Morning Fizz

Will Mayor Murray's Task Force Allow More Density?

Caffeinated News featuring end-runs, appointments, and common denominators

By Josh Feit January 5, 2015

Caffeinated News

1. Residents of low-rise zones such as Capitol Hill and Ballard who won a battle last October in front of the city hearing examiner may want to keep their eyes on Mayor Ed Murray's housing affordability task force.

Last fall Seattle's hearing examiner sided with neighbors against developers who had formally challenged a Department of Planning and Development (DPD) proposal to limit dense development in low-rise zones.

Murray's task force—made up of low-income housing developers, business leaders, civil rights and low-income advocacy groups,  environmental leaders, neighborhood reps, builders, architects, and urban planners—is reportedly taking up the proposal itself in a potential end run around DPD that could  nudge the proposal back toward allowing greater density.

Developers who are still operating under existing rules (which the DPD proposal would rein in) are keeping their eye on the situation as well. As developers consider whether or not to cue up new development, they're eager to know if DPD is pausing for Murray's task force to rewrite the proposal or if the department is moving forward, as it initially planned, to tighten building guidelines.

Murray's task force is reportedly taking up the proposal itself in a potential end run around DPD. 2. Gov. Jay Inslee is set to increase the Democratic numbers in the state house by one this week, from a 50-47 advantage to a 51-47 advantage when he appoints someone to replace Rep. Roger Freeman (D-30, Federal Way), who died of cancer in the run-up to last year's election (Freema still won, 52.98 to 47.02.)

The King County and Pierce County Councils were supposed to make the appointment last year;  the 30th LD, largely in King County, wades into Pierce.

While the King County Council (controlled by Democrats) chose Federal Way school board member Carol Gregory, Pierce County (controlled by Republicans) wouldn't concur.

Had the two councils convened to make the appointment, the GOP would have had the numbers to control the pick. The rules dictated that Freeman's replacement had to be a Democrat (Freeman was a Democrat), but there was speculation in the Federal Way Mirror that the Republicans could have opted for a weaker pick than Gregory, whose recent school board win and education credentials themselves make her a solid future candidate to retain the seat.

Squandering that possible play—Democratic King County Council member Larry Phillips reportedly deservers credit for outfoxing the Pierce County Republicans—the appointment falls to Democratic Gov. Inslee. Inslee is now likely to appoint Gregory, who the King County Council picked 8-0 and who the 30th LD Democratic precinct committee officers listed as their first choice.

3.   For people like me, who obsess over federalism, urbanism, and tax net recipients & tax net contributors, urbanist guru Richard Florida has a must-read piece in yesterday's Sunday New York Times where he disassembles data which shows that the "American Dream" (home ownership) is more possible in red states. (He attributes the news to unsustainable Republican policies like sprawl development and fracking).

However, he also hits on something that ultimately unites red and blue America: frustration over income inequality. The noteworthy aside in Florida's piece: "To the surprise of many, voters in four red states — Alaska, Nebraska, South Dakota and Arkansas — supported referendums in November to raise their state minimum wage."


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