HALA REZONING: Council briefed on ‘community design workshops,’ gets newest timeline

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The next milestone in the process of shaping the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda component known as Mandatory Housing Affordability will come next week.

That’s when the draft Environmental Impact Statement will be made public, the City Council was told this morning.

That announcement came from Office of Planning and Community Development‘s Sara Maxana, a key staffer working on HALA, toward the end of a council briefing on the Community Design Workshops held in the city’s 17 urban villages as part of the HALA MHA feedback process.

Councilmember Rob Johnson‘s office organized the workshops, and this morning’s briefing featured his staff’s point person for them, Spencer Williams, as well as John Howell from Cedar River Group, one of the consulting firms that facilitated them, along with Makers Architects. The slide deck above is the summary of what they say they heard in the workshops (and it’s here in PDF).

We monitored this morning’s briefing and discussion via Seattle Channel; here’s the video – the briefing starts about 43 minutes in:

West Seattle’s design workshops were held for each of the four WS urban villages:

Westwood-Highland Park
West Seattle Junction (WSB coverage here)
Admiral (WSB coverage here)
Morgan Junction (WSB coverage here)

(Added: The city’s slide decks, notes by table, and summaries from each workshop around the city are linked at the bottom of this page.)

Howell summarized the workshops’ structure – which, we’d note from having covered three of the four local ones, did digress – Admiral, for example, ended with small-group summaries presented to the larger group but the other two we covered did not.

West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold complimented Howell on consultants’ work getting people out of the large-group Q&A and into small-group discussions. (Generally, we’ve noted in covering such events, people want to stay longer in the large groups because then everyone gets to hear the answers to common questions.)

Howell noted that they did not ask participants for demographic information but did get some from a followup survey – 150 people (of the reported 1,300 workshop participants) responded. Council President Bruce Harrell asked why demographic information was not collected at workshops. Howell replied that they were trying to keep participation barriers low, and not make people feel they were being forced to give up personal information. Williams said our area (District 1) in particular was resistant to pre-registration – which was described as “required” in the early going – and to giving up lots of personal information ahead of time.

Among the common concerns recapped by Howell were the need for more infrastructure to support the additional residents and the desire for affordable housing to be built in “high-cost areas” – in every area, not just for developers to choose the option of paying MHA fees to wind up funding housing in a few areas. Councilmember Johnson pointed out that the goal of HALA MHA is “50 percent performance” (building the required affordable housing in the same project as market-rate housing) and added, “We are working really hard with every community who believes that (Office of Housing) won’t build housing in their neighborhood” to prove that to be wrong.

HALA MHA will upzone single-family lots in urban villages as well as all commercial/multifamily lots, and Howell says that was a frequently voiced concern, with some suggesting that instead, land along arterials could be upzoned even more than proposed. And they heard a lot of concern about how the HALA MHA proposals do or don’t relate to existing neighborhood plans.

Williams said neighborhood plans – most of which date to the ’90s – were discussed in a process a decade ago (likely a reference to the process that included a multi-neighborhood meeting at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in 2009 and a survey). Many of the concerns raised in the HALA MHA workshops are similar to those raised then, he said, singling out West Seattle Junction Hub Urban Village concerns about a shortage of greenspace (which have resulted in the city reassessing what it counts as greenspace in that area).

Councilmember Herbold then said that neighborhood advocates are concerned that this is not the same kind of planning process and “want the same kind of intentionality” as happened with neighborhood planning in the ’90s. Later in the discussion, Councilmember Sally Bagshaw asked Office of Planning and Community Development‘s Sara Maxana how the city deals with those concerns. Maxana acknowledged that a two-year citywide process is not the same as a one-year neighborhood-specific process but contended that community members had been given the opportunity to give input, through these meetings, for example. Other examples of outreach she mentioned was the hala.consider.it website and Reddit. Another city staffer focused on HALA, Jesseca Brand, said they’re trying new things and are also using the Race and Social Justice Initiative to “shape” where they go and who they talk with.

Later, Councilmember Johnson said that for the amount of resources put into the 17 workshops, they might only have been able to do traditional neighborhood planning for two or three neighborhoods. He feels the outcome would be similar.

