Sunday, August 31, 2008

Surely You're Joking?

The Herald editorial of 30 August entitled “Housing options show little to fear from in-city growth” is a terribly flawed assessment of the problems surrounding infill. (Click here to read the Herald’s piece) Several samples from that missive follow. I have italicized certain portions.

“If architectural standards of the neighborhood are enforced, and if the landlord closely monitors the activities of his or her tenant, then there is simply no threat from such a development to the existing neighborhood.”

“Among the housing types described in the city's new plan are those that exist on smaller lots or that go higher into the air. And, smartly, each of the housing types comes with restrictions and descriptions to guarantee that what is built won't destroy what already exists.”

“Imagine, if you will, a retired person who wants to keep their (sic) home but needs help keeping up with property taxes and other bills. Allowing them (sic) to create and rent-out a small unit on the lot helps them (sic) financially and guarantees they (sic) will watch over the unit to guarantee quality tenants.

The only reason that the Herald can attempt to make these statements with a straight face is that the Herald readers cannot see the faces of the editorial board who penned these words. I would agree with the Herald IF I saw a city that would expend as much effort in enforcing its codes AFTER construction of these infill “tool box” gadgets as it does prior to their construction. One only needs to look at the non-enforcement of codes to date which has resulted in illegal rooming houses all over town.

The reason the Sunnyland residents are up-in-arms about the development of 4 acres on Sunset is that they did not just fall off the turnip truck and are acutely aware of that which happens several years down the line when the glow of new construction has worn off and the reality of uncontrolled “rental creep” and concomitant overcrowding work to gnaw at neighborhood character. The homeowners on Speiden Place and Speiden Lane off San Juan Boulevard now have to contend with a 12 acre annexation by the city with zoning that calls for higher density than the surrounding area. They might be more accepting of this infill, were they able to trust the city, however a quick trip to Magnolia Hills or any number of small lot cul-de-sacs around town wrenches them from their reveries. These two cases are excellent examples of the emptiness of the claim by the city that the neighborhoods will have control of “the where” of infill.

The Herald ends its editorial with this admonishment, bordering on the ludicrous, "change can be positive if citizens work hard to make it so." I find this statement aberrant in that it is not the residents who should be charged solely with making it work, as if the city and the council were innocent bystanders in the process. Imagine a call from the Herald to the city to do its job.


Driftwood said...

Gee, do they live in a vacuum over at the Herald? Did they send anyone to cover the design charrette meetings? Have they bothered to read any portion of the discussion that has been on-going about this whole issue in this forum? You'de think that something like this which affects the entire city of Bellingham would rate a cursory glance, but the promised land presented in their "OUR VIEW" editorial was severly myopic. We're bogged down alright, but's it's not with 20 houses here, or 20 townhouses or condo's there...we are bogged down with the lackadaisical coverage of subjects such as density and zoning enforcement and neighborhood concerns that the Herald just can't seem to tap into. The Herald believes Bellingham residents don't have anything to fear, how comforting...I'm just a little bit afraid of their coverage of the story, do the people that go into journalism have any curiosity anymore? Or are they afraid to dig for the truth because it might upset some city official or rich developer? I'm not sure they care if they upset their readers anymore since the picture they painted for our future was so rosey! Heckfire! Let's ALL build a small unit on our lot to ensure our financial security! Nirvana awaits! Like I said before, the Herald doesn't have a finger on this pulse and that is precisly why newspapers are loosing readership and facing financial ruin, to find a real discussion of the issues people have to look to other sources, kinda like the Detriot automakers continuing to push gargantuan gas guzzling SUV's when the oil is running out, they should have been paying attention to the situation and retooled years ago, I wonder how soon we'll be told that it's in our national interest to bail them out with our tax dollars? Anyone think the papers will get a bailout when their readers all go elsewhere to get some news? We cannot count on the Herald to bring up the issues that have been raised in Twilight Zoning, maybe they see it as the competition and don't want to acknowledge our concerns, we have got to find a way to get the general public educated, motivated, and engaged! On another note, I'm told that the Sunnyland Neighborhood Association is planning to meet to discuss strategy prior to design firm presentation before the Council, hope to see ya there! Driftwood

zonemaven said...


Let me know the date and time of any Sunnyland meeting on this topic.

Send email to zonemaven AT hotmail DOT com.