Seattle Fair Growth weighs in on new upzone in Uptown

KOMO News Interview 2

“It is simply a raw deal for our community. The actual affordable housing is not going to be built onsite. The majority of it is going to be paid in lieu. So unfortunately a lot of people think they’re going to get affordable housing, but it’s not even going to be in the areas that these zoning changes are occurring.” Jon Lisbin from Seattle Fair Growth

To view the full KOMO news story, follow this link: http://komonews.com/news/local/new-upzone-law-will-allow-taller-buildings-in-lower-queen-anne

 

 

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Jon Grant is raising money from everyday people, not downtown developers and special interests. That is why you should vote for him.

I am excited at the prospect of having Jon Grant as a City Councilmember and I am proud to endorse him. Formerly the Executive Director of the Washington Tenants Union, Jon is now running for the open seat on City Council, position 8 on a platform of empowering community voices and addressing our affordability housing crisis.  I encourage all of you to support his campaign and vote for him in the general election when you receive your ballot in October.

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As a neighborhood activist and blogger, I am someone who is always pushing for transparency in our local government. I am disappointed by many of our current elected officials and the HALA propaganda show that has been coming out of City Hall. We need a livable Seattle and equitable housing policies, not upzones that benefit large developers like Vulcan at the expense of everyone else. As so much money is entering our region, it is important that those with the green do not exploit our Emerald City.

Jon Grant is a man of the people. He understands that too many of the current City Councilmembers are in the pockets of big developers and special interest groups. I respect and trust Jon because he is not accepting donations from developers, corporations or CEOs.  In contrast his opponent, Teresa Mosqueda, has accepted a maxed out donation from Maria Barrientos, a developer who helped negotiate the “Grand Bargain” and whose development in Queen Anne is displacing the beloved Teatro Zinzanni.

Jon understands that the current HALA “Grand Bargain” is a bad deal for the neighborhoods.  He was the only member of the Mayor Murray’s HALA committee who abstained from the final vote because he knew that neighborhoods and the community were getting a bad deal.  Jon does not support one-size fits all upzones and feels that neighborhoods should have a say in how they grow.  He has advocated for higher affordability mandates in every upzone before the Council thus far and has worked in coalition with neighborhoods like the Chinatown/International District in fighting gentrification and displacement.

Jon is advocating for 25% of all new development to be affordable to working people, which is comparable to other cities with similar programs (currently the city is only requiring developers to set aside 2-9% of units as affordable or pay a fee).  His opponent does not support increasing affordability mandates.

His opponent fully supports HALA’s upzoning and has been endorsed by City Council Land Use chair Rob Johnson, who is leading the push to rezone the neighborhoods while requiring very little in return from the wealthy, downtown developers.  In contrast, Jon Grant has been endorsed by Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who is currently the strongest advocate on the Council for neighborhood-friendly policies.  Jon Grant would make a strong ally with Lisa Herbold to push back against Rob Johnson’s pro-developer policies.

Jon will fight for those least fortunate, people who are at risk of being displaced from our current development boom and those who have already been displaced and are living on our streets.  His first volunteer job as a teen was for Real Change and he has been advocating for the homeless and to prevent homelessness ever since.  Jon, together with Seattle’s People’s Party and Councilmember Kshama Sawant, has announced a plan to build 5,000 homes for the homeless in five years.  This would effectively provide shelter for all of those communities currently living on our streets.

Jon Grant is a true, grassroots neighborhood organizer who has a strong history of fighting for the underrepresented and standing up to wealthy developers and special interests.  This is not a time to sit passively by, get involved in Jon Grant’s campaign and take back our city from the monied interests who are currently pulling the strings.  And above all else, vote for Jon Grant when you get your ballot in October!

Why you should vote for Jon Grant

by Jon Lisbin

john-grant_1I am throwing my support behind Jon Grant for City Council position 8, and I’d like to explain why you should too. I believe he fits both the values of our community as well as mine as a small business owner.

 

Neighborhood Policies:

  • Jon was the only member the top down Housing and Livability Agenda committee who abstained from the final vote because he knew that neighborhoods and the community were getting the shaft.
  • He supports developer impact fees so growth can pay for growth and address the school capacity crisis Seattle is facing.
  • He wants to bring back the voice of the neighborhood by funding the neighborhood councils that the city recently cut ties with.
  • He understands that we need to tie infrastructure to growth. They must be concurrent!

