ARCHAEOLOGY I: DISCURSIVE OBJECTS (Dissertation chapter 3 Draft)




For Deleuze and Guattari (1987), all social systems are constituted by a double articulation of a plane of content and a plane of expression, each of which is subdivided into substance and form. Following Foucault’s The Archaeology of Knowledge (2010), we will herein be paying exclusive attention to the plane of expression and tracking how particular statements (the substance of expression) constitute a discursive formation (form of expression).[1] It is important to note that Foucault’s archaeologies typically address much broader topics – “madness,” for example – than one neighborhood, so it will appear that we are ranging far beyond South Lake Union (SLU) proper. This is indeed the case, for as I show below, the SLU system – in content and expression – is but one actualization of a broader set of potential systems that we might call the “Coordinated City.” To my knowledge, this moniker has not yet been adopted by any urban theorists to describe and group particular types of cities – Creative City, Just City, World City, Global City, etc. – nor I am nor particularly interested in adding to such an ever-proliferating typology, but I will use this phrase pragmatically to distinguish between the broader discursive formation that I see emerging and the particular region of it constituting the SLU discursive formation. Finally, as I step through this process, I will also regularly reference Foucault’s observations on the archaeological approach.

The Coordinated City’s discursive formation

Foucault (2010) outlines four approaches for describing discursive formations: tracking objects, enunciative modalities/subjects, concepts, and strategies, the first of which forms this chapter.[2] In an effort to maintain some order while paying due attention to the complexity and breadth of the empirical information at hand, this empirical chapter will be subdivided along the lines that Foucault suggests. Moreover, each section addresses the source information in approximately the same order, for greater clarity. Following Foucault, the main point here is to understand the texture of a discursive formation, rather than to interrogate its truth claims or call its meaning into question: it is the first step of a critical analysis and rests heavily on distancing one’s self from the information being presented. Again, this double bracketing allows the archaeologist to assume a radical neutrality in an effort to “maintain [discourse] in its consistency, to make it emerge in its own complexity” (Foucault 2010, 47). The political theorist Stuart Elden (2001, 104) maintains that archaeology and genealogy are “two halves of a complementary process,” but since I am approaching this from a Deleuzoguattarian perspective, the archaeological findings will never be “genealogized.” Instead, they are to be understood as constituting the discursive dimension of the SLU model of realization.

Discursive Objects

One way to delineate and analyze a discursive formation is to track its discursive objects: that is, to determine what the formation is talking about. The Coordinated City’s discursive objects are straightforward: the production of physical layout of the city and what types of activities occur within it. In the case of SLU, these discursive objects take a particular form: its physical layout is addressed by statements regarding a dense and environmentally sustainable built environment, while its use is defined by professional employment focused on high technology, biotechnology, global health, and design accompanied by an increasing number of housing units. The question is, then, can one isolate a set rules that has produced the ensemble of such statements?

Foucault (2010) reflects on the three categories that his previous archaeological investigations (1988, 1994a, 1994b) had uncovered: authorities of delimitation, surfaces of emergence, and grids of specification. The authorities of delimitation are the institutions that define the objects of discourse in question. For Foucault’s archaeology of madness, these included medicine, the law, religious authority, and literary and art criticism (Foucault 2010, 41-2); in the case of SLU, these authorities include municipal government, private developers, and designers, among others. Importantly, the discursive object is not a relationship of reference to an already existing object in the world: “madness,” for example, is not just laying around. Rather the discursive object is the result of a complex relationship of production, which these authorities create by organizing actual differences in various locations, or what Foucault calls surfaces of emergence: the social fields where the objects of discourse emerge, be they “the family, the immediate social group, the work situation, the religious community” (Foucault 2010, 41) in the case of madness or the legislative bodies, planning departments, interactions between real estate developers, designers, and the public in the case of SLU. Finally, grids of specification are the systems that organize the objects of discourse: again, Foucault is attuned to systems addressing the soul, the body, the life and history of individuals, and neuropsychological correlations in his investigation of madness (ibid., 42), while we will focus on systems corresponding to the human body, characteristics of the natural and built environment, and political and economic logic.

A high degree of specificity is crucial to the archaeological method, for Foucault is adamant that attributing the relationships to a particular zeitgeist is doomed to obfuscate the concrete relationships constituting discursive formations. Consequently, in the case of SLU, we will not defer to something like the “age of sustainable urbanism” or the “age of the neoliberal city” as a disembodied spirit of the times that is being expressed in various statements. Instead, we will follow Foucault in saying that the discursive formation is constituted by a set of particular relations. Defining a discursive formation from the point of view of its objects, then, consists of tracking how it forms dispersed objects of discourse. This is its unity, its singularity: the capacity “to give birth simultaneously or successively to mutually exclusive objects, without having to modify itself” (Foucault 2010, 44). In a discursive environment as contradictory as SLU, where advertisements for luxury residences form part of the same archive as information about social services, this dexterity of the archaeological method has much to offer.

Authorities of Delimitation

The authorities of delimitation are the institutions that produce discursive objects, but will only be briefly addressed here since they are developed in much more detail in the discussion of Enunciative Modalities/Subjects (Chapter 4). For the SLU discursive formation, they predictably include governmental institutions such as the Washington State Legislature and the Seattle City Council, as well as real estate developers such as Vulcan, but the archaeological method nevertheless demands branching out to include: media representations, such as the Seattle Times, Washington Free Press, and even a cable-access television program called Network X; studies by a host of consultants, such as Parsons Brinckerhoff (transportation) and Weber/Thompson (architecture and urban planning); other governmental authorities and commissions such as the Seattle 2000 Commission, the Seattle Planning Commission, Seattle Department of Planning and Design, the organization now known as King County Metro, and the Puget Sound Regional Council; and a wide range of community groups, including the Committee for the Seattle Commons, the Cascade Neighborhood Council, and the South Lake Union Planning Organization. For now, it is sufficient to note that these institutions are unique in their capacities to produce the Coordinated City’s discursive objects.

Surfaces of Emergence

Surfaces of emergence are the specific social fields where “individual differences…will be accorded the status” of a particular type of Coordinated City (Foucault 2010, 41). It is, again, necessary to think in terms of a broader discourse of the coordinated city because SLU is only one development project emerging out of a web of concerns surrounding contemporary urbanization. Two observations, one theoretical and one practical, are also worth noting. First, as in Foucault’s archaeology of madness, the surfaces that are described herein are all normative, but whereas he was interested in understanding how individuals and groups were classified and organized, I am focusing on how particular modes of the production of urban space are constituted as good, in a way that is ultimately generalizable beyond the confines of SLU. Second, and in an effort to promote readability, the statements are organized by descending geographical scales, beginning with legislation at the state level – a pattern that will be maintained throughout this chapter.[3] This is not meant to suggest a particular causality – as I argue by way of example through my initial tracking of surface of emergence – but is intended rather to assist the reader in seeing the broader discursive formation, as well as the region thereof that directly involves SLU.

The Washington State Legislature passed the Planning Enabling Act in 1963 to establish the rules for county and regional planning. It begins:

“The purpose and intent of this chapter is to provide the authority for, and the procedures to be followed in, guiding and regulating the physical development of a county or region through correlating both public and private projects and coordinating their execution with respect to all subject matters utilized in developing and servicing land, all to the end of assuring the highest standards of environment for living, and the operation of commerce, industry, agriculture and recreation, and assuring maximum economies and conserving the highest degree of public health, safety, morals and welfare” (RCW 36.70.010).[4]

From this single quotation, four broad social fields that will ultimately run throughout this entire dissertation can be highlighted: the familiar trio of categories of critical urban studies – the relationship between the political dynamics, economic growth, and land development – and well-being or quality of life (recreation, environmental health, public health, safety, morals, and welfare), a category that is somewhat of a misfit in work emerging from the “audit culture” (Rankin 2011, 102) of most critical writing on cities, and therefore a sign pointing toward a potentially valuable line of inquiry.[5]

The Growth Management Act’s Legislative Findings (1990) do not expand beyond these four social fields:

The legislature finds that uncoordinated and unplanned growth, together with a lack of common goals expressing the public’s interest in the conservation and the wise use of our lands, pose a threat to the environment, sustainable economic development, and the health, safety, and high quality of life enjoyed by residents of this state. It is in the public interest that citizens, communities, local governments, and the private sector cooperate and coordinate with one another in comprehensive land use planning. Further, the legislature finds that it is in the public interest that economic development programs be shared with communities experiencing insufficient economic growth (RCW 36.70A.010).

