‘Histories of Capitol Hill’ event reveals divides even as community comes together

Sara Galvin (Images: CHS)

Community thought leaders, activists and performers are organizing events around the city as part of Town Hall’s a year-long artists in residence event series. Designer Erik Molano brought together passionate activists for an ambitious undertaking with his first event, Histories of Capitol Hill and What We’ll Build Next. Before an audience at the Summit on E Pike last week they explored the challenge of maintaining the heritage of a community through growth and development.

“A lot of these buildings are being erased and with them the memories and people who inhabited them or gathered in and expressed themselves in those buildings,” said Molano, co-founder of brand agency Photon Factory. For Molano, who moved to Seattle five years ago to work at Microsoft, the demolition of old buildings “is a loss of history.

Following individual poetry readings and a presentation from Capitol Hill Housing at the Summit on Pike, a group of community advocates responded to prompts from Molano in an effort to determine what preserving heritage in a developing city means. The group spoke on a wide range of intersectional issues related to the affordable housing crisis. Continue reading

‘Community Package’ including affordable housing, park cash gets support in Convention Center expansion hearing

Council member Mike O’Brien (right) views a model of the planned convention center expansion (Image: CHS)

Fine tuning some $83 million in public benefits — and how quickly the cash to pay for them will be delivered — was the theme of the night as neighborhood, transit, and public space advocates came to City Hall Wednesday.

“The sooner we can get more money for affordable housing the better,” said Seattle City Council sustainability and transportation committee chair Mike O’Brien.

Wednesday’s hearing featured mostly speakers in support of the Community Package Coalition formed to create a shared platform of community priorities for a roster of public benefits to be exchanged for the vacation of “Block 33, Block 43, Block 44, Olive Way & Terry Avenue.” The city land is planned to be part of the construction of the estimated $1.6 billion Washington State Convention Center addition and development that will create a massive new exhibition facility across I-5 between Pike and Olive Way.

“Equity and equitable outcomes should be at the forefront of discussions around large real estate projects such as this one,” said McCaela Daffern from Capitol Hill Housing. “I ask that you make note of the significant contributions toward affordable housing secured thanks to advocacy of Capitol Hill housing and the rest of the coalition.” Continue reading

District 3 renters speak out as Mandatory Housing Affordability public hearing comes to Capitol Hill

“I want our city to be accessible to all income levels, in the interest of equal opportunity and also because the continuing vibrancy of this place hinges on assuring mixed income neighborhoods.”

Brooke Brod: “I’m here to speak in favor of MHA and proposed zoning changes. I really want to challenge the council, if your’e serious about displacement and mitigating it, to do more, go further. Upzone my neighborhood, my single family neighborhood as well.”

Committee chair Rob Johnson and the City Council members in attendance Monday night

Many who hope to see the cost of housing on Capitol Hill and throughout Seattle stabilize — and, someday, maybe even drop — came to the Broadway Performance Hall Monday night for a special public hearing on proposed Mandatory Housing Affordability rezoning. With more than 100 people signed up to speak on the night, the Seattle City Council’s visit to Capitol Hill created a multi-hour stream of two-minute statements on the process to raise key Seattle neighborhood zoning heights tied with new developer requirements to either create more affordable housing or pay for it elsewhere.

Many were forward looking. “We have to make room for new people… cities are places that change,” said one woman in support of the legislation with most of the City Council including District 3 representative Kshama Sawant as an audience.

“Seattle needs more housing, housing in all shapes and sizes, for all our neighbors,” said another, a Capitol Hill Renters Initiative member and a Capitol Hill tenant.

If you can do the math, you’ll understand it was a long night full of ideas and statements from across Seattle’s housing spectrum. Speakers from the Miller Park Neighbors group had more immediate concerns. Resident Ellen Taft asked for rejection of upzone plans around the Miller Park neighborhood because “there is already a surplus” of “high rent projects” in the area. She said residents of the Miller-Madison area will be the “victims” of upzones, not the beneficiaries. “What the plan offers is a lot of units for high income people,” said another speaker from the group. “The current residents are not being considered, only the new development.” Another member of the group said he was worried the MHA would destroy his neighborhood’s “moderately priced homes.” Continue reading

Here’s how Mandatory Housing Affordability might open up a new horizon in Pike/Pine preservation: 8 stories

11th at Pine’s Richmark Label building — primed for preservation-boosted redevelopment

You don’t see many eight-story buildings in Seattle, but they may start sprouting up in Pike/Pine and other places around town in the coming years. The reason has to do with the way affordable housing will interact with historic preservation.

Eight stories is an odd height. Under the Seattle building code, buildings up to seven stories can be built from wood. Eight or higher, and the building needs more durable materials such as concrete and steel. The more durable materials also make construction cost considerably more, to the point that eight-story buildings aren’t really profitable. Continue reading

So, you really want to save the Royvue?

Here’s a tip. You should tell the Seattle City Council’s Select Committee on Mandatory Housing Affordability all about the 94-year-old gem of a Capitol Hill apartment building and why it should be preserved and not have its insides ripped out and converted into microhousing.

Just make sure to save time in your public comment to also voice your support for raising building heights and allowing a wider diversity of uses in Capitol Hill’s core. The District 3 and District 7 MHA Public Hearing is Monday night.

If you are unable to attend, you can send your comments via email to citywidemha@seattle.gov.

