CHS has talked in-depth with the four leading candidates vying to be the “top two” to go through to November in the race to be Seattle’s mayor. While the die-hards and dedicated have already mailed in their ballots, many haven’t — and many still count themselves among the undecided with one week left until the polls close on August 6th. Earlier this month, we invited you to tell us what questions you wanted the candidates to answer. Below, we’ve listed the top 5 questions — plus a bonus — and shared the responses we’ve received from mayoral candidates Ed Murray and Kate Martin and incumbent Mike McGinn. We told candidates we’d be open to late additions so we’ll add more as they come in.
1) What is your answer to keeping rent in a neighborhood like Capitol Hill affordable?
McGinn: Capitol Hill is popular. Rents are going up because more people want to live there than the current housing supply can support. To keep prices affordable will require new market rate housing, supporting new housing types like micro-apartments, supporting subsidized affordable housing projects, and providing incentives to new development to incorporate affordable units. As long as Capitol Hill remains vibrant and exciting, we will have to employ a variety of strategies to keep housing more affordable. In that regard, we have worked with Sound Transit and the Capitol Hill community to bring affordable Transit Oriented Development around the new light rail station. We have also made the East Precinct parking lot available for the new 12th Avenue Arts Center, which incorporates affordable housing. With the dramatic improvement in our economy, it’s also time to review our expectations for new development. That’s why I worked with Councilmember Conlin to put together a new committee that has brought together community members, affordable housing providers, developers and other experts. We’ve asked Tom Tierney and Morgan Shook to co-chair the committee. Tierney is recently retired from his position as Executive Director of the Seattle Housing Authority and Shook is a member of the Planning Commission and a Senior Associate at BERK Consulting. You can learn much more about this committee by visiting my website: http://mayormcginn.seattle.gov/next-steps-on-affordable-housing/ I am a supporter of micro-apartments, but am also working with Councilmember Conlin to address some concerns about the review process for these projects. Finally, we will continue to support new market rate developments so long as they meet our expectations for design, historic preservation and other public benefits.
Murray: Rental rates are increasing throughout the city, and vibrant, urban neighborhoods like Capitol Hill have been hit particularly hard. Although we are experiencing a record surge in the development of new rental units, demand has remained high due to the influx of thousands of new employees for businesses like Amazon. We must not allow Seattle to become a city where only the affluent can afford to live.
We have to increase our stock of affordable housing, particularly in denser areas like Capitol Hill. We have the ability, as a city, to offer incentives to developers and impose restrictions upon them in order to get them to include affordable units in new projects. There are other tools the city can use, like Community Benefit Agreements that can spur the creation of more affordable and workforce housing. And we need to encourage the development of micro-housing, which is a popular housing option for younger, lower income and single people, though we also have to ensure that such developments are properly regulated. As Mayor, I will pursue all of these options.
Martin: · Encourage establishment and investment in Non-Profit Real Estate Investment Trusts. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323528404578451023072622486.html
· Establish middle-class capacity in public housing.
· Get what we can out of developers with incentives
Capitol Hill Station: Light Rail and Heavy Construction,
originally uploaded by Michael Holden.
2) What do you want to see in the development around the light rail Capitol Hill Station?
McGinn: We have been working hard with neighborhood groups and Sound Transit to ensure the Capitol Hill Station design supports a mix of uses, including retail and housing. Some guiding principles in this work include creating community-oriented public spaces around the station, and set the stage for high-quality architecture and urban development that can be a model for other Transit Oriented Development sites in the city. We will work to design and activate a public plaza near the station to support a positive pedestrian experience, provide affordable housing, pursue the creation of a cultural gathering space in the redevelopment and provide a lower ratio of parking to residential units in recognition of the proximity to transit and neighborhood interest in supporting alternative choices for transportation. Regarding affordable housing, we have set an ambitious goal for ourselves and our partners – 25% of total units available to individuals earning 80% Average Median Income or below and 25% of the total units made available to individuals earning at lower levels. The retail space will be designed with a preference for flexibility so that we can accommodate smaller businesses as well as larger tenants. And we are open to all ideas regarding the new cultural gathering space while acknowledging the needs of the LGBTQ community.
You can read a great deal more on our work regarding development around the station on our Department of Planning and Development’s website.
We expect the City Council to deliberate on these efforts this summer.
Murray: Light-rail stations should serve as neighborhood hubs and support the development of thriving community centers. They are perfect places for targeted increases in density and affordable housing development. I want to see the area around the Capitol Hill Station filled with new retail businesses, restaurants, entertainment venues and potentially a new LGBT Community Center. I want the area to provide open space for recreation, and filled with interesting public art. The Capitol Hill Station should not be simply a place people travel through. I want to see the development of a Station District where people want to live, work and play.
Martin: Healthy public recreation, diversity – stores other than MJ dispensaries and places that sell alcohol, dormitories for Seattle Central Community College.
3) Our neighborhood is becoming increasingly dense, yet with continued cuts to Metro and removal of parking, transit capacity is declining. How is “transit-oriented development” supposed to work when transit capacity is being reduced?
