no privacy and long travel distances) are short sales. And those, too, have multiple offers. So please start reporting how it is from the buyer’s perspective, which is disastrous.
–Gene Ayres, Lake Forest Park
September 11, 2009 at 4:00 PM
Cabin owners are stewards of federal land
As described in The Times’ article, families on Reclamation land who have had simple cabins 50 or more years now stand to lose them due to the new fee increase ["Families getting pushed out of cherished cabins," page one, Sept. 9]. Our experience with the Bureau of Reclamation is that of dealing with a heavy-handed bureaucracy whose hidden agenda is to remove all cabins from federal lands.
You will find cabin owners wonderful stewards of the land, and furthermore public access is not limited, as the general public has the right to use the waterfront on those leases. We have been working with the National Forest Homeowners and our congressional representatives to create a new method of valuation and fee establishment that would apply to all federal lands.
Hopefully this will become law in time to save those who cannot afford the new fee increases.
– Bob McIntosh, Conconully Lakes Cabin Owners Association president, Renton
Cabins no sweetheart deal without renter’s rights
I have talked to one of the people interviewed by Jonathan Martin for The Times article about families losing their Forest Service cabins, and the source assures me he emphasized several times that cabins on Forest Service land are there under special-use permits, not leases.
That is not a trivial distinction. Lease holders have rights Forest Service cabin owners can only dream of. We Forest Service cabin owners understood going in that the federal government would be our landlord, but the relationship is very one-sided. When they say, “jump,” you have to ask, “How far?”
Regarding calling the cabins a sweetheart deal: If you project $1,400 for the life of the 20-year permit, that is $28,000 in fees to rent the land. Not exactly chump change, where you may or may not have power, phone, TV, paved roads, winter access, law enforcement or fire protection, to name just a few of the amenities city folk assume exist everywhere.
My cabin is in Northern California at Bucks Lake in the Plumas National Forest. Our fee increase is set to be 400 percent. There is something very wrong with an appraisal system that achieves a 400 percent increase in the middle of the most severe real-estate collapse since the Great Depression.
This is a real problem, affecting real families.
– Mike Hoover, Reno, Nev.
July 10, 2009 at 4:00 PM
Electric bus wires should go so houses can move
Editor, The Times:
In the July 9 front-page article headlined “Houses vs. trees,” it wasn’t until deep in the story that we learn the true nature of the conflict. A more accurate headline would have been “Trees vs. electric bus wires.”
A lush overhang of mature trees makes a neighborhood walkable, enhances home values and beautifies the neighborhood and, by extension, the city. These values are not easily quantifiable, but they cannot be replaced. Based on the front-page photograph, those trees are as old as or older than the oldest residents of the street.
Electric bus wires, by contrast, can be removed and replaced relatively easily with no long-term negative impact.
Good city planning requires taking more than one issue into consideration when making important decisions. I encourage the city and Metro to rethink their decision to reject the Denny Way route for moving these houses.
– Sherry Narens, Seattle
Bus wires are the villain in ‘Houses vs. trees’
The “villain” of the story, “Houses vs. trees,” is neither. Neighbors should not be expected to sacrifice a beloved, tranquil canopy of mature growth. Such leafy refuges within our city are invaluable not only to residents but to people driving through the neighborhood. For those who live there, they would come home to face the loss each and every day.
The desire to salvage these homes is also laudable. There was another option, nixed by Metro, to move the home down Denny Way. Overhead wires are replaceable. Trees, and the wonderful refreshment of a leafy canopy, are not — at least for decades.
– Mitzi L. Simmons, Seattle
June 2, 2009 at 4:00 PM
Dropping prices, rising taxes — what’s going on?
The Times’ article on real -state values was long on human-interest stories and the touting of light rail and diversity, and included a useful table on neighborhood property values ["Housing market has surprise bright spot," page one, May 31]. But despite such pleasant details, it left readers gaping with wonder at the omission of a major conflict that most homeowners will immediately recognize.
That’s the conflict between the drop in house prices since 2006 and the simultaneous rises in assessed valuation and King County taxes over the same period. It appears that King County, with its assessor as an accomplice, is feathering its nest by constantly increasing taxes at the expense of homeowners with no regard to the falling values apparent in the market.
It would be proper for The Seattle Times to make some serious comparisons between its own real-estate data and those of the county assessor, and to explain to readers why they move in opposite directions.
– Hank Bradley, Seattle
May 1, 2009 at 10:00 PM
Lakeland Hills unfairly targeted
As a Lakeland Hills resident for the past four years, I was dismayed at the tone of the three-page article on foreclosures ["Local foreclosures soar threefold in two years," page one, April 26]. The article gives a misleading, one-sided slant regarding life in Lakeland Hills.
Yes, homes have been lost, but mainly due to lack of knowledge regarding loans and greed. Many of the people losing homes did not have the income to warrant their expenditures.
Lakeland Hills has wonderful walking trails, a walk-to shopping area for groceries, cleaners, drugstore, haircuts and restaurants, etc. Most areas are attractively landscaped and most neighborhoods keep their properties well-manicured.
Did the authors of the sensational article consider the damage they might be doing to those wanting to sell a home because of retirement or moving? The mortgage crisis has been in full swing for many months and the article did not give any new information on the issue, except to unfairly target a specific area.
– Rosalie Nast, Auburn
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