They do, however, transform some of the constituent elements. The GMA deletes the explicit reference to morals and adds: common goals expressing public interest to land use; the adjective “sustainable” to economic development; a new object entitled “quality of life” that we have already invoked above; and a list of social groups (citizens, communities, local government and the private sector) who have a duty to contribute the public interest through coordinated planning efforts. Importantly, one of its central functions is to require more populous and/or faster growing counties and cities to produce integrated comprehensive plans (RCW 36.70A.040).[6] In its discussion of planning goals, the first explicit distinction between urban and suburban land development occurs (RCW 36.70A.020):

  1. Urban growth. Encourage development in urban areas where adequate public facilities and services exist or can be provided in an efficient manner.
  2. Reduce sprawl. Reduce the inappropriate conversion of undeveloped land into sprawling, low-density development.

One might very well begin tracking SLU’s emergence here, when a municipal comprehensive plan became required and the promotion of urban over suburban development became explicit, but the archaeological method suggests otherwise. Together these two legislative documents provide a preliminary sketch of the four surfaces of emergence – land use, political dynamics (which we will eventually call institutional coordination, in order to also address how other groups, such as Vulcan, coordinate their functions), sustainable economic development, and quality of life – of the discursive formation of the Coordinated City, but it is crucial to note that archaeology does not consist of tracking how these commands from above are executed at lower levels – that is, tracking the regional, municipal, and neighborhood effects of this legislature, for example. Instead, the idea is to de-center such a hierarchical and causal analysis, and excavate how concrete relationships are established between these various objects of discourse. Undoubtedly, given the nature of legislation, there is a causal path that could be traced, but it would be to the detriment of the richness that archaeology provides. Therefore, instead of merely tracking legislative decisions chronologically, it is illuminating to show that even in the domain of governmental documents – a domain which archaeology seeks to trouble, along with all other a priori categorizations – objects of this discursive formation emerge at lower levels of government, both in Seattle and across King County, both before these decisions at the state level and afterward. Or, put another way, archaeology serves as a methodical way to track a nonlinear history.

For example, prior to the Planning Enabling Act, and at a scale below that of the State and even the county, the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle (Metro) was established in 1958 as an independent metropolitan corporation to address a variety of “metropolitan ills” resulting from haphazard postwar growth.[7] Its formation required state legislation – The Metro Enabling Act (1957) – which permits a metropolitan corporation to be formed between two or more cities, and can address up to six functions: comprehensive planning, sewage disposal, water supply, public transportation, garbage disposal, and parks and parkways (Washington (State), 1961, 2). Chronologically, then, this legislation – which actually emerged from municipal activism by the Municipal League – predated the state’s own efforts to encourage county and regional planning (Lane 1995). The birth of Metro reinforces the detrimental environmental effects of suburban growth long before the GMA, and adds specificity to the quality of life surface, but it also enfolds more personal quality of life issues, such as the family. For example, following the first defeat to create Metro, a campaign which included a widely circulated photo of five children on the shores of Matthews Beach on a polluted Lake Washington emerged (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1. Campaign photograph supporting the establishment of Metro

At the municipal scale too, we can see how a linear history beginning with the GMA does not really explain the emergence of the coordinated city’s discursive formation very accurately. In 1972, the City Council resolved the following:

“The Mayor and the City of Council of the City of Seattle hereby declare their intent that the City shall have a Comprehensive Plan for its development during the remainder of this century which accords with Seattle’s status as one of the most livable and progressive of the world’s major cities. The plan shall further accord with the aspirations of the citizens of Seattle for a city which is economically sound, which embodies the most positive aspects of urban civilization, and which provides an attractive and healthful environment enhancing the lives of its citizens” (Resolution 23684).

Herein the surface of emergence of well-being is transformed again, ever so slightly, to engage both the “livable and progressive” aspect of the city, as well as the economy. By considering the explicit reference to Seattle and “urban civilization,” we can see that the land use surface, which clearly privileges urban to suburban development in the GMA, was already being emphasized 18 years earlier in municipal statements.

The resulting plan addresses a wide range of issues: community, downtown and major activity centers, economy and economic security, education and communication, environment, government and citizen participation, housing, law and justice, recreation and the arts, social and health services, social justice and human resources, and transportation/utilities/new technologies (Seattle 2000 Commission 1973). Moreover, this document also increases specificity to the political and quality of life surfaces already delineated. The political field, as we have delineated it thus far, has primarily been oriented toward land use, but must now include citizen participation in government.[8] The expansion to the quality of life surface is even more drastic, with the inclusion of housing, recreation, the arts, social and health services, and technology.

Therefore, to make a methodological observation, this quick pass across small segment of the archive suggests that the relationship between descending analytical scale and chronology is anything but fixed. In terms of growth management, this reveals a historical path of municipal activism being taken to the State level to allow the creation of municipal corporations; a State level decision to authorize counties and regions to undertake planning; a municipal decision to undertake their own comprehensive planning; finally, the State requiring that counties and cities of certain characteristics create integrated comprehensive plans. This is not to say that such a presentation of the order of events is anything approaching comprehensive, but rather it is to assert that the archaeological method is well-suited to deal with nonlinear and/or emergent phenomena in the postwar epoch that is emerging as the appropriate time frame to investigate here. Having established four rough surfaces of emergence for the Coordinated City’s discursive formation – land use and character, institutional coordination, sustainable economic development, and quality of life – we can now develop each in turn by moving through a broader range of documents.

Land use and character

It is important to precisely define this initial field to avoid confusion with the overall discursive formation that is emerging, since they are both related to urbanization. This field only includes discussions about how land use categories are assigned. Its normativity distinguishes between organized and disorganized patterns of land development. It also privileges urban development, as noted in the distinction that the GMA makes between urban development and sprawl: “encourage development in urban areas where adequate public facilities and services exist or can be provided in an efficient manner [and] reduce the inappropriate conversion of undeveloped land into sprawling, low-density development” (RCW 36.70A.020). On the other hand, the emergent discursive formation – that of the Coordinated City – is not only about land use but is instead a matter of highlighting how the process of urbanization in general (with SLU as a particular case) is increasingly becoming a process that also includes the coordination in the political/institutional, economic, and quality of life fields.

At the regional scale – which, for out purposes, includes King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish counties, collectively known as the Central Puget Sound Region, and whose regional planning efforts are undertaken by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) – a preference for compact development is explicit: “urban development should be encouraged along lines which will result in compact rather than scattered growth” (PSGC 1962, 7).[9] Implicitly, this orientation is reinforced by other goals: striving to minimize air, water, and soil pollution; minimizing travel distances between concentrations of employment and residential areas; and reducing traffic congestion.

Vision 2020, the region’s “first integrated long-range growth and transportation strategy” (PSRC 2009, 2), builds on the GMA’s planning goals. Importantly, it opens with a pointed critique of the suburban landscape:

“New subdivisions, shopping malls, office campuses and parking lots are consuming land at a fast rate. These sprawling development patters, together with more registered drivers, more cars per registered driver and more miles driven by each driver, are creating traffic jams and air pollution” (Puget Sound Council of Governments 1990, 2).

In a positive movement, its “strategy is to contain urbanization and concentrate new employment into central places, with appropriate urban design characteristics that will foster transit, ridesharing, pedestrian and bicycle travel” (ibid., 7). It is, finally, a document intended to persuade the reader that its vision is indeed praiseworthy, replete with graphs reflecting population growth and land use, as well as photographs and conceptual sketches expressing its orientation visually (Fig. 2.). The updated regional plan, Vision 2040, carries this mission forward by further developing the classificatory system that will be addressed in the discussion of grids of specification below.

Fig. 2. Photograph of present condition, overlaid with renderings of a better future.