Small Business Policies:

  • A city sponsored pension plan to attract talented workers.
  • B&O tax exemption from $100,000 to $1,000,000 in gross revenue
  • Commercial rent control to protect against rent hikes
  • Zoning incentives to provide new commercial space for small businesses
  • Municipal bank to provide low interest loans

I have witnessed the displacement of small businesses throughout the city due to the pressures of high end development.  We’re seeing that now in lower Queen Anne as upzones (changes to zoning which allow greater height in exchange for “affordable housing”) are being proposed that will displace small businesses as affordable office space gets bought by investors and redeveloped into high end Class A units.  What will happen to all the artists, small architectural firms, marketing companies and entrepreneurs who no longer can afford their leases? Seattle is growing at an incredible pace and its economy is soaring; but we must ensure that we don’t kill the goose in pursuit of the golden egg.

Special interests and Independent Expenditures have had a corrosive effect on City Hall.  Democracy Vouchers are being used for the first time this year for the purpose of leveling the field.  Jon has received $300,000 in Democracy Vouchers which has funded 90% of his campaign. Now is time to elect leaders, like Jon, who truly represent their constituents.

Jon is endorsed by community advocates like Nick Licata and City Councilmember Lisa Herbold. His opponent is endorsed by the build at all costs wing of the council including Mike O’brien, Sally Bagshaw, Rob Johnson and Lorenza Gonzalez.  It’s critical that we change that balance now!

In summary, Jon represents the neighborhoods, small businesses and the people who live in Seattle; not downtown developers, real estate and business interests. In fact, he refuses to take donations from developers, big corporations or CEO’s.   I hope however he will take money from me 🙂

 

Join your neighbors. Please attend the Design Review Hearing Monday Sept 11

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Expect fewer public notices if design review “improvements” are approved.

The City wants eviscerate design review for neighborhood scale projects.  Please attend the public hearing and voice your support for keeping design review as an important checks and balances in neighborhood developments.

Monday, September 11, 2017, at 7:00 p.m
SIFF Cinema Uptown, Auditorium 3
511 Queen Anne Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98109

http://web6.seattle.gov/DPD/LUIB/NoticePrint.aspx?NID=25839

HALA Update and Timeline

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Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda, or HALA, has been bulldozing its way through City Hall.  HALA allows developers to build more by changing the zoning, and in exchange developers are required to include affordable units in their buildings or pay an in lieu fee to have those affordable units built somewhere else (my money is on the latter).

While the City claims this will improve affordability, critics such as myself see these upzones as only pouring gasoline on the fire.  Too little is required of developers and this plan incentivizes tearing down our most affordable homes.  HALA will metaphorically bulldoze over any remaining neighborhood character and buildings of historical value and displace low income renters and small businesses.  Not to mention City Hall has a deaf ear to neighborhood input on how we grow and that without any upzones at all we have development capacity that is more than sufficient for expected growth.  But the City continues on…

The specific HALA program that in essence sells upzones to developers in exchange for fees is called Mandatory Affordable Housing or MHA.  So far the City has upzoned those areas that have had planning efforts in the works for the last few years (although neighborhood activists have lamented that the City’s  “outreach” has ignored neighbors concerns).  MHA upzones have been implemented in the U District, Downtown/South Lake Union, the International District, 23rd & Jackson/Cherry/Union and Uptown.

That leaves the remaining urban villages, many of which have not had any recent meaningful neighborhood planning (at the time of this writing the draft zoning maps for the remaining urban villages can be found here).  Because of this, the City has been required to perform an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) to look at the effects of the zoning changes.  Given the varying attributes of the many different neighborhoods concerned, it is surprising the City is lumping them all together, but that is the faster way to get things done.

The draft EIS gave three alternatives to study.  These were 1) No Action, 2) MHA upzones, & 3) MHA upzones with growth spread around differently to minimize displacement in areas with existing affordable housing.  Excuse me, but why are both “alternatives” just different versions of MHA?

City Hall: Neighborhoods, would you like your upzones sunny side up or scrambled?  Sorry, upzones are the only option we have on the menu today.
Neighborhoods: Umm, excuse me City Hall but I’m pretty sure upzones are not the only option available to provide affordable housing.  (Actually on our website we have a lot of other options
here.)  

