Regulatory Reform and its Potential Dangers to The Hill

The Capitol Hill Blog has done a great job covering these proposals which could become law after the PLUS meeting on Wednesday morning in the Council Chamber.

As many of us know who have been following the story there are several big changes proposed. The elimination of parking requirements has been a big concern and was covered by the Seattle Times with most of the comments against the changes. Relaxing of SEPA requirements for developers which has the potential of eliminating public input on saving historic buildings in our neighborhood is a huge concern. There are also proposed changes to the height and allowance of ADU’s (accessory dwelling units) on certain properties.

The biggest concern for me and a large group of neighbors is the proposal to allow commercial businesses in our (currently) residential zones. As a homeowner in the target area I feel this is a VERY bad idea. Others in our group have been concerned about noise, traffic, smells, giant lighted signs etc etc.

 I am also a real estate agent who works largely in this neighborhood. The other day I decided to call my mortgage guy and ask him what he thought the affect on the neighborhood property owners would be. Not surprisingly his first concern was diminished property values as a result of mixing in commercial uses. I also asked about getting mortgages on properties after the change has taken place and was told that banks will  then view our neighborhood as “transitional” meaning that there would be reluctance on the part of banks to offer mortgages on properties in the now transitional zone. And for those that get mortgages they could be more expensive. As far as I have heard this concern has yet to be addressed and isn’t mentioned in the Reform package. No study has been provided regarding the potential negative effects of these changes on property values or the availibility and costs involved with getting a residential mortgage in the (now commercial) zone.

 Mr. Conlin paints a picture of happy residents skipping from bodega to coffee shop and back again but I doubt that those are the kinds of businesses we would be surrounded by. Bolagna factory anyone? How about a mortuary next door to you? A methadone clinic could really add to the charm of your neighborhood. No? Perhaps Mr. Conlin would like to try out the changes on his street first to see how it goes?

I would encourage property owners in our neigborhood to pose the same question to their lenders and to write the Council, Mayor and PLUS Committee asking them to eliminate this part of the proposed changes. Better yet show up on Weds and sign up to speak regarding your concerns. It seems to me that our City government is in the process of “selling us out” to the developers and as residents we need to speak up!

And please spare me the NIMBY comments. Our neighborhood is an incredibly diverse one and includes homes for the elderly and mentally ill, low income housing towers, Group Health Hospital, Sound Mental Health, tent city encampments, students and ordinary working folks like me.

 We all manage to get along just fine together. And everything we need is within a short walk of where we live…………………………………

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31 thoughts on “Regulatory Reform and its Potential Dangers to The Hill

  1. Thanks to John Fox for another great post. Councilmember Richard Conlin and his allies in the Mayor’s office seem to be trying to slip this one through under cover of darkness. There’s been only minimal notification given to the public; no hearings or outreach events by the City Council have been held on Capitol Hill itself; the only hearings on the measure held downtown have been on weekday mornings when it’s difficult for most citizens to participate (some of us do have to work for a living, after all). A strange process indeed for a measure that would radically alter the face of a large portion of Capitol Hill’s residential neighborhoods. A breathtakingly inaccurate article in The Stranger describes the proposal to allow commercial uses in any structure in the targeted neighborhoods as “a smart idea.” Why the secrecy, then? I always thought smart ideas could just sell themselves, and didn’t have to be hidden from the public.
    Try as I might, I can’t find a single civic organization on Capitol Hill willing to put it’s official stamp of approval on the proposal to turn our residential blocks into business zones, all claims made by Mr. Conlin and The Stranger notwithstanding. The Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and the Capitol Hill Community Council have taken no position on it, though the Stranger had earlier claimed that they had (citing CM Conlin as their source). The Stranger has dropped that claim, and now (again citing Conlin) says that the East District Council supports his proposal. And yet I can’t find anybody from that group with any recollection of such an endorsement. What’s going on here? If this idea’s so smart and so popular, why invent bogus claims of support?
    I’ve no doubt that there may be some disagreement among Capitol Hill residents over various aspects of this measure. But we should all at least be able to agree that we ought to be given a voice in shaping the future of our neighborhoods. And we should also be unanimous in holding our elected officials to a higher standard of truthfulness than what we’ve seen thus far.

