Welcome to Seattle Urbanism!

Welcome to Seattle Urbanism. If you're here, that probably means you have an abiding interest in the quality of Seattle's urban environment, such as it is ... or at the very least, a bone to pick with something you think has gone wrong with the form or development of our city.

At Seattle Urbanism, we:
  1. love the city of Seattle and want to see it flourish as the world-class city it has the potential to be (but isn't, quite yet, despite our pretensions),
  2. provide an outsider's perspective framed from insider information and expertise,
  3. will always call it like we see it, wherever that leads us,
  4. try to be smart, informative, erudite, entertaining, and funny ... as the material allows.
We've also got a few inherent biases here, and feel that it's always best to make biases explicit. I've also long been a fan of the "we believe" series on NPR. There are several other weblogs and sites that cover urban topics as they relate to Seattle. This one isn't like the others in a few important ways you should be aware of up front. That way, you can't say you didn't know it was a snake when you picked it up.
  • we believe that cities are among the greatest human achievements, and are best conceived as organic, self-organizing structures which reify social relationships and behaviors,
  • we believe that incentives matter ... a lot ... and economics cannot be ignored in the pursuit of ideals, nor changed by wishful thinking and creative accounting,
  • we deny the efficacy and validity of 'social engineering' through design and planning: that urban and architectural design are not capable of controlling human behavior, merely facilitating or hindering it,
  • we believe that, while land use regulation and codes can prevent some of the worst designs, it is not capable of enforcing good design,
  • we therefore prefer minimalist, catalytic, organic, and cooperative approaches to urban development as a default,
  • we don't believe in half-measures,
  • we are adamantly opposed to mediocrity in all forms,
  • we believe that the worst threat to the vitality and health of a city is the unraveling of trust,
  • we believe that you can judge intent better by watching what people do than what they say,
  • we are not part of Seattle's regnant political orthodoxy, and probably don't agree with you on any political stance you care to name, but don't think that's an impediment to implementing better urban strategies for this city we share,
  • we believe that a city's environment and infrastructure must provide security, social context, and opportunity,
  • we believe that the "Seattle Process" is a disaster, and is symptomatic of a larger problem,
  • we believe that arguing on the Internet without first clarifying and agreeing on first principles and fundamental goals is as pointless as wrestling with a pig: you both get dirty, and the pig likes it.
Finally, we've got a few administrative rules we expect participants to honor as we move forward:
  1. All perspectives are welcome.
  2. Argumentative fallacies and emotional invective will not be tolerated.
  3. Posts must at least tangentially relate to urbanism and design in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.
  4. Comments must relate to the topic of the post in which they are made.
  5. The weblog moderators are in charge and their decisions are final.
This move has been in the works from some time now. Speaking personally for a moment as weblog creator, I've been writing on design and urbanism topics for many years in other places. I've also been embroiled in Seattle's neighborhood planning process, served half a decade on the Seattle Design Review Board for Area 7 (Capitol Hill & the surrounding area), and been deeply involved in the current rewrite of the multi-family zoning code currently under review by the City Council. And, of course, I'm also a professional designer of buildings and urban spaces. I've spent twenty years thinking about Seattle Urbanism and how to make it better.

It was high time those thoughts got collected in one place. I look forward to hearing what others think of them, and listening for other voices to join in. If you would like to write for this weblog, please let me know.

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