Demythtifying the Urbanista’s Untruths

myth truthby Jon Lisbin

I’d like to take a moment to dispel some myths that are commonly used to suppress and dismiss the voice of neighborhood residents.

Myth # 1 We oppose growth.  Seattle Fair Growth (SFG) and the Seattle Coalition for Affordability, Livability and Equity (SCALE) welcome growth and all newcomers to the city of Seattle. What we care about primarily is that the infrastructure in Seattle supports that growth so we can all enjoy this beautiful part of the world.  Let’s not ruin it!

Myth #2 – We commonly hear from Urbanistas (those who profit and pray to the alter of growth at all costs) that Single Family Zones comprise 65% of of Seattle land. I want to dispose of that myth once and for all as none other than the  Seattle’s comprehensive plan  makes it clear that SFZ’s comprise 35.5% of Seattle acreage.

% SFZ Seattle

Myth # 3 We need these upzones so we can develop more housing.  As you know apartment development in Seattle reached historic records in 2017; over 10,000 units and there are plans for over 12,500.  There is no shortage of capacity in Seattle with current zoning. Not to mention, the avg. occupancy per unit is 2; not 1.

Myth # 4SCALE and other neighborhood groups are trying to slow down the process of development by appealing the EIS.  Nothing can be further from the truth. We are simply trying to improve the process by having our voices heard and exposing the plan’s inadequacies to our neighbors.

Myth #5We’re trying to protect our home values. – Nobody is selling because there’s nowhere to go. The truth is we are trying to prevent displacement of vulnerable citizens as developers and developer interests have one goal in mind; maximizing profits by buying political influence.

Don’t let the Urbanistas green-wash the environmental facts of urbanism and slander the voice of the neighborhoods. Stand up for what you believe in; managed growth and the truth!


You tell me this filthy choking air is progress, that your steel and glass boxes are better than each tree, happy, green, full of life

Poem for May 16th by James A. StansberryIMG_20171019_075935.jpg

From the many tribes singing in my blood
I come and I say, you are the same people
who brought trinkets, worthless then, less now
to bargain, we would have simply welcomed you
to our land, but, you could not hear it
singing then, cannot hear it crying now
and you took it all, greedy then, greedier now
and you tell me

me  with Cherokee, Blackfoot, African and Haitian

dancing in my blood, you tell me this filthy choking air
is progress, that your steel and glass boxes are better
than each tree, happy, green, full of life
arms full of Mother Sky, you tell me


a lie

you, who only hear dollars whispering
coin’s empty tarnished hurdy-gurdy

you tell me

a neighborhood is this mad destructive dance
and I say, with my red blood, my African blood, my Haitian blood
you are wrong, you are lying, again, and this time
I reject your trinkets, because this time I see you
for the broken trickster you really are and I say
not one more tree, not one more house, not one
more family on the street, this stops here.


James A. Stansberry is an author, nature activist, shaman and resident of the U District. I had the pleasure of meeting James while protesting the U District upzones in 2016. The U District was the first neighborhood upzoned under former Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA).

More than two dozen community groups, including Seattle Fair Growth, have joined together to take legal action against the City stating it has not adequately studied the negative impacts of the proposed upzones. To learn more about the appeal and to make a donation to help cover legal costs, click here.

Former Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda falls short on both affordability and livability. We can do better.

An edited version of this statement was given by Alex Pedersen on February 12, 2018 at the District 4 public hearing on Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA). It is are shared here with permission.

Alex Pedersen with his children - Copy

Alex Pedersen, founder of the neighborhood newsletter and former legislative aide to Tim Burgess. Alex and his family have lived in the Ravenna neighborhood for over a decade.

Good evening.

Thank you, City Councilmembers, for travelling from City Hall to our neighborhood to have this public hearing tonight.

My name is Alex Pedersen. My family and I live in Ravenna and, for the past several years, we have published a neighborhood newsletter that celebrates Northeast Seattle ( As someone who has worked in both the public and private sectors to analyze affordable housing, let me say this about the proposal before you tonight:

We can do better.

We can do better because former Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda falls short on both affordability and livability.

We can do better by increasing the percentages of affordable housing. Setting aside only 2% to 12% benefits the wealthy 1% at the top of the economic food chain while leaving only scraps to the low-income families who need the affordable housing.

We can do better by inserting meaningful protections against economic displacement. Among the many disruptions caused by upzones, upzoning too much, too soon causes land values to spike. Higher land values mean higher taxes, which can push out vulnerable populations including senior citizens and small, neighborhood businesses.

We can do better by requiring more affordable housing on site — we want the affordable housing in our neighborhoods — that is the right thing – the equitable thing — to do. So then build it now, build it onsite – instead of letting developers discriminate and delay by writing a check and being “NIM-D’s” — “not in my developments.”

