VIDEO: Neighbors brief neighbors at standing-room-only workshop on HALA rezoning plan

halacrowd

Story by Tracy Record
Photos/video by Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers

“We didn’t make this stuff up, but we’re here to help you know about it.”

That’s how Deb Barker introduced the standing-room-only workshop that she and Cindi Barker led last night at Highland Park Improvement Club, with more than 135 people there to find out more about the rezoning proposals that are part of the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA).

haladeb
(Deb Barker, foreground; Cindi Barker, background)

Deb and Cindi – which is how we’ll refer to them due to the surname coincidence – are both with the Morgan Community Association, one of West Seattle’s many all-volunteer community councils, and both have long been involved with land use-related issues. In recent years, they have offered several workshops and briefings to help their West Seattle neighbors make sense of major projects and/or processes, and last night’s workshop was one such case.

The city went public a month ago with draft rezoning maps for the “urban villages” around Seattle, five of which are in West Seattle/South Park. (Here’s our first report, published October 20th.) But no major official announcement accompanied the maps’ online release, and the only official city meeting scheduled in West Seattle so far is an “open house” one week from tonight, for which some postcards have been sent out promising “conversation” on a variety of city initiatives but not including any mention of “rezoning.”

Cindi and Deb stressed repeatedly last night that the intent of the workshop was to prepare people for that December 7th open house, which includes an official chance for feedback on the draft rezoning maps, as well as to offer guidance on how to read the maps, how to efficiently comment online, and other information including the rezoning proposal for areas outside the “urban villages.”

Basically, the city is proposing to upzone “urban villages” – and multifamily/commercial properties citywide – for a HALA initiative called Mandatory Housing Affordability.

Our video below, of the hourlong presentation at the heart of the meeting, picks up after the introduction by Deb Barker (who is retired from a land-use-planning career in a nearby city, and also has served on and chaired West Seattle’s all-volunteer Southwest Design Review Board).

Cindi Barker – who has been involved as a citizen volunteer with the HALA process going back about two years – first offered a primer on MHA, with the help of city-provided slides (again, this was NOT an official city-organized meeting, though Brennon Staley from the city Office of Planning and Community Development was on hand to answer questions as needed). Here’s the full slide deck that she and Deb used through their hour-long presentation (embedded below, or review it as a PDF here):

MHA basics: The city is offering more development capacity via upzoning, in exchange for developers either building a certain percentage of “affordable” housing in their projects, or paying fees to fund it to be built everywhere. “The city believes it will increase housing choices through the city,” Cindi added.

“Affordable” per the MHA definition means a rent that would represent about a third of the monthly incoe of someone making no more than 60 percent of the Area Median Income (half make more, half make less). Right now, that would be $1,009 for a one-bedroom unit. 6,000 of those units are to be created via MHA (which is just one part of HALA itself) in the next 10 years, contributing to a total of 20,000 affordable homes that the mayor is hoping will be created through a variety of programs.

Cindi went on to explain the volunteer citizen “focus groups” whose members were involved in the runup to the maps’ release, working with “principles that guided (the) zoning changes” (read them here). She then explained the types of zoning – residential small lot (“very much like cottage housing”), Lowrise 1, Lowrise 3, Neighborhood Commercial – with a diagram showing details of height, density, and other characteristics that would be allowable under each one. (Look for “MHA Development Examples” halfway down this page for more background on the zoning types.)

Continuing to explain how to read the maps – she pointed to the titles in each area, “existing zoning” on the left side of a vertical line, followed by “draft zoning,” and then a designation such as (M) or (M1) showing how much affordable housing it’s expected to produce. In some cases, as she explained, the zoning will leap more than one level.

If you’re in an urban village on a single-family lot, “residential small lot” is likely what you’re proposed to be upzoned to. You could have two homes on the lot instead of one, if it’s a 5,000-ish-square foot lot. Now that you’ve gotten a crash course in map-reading, here are the four West Seattle maps again:

(Direct link to draft West Seattle Junction Urban Village rezoning map)

(Direct link to draft Westwood-Highland Park Urban Village rezoning map)

(Direct link to draft Admiral Urban Village rezoning map)

(Direct link to draft Morgan Urban Village rezoning map)

And here’s an interactive map you can use to see other areas proposed for rezoning, as well as to zoom all the way in to your street.

Back to the meeting. As it moved into an early round of Q&A – there was an early question about “how does parking play into this?”

