HALA Workshop @ Seattle Neighborhood Coalition

by Linda Melvin

On Saturday, March 11, 2017, a workshop sponsored by the Seattle Neighborhood Coalition (SNC) featured renowned neighborhood activists Cindi Barker, Greg Hill, and Bill Bradburd as the primary speakers.  The workshop was attended by interested activists from Downtown, Mt. Baker, South Park, Leschi, Central District, First hill, West Seattle, Queen Anne, Wallingford, Ballard, Magnolia, Phinney Ridge, Lake City, and Licton Springs.

The subject:  Neighborhood consequences of the HALA-MHA upzones.

Background:  So far, the University District upzones have been approved.  Up next:  Downtown, South Lake Union; followed by Chinatown/Int’l District, Uptown, Central Area; then “citywide,” which includes all other Urban Villages and Centers (est. to Council late 2017/early 2018).

Lessons learned:  Expect last-minute surprises (e.g., rezones to areas NOT included in HALA plans); insist on “clawback” provisions (i.e., if mandatory provisions are disallowed by the State, then upzones are negated); City Councilmembers generally approve the upzones despite legitimate neighborhood arguments. Continue reading

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Downtown Developers Getting a Pass on Affordable Housing Requirements

by Susanna Lin

Why are the onsite requirements for affordable housing so low in Downtown and SLU? As low as TWO percent? Seriously. According to a report entitled Seattle Affordable Housing Incentive Program Economic Analysis (see page 17), a 5% on-site requirement is “modest” and will not have a long-term impact on development feasibility.

City staff has said the fee is lower because high rises are more expensive to build. But other cities with similar programs, many of which also have tall buildings, have much higher percentages:
● New York City: 20-30%
● Chicago: 10%
● San Francisco: 12%
● Boston: 15%

This rezone is supposed to generate 2,100 affordable housing units. This is about ⅓ of the MHA goal. But why is downtown only producing ⅓ of the affordable units when it has 75% of Seattle’s development capacity? Continue reading