The slide showing a sample of “mapped comments” called out the Westwood-Highland Park Urban Village (the first workshop in our area and the most lightly attended).

Howell summarized by saying that there’s a “broad range of knowledge” about HALA MHA among citizens – less to more – and that the background presented at the start of the workshops was “helpful” in getting people “closer to a level playing field.” (The slide deck included a note that on a scale of 1 to 10, people had gained an extra point of awareness by attending a workshop.)

He again said that people often “came into the meetings loaded for bear” and wanted more of the traditional large-group format but he said organizers felt getting them into small groups was better and provided “really rich conversation,” particularly when there was a diversity of opinions around the table. He also noted that having local residents make points about where the maps didn’t make sense – topography concerns, for example.

Maxana said the legislation that is expected to go to the City Council this fall will “be informed” by “two years of engagement” including these 17 workshops. Next steps: They will “be wading through all of the engagement, all of the analyses.”

And that’s when she said the draft EIS will be out next week. And she adds that even once the public comment periods close, the hotline and e-mail account will remain available.

Johnson pointed out that the timeline now calls for a council vote in about a year “and I hope gives us the space for Council to put resources into neighborhoods” – he says they’re looking for funding to add more meetings and possibly some walks centered along topics such as:

*Privately owned public spaces
*’Missing middle’ issues
*Neighborhood business district issues
*Townhomes/single-family zoning together “and what that really means”
*Housing around major institutions

He suggested they could seek co-sponsors for such events, mentioning examples such as Historic Seattle, Feet First, and (to our surprise) WSB, which he described as “very engaged in land-use issues.” (Don’t know about engagement, but we certainly cover land use as closely as we can, since the peninsula is in a time of continuing growth and change. Our archive of coverage relating to “development” contains 1,500+ stories, newest to oldest, starting with this one.)

26 Replies to "HALA REZONING: Council briefed on 'community design workshops,' gets newest timeline"

  • CeeBee May 30, 2017 (3:35 pm)

    No surprise to me  that you were specifically mentioned as being aware and engaged of land use issues.  These citywide initiatives affect all neighborhoods and you are one of the few who take the time to alert residents to the meetings, cover them and provide summary and analysis that keeps everyone informed.  Even the Seattle Times doesn’t cover the MHA issues as well as you do, thank you!

  • Scarlett May 30, 2017 (5:46 pm)

     What a crock!    This is yet another episode of the city concealing the actual true responses of the West Seattle junction neighborhood and soft-pedaling mild or bland comments in this publication. The published document ignores the massive negative reviews generated by the West Seattle junction neighborhood towards this plan.   The city swore they were going to collate and publish our actual comments and then failed to do so or “lost” many of the comments.  How oh so very convenient.    Oops, I guess they forgot. We wouldn’t want to publish those comments since they were resoundingly negative.  It really sucks too because we know we’re not going to get any affordable housing in the junction -just more expensive market rate housing for developers who line their own pockets and the pockets of our elected officials.  

    I can’t wait until the Junction Neighborhood Organization publishes the actual responses and the data they obtained through public records requests. It shows what big fat liars the city really is. But we knew that, didn’t we?  

    • WSB May 30, 2017 (5:50 pm)

      I forgot one key link related to this – the page with the city notes about the workshops. Adding to the story. Meantime:


      The Junction concerns listed on the “summary” page there certainly comprise a longer list than “favorable” points:


      (ADDED) And even more detailed than that are the city’s official “notes” by table:


    • Jort Sandwich May 30, 2017 (6:32 pm)

      Hi Scarlett,

      You might have better luck at working toward constructive dialog and solutions with city planners if you would refrain from calling them “big fat liars” and claiming that they’re “concealing” information. Just a thought.

      • CMT May 30, 2017 (7:48 pm)

        Scarlett is correct though.  The City made significant misrepresentations to the West Seattle community prior to the maps coming out in terms of what MHA would mean and then represented that the maps reflected community input.  The West Seattle Junction community has overwhelmingly advised the City at every single input opportunity post-map release that this proposal is not appropriate, and that the burden of increased density deserves corresponding real planning to preserve livability for existing as well as new residents.  Any characterization to the contrary is verifiably false.

