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What Should We Call the Age of Apartment Architecture in Seattle?: Today So Far


  • King County councilman opposes cashless companies.
  • Should we do away with design review boards? (Or… How did Seattle go from beautiful brick and wood buildings to our modern era of flat-puke apartments?)

This post originally appeared in KUOW’s Today So Far newsletter for January 23, 2023.

You may have heard that cash is king. Apparently that’s not always true in King County.

Modern payment methods, such as tapping a debit card or using Apple Pay or Google Pay, have become increasingly popular. I’ve been to many conventions where vendors sold everything from artwork to bath bombs, and some wouldn’t even mess with cash. All transactions went through a sales app on their smartphone. There are also stores that have opted to go completely cashless, such as Just Burgers in the University District. The cash-free decision was made in 2020 after several break-ins in the store.

But this payment method does not work for all customers. That’s why King County Council is considering an ordinance that would require businesses to accept cash (and not go cashless) in unincorporated parts of the county. It wouldn’t affect businesses in cities like Seattle or Bellevue.

“The problem I am trying to solve with this regulation is to ensure that those individuals who do not have access to, or desire to use, credit or debit cards, or use their smartphones… are able to access access to needed food, consumer goods and services,” said Jeanne Kohl-Welles, King County Councilman who proposed the idea.

Kohl-Welles told Soundside that people who rely primarily on cash, or who are underfunded, are more likely to be low-income, homeless, senior citizens, undocumented residents, or people of color.

Listen to Kohl-Welles’ full talk with Soundside here.

Legislators’ discussions about improving Washington’s housing situation have begun in Olympia. One idea you’re about to hear is a proposal that might go down the wrong way with some people and get others excited – getting rid of design review boards.

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would remove design review requirements for homes with the goal of accelerating such developments. The design review process generally puts a building project in front of a volunteer panel that ensures it complies with city rules, but also takes into account aesthetics such as landscaping or what kind of siding is used. The public will also have the opportunity to weigh in. The downside is that this process takes a lot of time and involves some additional costs. So hopefully getting rid of it would speed things up and lower those costs. Instead, city staff would review projects and ensure they comply with the code. KUOW’s Joshua McNichols has more on this proposal here.

The idea is not entirely new. Seattle has already explored this for affordable housing projects. Then I started scratching my head and going back and forth on it. I think a lot of people have there too. On the one hand, you want a certain level of assessment. That way you don’t get a monstrosity creeping into town. It is also good to give neighbors a say.

On the other hand, I fully understand the last line in Joshua’s recent reporting on this, which states that city staffers would hopefully be more objective, “and less unpredictable than volunteer board members, each bringing their own set of subjective aesthetic preferences to the table.” That certainly rings a bell, as I’ve passed newer buildings along Roosevelt Way, for instance, with clunky rust-orange paneling contrasting with what I could only describe as pale, puke yellow. It’s mixed between corrugated this and flat panel that. I often wonder who thought this patchwork of siding was a good idea, let alone the color scheme. This kind of style is spread all over Seattle.


I also once worked with a view to a new apartment building, which actually looked great. I was impressed that new modern materials could work so well. It’s as if the designer actually visited the Northwest. Yet the building was offset by a large piece of art that looked like it had been rejected from the “Beetlejuice” movie set. And just in case that building looked too passable, another new building sprang up across the street, a puke green color you couldn’t see outside of a 1970s checkered Davenport.

I know, you’ve heard me make a fuss about this sort of thing before. Look around Seattle and you’ll see some pretty visions that span Victorian, Gothic, and even Art Deco. How did we come up with the flat puke style (my words, not an official architectural term)? Or that LEGO cube that was planted in the middle of classic half-timbered houses? With that in mind, I’d like to make a few suggestions to legislators and municipalities when it comes to such local guidelines: Avoid colors that can easily have the word “puke” added to describe them. Also: wood and brick. And no LEGO blocks. You know, make an effort to look like you’re in the Northwest.

What would you call Seattle’s modern architectural era? Panel palooza? LEGO chic? Feel free to email me at [email protected]


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Bill Radke discusses the week’s news with Publicola’s Erica Barnett, Seattle Channel’s Brian Callanan, and Seattle Times’ David Kroman, January 20, 2023. (Kevin Kniestedt/KUOW)


Your tax return may be smaller this year. There are a few reasons why.

NPR reports that a combination of a few factors can cause returns to fall. Basically, there were some changes to tax opportunities during the pandemic that are now fading. There are no more stimulus checks. The increased child tax credit has also ended. There was a deduction for pandemic-era donations, which is no longer a thing. And investment gains can also be a source of more taxes, “particularly if they own mutual funds that had to sell stock,” NPR reports.

The Tax and Customs Administration has started accepting tax returns today. The deadline for filing your taxes this year is April 18.



caption: On August 10, 2022, an FBI seal is seen on a wall in Omaha, Neb.

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A former senior FBI agent is charged with aiding a sanctioned Russian oligarch

A former high-level FBI agent faces several charges over his alleged collaboration with a sanctioned Russian oligarch. Charles McGonigal, the former special agent in charge of counterintelligence in the FBI’s New York office, is accused of collaborating with Oleg Deripaska, who has been on the US sanctions list since 2018.