At the municipal scale, statuses are assigned to different areas according to the urban village strategy that underpins the Comprehensive Plan. This strategy consists of assigning areas to one of the four categories that “recognize the different roles that different areas will play in the city’s future”: urban centers, manufacturing/industrial centers, hub urban villages, and residential urban villages (Department of Planning and Development 2005, 1.3-1.4). The criteria for establishing these categories are discussed in greater detail in the discussion of grids, but for now the main point is that the intent is to coordinate the growth of any particular area with its present and/or intended character (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3. Urban Villages

The original and updated SLU neighborhood plans (1998, 2007) further subdivide the neighborhood into subareas based on their character, and establish guidelines for directing the future development of each (Fig. 4.). These plans primarily highlight the history of each area (maritime heritage along the Waterfront or a mixture of residential, commercial, and industrial uses in Cascade), the characteristics and uses of the buildings, as well as strategies for supporting the preservation or orderly transformation of each zone. Although the first official neighborhood plan for SLU was adopted in 1998, the Cascade Neighborhood Council (CNC) – a grassroots organization representing Cascade, in the easternmost portion of SLU, since the early 1970s – had already laid out its own ideas about neighborhood development a year earlier, in a document meant to encourage sustainable development.[10] The official plan, on the other hand, addresses a larger area and focuses on preserving neighborhood character (primarily working class housing in eastern portion and light industry, maritime-oriented, and small commercial businesses in the western portion), parks and open space, and transportation (South Lake Union Planning Organization 1998). In the wake of the neighborhood being designated an urban center in the 2005 Comprehensive Plan update, the neighborhood plan had to be transformed to accommodate the biotechnology, global health, and high-technology firms that were being solicited to the neighborhood, as well as the new multifamily forms of housing required to absorb the expected increase in residential population (Department of Planning and Development 2007).

Moreover, this practice of subdividing and organizing the particularities of land use are extended down to the street level, where in SLU, a comprehensive set of criteria designates street character, preferred land uses, an integrated public space network, building setbacks to preserve views and sunlight, and the distribution of towers (Seattle DPD 2010). Individual buildings are also subject this design regime and are encouraged to adopt particular elements of the existing landscape, including materials, detailing, and the grassroots social and environmental sustainability efforts of the Cascade area (artwork, gardens, etc.) (Seattle DPD 2013, 5-6).

Fig. 4. Subareas in the 1998 and 2007 South Lake Union neighborhood plans.

Finally, it is important to emphasize that land use and character discussions do not only emerge in official governmental documents, but also circulate among a wide range of interest groups, as well as in the private sector and the media. It is impossible to do justice to the wide range of relevant discourses here, so we will focus on three: the Seattle Commons initiative, Vulcan’s advertising efforts, and a recent oral history of the Cascade neighborhood.

The idea of the Seattle Commons began with a short column by John Hinterberger – a columnist for the Seattle Times – that argued for major park running from Westlake Center to Lake Union, but was transformed into a vision for “a revitalized 470-acre business and residential neighborhood surrounding an 85-acre park” (Committee for the Seattle Commons 1992, 1) in the heart of SLU. The proponents of the Commons considered the land to be “relatively under-used, available, and affordable,” and wanted to build a park that is Seattle’s version of Central Park or the Boston Common: open meadows, clusters of trees, as well as space for performances and political rallies, surrounded by a diverse neighborhood privileging affordable housing and alternative transportation, modest height increases for buildings, as well design standards for ground floor uses, landscaping, and architectural features (ibid., 2-3). The composition of this vision fluctuated over the years, resulting in a smaller park surrounded by more intense development. In terms of land use and character, opponents to the project frequently note that it primarily consists of transforming active commercial and light industrial land with relatively affordable housing into a park that is a tourist attraction and an under-policed magnet for transients, enveloped in a neighborhood of office towers, condominiums, and luxury retail offerings (Fahrenkrug 1991; Foley 1995; Network X 1995a, 1995b, 1995c; Regier 1995).

That the critics were right about the neighborhood becoming home to office towers, luxury residences, and upscale retail is not the point here. Instead, we are interested in how these groups assign statuses to the spaces at hand. Much like the neighborhood plans, Vulcan, in their early advertising, also attempts to ascribe values to subareas of SLU (Fig. 5), although their five subareas do not correspond to those of the official documents. In this conception, the Waterfront District is defined by peaceful and desirable residential use; Cascade (at the top of the image) is proffered as a diverse mixed-use area that “is and will be equal parts Gore-Tex and garden patches; black labs and amber ale; home to the retired and the just-getting-started” (Vulcan n.d.). The Westlake/Terry District (at the center of the image) is primarily understood as a place for business, life sciences, and the amenities that support such areas – food, coffee, and retail – while the Gateway District is formed by its edge nearest downtown: as the front door to SLU, Vulcan offers it as an “electric” and “cosmopolitan” mixed-use area, drawing comparisons to loft-style residences in New York City. Finally, the 8th Avenue district (at the bottom right of the image) is rendered as the artistic and entrepreneurial portion of the neighborhood, which will be soon be “joined by quiet, tree-lined streets, sidewalk cafes, handsome brownstones with their signature stoops, and Veer Lofts,” which is one of Vulcan’s first residential project in this portion of SLU. (ibid.).

Fig. 5. Vulcan’s version of the five neighborhoods of SLU (video capture).

Finally, the DETOUR: Cascade to South Lake Union project (2012) collects oral histories that primarily focus on what the Cascade neighborhood was, and is especially interesting here because it expresses an alternate view of the more institutional perspectives on land use and character that have already been discussed. In particular, it drastically extends the definition of diversity that Vulcan presents: volunteers from Food Not Bombs who distribute protein-rich vegan food and messages of communal care for open spaces; a resident of the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI)’s Lakeview Apartments, who volunteers at the Cascade People’s Center, explains how her work benefits underprivileged youth; and two artists that operated different art centers that are now sites of an Amazon office building and the mixed-use development at 2200 Westlake reflect on their experiences in the area. Each of the interviewees offer a perspective on the area that presents it as a space of care or creative expression that can not be captured by the zoning designations or advertisements of planners and real estate developers. Whereas Joe Fugere, the owner of Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria in the 2200 Westlake development can make the claim that “Every community has a center of commerce and culture; what I love about South Lake Union is that those groups come together to create energy and life” (Vulcan n.d.), Matthew Richter – the founder of one of the now-defunct art centers, Consolidated Works – can celebrate how “wild-westy” the neighborhood was before Vulcan’s building boom, while his counterpart from the other, Greg Lundgren calls the same era “a brief wonderful firework display” (Detour 2012).

In sum, this particular “field of initial differentiation,” where land use and character are addressed at scales from the regional scale down to the building design elements, represents one of the ways that the discourse of the coordinated city limits its domain. It privileges compact and urban development over suburban sprawl and establishes internal limits and thresholds defining how urbanization is to proceed, but it also proffers a significantly attenuated version of the discourses that are actually circulating in the area.

Institutional Coordination

A second surface of emergence is the political field, which obviously plays a central role in the discussion of modes of urbanization, but nevertheless – and no less obviously – covers a larger area. Here we are especially interested in two aspects: first, the fact that the political field itself is becoming more coordinated and integrated from the state level down to that of the neighborhood; second, the political field’s coordinating function, its push for common goals, and its emphasis on public participation. As we will see, however, this movement is not limited to the political field, but is also manifest in the private sector, specifically in Vulcan’s approach to integrated land development as well as the Seattle Commons effort, which blurs distinctions between the public and private institutional fields altogether. For this reason, the broader term institutional coordination is being used to define this field, with the intention that political coordination is a particular type.

Again, the Planning Enabling Act seeks to guide and regulate development by “correlating both public and private projects and coordinating their execution with respect to all subject matters utilized in developing and servicing land,” (RCW 36.70.010) toward specific ends (what I am calling quality of life). It lays out the rules to establish, structure, and operate a county planning agency and what their comprehensive plans must address. It does not, however, mandate that such plans be created. The GMA, on the other hand, requires that the fastest growing counties and cities produce comprehensive plans, for haphazard growth and the “lack of common goals expressing the public’s interest in the conservation and the wise use of our lands” (RCW 36.70A.010) threatens quality of life across the state. It, however, provides a list of common goals that are intended to guide the development of comprehensive plans.[11] Moreover, its emphasis on coordination results in requirements for: attempting to notify all potentially affected individuals and groups; addressing a common set of elements in each plan[12]; and coordinating each plan with that of the enveloping county or adjacent jurisdiction.

Vision 2020, as the Central Puget Sound Region’s first regional plan, expresses the necessity of coordination and common goals by

“recogniz[ing] that issues of land use and transportation transcend the boundaries and responsibilities of individual jurisdictions and that no single unit of government can plan or implement policies to deal with these issues without affecting other jurisdictions” (PSRC 1990, 3).

