As Democratic voters moved to retake the House of Representatives and key gubernatorial seats, a series of local architecture-, urbanism-, and climate-related initiatives saw mixed results in western states. Aside from being a referendum on the divisive governance style of President Donald Trump, the midterm election brought with it fierce debates over contentious issues like expanding rent control and funding supportive housing in California, taxing carbon emissions in Washington State, and boosting renewable energy generation in Arizona and Nevada. Here’s a state-by-state breakdown of some of the major initiatives and their outcomes. Arizona: Proposition 127: An initiative to require electric utilities to use renewable energy for 50 percent of their power generation by 2035 failed in the state. The battle over Proposition 127 saw the highest amount of political spending in the state this year, with the state’s main electrical utility, Arizona Public Service, pouring over $30.3 million into a political action committee dedicated to fighting the measure. California: Proposition C: San Francisco’s supportive housing ordinance was overwhelmingly supported by the city’s voters. The initiative will raise $300 million per year for supportive housing and services from a modest tax levied on companies in the city that gross over $50 million annually in revenue. The measure is similar to the so-called “head tax” in Seattle that was passed and quickly repealed earlier this year. Proposition 1: An initiative to approve $4 billion in “housing-related programs, loans, grants, and projects and housing loans for veterans” in the state gained wide approval. Proposition 2: An initiative to dedicate $2 billion from the state’s 2004 “millionaire’s tax” toward providing “homelessness prevention housing for persons in need of mental health services“ was approved. Proposition 4: An initiative authorizing $1.5 billion in bonds for the “construction, expansion, renovation, and equipping of children's hospitals in California” was approved. Proposition 6: Voters in the state defeated a Republican-led effort to repeal a recently-passed gas tax increase. The recent increase is helping to fund bridge and road repairs while also providing new—and much-needed—mass transit funding for the state’s growing public transportation systems. Proposition 10: A state-wide effort to repeal the controversial Costa-Hawkins law that limits how municipalities can institute rent control was soundly defeated. Rather than instituting rent control statewide, the measure would have allowed municipalities the flexibility to set their own policies. Tenants’ rights and anti-displacement advocates saw the effort as providing a lifeline for their constituencies; ultimately, the $76 million raised by real estate and Wall Street interests against the measure was too much for grassroots voters to overcome. Colorado: Proposition 112: Voters in the Centennial State chose to reject a ballot initiative that would have increased oil and gas drilling setbacks from homes, businesses, and waterways. Resistance to the measure was no match for heavy spending by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, the proposition’s main opponent. With controversial hydraulic fracturing rising to new highs in the state and an increasingly bleak outlook for climate change-related disasters around the world, Colorado’s pro-environment movement has been dealt a powerful rebuke. Nevada: State Question No. 6: Voters in Nevada approved a measure that would require state utilities to generate 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030. In order for the measure to become law, however, it will need to survive a second vote in 2020. Washington State: Measure 1631: Washington state residents largely rejected a measure that would have imposed a first-in-the-nation tax on carbon emissions. The initiative performed well in liberal King County—home to Seattle—but lost pretty much everywhere else in the state. Measure 940: Washington state residents approved a measure that would require law enforcement officials to receive “de-escalation” and mental health training as well as provide first aid under certain circumstances. The initiative would also require authorities to conduct an investigation after a deadly use of force by a member of law enforcement in order to verify that such force meets a “good faith” test.
Posts tagged with "Washington State":
The city council of Spokane, Washington, has adopted a new ordinance that would make it the second city in the state after Seattle to set the goal of being powered entirely with renewable energy by 2030. The so-called Fossil Free Spokane initiative will create a new Sustainability Action Commission in the city that will update Spokane’s Sustainability Action Plan to include a specific climate action roadmap aimed at reducing its fossil fuel consumption down to zero. The plan aims to do so by deploying a mix of community-benefitting sustainable energy initiatives that include creating a low-income solar program, expanding regional access to clean transit, and working with local utility providers to transition to renewable generation methods. “Creating an electrical grid from 100 percent renewable energy is urgent, but requires collaboration across all sectors,” said Spokane council member Breean Beggs during a recent meeting. Beggs added that work was already underway with local utility Avista to “create a pragmatic and cost-effective approach to upgrading Spokane’s electrical grid.” The pledge will bring the number of American cities vying for 100 percent renewable energy generation to 79, a group that includes large, medium, and small-sized cities, including Salt Lake City, Utah, Sarasota, Florida, St. Louis, Missouri, San Diego, California, and Concord, New Hampshire. These cities are all aiming to derive all of their energy from renewable resourced by 2030 or 2032, according to the Sierra Club. At the county level, nine counties have made the pledge, including Multnomah County, Oregon, Buncombe County, North Carolina, and Pueblo County, Colorado. The state of Hawaii has signed on to a similar promise, as well. Though it might seem like a pie-in-the-sky effort, five smaller American cities have already hit this lofty goal. Those cities are Aspen, Colorado, Burlington, Vermont, Greensburg, Kansas, Rock Port, Missouri, and Kodiak Island, Alaska. A recent report by the environmental group CDP found that over 100 cities worldwide generate a majority—over 70 percent—of their power from renewable sources, up from just 42 in 2015. The report found that 40 cities worldwide are entirely powered by clean energy and that investment in renewable energy sources was highest across Europe, Africa, and Latin America, where billions of dollars in recent clean energy investments are remaking the energy portfolios around the world following the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015.
