Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Puzzling "Smart Growth"

Why would a developer need to surrender development rights out in the hinterlands in order to get permission to develop a piece of urban property more intensely?

Isn't the idea of "growth management" and "smart growth" to develop urban areas more densely? If so, then why deny permission for intensive development in the city?

The article in today's Seattle P-I doesn't offer any rationale for the way the system apparently works. (Maybe there isn't one, other than extorting money from those who would develop urban property.)

An affiliate of Paul Allen's Vulcan Inc. paid the Girl Scouts $210,000 for development rights through a King County program that protects farmland, forests, open space and wildlife habitat.

The deal allows the urban developer to build an additional 28,000 square feet of residential space at its Westlake project in the Denny Triangle, expected to break ground this year. It will include 121 condominiums, office space and retail stores.

So, Allen's group pays to prevent development outside the city so they can build in the city. Strange.

3 Comments:

Blogger Will said...

It's a carrot for Allen. The City of Seattle has vertain zoning laws, and if developers promise not to develope in the sticks, they get a bonus in-city. That way, places like my neighborhood can get even more growth, while the place where I grew up (the sticks) won't turn into strip malls and office parks.

January 25, 2006 1:43 AM  
Blogger Micajah said...

If it's a "carrot for Allen," why did he have to buy the carrot?

That's what puzzles me. If the idea is to encourage more intense development within the urban area, why make it more expensive to do so? Why not allow whatever level of density the urban area can accommodate, rather than require expenditures to buy development rights elsewhere and give them up in order to build in the city?

January 25, 2006 10:16 AM  
Blogger Will said...

When it is profitable, developers always want to build more than the code allows. So the city, instead of just saying "no", will let them build more is they do certain things elsewhere like do affordable housing or preserve forests.

As far as allowing developers to build as high (or as dense) as they want: in Belltown, the height limits were so high, developers couldn't build a six story building, because the bank (or whoever) would say "you can build to 20 floors, why aren't you?". So a lot of properties in Belltown are underdeveloped because the demand isn't large enough for the market to produce big towers. It is almost there, though.

Also, it is not in the city's interest for it to be prohibitively expensive to develope in the city, but neither is it a good idea to build towers without adding the amenities, like parks, transit and such, which are quite limited in Belltown. Hopefully the new growth will help pay for those new amenities.

January 25, 2006 1:01 PM  

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