  2. is to end single-family homeownership on Capitol Hill. (well, not the wealthier north end of course!)Change the zoning, lower the property values by making the neighborhood less attractive and making it harder for homeowners to finance houses – the result is a giveaway to developers, pure and simple. The Mayor and the Council want density by George and Capitol Hill homeowners will pay for it – not them!

  3. A lot of Capitol Hill’s residents might tend to view the attempt to rezone a vast swath of their residential neighborhoods (as described in Mr. Fox’s post above) as a separate issue from the impending destruction of the much-loved Bauhaus or the demolition of beautifully-crafted old residences like the Lewis house. They’d better think again. Here’s a little exercise I’d recommend in order to help get the big picture: go climb the Water Tower in Volunteer Park. Take a look at where downtown is. Then take a look at where Capitol Hill lies in relation to downtown. See the forest of construction cranes lying in between? Now imagine a giant bulldozer belonging to the Cosmodemonic Development Corporation, with Mayor McGinn and Councilman Richard Conlin at the controls, out in front of all those cranes and clearing the way so they can have a free hand in Capitol Hill. Now you starting to get the big picture? See what’s coming our way? See why they don’t want us having any say in this? Who cares what we think, after all? We’re just in the way.

  4. Thanks, John, for your clear thoughts and timely messages. Tuesday night the mayor will be at Seattle Central’s cafeteria for a generic Q & A. Neighbors, come ask him questions!

  5. The greatness of southern Capitol Hill is in its diverse population and variety of housing. In effect, it acts as rent control, allowing all sorts of people to live here with a selection that includes retirement home, halfway homes, mansions, town homes, apartments and condos, and slums. The proposed buildings would only introduce more of the single/couple units that cover the neighborhood.
    The proposed changes would NOT benefit the neighborhood in any way: With Safeway, QFC, Trader Joes, 7-11, and Madison Market along 15th or Madison, and two QFCs on Broadway, and another Safeway on Madison, who needs another 7-11 next door? Do you really need another Starbucks next door? The Stranger article romanticizes the whole idea of bodegas and restaurants, but ignores the issues of noise, odors, and congestion. Can you imagine something like Barrio next door as you put your kids to sleep at 8PM? What about a laundromat pumping your yard full of Febreeze and Tide? Or a mortuary?
    The proposed changes only benefit the developers and the city coffers, but at the expense of a neighborhood that is finally coming out of the throes of being a transitional neighborhood, literally and figuratively, in that it has four half-way homes and an entire campus for mental health, and well, let us face it, it is a lot sketchier than say north of Roy.
    The reform is supposed to reduce parking, but many of the businesses proposed require cars. The medical lab Paclab on 16th maintains an entire fleet of cars, and not a single one of its employees seems to take the bus. And when was the last time you saw a funeral procession by foot? by bike? If you have ever had something printed, besides Kinkos, you probably drove to avoid lugging boxes of prints.
    It is the responsibility of the city to properly study these proposed changes, and to receive input from many types of users, especially a neighborhood as varied as Capitol Hill, not just developers and architects who are simply after the immediate financial gain.

  6. What bothers me most is that the City Council planning and land use committee, and the Mayor, did not solicit input from Capitol Hill residents when they came up with this proposal. Instead, people from outside Capitol Hill, like Conlin and McGinn, want to make selective changes so that zoning rules that apply in the neighborhoods they live in will no longer apply to us. It smacks of City Council members and Mike McGinn hoping that they will get handsomely rewarded by developers come election time by having “delivered” Capitol Hill into the developers’ pockets. Residents of Capitol Hill have strong feelings about the neighborhoods they have built up over many decades. Developers should not be allowed to storm in and change the character of this diverse neighborood. I would echo Jaka’s sentiment: the beauty of Capitol Hill is that it has a mix of everything, from quiet, tree lined, single family residential streets to bustling commercial zones which all of us walk to on a daily basis. Don’t drive out families with kids and people who want peace and quiet.

  7. Charlus said that he doesn’t know a single civic organization in Capitol Hill that supports this proposal. He lists a number that Richard Conlin and the Stranger incorrectly claimed were supportive, but apparently this was incorrect. So, if anyone knows of any civic organization in Capitol Hill that has taken a position in support of this, please speak up. If NO civic organization in Capitol Hill supports this, then why is this even being considered?

