Bill 5553 and My Future Involvement….

What a great opportunity it is for me to get involved with a subject I feel passionately about.  Thank you to AP for the assignment as I have never been politically involved (purposefully) until I found Bill 5553.

Below is a copy of the correspondence I have been having with my State Representative Senator Jamie Pederson.  An upcoming meeting with the Senator will be taking place, and I intend to stay involved with this particular bill and issue until it hopefully, and eventually, passes the House and Senate.  Bill 5553 “Preventing suicide by permitting the voluntary waiver of firearm rights” is sponsored by Senators Pedersen, Fain, Frockt, Takko, Hobbs, Zeiger, Kuderer, Darneille and does the following:

1)      Provides a procedure for the voluntary waiver of firearm rights and the revocation of the voluntary waiver.

2)      Requires entry of a voluntary waiver into the Washington State Patrol electronic database within 24 hours.

3)      Permits revocation of the voluntary waiver after at least seven days.

4)      Prohibits transfer of a firearm to a person who has a voluntary waiver in effect.

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I hope to help the Senator and our State make history with this Bill, and that rational minds will come together and agree that those who are considering doing harm to themselves should not be able to easily procure a firearm to do so.  I will go so far as to suggest to the Senator that therapists who are treating suicidal patients must offer them this waiver by law.  I look forward to assisting him in his efforts.  I will post a follow up after our meeting.

 

The Death of Pronto….Say What?

 

Last month the city of Seattle ripped the wheels off the city-wide bike sharing program Pronto!  In addition, they even canned the idea of an e-bike replacement program.  Sadly enough I was a proud Pronto Member their entire existence, having learned to appreciate the usefulness of such a program in Tel Aviv, where their bike share program “Tel-O-Fun” is a rousing success.  Granted the climate is just slightly different between our two cities, but why couldn’t Pronto work in our bike obsessed city?  Considering I don’t feel that bike ownership and bike-sharing programs really do affect one another, and the fact that with bike sharing you don’t have to be concerned about bike theft, why in the world couldn’t we as a city have done a better job in implementing Pronto to avoid this colossal blunder? 

Some point to the answer as being a structural, political, regulatory and geographical series of issues, but I have one very good insight as to why we will no longer be able to claim title to being one of the greenest cities in the country with an eco-friendly transit culture….the bikes themselves were positively horrible, specifically for the topography of our city.  Low ridership was also the result of having too few stations, I mean not having a Pronto station at Greenlake?  You must be kidding.  I mean no one is going to rent a bike for the day if they cannot even find a bloody station in Freemont of all places!

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The complete and utter mismanagement of Pronto by SDOT is embarrassing to our city, and just goes to show how our “wanna-be” green bike friendly city mentality totally overshadowed the proper planning and implementation necessary in a city with the scale of bike ridership we actually already have.  Now back to my otherwise clear insight into how the bikes they chose were lacking in functionality.  Anyone who rode a Proto bike noticed it had only 3 gears, was very heavy, and more importantly had a very awkward storage plate in the front of the bike instead of behind the seat.  Anyone who had been to Whole Foods and wanted to bike home on a Pronto had to do their best ET impersonation which made turning of any kind heavy and unbalanced.  How am I supposed to bike across town this way?  How is someone who isn’t in shape already able to bike around this way?

Well now I’m going to provide a little suggestion to the fabulous SDOT folks that gave up early.  DON’T SCRAP THE PROGRAM.  First, find a corporate sponsor who is willing to set aside the fact that the program is now cursed with bad press and do what is right for the city.  Alaska airlines is a great start, but why not bring in Tesla, Amazon, Microsoft or Starbucks?  Secondly, plan a re-launch a couple of years down the road with quadruple the station coverage and lighter redesigned bikes.  Finally, and most importantly, include a bike-share membership within the ORCA card membership program as well.  It just may get some of those folks who would normally take a bus to get outside in the rain and pedal for goodness sakes!

You’re not as Tough as you think you are….

“Solitude is one of the most important necessities of true leadership” quipped William Deresiewicz in a lecture to West Point students.  One might say that truer words were never spoken, however I might add that Moses happened to be a great leader, but also a terrible navigator.  Taking my own experience with leadership and those who portray themselves as such, I would add my own insight here and say that without truly profound and deeply moving life experiences, one can never actually become a true leader in every sense of the word. 

Back in 2008 I moved to Tel Aviv, after making a hard break from the restaurant business in order to create a new life and try and find a new direction.  Well it took a while, but it wasn’t until I befriended a group of injured war veterans that I truly became aware of what leadership was, and that even with having had the experience of managing a staff of 12 employees for a number of years, and running my own business, I had in fact possessed very few of the qualities of a true leader at all.

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Imagine you are driving on routine patrol and your convoy is hit by an IED, severing the legs of your passenger and killing two others right alongside you.  How would surviving a very real experience like this affect you?  How would you use having been through an experience like this for the good of others, and what course would your life take after something like this?  Put a situation like this into perspective, an event that many of my friends in this group of veterans actually experienced.  All of those guys are still around, still support one another, and have used their traumatic experience to become true leaders in both business and in life.  I chose to learn from them, and strengthen my resolve to become a better leader and a better person overall.

We all have office meetings with contentious brokers, bankers, tenants and the such all the time, some more emotional and fiery that others, but one thing I can clearly say is that there are those who take meetings like these personally, have never had the privilege of meeting veteran friends like mine, and have positively zero chance of being an effective leader.  If you don’t have perspective you cannot be realistic about any negotiation considering that as military blogger Ram Charan puts it “realism happens to be the mid-point between optimism and pessimism, and the degree to which you tend toward one or the other has a particularly powerful effect on your use of the know-hows.”

Now I’m not saying go out and do something grandiose to prove a point, but what I am saying that if you are fortunate enough to have in your background an experience like I did in having connected to these injured veterans, you do in fact have the ability to channel such an experience into becoming a true leader with important perspective on life and business.  You will in fact be able to get through an economic downturn, face a bitter tenant or broker, survive the collapse of a negotiation….or far far worse.

Where design and development meet intent….

Following up on my previous post regarding SLU development and the individuals behind what’s taking place, I got to thinking and reading a bit about architectural and development theory.   One thought stood out to me about the idea that “form follows function”, a well-known principle associated with modernist architecture and industrial design.  The principle is that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose.  The man who coined this phrase, architect Louis Sullivan eventually developed the shape of a tall steel skyscraper in late 19th Century Chicago at the very moment when technology, taste and economic forces converged and made it necessary to drop the established styles of the past.  While most university courses on architecture theory may often spend just as much time discussing philosophy and cultural studies as they will on buildings, we as a city in my opinion are now at a point in our city’s history where both developer intent and design functionality must come together for the betterment of our citizens.  Technology and taste are most definitely converging at this point in time here in Seattle where the act of thinking, discussing, and developing real estate and the futuristic products our tenants create shape not only our city but the entire world.

Take for example Tesla, which will begin selling and installing its new home solar roofs later this year.  Unveiling its solar roof product in late October, about a month before the company acquired SolarCity in a deal worth $2.1 billion, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said it looks “quite promising” that Tesla’s solar roof could actually be CHEAPER than a normal roof when factoring in the price of labor.  Clearly his vision and intent here is to be both environmentally conscious, while attempting to not sacrifice product quality and cost.  It remains to be seen however as to whether or not this product actually makes a profit for Tesla and truly provides a savings to the consumer, or whether they just announced another way to lose money.

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Take this philosophy to the field of development, where The Living Building Challenge gives the possibility of environmentally sound development, but fails at this point in time to deliver the risk/reward parameters to a developer to make a project like this pencil out.  The relation of “green” theory and sustainable design to the practice of building, and more importantly, the words and intent of developers, creators and environmentalists in this case barely makes reasonable sense….yet.  It would take contractors, architects and engineers to donate a good portion of their time and effort to make a Living Building of considerable size work, without more than double the 15% bonus FAR you receive in the city of Seattle to attempt such a project.  If the city’s intent is to reduce our carbon footprint and be one of the greenest cities in the country, something has to give and compromises need to be made.  The LBC which describes itself as a “philosophy, advocacy platform, and certification program” forces developers to push material and labor requirements to the edge while aiming to meet a philosophy of sustainable design that no doubt many developers share.  In the end, our buildings are of a place and of a culture, and of a design intent which while positive, can only be met in form when reasonable minds meet somewhere in the middle for the betterment of our city’s health and our rapid growth.

The New Seattle….Will You Be My Valentine?

 

Only 10 years ago, Seattle was a completely different vision of urban design and structure than it is today.  Needless to say to get where our city at this point in time as far as development and growth is concerned, may not have been possible without as Glaeser would put it, an “autocrat behind you to do things that one would consider unthinkable”.  On the other hand, I would argue that passion, curiosity and intellectual rigor don’t really require an “autocrat”, but rather can inspire a city and its residents to follow the vision of a developer regardless.  Love it or hate it, Paul Allen’s vision and Jeff Bezos’s ingenuity have given our city new life and direction in terms of development far beyond what anyone who grew up here could have ever imagined.  The question really is how do I convince those nimby folks who still refuse to acknowledge how imaginative and beneficial this specific type of growth is for our region?  It really goes to the core question how does one really know what great development is when many times the topic alone can be so incredibly contentious?  Well I would say just look close at the person or persons behind it, look at their motivations and try to understand their shared vision.

