"Smart Growth" and "New Urbanism" Compared with "Large Lot Zoning" (Tom Lane) [ Home Page – Click Here]

(May 17, 2017) – Traditional "Large Lot Zoning" is "Greener" than "Smart Growth" within Urban Growth Boundaries . . . Copyright 2009 – 2017 . . . Tom Lane . . . Photographing California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.

(September 29, 2011) Stop Eminent Domain in Black Diamond … and Save Maple Valley and Enumclaw …

(September 29, 2011)


visit http://saveblackdiamond.net to SAVE BLACK DIAMOND

Official Save Black Diamond dot Net Web Site – 

Please visit this site, and help elect candidates this November in Black Diamond who will protect the City from Eminent Domain from the Black Diamond City Council, such as Tammy L. Boxx-Deady:

Click here:  http://saveblackdiamond.net

One Hour in Black Diamond – A Great Community

Recently before dusk, I had just one hour to drive through the historic and delightful coal mining town of Black Diamond, Wa. in Southeast King County south of Maple Valley, and north of Enumclaw, on SR-169.

With only 4200 people, I think this is the smallest city on my web site that faces a smart growth controversy (Normandy Park is about 6,000).  In fact, the town is very isolated and laid back, and I felt “uncomfortable” taking photos of their quaint town and historic buildings.  Indeed, I’ve never been honked at for being a writer and photographer more times than in Black Diamond, but that’s a good thing since smaller cities keep an eye on strangers, and have a true sense of community.

I would love to go back and explore the area again, especially trails in the gorgeous Green River Gorge and Flaming Geyser State Park, among many others.  It’s a very peaceful community, and it’s no place for high density smart growth with “towering townhomes.”

Black Diamond historic small businesses including the Black Diamond Bakery, with Mt. Rainier at sunset.

Black Diamond’s Tyrannical Far Left City Council Imposes Smart Growth on the Citizens

Despite opposition from conservative residents, Black Diamond’s far left, radical City Council has approved a massive smart growth development, covering thousands of acres, in several parcels.  This will involve eminent domain of private property, including gorgeous pastureland, as you can see at the photos below. The developer is the infamous Yarrow Bay Holdings, based in Kirkland, Washington.  They describe (and also lie) about their development, here, when they claim that it is “rural by design. They are plagiarizing this term from Randall Arendt, author of a book by the same title.

Again, as with Normandy Park, I am not sure how far left, pro-smart growth liberals get elected by conservatives.  However, I would not be surprised if they are paid to run for office in the first place, by one of the agencies that is for smart growth, such as the Puget Sound Regional Council, Sound Transit, or the King County Council.  Yes, that’s a conspiracy theory, but after studying growth management policy in this area for just over a year, I can assure you that even local politicians share this view.

Unfortunately, as we’ve also seen in Normandy Park, Bellevue, and Richmond Beach, the radical left members of the Puget Sound Regional Council and their private developers  make deals seem to be making deals behind the  scenes with local city councils. While I’m not an expert on Black Diamond’s situation, from reading various blogs, it’s clear that the residents are strongly opposed to smart growth, yet the City Council hasn’t been listening.

Here is the quaint atmosphere that Black Diamond residents prefer. Their City Councilor ignores them. Imagine thousands of cars on this historic coal mining street every day. That would be analogous to former mining towns corrupted with smart growth and towering condos, such as Durango, CO.

Yarrow Bay Development Is Paying Someone – Randall Arendt,

who Suddenly Jumps from the Green Side to the Smart Growth Side

Randall Arendt is the noted founder of the “conservation subdivisions” movement (see a link to his web side on the sidebar, or click here). I respect his work, since it features designating a certain part of every development as open space, hence the word “conservation subdivision.” This very green approach to land use maintains natural vegetation and large trees, and is totally different from “smart growth” and “new urbanism,” that emphasize clearcutting all vegetation before development, and profiting from the timber sales.

Unfortunately, Randall Arendt is now suddenly for high density smart growth with no yards at Yarrow Bay. On a video on the Yarrow Bay web site page for Black Diamond (watch this page as his image flashed by), he is holding his new book “Rural by Design,” while criticizing traditional large lot developments in Seattle on culdesacs. At the same time, he is praising Yarrow Bay for their smart growth features. (Note that this video only plays the first two minutes on my Internet connection, on a one acre lot in the sticks.)

Of course, the Yarrow Bay developments are NOT rural by design, with a high SUBURBAN density of 4 units per acre. Furthermore, this density calculation probably includes streets, sidewalks, schools, and other public facilities. These Yarrow Bay developments will look much worse than many of the large lot developments I’ve shown elsewhere in the Puget Sound area. Indeed, the Associaton of King County Historical Organizations writes below that the density of homes will be 9 units per acre.