We can do better by crafting fair Impact Fees to help build more public schools. Sensible Impact Fees are charged throughout Washington State and throughout the nation and we need them in Seattle so that growth pays for growth.

We can do better by concentrating the growth within the existing boundaries of the Urban Villages where frequent and reliable transit already exists, rather than forcing it upon neighborhoods where it would benefit only real estate speculators.

Finally, we can do better by letting our new Mayor Jenny Durkan provide more affordability and more livability, rather than ramming through the backroom deal of the former mayor.

Please continue your hard work for our city by rapidly revising the proposal so that it is truly affordable, truly livable, and much, much better for everyone. Thank you.


The Seattle Times Opinion: “All of Seattle’s neighborhoods deserve a say in upzoning upheaval”

Below is an excerpt from the February 14, 2018 Seattle Times (for the full article click here). Written by Claudia Newman and David Bricklin, attorneys who are representing Seattle Coalition for Affordability Livability and Equity (SCALE) in the hearing examiner appeal of the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the citywide implementation of the Mandatory Housing Affordability policy. Seattle Fair Growth is one of the 26 member groups of SCALE.

In the same way that we protect wetlands, streams and habitat in the face of increased development, we must also protect our schools, mobility, walking, trees, character and open spaces in the face of increased development in the urban areas.

The Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) began this process the right way. It reviewed, in great detail, the impacts of upzoning in South Lake Union. Then, city planners reviewed, in detail, the impacts of an upzone in the University District. Next was Lower Queen Anne. It’s not clear why former Mayor Ed Murray’s staff then jettisoned that careful neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach and proposed a single piece of legislation to upzone 27 neighborhoods at once. Analyzing so many changes all at once was an impossible task. It resulted in meaningless generalities, omissions, misleading statements and outright inaccuracies.

Ballard is not the same as Beacon Hill. Madison Valley is nothing like West Seattle. Greenwood and Jackson Place and North Rainier each have their own unique layout and issues.

From 1994 to 2003, the city engaged in an extensive, bottom-up, neighborhood-specific planning process. Neighbors and city staff developed plans for individual neighborhoods. The goal was to allow higher density in a way that would protect the quality of each neighborhood. Roughly 30,000 citizens of Seattle worked on those neighborhood plans.

But in 2015, Mayor Murray entered into the “Grand Bargain” with developers and affordable-housing advocates. The so-called “grand” bargain was consummated only by omitting a key constituency from the agreement — impacted residents. The people who live in the neighborhoods and know them best had no meaningful representation at the table. The neighborhood plans were sidelined.


To learn more about the SCALE legal appeal and to make a donation visit


Appealing Upzones?

20180130_154155There have been both facts and misrepresentations of why the Seattle Coalition for Affordability, Livability & Equity (SCALE) is appealing the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) in various media outlets.  To set the record straight, we are unequivocally not “slow-growthers” or that tired slur “NIMBY’s.”  These bullying phrases are used by special interest groups to disparage and suppress the voice of concerned citizens who oppose growth at all costs.

We welcome growth and our new neighbors with open arms. What we want is growth done right! Growth that takes advantage and partners with the vast knowledge and input of neighborhood groups.  Growth that conforms to the State’s Growth Management Act requirement for “concurrency” and adequate “level of service” as density occurs. Ask yourself, is the City Infrastructure keeping up with growth?  The answer to that question is self-evident and does not require further explanation.

The Mandatory Housing Affordability program is not about growth in the first place. It’s a plan to address Housing Affordability; a true crisis the city of Seattle is facing. Have you looked outside your window lately? Density and growth are occurring with current zoning at historical rates. According to the City’s Residential and Permit History report an unprecedented 10,161 units were built in 2017 and there are over 22,000 permitted and not built yet.  At the pace of the last two years Seattle will reach it’s 2035  goals of 70,000 new units in 2024! There is more than enough capacity with current zoning. This is not why we are appealing the FEIS.

The real reason can be summarized in in two words; sales job!  The city’s proposed Mandatory Housing Affordability program’s FEIS was written to justify a pre-determined plan, and just like the HALA committee’s public outreach campaigns, spun to the community to check a box.

20180130_153855(0)What evidence do I have for this claim?

  • Specifically affected private interests and neighborhood groups were not notified directly, or perhaps purposely, to provide constructive input into the plan.
  • The FEIS claims compliance with the comprehensive plan yet proposes parallel amendments which counter these well considered collaborative plans.
  • An EIS is supposed to give alternatives that reach the objectives of the plan and offer reduced impacts. This plan offers none of that. What we want are real alternatives that address the housing affordability crisis, not simply three versions of the same thing. Would you like upzones, more upzones, or mega upzones.   OK, I’ll take upzones! Hmm, how did I possibly come to that conclusion?
  • The FEIS claims and HALA officials state there will be negative impacts on displacement of vulnerable communities and infrastructure (roads, schools, housing, transit, tree canopy, utilities) whether or not Mandatory Housing Affordability is adopted. Although that statement is true, it does not acknowledge that this plan will accelerate these impacts.

