Morning Fizz

Licata Wary of Transit-Oriented Development in Southeast Seattle

Caffeinated news featuring this week's LIKES & DISLIKES

By Josh Feit May 8, 2015



Caffeinated News

1. Nick Licata DISLIKES transit oriented development.

This week the Seattle Department of Planning and Development released a draft of the environmental impact statement outlining the four possible options for governing city growth through 2035. Referring to a companion equity analysis, council member Nick Licata said the city shouldn't direct development along transit lines (the third and fourth options). Options three and four, for example, expand growth districts to include: Othello, Columbia City, North Rainier, North Beacon Hill, and Rainier Beach.

Seizing on DPD's equity report, which noted that "Alternatives three and four would likely cause the greatest displacement of marginalized populations," Licata wrote in his weekly newsletter as follows:

It seems clear to me that the city is moving towards a Seattle 2035 update that focuses growth in the places where we have made significant transportation investments, but what will it say about us as a city if, in doing so, we select the alternative that has the greatest displacement impacts on low income and people of color?  In light of these findings, I think that we must develop a fifth alternative that distributes higher growth in "high opportunity/low-displacement risk" areas and distributes less growth to areas with "high displacement risk." This alternative should be coupled with a strategies to a. make it more possible for low income people to live in the high opportunity/low displacement risk areas as well as b. public investment to stabilize existing "high displacement risk/low opportunity" areas and create more economic opportunity for the people living there.

Not sure if Licata is talking about directing development to Laurelhurst (doubt it, but that would be great). Otherwise his overly protective instinct to prevent TOD (and private investment) in Southeast Seattle would represent a shortsighted failure to make good on Sound Transit's foresighted priority to invest public money in Southeast Seattle (not to mention to invest Prop. 1 funds now slated to increase routes 7 and 8 and restore route 27).

Licata's analysis, weirdly reminiscent of redlining?, also cherry-picks from DPD's equity report, by merely focusing on the warnings, but not the full strategy. For starters, in addition to noting the risk for displacement, that Licata zoomed in on, the same chart says this about option four (focusing growth along ligh rail and bus lines): "Alternative four has [the] most potential to expand access for marginalized populations in some urban villages with low displacement risk and high access to opportunity."

"Growth and new development can be beneficial to these communities because it can lead to new services, amenities, and opportunities...."
 —DPD Report

DPD explains: "With sufficient public resources, neighborhoods with the highest risk of displacement could experience significant private-sector housing development without displacement, provided that appropriate public investment in the associated mitigation strategies accompanied that growth.... Growth and new development can be beneficial to these communities because it can lead to new services, amenities, and opportunities...."

And in its assessment of option three specifically, which directs growth along the light rail line, DPD's equity study says, for example: "Substantial investments in affordable housing in close proximity to light rail stations and greater bus connectivity to stations would serve to increase access to transit and jobs and help to stem displacement. Without increased access to transit, marginalized populations may experience only the market pressures associated with living in a desirable neighborhood and not the benefits."

Funny footnote on DPD's equity report, which comes with bullet-point mitigation recommendations for all the options. It includes the weirdest typo ever, but arguably (and unintentionally) the wisest advice ever.

DPD's recommendation for mitigating increased development in marginalized areas reads simply: "Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI)."

I must say, I LIKE that education is listed as the key strategy to ensure equity.

2. Sharon Lee, executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute (and failed applicant for Sally Clark’s vacated city council seat now filled by John Okamoto), DISLIKES mayor Ed Murray’s support for the parks and recreation department’s plan to ban smoking in all Seattle's public parks.

In late March, outgoing parks and recreation superintendent Christopher Williams announced the smoking ban—a move which Mayor Murray quickly endorsed—citing the need for Seattle parks to be free of secondhand smoke.

Lee became the latest to join the likes of the ACLU and Real Change executive director Tim Harris when she sent a letter to the mayor Ed Murray yesterday saying the ban will only lead to harassment of and discrimination against the homeless, among which people of color are overly represented.

“This more comprehensive ban appears to target populations that have few other places to go,” Lee wrote in her letter, noting the classist implications of the ban's exception of expensive e-cigarettes and vape pens and that the consequences for violating the policy—such as park trespasses and fines—will hit the homeless the hardest.

“We ask that Mayor Murray and the commissioners not permit this ban to take effect and instead find other ways to promote health and safety by, for example, providing more affordable housing to end homelessness in our region,” she added.

Some restrictions already exist in Seattle parks, with smokers having to stay 25 feet away from playgrounds, other patrons, and off of beaches entirely, a fact Lee highlighted.

What Lee LIKES is using public land and facilities for emergency temporary homeless shelters and housing. In her letter she called on Mayor Murray and the parks and recreation department to be “proactive” in addressing homelessness and implement recommendations from the mayor’s own Emergency Task Force on Unsheltered Homelessness, which included repurposing city-owned land for legal encampments and parking and after-hours underutilized space in city buildings for indoor shelter.

“You should not adopt policies that further compound the problems facing homeless men and women of color who are desperately trying to survive on the streets of Seattle,” Lee wrote.

3. The Downtown Seattle Association, which published dramatic data about increased heroin use this week (showing a 300 percent increase in disposed hypodermic needles downtown in one month-over-month comparison from last year, for example), LIKES the public response—a crackdown plus social service combo—from the city and county.

DSA head Jon Scholes cited the recent arrests of some 140 dealers and closing off alleys and vacant parking lots (on the crackdown side which is "disrupting the drug market ecosystem that has plagued downtown for 20 years") coupled with providing increased access to social services like the LEAD program and stationing a "one-stop shop" outreach center on Second and Pike where city attorney staffers will be stationed to help cops funnel people into diversion programs.

In addition to the stats, Scholes told me that anecdotally "there's been a significant uptick" in reports from his members (downtown businesses, including both fancy corporate offices and indie retailers) of bathroom ODs—incuding in his own ninth-floor office at Seventh Avenue and Olive Way, where staff recently found someone passed out in the bathroom with a needle in their arm. (The person was alive and medics came.)

4. Finally, some urbanists LIKE the linkage fee—a populist plan supported by the city council to charge developers a fee on new development to help pay for affordable housing.

It's 10 million words long, with lots of links, but check out pro-city blogger Owen Pickford's extensive report on why he believes the fee won't stall supply and so, other urbansits should like it too, he says.


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