The process of honing in on common goals via public participation is an important aspect of this plan, which highlights extensive efforts to involve the public, including regional symposia and workshops, open houses, surveys, community meetings, as well as regular open periods for comment. The Vision 2040 update is even more specific about its outreach and public participation efforts (Fig. 6), highlighting its outreach methods (print and online media), venues for participation (one-on-one communications, large public events, presentations to small groups, a streaming video aired on public television that reached entire communities, slide presentations that summarized lengthy reports, and half-day seminars to discuss technical data), modes of soliciting feedback (email, comment forms, post cards, letters, and flip charts), and the online publication of all materials (issue papers and technical reports, survey results, the environmental documents, draft versions of VISION 2040, comment letters, and summaries of public events and open houses) (PSRC 2009d, 4).

The “common vision” that emerges from this process is “an environmentally friendly growth pattern that will support compact communities where people may both live and work, and will focus new employment and housing in vibrant urban centers” (PRSC 2009e, 1). Specifically, it includes a set of multicounty planning policies that are sorted into six categories: environment, development patterns, housing, economy, transportation, and public services (PSRC 2009f, 30), and which each constituent county uses to guide their own comprehensive plans. Moreover, beyond defining these content areas that must be addressed, it also includes five general policies that address coordination, monitoring, and fiscal opportunities and challenges (ibid., 33). The policies themselves are less important here than the idea that they serve to establish a systematic procedure for all affected jurisdictions to follow.

Fig. 6. Timeline of Vision 2040’s development, highlighting opportunities for public input.

The Seattle 2000 Commission – which was tasked with outlining goals to guide the formation of the municipal comprehensive plan (Resolution 23684) – asserts that its final report (1973, v) is “an unprecedented partnership between citizens and government and long will serve as a definitive model for citizen involvement here and elsewhere.” Its specific criteria for promoting participation will be addressed in the discussion of grids of specification, but here it suffices to note that the Commission develops goals “that would permit local government to meet community and regional needs; reorganize the administration to provide for greater accountability, effectiveness and responsiveness, and guarantee active participation with citizens in decisions which affect their lives” (ibid., 135). Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan (2005, viii) is similarly conceived as a dynamic and flexible document that can respond to the changing conditions on the city “while maintaining a steady aim at its ultimate goals.” By using a set of mechanisms – neighborhood planning, inter-jurisdictional coordination, installing regulations conforming to the plan, monitoring and evaluation, as well as citizen participation – the plan can guide development across the broad range of elements that it addresses.

At an even finer resolution, we find a series of legislative decisions that establishes the Neighborhood Planning and Assistance Program (Resolution 27709) – which created the Office of Neighborhoods[13] as well as multiple support councils – a planning framework to bridge citywide policies with neighborhood planning (Resolution 28195), as well as the framing and adoption of a Comprehensive Plan that includes neighborhood planning (Resolution 28535; Office of Planning and Management 1994). These movements culminate in the establishment of an actual planning program, which provides personnel, training, funding, technical support, administrative resources, conflict mediation, outreach assistance, and monitoring (Resolution 29015).

The orchestration of the neighborhood’s development also emerges in other genres altogether, such as in public relations or advertising discursive objects produced by Vulcan. On its website, Vulcan presents itself as an “integrated team of real estate professionals [offering] a full range of development and portfolio management services from site selection and urban planning to build-to-suit construction, leasing, financing and asset repositioning” (Vulcan, “About Us”). Elsewhere on the site, Vulcan reinforces its integrated approach by including marketing, leasing, market research and appraisal, as well as government affairs and community relations (Vulcan, “Bios”). Moreover, the website highlights Vulcan’s commitment to community leadership, through a wide range of commitments to stewardship including sustainability, infrastructure and parks development, historic preservation, public art, community building, and economic development (Vulcan, “Stewardship”).

This rendering, however, is not the only one that speaks to the degree of institutional coordination fueling SLU’s redevelopment. In particular, the perspective of John Fox, one of the most outspoken critics of the City’s investment in SLU, establishes many connections between the two institutions. The highlights include: the claim that Mayor Nickels established a 20- to 25-person interdepartmental team assigned to work “with Vulcan and other biotech representatives to implement these plans…[and which] has met over 70 times since the Summer of 2002”; allegations that Dr. Paul Sommers’s report (2004) to the city on the expected economic benefits of creating a biotech cluster in SLU amounts to an inside job penned by a consultant who sits on the Economic Development Council of Seattle-King County alongside Amgen, Vulcan, and a wide range of biotech interests; finally, a meticulous tabulation of how much public money is being funneled into the redevelopment via the streetcar, infrastructure improvements, public services, and maintenance and operating expenses – which adds up to about a billion dollars (Seattle Displacement Coalition n.d.). Again, the archaeological method proceeds by bracketing out claims to truth and values, so the issue here is not one of siding with either Vulcan and the City or the Seattle Displacement Coalition, but is to note that all of these statements are circulating simultaneously.

Finally, the Seattle Commons effort is another exercise in coordination and cooperation, between citizens’ groups, real estate developers, design professionals, citizens, and the City itself. Lynne Iglitzin’s (1995) comprehensive fieldwork during this era provides insight into the diversity of actors – both within and outside the Committee for the Seattle Commons – as well as how the Committee itself carried out its work. Broadly the effort consisted of private-sector civic leaders, real estate developers and other entrepreneurs, city planners and bureaucrats, and elected politicians as well as the media (Iglitizin 1995, 626). The Committee itself was led by a board of increasing size – corresponding to the shift in emphasis from just a park to an entire neighborhood with a park at its center – and functioned in “highly pragmatic and task-oriented working groups that included outside experts and professionals,” which addressed technical issues on their own and with the aid of city planners. (ibid., 626). Therefore, while the entire effort was predicated on officially separating the Committee’s work from City Hall, the fact of the matter is that a complex set of concrete and coordinated interactions troubles any clear split between the two groups.

In conclusion, different activities in these institutional fields are classified, related, and reworked to promote what are often taken to be common values through coordination and participation in their own domains as well as in relation to other domains.

Sustainable Economic Development

The Coordinated City also produces discursive objects in the social field of economic development. This does not mean that the discursive formation under investigation completely subsumes the economic field; instead, it draws specific elements into its discursive constellation, giving them specific statuses that are compatible with its other discursive objects.

Both the Planning Enabling Act and GMA specifically address the economy: the former seeks to assure “maximum economies” while the latter seeks to protect “sustainable economic development.” The GMA also provides a planning goal that directly addresses economic development:

“Encourage economic development throughout the state that is consistent with adopted comprehensive plans, promote economic opportunity for all citizens of this state, especially for unemployed and for disadvantaged persons, promote the retention and expansion of existing businesses and recruitment of new businesses, recognize regional differences impacting economic development opportunities, and encourage growth in areas experiencing insufficient economic growth, all within the capacities of the state’s natural resources, public services, and public facilities” (RCW 36.70A.020, Planning Goals).

One way this orientation has played out at the state level has been through the creation of the

Innovation Partnership Zone (IPZ) program in 2007, which requires the Department of Commerce to

“design and implement an innovation partnership zone program through which the state will encourage and support research institutions, workforce training organizations, and globally competitive companies to work cooperatively in close geographic proximity to create commercially viable products and jobs” (RCW 43.330.270).

This program is a response to what is typically called an increasingly “neoliberalizing” economic environment, specifically “increased global competition, structural adjustment, and the recent recession” (Department of Commerce 2011, 3), and as of 2014, 18 such zones have been established across the state (Fig. 7).[14] Each IPZ primarily functions to facilitate communication and interaction between its constituent institutions, but the designation also serves as a branding mechanism to attract other similar or compatible organizations to the zone, and provides limited funding to clusters for capital improvements and job training.[15] Moreover, each zone’s administrator – a representative from “an economic development council, port, workforce development council, city, or county” (RCW 43.330.270) – must interact with the Department of Commerce to share information on its objectives, funding, major activities, partnerships, performance (private sector investment, job growth, licensing and patent issuance), and outcomes related to IPZ itself (ibid.).

While this program clearly privileges the coordination of specific sectors, it also has its shortcomings. A recent study notes that while these types of programs are quite common across the country, they have nevertheless become overly scattered and uncoordinated (Department of Commerce 2011, 17). This seems to be exactly the case in SLU, which was designated the state’s sole Life Sciences IPZ in 2007, but shifted its focus to Global Health before withdrawing completely from the program (Department of Commerce 2014, 1). This however, does not signify a blow against the notion of coordinating between research institutions, training, and product development and delivery, but rather suggests that the IPZ model did not add enough value to the “organic” collaboration in SLU, which benefitted from having the Washington Global Health alliance handle “much of the typical IPZ activity” (Department of Commerce 2012, 46). This situation is, however, an anomaly; the Department of Commerce study highlights many of the successes in other IPZs – Bothell, Grays Harbor, and Walla Walla – while noting barriers to future successes, as well as outlining a program for increased inter-IPZ competition and coordination (Department of Commerce 2011, 17-21).

