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Where We Live: What the Future Might Look Like in 2062

The future is coming on fast.

This place we live in, that I write about, Shoreline/Lake Forest Park, is quite a place, but look around- it won’t be like this forever.

For better or worse, . How? I sat down with Shoreline City Councilmember Will Hall a few days ago and we talked about Shoreline and what we see can be done to improve it. He mentioned something I’d noticed, but hadn’t focused on- from Census 2000 (53,025) to Census 2010 (53,007) we lost 18 people. Washington State grew from 5,894,121 to 6,724,540 people, a 14.1 % increase. Natural increase- births minus deaths- plus immigration at the same rate would have us at 60,501 people, so he asked  “Where did our kids go?”

We have excellent schools, but enrollment is at 9,012 for 2009-2010 while 1999-2000 enrollment was about 10,000, and we’ve been lauded for years for the quality of life here, yet still we lost population. Loss of jobs and home foreclosure have been cited as reasons, as have an older, richer population, but I’ve seen no official take on it. What will it take to build a community we want to live in and grow old in, and where our kids will want to stay?

I’ve written on this, one way or another, every week, but let’s go long… In 2062, what will Shoreline and Lake Forest Park be like? Well, to start, it’s possible we might annex into Seattle, or combine with LFP and/or Kenmore into a larger entity, which, I would submit, should still be called Shoreline for the same reason the name was coined- it would go from shoreline to shoreline. Let’s just assume, though, that we keep the same borders.

Here’s a dispatch from half a century from now:

We now have a real downtown.  has matured. The Shoreline Library has opened in their new digs just off Aurora near 180th near two of the big condo towers which have filled the district since it was designated. There’s another library over in North City, too, product of its strong growth as a neighborhood center.

Speaking of , our neighborhoods have developed nicely. North City isn’t an arcology, like that strange old ‘Larry Lewis’ guy talked about, but it is much denser and more compact. Infill construction has put large amounts of residential atop and around all the old buildings, so much of it would still be recognizable to a Shoreliner of 2012. The historic North City Lounge & Grill is still going strong well into its second century and the number of businesses in ‘NC’ has tripled in the last few decades.

“Mt. Shoreline” (Only some elders still call it ) truly is an . Once the master plan was in place it filled in rapidly. It’s big with younger Shoreliners  and its exterior is covered in gardens, partly as parkland, and partly for food production. Its eastern triangle, on Aurora, has turned into the city’s “Cabaret District”. They weren’t sure what to call it back in the day, as “cabaret” was perceived to have x-rated connotations, but the name stuck anyway. Lots of clubs and restaurants, and yes, some naughty stuff, too.

Richmond Highlands has specialized as our ‘retirement center’, with stores and restaurants devoted to our elders and a great quantity of smaller, easily accessible housing. Swedish even opened a medical clinic right there. , on the other hand, looks quite similar to its ‘before’ pictures, except there are many more small businesses in a tight, vibrant retail core, surrounded by cottages. It seems like every house in the neighborhood has one or more accessory units. You might even say it looks like its ‘before before’ pictures, since it is very much its own little traditional-looking town within the city. Once the threat of the Point Wells complex passed they were able to concentrate on making their neighborhood dramatically denser, but in their own way.

has fulfilled its name at last. With the reduction in the size and number of personal vehicles much of its parking lot area has been covered with high-density residential buildings and gardens and many more businesses. It’s actually pretty posh, and the number of residents led to the enlargement of Echo Lake Park.

Shoreline isn’t just a collection of buildings, of course. There are three trees right on our logo. Our natural environment, for all the stresses it’s gone through, is bigger and arguably better than it was fifty years ago. At long last, as of 2055 (Shoreline’s sixtieth anniversary) every one of the precontact streams and wetlands has been daylighted and protected. From above our city looks very green. We are now a network of long parks following each stream, with tight communities between them. It’s taken some work to maintain the health of our native trees as the climate has changed, but we’re doing it.

The only problem with the expansion of our parks is the profusion of which now lives in them. We even have deer, coyotes, and, reportedly, bobcats. It requires a bit more protection for the garden veggies, but most people see them as proof we’re doing something right.

One thing you don’t see too much these days is grass. Oh, on playing fields, yes, but food gardens are everywhere now, and  have a waiting list.

has grown wonderfully. Lyon Creek now passes through the mall (its original streambed), which has been rebuilt around it. This provided a unique retail setting- a small-scale version of San Antonio’s Riverwalk, in a way, and prevents a great deal of annual flooding. Lake Forest Park had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the Efficiency Age, but finally acquiesced to the inevitable and allowed multifamily housing in the Town Center. Good thing, too, as it has provided much more foot traffic in the mall. The structures all around the edges of the site were melded artfully into the surrounding forests and ended up looking almost like cliff dwellings, all overgrown and beautiful.

As the esteemed Mr. Hall pointed out in 2012, “Buffers make neighborhoods.” That was his recognition that a real boundary or focal point can make a place. Take Central Park, in New York City, for instance. The blocks around it aren’t especially distinctive, but if you face the park you’ll pay much more for your apartment, and everyone knows where you are if you say “Central Park West”. As our parks grew more of us were up against a park and our neighborhoods became that much more defined and encompassed. Each developed its own core if there hadn’t been one and grew its core if it had one.