“Parking is not what we’re here about tonight – (though) parking is what we ultimately all care about,” Cindi said. She noted that the Environmental Impact Statement would have to address that topic. “That process is going to start (in the first half of next year).” Deb added that there will be parking topics at the city’s December 7th open house (we’ve talked about that before too – here’s the page for what the city is currently considering).

Highland Park Action Committee chair Gunner Scott added at that point a suggestion to bring that up with your city councilmember (District 1 rep Lisa Herbold was not in attendance, as she is traveling, but at least one of her legislative assistants, Andra Kranzler, was announced as present).

Next question, from Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council chair Amanda Kay Helmick, wondered about the chance to comment on the “livability” portion of HALA. That too is part of the early Environmental Impact Statement “scoping,” Cindi said. “Plug into your community associations and media” to watch for deadlines and opportunities.”

Another question: “Where did ‘mandatory’ come from?” Cindi’s reply: “Mandatory for developers.”

Then: “How many trees are we going to lose?” The workshop leaders did not have an answer for that.

halahandouts

Following that, concerns about the size of the venue the city chose for the December 7th meeting (Junction restaurant Shelby’s), given that 130+ people showed up just for this informal briefing. Cindi and Deb noted that they told the city as soon as they heard of the venue that it would be too small “but we were shot down.” Some attendees vowed to call the city and voice their concerns.

Continuing the presentation, Cindi said the Morgan Community Association has some questions they are pursuing with the city: “We need affordable housing, but it is not clear if the Grand Bargain is “the best bargain” – is 7% enough to ask from developers? Also: “Can the 6,000(-home) goal be reached without ‘double-plus upzones’?”

She also pointed to a chart just posted to the city’s website, showing that it only expects 1,000 units to be built “on site” among the projects – if you divide that by the 38 urban villages, that’s 27 affordable units for each one – and the rest elsewhere, “in much larger chunks of buildings” via the fund that will be overseen by the city Office of Housing, “centralizing it … and they’re going to build it where the nonprofit organizations can find the land to build it.”

They also have concerns about how MHA upzoning relates to existing neighborhood plans (linked here), created in the late ’90s to “guide the livability of growth anticipated in the new Urban Villages.” Each of those plans, she pointed out, “provides the goals and policies the city committed to in support of the Seattle Comprehensive Plan.” And the proposed upzoning is being done outside the context of the neighborhood plans. In Morgan Junction, for example, the zoning changes “are in direct conflict with our Neighborhood Plan,” she noted.

An attendee then wondered, “How do we find out who the HALA focus group (members are) and how they were (chosen)?” Cindi said, “They put out a call for volunteers.” (We published it, as did many others – here’s our story from February.)

Helmick asked the next question: “Is this a new form of redlining?”

Another good question to officially bring to the city, Cindi replied.

“If the city wasn’t willing to listen to you guys to change the venue – if I write to Lisa Herbold and, oh say, 90 percent of us decide they aren’t thrilled with this – is the city really going to listen to us and make changes in this program?” asked the next person.

“It feels like this program is going to happen – the mayor is very supportive of it – but … you’ve got to get there and give them input” to potentially have some effect on the details, Cindi stressed.

Deb noted that other neighborhoods around Seattle are affected too – Google some of them and you might see an “interesting yard sign,” she said.

Next question observed that, considering the HALA plan was set into motion before the presidential election, is the city taking into account possible changes in the federal government and funding?

OPCD’s Brennon Staley answered that one: “Obviously the changes in federal policy might affect (the non-MHA 14,000 units of “affordable housing”) … this (MHA) is probably not going to be affected by federal policy all that much.”

How does this affect people outside urban villages? Answer: All multifamily/commercial property is affected citywide, not just in the UVs, it was stressed. (Here again is the new interactive city map, which was included in our Monday night story preview.)

After the presentation and Q&A, the second phase of the meeting was freeform – going over to tables and looking at the urban villages’ maps.

halatable1

The organizers put together some multi-dimensional renditions, and advised that people write questions down so they are prepared to ask city staffers questions at the city Open House next week.

Right now, you can offer feedback by choosing (from the dropdown) a map at hala.consider.it – not a popular option, apparently, as Cindi observed that only 11 people had done that for Morgan.

Besides the December 7th meeting, the only other official meeting expected in this area is one in South Park for which a date is not yet set – likely to happen in January.

Just before everyone headed over to the maps, Phil Tavel, MoCA vice president, urged people to attend the December 7th meeting no matter what: “If you have any issue with feeling that you were left out … show up, be heard, be seen.”