Fig. 7. Innovation Partnership Zones in Washington.

From its inception as Vision 2020 through its recent update as Vision 2040, the regional strategy has also included an economic prosperity element. The latter explicitly defines a sustainable economy as one “marked by a high quality of life for all people in the region, as well as vibrant communities,” and asserts that “a healthy and diverse economy” is critical to fund public services, arts and cultural institutions, provide for our families and the vulnerable, and to preserve the region’s quality of life” (PSRC 2009b). It also explicitly integrates the Regional Economic Strategy (RES, which it guides) with growth management, transportation, and environmental concerns.[16] The RES will be explored in greater depth below in the discussion of grids, but for now it is worth noting that it has a very straightforward purpose: to assess the “region’s strengths and weaknesses and making plans for leveraging the strengths while shoring up the weaknesses” (Prosperity Partnership 2012, 5). One of the first steps toward realizing this purpose is identifying the region’s industrial clusters, several of which are implicated in SLU: business services, clean technology, information technology, life sciences and global health, and philanthropy. Subsequently, the RES seeks to “boost employment, reduce barriers, improve governmental policy and improve the region’s chances for…a robust economy that works in harmony with the region’s priorities” (ibid., 10).

Similar dynamics occur at the municipal scale. The Seattle 2000 goals for the economy and economic security focus on four central issues: building a stable and diverse local economy; assuring that economic benefits do not outweigh social costs; revising tax and regulatory policies “to control the type and quality of economic growth in Seattle”; and providing employment opportunities for all (Seattle 2000 Commission 1973, 55). More recently, Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan (2005) also addresses economic opportunity and security as one of its core values. Much like the RES, the plan asserts that “a strong economy is fundamental to maintaining a quality of life in Seattle in which individuals may meet their basic needs for food and shelter, health care and education” (Department of Planning and Development 2005, vi). Consequently, goals pertaining to economic development appear in each element of the plan,[18] while economic development also has its own element. Broadly, the plan supports land use and transportation development that encourages efficient land use and mobility; strives to provide a range of housing opportunities balancing diversity and economic power; directs investment toward capital facilities and utilities that promote economic development; supports educational and cultural resources to create and retain a productive work force, while attracting new workers and businesses; and stresses that the natural environment is critical for economic development and competitive advantage. The plan’s economic development element essentially gathers and focuses these goals, providing a general discussion and strategies relating to urban villages, specific sectors, labor force development, Seattle’s business climate, and supporting start-ups and growth. The specifics of these strategies will be discussed below, but it is important to reinforce that the plan is envisioned as

“promot[ing] a sound economy through planning for future growth in ways that maintain the city’s high quality of life by directing facilities and services to areas that support jobs and by identifying and encouraging economic sectors that offer the best opportunities for new job creation and future economic growth” (ibid., 7.3).

Two city council resolutions explicitly address SLU’s role in contributing to the post dot-com bust reset of the local economy. First, the council notes that “the City of Seattle has significant opportunities in underdeveloped or underutilized areas of the city, such as South Lake Union, South Downtown, Southeast Seattle and the University District” (Resolution 30542). SLU is the only neighborhood mentioned as being part of a particular strategy for recovery, and it appears as the local manifestation of the “regional commitment to grow and expand the bio-medical and bio-information sectors” (ibid.). The second resolution

“expresses the City’s commitment to supporting the anticipated economic activity in SLU, and affirm[s] the City of Seattle’s commitment to making the South Lake Union area the region’s most competitive location for biotech research and manufacturing, clean energy, advanced energy technology research, manufacturing and distribution, other high-tech research and manufacturing, and other innovative entrepreneurial high-tech” (Resolution 30610).

South Lake Union’s original neighborhood plans do not contain sections that target economic development. The CNC’s plan proffers five goals – strengthen community, use energy efficiently, conserve materials, protect waterflows, and enhance the natural environment – and it only mentions the economy briefly (and modestly) under the first of these. The local economy guideline advocates for local businesses and encourages them to share resources, reduce waste, and utilize the local community for the benefit thereof (Cascade Neighborhood Council 1997, 10). The South Lake Union Neighborhood Plan, however, only focuses on neighborhood character, parks and open space, and transportation (SLUPO 1998, 4). Yet the version of it included in the 2005 comprehensive plan echoes the city council’s aforementioned commitments and sets a goal to create “a neighborhood that serves as a regional center for innovative organizations and that supports a diverse and vibrant job base” (Department of Planning and Development 2005, 8.158). Moreover, the updated neighborhood plan (2007) is organized around these goals; its specific strategies will be addressed in the discussion of grids below.

The topic of economic development is, however, almost completely absent from urban planning documents. The UDF (2010, 2) mentions that SLU has the potential “to grow an innovative local economy in addition” to becoming a “livable, vibrant urban neighborhood” but primarily focuses on design strategies to promote the latter. The Director’s Report (2013, 29) on the rezone has a similar approach, arguing that a rezone is necessary to ensure that SLU “continues to develop as an Urban Center and a dynamic hub of economic development for the city and region,” but also situates this goal alongside providing a “more diverse mix of housing and employment…and encourage[ing] a safe and active pedestrian environment.” Finally, the design guidelines only invoke economic activity in relation to creating a welcoming environment that stimulates social and economic exchange.

Economic development is also a central issue in the Seattle Commons documentation, which was originally conceived “a revitalized 470-acre business and residential neighborhood surrounding an 85-acre park” (Committee for the Seattle Commons, 1992). The Seattle Commons Fiscal Impact Analysis (1994, 1) notes that the project’s broad range of coordinated initiatives “are expected to spur significant real-estate development and result in an increased number of jobs and residences in the city” – 22,000 jobs and 8,000 new households (Seattle Planning Department 1994, II-3) – and sets out to evaluate the increased tax revenues and expenses.[19] Based on “dozens of assumptions” regarding markets for housing, office space, bio/high-tech, (destination and neighborhood) retail, and hotels, the report concludes that $275 million of new revenue would make its way into the city’s coffers.[20] The report also sketches out the economic benefits to the state of Washington, King County, and Port of Seattle, but bookmarks a detailed analysis for later. In parallel, the council endorsed the Committee’s general concept for revitalization of SLU and committed public investment “to promote economic development consistent with the City’s environmental social values” (Resolution 28804).

Statements concerning economic development via infrastructure improvements also appear in myriad locations. In the era when the Seattle Streetcar was being discussed, the case was often being made that such systems contribute significantly to neighborhood economic development (Parsons Brinckerhoff 2004, 2; Build the Streetcar Coalition n.d.), particularly when the vision for SLU was envisioned as a biotech hub housing 20,0000 jobs and a growing residential area (Young and McComber 2003a). This reinforces the city council’s previous commitment to making the neighborhood the most competitive place in the region for this type of work. Moreover, the council specifically strives to evaluate the streetcar’s contribution by seeking to “[i]dentify potential economic development opportunities and impacts for each project with specific examples of how development of a streetcar might affect future economic development” (Resolution 30652, Attachment 1), while SLU business leaders argue in print that the streetcar can help “get people working and businesses generating tax dollars” – in fact, some go as far as to write, “We’re so sure of this we’re willing to spend our own money to see it happen” (Kessler and Lambert 2004).

Finally, Vulcan explicitly notes how SLU’s redevelopment “has leveraged significant investment from both private and public sources. $4 billion in investments has produced $156 million in tax revenue between 2001 and 2011; 10,000 new permanent jobs and 1,000 “family wage construction jobs annually”; and 305% population growth between 1990 and 2010 (Vulcan, “Economic Development”). These numbers in themselves are significant, but turning to several studies that estimated potential economic impacts before construction began, and checked the estimates against actual construction and tax revenues illuminates the extent of present coordination. First, Sommers’s report (2004) divides SLU’s development into two phases: Phase I consists of the planned projects through 2007, while Phase II is the difference between the development capacity of the neighborhood – as specified by Heartland (2002) – and the projects in Phase I, during the period from 2008 to 2025. Assuming that 10,000 total residential units will be built and a commercial blend of 35% biotechnology research and development, 55% office and 10% retail, Sommers (1994, 12) estimates direct tax revenues based on property, sales, utility, and business and occupancy taxes (B&O)[21] to be between $104 and $154 million between 2005 and 2025.

