Morning Fizz

Developer Group Directly Challenges City on Housing Fee

Caffeinated news featuring a developer challenge, a car sharing expansion, and a big-deal ruling

By Josh Feit March 3, 2015

Caffeinated News

1. A group calling itself the Coalition for Sustainable Jobs and Housing filed and appeal with the city's hearing examiner yesterday.

The group, mostly developers such as Clise Properties and Wallace Properties but also urbanist Chuck Wolfe and the Downtown Seattle Association, is challenging a Department of Planning and Development (DPD) ruling that said a batch of proposed amendments to the city's comprehensive plan does not trigger environmental review—a determination of nonsignificance (DNS). The DPD felt the amendments didn't rise to the level of a formal environmental review because they evidently didn't impact things like housing.

The group wants the amendments to undergo review under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA)—which measures impacts on housing, jobs, land use, and transit—because, their appeal states, the amendments are "inextricably" related to the linkage fee, a policy the council passed as a resolution last year that puts a fee on all new development to help fund affordable housing. In short: The stated goal of the policy is to have an impact on housing.

Developers have been lobbying against the linkage fee and believe that SEPA review of the underlying policies may reveal what they've been arguing all along: The fee will stifle production.

With a goal of creating more affordable housing, the batch of seven comp plan amendments deals with development incentives, low-income housing production, floor area ratios, and agreements to mitigate the impacts of development. The city has acknowledged that the comp plan amendments are "a necessary preconditions to implement [the linkage fee]," the appeal states. And yet, the appeal complains, the DNS "asserts...that the proposed amendments will have no impact on housing, jobs, land use, or transit" when the very goal of the amendments is to do just that.

The complaint states: "If the comprehensive plan amendments and the new tax are adopted as proposed, there will be a substantial dampening effect on the ability to provide housing in the city, to provide smart growth development, and to develop successful mass transit. But we do not know the scope, repercussions, or impacts of that effect, because the city has not complied with SEPA's mandate that the city study the effect before it acts."

2. Following recent Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) legislation that expanded the number of available permits for car-sharing cars, Car2go announced today that the company is increasing its Seattle fleet from 500 to the maximum allowed under the new rules, 750 cars.

The SDOT rules stipulate that car share companies can only get the maximum 750 permits if they serve the entire city. Car2go says it will now serve all of Seattle; up until now Car2go has only allowed drivers to park as far north as Northeast 125th Street and as far south as South Orcas Street in Hillman City.

The SDOT legislation allows up to 3,000 permits total (for four companies) and BMW's DriveNow is expected to jump into the market, though initially testing the waters with a smaller fleet.

Car2go says it has 63,000 members in Seattle.

"If taxes are going to be a part of the education funding solution, isn’t it only fair to hold all taxes to the same standard?" —State senator Steve Hobbs3. State senator Steve Hobbs (D-44, Lake Stevens) who asked the president of the senate, lieutenant governor Brad Owen, to rule whether the Republican rule requiring a two-thirds majority to bring a vote on new taxes to the floor was constitutional, released the following statement yesterday after Owen said the GOP rule would not stand. 

While I’m no fan of taxes, in fact I think I’ve voted against them at almost every opportunity, I’m also not a fan of gridlock and political ideology taking precedent over responsible legislating and compromise.

Our state is overly reliant on working families to shoulder the tax burden. When Republicans adopted the two-thirds rule on the very first day of the 2015 session and applied it only to “new taxes,” they ensured those same working families would continue to shoulder that burden.

I think all taxes should be held to the same standard. What the two-thirds rule implies is that existing taxes Washingtonians currently pay—sales tax, property tax, and taxes on small businesses—can be raised with a simple majority of senators.

But if the senate were to create new taxes, say to help solve our education funding crisis, then taxes paid for by those who can actually afford it would be held to a higher standard.

I firmly believe taxes should be a last resort. But if taxes are going to be a part of the education funding solution, isn’t it only fair to hold all taxes to the same standard?

On Friday, Hobbs' Democratic colleague, senator Annette Cleveland (D-49, Vancouver), had called on Owen to rule whether the gas tax proposal, cued up for a floor vote that afternoon, was sidestepping the GOP's two-thirds rule.

On Monday morning, Senator Hobbs expanded the question to ask whether the two-thirds rule was kosher at all.




Show Comments