Solid article in the Seattle Times today on the rising building height limits in downtown Seattle.
It even includes a brief historical note on the 1989 voter-approved height cap following the construction of the super-tall and hideous Columbia Tower. Seattle’s thinking on downtown density has changed quite a bit since then. Instead of constricting development, most are enthusiastic about new development in the city’s core—development that is revivifying once-dormant neighborhoods.
Seattleites have change their minds partly because of the dawning realization that downtown density is good environmental policy. It’s a superbly efficient use of land (among many other environmental benefits). Over the last two decades, residents watched sprawl devour the Cascade foothills and lowland farms and realized that the salvation for natural spaces was partly in the city.
The article does include once curious bit:
There’s scant evidence, however, that the changes would curb sprawl over the next 20 years by pulling more people downtown. Under current or proposed zoning, city studies project about 10,000 new households downtown and 29,000 new jobs in that period. [Emphasis mine.]
That’s a non-trivial number of households and jobs, but it’s odd—at the least—that city growth projections are the same with or without the height increase.
What’s going on here? Are the projections mistaken? Or is the height zoning change just a matter of aesthetics, not a substantive policy to increase downtown density?