National Links: I-5 Lid in Seattle and the Tiny House Blues

Every day at The Overhead Wire we collect news about cities and send the links to our email list.  At the end of the week we take some of the most popular stories and post them to Greater Greater Washington, a group blog similar to streets.mn that focuses on urban issues in the D.C. region. They are national links, sometimes entertaining and sometimes absurd, but hopefully useful.

Why I Hate Living in My Tiny House: Oakland rents have surged more than 50% in less than a decade. Adele Peters at Fast Company laments not being able to move from her tiny home in a neighborhood where a typical one-bedroom goes for upwards of $2800. While she acknowledges that her accessory dwelling unit is a step in solving the housing crisis, she questions how tiny ADUs are a solution for long-term housing. (Adele Peters | Fast Company)

Understanding Zurich Streets: Since the 1980s, typical thoroughfares in Zurich have given way to streetcars, bike lanes, and pedestrian pathways, with minimal space for private vehicles. To the average American, this street is probably not intuitive, but Zurich designs its streets in a way that is actually more efficient than just car lanes and narrow sidewalks. On one particular street in Zurich, one car lane carried bout 500 people in the peak hour; the streetcars zooming by, however, carry about 3500 people an hour. (Norman Garrick | CityLab)

Capping I-5 in Seattle Deemed Feasible: Engineering firm WSP has determined in its technical feasibility study that it is structurally possible to construct a freeway lid over I-5 in downtown Seattle. Integrating midrise and highrise buildings with the lid structure would be compatible, and even preferable in some cases, from an engineering standpoint. WSDOT is working to secure funding for the project from state legislators. (Natalie Bicknell | The Urbanist)

The Myth of Green Cars: Deeming electric cars a viable alternative as the climate changes may actually be an illusive assumption. First, making new cars is a dirty business, consuming a great deal of resources in the manufacturing process; trading in functional cars for electric versions may not always be beneficial. Second, much of electricity is produced with fossil fuels; in the UK, only 9% of energy comes from renewable sources. Hetti O’Brien argues that the auto industry’s shift toward electric vehicles is a merely performative action of seemingly embracing environmental benefits while allowing automakers to meet their bottom line. (Hetti O’Brien | New Statesman America)

Census Error Wrecks Philly Data: The US Census Bureau has stated that it identified a massive error in data collected on Philadelphia’s populace in 2017, which included aspects like poverty, income, and employment. The bureau issued a statement to disregard these 2017 statistics. When 2018 data was released earlier this year, local economists found large discrepancies with the 2017 data. A bureau spokesperson vaguely stated that a “field representative improperly collected data for Philadelphia County.” (Alfred Lubrano | WHYY Philadelphia)

Quote of the Week

“I didn’t cycle a lot for 10 years. But for the past two years, I’ve had my own bike again and, when the weather allows, I travel into the office that way.”

Dutch Prime Minister at the World Economic Forum discussing his commute to work on his bike.

This week on the podcast, Adie Tomer a fellow at The Brookings Institution and Noah Siegel, Interim Deputy Director at the Portland Bureau of Transportation talk about the Economic Value Atlas Tool.

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5 Responses to National Links: I-5 Lid in Seattle and the Tiny House Blues

  1. Tim October 10, 2019 at 10:07 am #

    Psychologically, I think there is a big difference between consciously choosing to live somewhere like a tiny house, and being forced to by circumstances, especially when one doesn’t see a way out of the situation. Agency is important and often it is not just the end result that matters, but how we get there.

  2. Andrew Evans October 10, 2019 at 10:43 am #

    For what it’s worth driving into Geneva from France was the usual nightmare once into the city or metro limits. I wouldn’t drive either if I didn’t have to. I’m making the assumption that Zurich is similar.

  3. Andrew Evans October 10, 2019 at 10:56 am #

    This is a little more about ADU than what has traditionally been called a tiny house. More or less it’s about that author choosing to move to a specific area and not being able to afford a more desirable apartment. I don’t know the bay area so I’m not sure them moving to that specific neighborhood is due to them needing to be around there for work, or as a choice like me choosing to live around Uptown Mpls vs North Loop because I like the vibe more.

    That said, I thought tiny houses were more about smaller lots and smaller single family homes, or a smaller house on a regular sized lot. I didn’t know they were thought of as more mother in law or ADU attached to a regular or larger home. There is a difference because what was done in the article would add additional density to the property, without the environmental cost of tearing down the existing building, or re-purposing a underused or functionally (or economically) obsolete garage.

    The author of the article could have been in a small converted attic and nothing would have really changed.

    As a homeowner I don’t like the idea of tiny houses on regular lots in my neighborhood. They wouldn’t do anything positive to my value, and may even drop it down a little. That said, I don’t feel they are right in a larger city anyway. I personally like the idea of them in more rural smaller towns where wages and resources are lower and affording a regular sized house may be too much.

    I do like the idea of ADU’s and they are a great way to build up a residential neighborhood, especially in place of a garage when there is enough access either to safe on street parking and/or access to transit.

    • Monte Castleman October 10, 2019 at 3:12 pm #

      My impression is “tiny houses” are more about evading building and zoning codes by building something on wheels that’s technically a trailer. You’re technically camping so you can park it on some rural plot someplace that’s not technically “buildable”, the idea being that moving it somewhere else on a whim is mostly fiction because unlike an ordinary trailer you can’t just hitch it to your F-150 and drive it with an ordinary license.

      And the idea of whether living in what at the extreme are basically walk-in closets is a choice is important. Are the people living in walk-in closets in the city miserable because a single family detached house with a private yard and no walls that you have to share with neighbors out of their price range at $1 million plus for a fixer-upper? Or are they happy since they view their living quarters as just like a hotel as a base for experiences in the city with no lawn to mow?

      • Andrew Evans October 15, 2019 at 10:23 am #

        Thanks Monte, I didn’t think of tiny houses in that light. I was mostly placing them in traditional city or regular lots.

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