A House Bill divided: HB 1490 (transit-oriented development)By epetru | March 6th, 2009 | Category: Blog, Eye on Olympia |
By Sound News reporter Erica Petru
The goals listed in section one of House Bill 1490 are numerous and admirable:
- Increase and improve urban development
- Reduce sprawl
- Encourage the increased use of efficient transportation
- Create affordable housing
- Protect natural resources and lands
- Foster community involvement
On the surface, this bill looks like the dream of an urban environmentalist or community planner, but there has been a great deal of controversy and discussion over how the policy would manifest in practice.
In their article, “Transit-oriented communities a positive move for environment,” Seattle P-I guest reporters Dan Cantrell and Rachel Myers contend that walkable communities offer a solid solution to problems such as greenhouse gas emissions, expensive housing, the growth of suburbia, and the cost of developing new roads and sewer lines.
Carolee Colter and John V. Fox, however, argue in their op-ed article, “Displacement Coalitions says TOD bad for people, business & environment,” that the costs of pushing transit-oriented development (TOD) could quite possibly exceed its supposed benefits. They note that demolishing old buildings is wasteful, and the concrete and materials required to build new structures contribute to roughly 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. Colter and Fox also mention that densification removes trees, which are a crucial carbon sink, and can lead to gentrification. Taking a close look at the policy behind HB1490, they argue that the mandate to have 50 units per acre within a mile and a half of major transit stations is an unreasonable demand that puts pressure on existing efforts to densify.
Kent Kammerer from Crosscut elaborates on Colter and Fox’s article in his piece, “Beware greens pushing Transit-Oriented Development.” He believes that the bill undermines the rights of local communities and governments to decide how and where to allow housing. This bill, he maintains, could set a precedent for the state government to dictate a lifestyle for residents that they may not prefer. Kammerer thinks that developers who would build high density housing complexes will stand to gain from HB 1490. This point is surprising, however, because many developers tend to oppose the bill.
Seattle City councilmember Sally Clark takes a more moderate stance on the bill. She wrote in her blog that she appreciates the requirements for affordable housing and agrees with the general principle to develop near major transit stations. She does, however, have reservations about reducing grassroots involvement in community development.
With this much controversy regarding supposedly environmental policy in Olympia, I’m starting to think that Kermit was right: it’s not easy being green.