WWRHAH’s Helmick then took the microphone and told people to please understand that everything happening here tonight is all-volunteer. Her organization, WWRHAH, meets next Monday night, 6:15-7:45 pm at the Southwest Library, and will be looking at the Westwood-Highland Park Urban Village draft rezoning map (one of the four we included above) as part of the meeting.

MORE RESOURCES

*The links mentioned by Deb Barker and Cindi Barker last night are now in this post on the MoCA website.

*The city’s page for the HALA focus groups also has many direct links you might find of interest.

WHAT’S NEXT BEFORE ANY REZONING BECOMES OFFICIAL

*The December 7th city “open house” in West Seattle
*Continued comment on the draft rezoning maps, via hala.consider.it (and e-mail, halainfo@seattle.gov)
*The city will revise the maps and come out with “final” versions next year that will require City Council approval; the latest estimate for that is next June

48 Replies to "VIDEO: Neighbors brief neighbors at standing-room-only workshop on HALA rezoning plan"

  • CMT November 30, 2016 (1:31 pm)

    Well this exchange, along with the City’s lack of any meaningful notice to advise affected parties of the proposed changes, really says it all, doesn’t it?   We have zero real say on the plan for West Seattle’s neighborhoods to bear the burden of providing affordable housing elsewhere:

     

    “If the city wasn’t willing to listen to you guys to change the venue – if I write to Lisa Herbold and, oh say, 90 percent of us decide they aren’t thrilled with this – is the city really going to listen to us and make changes in this program?” asked the next person.

    “It feels like this program is going to happen – the mayor is very supportive of it – but … you’ve got to get there and give them input” to potentially have some effect on the details, Cindi stressed. 

    • Jort Sandwich December 1, 2016 (4:52 pm)

      Yes. It is going to happen, because we elected government officials to help run our city and deal with our population growth.

      I suppose, if all of this bothers you, you could have voted for the “Put a giant glass dome over the city and don’t let anybody else move here” candidate. Oh wait, that’s a fantasy.

      In a representative democracy you don’t get to veto every single decision made by a planning department. I know this is very hard for people in Seattle to hear and it hurts lots of peoples’ feelings, but, you know, oh well.

      So, yes, this program is going to happen. Deal with it.

      • Andrea December 2, 2016 (8:17 pm)

        Does the fact that there are people in your neighborhood ,and all over west Seattle who have bought and own their property and don’t want any of this mean anything to you??? Seriously do you think just because YOU say it’s going to happen means it’s going to happen? What are you, some kind of jerk? People need to start suing for thier rights. I’ve lived here a long time and have not seen such incredible disregard for people’s property rights when it comes to developers. They’re pushing through development on dangerous slopes. They’re pressuring fixed income single family home owners into selling and then not paying them for two years. They’re building places with no suitable parking, and blocking everyone’s views. In short , just dragging down the quality of life here. It needs to end. We don’t need any more   “development “here! Developers don’t live here , we do. Grow a set! Stop being intimidated by the city , and tell the mayor first of all we don’t need anymore “development” period , and to find an different way to create low income housing . Like rent control for instance. 

  • Kay K November 30, 2016 (2:12 pm)

    I can’t stress how great it was to have Deb and Cindi do this presentation. Very helpful to understand the context and scope of this proposed action. I did go to the city survey and it was not very simple or easy – one has to “sign up” to make comments. I don’t know if that extra layer of process is very user friendly for all.

    • CMT November 30, 2016 (2:33 pm)

      Yes, it was wonderful that they did the presentation!  The City should have been doing things like this instead of purposely choosing a small venue like Shelby’s for a so-called informational open house.

  • Kimbee2 November 30, 2016 (2:43 pm)

    @CMT: Please show up and echo the concern to the city reps on December 7th at Shelby’s. The more voices, the more potential as you’ve referenced. 

    A big thank you Cindi and Deb for driving the conversation on behalf of all West Seattle Residents!

  • CMT November 30, 2016 (3:27 pm)

    I am going to go, even though it feels like a depressing exercise in futility!

  • Melissa November 30, 2016 (3:35 pm)

    I can’t figure out how to comment.  Which HALA page allows you to comment

    • Kimbee2 November 30, 2016 (5:15 pm)

      @ Melissa: The Consider.it survey is located at: https://hala.consider.it/  Like all survey’s it frustratingly limited in scope. I encourage you to attend the city hosted Open House on December 7th from 6-8pm at Shelby’s, consider attending or at least getting in the loop with your local community council/ neighborhood group meetings, and consider writing to Lisa Herbold as our District 1 City Council rep directly: Lisa.Herbold@seattle.gov   The timetable of city milestones is on slide 32 of the presentation deck provided in this article. 