Fig. 8. Actual vs. projected construction types in and tax revenues from SLU

(Mann, 2011, 10, 12).

Mann’s updated report (2011) compares the Phase I development and the first three years of Phase II to these projections (Fig. 8), noting many of the notable changes in the area, such as Amazon’s entry into the neighborhood. In terms of economic coordination, the fact that actual revenues exceeded the best case scenario from Sommers’s report by $5.5 million (19%) is less interesting than the cross-checking projected and actual performance. Again, my point is not that this particular practice is necessarily new, but that as part of a larger ensemble – that is, alongside coordinated land use planning, institutional and political relationships, and quality of life concerns (as we will see in the next section) – this emerging mode of urbanization, of which SLU represents one particular instance, is heavily reliant on creative coordination.

Quality of Life

As in the previous three surfaces, this final section will trace how particular differences in the qualitative characteristics of the environment are assigned different “quality of life” statuses.[22] Returning to the same set of documents in roughly the same order will illuminate how these assignations occur in parallel with the coordination of land use and character, the institutional field, and economic development.

Revisiting to the Planning Enabling Act provides orientation, for it is committed

“to the end of assuring the highest standards of environment for living, and the operation of commerce, industry, agriculture and recreation, and assuring maximum economies and conserving the highest degree of public health, safety, morals and welfare” (RCW 36.70.010).

For the purposes of this archaeology, then, an environment that conserves public health, safety, morals, and welfare to the “highest degree” can be taken as one expressing our provisional definition of the phrase “quality of life.” The GMA’s planning goals explicitly elaborate on the environmental aspect of this phrase by including “air and water quality, and the availability of water” as constituent elements of “the state’s high quality of life,” but we will also include public health, safety, morals, and welfare in our definition (36.70A.020).

The successful birth of Metro was also midwifed by a strong focus on the detrimental environmental effects of postwar suburbanization. In particular, “sewage and sewage effluent were turning Lake Washington into a well-fertilized garden of algae which was rapidly destroying the Lake’s recreational values. Important fisheries resources were threatened. Growth was being stunted.” (Washington (State) 1961, 2). The media coverage circulating around the time of vote to establish Metro, as internally variegated as it is, nevertheless focuses on quality of life issues: a limnologist identifies the algae as a species that often appears in lakes as they begin to die; engineers affirm an academic study which located meningitis- and polio-causing bacteria in the water; a campaign photograph shows five children at a contaminated beach stirs emotions; a lawyer from neighboring Renton, who opposes Metro’s formation, eats some of the algae during a televised debate to show that it is harmless (Lane 1995, 13-15).

At the regional level, Vision 2020 highlights the paradoxical relationship between economic prosperity, and the subsequent lifestyle choices:

“single-family homes on spacious lots, the private auto as the preferred method of travel, decentralized work places surrounded by free parking and traditional preference for local governmental control. Collectively these individual choices tend to undermine the foundations of the quality of life that Puget Sounders so ardently state they want to preserve (Puget Sound Regional Council of Governments 1990, 3).

By the time the environmental dimensions of Vision 2040 were being scoped, these specific issues same issues had grown to include organic agriculture, sustainable construction, and incorporating the promotion of active living into the overall vision (Puget Sound Regional Council 2009, 12). Yet, while it is clear that prosperity is understood to have contributed to the decrease in quality of life, Vision 2040 also reinforces the positive link between the two:

“as a region we cannot achieve our social and environmental goals without economic prosperity and that the achievement of economic prosperity is strongly related to social well-being and environmental quality. VISION 2040 commits us to using our resources in thoughtful ways that do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs” (Puget Sound Regional Council n.d., 1).

The Seattle 2000 goals are also oriented toward cultivating an even more broadly conceived notion of quality of life: affirming difference, livable population density, compatible institutions, self-determination, economic development, justice, and tolerance; building a thriving, diverse, and comfortable downtown; attaining economic stability, supporting small business, eliminating discrimination in employment, and optimizing government to support these endeavors, etc. Its land use goals[23] are very similar to those proffered two decades later in the GMA and Vision 2020, as are ones the municipal Comprehensive Plan echoes and elaborates them in an Urban Village strategy that is based on four “core values”: community, environmental stewardship, economic opportunity and security, and social equity.[24]

The CNC’s neighborhood plan, which is intended to be a non-binding supplement to the City’s existing development guidelines, lists five specific goals for improving the quality of life that will be highlighted in the discussion of grids (Cascade Neighborhood Council 1997), while the first adopted neighborhood plan seeks to “perpetuate the health and vitality of [the] diverse neighborhood” (South Lake Union Planning Organization 1998, 4) through a set of strategies to preserve the “multifaceted” and “historic” neighborhood character, produce more recreational open space, and reduce traffic congestion through transportation improvements. The updated neighborhood plan adds goals focused on housing and sustainable development (Department of Planning and Development 2007, 4).

The Urban Design Framework references neighborhood planning’s vision of SLU “as a thriving, sustainable, and diverse urban center,” (Seattle DPD 2010, 2) and proceeds according to principles which include: integrating the neighborhood with adjacent neighborhoods; creating an appropriate urban form with network of great streets and a diverse system of open spaces and community services; and providing opportunities for family-friendly and affordable housing. Some of the particular design interventions to support these principles will be discussed below, but the key point here is expressed by the DPD’s support of rezone legislation “that include increases in height and floor area as an incentive to provide important neighborhood amenities to ensure that as growth continues, it contributes to livability and sustainability” (Seattle Department of Planning and Development 2013a, 2).

The design guidelines strive to foster “design excellence,” which is the ability for buildings to “fit seamlessly” into the existing built environment, remain functional by using appropriate materials, techniques, maintenance, and energy choices, and contribute to the public realm (Department of Planning and Development 2013b, iii-v). Additionally, the guidelines encourage design that expresses elements of Seattle’s natural setting, as well as the unique character of the site’s surrounding neighborhood. Proposed projects in SLU meet these requirements by responding to existing neighborhood amenities (Denny Park and the rows of often-mentioned Sweet gum trees along 8th Avenue to the north, Cascade Playfield, Lake Union Park, and views of the Space Needle and downtown), natural and earth-toned materials, and a meticulously designed pedestrian-oriented environment. In some cases, historic brick buildings are integrated into the new projects, as in the case of the Troy Laundry, the Supply Laundry Building (Fig. 9), and the Van Vorst Building.

Fig. 9. The Supply Laundry Building forms part of Vulcan’s Stack House Development.

Vulcan’s website is a treasure trove of statements on quality of life, from its own self-promotion, to press releases and news headlines. In marketing its variegated stewardship, Vulcan cites its commitment to green building, infrastructure improvements, open space, historic preservation, public art, and building community. The earliest press releases focus on the “neighborhood’s emergence as a thriving life sciences research center” (Vulcan 2004), highlighting the new research facilities and their contributions to the revivification of the neighborhood, and are followed by news of new residential, hospitality, and service offerings, as well as a handful of industry awards, and new tenants (PATH, Amazon).

Finally, much more media coverage of quality of life issues is available than it was in the other surfaces of emergence, which were primarily constituted by governmental documents. Of particular interest due to its engagement with quality of life, not to mention its real effect on the history of SLU, is John Hinterbeger’s series of columns for the Seattle Times that jumpstarted the Seattle Commons effort. They recount a conversation about “extracting the city of Seattle from its present architectural hand basket to hell,” (Hinterberger 1989a) and proffer a wide range interventions varying in practicality.[25] Even the published criticisms of Hinterberger’s proposals invoke a quality of life argument. One reads: “When Seattle can boast of the finest public school system in the nation, the lowest crime rate, and not one citizen of Seattle sleeping on the street or in a shelter, we’ll talk. But not until this is a city that deserves a ‘great park’” (Hinterberger 1991d). Hinterberger affirms this critic’s words, and uses them to fuel his argument that Seattle “need[s] a downtown that is a real downtown” (Hinterberger 1991b) and that “we have to do all those things if this city is not going to wither away and become just another desolate, empty town from which to escape every night at 5 p.m.” (Hinterberger 1991d).

