By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Ballots are arriving. The biggest battle in the primary: Seattle mayor, 15 candidates, no incumbent,
Last Saturday, WSB and the West Seattle Junction Association co-presented the primary’s only mayoral-candidate forum in West Seattle (WSB coverage here, including video), touching on a wide range of peninsula-relevant issues. If you’re still making up your mind, another forum four days later focused on neighborhood issues including development. Wednesday’s online forum presented by Seattle Fair Growth – with co-sponsors including the Morgan Community Association – featured six candidates for all or part of it – Colleen Echohawk, Andrew Grant Houston, Arthur Langlie, Lance Randall for the entirety of the forum, Bruce Harrell departing early, Jessyn Farrell arriving late. Lorena González was invited, organizers said, but couldn’t participate.
You can watch it in its entirety here. We watched it as it happens, and our notes are below. As usual in our coverage, they are paraphrases/summaries except for whatever is between quotation marks:
Public safety: What will you do to address severe public safety issues?
Sixkiller: SPD is “down 300 cops …because of decisions made by the City Council … every category of crime is up. I believe we need to hire back those officers.”
Houston: He is focused on “100 percent public safety, but less than 50 percent of that is police.” He believes “crimes of poverty” are a major part of the problem, and crime overall is still lower than it was decades ago. He encourages more people to spend time outdoors in their communities to “establish public safety.”
Randall: “The most important responsibility as mayor is to keep the public safe.” He will make sure public-safety agencies are funded and staffed. He also advocates disciplinary measures to weed out bad officers.
Langlie: “Public safety is a critical service of the city and the city’s kind of lost its edge on services.” It’s “dangerous” that the city might have fewer than 1,000 officers before year’s end. “It’s going to take years to recover” from the “toxic environment” that talk of defunding began. Overall “the people who hate bad cops the most are good cops.”
Echohawk: “Public safety is something I have been working on for a long time … something very clear from the data, more cops do not equate public safety.” She would work on other resources to be sure that public safety springs from communities. “Right now there’s only 18 community officers … (if she is elected) every officer will be a community officer.”
Harrell: It’s not just having more officers, it’s having effective officers. He says that hiring was higher than ever when he was on the council and that would be the case if he’s elected. “We will change the culture … (to one) where we truly build community trust.”
Neighborhood planning: In the ’90s, 37 neighborhood plans were created. Since then, the city has reduced neighborhood influence. What does neighborhood planning look like to you?
Houston: Supports bringing back neighborhood plans. We actually have more than 140 neighborhoods in Seattle; he would like to see plans for them all. For a sustainable Seattle, “we need to plan at that level.” He would dedicate city staff to the task.
Randall: Current neighborhood plans need to be updated. In development, the neighborhood plans “need to be presented to developers … as a way to try to come up with agreement, synergy, to incorporate (them) into development plans.”
Langlie: “There’s an awful lot of community groups in this town and we need to be sure they’re all represented in these plans.”
Echohawk: She has concerns about neighborhood plans, “need to be sure equity is at a premium” and that some aren’t left out. Equity “means that we provide food and child care ….” Need to reimagine the Department of Neighborhoods and get neighborhood coordinators into all neighborhoods.
Harrell: His DON director “will be evaluated on how comprehensive and thorough the outreach will be.” He’ll put structure around neighborhood planning, Block Watches, etc. He envisions “building stronger neighborhoods” and being sure input is measured.
Sixkiller: “Our neighborhoods are the special sauce of Seattle.” Link between neighborhoods and decisionmaking in Seattle has been strained in the past decade. Would make neighborhoods a priority, and focus on action, “and putting money behind it.”
Harrell had to leave after that question.
Housing: What is your plan to ensure that neighbors making less than $50,000 can afford to stay in Seattle?
Randall: Need to focus on commercial developers who can build 20 units or fewer – smaller projects have less debt service, which means lower rent.
Langlie: We have some of the greatest design firms in the world and we should be able to come up with affordable designs – “right now we’re stuck.”
Echohawk: “I have been building affordable housing .. the way that we’re going, we’ll never catch up.” Need to take advantage of leadership in BIPOC communities. Need to work with federal government.. Need to ensure we have jobs that work for families.