      • WSB November 30, 2016 (5:21 pm)

        Quick note: The December 7th event is 5:30-7:30 pm. Earlier due to the fact that the city chose the same night as the Southwest District Council’s meeting, and refused to change that when pointed out weeks ago (as well as refusing to change the venue despite, as noted last night, concerns about its size), agreeing only to a slightly earlier start. We’ve linked the actual listing at a couple points above, and you can keep watch on the official HALA calendar: http://www.seattle.gov/hala/calendar

  • Pixie B November 30, 2016 (5:13 pm)

    It amazes me what is considered affordable housing. I am a 62 year old on very limited income due to unexpected circumstances.  My current rent is approximately 65% of my income.  I could not continue living in Seattle at over 1000 a month on rent.  Not now, nor in the next 10 years.

    • Erithan - sad/frustrated November 30, 2016 (6:09 pm)

      Many are in the same boat sadly, and even trying to ask for the tiniest things (washing the Windows once a year like they used to..) in places like where I live now get met with harrasment, and being ignored in general. I only get about 1k a month, I’m thankful I have a roof over my head, but the stress/health (mentally and psychically) and inability to be have access to actually affordable housing does not help. And this place is 5 stars compared to a similar building years ago…

      I grew up here, and never wanted to leave till more recent years, I do not want to be forced away from my small family. Sorry for wording, not feeling well.

  • Melissa November 30, 2016 (5:37 pm)

    Pixie that is why you should go to the meeting.  I don’t know how you are making it.  

    Also, I learned last night that there are no impact fees on developers.  So as they increase density there is no additional money for transit and other infrastructure.

    • John November 30, 2016 (7:27 pm)

      Melissa,

      There are indeed impact fees on developers.

      Just to hook up to the sewer for one SFR there is a $6,000 fee.

      The city recently added full panel replacement  of residential streets when adding gas or water or sewer at an additional $6,000, although the the smaller patches elsewhere were fine for the last century.  

      The code is liberally sprinkled with impact charges on development such as these examples.

      Both Debs are likely able to confirm these impact fees.

      As density is increased there is additional money for transit and infrastructure.

      Proof of that lies in the record spending  increase in Metro recently and the massive expenditures on transit of all sorts possible – bikes, water taxi, pedestrian greenways.  Even the support of light rail was swung by of all of our density and people voting to support the future, finally.

      • CMT November 30, 2016 (8:28 pm)

        John, if you don’t mind my asking, do you happen to work in City government, development or land use, or have you just been following the issue closely?  The reason I ask is that you seem to have a lot of knowledge of code provisions that may support HALA’s stated agenda and for the lay person like myself, it can be hard to get the full picture.  

        • John December 1, 2016 (8:01 am)

          CMT,

          I am the rare self-described Urbanist or  IMBY (In My Backyard) that attempts to counter the prevailing posts on WSB (when allowed).

          I support in-fill and density to protect our natural resources: forests, rivers, lakes, mountains and seas.

          Exporting our housing to the suburbs destroys our environment.

          Though not a career builder, I rebuilt my home 15 years ago, enjoyed the challenge and the process and have since completed two new SFR 5000 homes on West Seattle hillside in-fill lots. I started this when the city was encouraging such endeavors and actually believed I was doing a service,  little did I know.

          The full size lots I build on were chosen for their access to downtown and access to bike, bus, and water taxi routes.  I look to the day where such homes will not  need the full sized 2-car garages that I provide to be marketable.

      • CMT December 3, 2016 (7:41 pm)

        Thanks John.

  • TheKing November 30, 2016 (5:57 pm)

    The bottom line is money and legacies with local politicians in Seattle. They will spend as much of your hard earned money that they can pull out of your clutched hand to do so. Look around, billions are fluttering around and our infrastructure is in trouble. 

  • rico November 30, 2016 (7:46 pm)

    A sewer hook-up charge and a fee to patch the streets, John describes above is not an impact fee.  

    • Mike November 30, 2016 (8:09 pm)

      John likes to sugar coat the fact that developers get HUGE tax incentives to limit parking and add ‘low income’ living units to buildings.