  8. My partner and I live across the street from an dilapidated Victorian home on a double lot that we thought might eventually become another rubber stamp townhome, and we were okay with that. It would be fantastic if builders were required to add a semblance of uniformity and character of the nearby homes, but that’s not happening anywhere on the hill.
    That lot now could become a fish processing plant? Did I read that right? No noise restrictions? No parking restrictions? And who lives between Harrison and Thomas on 16th with enough influence to exclude their entire block? I believe (or hope) this has been revised, but I have no idea really, and that’s what is really most confusing and irritating about all of this. My only notice is by searching blogs. Lame.

  9. Thanks, Jaka, for the insightful comment. But I hope you wouldn’t mind my making one small suggestion. What do you say to the idea of changing what we call the neighborhood, and abandoning forever the term “southern Capitol Hill”? One we’ve been bulldozed out of our pesky old apartments and houses, and the landscape has been repaved with tightly-packed apodments and cheap stuccoed condos, and nobody’s more than 100′ from a Quick-E-Mart* stocked with nice fresh canned goods, cheap beer, porn mags and cigarettes… Once that’s all done, I propose we call the neighborhood CONLINVILLE. Viva Conlinville!!!

    *Oops, was I supposed to say “bodega” instead of Quick-E-Mart? Sorry, Mr. Conlin. I’ll try to get it right next time. Really, I will.

  10. The word on the street is that Councilmember Conlin is urging that crew of guys known to frequent the benches along Pine St at the south end of Cal Anderson Park (the ones often seen drinking out of bottles wrapped in brown paper bags) to form themselves into a CIVIC GROUP. They will soon, according to the rumor, issue a RINGING ENDORSEMENT of the esteemed Councilmember’s proposal. They love the idea of never having to walk more than a hundred meters to buy another quart of beer. I look forward to the announcement of their support. Free cans of beer will be distributed to all, courtesy of the Cosmodemonic Development Corporation.

  11. I might be able to provide some clarification for some of your questions, Vesparado. But I should point out that it’s really difficult to get clear answers to a lot of questions given how poorly this package has been put together. But I’ll do the best I can.
    • As to the hypothetical fish processing operation, all I can say is that very few commercial operations are specifically excluded in the proposal other than taverns (though you could have a restaurant with a bar and outdoor seating, which might be a distinction without a difference if it’s next to your bedroom). My sense is that someone could, for example, open a cabinetmaking shop and run a stationary planer until 10pm. I don’t know if people know what a planer sounds like when you shove a piece of seasoned oak through it, but it’s not what I’d call compatible with residential living. And if someone wanted to set up shop smoking fish, for example, I can’t see how that would be excluded either, provided that it’s under 2500 square feet. Fumes from any such operation would only be required to be vented away “to the extent possible”, which I take to mean that if they cross the property line, too bad for you or your asthmatic grandma.
    •For clarity’s sake, I’d like to point out that 2500s.f. is not exactly small-scale in a residential context. I live in a two-story 4-bedroom house. It’s floor area is 2600 square feet. So I could convert nearly the entire house to a business and hang out a lighted sign the size of my front door to boot.
    •As for noise restrictions, there’s a serious issue there as well. Take the case of a restaurant with outdoor seating where people are being served alcohol. That can get noisy. That kind of nuisance gets enforced by SDOT, and their inspectors don’t work in the evening. So if the racket goes on well into the night, you’re stuck, as far as I can see. You can call the SPD after 10pm, but as far as I know that’s only for amplified noise. If you’ve ever tried to get a patrol car out for a loud party, you’ll know how hit-and-miss that can be. Though outdoor seating is generally referred to in the ordinance as “sidewalk cafe” seating, as far as I can see it can be located anywhere on the property: front yard, back yard, side yard, whatever. All the neighbors get to share in the fun that way.
    •The 50′ buffer zone between outdoor cafe seating and any adjacent residence, which has been the law of the land in most of Seattle, has been suspended in this proposal for the Lowrise 2 and 3 residential zones of Capitol Hill. In other words, the seating for the beer ‘n burger joint next door can go right up against the property line.
    •As to the issue of how this got put together and which blocks got cut in/out, I can tell you the following. The plan appears to have been drawn up by a “Mayor’s Regulatory Reform Roundtable”, i.e. people hand-picked by the Mayor’s office. It had 28 members. At least 16 of them work in real estate development, the building trades and related fields where, one might conjecture, they could possibly have mixed motives in drawing up the plan they did. There is only one member of the roundtable specifically identified as a resident of Capitol Hill. So the apprehension already expressed that our community might have been intentionally excluded from the conversation might in fact be well founded.

