With strong representation from Capitol Hill’s galvanized slow-growth movement including members of the Capitol Hill Coalition and Reasonable Density Seattle, mayoral candidate and former City Council member Peter Steinbrueck came to a 19th Ave E Russian art gallery this week to share his vision of the city
“It’s not Not in My Back Yard,” candidate Steinbrueck said during the speech and Q&A session at the heart of Wednesday night’s fundraiser at the Russian Community Center. “It’s about protecting what we value.”
The appearance on Capitol Hill in front of a group of voters clearly eager to be his base comes as Steinbrueck has apparently earned a place in a developing three-way race — four if you count undecided — for the Seattle Mayor’s office.
Earlier in May, Steinbrueck finished third with just a little more than 17% of the vote behind Ed Murray and incumbent Mike Mcginn as the the 43rd District Democrats voted to endorse their State Senator for Mayor of Seattle.
In a CHS survey earlier this year as candidates first threw their hats into the ring, Steinbrueck finished fourth. Of the respondents that both said they would vote for Steinbrueck and lived, worked or went to school on Capitol Hill, transportation issues were cited as the group’s most important factor in making a selection. Steinbrueck said Wednesday night, by the way, that he is opposed to spending city money to study light rail to Ballard as the current mayor is currently championing.
Analysis of the latest KING 5 survey shows that Steinbrueck also does well among women voters.
Wednesday night, Steinbrueck’s speech and answers remained squarely focused on development, the changing city and density.
The candidate got big laughs when he compared urban planners and champions of free-market development to the Sandanista movement in Nicaragua.
“There are some so-called urbanists… who say if you love nature, get out of it. Build up. I don’t believe that,” Steinbrueck said, calling the urbanist zealots “the densinistas.”
“I’d like to see some of the micro-units in the electeds’ neighborhoods,” Steinbrueck said.
Apodment-style microhousing has been a Capitol Hill hot button and got plenty of play Wednesday on 19th Ave E.
Steinbrueck said he wasn’t up to speed on some of the proposed changes to better regulate the controversial housing and that he was “open to microhousing conceptually.”
But the candidate said the city needs to be more selective about where it allows this kind of housing to be built.
“There are areas of the city where concentrating that many people with no parking… is a problem,” Steinbrueck said.
Steinbrueck suggested that South Lake Union might be a more appropriate home for aPodments than “your neighborhood.”
He also criticized incumbent McGinn and the City Council for caving to developers in South Lake Union.
“I don’t want to be overshadowed where I live,” North Seattle resident Steinbrueck said talking about the approved plan for what he called “the Vulcan towers.” “And I don’t want our parks to be shadowed,” he said.
In one of the few times the candidate focused on issues beyond the Department of Planning and Development, Steinbrueck produced some barbed criticism for the current administrations’s handling of SPD.
“We have low violent crime so we think everything is pretty much OK,” Steinbrueck said. “We have use of force that is institutional.” Steinbrueck also said it’s a mistake that Seattle Police recruits from “paramilitary sources” and use “paramilitary training.”
“We need a Seattle-based police academy,” Steinbrueck said before the next audience question — again related to development and zoning.
Steinbrueck also talked about the Seattle design review process and lectured the audience for a short lesson about “form based zoning,” a more proscriptive approach to creating a land use code that would create zoning districts across the city to locally define design requirements.
The academic sidebar added to an overarching Steinbrueck theme — neighborhoods are important. Maybe the most important thing in the city.
“Does anybody think there is something more important than our neighborhoods?” Steinbrueck asked the crowd seated in the gallery. “No?” There was no answer.
“Amazon?,” he laughed. The audience shouted no.
Development should enhance our “quality of life,” Steinbrueck said. — health, livelihood, our economic well being, our sense of well being, and our connection to nature.
But he was also asked about the upzoning of many of Central Seattle’s single-family neighborhoods in the late 2000s — legislation Steinbrueck oversaw as a member of the City Council until 2007 and that many in Capitol Hill’s slow-growth community groups would like to see rolled back. Are you in favor of upzoning more of the city’s single family housing neighborhoods, Steinbrueck was asked.
“That’s a loaded question. We as a city are going to evolve,” Steinbrueck shot back. “No, I don’t support that.”
“Single family housing is largely out of reach by everyday working people,” Steinbrueck said. “That’s how the city has changed since my childhood.”