Seattle Pol Falls Into the “Sustainability Gap”

The “Sustainability Gap” — it ensnares politicians everywhere.

There's a chasm between Seattle City Council Member Mike O'Brien's rhetoric on city sustainability and his policy actions. Photo: O'Brien for Seattle

This phrase comes to us via Seattle Transit Blog‘s Roger Valdez, who says the phenomenon recently afflicted a Seattle City Council member. See if this sounds familiar:

Last week Councilmember Mike O’Brien fell into the Sustainability Gap, that wide chasm between what politicians say and what they actually do. O’Brien voted against a carefully considered and vetted proposal (read more about it here), more than a year in the making, to allow some commercial uses in multifamily zones.

Here’s what O’Brien says about his vision for Seattle: “My vision of Seattle is one of made up of the incredible and growing diversity of our communities, where amid this diversity, all communities are safe, healthy and thriving. I see a Seattle that is a model of economic vitality, environmental sustainability, and political transparency.”

But O’Brien, along with Sally Clark, Richard Conlin, and Jean Godden, opposed a proposal that would have helped move Seattle’s land use code toward a more innovative way of doing things, allowing diverse uses to be closer together in denser, more populated neighborhoods. The proposal that O’Brien helped to kill (which he earlier supported) was to allow, essentially, corner store like uses in neighborhoods that are already zoned multifamily. This is the kind of mix that makes transit, biking, and walking work because as uses are closer together the car becomes less necessary. It also promotes economic vitality by allowing new businesses to form.

Closing the Sustainability Gap means holding our elected friends accountable when they make bad decisions. It’s not a pleasant or comfortable thing to do, but it’s necessary.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Stop and Move wonders what the Fresno Bee has against California High Speed Rail. A study by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and AARP finds that transit cuts in New York have been especially painful for the state’s elderly and low-income families, reports Mobilizing the Region. And Green City Blue Lake is dubious of Cleveland’s number 10 ranking as a “great cycling city” by HGTV.