    I hope that helps. If I’ve made a muddle of any of this, I’d appreciate it if someone could add some further clarification.

  12. Lets all get together and buy the house next door to Mayor Mcginn or Mr. Conlin and put in something really loud and smelly! Any ideas? smelter? bar with outdoor seating? But I suppose we can’t becouse they aren’t proposing such changes for their neighborhoods, just ours!

  13. I live near the Summit business strip and having bodegas and a Top Pot literally 30 seconds away is one of my favorite parts of the neighborhood. Density brings vitality, and if you’re against density then Capitol Hill surely is an odd place to call home.

    A methodone clinic? Jesus, Fox, stop trying to scare people. How immature and manipulative! Sun Liquor and the local pizza shop are more realistic examples of neighborhood businesses.

    Beyond that, it’s silly to use the government to legislate your idealized lifestyle. Let people decide what will work, not one size fits all regulation.

    I support the regulatory reform.

  14. How would it make business sense to put that type of industrial activity into a space that would clearly be better as retail?

    The only type of fish processor that’d go into that space would be a sushi restaurant.

  15. Actually no I am NOT wrong. You are comparing apples to oranges here. The strip you mention is in a midrise (MR) zone and has been there for decades. The subject of my story here is introducing commercial uses in LR2 and LR3 zones which have always been for strictly residential uses. According to my sources there is a CONFLICT here when it comes to obtaining a RESIDENTIAL mortgage in the NOW commercial zones. I would encourage you to familiarize yourself with the zones and perhaps call a mortgage person yourself BEFORE you call someone a liar.

  16. The cheap way to build parking is to locate it above the ground floor retail. See Trader Joes on Madison or Pacific Rim in the ID on Jackson for especially egregious examples. These create blank, dark facades that do not enliven the street, and in fact, kill the activity as they create a for boding presence. But developers will use them whenever they can as they are cheap. The ordinance, in removing parking regulations, will allow for this sort of structure, which will put the parking at your second story bedroom windows. If there are no openings, it could be built right up to the lot line. You have to wonder which you would prefer–looking into a garage illuminated 24/7 with sodium halides, or a concrete block wall.

  17. The fact that our retail strip has been around for decades without problem is evidence it isn’t a problem, not a way to dismiss my arguments. True, this area is zoned for mid-rise buildings — but that means there’s more people to file noise complaints or smell foul odors. But the noise complaints don’t appear to happen and the odors absolutely don’t exist.

    Thanks for your suggestion, but I’m confident I don’t have to talk about mortgages to knows that my neighborhood’s commercial activity adds a lot to the community. I feel you’re trying to draw a distinction between single-family homeowners and me, but I lived in a great single-family home just two years ago (at 10th & Harrison) and had the same views. The regulations you want to force onto everyone don’t just affect homeowners but the entire city: we all lose when innovative small businesses can’t open shop outside of high-rent condo buildings. The next Bauhaus or Analog Coffee may be prohibited by the regulations you want to force on everyone. Regulations that limit the supply of commercial/retail real estate makes commercial rents rise and hurts the city’s ability to provide a living wage.

    You don’t have to lie to be wrong. You’re using immature, manipulative arguments about druggies and dead people when the retail shops that may to move in are going to be like retail shops everywhere: responsible restaurants, useful bodegas, and cool clothing stores. Some stores will work and some will go out of business. But the neighborhood isn’t a great place to live because of one-size-fits-all government regulation — it’s great because we have diversity in people, in lifestyle, in economics, and, yes, in businesses and retail stores. Regulating our city to death is not the path forward.

  18. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s reasonable. Building any parking is tremendously expensive, and having businesses in the neighborhood mean less reliance on driving and parking and more on walking, biking, and transit. There isn’t a single corner store in the world that has a parking lot above it.