        It would have been nice if Rob Johnson and Mayor Murray had cared about maintaining a true dialogue rather than labeling neighborhood advocates as akin to “Trump wall supporters.”

        Believe it or not, a neighborhood can be successfully involved in planning and implementing a vision for successful growth even if that does not achieve the goal of the small segment that wants all apartments and no cars as soon as possible.

    • AMD May 31, 2017 (6:12 am)

      The city has been soliciting a lot of feedback via electronic means as well, not just the in-person meetings.

      Are you sure what’s published DOESN’T represent all of the feedback?  If I felt differently than the mob does about these changes, I sure as heck wouldn’t feel safe voicing that in a community meeting and get attacked for it the way some commenters here do.  I’d fill out the online surveys and e-mail the leaders instead.

      • CAM May 31, 2017 (7:23 am)

        There is an active group that is being organized by the neighborhood associations to oppose this. I figured that out early on and avoided all public meetings where my thoughts would get shouted down, dismissed, belittled, and ignored. I’m guessing I’m not the only one. As a renter who is supportive of increased density I was told to my face at the only meeting I attended that I just didn’t understand how things worked and maybe all the homeowners who were clearly more insightful than me could tell me the “right” version of the “facts”. My perception of the lack of interest in truly representing the voice of the neighborhood has also only increased my perception of those neighborhood associations as non-representative and catering to only a select group of residents. 

        The same is true for comments on the blog. I will dive in occasionally but have no desire to constantly have that much negative energy in my day so will retreat just as quickly. Just because you have surrounded yourself with people who agree with you (to say nothing of chasing away those who don’t) doesn’t mean you are the only voice that matters.

        People opposed to this should also take into account that supporters of proposed legislation generally don’t participate as actively in the process. Just like you are more likely to read negative reviews online, people who are anti something are more likely to say so. A louder voice is not technically representative of the larger group. 

        • KM May 31, 2017 (8:24 am)

          You certainly aren’t the only one in this situation. Very well said.

        • Captin May 31, 2017 (8:48 am)

          Well said and thank you for your honest input.

          There is waaayyyyy too much negativity.

          CAM you are my new hero. So many people are having a hard time with housing costs. It’s in the paper like every other week. More “market rate” housing does what? Lowers the “market rate”.

          Seattle isn’t what it used to be and it never will be some small town city again. 57 people a day moved here last year per The Seattle Times: your move anti-density folks. Let’s post some solutions instead of negative rhetoric please. Chances are someone we’re in combat with on the blog lives across the street from us and we make small talk with them at Safeway and think they’re pretty cool. This is OUR city; homeowners and renters, temporarily. It is also our responsibility to plan for the future because someday we’ll be gone and will pass the torch to the next generation. What do we do?

        • CMT May 31, 2017 (11:47 am)

          I absolutely agree with you CAM that all voices should be heard.  Yes, there are going to be some that are simply opposed to increased density.  But the majority of people do understand that density is inevitable, and that it is inevitable in West Seattle.  I have never been at a meeting where anyone acted as you describe and am sorry you had that experience.  What I have seen is frustration by members of the community, both renters and homeowners, that the City is using West Seattle as a receptacle for disproportionate increased density without any of the things that will maintain livability for residents in terms of planning.  This includes greenspace, consideration of traffic, parking and transit capability, infrastructure capability, noise pollution, blocking of light and displacement of existing population that will be priced out, to name a few. 

          • Captin May 31, 2017 (12:18 pm)

            The mayor and the city tried to spread it out throughout the entire city. People don’t want it in West Seattle, people don’t want it in Leschi, or Wedgewood. I think we need to revisit allowing one triplex per block in SF zones or something of that sort.

            As far as transportion, green space, etc yes we need to be coordinating those things with growth. But as far as transportation goes we may not have any other option than putting the cart before the horse. 57 people a day, 20 years till light rail. We should’ve built out light rail 20 years ago. :-(

          • CMT May 31, 2017 (1:04 pm)

            Unfortunately, the way the mayor and the city tried to spread it throughout the city is by looking at a one-dimensional map at a desk in a location far from the affected neighborhoods without attempting to take into account any local factors whatsoever, or to actually communicate with neighborhoods to address their needs. 

