One Street in Ballard

by Jon Lisbin

Where have the trees gone? Where has the neighborhood gone? What about the sense of community?

But look how the developer took pains to match his building to the blue house.  Thank you city planners!

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Letter to Seattle City Council – Apartment Glut; Just add Upzones

by Jon Lisbin

Hello Council members,

Thank you for your hard work trying to address the affordability crisis. I know you have good intentions but it’s increasing looking like the Grand Bargain is too little, too late, legally challenge-able and potentially destabilizing to the housing market.  According to the Dupre+Scott Fall 2016 Rental Market Trends, we are seeing a moderating effect on rents in Seattle.   This is due to unprecedented apartment development (50,000 new units in the Puget Sound between 2015 and 2018).

But wait, there’s more. If you look at the in-city Seattle market where a lot of the new units are happening, between the stadiums, Ship Canal, Lake Washington, and Puget Sound, the impact of new construction on rents is even more obvious. Adjusting for new construction, rents went up just 3.9% in the past twelve months. That’s down from 8.4% a year earlier. We expect the rate of rent increases to slow further as more new units open over the next few years. And survey respondents agree. Last fall 72% of the survey respondents told us they planned to increase rents in the next six months by an average of 2.9%. They were close. Rents rose 2.6% between last fall and this spring. Now only 32% say they expect to raise rents by next March. As a result, we expect rents to increase about 1.5% by spring. Oh what a difference a year makes.”

According to this report rent increases will be lower than inflation by the spring.  This is good news for renters but is fair warning of an impending apartment glut that could have serious consequences on our economy.  Particularly if the city fans the flame with “upzones.”  As you know, real estate markets are cyclical and the market is self-adjusting. A government intervention, at this point, could lead to a real estate market collapse; severely straining a revenue source the city is overly dependent on; construction sales tax. (Figure 1)

annual-sales-and-bo-tax-revenue-growth

Source: Seattle City Council Insight

Not only should the city let market forces play out without interference but it would be advisable to immediately diversify revenue streams with legal GMA Impact Fees, which the city council has already studied.

From the City of Seattle’s Impact Fee Assessment, “The City (and the School District) currently fund a large portion of capital programs for each facility type eligible to receive GMA impact fees with property taxes and bonds to be funded with future property taxes. A GMA impact fee program could augment these funding sources by contributing to the incremental additional capital costs that are development‐driven.” 

Couldn’t have said it better myself. This is not false news nor alternative facts.  These are the facts and, as public servants, you are accountable to your constituents for the decisions you make.  Please consider these facts as you decide on the merits of this policy decision.

 

Keep Seattle Livable!

no-upzones
The Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program rewards developers and speculators, while Seattle residents pay the price.  This “Grand Bargain”, devised by Seattle’s Mayor and City Council, promises to destroy established communities, displace thousands of low- and middle-income residents, and reduce family-scale housing options.  Importantly, MHA doesn’t guarantee affordable housing concurrent with new development in affected neighborhoods.

The MHA program applies to all multifamily zones in Seattle.  In Urban Villages, all single-family properties will be rezoned to multifamily.  In exchange for providing a miniscule number of new affordable housing units, MHA allows developers to build larger and taller buildings.  Currently affordable old housing units will be torn down to provide market rate housing that only high income earners can afford.  Every new MHA building will increase the cost of housing in Seattle. Continue reading

The U is for Sacrifice

u-district-upzoneby Shirley Nixon and Nancy Bocek, co-leads of Livable U District

Increasing allowable building heights in the U District by 400% to nearly 500% in many cases (current 55’, 65 and 85’maximums to 240’ and 320’) is a too massive and unnecessary upzone!
The U District is indeed to become a sacrifice zone, with its unique character destroyed forever.  We need to tell our elected officials that this upzone proposal is unacceptable, unsupportable and unfair. But Council Member Rob Johnson seems determined to vote it out of his PLUZ Committee and adopted by the full council in just a few short weeks.

If this is to be prevented, City Council members must hear now from residents and independent business owners who want a more Livable U District and First Things First instead of an upzone ordinance that will only blanket the community with taller densely packed buildings, less livability, and more displacement.

Where do we fit in all this?  Dispelling the myth that this upzone is what “the community” wants and needs. Continue reading

West Seattle petition for 6-month extension on HALA

juno-logo The West Seattle Junction Neighborhood Organization, JuNO, sent a letter to City Council requesting a six month delay on the HALA draft proposal before proceeding to an Environmental Impact Study or EIS. Please see the attached letter for an outline of their concerns, which include a lack of neighborhood outreach by the city and not enough time for the neighborhood to responsibly study and respond to the proposed rezones.

If you would like more info on JuNO and how to get involved, please email:  wsjuno@yahoo.com

In Seattle – A Side Yard or Towering Toaster Box House?

by Lisa Parriott

monolith-houseIn 2012, Dianna McLeod, a senior citizen, called the City of Seattle’s DPD and asked if her side yard was a buildable lot.  She was told no.  Immediately following, developer Dan Duffus bought her property, split the lot in 2, built and sold a towering toaster box house on the new lot for a large profit.

Our neighbor, a senior citizen, contracted with a professional real estate agent to sell his home with a large side yard.  His north Admiral (West Seattle) property sold for $505,000 less than 14 months ago to developer Cliff Low. He now lives in a trailer park in Puyallup.  On January 12, 2017, 9AM @ Seattle Municipal Tower in Parriott vs. City of Seattle, the neighbors will make the case to the City’s Hearing Examiner that the side yard is not a separate building site, based on a 1957 City LU Code loophole – Historic Lot Exception.  If unsuccessful, Cliff Low will have secured a vacant lot in Seattle for little to no money.  He will be allowed to squeeze a towering toaster box home onto the side yard and walk away with over $400,000 profit. Continue reading

U District BIA Not Representative of Business/Property Owners

by Shirley Nixon:

u-district-bia-redAttached is a 2015 map showing property parcels in the U District, and whether the parcel owner voted for or against expanding the U District Business Improvement Area (BIA).  If the parcel is shown in red, the owner objected to the expansion and having to pay a BIA assessment.   Blue parcels voted for the BIA.  Light purple parcels are owned by the UW and not assessable in the traditional sense.  White parcels are single family, townhouses, or multifamily of three units or less, which are not taxable.  (Condominium buildings were deemed taxable as “businesses” even though composed of multiple single-family units; which is a whole other sore spot….)
You’ll note that there are vastly more red parcels (by a factor of about 4 to 1) than blue parcels. Continue reading