We have two ‘new’ neighborhoods, too, known here as ‘Link South’ and ‘Link North’, after the stations constructed on the forty years ago. It was at times wrenching. Neither area was at all dense- there were no businesses at all- but that was where Sound Transit put it, so we adapted. In each case planners and developers were able to define the new ‘place’ in its own context. Link South is bordered on the east by the  and Twin Ponds Park on the west, and by

Lakeside School and Jackson Park Golf Course are to the south, in Seattle. The freeway itself runs through it. Link North was defined at first only by I-5 and the Shoreline Community Center and Park, but has grown its own character since.

It’s hard to believe, but before the station went in, N 185th St didn’t go through to 15th Ave NE or 24th Ave NE/NE 178th St. Completing parts of the street grid has been an incremental, ongoing project all this time. Even when it’s impractical to push a street through, finishing the sidewalks usually makes a neighborhood much better for pedestrians, so that has been emphasized.

Traffic, even now, is pretty tight and it’s always a challenge being the ‘middle child’- a large (80,000 population) suburb between much larger cities, Seattle at 1.4 million, Lynnwood at 200,000. It’s not a perfect place, but we’ve done some good things and it’s a good home.

Tracy Tallman March 19, 2012 at 04:26 AM
All the people with kids left Shoreline because they couldn't pay the HUGE property taxes here (or the rents were too high to make up for the HUGE property taxes).
Karla Fay March 19, 2012 at 07:00 PM
"New" Library on 175th? It was there before Shoreline became a city, two new condos in North City, tell me exactly where - there is a new apartment building that has caused rents in older buildings to rise and create parking problems for businesses and the fire station not to mention blight where they have boarded up houses for their 2nd building on hold. Tracey Tallman is correct about property taxes, Shoreline has one of the highest school property taxes in the state and highest property taxes in general -- and the gremlins heading up Shoreline City Hall are working hard at an election to have us pay for a revenue bond to buy the water system from Seattle that is already paid for, meaning more property taxes. A downtown in Town Square? You mean someday there might be one, I could keep on going but this such pie in the sky nonsense that has such little basis in fact it is not worth my time.
Rick Lewis March 20, 2012 at 06:28 AM
If you want to find out what happened with the population, compare the number of housing units (occupied and unoccupied) with the population. I think you'll find the number of units grew a bit between 2000 and 2010, but the people per household went down by about the same proportion (we have fewer kids than previous generations). Shoreline is still a city largely composed of detached, single family homes, unlike most neighboring cities, that are building apartments and condos. This has consequences: 1) there is essentially no room for more houses, so the population doesn't go up; 2) the rising costs of the city are not spread out among a higher population, so rates go up; 3) much of the traffic (car, bus and eventually rail) are people going through the city rather than starting or ending their trip there. The remedy for all three of those issues is to build high density urban villages (as Larry has championed) in areas where there is already good infrastructure. If properly planned and implemented, they will significantly improve the city's financial situation while reducing the per-family burden. In addition, I recommend avoiding the Balardization of Shoreline by ensuring that buildings have greater set-backs from the sidewalks as the buildings get higher. They could achieve this by either stepping back every story, or being a tower with surrounding open space.
Karla Fay March 20, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Shoreline is large single family homes like many neighboring cities - Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace, Lake Forest Park, Lynnwood, North Seattle, Kenmore, Brier, etc. Additionally, Shoreline is aging in place, which is why there are fewer people per household, there are no children here (but we keep on paying more for schools, go figure), and poverty is on the upswing - something the Shoreline city manager reported with the release of the 2010 Census. As for increasing density, density is increasing the Seattle city core - in Ballard, Interbay, Fremont, Capitol Hill, Downtown, etc. but not in the outlying neighborhoods because that is where the amenities and the jobs are located, where transit is located, and it its walkable, you can bike. Shoreline is a wasteland for walking, biking (the Interurban is just a narrow strip serving no one), light rail is along I-5 sometime in the next decade (if even then) with no shopping located nearby, and the city hall thinks we should annex 145th instead of building more sidewalks (which would make Shoreline more walkable). There are no major employers near Shoreline, no major shopping centers near Shoreline, an apartment boom going on in the core of Seattle, because there is nothing in Shoreline. The southbound stretch from 145th to Downtown Seattle ranks in the Top 50 most congested freeways in the country in terms of drive time.
Larry Lewis March 24, 2012 at 07:21 AM
Hi, Karla- All those things you mention? That's the point. All of them are doable. Each aspect is something we can work on. Really, that's why I put the date 50 years out- to give us time to get good things done. Yes, Link would serve us much better put on Aurora, but that's why I imagined we would have to zone, permit, and build two new centers in town- the assumed stations and their immediate surroundings. All the rest can be grown from what we already have. And we can do this. Many neighborhoods in Seattle other than those you mentioned are growing quickly and density is growing fast outside Seattle too, in various other local cities. Kirkland, Bellevue (who thought I'd ever praise Bellevue?!), Renton, and Lynnwood have all taken solid steps toward dense, urbane, walkable downtowns- especially Kirkland. Oh, and annexing that strip of 145th may be the best way to clean up a crummy little headache- a leftover from the difference between the laws back in the fifties when Seattle annexed everything up to 145th and the nineties, when Shoreline was incorporated.

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