    Do you think Capitol Hill would be better off without that Trader Joe’s? I don’t think so. I love that store and I’m not sure it’s relatively small, unimpactful parking lot is any better or worse than any other parking lot.

    A lot of fear being thrown around this thread. But these regulations aren’t stopping Trade Joe’s from moving in, but stopping the next Tacos Chukis or Analog Coffee or Bauhaus or Vivace. Small retail businesses add vitality to a neighborhood. Neither side of your parking lot contrast sounds more appealing than the next Top Pot Doughnuts.

  19. John Jensen writes that the possibility of a methadone clinic is an immature and manipulative scare tactic. Really? I just by chance corresponded yesterday with an acquaintance who lives on First Hill and has a methadone clinic right around the corner. It appears to have become a living hell for the neighbors who live there. If Mr. Jensen’s willing to accommodate the possibility of such a usage in his neighborhood, I would politely suggest that the folks over on First Hill might be more than happy to oblige him by having it moved to a building near him.

  20. First Hill is exactly where medical institutions reside and that’s why a methadone clinic may make sense in that neighborhood. It makes sense for that type of business to be near hospitals.

    In dense, walkable Capitol Hill, the type of retail we see are coffee shops, bars, restaurants, corner stores, and clothing stores. There is little reason to suspect that new businesses will be much different unless your sole motive is to scare people into backing misguided, one-size-fits-all regulation. In the end, folks like John Fox want to use the government to legislative their preferred lifestyle. What’s next? Should Conlin outlaw grey picket fences? Should Rasmussen require that everyone in Capitol Hill buy a golden retriever and say hello to their neighbors?

    Do you really think the only thing keeping Capitol Hill charming is government regulation? I don’t.

    Government should butt out and let neighborhood customers and local, small businesses work out which types of shops make sense and which don’t. One-size-fits-all regulation doesn’t fit everyone’s needs and that’s why we need to get rid of it.

    Top Pot is now a nationally recognized doughnut shop, but it began in a sleepy Capitol Hill residential neighborhood. The company is a local treasure. There are simply more businesses like this in the city than the ridiculous-sounding scary businesses that Fox insists will infect our neighborhood. Fox is manipulating us, plain and simple, and I’m happy to call him out.

    Ask Fox for any evidence that a clinic of any form is planning in moving into the hood, and he’ll show up empty handled. I can’t claim to predict the future, but Fox is putting forward outlandish claims. Look at my neighborhood near Summit & Mercer. Plenty of local businesses that serve local needs and create local jobs, and no dead people, no foul smells, no druggies. It’s almost as if the world isn’t as scary as Fox is trying to insist it is.

  21. I would encourage everyone to read up on what uses would be allowed. Medical uses are going to be allowed. And not just on First Hill but everywhere in the proposed zones. So while I don’t have any specific examples of planned medical uses, technically, yes a methadone clinic would be fine under the (very vague) law.

    I think it is important to point out that I am only reacting to the proposed changes and have nothing to do with them or the laws that are in place. I personally think that everything is just fine as it is with one exception. I do think in certain circumstances our parking situation needs some work. Not eliminated altogether but relaxed in certain areas/instances particularly when it comes to retaining historic buildings that give our neighborhood its charm. Think Bauhaus here……….

    What we have here is really a Roundtable of developers asking to be deregulated. I think we all know how that worked when the banks in this country did the same thing. Disaster ensued for all of us. Many of these developers do not live in the nighborhood (or state for that matter) so to expect them to care about us and do good things on their own is a very childish notion. That is why the city has zoning laws in the first place. If you seek no regulation whatsoever Houston would be a great place for you.

    What I have written here is my personal/professional opinion and I agree to disagree. I am not anti small business in fact I work for a company which started on Broadway in 1946. Never been to Walmart. Ever. I go out of my way to support our neighborhood businesses most of which I can walk to from my house. And whilst I love a Top Pot donut (or ten) I wouldn’t want them next door to me. Again that is just how I feel and the walk back up the hill burns off some calories………

    So READ up on this legislation and WHO is behind it and make your own decision.

