On its face, Erica Barnett's feature, " The Death of Pike/Pine ," is passionately written, well-researched and arrives at its conclusion -- that increased residential density


Stranger NIMBYs?

The Stranger's verdict on density: Totally awesome, unless it screws up happy hour.

On its face, Erica Barnett's feature, "The Death of Pike/Pine," is passionately written, well-researched and arrives at its conclusion -- that increased residential density can fuck up the character and street-level diversity of a given block or two -- with a great deal of tact and supporting data. As Barnett asserts, you'd be hard-pressed to find many Capitol Hill residents who are thrilled at the prosepct of Manray, the Cha-Cha or Bimbo's giving way to a Mailboxes Etc. or tanning salon on the ground floor of a shiny new condo tower. You'd also be hard pressed to find another anti-density argument in the archives of the Stranger, which, since its inception, has banged the drum consistently for increased density in the metro core.

A classic example was former staff writer Amy Jenniges' December 16, 2004 piece, "How Capitol Hill Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Density." Here, Jenniges muses: "Over the past few years, however, opposition to new construction on Capitol Hill has subsided. The Press Apartments didn't devastate the Pike-Pine corridor, as some predicted. Instead, that sliver of Capitol Hill is thriving. And this fall, the mayor submitted legislation that could boost Broadway's building heights, and the neighborhood Stewardship Council recently passed on a chance to appeal the proposal. Capitol Hill has learned that the benefits of density outweigh the annoyances, and the neighborhood has gotten smart about demanding smart density--including more interesting buildings, like the Braeburn--instead of blocking it. If only other urban nodes--like Northgate or West Seattle--would follow suit."

Be careful what you wish for, I guess: Now that said density threatens to shutter some of the Stranger staff's favorite walking-distance watering holes, the paper has done a 180 of sorts, assuming the very same NIMBY stance that it has consistently belittled. To wit, Josh Feit's June 2, 2005 take on Mayor Nickels cowing to developer opposition to new construction around Harbor Steps: "It's Nickels's hypocrisy that's most galling. Typically, Nickels balks at such selfish whining. The mayor has had no problem denouncing complaints against pro-development rezones when the gripes come from neighborhoods like the U-District..But when it comes to stepping on the toes of big property owners, like Harbor Properties, Nickels sings a more conciliatory tune. Such pandering lends credence to Nickels's growing chorus of critics, who denounce his density agenda as a sop to developers...Dennis Meier, a staffer with Nickels's Department of Planning and Development, was candid about the Western Avenue rezone. 'There was a lot of opposition from residents in the area,' Meier said. How do these neighbors differ from the 'anti-job' variety in the U-District? Well, they're richer, and they had a big developer on their side...One resident said, 'We are not opposed to increases in downtown density. We just didn't want a wall of buildings right there.' She went on to acknowledge: 'Clearly we have a proprietary interest.' Again: Classic NIMBYism, except this time Nickels caved."

Faced with a choice between increased density and losing a few killer bars in low-slung buildings that their staff can walk to from their offices on the other side of Broadway, the Stranger doesn't want the buildings right there either. Classic NIMBYism? You be the judge.

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