With a mix of recently-enacted and forthcoming legislation, Washington State is beginning to embrace mass timber construction. Washington State Governor Jay Inslee recently signed legislation for State Bill 5450, a new law that directs the state’s building code council to “adopt rules for the use of mass timber products for residential and commercial building construction.” The law will allow state and local jurisdictions to begin to work mass timber construction into local building and zoning codes, a first step toward the wider adoption of the construction technology. The law includes the requirement that rules adopted for the use of mass timber products by the state building code council “must consider applicable national and international standards,” a nod to the forthcoming changes to the International Building Code (IBC) that would institute new guidelines for mass timber structures rising as high as 18 stories. The proposed changes are currently under consideration by IBC’s Ad Hoc Committee on Tall Wood Buildings, which was established in 2016. The committee will begin collecting public comments on the proposed changes in April of this year. In a more aggressive move, the Washington State Legislature is also working toward enacting State Bill 5379 (SB 5379), a measure that would require all public buildings in the state rising 12 stories or less be built using Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT). The move is a natural one for Washington, which has a thriving timber industry and has some catching up to do in terms of mass timber adoption when compared to neighboring Oregon. According to the Washington State Department of Commerce, the timber industry brings in over $28 billion in sales annually across the state and employs over 105,000 workers garnering over $5 billion in wages. The potential law would make the state the first in the country requiring mass timber construction. Currently, SB 5379 is only in committee at the moment and a timeline for passage and enactment has not been released.
Construction has started on the Kirkland Urban, an 11.5-acre mixed-use development designed and master planned by Seattle-based architects CollinsWoerman for the Seattle-adjacent city of Kirkland, Washington. The complex, a redevelopment of an existing shopping mall, is being redesigned around the notion of an “18-hour city,” a designation typically reserved for the mid-sized metropolitan centers that offer the density of amenities, jobs, and housing present in larger cities but do not necessarily run around-the-clock. The model relies on the mixed-use configurations to maintain a more balanced streetlife than prototypical purpose-built business districts, which typically shut down after business hours. In a press release for the first phase of the project, partners PGIM Real Estate, Talon Private Capital, and Ryan Companies, US detail their plans for the first phase of Kirkland Urban: 390,000-square feet of Class-A office space, 140,000-square feet of retail, 185 apartments, and 1,700 parking spaces. The office spaces will take the form of a pair of six-story towers resting atop a multi-tiered retail podium. The developers are in the process of filling the towers with tech workers—tech companies Wave and Tableau have already signed on as anchor tenants—and plans also include a 50,000 grocery store to be operated by Kroger. The complex aims to include public art-lined “multi-family open spaces” and will feature a series of plazas oriented toward an adjacent recreational park, Peter Kirk Park. The residential component of the project, housed in a brick-and-balcony-clad apartment block, will be designed by Seattle-based Weber Thompson and feature a roof deck, club room and fitness center. Seattle-based firm Hewitt will provide landscape design services for the project. The developers and architects are aiming for LEED Gold certification for the project. The second phase of the Kirkland Urban has not yet been announced, but phase one is scheduled for completion in 2018.
What could be better than film, urbanism, architecture, and design? When film, urbanism, and design unite, we get powerful and insightful results: there’s La Haine, a French film that follows three young men in the banlieues of Paris; there’s Mon Oncle, that pokes fun at the absurdities of residential Corbusian inspired architecture; and more recently films like My Architect, where Louis Kahn’s son seeks to know his father's work, and through his work, his father. For those of you in the Seattle area this week, a heads up: the Northwest Film Forum (NWFF) is hosting its annual design film festival, ByDesign 2016 that features films exploring architecture, art, urban design, and other design-related themes. The festival runs for four days: April 14-17.