According to Jesseca Brand from the Department of Neighborhoods, the final EIS will include a preferred alternative with recommended zoning changes for the remaining urban villages.  The Executive is expected to send these recommended zoning changes to City Council by late summer or early fall at the latest.

The City Council is currently putting together their work plan for next year.  Although this timeline is not finalized, the current estimate is the Council will vote on these zoning changes mid-2018 (think June, July or August).

This legislation for all of the remaining urban villages, will be sent by the Executive to City Council as a whole.  Meaning all of the remaining neighborhoods are lumped together.  There will be zoning changes on all of the maps, but this one-sized-fits all approach is not neighborhood planning.  

This is really opening up the flood gates to let developers build much larger throughout large swaths of the City, regardless of whether the schools have capacity, the transportation options are sufficient or the sewers are updated.  The Growth Management Act requires concurrent planning for infrastructure with growth and the City is falling short.  And to add salt to the wound there is zero promise that affordable housing will be built inside these affected neighborhoods, and zero promise that there will be a net gain in affordable units since this plan incentivizes tearing down our most affordable housing to build larger, luxury units.

One key roadblock neighborhood activists could put forth, is to formally appeal the EIS with the City’s Hearing Examiner.  The final EIS is expected to be released in the coming weeks (perhaps mid September or October, but the date has not been finalized yet).  The EIS will be published on the City’s website at Seattle.gov/HALA and will be announced on the HALA newsletter (sign up at the link just mentioned).  Also, if you submitted comments for the draft EIS (kudos to you), the City should notify you directly that the EIS has been published.  Once the final EIS has been published, a challenger has only FOURTEEN DAYS from date of publish to submit an appeal to the City’s Hearing Examiner.  Fourteen days!  Seriously?  These documents are longer than a grad school chemistry textbook.  If the EIS is challenged, then the City Council can continue to deliberate on the legislation, but cannot vote until the appeal is resolved.

I’ve been binge watching this HALA show for about a year and a half.  I’ve been to more City Council and local government meetings than I can count.  Time and again, I have watched most of the City Council disregard many thoughtful arguments put forth to challenge HALA.  They do not respond to reasonable dialogue and already have their minds made up.  In my personal opinion, the current City Council will only be stopped by a formal challenge.

Land Use Chair Rob Johnson and the majority of the City Council are in the pockets of big developers like Vulcan.  If you are a group who is considering challenging this thing (please do) then get your ducks in a row now.  If you would like to hire an attorney to help with the appeal, get one lined up and start thinking about funding.  Because you only have FOURTEEN stinking days to challenge the EIS once it’s released and it will be released soon.  And if you are not in a position to challenge, but want to fight this thing, please be on the lookout to respond to donation requests to cover the legal fees.  Because these fights are expensive and so called “wealthy” neighborhood groups often operate on a shoestring budget.

Timeline Summary

  • Final EIS to be released in the coming weeks (possibly mid September or October, date not finalized)
  • You have only FOURTEEN DAYS from the date of publish to submit an appeal to the Hearing Examiner
  • If EIS is not challenged, City Council is expected to vote on the rezone legislation mid-2018 (date also not finalized)

Hearing Examiner Public Guide (how to file an appeal, etc.): http://www.seattle.gov/examiner/guide-toc.htm

Not overwhelmed yet and want to read more?  Here’s my recommendations to stay informed:
https://www.wallingfordcc.org/
https://outsidecityhall.wordpress.com/
http://www.4toexplore.org/4-to-explore-2/

Only Nikkita Oliver and Bob Hasegawa measure up in race for Mayor

by John Fox –

Ballots are mailed out Wednesday for the August 1st primary and it’s a critical election for Seattle’s future.  Even though elections are probably far from your mind – only about 30-35% of you will take time to vote in an ‘off-year’ primary – Seattle is in a hotly contested race for Mayor and our remaining two ‘at large’ or citywide council races.

We’ve either interviewed or closely reviewed where candidates stand, especially front-runners, across the critical issues affecting our neighborhoods, and on racial and economic justice issues, housing and land use, homelessness, police accountability and ensuring equity and fairness for all in our city.  Here are our endorsements.

(Following this column, we’ve posted Neil Power’s interview with Oliver and reprinted our earlier interview with Hasegewa.)

