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.

Meet the Mayoral Candidates

The Seattle Neighborhood Coalition and Seattle Fair Growth are pleased to have two programs dedicated to extended meetings with Seattle Mayoral Candidates.  At each of the June and July meetings we will have one hour individual sessions with 3 different candidates.  The candidates will make opening and closing statements, respond to a few fixed questions from the SNC and SFG and then respond to audience questions.

June 10

July 8

*** PLEASE NOTE that the June 10 meeting will start at 1 pm and be at a different location, Black Zone (2301 S Jackson Street, which is at 23rd Ave S and South Jackson St where the Red Apple Market is located).  Black Zone is located in the building just to the west of the Red Apple.  There is plenty of free parking, and the site can be reached by the 8, 14 and 48 bus).  Rather than a breakfast meeting, there will be finger foods and beverages.  Admission will be $10, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

The July 8th meeting returns to our regular location at the The Central (Central Area Senior Center), but will have an 8:30 start time.

Join us at both Mayoral Candidate meetings for what should be informative and detailed conversation with our leading candidates.

Straightening Out a Councilman’s Twisted Truth

by Alex Pedersen

Do you recognize this bulldozer? It’s hard to tell because there are so many rumbling in Northeast Seattle these days. (It’s the one on NE 50th and Brooklyn).

Seattle leaders should prevent demolitions and displacement. Instead, our local government officials — led by Councilmember Rob Johnson — have been spending an enormous amount of time and taxpayer resources to quickly implement polices that will benefit their for-profit developer campaign donors and intensify demolitions and displacement.

Councilmember Rob Johnson’s recent Op Ed entitled “U District leads the way in citywide rezone effort” was misleading and irresponsible. Johnson, who was elected to represent Northeast Seattle in “District 4”, was not only celebrating his efforts to enact a law massively upzoning the U District but also giving notice to the rest of the city that he plans to upzone their neighborhoods, too. Disturbingly, many of his statements lauding the upzones were false.

In this troubling era of government officials spreading alternative facts to push their agendas and confuse communities, COUNCILMEMBER ROB JOHNSON’S TWISTING OF THE TRUTH MUST BE CORRECTED.

Misleading Statement #1: Rob Johnson wrote, “for the first time in Seattle’s history we will require affordable housing as we grow.” Continue reading

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

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

Rob Johnson’s Misleading Housing Claims

by Jon Lisbin

Rob Johnson is a Seattle City Council member and chair of the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee; a position which gives him significant sway over the zoning policies the city adopts.

Based on a blog article by John Fox in Outside City Hall, I felt compelled to look further into Johnson’s oft repeated claim that the city of Seattle is “adding 40 new people a day but building only 12 housing units per day.”  I was then a bit shocked on Feb 21, when he stated at a full council meeting, that 70 people are moving here daily.  During this session he persuaded a majority of the council members to support upzones (increased building height) in the University District while rejecting very reasonable amendments proposed by Council members Mike O’Brien and Lisa Herbold.

The fact is that the latest US census shows that Seattle is adding a “net” 40 people per day so his recent 70 claim is likely from another source; the Washington State Office of Financial Management.  The real false statement seems to be the denominator of 12 new housing units being built per day. Continue reading