“A coalition of local organizations” is, as the Seattle Times reported this weekend, making plans to use the state’s environmental review process to halt the proposed upzoning of 27 areas of Seattle under the Mandatory Housing Affordability plan. But you won’t find a group representing most of Capitol Hill in the mix.
“These upzones are not needed to accommodate the growth that’s planned,” the statement released Friday from the Seattle Coalition for Affordability, Livability and Equity reads. “The city already has more than twice the capacity in multi-family zoning to accommodate all the growth that’s coming, so who’s driving this land-grab?”
Development-focused conspiracy theories aside, the group appears to have what it takes — lawyers, money, and time — to gum up the effort to increase building heights in core areas around the city’s transit systems and help drive down Seattle’s soaring rents. The group said its lawyers would file an appeal against the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the plan to the Seattle Hearing Examiner on Monday.
None of the groups signing on with the coalition directly represent core areas of the Hill like Broadway or Pike/Pine or neighboring population centers like First Hill. Nearby supporters included the Eastlake and Cherry Hill community councils, the Save Madison Valley group that grew out of the fight to stop a PCC-centered development along E Madison, and the Jackson Place Community Council. The Madison-Miller Park Community group is the only organization currently signed-on to the coalition from an area of the Hill. The absence of larger, more influential Central Seattle groups like the Capitol Hill Community Council, the First Hill Improvement Association, or the Central Area Land Use Review Committee is notable.
Capitol Hill’s core is among the areas likely to see the greatest changes under the proposed upzonings. The MHA proposal released last month includes transitioning Broadway from around Cal Anderson Park all the way north to beyond Roy to 75-foot height limits and “neighborhood commercial” zoning that would allow seven-story buildings with commercial use throughout. Some of the bigger changes would come around the Miller Community Center where planners already backed off a more aggressive upzone.
Under the MHA framework, affordability requirements chained to the upzoning vary by “scale” and developers can choose to pay fees instead of including rent-restricted units.
Meanwhile, use of the State Environmental Policy Act to hinder and possibly halt the affordability upzones will further rile urbanists and developers who increasingly see challenges under the process as NIMBY posturing to sabotage development.
The coalition’s members claim the groups behind the legal challenge are also dedicated to increasing affordability in Seattle. “We share the City’s goal of affordable housing for those earning less than 60% of Area Median Income, but it is simply not achieved by these upzones,” a ”Lake City homeowner and affordable housing advocate” quoted in the coalition announcement said. “That’s why we are filing an appeal,” said Sarajane Siegfriedt. ”The real impacts that destroy and gentrify our low- and moderate-income neighborhoods are loss of affordability, community and livability.”
CORRECTION: The city’s goal is the creation of 50,000 units, “including preservation and production of 20,000 net new affordable homes.” Those who qualify for affordable housing include someone making less than $40,320 a year, paying no more than $1,008 for a one bedroom, or a family of four making less than $57,000 a year, paying no more than $1,296 for a two bedroom. MHA is hoped to drive creation of about 12% of the housing the city says is needed.
You can view the upzoning proposals here and navigate to specific addresses. Hashed areas indicate proposed zoning changes. The proposals came after months of public feedback after the framework for MHA was first set last fall.
Find the full statement from the Seattle Coalition for Affordability, Livability and Equity, below.
Twenty-four Community Groups Join to Appeal the MHA Grand Bargain Environmental Impact Statement
Neighborhood, housing and homeless advocacy, small business and environmental groups from around Seattle are holding a press conference at 12:15 Monday in the City Hall foyer to announce that they have formed an MHA EIS appeal coalition. Also Monday they are filing an appeal to the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) to the Seattle Hearing Examiner for citywide upzones known as the Grand Bargain.
The coalition is called Seattle Coalition for Affordability, Livability and Equity.
Jon Lisbin, small business owner and president of Seattle Fair Growth said, “We are worried about affordability and displacement. Our neighborhoods are so different that one-size-fits-all upzones don’t work well for residents or small businesses. The Final EIS completely neglects the differences between neighborhoods that are ripe for multifamily development such as Lake City and Northgate, and other racially diverse neighborhoods, such as South Park and Beacon Hill, that are mainly of older single-family homes owned or rented by lower-income families. The city is leaving low- and middle-income families with no place to go.”
Said David Ward, a Ravenna renter and president of the coalition, ”It will make Seattle far more unaffordable and also make it more difficult to live here due to more traffic, not enough schools, more pollution, fewer trees, and a loss of the diversity of residents we currently have.” “I’m worried about moving out from my parents’ home because I know it’ll be hard to find an apartment I can afford,” said Beacon Hill Council Member and UW student Cacima Lee. “And the idea of buying a home in Seattle is almost a joke.”
“Instead of invalidating all neighborhood plans, the city needs to support and celebrate differences while maintaining intact communities,” Christy Tobin-Presser of the West Seattle Junction Neighborhood Coalition added. “These upzones are not needed to accommodate the growth that’s planned. The city already has the more than twice the capacity in multi-family zoning to accommodate all the growth that’s coming, so who’s driving this land-grab?” Wallingford resident Susanna Lin states: ”We have a school capacity crisis and the City is planning upzones without coordinating with the School District on a plan to build more schools. In addition, trees are disappearing at an alarming rate. What kind of future is this for our children?” ￼￼
The Grand Bargain, or Mandatory Housing Affordability-Residential (MHA-R), is a one-size-fits-all proposal by former Mayor Ed Murray and City planners that would give developers increased height limits and profitability in exchange for either building affordable units in their projects or contributing a fee in lieu of including them. In fact, according to the City, most developers have said they will decline to include rent-restricted units in their projects. They prefer to pay the fee.
According to Lake City homeowner and affordable housing advocate Sarajane Siegfriedt, the City Office of Housing then leverages the fees 3:1 mostly with federal, state and city tax funds to build low-income housing in other parts of Seattle. Most of the required affordable housing will be built in locations with cheap land, not in the neighborhoods where builders maximize profits by replacing older houses with costly new market-rate housing. Then there’s the delay. It takes four or so years for a nonprofit to receive City and state grants, assemble the rest of the funding, and construct a building, assuming they already have the land.”
“We share the City’s goal of affordable housing for those earning less than 60% of Area Median Income, but it is simply not achieved by these upzones,” Siegfriedt said. “That’s why we are filing an appeal. The real impacts that destroy and gentrify our low- and moderate-income neighborhoods are loss of affordability, community and livability.”
Said West Seattle’s Tobin-Presser, ”The purpose of an Environmental Impact Statement, required by the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), is to provide two or more alternatives to the proposed changes, to analyze as thoroughly as possible the impacts of the alternatives and to propose mitigation for those impacts.
The FEIS appeal coalition asserts that the proposed upzones won’t provide affordability, that the alternatives studied in the FEIS are completely inadequate, and that the impacts and mitigation must be analyzed neighborhood by neighborhood.
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— jseattle (@jseattle) November 27, 2017