Thursday, September 23, 2010

Of 'Visions'- Good and Bad

As predicted, John Jensen and Martin Duke have flipped open their Jane Jacobs breviaries to inveigh against the dangers of too much park, and to offer instead their vision of...well, what their vision is is not too clear. But I'm guessing Jane Jacobs was for it!

But the shadowy outlines of their vision could make you shudder. Duke, for example, doesn't "see any problem with hotels and condos. Having people live on the waterfront is better than alternative places for them to live, and guarantees that people are there year-round. Hotels, of course, generate jobs and tax revenue. And of course, the City profits from the sale of land in the first place."

Well, Helloooo Donald Trump! Memo to Martin- the only people who could afford to live in waterfront hotels and condos would be millionaires who certainly wouldn't live there year-round. In fact, Martin has sketched there the scenario that people who love and respect Seattle have tried to avoid- the selling of the city's best land to developers for a short-term financial gain, to be followed by the eternal regret of having created another Chinese Wall of condos.

Jensen, in turn, continues to wonder "how an unactivated section of town is going to be activated by just a park." Yes, somehow it has escaped his notice that a) this "section of town" is actually surrounded by the largest and most prosperous downtown in the state of Washington, and b) the problem has not been promoting development, but delaying it until we could be sure the public interest was protected.

The problem they're having is that they're living in the past and treating the waterfront like a depressed area that needs urban renewal to become prosperous. And that is about the exact opposite of the actual problem Seattle is trying to solve. The waterfront is inherently so prosperous that the city could never afford to buy land there for a park, and without a park, ordinary people could never afford to visit a waterfront full of million-dollar condos, high-priced restaurants, and, uh, more condos and restaurants.

And Seattle wants more than that. We want a jewel of a park that fits the setting- and a setting fit for the jewel. Seattle has always put on airs about having higher values and more 'vision' than other cities in Puget Sound, and it's paid off big-time with the U of W being the second largest employer in the state, and the mainspring of the civic economy.

We can afford to build it right- and if we do, they will come.

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