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

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.