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State Rep. Simpson Takes it Out into the Hallway
Sad Editor's note: I headed down to Olympia at 6:45 this morning just so I could make an 8:00 hearing, and I just spent about three hours writing up a detailed report on the hearing, and the computer ate it. Yay computers. I could slit my throat.
The lead was great, though, so, here's what I can conjure up from that:
I promised there'd be a fight, and oh boy, was there a fight: Outside in the hallway—after this morning's committee hearing about state Rep. Sharon Nelson's (D-34, W. Seattle, Vashon) density bill.
The hallway brawl—between bill co-sponsor Rep. Geoff Simpson (D-47, Covington, Kiss Song) and the lead opponent of the bill, John Fox, head of the Seattle Displacement Coalition—was actually a follow-up fight to the tense back-and-forth between the two during the hearing itself when Fox testified against the bill. Fox repeatedly complained that the communities that would be affected by the bill's density mandates were left out of the discussions to craft the bill. (True.) And Committe chair Rep. Simpson repeatedly warned Fox to stick to the substance of the bill and not talk about the process behind it.
After the hearing, Rep. Simspon—chest forward, sporting his fire fighter pin—confronted Fox in the hallway (while I was in the middle of interviewing Fox, actually.) Simpson told Fox he wasn't going to consider Fox's input on the bill if Fox was going to be "inflammatory."
Fox said it wasn't inflammatory to let Simpson's committee know that communities in Southeast Seattle felt excluded from the process.
At that, Simpson told Fox that his testimony about the bill's potential impacts had been "untrue," and he demanded to know if Fox was the one who "sent around pictures of cities in India."
Indeed, Fox's ally, Mount Baker homeowner Pat Murakami, contends that Nelson's bill—which would mandate development around transit hubs to allow 50-units-per acre—will create densities higher than the average in Mumbai.
...anyway the post went on for another 1,000 words or so, debunking the Mumbai weirdness, and ultimately explaining that most low-income housing advocates, like the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, are actually lining up against Fox on this bill because despite his claims that "density is a blueprint for gentrification," they believe—and told the committee— that Nelson's "transit oriented development" bill comes with key safeguards to preserve affordable housing like a guarantee for one-for-one replacement on any lost low-income units and a mandate that 25 percent of the units in any developments qualify as affordable.
Futurewise, the environmental group that's sponsoring the bill, used their alliance with the housing advocates to turn the gentrification argument against Fox. Futurewise spokeswoman Sara Nikolic told the commitee: "We can't allow these station areas to become low density affluent neighborhoods that displace current residents and offer no housing options for half the income spectrum. Yet that is the risk today. We need station areas to have a range of densities affordable to a full range of incomes so that they can truly be a home for everyone."
However, Futurewise's allies from WLIHA and the Housing Development Consortium did concede one point to Fox after the hearing: The definition of "affordable" housing for the dense developments around the transit hubs won't actually serve the "full range of incomes." The bill defines "affordable" as 80 percent of median income, which translates into $45,600 for a single person, or the ability to pay $1221 for a single bedroom apartment. Uh...
For the purposes of this post, Fox got the last say on this, pointing out to me (after his run in with Rep. Simpson) that a large percentage of residents in Southeast Seattle earn more like 40 percent of the median income, which is $22,800, or the abililty to pay $610 for a one-bedroom.
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