      • WSB November 30, 2016 (8:24 pm)

        There are no tax incentives for limiting parking. The “incentive” there is that it costs less to build a building without parking. Again, as noted in the story, if you are interested in parking, take note that it is expected to be one of the discussion topics at next Wednesday’s city open house, and this is where the city is currently looking to go. The tax incentives for “low income” currently include the Multi-Family Tax Exemption – here’s which projects citywide were participating in that through the end of last year:

        https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/Housing/HousingDevelopers/MultifamilyTaxExemption/Attachment%20A.pdf

        …info on that table includes what percentage of the units have to be offered at what percentage of the mean income.

        • Mike December 1, 2016 (7:56 pm)

          actually there is, they come in the form of a different term that puts these units in mass transit zones, but in order to get the benefit, you can’t have parking spaces for every unit.  It’s not a joke, it’s a fact.

      • Jort Sandwich December 1, 2016 (4:50 pm)

        There is no “tax incentive” to limit parking. There is a financial incentive, though. Did you know that parking actually costs money? That the land used to house private automobiles could be used to house human beings or businesses instead? 

        My husband and I rented a junction apartment for a while, and in-building garage parking was $275 a month because it was based on supply and demand. Guess what? We only had one car, and we didn’t park it in the garage. We parked it across the street in a cheaper lot that was NEVER full (Jefferson Square), and used the car when we needed it, which wasn’t often, since we lived next to a extremely frequent mass-transit bus line (and we aren’t special little snowflakes that find every excuse in the book to avoid having to interact with the smelly poor people on a bus).

        Please rest very assured that $3,300 a year in parking costs was a significant factor in limiting our car ownership, and it is for others who live in urban villages as well.

        I know that parking causes 98% of citizens in any city in America to go absolutely apoplectically crazy, but there is a simple solution to it: don’t drive. Yes, you have that option and so does everybody else. Get used to it.

        • Anon December 1, 2016 (9:34 pm)

          Let me know when the light rail can transport me to the hiking trails in the Cascade and Olympic mountains; when it can transport my kayak and skis and when it can tow my travel trailer. Some of us live here to enjoy things offered outside the city.

  • John November 30, 2016 (8:03 pm)

    No Rico,

    King County does in fact describe this as an impact fee, as it is above and beyond the direct cost associated.

    Please read:

     http://www.kingcounty.gov/services/environment/wastewater/capacity-charge.aspx

  • Darryll November 30, 2016 (8:13 pm)

    In 20 – 30 years, the city will own all of these so-called affordable units, along with billions of dollars in backlogged, mandatory repairs. The people who live there will certainly have substandard housing conditions and the City will be the largest slum lord in the Northwest. Then we’ll be forced to increase taxes on our homes again to pay for the mess this created. This sounds like an urbanist’s dream!

    • TheKing December 1, 2016 (6:08 am)

      You are so right. Everything happening goes directly against the Growth Management Act of 1990. 

  • Canton November 30, 2016 (8:31 pm)

    The problem is the “mandatory affordability” aspect, as it does not create affordable liveabilty. It just creates a lot more market rate rents, and a minimal fee imposed to developers to bypass making affordable available units. The city doesn’t seem interested in actually building housing in the urban villages. They wouldn’t want to run them. Everything this city does is to contract out all the crappy work to someone else cause they can afford to. Just please, wipe the lipstick off the pig.

  • Junction dood November 30, 2016 (9:39 pm)

    Lots of anecdotes and hyperbole and lack of facts. If nothing ever got rezoned our houses wouldn’t be here and easy street wouldn’t exist. Seattle wouldn’t exist. Like it or not when has it ever been a good thing to not plan ahead? 

  • truthtelller November 30, 2016 (9:55 pm)

    Junction Dood 

    How about we plan mass transit that flows in and out of West Seattle and two more bridges along with an apartment size park and ride, and then plan rezoning and more building. That is planning ahead. 

    • John November 30, 2016 (11:08 pm)

      truthtelller,

      That is exactly what was done the last time around, guess who rejected it?

      (Hint) The same people who voted it down with the reason that our zoning and lack of density would not support it.

      Besides,  a park and ride is useless if the streets are gridlocked and it is simply not possible to add more roads.   Where do you imagine two new bridges would go, without massive destruction of homes and businesses on each end.  What roads would they feed? 

      Planning ahead is far easier than getting people to support building ahead with their tax dollars.

      We will be waiting decades for the mass transit we could have been enjoying for decades.

