One Question

One Question for Nick Licata About South Lake Union

One question for Seattle City Council member Nick Licata about density in South Lake Union.

By Erica C. Barnett March 28, 2013



One Question

 As we've reported, city council member Nick Licata has proposed what is, for Seattle, a relatively radical idea: Requiring developers to pay a city affordable housing fund $96 per additional square foot in South Lake Union (known as a "fee-in-lieu) of building affordable housing, or $60 a foot for actual on-site housing, in exchange for additional density (above what the city currently allows).

Mayor Mike McGinn has proposed a payment of a little more than $15 a square foot, which all city council members seem to agree is inadequate. 

Licata's colleagues, including Mike O'Brien, Tim Burgess, and Sally Clark, have all proposed less ambitious measures (although all would go much further than a proposal by Mayor Mike McGinn, who would only require a payment of about $15 a square foot).  

Also unlike his council colleagues' proposals, Licata's would require that proceeds be split 50/50 between people making up to 80 percent of median income and those making up to 60 percent (the other proposals only require a subsidy for people making up to 80 percent of median). 

So we wanted to know: Why has Licata (a longtime affordable housing proponent) proposed a measure that seems so unlikely to pass? 

Licata's response: 

Here's where I think it could go. Everyone recognizezes the numbers I'm hearing are not what's needed. The gap is there. The argument is that developers will not build [if they're required to build affordable housing at a higher level.] I disagree. ... We are the sixth hottest real estate market in the nation. We have room to expand. 

Incentive zoning is one of the worst issues to organize around, and it remains complicated. I'm trying to organize the council to take the "Licata Leap" [a phrase Burgess used, somewhat derisively, to describe Licata's proposal earlier this week]." 

Licata also noted that his proposal would produce significantly fewer unis than similar legislation in San Francisco, wich has enabled the development of 642 new units of housing affordable to people making 55 percent of the city's median income since 2007. 


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