Crosscut coverage of the “Save the U-District” forum

Crosscut’s Josh Cohen reported on the U-District’s Community Forum, held Tuesday, May 16th, covering the city’s proposed upzones. Although the article was a fair representation of the forum, SFG believes the label “anti-growth advocates” is a gross mischaracterization and one of the many labels (NIMBY, white, elitists, racists) being used by for profit interests, and their enablers, to suppress community input.

Seattle Fair Growth accepts growth as inevitable. The U-District, Ballard and other Urban Villages have seen the city’s own growth targets for 2024 exceeded by over 300% 10 years early! Growth is not the question. The question is whether:

  • the supporting infrastructure is in place, i.e. Concurrency,
  • environmental impacts are minimized,
  • housing is “affordable,”
  • vulnerable communities are not displaced, and
  • the livability and unique characteristics of the city we love are maintained.

Over 200 impassioned community members attended this forum. As accurately reported, by far the majority were opposed (dare I say pissed off) to the proposed upzones; despite a concerted effort by the pro upzone crowd to rally their supporters. The citizens of Seattle are voicing their opinion and the City Council and Mayor, as city representatives, have no choice but to listen.

Click here for the article

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“What is an Urban Village?” said the blissfully ignorant me

By Susanna Lin

In January of this year, the Wallingford Community Council convened a meeting to educate the neighborhood on changes to zoning and housing policies that could have drastic effects on our neighborhood and our city. I attended, as did many others (around 200 were in attendance). At this meeting, I asked the person next to me, “What is an Urban Village?” (Keep reading if you have had the same question).

Since that meeting I have dived in with both feet (which at times includes following the mayor around with a sign and balloons) but also includes getting past all of the city’s propaganda and trying to figure out what the heck is really going on.
I wanted to share what I’ve uncovered with all of you. Pardon me if you’ve read this before; I did make a similar post on Nextdoor a while back. But I am hoping to continue sharing housing information with you here on Seattle Fair Growth, and so I thought it would be best if my first post started with some background (with a little bit of commentary thrown in). I hope you find this information worth your while…

In 2015, Mayor Ed Murray convened a 28 person volunteer panel to develop the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). The recommendations are starting to be voted on by City Council piece by piece.

Continue reading

Urbanists lie about single-family zoning

by David B. – rumblecrash.com

Somewhere between 35% and 49% of the land in the city of Seattle is zoned for single-family homes, depending on exactly how you count. But the urbanists and their developer backers continue to claim that the number is “two-thirds,” between 63% and 67%.

The urbanists lie about this because they want homeowners to appear greedy and exclusionary, even racist. “It’s time for NIMBYs to share their privilege!” they exclaim. “Why should homeowners have two-thirds of the land, when so many new tech workers can’t afford to move here and find a place to rent? The only way to increase the housing supply is to open up single-family zones to developers so the free market can increase density. While we’re at it, let’s get rid of single-family zoning altogether!” (That last bit didn’t go over so well.)

But their argument is based on a lie. The only way to claim that two-thirds of the land is zoned single family is to include parks, open space, and cemeteries in the single-family zone. This is what the HALA committee did (and for which they were called out at Crosscut: Single-family Seattle isn’t as big as density boosters claim).

Chart-Existing_Land_Use

Here’s the specific claim from page 24 of the HALA Report:

“Approximately 65% of Seattle’s land – not just its residential land but all its land – is zoned single family.”

But let’s look at the numbers, taken from the Mayor’s own Draft Comprehensive Plan (in the Land Use Appendix, on page 8 of the PDF).

Land_Use_Chart-2

The calculation to check the HALA claim is straightforward:

  • All Land (Gross Acres): 53,151
  • Single Family: 18,818
  • Calculate: 18,818 / 53,151 = .3540 = 35%

It’s possible to get a higher number (around 48%) by excluding “Rights-of-Way” (roads, alleys, etc.) from total acres, but it’s unclear why you would do that unless you had a political point to make.

The claim that “two-thirds of Seattle is zoned for single family use” is a lie. Urbanists who propagate this lie are deliberately distorting the truth to smear homeowners for political purposes. They should stop doing that!

For another in-depth look at the distortion of these numbers by City planners, see:

Warping data to grossly inflate city land area given over to single-family zoning
by John Fox, Seattle Displacement Coalition – May 12, 2016

Mother-in-law units are key to housing affordability

By Sarajane Siegfriedt

Special to the Seattle Times

The Seattle City Council should loosen restrictions to encourage more homeowners to convert their basements into accessory dwelling units.

WHEN I was in my 50s, with my son out of the house, I began planning to supplement my income by turning my half-finished daylight basement into a mother-in-law apartment. Now that I’m retired, it allows me to stay in my home and afford the city’s ever-increasing property taxes.

Mother-in-law apartments are carved out of an existing home, most often in a basement, or sometimes in an attached garage. Backyard cottages, on the other hand, are more complex to permit, design and build. They’re about 10 times more expensive, likely to rent for market rates and they raise lots of concerns with the neighbors.

The Seattle City Council should separate mother-in-law apartment legislation from backyard cottages. They are the best and least expensive way the city can encourage moderately affordable housing.

Mother-in-law apartments present fewer controversial elements than backyard cottages: They bring limited need for off-street parking, they’re owner-occupied and easy to permit because the footprint and appearance of the house don’t change, and no sewer hookup is required. They’re affordable because most owners are looking for a trustworthy housemate and want to minimize turnover.

Mother-in-law apartments are 100 percent owner-financed, often with a small loan against the owner’s equity. I built mine for $25,000, including $5,000 for a “bedroom egress window” that required cutting into the foundation. My apartment was inexpensive because, like many midcentury houses, my home had a daylight basement with a half-bath, a half-finished rec room and an outside door. Carving it into an 800-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment and adding a kitchen and shower was relatively easy.

The biggest barrier to more legal mother-in-law apartments in Seattle is the requirement for off-street parking in single-family zones. A proposal to eliminate this rule was ready for a City Council vote more than a year ago, but it was set aside for the HALA (Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda) committee to consider. With many people clamoring for single-family zones to absorb more of the coming growth in Seattle, adding a couple of cars per block seems a necessary change.

There are some other code elements that seem arbitrary, such as the requirement for separate circuit breakers and temperature controls in a new unit. The cost of shared heat and utilities and noise suppression are negotiated between my tenant and me. The city should roll back this requirement.

The best thing Seattle can do to increase density and affordability in single-family zones is to actively encourage mother-in-law apartments. Providing clemency for those who have violated certain requirements and eliminating other rules would go a long way toward encouraging these units, without any investment on the part of the city.

Families with adult children living at home, seniors wanting to live near their families without invading their privacy, individuals who need the rent to supplement their incomes and pay the ever-escalating property taxes: All would benefit from these changes.

Sarajane Siegfriedt is a homeowner in Lake City and is retired from a career in human services. She served on the preservation subcommittee that helped craft the Seattle Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda. She is on the public-policy committee of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and has been an advocate for housing and homelessness for many years.