More recently, quality of life concerns have emerged in the media surrounding infrastructure development. Regarding the Seattle Streetcar, advocates for its construction note its reliable schedule and ease of use, attractiveness to those who would not typically use buses, reduction of traffic and support of an environmentally friendly pedestrian neighborhood, improvement of connections to regional transit, decrease in air and noise pollution, and spurring of development in terms of professional jobs, housing, and neighborhood retail (Build the Streetcar Coalition; Young and McComber 2003b; Jenniges 2003c; Kessler and Lambert 2004; Siegel 2007). Moreover, these documents are often accompanied by renderings and/or photography of active street scenes (Built the Streetcar Coalition – Let’s Connect n.d.) and “sidewalk cafes, refurbished storefronts, tree-lined streets, and shiny new buildings” (Jenniges 2003c). Conversely, critics argue that the Local Improvement District tax which would fund about half of the streetcar’s construction could drive small businesses away, take away valuable parking, and adversely affect traffic (Young and McComber 2003a, 2003b; Jenniges 2003a).

To sum up, the complex social field wherein quality of life is discussed is clearly subject to absorption into the discourse of the Coordinated City, whether it appears in government legislation, planning documents, reports, media coverage, public relations, or civic debates.

Grids of Specification

Finally, we must turn to the grids of specification, which are the systems governing how different discursive objects are “divided, contrasted, related, regrouped, classified, [and] derived from one another” (Foucault 2010, 42), only to be brought together in particular ensembles corresponding to unique instantiations of the Coordinated City, such as SLU. They can be understood as the criteria that constitute the plane of rationality that cuts through various social fields, and which determine the statuses that are assigned. Put another way, grids of specification do not “belong” to surfaces of emergence; rather, they are the rational systems that overlay concrete social differences and make discursive objects emerge.

The first grids of specification involve distinguishing between different types of central places for the purpose of regional planning. Critically, they are not intended to limit regional growth, but are rather a system of management intended to encourage growth while preserving natural resources and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. While Vision 2020 establishes an important set of grids involving residential and employment densities, zoning schemes and housing typologies, and characteristics of transit systems, the Vision 2040 update drastically refines the set of grids through a set of 10 issue papers intended to explore the public concerns from the preliminary scoping process, 8 of which are directly related to SLU: health, growth targets, housing, environment, social and environmental justice, demographics, economics, and transportation (Puget Sound Regional Council 2009d, 14-15).[26] By simplifying a lot, the grids can be reduced to: the human body’s biological characteristics, socio-economic status, and distribution (blood-pressure, weight, race, age, income, religion, sexual orientation, residential and employment density, graduation rates); air and water quality and characteristics (levels of gaseous pollutants, size and density of airborne particulate matter, surface permeability, stormwater runoff flows and concentrations of nutrients/pollutants, average sea level and arctic sea ice thickness); terrestrial habitat characteristics (biodiversity and habitat quantity, quality, and continuity; surface temperature); built environment characteristics (sidewalk and bike lane infrastructure; housing age, density, type, and cost; vehicle miles travelled per day, number of trips, delays, traffic volumes and speeds, transit hours and ridership, water supply and sewer capacity); and political and economic abstractions (zoning and permitting, economic forecasts, commercial/industrial capacity). Using these grids, it reduces the number of original growth categories[27] and assigns them, in some cases, to specific neighborhoods in larger cities such as Seattle, where SLU is one of one six.[28]

Many of these grids also apply at the municipal scale, but they are nevertheless further refined to address specific issues. Both the Seattle 2000 Commission’s goals (1973) and the current Comprehensive Plan (2005) makes the following additions: bodies’ creativity, emotional needs, mobility, fluency in English, resiliency, responsibility, and senses of justice and care are invoked; water and air quality are further specified by noting the strain on the municipal combined sewer system, as well striving to reduce as building energy use and methane emissions from landfills; terrestrial habit is elaborated to include tree inventory and distribution, plant origin, and heavy metal/petroleum levels in soil. Significant elaborations are made to the built environment grid, including: intensity and diversity of use; residential privacy; building scale, orientation, and siting; degree of automobile or pedestrian orientation; design, scale, and programming of transportation facilities; number, size, function, capacity and distribution of capital facilities; the aesthetics and cultural symbolism of architecture and urban design; levels of noise and visual pollution. The political and economic abstraction grid includes the development of incentive zoning, housing programs, design criteria and building codes; reformed personal income, corporate, and property taxes; cost-benefit-analyses, forecasting capacities and trends; participatory and decentralized planning; regularly revised criminal codes focusing on rehabilitation rather than revenge; as well a broad range of insurance and licensing schemes. Finally, a new grid is added that involves infrastructural services, specifically the affordability, quality, reliability, and accessibility to water, sewer, electricity, and telecommunication networks.

The neighborhood planning initiative continues this process of refinement by establishing principles and a structure for participation wherein residents of the urban centers and hub urban villages can envision how they want their neighborhood to develop. The principles intended to guide this process include are divided between the City’s responsibilities and those of the residents participating in the planning focus on clear lines of communication about official goals and procedures, following established procedures, sharing information, distributing sufficient resources and using them wisely, and mutual respect (Resolution ).[31]

SLU’s neighborhood plans (Cascade Neighborhood Council 1997; South Lake Union Planning Organization 1998; Seattle Department of Planning and Development 2007) use this structure to further develop the grids: human bodies that work in innovative and/or sustainable industries and engage in self-policing behavior take precedence.[32] The built environment grids become much more specific, outlining material characteristics, compositions, and colors; buildings’ types of shading, floor-to-floor heights, and energy sources; plant transpiration rates; methods of waste disposal and flow rates in combined sewers; and street connectivity across major thoroughfares. The political and economic abstractions are expanded to include floor-to-area ratios (FAR), immanent district classifications based on dominant land uses, criteria for grants funding accessibility and seismic safety upgrades, as well as incentive programs for cultivating arts and affordable housing. Finally, infrastructure is addressed by referencing new schemes for energy production and distribution, including district energy and cogeneration facilities.[33]

This ever-increasing resolution is also manifest in other urban planning and design documents pertaining to the area’s rezone in 2013. The air and water quality grid is further refined to consider airflow characteristics around buildings (wake zones and effects, shear layers, turbulence) as well as water turbidity, but the primary elaborations correspond to the built environment’s characteristics, including: minimizing amount of shadows and glare; specifying tower spacing and podium design (materials, level of transparency, etc.); tree and landscaping size, color, hardiness, and texture; and pedestrian environment characteristics (paving texture and layout, height of light fixtures, curb layouts, and street furniture).

This built environment grid is further expanded by the fact that all multifamily and commercial projects in Seattle are required to undergo a design review, part of which involves a public presentation to a Design Review Board. These presentations are created by architects and designers working in response to an appropriate set of design guidelines,[34] and consist of design narratives, legal descriptions, zoning analyses, sketches, photographs, and renderings (Fig. 10). They often include a narrative description of principles informing the vision of the project; a context analysis of the surrounding area (zoning, land use, traffic, existing and proposed building types, photographs of the existing streetscape); existing site conditions (surveys including topographical analyses, photographs from multiple vantage points, analyses of access points, tree and existing building inventories, as well as solar analyses); site plans and sections showing existing and planned landscaping; a description of which design guidelines apply and how they are addressed; three design options (one denoted as preferred) which include floor plans, multiple renderings of the building in context, sections, solar analyses, and lists of pros and cons of each alternative; landscaping, lighting, and streetscape details; photographs of materials and plants; finally, specific requests for departures from the prescriptive Land Use Code.

Fig. 10. Vulcan’s preferred ground level development configuration for Block 48

(current site of the South Lake Union Discovery Center)


Identifying the authorities of delimitation, the surfaces of emergence, and the grids of specification forms the first element of Foucauldian archaeology, but it does not suffice to delineate a discursive formation in its entirety. Tracing the SLU discourses as a unique region of Coordinated City’s discourse only demonstrates how individual objects and practices in the world are assigned statuses by particular agents through various forms of knowledge (grids). This is an important first step because it emphasizes the difference between the discursive realm and the material world without merely treating the former as signs referring to latter. Instead, it highlights the fact that specific practices create specific discourses. In this chapter, we saw governmental officials, developers, designers, and artists – among others – assigning various statuses and values to a wide variety of spaces and processes across multiple scales, by invoking systems ranging from the biological and socio-economic status of bodies to surface permeability and levels of airborne toxins. If the goal is to account for the production of a particular type of urban space, then these practices form a crucial element of such activity. Yet, by only looking at the discourses themselves, we are only capturing one portion of that process. To complement this research, we must turn our focus to other aspects of the practical construction of these discourses, namely who is undertaking the production and in relation to which other particular practices, both synchronically and diachronically. These two aspects are considered in the next chapter.