            When there was pushback to the mayor’s idea to upzone the entire city, he quickly backed off and decided to dump it primarily in the urban villages as a quick fix, banking on the fact that everyone else would be so relieved that it wasn’t happening to them that they would not pay attention.  Yes, it makes sense that urban villages absorb more density than other areas.  It also makes sense to develop urban villages in other areas as the ones that we have become oversaturated.  Most of all, urban villages deserve what was promised to them in exchange for becoming urban villages in terms of the infrastructure and amenities to support a dense population.

            This should not be an argument about whether density itself is good or bad but about insisting that our neighborhood receive those things that it needs to remain a positive living environment as density increases.

          • Captin May 31, 2017 (3:52 pm)

            The original plan was to do both per the HALA recommendations in addition to change rules for ADU’s and DADU’s but the city botched that by not initially completing a full EIS. Then our friends in Queen Anne successfully sued to delay it.

            How is the Alaska Junction so different from Othello, or Northgate or whatever? What is SO unique about West Seattle that we should not allow growth here? Build a building here, build a building there. I don’t see what is so radically different; code is code and what ever is allowable per code will be built. And there are urban villages all over the city so as far as that goes it is being spread out. Including brand new ones.

            I agree that neighborhoods should be involved and it should be a cooperative process. But people don’t really want to cooperate, they say “cool but just not here”.

            Green space is extremely important, yes! But many amenities are market driven. I like that we have way more restaurants and coffee shops and consignment stores, etc. and we have those because of growth. To me this is about planning for people long after I’m gone.

            Green space, yes! Transportation, yes! Infrastructure, yes! Unfortunately though we are behind the 8 ball now.

            People are not going to stop moving here for $150,000 jobs at Amazon and I don’t blame them. That’s good money and they can afford to pay $800,000 for a house or $3000 a month in rent. That’s bad for the rest of us. 

          • CMT May 31, 2017 (5:17 pm)

            I can only speak for myself and the people I know who are not opposed to growth but are opposed to this particular blanket upzone that  allows unmitigated, unplanned growth with zero strategy and that will severely limit the neighborhood’s ability to obtain any of the things that will allow it to be more dense, yet livable, going forward. 

            It’s silly to rush forward with a half-baked plan, just for the sake of doing something, when what it will accomplish is actually counterproductive.

            Being against this plan does not mean being against density.  It does not mean being entitled or exclusionary (which make no sense anyway, since this plan will price out far more people from West Seattle than it will allow in). It actually means looking to preserve the good parts of West Seattle for the people that come after us. 

          • Captin May 31, 2017 (7:52 pm)

            Maybe so. Maybe I’m a glass half full person or terribly naive but I find it hard to say and frankly unfair to assume that these people employed zero strategy and/or do not care about us or the people in the future and didn’t attempt to do their best. Maybe they didn’t or don’t, but I’m talking about the assumption right out of the gate. At this time I see no evidence of some dubious intent.

            That doesn’t mean it can’t be better but just read this blog: how can a large scale plan be employed without some people not agreeing with 100% of it? That’s pretty much impossible.

            Also, this hasn’t happened yet. It is a proposal that is taking shape in real time. It probably will be pretty close to the original proposal but if so that’s probably because they put a lot of thought into it and after public input they were actually somewhat accurate in their planning with respect to public opinion.

            The planning everything out perfect world scenario ship has sailed. I’m not saying go all Willy nilly but what do we do? Wait another 10 years to do something? 10 years ago we were closing down schools, now they’re re-opened and overpopulated already. 

          • CMT June 1, 2017 (5:59 pm)

            I don’t think you are naive in the least.

            I have reviewed a vast amount of info and data and my views on the proposal are not based on unfounded assumption.

            Hypothetically, I might have found it easier to take an optimistic and glass half full approach if the proposal coincided with a personal financial goal to develop my property or to ultimately sell to a developer.  I hope I would have still been able to see what a cost it will impose on my neighbors and neighborhood and that I would have advocated for something better and more forward looking for everyone.  