  22. Mr. Fox, you’ve moved the goalposts. You clearly said in your post that a methadone clinic was more likely to be built than a corner store or a cafe, contrary to all the evidence in the neighborhood, including the example of retail in my backyard, and examples of this type of development in cities around the world.

    Now you’re not saying it’s likely at all, but simply may be legal. Come on. You know as well as anyone else: the businesses most likely to move into the neighborhood are the types of businesses that have already proven profitable on the Hill, like cafes, corner stores, and restaurants. In other words, nothing scary.

    Why did you claim that this sort of clinic was more likely to be built than a corner store? Since you have no evidence for this claim, my only conclusion is that you’re trying to manipulate people with fear. How disrespectful to this website’s audience and the neighborhood at large.

    I just want to point out that retail health care, like ZoomCare on Broadway, is a legitimate use that the government shouldn’t ban. My girlfriend doesn’t have health insurance and retail health care has been a decent option for her. This is an example of why one-size-fits-all regulations don’t work.

  23. And while it’s fine that you don’t want a doughnut shop next door, a preference and a one-size-fits-all government regulation are not the same thing. Since not everyone has your perspective, it’s not appropriate to force everyone to comply with your preferences.

    If none of your neighbors want a doughnut shop in their backyard, that will manifest in low sales. We simply don’t need the government to protect us from doughnut shops.

  24. You prefer your high density neighborhood. I prefer our quiet mixed residential neighborhood. Why do you care what we want for our neighborhood? Mr Jenson, Don’t insult us telling us what we should want. The feeling here seems pretty unanimous in apposing these changes. Aren’t we the residents entitled to have our say on the character of our neighborhood? It seems odd that you should be some involved and so antagonistic in something that really doesn’t affect you.

  25. John Jensen writes that “First Hill is exactly where medical institutions reside and that’s why a methadone clinic may make sense in that neighborhood. It makes sense for that type of business to be near hospitals.”

    A lot of us live within a block or two of the Group Health Hospital, Sound Mental Health, Seattle Mental Health and the Union Gospel Mission. By Mr. Jensen’s logic, a methadone clinic would be fine in our neighborhood. Just not in his. Thank you, Mr. Jensen for being so considerate of our interest as renters and homeowners. We’ve long grown accustomed to the old common law doctrine which holds that we’re entitled to the quiet use and enjoyment of our homes and our property, but I suppose we should now relinquish our quaint attachment to that doctrine and kneel before the new doctrine of the Central Planners at the McGinn Politburo downtown.
    A point of clarification, if you will, Mr. Jensen: are you for big government planning as a matter of principal, or against it? Or are you for it when it suits your interests and against it when it doesn’t?

  26. According to John Jensen: “Government should butt out and let neighborhood customers and local, small businesses work out which types of shops make sense and which don’t. One-size-fits-all regulation doesn’t fit everyone’s needs and that’s why we need to get rid of it.”
    That’s fine, I guess, and Mr. Jensen is certainly entitled to his opinion, however unpopular it might be in a neighborhood like Capitol Hill. But I would just ask one question. This deregulation thing of which Mr. Jensen is so fond, didn’t we try that on Wall Street? How’d that work out for everybody?

  27. Mr Jensen writes:”There isn’t a single corner store in the world that has a parking lot above it.”

    The Trader Joe’s of which both Mr. Jensen and I are so fond is on a corner, is a store, is in the world, and has a parking lot above it. A remarkable phrase given that it is incorrect in every assertion of fact it attempts to make.

    Perhaps Mr. Jensen would have liked to say “small-scale corner store or cafe”. That might have at least had some surface plausibility, save for the inconvenient fact that one such place does indeed exist on the northeast corner of Pine and Harvard, Capitol Hill, Seattle USA (I think it’s a little cafe these days, but I’m not sure). So the gentleman would appear to be wrong no matter how charitably one interprets what he says.

    One would expect that a free-market ideologue should be able to see that it was the creative destruction of the market itself that doomed the mom-and-pop grocery, not some shady government conspiracy. The economies of scale enjoyed by supermarkets put all but a few of them out of business, so let’s not be shifting the blame here, shall we? A quick stroll along 19th Ave East confirms this: lots of little underutilized storefronts which might once have been (and could still be) corner stores but are no longer. Why does it upset Mr. Jensen so much that homo economicus, exercising his free choice, prefers to shop at Trader Joe’s or Safeway?

