Caffeinated News & Gossip

1. As we reported in a recent story on aPodments—small units that share a single kitchen and are opposed by some neighborhood activists who complain they bring too many new people into single-family areas and don't require traditional design review—some aPodments have received tax credits under the city's multifamily tax exemption program.

However, aPodment developers were apparently trying to have it both ways. They were counting each micro-unit as a single living space for tax-credit purposes while counting each floor as a single unit for the purposes of getting a permit to build with the city's Department of Housing and Development—an obvious inconsistency. 

Yesterday, city Office of Housing director Rick Hooper sent out a letter saying the city would now require developers to report the number of units in a building the same way to both DPD and OH—meaning that if a developer tells DPD they're only building five units, they can't claim, say, a tax credit for 35 micro-units to OH. 

The new rule goes into effect on April 26, giving developers a "grace period" to submit applications for building permits under the old rule.  

2. Speaking of trying to have it both ways when describing development, check out Erica's observation about yesterday's Seattle Times front-page, above-the-fold story about supposed "BIG HOUSES."

Erica notes that the Times has used the same square footage as a metric in previous articles to characterize homes as "shoeboxes."

Evidently, when the Times covers development, they let angry neighbors define the debate however they see fit without doing any "truth needling."

3. Rep. Steve Tharinger's (D-24, Sequim) bill, which would supposedly add $20 million to the state budget per biennium (there's no fiscal note yet, but the bill extends a 10 percent distributor tax) is up for a hearing in the house today.

Tharinger's bill is being pitched as an alternative to house appropriations chair Rep. Ross Hunter's (D-48, Medina) liquor bill. Hunter says his bill would break up a distributor monopoly on liquor sales, but others see Hunter's bill as a giveaway to big retailers such as Costco to allow them into the distribution market without having to meet the same guidelines as current distributors.

Hunter's bill, for example, would let retailers sell to restaurants and bars without having to pay the currently required 17 percent license fee tax on those sales, while also shielding them from the 10 percent distributor tax and from the $150 million payment to the state collectively from all distributors. As a result, the fiscal note on Hunter's bill says the state would lose $5 million this biennium.

Hunter's bill is attractive to restaurants and bars (the Washington Restaurant Association supports it), because it scuttles the 17 percent tax.

Theringer's bill also attempts to barricade the distributors' monopoly (currently two distributors, Southern and Youngs, control the market) from new competition.

But Tharinger's bill makes a play to the restaurants and bars too. His bill lower another tax that restaurants and bars pay on liquor, the liter tax, from $2.4408 per liter to $1.22 per liter. However, supporters say the bill still delivers a net gain to the state because of the 10 percent tax.

Tharinger's bill also attempts to barricade the distributors' monopoly (currently two distributors, Southern and Youngs, control the market) from new competition. Another provision "Requires distributors licensed after March 31, 2013, to pay a surcharge of 100 percent of all spirits sales for the first two years of licensure, in addition to the 10 percent requirement."

In this Democratic intramural, Tharinger has 10 co-sponsors (one Republican); Hunter has 11 co-sponsors (seven Republicans).

Hunter's bill has already been passed to the rules committee, with one Democratic no vote, Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-46, N. Seattle), one of Tharinger's co-sponsors.

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