What will it take to stand in this opportunity for systemic change?
Disclosure & disclaimer: Some projects mentioned here are partly funded through Seattle’s Equitable Development Initiative, where I work. Views expressed here are my own, not my employer’s.
The data trail of racial wealth and health disparities in the path of COVID-19 is a story of deep injustice. But not the complete story.
Just as high blood pressure lets us know something needs to change, but can’t show us how to be well, we need to look through our data with deep intuition in order to re-imagine the future we want.
Let me paint a story of a healed future. This story asks those with resources and institutional power to drop what we think we know. It asks those waiting for change to stop waiting. The change we yearn for won’t begin from above. This future is already being born, and it invites you to choose which story you’ll be a part of.
In June, I began working at the City of Seattle’s Office of Planning and Community Development, as the Real Estate Strategist. There is so much to say, and I hope to have an essay for your thoughts soon.
Why does politics feel crazy these days, and what can we do about it?
Last year, I facilitated a year-long conversation called Between Americans. The 24 participants—half red and half blue—had signed up hoping to achieve connection and understanding across the political schism. By the end of the year, most hadn’t achieved what they’d hoped for.
Certainly, I’d facilitate the conversation differently now. Other similar projects, both online and in person, seem to be achieving dialogue more successfully than we had. But the experiment succeeded in one regard: it revealed truths about our national disconnection that couldn’t be blamed on other people.
(For a more personal version of this essay, check out “Beneath partisan politics“, edited by Anne Focke. She wrangled a version of this essay that I’d all but given up on.)
How should we select political leaders in complex and changing times?
As election season ramps up again, I find myself wondering more than ever before: how should I research the candidates?
This year, while facilitating a conversation among people who voted for Clinton and Trump, I’ve noticed that, even among people who’ve committed time to discussing different political worldviews, life gets in the way. Most can’t find the time to research every issue, or to talk it through—and many feel guilty or inadequate as a result. But given the unavoidable demands of our jobs and families, I wonder if this guilt is, in fact, a clue.
What if the way we’ve come to frame our responsibility as citizens—to be knowledgeable, detail-oriented voters—is in fact unrealistic and unsustainable? Continue reading “How Should I Vote?”
Why would developers voluntarily clean up icky runoff from the Aurora Bridge?
In Fremont, a block uphill from Seattle’s ship canal, construction is wrapping up on a glassy office building. An unassuming, newly landscaped terrace flanks the building. The Aurora Bridge soars above the terrace, carrying cars over the canal.
Along the canal, boats dot the water’s surface on this sunny July day. Below the surface, salmon have begun their migration upstream. The salmon run will continue into the winter, and their babies will make the return trip to the ocean come spring.
Why is it so hard to find developer success stories in combating gentrification?
In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith explored the cultural milieu that produces our sense of right and wrong. In this work, which laid the groundwork for The Wealth of Nations, Smith notes that it’s human nature to seek praise and praise-worthiness. This basic tendency, he supposes, forms a social glue that keeps our societies ticking along.
Can a single design- and environmentally-conscious developer influence others?
‘I come at it from an architect’s perspective.’
Tim McDonald runs Onion Flats with his three partners. Trained as an architect, Tim co-founded the Philadelphia-based design-build firm alongside his brother. “As a developer,” he says, “every project I’ve ever done has been an opportunity to explore something. I’m a design-driven developer, and I come at it from an architect’s perspective.” Continue reading “Tim McDonald, Onion Flats—Philadelphia, PA”
What the heck is development culture, anyway? And why are we so interested in it?
I was quite excited to see Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau list The Gardens of Democracy as one of his two favorite nonfiction titles. This under-sung little book has deeply influenced how Brian and I think about urban development, using a concept called “Gardenbrain”. Here’s hoping that a big shout-out from Canada’s “little potato” will help get the word out.
The book has helped us frame the importance of exploring the culture of real estate development. In other words, it’s more than markets and regulation that influence developers. Think to your own work: are you just a puppet of money and laws? You might concede that you’re also a bundle of feelings and dreams, deeply influenced by the people around you. Continue reading “Machinebrain & Gardenbrain”