The reaction to mayor Ed Murray's housing affordability committee's controversial proposal to challenge the dominance of single family zones is starting to shift.
At first, based on the emails showing up in the mayor's in box, I had initially noted that—in the first 24 hours after the bomb shell news hit—the reaction was running about 5-to-1 against the idea of challenging the sanctity of single family zones by allowing more multifamily housing.
But since then, the positive response has surged; the negative response is still leading, but just barely. Overall now, the emails are running about 6-to-5 against, with supportive emails doubling the negatives ones in the last 24 hours. And the "Nay" column is being buttressed by a batch of emails that aren't even about the SFZ issue, but rather, were written by people who are mad about some of the draft proposal's recommendations to deprioritize mandated parking requirements in conjunction with new development.
Frankly, I'm not surprised that the reaction has evened out. (In fact, I actually ran the first article suspecting I'd be running this one soon enough.) I presume that the intent of the person who leaked the draft to the Seattle Times was to sabotage the idea by outing it to an anticipated chorus of uniform boos. There's some telling symbolism in their evident misread of the situation on the ground. The people who are intent on preserving the dominance of single family zoning are the same people who are oblivious to Seattle's changed values, aspirations, and temperament. They evidently have their heads in the sand both about the fact that keeping 65 percent of the city exclusively zoned for single families is an unsustainable model that eliminates necessary housing stock and about the emergence of locals who don't subscribe to the Ozzie and Harriet ideal.
This isn't the first time anti-density activists have misjudged their own preeminence with a planned uprising. Remember the Community Council Federation's attempt to dominate last year's neighborhood summit? They were overshadowed by the eager bureaucrats manning the crowded tables in the back of the room where people were earnestly excited about SDOT's and DPD's 21st Century green policies. Meanwhile, following neighborhood movement icon Peter Steinbrueck's loss in the 2013 mayoral election, there's this year's newly districted elections. The district elections were supposed to usher in a slate of candidates that would reclaim the city from the supposed urbanist technocrats. But it's simply not happening.
The council's two self-identified urbanists, Sally Bagshaw and Mike O'Brien, barely have challengers. The biggest NIMBY of all, Tom Rasmussen, is retiring. If anything, the insurgence is coming from the other end of Seattle's political spectrum: All-star young urbanists like Transportation Choices Coalition head Rob Johnson and parks district booster Michael Maddux, are both posing real challenges to old-school council member Jean Godden. (The parks district, as opposed to the cyclical levy, irked neighborhood traditionalists.) And the biggest standard bearer of the traditional neighborhood movement, Bill Bradburd, is being out-endorsed and out-fundraised by Mayor Murray's former legal counsel wiz, Lorena González.
Here's an example of an email that showed up in the mayor's office in the last 24 hours about the pending changes to single family zones.
I am writing to voice my support for the recommendations made in the recently-leaked HALA document. While I recognize that this was a draft of a document that has yet to be released officially, I support the concepts that were presented, and hope that many of them are implemented in an effort to increase housing affordability in all Seattle neighborhoods.
I own a single-family home in an area that would likely see quite a bit of change if the draft HALA recommendations were implemented; we're about a 7 minute walk to the east of the Mt Baker Light Rail Station, which is outside the current Urban Village boundaries, but close to areas that have recently been upzoned. I see these potential changes as largely positive, providing not only more affordable housing for what is an incredible diverse neighborhood, but also more things to do and places to go within walking distance. We just had a baby, and are hoping to have more. As our family grows, I hope the neighborhood grows as well. This is a wonderful city, and I'm not afraid of change.
Thanks for your time, and thanks for your work for affordable housing and neighborhood vibrancy.
There are certainly still emails opposing the changes coming in from self-identified "regular" Seattleites; I guess that's like John McCain's "Real Virginians" who lived outside the metro area?
Those of us out here who are regular homeowners and raise(d) kids in the city now see that this will no longer be possible (HALA recommendations). We also should not be labeled as selfish, outdated, bourgeois residents, which seems to be prevalent from many guiding this process. Perhaps if Mayor Murray or some of the HALA committee members had some kids at home they would get it. Kids cannot Uber like the Amazon crowd to school (yes, some schools are private - that's a factor keeping families in the city) or soccer practice. I cannot haul groceries home from QFC on the bus. Large cities (New York, Paris, etc.) are set up so that can work. Seattle is not. No infrastructure for that. This is fine if you want no families in the core. We are 2 blocks off Eastlake and it is fast becoming a nightmare, with 60 units now planned for the old Red Robin site—with virtually no parking.
Those (HALA and others) evaluating this situation are not taking the big picture. What is the necessity of packing all of this into the core? Go to Everett, Bremerton, Tacoma, Puyallup, Olympia. The answer is in the Times article this morning, quote from Ranganathan (Transportation Choices Coalition): "It's an important step to not limit developers..." Really? Who is running this show? If you think developers' aim is affordable housing and not making a profit...So, we are looking at subsidizing them now? The Times is doing a good job getting this information out to the community. Let's hear publicly and formally from HALA and from the Mayor's office, please.
For what it's worth, while yes, Mayor Murray doesn't have kids (the U.S. Constitution does allow him to get married now, though), HALA committee members, including those who support the land use changes, do have kids.