Morning Fizz

Morning Fizz: Micromanagement of Microhousing

Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring panelists, endorsements, and taxes.

By Morning Fizz May 29, 2013

1. We're glad Seattle Channel showed up to film our microhousing forum at the Jewel Box Theater last night in Belltown because everybody brought their A-game: Defiant aPodment proponent Roger Valdez ("The wack-a-mole objection that they're not safe results in the council imposing things that are going to increase costs so that the rents go up … in order to appease neighbors who simply don’t want change"); skeptic Bill Bradburd ("It's bad for areas where the neighbors all know each other, and in pops a building on the block where the tenants may be short-term … the concern is that people moving into these things might not be part of the community ... they just come and go"); City Council member Tom Rasmussen (who's proposing new microhousing guidelines: "[We've heard] people saying, we thought we were getting an eight-unit building but now we’re getting a 64-unit building"); and the head of the city's Department of Planning and Development Diane Sugimura (armed with the facts" "aPodments are safe ... the building code requires sprinklers, fire safety ... It’s not like we didn’t know how to make a safe building and had to make a [new] director's rule to do it.")

aPodment ThinkTank: Tom Rasmussen, Diane Sugimura, Roger Valdez

Meanwhile, expert moderator, Q13 TV's C.R. Douglas, made sure the ThinkTank discussion was civil and thoughtful, though Josh had to "hush" the audience itself several times when the debate on stage got the crowd—packed, appropriately enough, into the micro-venue—a little too fired up. "What about parking?!"

We'll post the must-watch video (for city politics nerds) as soon as it's available, and you can judge for yourself which arguments carried the day and revel in the parking permit debate; Valdez again: "Let’s be real about the fact that most of these folks don’t drive cars in the first place." 

In the meantime, here are two Fizz-worthy moments. First, Valdez, who works for developers (though not aPodment developers) running a group called Smart Growth Seattle, keenly turned the social engineering argument on its head. Pro-aPodment urbanists are often accused of being micro-manage-y, pointy-headed planners who are self-righteously instructing people how to live.

"The level of micromanagement of microhousing … the level of control that people want to have over the life of people in their neighborhood, is absurd. If people want to move in and out that’s between them and their landlord," Valdez said. And he accused Bradburd—and the city council for that matter—of a double standard when it came to leaving single-family residents alone.

And the other Fizz-able moment: When Douglas asked the panelists to say which mayoral candidate was the best on the aPodment issue, City Council member Rasmussen snubbed his council colleague Bruce Harrell (who he told Fizz afterward he'd "never heard say anything" about the issue) and also snubbed the mayor (who he said had been "slow" before finally getting on board with the council's POV that more questions had to be asked about design review) and went with Peter Steinbrueck. 

And before you urbanists scoff at Steinbrueck because he's the supposed NIMBY in the race, remember this: Asked at a recent mayoral forum in Wallingford if they supported new regulations on microshousing to trigger the design review process, it was McGinn (and Harrell) that were definite "yeses" (so Rasmussen's wrong that Harrell hasn't addressed the issue ... and in fact, appears to agree with Rasmuseen that more regulations are worth looking at).

Meanwhile, Steinbrueck (and Ed Murray) defied the crowd-pleasing answer and went with "maybe."

2. Speaking of the mayor's race: The King County Democrats issued their endorsement last night and went with a triple recommendation: Harrell, Murray, and Steinbrueck, snubbing the incumbent mayor as most of the Democratic districts—with the exception of Southeast Seattle's 37th where he got a dual endorsement with Harrell—have done.

3. State house Democrats are set to pass legislation out of the finance committee today to fix a tricky tax law that was interpreted by the state Supreme Court to allow couples to avoid the estate tax by transferring assets from one spouse to another—and eventually to their kids—tax-free (single folks don't have this out.)

The big issue: $138 million. If the legislature doesn't fix the law, the state is going to have to start paying out refunds—a nerve wracking prospect as the legisltuare is also trying to find an extra $1 billion for K-12 funding. 

The house passed the bill during the regular session, but now that the state is under the gun to start paying up on June 3, house finance chair Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Queen Anne) added an emergency clause, and must pass the bill one more time.

The Republican-dominated senate let the original bill die during the regular session.

You have to have assets of $2 million to pay the estate tax.

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