Seattle Displacement Coalition vs. Futurewise. Left vs. Left.

By Josh Feit January 25, 2009

As long as I've lived in Seattle, the main political fight has been between two factions on the Left. (There are no Republicans in Seattle except for the 10 who live in Magnolia, plus the kids on the Seattle Times editorial board). 

The ongoing battle is between green urbanists who want density and mass transit, and economic populists who want to preserve Seattle's working class neighborhoods. This fight has flared up in City Hall and on the ballot time and time again with high profile duels about the Viaduct, Sound Transit, the Monorail, and the Commons; and off the radar, at City Hall committee hearings about sports lights and night life rules, and in neighborhood council meetings about zoning and parking requirements.

This battle is now taking center stage in Olympia (between two groups whose names fit the stereotyped factions with near-comic genius , Futurewise vs. The Seattle Displacement Coalition.)

The greens want to pass a bill to mandate density around transit hubs and the populists are lobbying against the bill because they fear gentrification.

We wrote about the bill last week, so you can get up to speed on it here.  

And the fight is on this week. There's a hearing scheduled for Wednesday morning at 8 in Rep. Geoff Simpson's (D-47, Covington, Kiss Song) local government committee. 

To get a sense of how heated this battle is going to be, check out the latest press release from the Seattle Displacement Coalition:

Important! Hearing on Futurewise's Pro-Density Gentrification Bill Wed 8AM in Olympia (HB 1490)

Our city's low income housing stock, Greenbelts and tree canopy are directly threatened!
We really need you there to tell your legislators you are opposed to the Futurewise "Transit Oriented Development TOD Bill" HB 1490....or you must call/email 'em ASAP!

Hearing 8AM Wed. 28th, Olympia Hearing E. John L. O'Brien Room:
if you cannot attend, you must email and call legislators listed below ASAP - a lot is at stake!
(call us if you need a ride and we will try and accommodate you if possible)

"Yes clustering growth around transit stations makes sense but the densities this bill requires, particularly in SE Seattle, spells only one thing - accelerated displacement of low income and minority households and loss of more trees and open space in our neighborhoods" We don't have to meet this important objective by sacrificing the values that make our city liveable!

"This bill could requires densities around stations greater than Belltown. The building industry, developers, and pro-density bureaucrats crafted this bill without the participation of one single affected community - let affected neighborhoods first have a say in how any such bill should be crafted. And scale back the required densities, protect trees, open space, and our stock of low income housing before you proceed or it is little more than an aggressive pro-developer driven bill wrapped in a phony patina of "green".

Seattle's neighborhoods along the rail route have already spent years improving their neighborhood plans, undertaking extensive station area planning. They are not only meeting, but exceeding their 20 year growth targets. HB 1490 would negate all that and require densities more than 3 times what our city's 20 year growth targets say these areas need! The bill as written is a developers dream and a nightmare for neighborhoods, small businesses, and low income communities within these affected areas.

What's at stake and what you need to say when you call (also for more details on their bill go to the Coalition's website (google Seattle Displacement Coalition and it's the lead story):
The hearing Wed. it's early but we really need affected neighborhoods down there. If you can't come call members of the Local Government Committee (#'s and emails we've listed below) and tell them you are opposed to Futurewise's bill HB 1490 euphemistically described as a "Transit Oriented Development" or TOD bill to curb greenhouse emissions. Lacking any consideration of existing uses, current neighborhood plans, and ignoring the fact that affected areas have been doing just fine in Seattle meeting and even exceeding their growth targets, the bill is a bull in a china shop. It really is just a pro-developer pro-density pro-gentrification piece of legislation in its current form and pays no heed to the existing character of our neighborhoods. The bill essentially says our neighborhoods, our low income housing stock, our open space, tree canopy, and urban streams must be sacrificed in order to prevent climate change. Nothing could be further from the truth! Low income and minority communities are especially hard hit because the bill.

HB 1490 drafted by Futurewise and disguised as a bill to curb greenhouse gases would force cities to zone for 17000 households within one half mile of each light rail or bus rapid transit station. That's a density of 50 units per acre that cities would be required to zone for within what is called a "Transit Oriented Development" or TOD area. There are 45 proposed rail stations around the region including six in Seattle's downtown with nine in our neighborhoods. Together the nine neighborhood stations including five in SE Seattle contain about 32000 units (and average less than 4000 in each TOD area) and 20 year targets call for a total in all 9 by 2024 of about 45000 units. Futurewise's bill would require zoning for 153, 000 housing units total in these nine areas. It would force cities along the rail route to either upzone a lot of single family areas within each TOD area (which makes up as much as 2/3rd's of the area around most of these TOD's or instead offset those low densities areas with even higher densities in the remaining areas around TOD's perhaps as high as 100 units per acre or more. These density approach parts of Manhattan and Chicago.

There are hundreds if not thousands of low income and minority households all along the transit route whose homes would be turned into rubble. (what's green about tossing that into a landfill and pouring tons of concrete for all the new high density development) what's green about wiping out open space, tree canopy, creating more storm runoff into our urban streams, displacing inner-city poor who work in-city to the burb's giving them only one choice to drive carbon emitting cars long distances to work?

The bill includes some housing mitigation measures but those measures are wholly inadequate to curb the displacement and gentrification that would ensue. No attention or mitigation is provided for loss of open space and tree canopy. It's a false and arrogant claim - to tell/order Seattle's neighborhoods to sacrifice their liveability and affordability in the name of impacting climate change and preserving farmland. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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