Morning Fizz

Poll Shows Support for Seattle Transpo Levy, Council Shows Lack of Support for Density

By Josh Feit July 7, 2015

Hey, sorry for the late Fizz. We had some mysterious AI issues. 

A couple of items got lost in the void (I'll post those as soon as I can.)

For now, here's some recent polling results about the city's transportation levy and an account of outgoing council member Tom Rasmussen’s Titanic stand at yesterday’s city council vote to limit density.

1. Recent polling data (from early June) shows strong support for the $930 million transportation levy. Voters polled by EMC Research found Seattle voters favored the measure 60-38, according to the results of a June 8-11 poll.

 The question put to voters:

 There will be a measure on the ballot in November. It concerns replacing funding for citywide transportation maintenance and improvements:

 If approved, it would replace an expiring levy and fund bridge seismic upgrades, transit corridor and light rail station access projects, pedestrian and bicycle safety projects, upgraded and synchronized traffic signals, street maintenance and improvements, freight mobility projects, and neighborhood street fund projects. It authorizes additional property taxes, allowing collection of up to $95 million in 2016 and up to $930 million over nine years. The 2016 total regular tax limit would be 3.6 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, including approximately 62 cents in additional taxes.

If the election were held today, would you vote yes to approve, or no to reject this measure...?

Yes: 60 percent

No:  38 percent 

2. Yesterday afternoon, city council passed a series of  amendments to housing development code in Seattle’s low-rise zones (areas where some multifamily density is allowed along the edges of single family neighborhoods) that limits density. The legislation, among a number of various limitations, restricts new building heights and decreases number of units developers can currently build on a given lot.

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Though council member Mike O'Brien originally introduced the bill last month in his Planning Land Use and Sustainability (PLUS) committee to close what he perceived as loopholes in density regulations, his outgoing council colleague Tom Rasmussen broadened the scope to limit development with new rules altogether.

Back in June, when the PLUS committee was originally debating the legislation, Rasmussen proposed eight amendments which were more restrictive than O’Brien’s original (restrictive) proposal. Only three Rasmussen amendments—one that puts restrictions on row houses, another that raises the math rounding threshold so that developers lose the current right to build more units, and one that limits units by subtracting non-living space from square footage calculations— made it into the final package which was passed today. (Here’s Publicola’s coverage of last month’s committee meeting.)

But, even with his three successful changes and O'Brien's stepped up design review requirements, Rasmussen still wasn’t satisfied, saying the amended bill “isn’t good enough.” As the only council member to vote against the bill, denouncing it as not going far enough to insulate neighborhoods from development (several of his other committee level amendments, like one against green housing and one restricting basement apartments, didn't pass), Rasmussen received big applause from the neighborhood activists in the audience.

“With this legislation the table is set and the developers will have a feast,” Rasmussen told his fellow council members and new-found fans  prior to the vote. “This bill will continue to allow taller and bulkier buildings than have been intended for the low rise zones.”

“We do not have to bulldoze our neighborhoods to increase density," Rasmussen said. "We must make sure that everyone is provided the opportunity to provide meaningful involvement in planning and accommodating growth.”

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During public comment, one lone audience member who didn't support the legislation, cataloged her satisfaction with growth in  Ballard, where she's lived for ten years.

"I want to express to how much I love the change I've seen in my neighborhood in the last ten years," longtime Ballard homeowner Sara Maxana began. "I love that I can walk to new shops. I love that the sidewalks are full of people and activity. I love that my home has increased in value. I attribute much of what I love about my neighborhood to all of its recent growth,” she said. “Every new unit that I see constructed in Ballard, makes it more likely that my children will be able to live int their community when they grow up. We cannot hope to have an affordable city unless our housing supply keeps up with demand. I ask that you please consider the needs of those who don’t own houses here yet … the over 50 percent of people in Seattle who don’t own houses, who rent. Who might want to buy a house someday here, who...are further squeezed when reduced supply puts increased pressure on rent prices. Please do not amend the low rise zones in ways that impede housing production. It will not make this city more liveable, it will only make it more expensive.”

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