    I risk being repetitive in asking Mr. Jensen whether he is for the free market or against it? Or just for it sometimes and against it when it doesn’t suit his purposes?

  28. I hope that M. Charlus will take no offense if M. Jupien leaps to the defense of our neighbor, Mr. Jensen. Wouldn’t we be likely to see a resurgence of these small-scale neighborhood stores if well-heeled market actors could use their influence with Mr. Jensen’s allies at the Central Planning Committee downtown to have the government employ its coercive power to simply ban or severely restrict the use of automobiles? Wouldn’t we then see a flowering of little stores, given what a bother it is to walk a long way home from a supermarket with a load of groceries? Of course we might be paying a good bit more for a lot fewer choices and lower quality, given the economies of scale of small markets. But I’m sure Mr. Jensen would be completely in favor of the government making such an intervention to disincentivize those benighted citizens who, given the choice, would prefer to drive to the grocery store.

  29. You’ve got me there, M. Jupien. So let me see if I’ve got this right: the inestimable Mr. Jensen is not favorably disposed toward automobiles and those who choose of their own accord to drive them to the grocery to buy, say, broccoli. He would thus would have the government use its regulatory powers to disincentivize them from doing so. And he would use the same state power to incentivize them to go to the corner store to buy their broccoli (admittedly of a more wilted variety) from the entrepreneur there. And the cost of the nuisances that almost all commercial enterprises generate would then be externalized onto the adjacent residents and property owners (noise, stink, trash, etc.).

    Now it would be unfair to say that Mr. Jensen wants the government to COMPEL us to buy broccoli (from the corner grocer rather than from Madison Market). But given his apparent sympathy with the mayor’s war on automobiles (and those who choose to drive them), he would appear to think that it’s ok to use the state’s power to effectively make it more difficult – if not impossible – for those who can’t afford to live within walking distance of a supermarket to buy their broccoli there. But the distinction between actually coercing people to do something, and making it – as a practical matter – impossible for them to do the opposite would seem to be a distinction without a difference, would it not?

    A perfectly nice person, Mr. Jensen. I’ve no doubt about that. But a curious sort of free-marketeer, wouldn’t you think?

  30. You’ve got me there, M. Jupien. So let me see if I’ve got this right: the inestimable Mr. Jensen is not favorably disposed toward automobiles and those who choose of their own accord to drive them to the grocery to buy, say, broccoli. He would thus would have the government use its regulatory powers to disincentivize them from doing so. And he would use the same state power to incentivize them to go to the corner store to buy their broccoli (admittedly of a more wilted variety) from the entrepreneur there. And the cost of the nuisances that almost all commercial enterprises generate would then be externalized onto the adjacent residents and property owners (noise, stink, trash, etc.).

    Now it would be unfair to say that Mr. Jensen wants the government to COMPEL us to buy broccoli (from the corner grocer rather than from Madison Market). But given his apparent sympathy with the mayor’s war on automobiles (and those who choose to drive them), he would appear to think that it’s ok to use the state’s power to effectively make it more difficult – if not impossible – for those who can’t afford to live within walking distance of a supermarket to buy their broccoli there. But the distinction between actually coercing people to do something, and making it – as a practical matter – impossible for them to do the opposite would seem to be a distinction without a difference, would it not?

    A perfectly nice person, Mr. Jensen. I’ve no doubt about that. But a curious sort of free-marketeer, wouldn’t you think?

  31. Regarding Mr Jensen’s comment “There isn’t a single corner store in the world that has a parking lot above it.” I was not saying that a single store would have to install this. I am only saying that a new development multi-family development such as the TJ’s building could choose to build this instead of providing parking underground for its customers and tenants. When you have parking above retail, above the street, the street activity has a way of dying. There are fewer pedestrians, less interactivity. The blank facades or blackened openings kill it.
    Regardless of what Trader Joes offers, the point here is why are we allowing the city government and developers how our neighborhood should be and why is there so little public input? There are some good points in the the RR, but most of it is poorly detailed, or seems to have been developed, by, well, developers. Why are we as residents of a multi-family zones who chose to live in a dense area being treated as less than residents of single family zones?