Continue reading

10 conversations from the District 3 Mandatory Housing Affordability open house

The process to shape new zoning that will raise some building heights and introduce new affordability requirements for development around Capitol Hill and other dense Seattle neighborhoods came to District 3 last week as Washington Hall hosted a Mandatory Housing Affordability open house. CHS was there to hear what attendees had to say about the plan, questions, and what City Hall reps had to say about the proposals that are hoped to be the next big step in Seattle’s efforts to create a new surge of affordable housing production in the city.

The process will culminate on April 16 at Broadway Performance Hall for a public hearing before the City Council finalizes its legislation.

District 3 and District 7 MHA Public Hearing

You can submit your comments via email citywidemha@seattle.gov. No rush. You have until July.

Bill Bradburd, 20-year Seattle resident, a former candidate for the City Council, and a frequent critic of City Hall status quo said he came out to “see what the city’s dog and pony show was all about.”

Ed Murray, Mike O’Brien,Vulcan representatives and the non-profit housing industry came up with this plan of upzoning everything everywhere in exchange for these low fees,” Brafburd said. “The developers signed on because the fees are low, unlike San Francisco,” the plan critic continued. “The non-profits signed on because they’re the ones getting all the money to build this stuff. So all this cheerleading of HALA happens.”

“Most new housing in Seattle is replacing one-story retail or parking lots so there’s very little physical displacements especially on Capitol Hill and MHA is going to let us build slightly taller slightly more densely, which will push down rents –- that’s what the theory and study say and then the city will get MHA money to build affordable housing in our neighborhood,” Zach Lubarsky, a technology worker and member of the Capitol Hill Renters Initiative (and a CHS reader!) said. “Development without displacement is a net good in my view.”

We heard more from Bradburd, Lubarsky, and others and share more of their conversations below. Continue reading

To help ease Seattle’s affordability crisis, City Hall launches site for civic deals, discounts

How bad has Seattle’s affordability crisis become? The city has launched a new seattle.gov/affordable site that is tantamount to a Seattle City Hall discount coupon service.

Mayor Jenny Durkan is not calling it Groupon — but for living in Seattle. “One of our most important jobs is to make navigating your government a bit easier,” the mayor said. “Tens of thousands of families are currently eligible for money back in their pockets through the Child Care Assistance Program, Seattle Preschool Program, Utility Discount Program and dozens of other programs and initiatives.”

A quick visit to the site shows a wide selection of some 106 categories in which residents might find a way to save a buck or two living in the city. Its current “Popular Services” rankings include “Discount card for people with disabilities,” “Free ORCA cards for students,” and “King County taxpayer assistance.”

The mayor announced the new site along with a proposal for a new Seattle Rental Housing Assistance Pilot Program which would focus on “preventing households from falling into homelessness while on the waitlist for longer-term assistance.”

Nearly half of the 1,027 households issued a Seattle Housing Authority Housing Choice Voucher in the 2015 lottery experienced homelessness at some point during their time on the waitlist, according to City Hall.

Renters dealt a blow as judge rules against Seattle’s ‘First-Come, First-Served Screening Practice’ law

One of the key elements in a legislative package of renter protections passed in Seattle in the summer of 2016 has been struck down in King County Superior Court.

The “first-in-time,” “First-Come, First-Served Screening Practice” legislation required landlords to, as it was described in the Seattle City Council’s press release that summer, “review applications one at a time, on a first-come, first-served basis” in order to prevent “housing providers from giving applicants with alternative sources of income a lower priority.”

Tuesday, a judge sided with a suit brought by the Rental Housing Association and a group of land owners agreeing that the law infringed on property and speech rights.

The City of Seattle is expected to appeal the ruling.

It will have more legal work on its hands defending other legislative efforts to give tenants greater protections in Seattle’s rough and tumble — and hugely profitable — rental market. A move-in fee cap championed by District 3 rep Kshama Sawant also faced nearly immediate legal challenge. And a recent decision to temporarily ban the use of rent bidding services in the city is also entangled in the “first-in-time” decision.

Seattle earmarks $1M for ’emergency’ homelessness services as Sawant holds ‘Tax Amazon’ town hall

With Seattle homelessness advocates continuing to debate short-term and immediate services vs. more permanent housing, the city’s Human Services Department has earmarked $1 million in bridge funding to providers of emergency shelter, hygiene services in the city.

Meanwhile, District 3 representative Kshama Sawant will hold a Tax Amazon Town Hall Tuesday night at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute to raise support for the proposed $75-million Seattle “employment tax” on businesses that is hoped will fund housing and homelessness services in Seattle.

The $1 million in “augmented” funding for Compass, LIHI – Urban Rest Stop, SHARE/WHEEL shelters, and the Seattle Indian Center comes from the city council’s decision to sell a $11 million South Lake Union property and use the proceeds, in part, to address the city’s homelessness and affordability crisis. Continue reading

City Hall coming to Washington Hall to talk Mandatory Housing Affordability zoning on Hill, in CD

This week, Central Seattle residents will get a chance for an up-close look at how proposed zoning changes will affect this part of the city.

As part of a citywide effort to address housing affordability, the city has embarked on a wide-ranging plan that would allow developers to build extra density in exchange for including affordable housing in their projects or making a payment toward an affordable housing fund. It’s an outgrowth of the HALA program began under then-Mayor Ed Murray, and this portion of it is continuing under a different acronym: MHA, or mandatory housing affordability.

Citywide Open House featuring Districts 3+7 MHA Maps

A City Council committee is digging into the issue and as a part of the process, they’re engaging in a series of open house meetings across the city. Next on the list is a joint meeting for council District 3 (Capitol Hill, the Central District and environs) and District 7 (Queen Anne, Magnolia, Downtown, South Lake Union and the International District). Continue reading