    • Junction dood November 30, 2016 (11:26 pm)

      I totally agree. This is a bit cart before the horse. We should have built light rail in 1968 with federal money but we (they) kicked the can down the road being anti-growth. Thanks people of yesteryear. How’d that work out? It was bad timing economically thats for sure and I see why it was voted down twice when being short sighted. But it was free money to build a sweet system! (Atlanta’s MARTA now).I agree that transportation and infrastructure should precede density or at least happen simultaneously but opposition to transportation spending and density got us more density and no “real” transportatation. IMHO population increases are a given until the virus overruns its host. I don’t think for 1 second that I have all of the answers but I do think we are dealing with decades of poor planning and not integrating density and mass transit as the city grew. Some of that was probably bad policy and some probably “nimbyism” and being anti-tax. I get it, I work full time + about 700 hrs of OT a year. I don’t want my money wasted just like anyone else but what about 40 yrs from now? I have traveled to Asia, Europe and the Middle East. So many places integrated all these things AS they grew and it works great. And working great makes it easy to integrate with culture and then it’s a done deal. I’m not saying all of this is perfect but I do feel that it’s time for a paradigm shift or we are going to kick the can down the road and 40 years from now our kids are going to be cursing us. At some time in the past NY was the size of Seattle; good or bad it’s the inertia of the human race. We might as well face that and try to manage it well until the zombie apocalypse HALA or otherwise. Let’s turn a corner and fix this for future generations! (I hope someone knows how to do that) :-)

  • Kay K November 30, 2016 (11:16 pm)

    I wrote to the city person listed as contact for the meeting next week, here’s her response:


    “I understand that there was much concern about the venue shared at the meeting last night.  The venue is said to hold up to 80 people in the areas that we have reserved but we have reached out to another local business that has agreed to be overflow for us in case we need it.  The other venue is across the street at the Uptown Espresso. 

     

    I will be reaching out to West Seattle Blog and changing our website tomorrow.”


    I’m sure Tracy will post the updated info when she gets it.

    • WSB November 30, 2016 (11:35 pm)

      News to me. But will inquire in the morning. Can’t imagine Uptown, with which I’m very familiar, holding more than an extra 15 people or so, as they have a lot of tables in the way … There are triple-digit venues in the vicinity if they have their hearts set on The Junction – Senior Center/Sisson Building, West Seattle Christian Church’s Activity Center (that holds a couple hundred, I believe), Dakota Place Park’s building (which is city-owned) …

  • matt November 30, 2016 (11:41 pm)

    There is plenty to like about HALA and some of the other planning work, but I’m really skeptical about MHA’s success.

    Why are the large non-profit affordable housing developers are in this Grand Bargain? Simply, they are the beneficiaries. 

    How?  The Office of Housing is suddenly going to have a massive slush fund projected to more than double their current annual budget, once they start collecting the Mandatory fees.  

    Tens of millions of new  dollars are going to be paid into the city’s coffers a year, and where is the draft or detail about how that will be managed responsibly?  Are there projects to build?  Where are those project going to be? Is the logic that the Office of Housing’s bureaucracy is just going to be 2-3 times bigger?  

    Meanwhile, it is going to cost more to build anything, and it will cost more to buy real estate, once the market factors in the 7 to 13% premium for building under the Seattle’s MHA program–a price everyone (not in one of the new affordable units) will be paying. 

    ***BTW, currently there is a more generous voluntary incentive program for developers to build/pay for affordable housing in exchange for additional unit/height.  And it is barely being used. 

    • KM December 1, 2016 (6:23 am)

      Matt, this is my issue with where we are now with HALA (that and the small amount of space being upzoned). There are far more effective ways to build housing now, that don’t involve all the bureaucracy that the current design of the mandatory fees would create. I would like to see affordable housing built by builders in currently slated projects, rather than have these fees paid into a fund that is designed to eventually create affordable housing–likely in clusters as much of it now exists in our city. 

      • matt December 1, 2016 (4:18 pm)

        For example, one of the HALA recommendations is to allow both a backyard cottage and a mother in law apartment on one lot.  Another eliminates the owner occupancy requirement for accessory dwelling units.  

        That would have a immediate impact, and I bet quite a few of those mother-in-laws would be on the low end of the market price for rentals (but not capital A Affordable).  it would certainly reduce some of the pressure.  

        Let’s start there!  It is simple, the change happens over the course of decades, is distributed throughout the entire city, and it is something that I as a homeowner can do with a few tweaks of the city’s land use ordinance.  