Sixkiller: It’s a complex issue … he opposes throwing out single-family zoning. “Our housing affordability strategy has to begin with preserving the housing that we have.” Also need to “fine-tune programs” like MHA, which isn’t creating enough “(affordable) housing in place.”
Farrell joined at that point and answered the question.
Farrell: She is proposing 70,000 units of affordable housing from supportive housing to “missing middle” – community land trusts, social housing, identifying buildings to preserve.
Houston: 2 ways – “put more funding into providing for affordable housing” through a tax, and end “exclusionary zoning.” Federal government will fund block grants for communities “to make that happen.”
Housing: Will changing the name of single-family zoning create more affordable housing or is it a name change only?
Langlie: Single-family zoning will continue. His neighborhood has had some ADU-related issues. Need to look closely at design to accommodate everybody.
Echohawk: “This is a first step … we actually have to make the step and get this done.” Her plan calls for more multifamily housing all over the city. It’s important in the face of climate change.
Farrell: “All of our housing decisions should be driving toward housing stability, racial justice, and reducing emissions.” More work has to be done beyond a zoning change. She cites examples around the city including (as she did at our forum last weekend) High Point.
Sixkiller: Not in support of ending single-family zoning. “I don’t think unchecked development has the positive impact that we want.”
Houston: Yes, this is a change in name only, but it recognizes that many of our “single-family” neighborhoods already have other types of housing. “We’re going back to that to start the conversation.” To “accommodate all the people who wwant to live in our city,” we need “small change” in all our neighborhoods.
Randall: We need to make sure we prioritize “a good, diverse stock of rental and sale options.” Need more flexibility in SF zones, like smaller lot sizes.
Housing: 23 percent of single-family homes in Seattle are rentals. Developers are not building larger apartments. What would you do to avoid displacing the families who as a result have to rent houses?
Echohawk: She will work with Equitable Development Initiative to be sure housing is built with 2 or 3 bedrooms. “We have to change the way funding works for some affordable housing,” finding other ways to fund it.
Farrell: She extols the concept “ST3 for housing,” and west-side light rail needs to learn from east-side mistakes, provide pathways to ownership, identify buildings to preserve as affordable housing.
Sixkiller: “We have to be very careful .. be sure we are not inadvertently turning neighborhoods that are affordable, into unaffordable neighborhoods.” Fine-tuning existing programs is vital. “Our policy should support families holding onto their homes.”
Houston: Important to note that this question is really about rentals. … What we should be focused on is that market is providing (smaller units), so city should be providing larger units.
Randall: More flexibility in SF zoning. Land Trust. “We want to try to help people build wealth.” Maybe down-payment assistance.
Langlie: He’s a contractor and works off “good data.” It’s important to “look at what we need and how to get there.”
This forum also included 10 yes/no questions.
#1 – Would you support raising the Mandatory Housing Affordability fees so more developers build affordable housing in projects rather than just paying a fee into a fund to have it built somewhere else? All said yes.
#2 – Will an increase in market-rate housing in Seattle improve housing affordability? Langlie, Randall, and Houston said yes, Echohawk, Farrell, and Sixkiller said no.
#3 – Are there any affordable homes for sale in Seattle? Houston said yes.
#4 – Would getting rid of single-family zoning cause displacement and gentrification? Langlie, Randall, and Sixkiller said yes.
#5 – Do you support urban villages and transit-oriented development as a core principle for increasing density while maximizing access to transit? Randall and Sixkiller said yes.
#6 – Would you support a dog park within walking distance of every urban center or village? Everyone said yes.
(#7 & #8 – U-District questions)
#9 – Will you incorporate genuine community input into the redevelopment of our city? All said yes.
#10 – Will you commit to protecting South Park from industrial encroachment? All said yes.
The forum concluded with closing statements – you can advance the video to 53 minutes in to see those.
WHAT’S NEXT: You can vote as soon as you get your ballot; dropboxes are open, or you can drop yours in the postal mail (no stamp required). Voting deadline is August 3rd; the top two vote-getters in this race move on to the November general election,