[1] Planes of content will be discussed in Chapter X.

[2] Enunciative modalities/subjects and Concepts are discussed in Chapter 4, while Strategies are addressed in Chapter 5.

[3] Although I am using the word “scale” in the everyday sense of the word, I am well aware that it is a concept with fluctuating and contested definitions in the discipline of the geography. While I agree with RG Smith (2003, 35) that scales are “intuitive fictions,” it is nevertheless a pragmatic fiction. If pushed by a geographer for a definition of how I understand this pragmatic fiction, I would side with Neil Smith’s assertion that they are “platforms for specific kinds of social activity,” and endorse Neil Brenner’s (2005, 9) definition of scale as “a ‘vertical’ differentiation in which social relations are embedded within a hierarchical scaffolding of nested territorial units stretching from the global, the supra- national, and the national downwards to the regional, the metropolitan, the urban, the local, and the body.”

[4] This text was initially adopted in 1959 as Chapter 201 of the RCW (County and Regional Planning), but it was shifted into its current location when Title 36 was created in 1963.

[5] This particular confluence seems natural when thinking about urbanization, but the current scholarship in critical urban theory and urban planning does not have much overlap. Among other things, this dissertation is an attempt to step back from these disciplinary silos and address how such issues interact with one another.

[6] King County had already produced two comprehensive plans (1964, 1985) and Seattle had initiated a Comprehensive Policy Plan in the early 1970s, which was adopted piecemeal through the 1980s, culminating (for our purposes) in a Land Use and Transportation Plan that was adopted in 1985 (Resolution 27281).

[7] An earlier attempt by the Municipal League and the League of Women voters – to of the major actors behind the formation of Metro – to revise the King County charter to address these issues was defeated by voters in 1952 (Washington (State), 1961, 1).

[8] The GMA also includes citizen participation and coordination as one of its planning goals: “Encourage the involvement of citizens in the planning process and ensure coordination between communities and jurisdictions to reconcile conflicts” (RCW 36.70A.020).

[9] This organization has had a variety of names over the years: Puget Sound Regional Planning Conference, Puget Sound Governmental Conference (PSGC), Puget Sound Council of Governments (PSCOG), then finally Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), when it was established as the official regional planning association – meaning it was eligible to receive federal and state funding – as part of the GMA (Puget Sound Regional Council 2009; RCW 36.70.060).

[10] The CNC’s plan aimed to strengthen community, use energy efficiently, conserve materials, protect waterflows, and enhance the natural environment (CNC 1997)

[11] These goals will be addressed below in the discussion of grids of specification: Encourage urban growth; Reduce Sprawl; Encourage efficient multimodal transportation systems; Promote a variety of housing options and encourage preservation of existing stock; Encourage a wide range of appropriate economic development schemes; Protect property rights; Process state and local permit requests efficiently; Maintain and enhance natural resource-based industries; Retain open space, enhance recreation opportunities, and protect wildlife (RCW 36.70A.020).

[12] It originally required elements for: Land use, Housing, Capital Facilities, Utilities, Transportation, and Economic development. Rural land (where applicable) and Open Space elements were subsequently added. Moreover, larger cities, such as Seattle, are allowed to create their own elements (RCW 36.70A.070). Seattle exercised this option and included Housing and Human Development elements in its first comprehensive plan (Office of Management and Planning 1994). Its second comprehensive plan also added Urban Village, Cultural Resources, and Environment elements (Department of Planning and Development 2005), while its third plan will add Container Port (now required) and Urban Design elements (Department of Planning and Development n.d.).

[13] As Diers (2004, 27-30) recounts, Mayor Charles Royer appointed him the first director in 1988, a position which he held until Mayor-elect Greg Nickels fired him in 2001. During his tenure, and under the direction of Mayor Norm Rice, the Office became the Department of Neighborhoods by consolidating the Neighborhood Service Centers, Citizens Service Bureau, the Office of Urban Conservation, the P-patch Program, and the Neighborhood Planning Office.

[14] These sectors include: Aerospace, Biomedical Manufacturing, Clean Information Technology and Data Center Technologies, Clean Transportation, Energy Storage, Health Care and Energy Research, Interactive Media and Digital Arts, Marine and Tidal Energy, Renewable Energy Technologies, Sustainable Industry and Industrial Redevelopment, Urban/Stormwater Management, and Viticulture, Alternative Energy and Water Management (Choose Washington n.d.).

[15] Since the program’s inception, $20 million has been disbursed to IPZs across the state (Department of Commerce 2013).

[16] It is important to emphasize here that an analysis grounded in majoritarian Marxism would read this as another example of economic determinism, while the approach being undertaken here is one highlighting this complexity, variegation, and differential intensities between each constituent element.

[17] An executive statement by the mayor on a draft of these policies emphasizes this balancing act: “These programs must be designed to encourage those industries that will utilize our unique resources, including our valuable human resources, without encroaching on our beautiful natural settings” (Office of Executive Policy 1973, 17).

[18] See note 12 above for a list of the Comprehensive Plan’s elements.

[19] This analysis was performed on The Commons Draft 2 Plan, which has a smaller park (74 acres) than the initial 1992 Plan.

[20] The sources of revenue include property tax, B&O tax, utility tax, real estate excise tax, and sales tax; projected expenses include general government, police and municipal court, the fire department, library, human services, and the park along with its maintenance and operation (Committee for the Seattle Commons 1994, 24-5).

[21] The exemption from the B&O tax for high-technology endeavors, including advanced computing, advanced materials, biotechnology, electronic device technology, and environmental technology, also attests to the concerted statewide effort to cultivate economic activity in these particular fields (RCW 82.63). The 1994 legislation creating the exemption asserts that “high-technology businesses are a vital and growing source of high-wage, high-skilled jobs in this state, and that the high-technology sector is a key component of the state’s effort to encourage economic diversification,” but notes the B&O tax – a tax on total receipts – prohibits innovative industries from being able to pay for the high costs associated with their own research and development. (RCW 83.63.05).

[22] The particular systems used to make these differentiations will be discussed in the section on grids of specification.

[23] The Seattle 2000 Commission asserts that the City should “establish a comprehensive master plan for orderly and purposeful development,” which includes avenues for citizen participation, encouragement for “communities where people can live, work, and play,” reduced reliance on automobiles, conservation of natural resources, and reduced sprawl” (1973, 116-7).

[24] The full list of values from the Comprehensive Plan Framework Policies includes: continuity, diversity, economic security, education, environmental quality, freedom, good government, opportunity, physical security, and progress (Resolution 28962).

[25] They include: a pedestrian promenade from Westlake to Lake Union; a lidded freeway (open on the western side to preserve the view) covered with a natural habitat for mountain goats, deer, and bears; “a mile-long, world-class Disney-style amusement park” (ibid.) on a waterfront sans the Alaskan Way Viaduct; streets closed to automobile traffic, and so on.

[26] Subregional centers and rural areas are the two issues that do not apply to SLU.

[27] Vision 2020 delineates six such categories: the Regional Center (Seattle), Metropolitan Centers (Bellevue, Bremerton, Everett, Renton and Tacoma ), Subregional Centers, Activity Clusters, Pedestrian Pockets, and Small Towns (Puget Sound Council of Governments 1990, 20-25).

[28] The other five growth centers in Seattle are Downtown, First Hill/Capitol Hill, Uptown Queen Anne, University Community, and Northgate.

[31] An entire neighborhood planning toolkit exists and consists of 62 tools to help neighborhood planners complete their task. Looking at these in detail is beyond the scope of work here, but even a cursory glance shows that an extensive effort was underway (cf. Washington State Department of Community Development 1991).

[32] The 2007 Neighborhood Plan explicitly notes this is a contentious issue (Department of Planning and Development 2007, 33).

[33] Cogeneration facilities create both electricity and heat that can be harnessed (for heating a building or domestic hot water).

[34] There is no required number of guidelines that must be met. Instead, involved parties are encouraged to “use their judgment and discretion in determining which approaches and strategies are particularly applicable to a given project” (DPD 2013b, v).

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