Furthermore, apparently under the Washington State Growth Management Hearings Board, the 4dU/acre is an average density, also including apartments and townhomes.  (click to this link, pages 5-6):

“All land within the urban area must be designated at appropriate urban densities. Calculating average density across an entire subarea or city is not appropriate for this purpose.

For example, an area zoned for multifamily housing designated for future densities of 20 du/acre would not serve to justify a pattern of 1-acre lots throughout the rest of city, even if the city or sub-area as a whole achieved an average net density of more than 4 du/acre.

The appropriate measure is the density permitted as a net average across a development parcel.

Net density is the total number of dwelling units divided by the total buildable area.

Therefore, although I will have to check with a Professor, this seems to imply that the various Land Use Billboards on this web page have appropriate densities of 4dU/acre, in each respective development parcel. Since each of these Black Diamond billboards mentions “mixed use,” offices, retail, schools, parks, and open space, then the 9 homes per acre figure is probably correct. That means you have a 5 foot backyard – indeed, that’s what the Puget Sound Regional Council wants you to have. Click here for my post on their ridiculous high density requirements.

Of course, all these guys – everyone from Randall O’Toole to Randall Arendt – are paid to say things as consultants.  So, either Arendt changed his mind for good, or, maybe he changed his mind to make a few bucks with Yarrow Bay.  Either way, it would be best for Black Diamond if his friends in Boston kept him in “Smart Growth Massachusetts.”  Meanwhile, his conservation subdivision idea does work beautifully, has been replicated by others, but it doesn’t work with 9 homes per acre, especially when Yarrow Bay plans to clearcut the land prior to development.

Historic downtown Black Diamond at sunset with Mt. Rainier on a crisp fall evening. Very laid back, not a lot of congestion. The tavern is to my left (not shown). To the right is the railroad / mining museum and historical society. The building in the distance is Mountain Magic Treasures / Black Diamond Pizza and Deli.

The Official Anti-Smart Growth Web Site: 

“Save Black Diamond dot Net”

Again, I am not an expert on Black Diamond smart growth politics, and I defer all local political issues to the dedicated experts who run the Save Black Diamond dot net web site.  There are “Save Black Diamond dot Net” signs all over town, just like the “No Trains on 112th” signs all over Bellevue:


Sept. 29, 2011 Signs for Save Black Diamond dot Net and Tamie Boxx-Deady for City Council on Lawson Street. Note the very old, charming homes from when Black Diamond was founded presumably as a coal mining town, due to Tertiary age rock formations in Eastern King County.

Tamie Boxx-Deady for Black Diamond City Council

Black Diamond is yet another example of why regional planning agencies generally do not work.  Your voice at local city council meetings doesn’t count, when there are deals taking place behind closed doors, with the Puget Sound Regional Council, Sound Transit, and your very own City Council.

That is why Black Diamond has City Council candidates on the ballot this fall who have pledged to stop eminent domain, such as Tamie Boxx-Deady. Below is her information from the on-line King County Voters Pamphlet.

Tamie Boxx-Deady at King County Voters Pamphlet –


Tamie Boxx-Deady Personal Campaign Web Site –


King County Local Voters Pamphlet

November 8, 2011 General And Special Election

City of Black Diamond 
Council Position No. 1

Occupation: At home Mom, Part time Worker
Education: Enumclaw High School, Highline Community College
Statement:I am a 3rd generation citizen of Black Diamond. My husband Brock and I built our home in old town and are raising 4 children.
The City Council has failed in its responsibility to represent the citizens of Black Diamond.  Their approval of the massive Yarrow Bay Development is irresponsible.
My opponent admitted to being biased on the public record!
I will work with a new Council to defend our quality of life.  We will respect citizen participation.  We will hold developers accountable and fairly enforce the rules.
I will oppose attempts to use eminent domain to confiscate private property in order to facilitate Yarrow Bay.  I will vote against tax increases to subsidize these massive new developments.
Our schools and our neighborhoods must be protected from the long term negative effects that are threatened by the City Council’s recent votes.
Phone: 253-removed for confidentiality
Web site: www.Tamie4councilpos1.com
Address: removed refer to voters pamphlet link above
Black Diamond, WA 98010

The Lawson Hills development area, this is ONLY one of SEVERAL "Proposed Land Use" signs. I did NOT have time to find all of them. If I return I will try to photograph all of them, since the developer plans to build on multiple parcels, with eminent domain.