BYDESIGN 2016 TRAILER (COURTESY NORTHWEST FILM FORUM)NWFF is screening the German film, Beyond Metabolism, which looks at the impact of Metabolism, an architectural post-WWII movement in Japan (that could be a distant cousin to Brutalist architecture with its imposing, monumental concrete forms) through the lens of Sachio Otani’s Metabolist 1966 International Conference Center in Kyoto. Then there’s Getting Frank Gehry, that presents Gehry's controversial and first Australian-built project: the one-year-old tree-house-inspired Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, which serves as the home for the University of Technology business school in Sydney. Farther north, Strange and Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island, delves into Todd Saunder's architecture—an inn and artist studios that populate a rugged island in Newfoundland and Labrador in eastern Canada. The Chinese film, The Land of Many Palaces investigates the intersection of urban relocation, development, real estate, ownership, and coal in China’s largest ghost city, Ordos City, located over 400 miles west of Beijing. Built by the government with the wealth of newfound Ordos coal deposits, officials are moving farmers living in the countryside to the newly developed urbanized area. “Neighbors and friends,” says a woman with a microphone in the movie trailer who appears to be a government representative addressing new residents, “We are trying to create a more civilized city.” The festival opens with a film staring artist Tom Sachs, A Space Program, who will attend the Seattle premier. If you live closer to New York City and Los Angeles, the two cities will play host to architecture and design film festivals this fall (filmmakers: there's an open call for submissions).
Anything but boring: World’s largest tunnelling machine, Big Bertha, is stuck under Seattle, Tweets an interview
Big Bertha, Seattle's famous tunnel boring machine, is stuck underground again. Bertha was running for just under a month following a two year delay to fix a broken cutter head. And the machine has taken to Twitter, as we imagine it can get lonely so far beneath the city. A little over two weeks ago, a large sinkhole formed while Bertha was drilling the over-57-foot-diameter Highway 99 tunnel to replace the earthquake prone viaduct. No one knows exactly why it happened. Just earlier that day, a nearby Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) barge tilted, offloading tunnel dirt into Elliot Bay and dismantling part of a dock. The 15-foot-deep, 20-feet-wide, and 35-foot-long sinkhole was quickly filled with 250 cubic yards of concrete and sand. But Bertha is still stuck. STP wants to start Bertha again, but the Washington State Department of Transportation (WDOT) hasn't given them the necessary written permission to move forward yet. SDOT says they need more information. But enough of the dismal facts and figures. And now, for something different: The nonprofit blog Strong Towns interviewed @StuckBertha, Bertha's unofficial Twitter account, in January. Enjoy some excerpts from their tongue-in-cheek conversation, below. Check out the full interview on the Strong Towns blog. We all hope Bertha gets unstuck very soon.
A new report attempts to quantify the cost of our national reluctance to fix aging bridges, railroads and power lines. Delays in approving infrastructure projects cost the United States some $3.7 trillion, according to the nonpartisan think tank Common Good—more than twice what it would take to fix the infrastructure in the first place, according to a report titled Two Years, Not Ten Years: Redesigning Infrastructure Approvals. That staggering price tag includes the costs of prolonged inefficiencies and unnecessary pollution that continues while local, state, and federal agencies forestall fixes to infrastructure that the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates is due for $1.7 trillion in repairs and maintenance through 2020. The New York–based think tank based their numbers on a six-year delay, which they reasoned was accurate according to available data about how long projects typically take to get shovel-ready:
Although large projects often take a decade or longer to permit, we assume that the avoidable delay on major projects is six years. There is ample anecdotal evidence of actual years of delay in the US for different types of infrastructure projects, but little cumulative data. The Federal Highway Administration estimated that the average time for approval of major highway projects was over six years. Five to ten years is a common timeframe for interstate transmission lines, and for wind farms and solar fields on federal lands on either coast.Infrastructure maintenance and repair is, of course, a thoroughly unsexy topic. But, as the Wall Street Journal writes in an editorial about Common Good's report, it's important—and perhaps politically viable even in a presidential election cycle:
Common Good suggests building a process that shuttles projects through in a prompt two years. Environmental reviews should be handled by one designated official and kept to 300 pages; litigation should be restricted to the first 90 days after the permit is issued; the White House should be granted authority to appoint an agency as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for interstate projects. Congress could address the permitting morass this fall as part of the transportation bill, and the presidential candidates could include the issue and a horror story or two in their agendas for faster economic growth. It’s hard to imagine a more sensible and politically achievable idea—and one better suited to restoring public confidence that government can carry out its basic duties.