At the heart of efforts to guide future growth in the city, Valdez sees an irreconcilable, four-man tug-of-war between "labor, neighborhoods, developers, and environmentalists." Faced with proposals that might alter the character of their single-family communities even modestly, neighborhood groups in Seattle staunchly oppose planning that would reduce housing costs, improve transit, make neighborhoods more walkable, and lift redundant legal barriers to development.
It's a dramatic change from the way neighborhood activists used to do business, Valdez argues. "Seattle's neighborhoods are ascendant and they are abusing their power, shifting from fighting for things to fighting against them."
Valdez laments, "What happened? How did earnest, liberal, Birkenstock-wearing activists pushing for parks, play equipment, sidewalks, and kiosks turn into affluent, highly motivated saboteurs of new development, change, and density? Three things happened in the last two decades that shifted neighborhoods from the 'what we want' caucus to the 'what we won't' lobby:"
"This balance of power can't shift without courage, by developers, unions, and environmentalists who must support a louder, stronger voice for dense, transit-oriented neighborhoods, not just intellectual dialogues and power point presentations."