Density of NINE homes per ACRE, with 20,000 new people in 20 years

The proposed density is nine homes per acre, according to this article from the Association of King County Historical Organizations: http://www.akcho.org/advisor/?p=875  20,000 new residents will live in the developments if they are approved.  This is inappropriate for an area that has inadequate transportation to major employment centers that are 20 to 40 miles away, including Seattle, Bellevue, and Tacoma.  As I discuss below, SR-169 is only a two lane road.  And, State Senator Pam Roach (R) says that the area will not receive transportation funding until 2040: http://www.saveblackdiamond.org/

Of course, my readers will question my anti-development stance here, since you already know that I have no problems with “development” per se.  However, you also know that along with America’s Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, that there is a limit to the appropriate lot size.  Wright advocated the Broadacre concept, with one acre lots.  However, in other writings, he indicated one to five acre lots, and heavily criticized the American Real Estate Industry for dividing parcels into “25 foot, 50 foot, and even 100 foot parcels.”

Clearly, in Black Diamond, large lot zoning should offer lot sizes meeting Wright’s standards, with a minimum of one acre, and perhaps up to five acres.  Same thing in Bend, Oregon, where I have defended both the residents and the city planners, who want the city to grow, with larger lots than the State of Oregon wants.

Nevertheless, the approrpirate lot size is what the residents of Black Diamond want, not what the Puget Sound Regional Council requires for all areas inside the 4 county urban growth boundary, an average of 4 homes per acre.  That is why my photos of proposed Black Diamond land use actions signs show densities of about a quarter acre.

For example, in the sign above, there are 371 acres and 1250 dwelling units.  371 acres/ 1250 dU = 0.29 acres

And, in the sign below, for a development north of downtown, there are 1196 acres, and 4800 dU’s.  1196 acres/ 4800 dU = 0.249 acres

Black Diamond, north of downtown across from the New Life Church on SR-169.

CLICK TO ENLARGE AND READ TEXT from the sign above.

Part Two – Black Diamond Developments Would Negatively Impact Maple Valley and Enumclaw

Residents of nearby “upscale yuppie Maple Valley,” and the middle class and farming City of Enumclaw, do not want the thousands of housing units planned for Black Diamond. They will experience increased traffic, crime, and air pollution. Maple Valley already has smart growth all over the place (photos to be uploaded), and a new smart growth Towne Center under construction. As I’ve mentioned in my section on Bus Rapid Transit, State Route 169 (connecting Renton to Maple Valley, and then Black Diamond and Enumclaw) is a dangerous two to four lane freeway that’s never been property widened (photo upload), even for the existing population of these three communities.

Constructing thousands of housing units within Black Diamond would completely overwhelm the existing routes to Seattle, Bellevue, Kent, Auburn, and Tacoma. A new 6 lane highway would be required somewhere, and this would involve eminent domain. There is room for this between Renton and Maple Valley, but not between Maple Valley and Black Diamond (show the photo of the 35 foot street through downtown olde town black diamond, are those historic buildings if they are then they should not be condemned)! Photos of narrow SR-169 through downtown Black Diamond:

State Route (SR-169) is very narrow through downtown Black Diamond. With historic homes on both sides close to the street, there is no way that it could accomodate thousands of new residents with the proposed high density smart growth.

These older homes are part of the history of Black Diamond. The locals do not want to see them condemned by the City Council and the Developer in conjunction with the Puget Sound Regional Council. SR-169 is too narrow to accomodate perhaps 10,000+ new trips each week - not only from Black Diamond, but also from new Smart Growth in Maple Valley and Enumclaw.

A Traffic Nightmare of Epidemic Proportions. Move the Smart Growth to Tiger Mountain near the SR-18 Freeway.

Since the Puget Sound Regional Council and Sound Transit are generally opposed to more traffic lanes and bus rapid transit, then construction of the Black Diamond development would create a traffic nightmare of epidemic proportions. If the PSRC really wants to build more smart growth in the middle of nowhere, how about somewhere along state route 18 in Tiger Mountain State Forest, with easy freeway access and next to a brand new Superwallmart?

That’s how Phoenix builds new MPD’s (master planned developments) in the desert (i.e. next to existing freeways, clustered around Wallmarts). Frankly, it’s a lot more efficient, and doesn’t disrupt quaint Arizona towns around Phoenix, like Wickenburg, Cave Creek, Sedona, and Black Canyon City!

What the Puget Sound Regional Council does in trying to “revitalize” and “upzone” existing quaint municipalities like Black Diamond makes no sense, and would be unheard of in the majority of states. Infilling, upzoning, and smart growth are radical, left leaning concepts, that are restricted to only a few states.

However, more importantly, the residents of Black Diamond simply do not want smart growth, and prefer the current plan of large lot zoning. The Puget Sound Regional Council should be dissolved, since they do not respect “the locals.” And, they should be investigated for corruption and bribery, given the very real possibility that they paid the Black Diamond city councilors to approve smart growth, since the City Councilors violated the public trust, by approving the smart growth despite public opposition.

Here are locals with an incredibly gorgeous location along a lake near the Green River Gorge Road …

Large lot zoning along the Green River Gorge Road.