The Race for Mayor:  Nikkita Oliver or Bob Hasegawa

Among the six frontrunners, only Bob Hasegawa and Nikkita Oliver measured up. Both were seriously willing to call for reassessment of the so-called Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) upzones. Both backed increasing the developer’s mandatory affordable housing set-aside to 25% of new units rather than the current paltry 2-11%. They gave unqualified support for requiring developers to pay impact fees for a portion of the infrastructure demanded by their projects. And they would require developers to replace at comparable price any existing low-cost housing they remove.

Both Hasegawa and Oliver favored decisions derived from the bottom up over technocratic and elitist solutions. Both called for a re-establishment of the District Neighborhood Council system and pledged to make sure it was more broadly representative and racially diverse, not arrogantly eliminated. Both supported new measures to preserve tree canopy, and older historic and culturally significant buildings and places like Chinatown/International District and Little Saigon now in the wrecking ball’s crosshairs.

Both were critical of the Mayor’s insensitive sweeping of homeless encampments and understood the connection between the continuing loss of existing low-income housing to redevelopment and the rise of homelessness in our city. Both questioned the propriety of spending $200 million dollars for a new youth jail and called for a closer look at alternatives to incarceration. Both understood the treatment-first model and the importance of diversion programs over jail.

The other frontrunners, Jenny Durkan, Cary Moon, Mike McGinn, and Jessyn Farrell, all unreservedly support the HALA upzones. All are “supply siders” who believe that by adding to the supply of expensive housing, somehow affordable units will “trickle down” to the poor. As Joe Hill, the great labor organizer, said, “There’ll be pie in the sky when you die.”

None of these four candidates expressed any great concern about the continuing loss of existing low-cost housing to demolition. In their minds, displacement and gentrification are addressed by spending more tax dollars on low-income units while pressing the accelerator on more market-rate development.

Moon saw the need for some kind of speculator or foreign investor tax, however, and McGinn, Moon, and Farrell have given a qualified “yes” on questionnaires when asked about developer impact fees. But by and large, electing any one of the four is a vote for the status quo.

Durkan has been anointed by the establishment and big business to carry their mantle – raising $321,000 mostly from this crowd (outspending her nearest competitor 3-1).  As if that wasn’t enough, the the Chamber and Hospitality industry just dropped $50,000 into their ‘PAC’ to back her.  

Moon, Farrell, and McGinn are fighting for the “urbanist vote”, those who think density is a religion. Never mind we’re drowning in it now or that it’s destroying the livability and affordability of our city.

McGinn, says he’s mellowed but this is the guy who as Mayor shamelessly handed millions of our tax dollars over to Vulcan in South Lake Union, did nothing to stop demolition of low cost housing and consequent rise in homelessness, and, at the request of a handful of developers, scuttled the Roosevelt Neighborhood Plan that took them a decade to develop.

District 8:  Jon Grant

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In the race for this open seat, Jon Grant has called for substantial increase in the mandatory housing set-aside to 25%. The other putative frontrunner, Teresa Mosqueda, says she cares about the homeless and about racial and economic inequality, but then on land use and zoning and housing matters she shows a density-at-all-costs pro-development mentality regardless of the impacts. And if you would like to return to the politics of a councilmember like Richard Conlin–defeated a few years ago when voters tired of his consistently pro-downtown and special interest-driven agenda–then vote for Sara Nelson.

While we like Sheley Secrest’s stance on HALA and the upzones and her strong positions on police accountability and racial justice, her lack of campaign dollars likely precludes her ability to get her message out and get through to the final. In this race, we believe Grant has a chance to win while offering our neighborhoods and tenants the best chance for progressive and responsive change.

District 9:  Anybody but Gonzalez

It’s hard for us to imagine any candidate having a chance against Lorena Gonzalez who now holds this seat. With a growing war chest funded by downtown and developer interests, she’ll likely outdistance all the others combined when primary votes are counted. Unfortunately, she’s zealously pro-HALA, pro-developer and pro-upzone, second only perhaps to current District 4 Councilmember Rob Johnson. She only shows up at Land Use and Housing Committee meetings to vote as desired by her developer pals. Gonzalez’s campaign will shower voters with warm and fuzzy mailings featuring big-shot endorsements, while her opponents, lacking funds for even one direct mailing, will barely register in the minds of voters.