Anti-Density Group Invites Pollet to Speak

State Rep. Gerry Pollet, who's rumored to be mulling a run for city council, speaks this week to an anti-density group about his legislation requiring notice for single-family infill development.

By Erica C. Barnett April 28, 2014

State Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-46, N. Seattle), who sponsored legislation last year that would have required the city of Seattle to notify residents when a developer wants to build a single-family house on a so-called "substandard," or undersized, lot, is speaking this week to a group of anti-growth neighborhood activists called the Coalition for an Affordable and Livable Seattle.

Although the group (CalSeattle for short) mobilized early for Mayor Ed Murray's recent neighborhood summit, they didn't make a very impressive showing. Instead, the summit was largely dominated by other constituencies, including transit activists, immigrants, development advocates, and other representatives of Seattle 2014 (as opposed to Seattle 1995).

Pollet would not confirm or deny rumors that he's considering a run for city council. "I was intrigued" to hear the rumor, but "that's all I'm going to say."

CalSeattle, which is pinning its hopes on this issue, at least, on Rep. Pollet, includes anti-growth activists such as the Seattle Displacement Coalition, the Seattle Community Council Federation, and Seattle Speaks Up, a relatively new group that formed to oppose microhousing (AKA aPodments) and support rolling back building heights in low-rise multifamily areas. 

According to an email inviting activists to the meeting, those who show up will "hear from State Housing Rep. Gerry Pollet from Seattle's 46th District, a leader in Olympia supporting our letter and the call for managed growth. He'll give his reaction to unmanaged growth and tell us what he's doing down in Olympia to address the problem especially lack of adequate notice to our neighborhoods when land use changes occur, and take your comments." 

(The letter calls for, among other things, downzoning in multifamily low-rise neighborhoods, city funding for tenants to buy their apartments before they can be torn down, equal distribution of city funds to each neighborhood, and "development impact fees" for any new developments.) 

Pollet says he plans to reintroduce the legislation next year, and that it merely "closes a loophole that the legislature never intended"—a loophole that allows developers to build single-family homes on lots as small as 2,500, or in some cases 1,500, square feet, without giving neighbors 21 days' notice.

In some cases, the houses (which tend to be skinny, for obvious reasons) are three stories high—or, in Pollet's term, "backyard skyscrapers." Requiring advance notice of these "skyscrapers" (in reality, they're less than 30 feet tall) will give neighbors an opportunity to "go to court ... without notice, you can't go to court." 

Asked whether his intent was to give neighbors more of a chance to sue developers and block or discourage infill, however, Pollet dialed it back. 

"The intent here is to make sure that people have the opportunity to give input to the city about a significant development in their neighborhood," he said. "Hardly anyone in the world can sue, especially in a 21-day period. It’s about giving notice. ...  You just build up a lot of anger and resentment by not even allowing people a chance to comment."

Pollet would not confirm or deny rumors that he's considering a run for city council. "I was intrigued" to hear the rumor, Pollet said, but "that's all I'm going to say."

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