Morning Fizz

Morning Fizz: City Hall Irony of the Day

Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring Mayor Murray on microhousing, the council on affordable housing, a new candidate, and a SwaPark.

By Morning Fizz September 17, 2014

Morning Fizz

1. Here's some more on our scoop yesterday afternoon that Mayor Ed Murray is threatening to veto the council's microhousing legislation; Murray objected to a series of amendments that had made the aPodment regulations (which he otherwise supported) stricter. 

We talked to Murray late in the day about his objections. First of all, he sure didn't back off the veto threat (our original story had come from Murray's spokesman Jeff Reading). Murray told Fizz: "I'd rather work with the council, but a veto is on the table. It is definitely something I need to consider." 

Murray, clearly annoyed that he had just seen the amendments for the first time yesterday, then echoed the letter he sent council saying: "I am concerned about the amendments I saw today because I believe they don't help us create housing affordabilty, and affordable housing is a centerpiece of my administration. After looking at them [the amendments] at a first glance I am concerned about the accumulative effect." 

He didn't focus on any of the amendments in particular—the requirement that each dwelling space have two sinks?, the new strict 220 square foot minimum?, the larger common space requirement?—saying while he supported regulating microhousing in principle and liked council sponsor Mike O'Brien's original legislation, he felt the amendments (proposed by Nick Licata and Tom Rasmumssen, and approved by the land use committee yesterday) "pile on."  

Footnote: O'Brien himself opposed the sink amendment and the square footage requirement (Sally Clark also opposed the square footage amendment), but after both amendments passed, O'Brien and Clark signed off on the amended legislation and passed it along with the stricter guidelines.  

The original legislation, also anathema to aPodment developers by the way, would set a 220 square foot average requirement on microhousing dwelling spaces and force tougher design review by using dwelling space counts rather than building size thresholds or  "unit" counts (which had allowed several individual living spaces to add up to just one apartment for regulation purposes.) The original legislation also only required one sink per dwelling space.  

2. While we had Murray on the line, we asked him about the "Linkage Fee," the big proposal council also rolled out yesterday to make developers pay a flat fee on all new development, regardless of whether builders were requesting a special exemption from height requirements in specific "incentive zones" (which triggers the current fee program) to fund an affordable housing account. 

The "Linkage Fee" would charge developers to build in downtown, South Lake Union, SoDo, and around light rail stations, multifamily zones, commercial zones, and low-rise zones all over town (not single family zones, though). The charge would be a flat fee on square footage for building office, retail, and residential projects—and would fund affordable housing. The flat fee would actually be different in different neighborhoods—lower cost, medium cost, and higher cost neighborhoods—ranging from $7 a square foot to $22 a square foot in the most aggressive proposal or $5 a square foot to $16 a square foot in a more modest option.  

Murray said he "didn't have a public reaction" to the proposal, but did say he favored a comprehensive program for affordable housing (he's putting together a task force to tackle the problem).

City Hall Irony of Day: Council considers fee to fund affordable housing because "the market isn't producing it," but then clamps down on aPodments.

3. The "Linkage Fee" proposal and the microhousing legislation certainly came into direct conflict yesterday, conjuring up an unmistakable irony in the council's affordable housing strategy. 

Summarizing the "Linkage Fee" proposal council member Nick Licata and city consultant Rick Jacobus (who developed the Linkage Fee proposal), explained that the plan addressed the fact that "the market isn't producing affordable housing."

Less than an hour later, the council, mostly through Licata amendments, happily passed its list of aPodment amendments that could curtail housing production. Developers eager to build, testified against the amendments saying it would prevent them from developing microhousing, while neighborhood activists testified in favor of the amendments saying it would help manage what kind of development went up in their communities.

3. Another candidate has officially entered next year's city council race; next year, the council goes from a citywide system to a districted system. 

The new candidate, Tammy Morales, who announced this morning that she's running in Southeast Seattle's new District 2, is challenging incumbent Bruce Harrell who lives in the district. Morales, who lives in Seward Park, is a food activist who runs a food policy firm called Urban Food Link. (Incumbent City Council member Sally Clark also lives in the district, but she has filed for one of the two at-large seats in the new district hybrid system.)

Last week, Planned Parenthood organizer Halei Watkins announced her candidacy in North Seattle's new council District 5. No council members live in that district.  

There are also two candidates filed to run against West Seattle incumbent Tom Rassmusen in District 1, Charles Redmond and David Ishii. 

4.  PubliCola reporter Casey Jaywork announced yesterday that he has dibs on the mid-1960s Marshall McLuhan classic tract Understanding Media ("The medium is the message")—hopefully he's got something of equal stature to swap for it—when he shows up at Josh's micropark on Friday.

Josh is hosting a pop-up park between Alaskan Way and Western on University St. right below the Harbor Steps on PARK(ing) Day Friday when SDOT allows the public to commandeer parking spaces and turn the public right of way into pedestrian zones.

Josh's SwaPark works like this: Bring something/get something. Oh, and you have to provide a story about the item you're trading in.









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