What the 26 neighborhood and community groups of the Seattle Coalition of Affordability, Livability and Equity want is simple:

  • Truly affordable housing, including family-sized housing, in all parts of Seattle
  • Zoning that keeps diverse, vulnerable communities, especially vulnerable communities of color and low-income seniors, intact and involved in planning
  • Managed growth, that is, density done right–neighborhood planning for the growth that’s coming
  • Livability, that is, quality-of-life issues for all ages, including parks, tree canopy, water runoff and drainages, small business, school capacity, transportation, parking, community centers, cultural and historical assets

We ask the citizens of Seattle to rally behind us and support us by visiting


Jon Lisbin, President

Seattle Fair Growth (a founding member of SCALE)



One can support density and still be against the MHA upzone proposal

The following comments were given by Julie McCleery on February 12, 2018 at the District 4 public hearing on MHA. They are shared here with permission.

julie headshot

Dr. Julie McCleery is a Wallingford resident and researcher at UW whose work focuses on building healthy communities, especially for youth.

Thank you for your time. I think it’s important to note that one could be for increased density and still against this particular proposal. I am against this legislation for a number of reasons but will focus on the lack of feasibility study, mitigation, and concurrency planning. Specifically, the lack of neighborhood-centric planning means that the plan for Wallingford fails to take into account a variety of issues that warrant consideration prior to determining density levels and, that if not addressed, run counter to the principles at the heart of urban village design.

These issues include, but are not limited to, the following

          Wallingford is the only urban village that will house a middle school and a high school in its center. 2000 young people will come and go daily. No consideration was given to that fact in either the renovation of Lincoln High School or in the design of the urban village. Nowhere in this city do we have a model for what it looks like to manage the school buses, metro buses, cars, cars with teen drivers, bikes and pedestrians within a high density urban village with two school zones. The safety and transit implications warrant your attention now. 

          Hamilton and Lincoln will be the only comprehensive middle and high schools in the city without athletic fields. Further, Wallingford is the only community without adequate access to a community center (defined by the City’s only levels of service). And Wallingford has the second smallest library in the city – which does not have capacity to provide services for Wallingford’s population.

Therefore, all of these students (as well as the residents of Wallingford) have to leave the urban village to access these civic amenities, increasing dependence on transit and running counter to the plans for a walkable, inclusive, dense neighborhood.

The City has worked hard to build civic infrastructure near students, seniors and those in need of services in other communities. Serving the residents – both existing and new – of urban villages should be part of the larger vision for HALA. This means access to high quality, low cost services should be part of the land use, urban planning and design conversation right along with density, not an afterthought.


Jon Fox points out one fatal flaw of City’s affordable housing plan

Jon Fox points out one of the fatal flaws of the city’s MHA program. In order to produce affordable housing you have to destroy it. To read the full article, click on this link:

Historic Sheridan building faces demolition; ‘HALA’ mandatory housing program removes developer’s obligation to replace 56 affordable downtown units


To learn about our appeal and make a donation, go to:


Seattle Times op ed “Don’t believe HALA upzone hype”

Excerpt from the Seattle Times op ed written by Seattle Fair Growth board member Susanna Lin:

“The city has produced a biased study that does not honestly or accurately assess the impacts of those zoning changes on displacement, the loss of tree canopy, school capacity, historic and cultural resources, transportation, small businesses and infrastructure. The city’s document also fails to study alternatives beyond upzones that could better address our affordability crisis with fewer adverse impacts

The concern about the city’s upzone proposals are so great it has spurred more than two dozen community groups from across Seattle to come together to file a legal appeal challenging the adequacy of the study. The new coalition is called Seattle Coalition for Affordability, Livability and Equity. It is composed of neighborhood, housing and homeless advocacy groups, small business and environmental groups from across Seattle. sdr

To read the full piece, click on this link:

To donate to the Coalition’s appeal against the HALA upzone impact study, click here:



Seattle Fair Growth mentioned in the French publication Le Monde diplomatique…

“Susanna Lin, of the Seattle Fair Growth association, lives in the Wallingford district, recently invaded by developers. She said: ‘You can’t just let the developers build and build and build, and not also build schools, and not also invest in transit, and not also invest in sewers, in roads, in fire protection.”

For the full story, please follow this link:


It’s on folks.

It’s on folks. Proud to be part of a coalition of over two dozen diverse neighborhoods and groups appealing MHA EIS. More at