McGinn: This is a great question and one of the challenges we are working to address as we not only fight to protect what transit funding we already have, but also work to deepen our investments in transit for the future. This is also happening at a time when transit ridership is rising, so the challenge is particularly acute. One of Capitol Hill’s strengths is that it is a walkable neighborhood with relatively good access to transit. We are working to build on those strengths by funding the planning work for the Broadway extension of the First Hill Streetcar and by working with community groups to encourage mixed-use development around the future light rail station. I will continue to support zoning regulations that encourage affordable housing and street-level retail that leverage the public’s investment in transit.
Murray: Transit Oriented Development cannot work when our transit system is shrinking. Metro Transit is facing a $75 million budget shortfall which, if not remedied, will result in a 17% cut to service. Cuts to transit service disproportionally impact our poor and most vulnerable residents, so this is an issue of social and economic justice, not just of mobility. It was very unfortunate that Eastside Republican legislators were unwilling to offer support for a transportation package during the legislative session. Part of the issue, frankly, has been that the strained relationships between the current mayor and some elected officials in Olympia has made it more difficult to make progress there on issues of importance to the city. But Governor Inslee and others are continuing to negotiate with the Republicans and I hope we will reach agreement on a package that includes a local option funding source for Metro either later this year or by next January. Beyond maintaining bus service, we need to focus growth on development on those areas of the city that have the infrastructure and the transit – particularly light rail transit – to support it.
Martin: To answer your question, TOD cannot work without the T.
Metro is running at over $20M in overtime which should be immediately [eliminated] and another 400 part-time drivers should be hired and trained. At the same time, decongestion of the streets must occur by limiting vehicular access to bus routes during peak commute time / event times or anytime congestion holds up the bus or streetcars.
4) Capitol Hill continues to lose longtime, independent businesses like Bauhaus and B&O. What more can the mayor’s office do to protect them?
McGinn: My Office of Economic Development focuses on our neighborhood business districts, including Capitol Hill. This includes funding support for advertising, investments in pedestrian infrastructure and studies about how customers travel to our independent businesses. When the news hit that Bauhaus might close down forever due to new development, we were concerned about the loss of this longtime piece of the neighborhood. While I acknowledged my office’s limitations in saving Bauhaus, I was pleased that a deal was struck with the developer that allows Bauhaus to continue to exist at the same location.
Murray: Seattle, like every city, relies on small businesses. They employ the vast majority of our residents, contribute to the character and livability of our neighborhoods, financially support city expenditures and attract outside revenue. I have lived on Capitol Hill for over 29 years, and am frustrated when a cherished business has to close its doors. We need to proactively develop a vibrant economic plan for each neighborhood in order to maintain and attract our small businesses. Thriving small businesses are crucial to the long-term sustainability of a livable community.
In general, I don’t think city government is being run very efficiently or effectively right now under the current mayor, and that leads to higher costs for businesses which have to interact with the city. Utility rates are just one example. Navigating our city’s tax system is needlessly complicated for businesses. Further, we need an umbrella permit for small businesses, rather than making them go from department to department seeking multiple permits to open and operate their business. Streamlining bureaucracy and providing this kind of certainty, predictability, and simplicity for business will be a hallmark of my administration. In addition, I would be open to deferring permit fees in the first few years of a business. With half of new business failing after the first year, the idea would be to ramp up permit fees with each successful year in operation. After three or four years in operation, you pay the standard fee.
Martin: Unless we want every storefront to be an MJ dispensary or a place that sells alcohol, we have to take aggressive steps to make more affordable commercial spaces. The Non-profit REITS that I mentioned in question one also work for creating permanently affordable art spaces and commercial spaces.
5) How will you guide SPD to reduce street crime in areas of rapidly increasing population and a vibrant nightlife like Capitol Hill?
McGinn: Last year we launched the Safe Communities Initiative as part of SPD: 20/20 with the goal of meaningfully engaging our community in reducing crime and creating the safest possible neighborhoods.
Across the city we engaged with over 1,000 participants at 101 community meetings. Delegates of the Safe Communities Initiative had 320 separate recommendations for the city to do to improve safety in our neighborhoods. Many of these recommendations are similar across all 5 precincts, while some are precinct specific.
Last month I went with Captain Wilson on a tour of the East Precinct and was briefed on what progress has been made. That visit was the first of my annual public tour this year of all of our five precincts.
The East Precinct covers eight square miles, between central Seattle between Lake Union and Lake Washington, and the Ship Canal and I-90 and employs 126 sworn and civilian personnel. To meet the needs of the wide variety of communities, the East Precinct has taken a community-based approach to policing this summer.. Wilson spoke of a new partnership within the East Precinct called “Walk and Talks”. Walk and Talks is the inspiration of Rosemary Agostini, MD. The program, which promotes walking for improving health and group exercise as a way to build relationships, debuted last March at Port Orchard Medical Center, then to the Rainier Valley in the South Precinct, and to the East Precinct on April 23rd.
