Caffeinated News

1. In the latest mini-battle from Seattle's larger, ongoing war with itself, the city's Hearing Examiner ruled against the developer lobbying group Smart Growth Seattle yesterday. 

In a formal argument in front of the city hearing examiner late last month, Smart Growth Seattle argued that Department of Development and Planning  (DPD) Director Diane Sugimura's  decision to a-okay a proposal to amend city land use code by tightening relaxed density regulations in lowrise zones didn't deserve the green light (or "Determination of Non-Significance) because thwarting more density would have sweeping impacts. The developers argued that decreasing supply would both raise housing costs and thus force people to live outside the city which would undermine regional transportation; i.e. there'd be more people driving in from out of town to their jobs causing gridlock and congestion.

In yesterday's ruling, the hearing examiner shot down the holistic environmental equation, writing in its conclusion: "...the Appellant's assumption that nearly six thousand units will be 'lost' because of the proposal is not supported by the evidence. Further, it would have to be assumed that all potential residents of lost units would choose to live outside the City and commute by vehicle on surface streets. The evidence is not sufficient to support such assumptions, or to show that the proposal would have probable significant adverse impacts on transportation." 

In addition to rejecting the basic environmental tenet that there's a relationship between city housing affordability and sprawl, the Hearing Examiner also scoffed at the basic premise that limiting density would increase housing prices.

In addition to rejecting the basic environmental tenet that there's a relationship between city housing affordability and sprawl, the Hearing Examiner also scoffed at the basic premise that limiting density would increase housing prices, noting that DPD's evidence shows only "a correlation between the age of housing and rental rates..." leading the Examiner to turn to tables on developers by saying: "newer housing [appears] to have higher rental rates than those in older buildings ... The evidence fails to establish a relationship between the proposed legislation and housing affordability." 

Smart Growth Seattle, however, is claiming a partial victory for monkey wrenching the proposal. On their blog, developer lobbyist Roger Valdez, who tells Fizz his appeal helped "slow down the war on housing," writes:  "We delayed the passage of legislation for a year—when Councilmember Clark first proposed the legislation, she wanted it passed quickly, in the first quarter of 2014. It’s unlikely that this legislation will take effect–if it passes–until well into 2015. That means many projects will vest under the better code before this legislation could be enacted."

Footnote: There is a conclusion in the Hearing Examiner's ruling which, ironically, may give neighbors in lowrise zones who are antsy about development pause. The ruling states: "The evidence does not show that the proposal [limiting density] would likely cause significant environmental impacts on account of bulk and scale."

In other words, if neighbors think the DPD reforms addressed bulky development that doesn't fit with the character of the neighborhood, they were wrong. 

2. Want to take advantage of Pronto's discounts for low-income riders? You better live in housing provided by an official low-income housing provider. 

Otherwise, here's the form letter response you'll get: "We are currently only equipped to offer affordable housing providers the opportunity to join a Corporate and Community Membership. The provider would pay a one-time initial fee of $115, and then their residents can sign up for individual annual memberships..." 

The rates are: $40, $30, and $20 at 80 percent of Average Median Income ($44,750 for one person) 50 percent ($30,900 for one person), and 30 percent ($18,550 for one person) respectively.

The non-discount rate is $85.

3. Washington State's top-two Primary system has taken the Tea Party battle against the Republican establishment from the Eric Cantor primary into the general election in the 4th Congressional District (Southeastern Washington). 

Seattle Times reporter Jim Brunner profiles the race between Tea Party insurgent Clint Didier and GOP Party favorite former Republican legislator and state Agriculture Director, Dan Newhouse.

 

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