The Very Real Risk of Foreclosure and Clearcutting –

Lessons from Neighborhing Maple Valley

As I’ve shown elsewhere on this web site, and has been demonstrated by Dr. Peter Howley in Dublin, Ireland, Smart Growth has a high risk of foreclosure, and does not sell.  Dr. Howley showed that most people live in high density dwelling units temporarily, with the intention of moving.

Recently, I talked to a homeowner of a smart growth home with a 10 foot backyard in the Woodside Smart Growth development in Kent (Developer: Port Blakely International Holdings). She cannot sell the place, because it doesn’t have a yard, and it’s on the market for $375,000.  Her reasons were moving had nothing to do with unaffordability,  but clearly she was unhappy living in a place with no yard.

Black Diamond’s neighborhing community of Maple Valley is a “yuppie” community with “more money” than Black Diamond (i.e. there are many folks in Maple Valley who work for Boeing and Microsoft). Nevertheless, smart growth in an area near Maple Valley’s “Highlands” HOA appears to be foreclosed in the photo with tall weeds and young red alder trees, and “DOORGUARD” printed on every door. (Is that a locking device for foreclosed properties?)

So, if smart growth won’t sell in Maple Valley, then how would it sell in Black Diamond, which is even further out from employment centers?

Furthermore, note the D. R. Horton sign in Maple Valley, with the bare trunks of Douglas Fir trees. Whenever you see bare trunks of evergreen trees, that means they have been clearcut to that line (see my clearcutting for smart growth post by clicking here).

And, note the D. R. Horton dog park. With the mandatory 4 units per acre, everything is microsized, dog parks included.

Finally, the photo below shows homes on larger lots in the Highlands HOA in Maple Valley.   These actually do sell, and they have large yards up to half an acre, tall trees, three car garages, and wide streets.

Looks like these Smart Growth Townhomes in Maple Valley have foreclosed, with tall weeds, young alder trees, and "DOORGUARD" printed on every door. Up the hill is the exclusive Highlands HOA with 3 car garages on large lots. If these townhomes won't sell in Maple Valley, then how can similar properties sell in Black Diamond?

Maple Valley, CLEARCUT near new homes and the proposed Maple Valley Towne Center. What a mess. And, there's a retention basin around the corner that looks and probably smells awful.

Maple Valley D. R. Horton Dog Park. That's all you get. Everything is microsized including the homes behind the park, with 10 foot deep backyards, and spaced only 5 feet apart. Frank Lloyd Wright would turn in his grave at the sight of this.

View of Mt. Rainier from The Highlands HOA in Maple Valley. These homes with three car garages, large lots, and wide streets actually sell.

What if I was on the Black Diamond City Council?

I don’t live there, and I am not an urban planner. However, I recognize that the citizens highly value their large lots, outdoor activities, and families. I would secede from the Growth Management Act and Puget Sound Regional Council.

For all new homes, I would make lot sizes 1 to 3 acre minimums, with greenbelts and conservation subdivisions.  I would preserve the downtown’s unique character, and try to increase tourism revenues from rafting and mountain biking in the Green River Gorge.

Since 169 through Black Diamond is dangerous, and has a lot of traffic from Maple Valley and Enumclaw, then I would change the 169 configuration to include a center turn lane with sidewalks.  However, I would not do this on the narrow areas of 169, such as those pictured above, since those historic homes are too expensive to purchase with eminent domain. And, in aggregate, all of the historic buildings create a sense of place, and community, and not one should ever be removed for any reason.

Here’s what SR-169 could look like between Maple Valley and Enumclaw (again, only in areas where it’s wide enough to do this).  This is an improved stretch of East Lake Sammamish Blvd., that is much safer than adjacent unimproved sections lacking a center turn lane with bike lanes and sidewalks:

Here's how to make the narrow, dangerus SR-169 through Black Diamond, Enumclaw, and Maple Valley much safer. This is East Lake Sammamish Blvd. with a center turn lane, bike lanes, and sidewalks along with bell lights. (Certainly, the bell lights are not necessary, but are used elsewhere in Sammamish, the most upscale incorporated suburb in the Seattle metro.)

Photos of Historic Black Diamond

Here’s the Mountain Magic Treasures / Black Diamond Pizza and Deli at sunset. I did not have time to go inside and most of the other businesses were closed. I would imagine that there would be all kinds of information on the community bulletin boards opposing the development.

Black Diamond - Mountain Magic Treasures / Black Diamond Pizza and Deli.

Black Diamond Museum and Historical Society reflecting the City's coal mining history.

Black Diamond Baker Street Books. Wish it was open when I was there - you never know where you might find a used copy of a Frank Lloyd Wright book (America's Architect who wanted 1 to 5 acre lots !).

The Black Diamond Bakery glowing at night.


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