  • Melissa December 1, 2016 (7:11 am)

    John- I am curious as to which neighborhood you live in. Or more importantly, which bus you take?   That is not a rhetorical question.  

    Bus service to areas East of Delridge is inadequate.  We don’t have the 10 minute service that the Mayor is touting in the plan.  We have 25-30 minute service during the day.  Night service is almost non-existent.  

    In the evening, if my bus is more than 5 minutes late I know that there is a strong likelihood that a number of people are not going to get on the bus.    I then try and get on a 120 and walk a mile home.  I often have to jockey for position on a 120 because those are over crowded also.

    So John since you seem to be knowledgeable about these things,  will you work with neighborhoods to ensure that we have adequate bus service.  Right now we don’t and with increased density i.e. will make a bad situation worse.   Where is the money for the increased service?  And will you advocate that all neighborhoods get adequate service?


  • John December 1, 2016 (8:32 am)

    Melissa,

    I choose a home one block from the Number 21 on 35th Ave.

    Unfortunately,  I am in one of the trades that requires a pick-up truck constantly.

    Fortunately, I am able to schedule my few trips downtown  to off -peak hours and I work in West Seattle where we live.  I try to hire sub-contractors from our neighborhood, but the only workers I have ever had that bussed were casual laborers.  I also encourage car-pooling and have picked people up and taken them home.

    As far as mass transit, I have been a supporter for 40 years.  I witnessed  Seattle’s rejection of the Vashon bridge with Puget Blvd through way, early attempts to build an new bridge (the drunken harbor pilot decided that one for us), early mass transit, and the Monorail.  

    I am a supporter of Light Rail and increased Metro service to reach all neighborhoods.

    Regarding my claims about Metro,

    from “Metro Future/Metro Matters” on Metro’s website, “Because the regional economy is strong, we have funds now to improve service and begin to invest in the vision of METRO CONNECTS, which over the long-term calls for:

    • Doubling ridership,
    • Increasing bus service by 70 percent,
    • Increasing the number of buses on the street by 30 percent, and
    • Making a significant capital investment in the new coaches and technology necessary to deliver this service, and the physical space to house and maintain our equipment.”
  • Melissa December 1, 2016 (10:57 am)

    John – I can tell you are a good person by your comments.  However, if Metro is to serve all neighborhoods, where do you think the money should come from?

    Under-served neighborhoods are called that for a reason.  We don’t get the same level of service as other neighborhoods.  We are always the first ones to be cut and the last ones to get added services.  

    • Mickymse December 1, 2016 (1:05 pm)

      1) If you’re not near “frequent transit,” then you’re not getting upzoned as part of an Urban Village, and you’re not going to have the MHA program assigned to you.

      2) Plenty of people are involved in advocating for more bus service and better transit. Come join us! Check out your local neighborhood or community council. Follow the Blog’s reports from the District Council meetings. Or come check out the West Seattle Transportation Coalition — http://www.westseattletc.org/

  • BJG December 1, 2016 (12:42 pm)

    Just some historical perspective here: Forward Thrust was a collection of civic funding  proposals that came to voters in two parts, first in 1968 and then again in 1970. There were successfully funded projects that we have all paid for and enjoyed.

    Some blog comments seem to refer to the 1970 vote for mass transit that was not passed, although 54% of Seattleites voted for it. This was in spite of the fact our one-company city was suffering the Boeing Bust as the last of us leaving were to “turn off the lights.” I voted yes. Many of us obviously voted yes. Super-majorities were very hard to reach under the best of circumstances. You need to recall context when you judge the past.

    • WSB December 1, 2016 (1:02 pm)

      Very important point BJG – especially for those of us who were not here then (we arrived in 1991). Thank you.

  • dcn December 1, 2016 (12:46 pm)

    I think it’s criminal that of all the up-zoning that is happening due to HALA, only 27 units on average will be available in the urban villages themselves. The whole idea of HALA was to provide affordable housing for residents. I agree with other posters above that allowing developers to pay into a fund for affordable housing elsewhere is a potential disaster waiting to happen:

    1) the cost to buy the land to build these affordable units.

    2) the cost to build and manage the units.

    3) the oversight and timeline for #1 and 2 above. When and where will these projects happen? When will the people who most need affordable housing be able to get it and where will they live? 

    Concentrating low-income people into “projects” is also not in the spirit of what I think was sold to Seattle residents either. All the material circulated about it touted helping those people who do not make large incomes, like service industry people, claimed that we would help people live where they work. But only 27 extremely lucky people will be able to live in the Junction, 27 more in Fremont, etc. That’s a drop in the bucket of what is needed.