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Were it not for the New Seattle as I see it, I would not have even considered moving back to begin with.  To witness what has transpired in our city in my opinion is nothing short of spectacular.  My exuberance is neither irrational nor short sighted in this regard, and I have grown to have complete confidence in these industry tycoons from our region who I feel genuinely have a strong connection to our region and our best interest as a developing city at heart.  The almost surreal yet practical imaginations of these individuals have inspired our city as a whole, and continue to inspire those who both live and work here, and even those who relocate here as part of the vision these folks created.  So how does someone overcome their aversion to development like what is taking place in South Lake Union which some urbanologists might consider soulless? 

My suggestion is to look closer at the character of the developers themselves, and more importantly their efforts to create a new sense of place and community in Seattle that didn’t previously exist.  I understand the sentiments of native Seattleites, and their desire to find connection and pay homage to the past no matter what neighborhood they find themselves walking in.  But understand this is a work in progress, and people need to learn to trust the strength and vision of those people who genuinely love this city, have a strong connection to it, and have our genuine best interests at heart.

Creating A New Framework for Seattle Design Review.

For those of us who have been through the process of attempting to obtain a MUP for development here in Seattle, we know that while ideas and opinions abound, the sheer amount of time it takes to get through the process is far too lengthy and costly.  Developers who need to “think outside the box and meet project targets” at the same time are constrained by the long delays between design review board meetings, and the fact that many times the members of the review board switch positions.  This leads to insufficient communication and information passed between the board members and the City of Seattle, along with causing unnecessarily lengthy delays for the developer and architect.

For those projects that are historical in nature, there is even an additional historical board review that takes place with both boards needing the resulting conclusions and suggestions of the other.  The enormous amount of frictional cost associated with the delays created by having two separate review boards (property or land taxes, carried interest on the project, and increased developer fees to name a few) accumulates rapidly over the time it takes to permit the project.

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My suggestion to eliminate, or at least drastically reduce, the frictional costs of the design review process is a relatively simple one.  Combine the two review boards into one, saving the city time and money, and set and keep a weekly recurring design review meeting schedule.

By making these staffing and procedural changes to the size of design review boards and the number of them, direct dialogue with applicants at meetings will undoubtedly increase, and both sides will have a more hands-on approach to assessing the quality and appropriateness of the design, architecture and functionality of the project.

With numerous opportunities for the public to give their input, as well as a minimum of 2 formal public hearings project, getting developments to fruition is far too tedious and costly with the current system….but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Edible Economics: Our Food Driven City

When I thought about “money illusion” I realized that many of our own big decisions regarding where to eat are driven by nominal dollar amounts.  Those edible decisions as I like to call them, tend to spill over into where we want to live, what rent we would be willing to pay and how much we want to spend on transportation to get to that amazing restaurant we always wanted to try.  Recently there was a case in the news about a guy that is suing McDonalds because the price of a combo meal actually was more expensive than buying the items individually.  Now clearly this individual has a lot of time on his hands, but really when you think about it, the neighborhoods we go to and live in here in Seattle are mostly desirable according to their dining options, and if you feel like you’re being ripped off no matter what the actual dollar amount is, you will most definitely not eat, live or patronize that establishment or neighborhood.  Perhaps the solution is a version of “food control” as comparable to rent control.  Free markets would dictate I could technically charge $700 for a Fois Gras Pizza, but should there be a local council willing to immediately take some sort of legal action against this kind of deceptive price gouging, people won’t feel the need to pass by the neighborhood out of principle.

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Why would I want to live on Capital Hill?  Well because I could hit up Momiji for it’s amazing late night happy hour menu, or Katsu Burger for its overpriced yet delicious Japanese burgers.  I may even sit for a fine aged Whiskey at Cannon for the ambiance, all depending on how I’m feeling about what I want to spend on dinner.  The bottom line is I don’t feel like I’m getting a raw deal, and I’m getting more than what I paid for.  Why would I want to live in Ballard?  Not just because the most amazing Mexican restaurants on the West Coast (Gracia and Asaderio Sinaloa) are within a block of each other, but because if I’m feeling like I’m on a budget I’ll just grab a number 14 with extra tendon at Than Brothers right along the way.  According to my Animal Spirit therefore I should be moving to Chinatown in the very near future.