Mayor Ed Murray has asked council member Jean Godden to reconsider original council legislation that would turn the seized (and blighted) Hugh Sisley properties across from Roosevelt High School into a park.
Taking his cue from neighbors and urban greens who wanted to replace the housing with housing (the site, only a couple of blocks from the planned light rail station at Northeast 65th Street and Roosevelt, was upzoned when a crew of YIMBYs—yes in my backyard—pushed for transit-oriented development in the neighborhood), Murray's letter to Godden, the chair of the neighborhood committee, says, "While open space is a priority, there is merit to evaluating all options around potential public benefit investments, including the possibility of affordable housing, in context of all the Sisley properties in the immediate area. By looking at this issue more broadly, we may identify creative alternatives that could address multiple needs."
Murray's letter is a big victory for a crew of activists, including smart-growth group Futurewise and sustainable architect Rob Harrison, who petitioned the city to look at other ideas, such as vacating the side street (14th Avenue Northeast) across from the property into a park instead, and use the housing property to build affordable housing.
Murray spokesman Viet Shelton says they are calling for a 60-day hold to review the legislation "because they heard from stakeholders, and we feel we have an opportunity to look at other community benefits...which includes affordable housing."
Shelton said the mayor still thinks "open space is a priority for the neighborhood" but "there's an opportunity for a "bigger, broader plan."
The mayor's request reflects poorly on Godden, who had resisted rethinking the plan—while two challengers in her reelection campaign, Transportation Choices Coalition director Rob Johnson and Democratic party activist Michael Maddux (with their eyes on affordable housing and transit-oriented development options), seconded the emerging calls to do more than build a park. Another candidate, neighborhood activist Tony Provine, who had resisted the calls for an upzone, actually ushered through the original park deal. At a recent candidate forum, during the lightning round, Godden refused to take a postion on the housing proposal, while Johnson and Maddux said yes and Provine was a firm no.
It's also a turnabout for Murray himself, who initially announced the park idea with a bit of fanfare—only to get a PubliCola DISLIKE.
UPDATE: Godden issued a press statement in response to Murray's letter:
“I heard from the Mayor regarding the use of pending judgment funds against the Sisleys and the possible taking of property for use as open space in the Roosevelt neighborhood.
“I will be holding this legislation in committee until the Mayor has completed the 60-day review and reports back to the committee.
“During this time we now have an opportunity to reengage with the community and neighbors in a broader discussion of options and creative approaches that ultimately could address multiple needs.
“I am pleased that the Mayor continues to demonstrate his commitment to open space as one of several possible outcomes.”