Morning Fizz

Mayor Murray Sets Affordable Housing Goal of 20,000 Units in Next 10 Years

Caffeinated news featuring housing, driving, and running

By Josh Feit March 26, 2015

Caffeinated News

1. Mayor Ed Murray is attempting to repeat last year's success when he jump-started the $15 minimum wage talks by inserting himself into the process and demanding a deal. "A marker will be put down to help anchor the discussion going forward," one insider told Fizz.

To date the members of his housing affordability task force have done a lot of posturing and line drawing according to sources familiar with the behind-the-scenes talks among housing activists, developers, urbanists, business, and neighborhood groups.

Nudging them to come up with a concrete proposal today to send to council by May, Mayor Murray will publicly rolling out a set of goals at a press conference this morning.

Fizz hears that while the mayor won't say anything about specific policy proposals like the controversial linkage fee or microhousing regulations, he's going to mandate a specific number of affordable housing units (significantly more than Boston's 5,000 new units by 2020—and perhaps on par with San Francisco's 10,000 new units by 2020) with a number higher than both by 2025 for affordable units.

Affordable housing units will be available to rent at zero to 30 percent of the median income, 30 to 50 percent, and 50 to 80 percent, though the mayor isn't likely to dictate the specific breakdown—only telling the commitee that the proposal must address all three needs.

UPDATE: Murray says the plan must create 20,000 affordable units in the next 10 years. I have a call in to Murray staff to explain why 20,000 is the specific target.

Murray's going to mandate
a specific number of affordable housing units significantly more than Boston's 5,000 new units by 2020 and on par with
San Francisco's 10,000

2. The Seattle Department of Transportation debuted the first installment of its Future of Transportation in Cities public forum series last night. The event, held at the packed Microsoft auditorium at the downtown library, featured Gabe Klein, the former head of the innovative Chicago and DC transportation departments—which both led on bike-sharing programs, protected bike lanes, and remaking public right of way for pedestrian use.

SDOT director Scott Kubly, who worked for Klein in both DC and Chicago, introduced his former boss and participated in a followup discussion hosted by KUOW's Cathy Duchamp.

Klein, a former exec at Zipcar and the founder of a mobile (electric car) food-cart company called On the Fly, has an elevator-pitch personality and sang the praises of the share economy, bikes (he has seven), trikes, prefab microapartments, self-driving cars—even the possibility of living in cars. 

The contradiction between his pro-pedestrian slide show, which featured damning stats about sprawl and obesity and hopeful slogans such as "make way for people" and "redesign around people," versus his wide-eyed focus on new Apple and Google cars wasn't lost on the audience.

"Why are you so excited about...something you spent a lot of time in your slide show saying we should get rid of?" one audience member asked during the Q&A.

Klein said transit advocates had to stop saying "cars are bad." He reframed the debate saying cars are only bad when they're used inefficiently (one person driving in congested traffic), but they can be used wisely—four people sharing a ride, for example. Car sharing, he said, is more efficient than a bus that comes every 40 minutes and isn't at capacity. "It's the dirty little secret of transit agencies," he added.

His peer-to-peer futurism got silliest when he responded to accusations that he was painting a yuppie city century when he unilaterally decided that in the future "more things will be free, the internet will be free, energy will be free."  And he completely lost the crowd when he told the Seattle audience that "you can't make every decision by a vote...the public can weigh in on [aspects] of a bike share program, but the public doesn't decide if we're going to do it."

While his former minion, Kubly, distanced himself from Klein's Chicago-style mantra, jumping in and saying Seattle was 180 degrees different where it's "important to get input from everybody and important to listen," he was actually otherwise more forthright and consistent.

On cars: Thirty percent of millennials are not interested in buying a car because "it makes economic sense" not to invest in something "you only use 7 percent of the time."

On the yuppie future (i.e., the affordability conundrum): Seventeen percent of the cost of living is gobbled up by owning a car. He hyped last year's Prop 1 for Metro funding and this year's pending $900 million transportation levy as "a one-two punch" of enabling people "to be car free" and "investing" in transit alternatives. Ultimately, he summarized: "Walking is a really affordable way to get around, and that's what we're trying to do in this city."

On making transit more family friendly (i.e., one audience member complained that buses weren't user friendly for moms with strollers): "Your boss [the woman had identified herself as working for King County Metro] buys a lot of buses. Part of the problem is on Metro."

Klein answered that one too (a bit perculiarly), saying car sharing companies were introducing four seaters (DriveNow, which is coming to Seattle this year.) "You can have a car-free lifestyle," he said, "and still have kids."

3. I'm still hearing that Seattle indie rock and roller John Roderick is getting ready to cue up a campaign against incumbent city council member Tim Burgess in at-large position 8. His announcement could reportedly come as soon as this week. Burgess, already facing a challenge from affordable housing advocate Jonathan Grant, is kicking off his campaign tonight at the Elysian bar downtown.

Roderick and I have exchanged voicemails, but he has not confirmed. Another music community bigwig, former Office of Film and Music director James Keblas, is also reportedly serious about running for the other at-large seat, position 9. There are already two main candidates in that race, Mayor Murray's legal counsel Lorena Gonzalez and slow-growth neighborhood activist Bill Bradburd.


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