1. The city’s Department of Planning and Development is leaning towards City Attorney Pete Holmes’ original plan to seize the dilapidated Hugh Sisley properties across from Roosevelt High School between NE 66th St. and NE 65th St. and build a public park rather than going with an alternative plan pitched by civic activists to construct affordable housing there.
Mayor Ed Murray had called for a 60-day review and outreach process back in May to pause the park proposal when the housing plan, backed by a crew of urbanists like architect Rob Harrison, had argued that the site, just two blocks from light rail, had been upzoned specifically to accommodate transit oriented development.
DPD has yet to return Fizz’s call—but rumor has it their reasoning boils down to the apparent lack of financial feasibility for a non-profit developer to build affordable units on the lot (due to its size) and strong neighborhood support for a public park. The Roosevelt Neighborhood Association (RNA) recently sent a pro-park letter to Mayor Murray and the city, arguing that there is overwhelming community support for a park—and that the open space would serve as reparations for being subjected to those butt-ugly Hugh Sisley properties for so long. Ironically, they also argue that neighborhood is already accepting higher density through the light rail up-zone (there’s some stuff about protecting views in the letter as well).
Harrison, who specializes in green passive houses (low energy consumption buildings; the ones that council member Tom Rasmussen recently tried to derail), is now skeptical of the supposed outreach process Murray committed to, saying that pro-affordable housing stakeholders such as him and the Low Income Housing Institute, haven’t been contacted for input.
2. Perhaps upstaged by the bomb shell news from the mayor's affordable housing committee (the HALA committee) this week that single family zones may no longer be sacred land, the DPD released a long-awaited land use planning recommendation of its own yesterday: They’ve chosen the transit-leaning Alternative Four as the way to guide growth over the next 20 years.
For the last year, DPD has been working on the 2035 Comprehensive Plan, the city document mandated by the state’s Growth Management Act to govern local development. DPD had been considering four approaches: Directing growth into Urban Villages (as the city’s been doing for the last 20 years), directing growth into major urban centers, directing growth along light rail lines, or—yesterday’s winner—directing growth along light rail and major bus lines. (The fourth option was actually added mid-process , as TOD has quickly become the planning strategy du jour in recent years.)
The department’s own study, however, showed that Alternative Four, the transit oriented development model, while directing more development than the other options to Southeast Seattle, came with the greatest risk of displacement. DPD’s comp plan guru Patrice Carroll told Fizz yesterday afternoon that they’ve “flagged that” problem and are hoping to work with the mayor and council to couple the transit option with recommendations from the HALA committee to mitigate the risks.
Footnote: Don’t be confused when you read DPD’s proposal and they identify their choice as the “Urban Village Strategy”—which, if you’ve been following this process for the past two years, sounds like the “no change” alternative from the previous 20 years, or Alternative One. In a bit of mixed up messaging, Carroll explains that the transit hubs overlap with urban villages, so all the strategies are urban village strategies.
The public has until late September to comment and Carroll says the goal is to have the plan finalized by council in December.
3. You know how socialist city council member Kshama Sawant doesn’t take all of her salary, and puts most of it toward a “Solidarity Fund” for progressive causes? Much of it, for example, went to the $15 Now efforts last year.
Well, it turns out, according to a serious scoop by Erica C. Barnett, that about $6,000 from the fund has gone to pay for Sawant herself to travel to Belgium, the UK, and Brazil for rallies where Sawant has travelled for her party, Socialist Alternative.
Certainly, there’s nothing unethical going on. It’s Sawant’s money. But when council member Sawant proclaims she’s putting her publicly funded salary toward mensch-y causes, it’s a bit tone deaf to turn around and use that organization’s money to do her own party building abroad.