Individuals participating in the program meet with healthcare professionals while taking a walk in the neighborhoods surrounding the Group Health Hospital. In a continuation of community building efforts, men and women of the East Precinct and Community Outreach Section will participate each week. The East Precinct Walk and Talks are held every Tuesday, from 12:15 PM to 1:00 PM, rain or shine.
Our most recent crime data from the East Precinct shows a 10% decrease in overall property crime when compared with last year’s numbers, and a significant decrease in violent crimes and robberies with guns from previous months. For example, the month of March had only 13 armed robberies in the East Precinct, compared with 24 in January and 23 in February. And while we just saw a shooting across from Cal Anderson on Sunday morning, SPD quickly apprehended a suspect with the assistance of those who witnessed the crime.
Even with these numbers, we’re still preparing for the potential increase in crime that usually comes with summer’s warmer weather. The East Precinct has already seen an increase in public safety issues in Cal Anderson Park/ Bobby Morris Playfield. In response to these issues, the East Precinct has begun several new approaches to assist patrol resources. The Anti-Crime Team (ACT) will be spending more time proactively working to address public safety issues within the Park and surrounding neighborhoods. Patrol officers will be making more frequent visits during park closure times to ensure all is well. The Community Police Team (CPT) has begun to assist patrol resources by outfitting some of their officers with bicycle uniforms. These bicycle-trained CPT Officers will periodically break away from their traditional role in order to expand police presence in various hotspot areas within the East Precinct. And we have stepped up our Parks Ranger patrols in Cal Anderson to support our police department’s efforts.
In addition, the East Precinct has teamed up with the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to work on the 23rd Avenue Action Plan. The purpose of this project is to establish a city/community collaboration that creates a shared vision and action plan to improve the health and equity of three Central Area community cores: 23rd Avenue & E. Union Street, 23rd Avenue & E. Cherry Street and 23rd Avenue & S. Jackson Street.
Murray: To address our current problems with street crime, we have to take a multifaceted approach informed by alliances between the SPD, business community, social services, and civil rights groups. We can target the most affected areas with enhanced enforcement and predictive policing, which will help to address the problem. For instance, I would like to see fewer officers patrolling by car and more by foot and bicycle. This is an urban environment and our patrolling procedures should put officers in direct contact with the people they’re protecting and the crime they’re preventing. I also will work to recruit more officers who live in the city – we should have a police for that looks like the city it protects and serves. Finally, I believe we need to see an increase of officers on the police force in order to achieve the rest of these goals.
Martin: · I’ll enforce the laws we already have
· I’ll seek to roll back the hours to stagger closings instead of roll forward. Any business that over-serves, brings drama or otherwise abuses their license to serve alcohol should be punished in the wallet until they can get their establishment back on track.
· I’ll seek to put addiction counseling and anger management facilities as storefronts in all the troubled neighborhoods.
· I’ll identify where folks are coming from and use that info to promote regional responsibility for providing help to homeless, mentally ill, and addicted people and help them to get back to where they came from so Seattle can stop being the magnet for homelessness of the entire country.
· I’ll build a back to work jobs program to get people trained to do the work and off the streets.
· I’ll encourage co-location of churches and transitional housing so that support for residents is on-site.
Bonus: What’s your vision for the Capitol Hill of 2023?
McGinn: This is an exciting time for Capitol Hill. People want to live there because it is a walkable neighborhood with local, independent businesses, and a vibrant arts and cultural scene. It attracts people because it is diverse and welcoming. There is a sense of possibility. The neighborhood reflects the passion and vision of people who have worked for years to make it what it is – the ownership of the vision for the future belongs to them as well as the new community leaders coming up. It is a Mayor’s job to work in partnership with the neighborhood to define a vision that serves not just the neighborhood, but the city and the region as well. Exciting safe walkable neighborhoods with green buildings, connected by transit to job centers, are the path to reducing carbon emissions and suburban sprawl. They are great for our local economy. That’s why I am proud to have worked with neighborhood advocates on the Broadway Streetcar, promoting nightlife, bringing Park Rangers to Cal Anderson, allowing Dodge Ball at the Cal Anderson tennis courts, supporting neighborhood businesses and the new Bullitt Center (which some call the greenest commercial building in the world), developing a vision for Transit Oriented Development that will include a LGBTQ center, and launching the 12th Avenue Arts Center. Capitol Hill in the future should support people of all incomes, ages and backgrounds as a model of social and environmental sustainability.
Murray: Capitol Hill is my home, and I have represented the Hill in Olympia for 18 years. I love this community and want to see it thrive. By 2023, I want to see Capitol Hill emerge as model of neighborhood development and design. I want my neighborhood to exemplify the very best innovative solutions to the challenges of environmental sustainability, density and mobility. I see the Hill as a truly livable community, compact and easy to traverse on foot or by bicycle, and well connected to other neighborhoods via streetcar, bus and light rail. I also want Capitol Hill to flourish as an artistic and educational center, and for the neighborhood to continue to reflect the diversity and progressive values that make Seattle great.
Martin: · More diversity and less monoculture.
· More healthy options and habitat for adults and children, less adult irresponsibility and debauchery.
· Plan a K-12 Community Schools Campus near SCCC.
· Create more busways including one on Denny Way.