Three Observations on the Issaquah Highlands

They’re definitely trying to use land more efficiently than normal suburbia. There’s lots of townhomes and apartments there. There’s not always huge amounts of separation between differing land usage; it is possible to easily walk from some of the housing to some of the shops. A big chunk of the land was set aside as a wildland park (which was the main reason I was there, to go for a midwinter hike).

Particularly at its current stage, it’s still very much auto-oriented suburbia. It has its own freeway exit, and is served by a feeder road far wider than one would have in an older, traditional city for an equivalent-sized neighborhood. While there’s plans to build enough shops to make it self-sufficient, it’s not there yet: for example, there’s still no grocery store at all there; you must drive several miles to the nearest one. There’s big gaps in the still-incomplete development that beg to be driven across. Most of the housing is not at this time a convenient walk to shopping. Transit service, at this stage, is minimal.

It shows the limitations of capitalism. If you’re not affluent, all you can afford there is a condo or a townhome. If you’re well off, there’s detached homes (with views) available. There’s very large homes on large lots if you’re really rolling in the dough-re-mi. In other words, it’s not really repudiating the wasteful American lifestyle: it’s merely pricing the non-rich out of some aspects of it, turning it into more of an elite privilege than it presently is. (Which it definitely is, when you look at things on a world-wide scale.)

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