    Using the HALA money to create separate low-income housing hasn’t gone well in other cities, such as Chicago, where the projects also concentrate other problems with poverty, such as crime. 

    If we are going to upzone to increase affordability, then it was a mistake to allow developers to pay into a fund to build low-income housing elsewhere. If they want to build one story taller, then they should be required to provide affordable housing on-site. If the purpose of HALA was to densify the city, then it should have been proposed as such. We do need smart city planning because growth is happening and we cannot stop it. Denser urban villages are part of that, but it shouldn’t have been sold as an affordable housing initiative.

  • Neighbor December 1, 2016 (1:54 pm)

    As Junction Dood and other proponents of Communist Bloc housing have stated, if you don’t like it, leave and sell your lot to developers so they can build concrete valleys. So much for wanting to live in a friendly neighborhood community. In Seattle, homeowners are apparently evil and greedy and we should all just roll over and make room for hypothetical people who want to move here.

  • Fairmount Springs Mom December 2, 2016 (8:24 am)

    This program puts all of the burden for “affordable housing” on 5-6% of SF property owners, whose property the City plans to change to multi-family.  Over 94% of SF property will not be rezoned, with no imposition for affordable housing on 94% of property owners.  To the 5-6% that are being rezoned, the City is offering no data these properties will hold their value with this new affordable housing program, a program that has not been tried in other cities. The City is offering no assistance or reimbursement if property values do not hold or if people cannot sell.  And the City has not even bothered to notify the 5-6% that their properties are being rezoned (a colorful mailer inviting people to a general open house at an ice cream parlor about HALA is insulting).  And check out where the City is rezoning–or better yet, where it’s not.  Check out the Seattle 2035 plan and notice the lack of urban villages in Magnolia, Madison Park, Montlake, Laurelhurst, and Madrona.  Check out the large urban village expansion in Westwood Village, but none on Upper Queen Anne, which is much closer to downtown.  This whole HALA plan reeks of inequality and discrimination.





    • Ken December 3, 2016 (3:28 pm)

      Thank you for
      your post.  Yes, why are only 5-6% of the city’s property owners being
      impacted to solve a problem that has reached “crisis” proportions
      according to the city.  Since when does an issue of crisis proportions
      become resolved with a 5-6% solution?  It is completely reasonable to
      expect that your home will sell at a substantial discount if you are in an
      Urban Village boundary compared to your neighbors home across the street who is
      outside the boundary all other things being roughly equal.  Most potential
      home buyers would prefer the property where they know they will not have the
      potential for multiple structures on either side of their home.  And yes,
      the city does not offer any compensation or assurances to those impacted.

      If rezoning is
      the answer, then let’s propose rezoning the entire city and then have the
      entire city weigh in on the merits.  That is how it should work in a
      representative government.  Now, the entire city is invited to weigh in on
      what happens to  5-6% of the city’s land mass of which most hold no
      personal interest.  Like you mentioned, the city seems to be exhibiting a
      clear lack of desire to solicit any input from those of us who actually own
      property or have lived in these neighborhoods for some time.   To hold a
      public forum for an issue that would have a dramatic effect on the citizens of
      a neighborhood in a small Ice Cream Parlor and Coffee Shop across the street is
      just insulting like you said.   An issue of this magnitude should have
      been held in school auditorium or the like, unless of course, you have no
      genuine interest in the citizen’s input.  

      I don’t think
      it is any coincidence that the areas being selected for rezoning are also
      primarily working class neighborhoods.  I don’t particularly buy into the
      city’s verbal fluff about proximity to transit and commercial centers.
       The houses to the North of me are much closer to the nearest Rapid Ride
      bus station and yet they are untouched by this proposal.  Nay, it is about
      political expediency, if we can just do this to 5-6%, the other 94% will
      breathe a big sigh of relief and life goes on.

  • BJG December 2, 2016 (9:16 pm)

    Recent quote by Jon Stewart in the Huffington Post, “We all give tacit support to exploitive systems as long as they don’t affect us that badly.” The 94% of Seattleites whose properties will be untouched are not in this fight. They are safe until at least 2035. It leaves the 6% to carry the burden of this social engineering and there is no help for us.  To make matters worse, we are called whiners and regressive. We would just like this share the loss of our neighborhoods equally. 

Sorry, comment time is over.

WP-Backgrounds by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann