Seattle's Future World: Our Crystal Ball Predictions, Part 2

Trying to predict the future is humbling—but even when we know we’ll probably be wildly wrong, it’s fodder for good conversation

Click here for Seattle's Future World: Our Crystal Ball Predictions, Part 1

Policing the City Acknowledging the potential game-changing repercussions of even a single unanticipated variable (say a cataclysmic act of terrorism, or “The Big One” in the Cascadia subduction zone), I hazard this guess of what the Seattle Police Department will look like in 25 years or so:

“Community policing” has been fundamentally redefined, with neighborhood activists enjoying full partner status in virtually all police operations.

Representative volunteers, chosen by their fellow citizens, are at the table as teams of cops and citizens engage in policymaking, priority setting, program development, training and crisis management. Protests and other critical incidents are co-planned and co-policed. 

Citizens also play a key role in officially evaluating individual performance, from the neighborhood beat cop to the chief of police. 

Only in exigent, dangerous circumstances does the citizenry take a backseat to its police partners.

The police union initially fought genuine public participation, but the citizens of Seattle demanded it. And got it. Today, the presence of “civilians” at headquarters and in the precincts is both ordinary and meaningful. And mutual trust and respect have never been greater. NORM STAMPER, former Seattle police chief and author of To Protect and Serve: How to Fix America’s Police.

The Top 10 Ways Dining Will Change

•  Due to federally mandated portion-control laws and concern about obesity, Seattle chefs serve entrées on 6-inch tea saucers.

•  Driverless UberEats cars double as mobile cold-pressed-juice bars. 

•  Anyone who uses the term “foodie” in a Seattle restaurant is fined. 

•  “Local” produce finally refers to the really local stuff: the fruits, vegetables and chicken eggs people harvest from their own backyard.  

•  As a result of widespread gluten allergies and sensitivities, marijuana flour becomes the preferred baking ingredient of pastry chefs. 

•  Tom Douglas owns 92 restaurants. Josh Henderson owns 110. 

•  Despite a huge wave of new fine dining restaurants, Canlis is still considered the city’s most elegant restaurant.

•  Because of the kale shortage, Swiss chard is the new power green everyone eats but complains about.

•  Sleeper hip neighborhood Mountlake Terrace has the hottest up-and-coming restaurant scene. 

•  Tipping is considered retro. JESSICA YADEGARAN

Wheel World In 20–30 years, finding a good bike route will be like finding good coffee in Seattle—it will be simple, accessible and ubiquitous. The Seattle Bicycle Master Plan (whose stated goal is to make riding a bicycle a comfortable and integral part of daily life in Seattle for people of all ages and abilities) will be complete, linking Seattle’s downtown network of protected bike lanes with trails, neighborhood greenways and roads across the region. As getting around the city becomes safer and more convenient, cycling will increase, with a more diverse crowd opting for this healthy, less expensive form of transportation and enjoying the freedom to explore our communities. And beyond Seattle city limits, Washington state will become an international destination for bicycle tourism. ELIZABETH KIKER, executive director of the Cascade Bike Club

Carpeting Our Landscape with Weed Today, washington is on the leading edge of the legalization of cannabis. Recreational cannabis stores in Washington state have sold more than $1 billion’s worth of marijuana since July 2014, generating more than $250 million in tax revenue. Yet citizens are still not allowed to grow their own, open cannabis cafés or even pass a joint from one person to another—which is a federal felony (distribution of a banned substance). Clearly, we’ve got a long way to go.  

Still, within a few decades, the stigma of Reefer Madness will have faded with national legalization, and cannabis will be incorporated into our lives, just as wine and martinis are now: as a regulated, adult-only cash crop, bringing in billions in massive taxes and enjoyed at concerts (stoned symphony nights!), restaurants (cannabis-infused cuisine), even guided events (elevated outdoor hikes and heightened awareness workshops). Doctors throughout the country will once again prescribe the plant to help a plethora of health problems, as they did in the early 1900s, eliminating costly and often dangerous pharmaceuticals (medical marijuana is currently only legal in 25 states). Finally, cannabis farmers will have fine-tuned small-batch organic strains to induce creativity, relaxation, euphoria or, perhaps, even the giggles. MICHAEL STUSSER, Seattle freelance writer and host at Higher Ground,

The 5 W’s of the New News

Who: After years of existential struggle, lots of smallish media organizations (e.g., iterations of Nextdoor and neighborhood blogs) will have become essential to the Seattle communities they serve. You’ll identify with several of these communities—composed of people who live how you live, like what you like or want what you want—and you’ll know them as hubs that include you, not just outlets that inform you. 

What: By 2035, almost everything you do will become somebody’s data, and AI (artificial intelligence—those algorithms that already customize content) will churn out a version of a story just for you. Want knowledge that isn’t so nosy? You’ll probably need to pay more for it.*

When and Where: Smart objects, such as driverless cars, all around you will tell you everything you need to know. But after key research findings on the perils of distraction and the benefits of in-person interaction, you’ll finally know when to turn them off and shut them up. 

Why: With information that’s so personalized and segregated, distinguishing what enlightens us from what only affirms our attitudes will be tough. Luckily, a new set of tools—and a new kind of journalism—will have evolved to lead us to information that our algorithms would have never found. MÓNICA GUZMÁN, cofounder of the daily Seattle newsletter The Evergrey. She is a 2016 Nieman Fellow at Harvard and a former columnist for the Seattle Times and GeekWire. *Inspired by media industry futurist Amy Webb.

Ripped from the Headlines: November 1, 2036
"Seattle to Ban Nonautonomous Vehicles from Driving on Weekdays"
In an exclusive interview today with Crosscut, Seattle’s mayor announced that she had enough council votes to ban operation of nonautonomous vehicles on city streets and freeways on weekdays. The ban will apply to all autos and trucks. She cited the benefits of driverless vehicles, including reduction of traffic accidents and deaths by 90 percent, less street congestion, lower levels of air pollution and cost savings to consumers, and noted similar bans in Shanghai and London. Vouchers covering 90 percent of the cost of using driverless UberLyft or Car2go will be issued to residents below the poverty level of $75,000/year. TOM ALBERG, cofounder of Madrona Venture Group

Retail Therapy May Change, But It’s Not Going Away
Storefronts may seem to be shrinking as online purchases grow, but our brick-and-mortar stores won’t be going anywhere in the foreseeable future, says Deborah Ross, retail program manager for the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA). Retailers will need to become more creative to spar with e-commerce giants, even as some (we’re looking at you, Amazon, Warby Parker and Birchbox) begin to move into brick-and-mortar territory. Expect more focus on customer experiences that are not attainable online (e.g., in-store cafés, human interactions such as yoga classes or Pinterest-worthy DIY workshops) and a mix of merchandise that’s more localized (think Watson Kennedy’s colorful curios). Ross notes that the opportunities to expand the boundaries of Seattle’s retail core abound as more building projects with ground-level retail crop up, and as improvements to the Pike-Pine Corridor—which are part of the DSA’s strategic Pike-Pine Renaissance program and include more trees lining streets, expanded sidewalks, additional seating and plantings—continue to take shape. Expect to seamlessly spend your hard-earned cash all the way from the waterfront to Capitol Hill. LAUREN MANG

Link-ing Neighborhoods (finally)
Light rail promises to cluster housing, employment centers and new people-friendly hubs around its stations. In 20 years, expect some new neighborhood sweet spots to emerge

If the automobile can be blamed for creating suburban sprawl, Seattle’s light rail promises to do just the opposite. If the current timeline holds (and voters approve the phase 3 plan in November), by the time Link slides into West Seattle in 2030 and Ballard in 2035, Lynnwood—best known today for its sprawling and seemingly unending strip malls—will be transforming into a community with a high-density city center surrounded by multistory apartments and walkable amenities; Northgate will have shed its car-clogged, pedestrian-unfriendly, big-box shopping center image and be evolving into a housing and employment center; and Capitol Hill will be—well, Capitol Hill, but denser, maybe even hipper, and with even more restaurants. 

There’s some urgency to this plan. Predictions are that the greater Seattle region will gain 1 million new residents by 2040, a population bump of 25 percent.

Link’s phase 1 plan, which opened in 2009 with a route from downtown Seattle through the Rainier Valley to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, wasn’t the change agent some had hoped for. The recession slowed the pace and reduced the scale of development near the Rainier Valley stations, and a 2014 report noted a lack of public investment in improving neighborhood streets and sidewalks combined with discouraging private investment. But the overall picture along that route is improving. Last fall, local officials announced plans to create 700 units of affordable housing near transit centers. Funds are available for business loans, and officials propose setting up a food innovation district in Rainier Beach. Meanwhile, development has picked up around the Columbia City and Othello stations.

Sound Transit spokesperson Bruce Gray, a longtime Rainier Valley resident, says anyone walking the two blocks from the Columbia City station into the heart of the neighborhood “would walk past hundreds of new apartments, townhouses and a new anchor PCC grocery,” along with new restaurants and bars.

The vibe, says Gray, “is a lot more electric than before light rail opened in the valley.” 

But phase 2 is the game changer for Link. When the first line—connecting downtown Seattle to Capitol Hill and Husky Stadium—opened in April, ridership jumped 70 percent from a year ago. More stations will open from now through 2023, adding 34 miles of track and 25 stations that will spread north, south and east. “If you were impressed by the impact of U-Link, then opening to Northgate will blow you away,” says Josh Brown, the executive director of the Puget Sound Regional Council. “It’s expected to nearly double today’s light rail ridership.” A trip that might now take 40 minutes will take a reliable 14 minutes by light rail, he says.

And if voters approve the phase 3 plan on the ballot this month—adding 62 more miles of track and 38 stations—it’s likely to mean even more mini urban centers clustered around each of the stations, with taller buildings, employment centers, denser living in multistory complexes, and more shops, restaurants and services, all located within the optimal 10-minute walk from Link stations. 

It has already started. Several neighborhoods around stations are already changing, while others will undergo massive transformation in coming years. At right is a look at a few of them. JEANNE LANG JONES, Seattle freelance writer

Rolling Out Link: Projections


Station opening: 2023

2014 population: 4,600

2040 population: 14,100

Planned: Wide sidewalks, shorter blocks, local and national retailers, parks

In the works: 250-acre City Center, 650 apartments, a Hilton Garden Inn


Station opening: 2021

2014 population: 6,400

2040 population: 11,900

Completed: 2 apartment projects with 428 units

In the works: 5 projects with 770 housing units and retail space

Roosevelt Station

Station opening: 2021

2014 population: 9,800

2040 population: 10,200

In the works: 23 proposed mixed-use residential projects with 2,542 units of various types and more than 34,000 square feet of commercial space

Capitol Hill

Station opened: April 2016

2014 population: 28,300

2040 population: 37,600

In the works: 418 apartments in four buildings, 10 other projects (primarily residential) with 377 units and some commercial space

Spring District, Bellevue

Station opening: 2023

2014 population: 1,100

2040 population: 11,200

Planned: 5.3 million square feet of commercial and residential space

In the works: 100,000-square-foot Global Innovation Exchange academic institute, five mixed-use residential buildings

Overlake Village

Station opening: 2023 

2014 population: 5,600

2040 population: 10,000

Planned: A phased mixed-use project with a total of 1,400 homes, 1.2 million square feet of office space, a hotel and conference center, 25,000 square feet of retail and a 2.67-acre public park. Esterra Park, phase one, includes two mixed-use residential blocks, two office blocks, a hotel and conference center and the park. Two apartment buildings totaling 480 units will be the first to be built

Projections courtesy of Puget Sound Regional Council and municipal planning departments. Plans for projects around the stations are dynamic and whether or not they move forward will affect population projections.

Tunnel Vision After a long hiatus, Bertha, our beloved tunnel boring machine, began moving again last January. Will she make it? Who knows! But if she does, where will the machine be sent out to pasture? Here are some ideas:

> Use it to replace the motor that’s turning the Space Needle’s restaurant. That’ll give it some oomph.

> Sell it to Starbucks so the company can grind all of its coffee at once. 

> Leave it on Mayor Ed Murray’s lawn.

> Use it as the new North Precinct police station. 

> Leave it with Bellevue in a white elephant gift exchange. 

> Pawn it. 

And if we fear separation anxiety from our dearly beloved Bertha, we could always send it back the other way, just to be sure we got the tunnel right. DAVID KROMAN, city reporter for the online news outlet Crosscut

Our Homeless Dilemma: A Poem

The problem is a national epidemic, and every big city is a magnet. 

Housing is very costly commodity, not a human right in the U.S.

Homeless people have one thing in common: they are poor. 

Most homeless people come from our own communities.

The problem will not be solved by technical solutions such as cool shacks and colorful tents.

We have more than enough resources to safely house everyone.

Homelessness has many causes, but the biggest one is poverty.

The problem is entirely a political one. 

PETER STEINBRUECK, principal with Steinbrueck Urban Strategies and a former member of the Seattle City Council

Ripped from the Headlines, Dateline 2036
"A Seattle Sports Update"

The latest round of NBA expansion has awarded franchises to Whitehorse, in Canada’s Yukon Territory, and Tijuana, Mexico. The bid by Seattle basketball investors never gained traction after the Seattle City Council rejected a proposed vacation of Occidental Avenue, saying the alley had the same historic significance as Rome’s Appian Way.

Meanwhile, the Microsoft Huskies reached the 32-team field for the college football playoffs, drawing in the first round their hated rival, the University of Nike–Eugene, which won the past 32 games between the corporations.

After another last-in-the-division finish, the fifth in the past six years, Seahawks owner Jeff Bezos put the NFL franchise up for sale on Amazon’s auction site, where the winning bid of $10 billion was submitted by Elvis Walton, heir to the Walmart fortune that earlier purchased Amazon.

And finally, massive civic celebration saluted the retirement of Edgar Martinez, 73, who guided the Mariners to five World Series titles in his 16 years as manager, including last season’s win over the Portland Geoducks. ART THEIL, cofounder of online sports magazine Sportspress Northwest

Click here for Seattle's Future World: Our Crystal Ball Predictions, Part 3

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