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What should we call Seattle's era of apartment architecture?: Today So Far

  • King County council member pushes back against cashless businesses.
  • Should we get rid of design review boards? (Or ... How did Seattle go from gorgeous brick and wood buildings to our modern era of flat-puke apartments?)

This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for January 23, 2023.

You may have heard that cash is king. Apparently, that's not always true in King County.

Modern payment methods, like tapping a debit card, or using Apple Pay or Google Pay, have grown in popularity. I've gone to many conventions where vendors sold everything from artwork to bath bombs, and some didn't even mess with cash. All transactions were done via a sales app on their smartphone. There are also shops that have opted to go entirely cashless, such as Just Burgers in the University District. The cash-free decision was made in 2020 after a few burglaries at the shop.

But this payment method doesn't work for all customers. That's why the King County Council is considering an ordinance that would require businesses to accept cash (and not go cashless) in unincorporated parts of the county. It would not affect businesses in cities, like Seattle or Bellevue.

"The problem I'm trying to solve with this ordinance is to make sure that those individuals who do not have access to, or the desire to, use credit cards or debit cards, or swiping their smartphones ... are able to access needed food, consumer items, and services," said King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who proposed the idea.

Kohl-Welles told Soundside that people who primarily rely on cash, or who are under-banked, are more likely to be low-income, unhoused, seniors, undocumented residents, or people of color.

Hear Kohl-Welles' full conversation with Soundside here.

Lawmakers' discussions on how to improve Washington's housing situation have begun in Olympia. One idea that you're going to hear about is a proposal that could rub some people the wrong way, and get others excited — getting rid of design review boards.

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would remove design review requirements for residential housing with the aim to speed up such developments. The design review process generally puts a building project in front of a volunteer panel that makes sure it aligns with city rules, but also considers aesthetics such as landscaping or what sort of siding is used. The public gets a chance to weigh in, too. The downside is that this process takes a lot of time and comes with some extra costs. So getting rid of it, hopefully, would speed things up and cut down on those costs. In its place, city staff would review projects and make sure they are up to code. KUOW's Joshua McNichols has more about this proposal here.

The idea is not entirely new. Seattle has already been exploring this for affordable housing projects. That's when I started scratching my head, going back and forth over it. I think a lot of folks out there have too. On one hand, you want some level of review. That way, you don't get some monstrosity sneaking into town. It's also good to give neighbors a say.

On the other hand, I totally get the final line in Joshua's recent reporting on this, which states city staffers would hopefully be more objective, "and less unpredictable than volunteer board members, each of whom bring their own suite of subjective aesthetic preferences to the table." That definitely rings a bell, because I've passed by newer buildings along Roosevelt Way, for example, with awkward rust orange paneling, contrasted with what I could only describe as a pale, puke yellow. It's mixed among corrugated this and flat paneling that. I often wonder who thought this patchwork quilt of siding was a good idea, let alone the color scheme. This sort of style is scattered throughout Seattle.

I also once worked within view of a new apartment building, which actually looked great. I was impressed that new, modern materials could work that well. It's as if the designer actually visited the Northwest. Yet, the building was offset by a large piece of art that looked as if it was rejected from the "Beetlejuice" film set. And just in case that building looked too reasonable, another new building went up across the street, sporting a puke green color not seen outside of a 1970s plaid davenport.

I know, you've heard me fuss about this sort of thing before. Look around Seattle and you'll see some lovely visions spanning Victorian, Gothic, even art deco. How did we get to the stylings of flat puke (my words, not an official architectural term)? Or that LEGO cube that was planted in the middle of classic craftsman homes? With that sentiment, I'd like to offer a few suggestions to lawmakers and municipalities when it comes to such local guidelines: Avoid any colors that could have the word "puke" easily attached to describe them. Also: Wood and brick. And no LEGO cubes. You know, make some attempt to appear like you're in the Northwest.

What would you call Seattle's modern era of architecture? Panelpalooza? LEGO chic? Feel free to email me at dyer@kuow.org.

AS SEEN ON KUOW

caption: Bill Radke discusses the week’s news with Publicola’s Erica Barnett, Seattle Channel’s Brian Callanan and Seattle Times David Kroman
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Bill Radke discusses the week’s news with Publicola’s Erica Barnett, Seattle Channel’s Brian Callanan and Seattle Times David Kroman
Credit: KUOW/Kevin Kniestedt

Bill Radke discusses the week’s news with Publicola’s Erica Barnett, Seattle Channel’s Brian Callanan and Seattle Times David Kroman, Jan. 20, 2023. (Kevin Kniestedt / KUOW)

DID YOU KNOW?

Your tax return might be smaller this year. There are a few reasons why.

NPR reports that a combination of few factors could shrink returns. In short, there were a few changes to tax options during the pandemic that are now fading away. There are no more stimulus checks. Also, the enhanced child credit ended. There was an pandemic-era deduction for charitable donations which is no longer a thing. And investment gains could also be a source of more taxes, "especially if they own mutual funds that had to sell off stocks," NPR reports.

The IRS started accepting tax returns today. The deadline for filing your taxes this year is April 18.

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caption: An FBI seal is seen on a wall on Aug. 10, 2022, in Omaha, Neb.
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An FBI seal is seen on a wall on Aug. 10, 2022, in Omaha, Neb.
Credit: AP Photo / Charlie Neibergall

A former high-level FBI agent faces charges for aiding a sanctioned Russian oligarch

A former high-level FBI agent is facing several charges for his alleged work with a sanctioned Russian oligarch. Charles McGonigal, the former special agent in charge of counterintelligence in the FBI's New York office, is accused of working with Oleg Deripaska, who has been on the U.S. sanctions list since 2018.

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