            I truly appreciate all of the people who are spending their time working for a livable West Seattle Junction for everyone.

      • Cmt May 31, 2017 (7:32 am)

        I am 100% sure. All data, including emails, are part of the public record and can be requested.

        • CAM May 31, 2017 (8:31 am)

          I would hope Cmt that you were not one of the individuals who refused to provide demographic information at these meetings given your interest in full public disclosure. If the comments of a private citizen, or group of private citizens, are going to impact the lives of everyone around them and government decision making it would seem appropriate that some level of public disclosure of that person’s demographics or group membership would also be appropriate. 

          • WSB May 31, 2017 (8:58 am)

            No one *refused to provide* demographic information at the workshops. The point of the exchange at yesterday’s council briefing is that it was not requested.

          • CAM May 31, 2017 (9:14 am)

            Thank you for the correction. 

          • CMT May 31, 2017 (11:35 am)

            I don’t even know what that means CAM. Why would I refuse to provide demographic information and what does that have to do with a review of public records with respect to the feedback of the West Seattle Junction residents that is public record?

  • Kimbee2 May 30, 2017 (6:57 pm)

    Well covered WSB, as always. Thank you!

  • For Livability May 30, 2017 (7:20 pm)

    If Spencer Williams was speaking, I suspect it was mostly spin and misrepresentation of what we all said at our meetings. His crew, including his colleague Amy Gore, used our table #10 to lecture us that having children in Seattle is irresponsible and that we should choose child-and car-free living in apartments instead of living in single family homes and having to drive our children to daycare outside of the city where it is more affordable. Residents who voiced concerns about being upzoned were put down and countered with their anecdotes about small apartment living, poo pooed when we discussed multi-generational living in single family homes, scoffed at when we talked of wanting a yard for a garden and our children or wanting to age in place without being taxed out of our homes, etc, and chastised for not embracing their vision of small footprint living. When I received a follow up survey from Williams, he revised my response in an email reply and made it seem like I was all for the unnecessary upzones being pushed by the shill for developers Johnson. JuNO is aware of this and was forwarded some emails, but I’m willing to bet Johnson and the HALA pushers threw out the vast majority of comments in opposition to this land grab snake oil they are selling as affordability without livability.

  • old timer May 30, 2017 (7:33 pm)

    Well, they had an agenda to present the desired outcome, collect responses, and make a report.

    Done, done, and done.

    So, things will proceed as planned.

    All the wonderful energy expended, salaries earned, emotions stirred, and nothing changes the predetermined outcome,  as we prepare for the evisceration of our town.

    Sorry, not our town, someone else has it.

  • WS Guy May 31, 2017 (7:10 am)

    This briefing is a load of BS.  If it was a true and accurate summary, they’d have acknowledged how negative the sentiment is overall rather than cherry-picking a mixed bag of generally positive points.  The briefing would conclude that the HALA program should be scrapped.

    It is unfair to ask a small percentage of the city residents and landowners to shoulder the burden of affordability in the form of new regulations, brutish transition of their blocks, and negative livability.  We voted for a housing levy that affects the entire city – that makes sense.  HALA does not.  

  • Jennifer June 1, 2017 (10:31 am)

    These meetings weren’t advertised to the gen public, emails were sent out to specific people, already involved, many not in the specific UVs at all.  They’re trying to use this as outreach.  It is not.  We still haven’t been notified of zoning changes in South Park.

    A clear, and simple letter to residents, on city letterhead is all it takes. Many of us have requested it, but still nothing.

    Many of the people at the South Park “design review” meeting found out about it from me, a neighbor.  Because another neighbor posted her personal email invite.

    This isn’t outreach, this isn’t planning.  Even if you are pro density, the MHA upzones aren’t a good plan, MHA just doesn’t perform, and true planning has not happened.  The damage is not worth the reward.

    It’s okay, and necessary, to say NO to a bad plan.  

    The city is lying to us, lying by omission, by misrepresentation.  No point in putting lipstick on a pig.  This is ugly, ugly behavior.

Sorry, comment time is over.