Peter Steinbrueck, Bruce Harrell and Mike McGinn Answer Questions About Socially Responsible Development

Editor’s note: We encourage readers to contribute our CHS Community Posts section. Anybody can contribute Hill-appropriate posts to the site — all will appear in the Community section and some will be selected to be shared on the CHS homepage. Thanks to Neighborhood Theory for this latest contribution to CHS. For more Capitol Hill-focused coverage of the candidates, see our CHS Election 2013 section.

We have been working with a small, diverse group of developers and citizens, including Maria Barrientos and Liz Dunn, all with an interest in promoting socially responsible development toward Seattle’s future built form. We drafted questions to all mayoral candidates last month. We currently have responses from Peter Steinbrueck, Bruce Harrell, and Mike McGinn. Responses from the Murray campaign are still expected, but as ballots are being mailed in, we would like to be fair to the other campaigns and publicize the responses to date. When we receive the responses from Murray, we will post those as well, and will update this post to let you know.  Given the intensity development, and the debate around it, on Capitol Hill, the views expressed by these candidates are especially important.

Please visit http://srd.n-theory.com/ for the full candidate responses. To extract a few points:

  • Steinbrueck raises the proposed Transit Communities amendments to the Seattle Comprehensive Plan among his examples of policy-driven SRD (Socially Responsible Development). Harrell defines SRD to include “safe, living wage jobs” for construction workers; “opportunities for minority- and women-owned business”, and the public comment process of Design Review. McGinn expands his discussion of SRD policy to include a mention of the Affordable Housing Advisory Group, as well as “other ways where the City has leverage”, such as the alley vacation requested by Whole Foods in West Seattle.

  • Potential negative outcomes of growth, for Harrell, include “concrete box buildings”. He also notes “loss of space, privacy and freedom” as well as “loss of neighborhood character and unique identity”. Steinbrueck cites “center city gentrification” and “social inequities on the poor” as possible negative outcomes. McGinn notes that Seattle citizens might fear “loss of parking” and “gentrification”, but goes on to list a number of projects designed to counter potential negative outcomes in Capitol Hill, Central District, and Southeast Seattle.
  • Steinbrueck, McGinn, and Harrell are generally supportive of the “Seattle process”, with Harrell defining it as “an effort to get our future right, and to engage in the diversity of opinion that is reflected throughout this city”. McGinn cites a management example from his first term that sped up the permitting process, as well as the regulatory reform task force, as “good examples of private/public partnership”. Harrell suggests benchmarking approval dates during permitting in order to streamline the process. Steinbrueck brings up lengthy zoning variance requests, “fee-driven permitting”, and Design Review as three areas for improvement in the city’s response to housing demand.
  • In regards to building typologies and parking, Steinbrueck states that the city’s parking ratios do not reflect the current reality, and that “parking demand should be monetized and cost-out so that the people who don’t own cars can choose not to pay for parking they may not need or want.” All three candidates anticipate an increase in use of transit and car-sharing services, with both McGinn and Harrell noting the number of regional destinations that can be served by transit or car sharing. In contrast to McGinn, Harrell specifies that, while higher-density developments near transit hubs should be exempt from parking requirements, new single family homes should have at least one parking spot per lot.
  • All the candidates who responded express a desire for a range of affordability across all neighborhoods, and express concern that many families are being priced out. Toward that end, all three candidates also support increased housing supply, micro-housing, the Seattle Housing Levy, and the Multi-Family Tax Exemption. McGinn additionally believes that “reducing the costs of developing new housing” will help encourage the production of more affordable housing, and cites his South Lake Union rezone proposal as “a good example of how more affordable housing could have been realized but was not”. Steinbrueck is encouraged by Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) as a way to reduce household transportation expenses, and wants to see the city “honor and adhere to its comprehensive plan targets.” Steinbrueck notes that “preservation of older multifamily housing supports neighborhood character and affordability,” while Harrell prefers to “incorporate affordable housing in the new developments at minimum on a one to one replacement ratio”. Harrell  additionally would like to support more family shelter facilities through the 2016 Housing Levy renewal.
  • Aside from Murray, whose responses are anticipated soon, the remaining candidates (with the exception of Staadecker and McQuaid) initially indicated that they would respond, but recent emails reaching out to them have not been answered.
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About Neighborhood Theory

Bo Zhang and Brian Kalthoff are two Seattle residents in the real estate industry. We began this page as students at the University of Washington, on our desire to better understand the efforts of thoughtful developers who wish to better serve the neighborhoods they care about. We’re most interested in the corners of the real estate industry that intersect with community development and neighborhood-level social structure. We believe that real estate developers are accountable for the block-by-block demographics that contribute to public life, and that this power can be better utilized in collaboration with the communities that developers serve.
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