Morning Fizz

Money and Endorsements (and Pod Apartments are Back!) in Final Weeks of Campaign

Some big showings in the council races and a big recommendation you may have missed from the HALA committee

By Josh Feit July 15, 2015

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1. The latest city council fundraising numbers are in. The big winners are: Lorena González in the at-large Position Nine race, Debora Juarez in the North Seattle District Five race, Rob Johnson in the Eastlake-northeast-to-Sand Point District Four race, and whoa, Pamela Banks, in Central Seattle’s District Three (it-is-a-race-now?) race. Well, not so fast, incumbent Kshama Sawant raised a ton too.

Civil rights attorney González, running in what may be the most telling race in Seattle as the growth wars heat up (she’s facing off against neighborhood crusader Bill Bradburd) raised $43,000 in the last period (June through mid July) bringing her total raised to $138,000 with a solid $41,000 balance. Bradburd isn’t close. He raised $13,000 this time, bringing his total to $67,000 with $13,000 cash on hand.

Former King County Superior Court Judge Debora Juarez raised the most money this time around in the Northend District Five race, securing her spot as the main challenger to conventional-wisdom frontrunner, Reverend Sandy Brown, raising $25,000 to his $19,000. Both candidates have very little cash on hand.

Transportation Choices Coalition director Rob Johnson, running in the U. District/Laurelhurst race against well-known incumbent Jean Godden, may be the biggest story here. Johnson raised more than twice what incumbent Godden raised this past month, $21,000 to just under $10,000. Moreover, Johnson has a $17,000 balance to Godden’s $984 now.

Sawant-challenger, Urban League head Pamela Banks (doing an admirable job trying to keep up with Sawant’s ubiquitous signs, by the way) raised a stunning $87,000 in the District Three race. Sawant, as usual, remained the most formidable incumbent, though, and raised a whopping $84,000 herself. Banks has a $51,000 balance to Sawant’s $9,000 in the final runup to the August 4 primary.

In the other races: Incumbents Tim Burgess (in the at-large Position Eight race), Sally Bagshaw in Downtown/Queen Anne/Magnolia District Seven, Mike O’Brien in Ballard/Fremont’s District Six, and Bruce Harrell in Southeast Seattle’s District Two are comfortably ahead. The only real race in this batch is in District Nine where tenants’ rights advocate Jon Grant and indie rock intellectual John Roderick are vying for the November spot against Burgess. Roderick had a better fundraising month than Grant ($24,000 to $8,000), but Grant, who got some attention this week by staging a press conference with Sawant to criticize mayor Ed Murray’s housing affordability recommendations, has a $24,000 balance to Roderick’s $15,000. Burgess, by the way, raised $42,000 this month and has a balance of $118,000.

Finally, in West Seattle’s District One, the dueling legislative aides, King County council Joe McDermott aide Shannon Braddock and Seattle city council Nick Licata aide Lisa Herbold, remain locked in a tight fundraising battle. Herblod raised $15,000 this month to Braddock’s $14,000 (they’ve both raised nearly $60,000 overall.) Herbold’s ahead, though, with a $26,000 balance heading into the primary to Braddock’s $12,000.

2. Speaking of council race news, the coveted Stranger endorsements came out today. There aren’t many surprises there—Sawant, Democratic Party activist Michael Maddux (in the Godden race), civil rights attorney González, and Licata’s not-so-secret weapon, Herbold.

But their nod for Grant over Roderick could tip the scales for Grant. And their Juarez endorsement confirms her emergence in the crowded Northend.

3. And in case you thought I was done writing about the HALA committee recommendations… Nope. I’m obsessed. They’re huge. (And the national press thinks so too: "It’s clear from the mayor’s proposal that he isn’t merely looking to expand affordable housing. Mayor Murray and his City Council allies want to build fairly. Seattle could get housing that is fundamentally just, and that’s something we haven’t seen in any city anywhere.")

Editorializing here, but I always thought the now-discarded and replaced linkage fee (my previous obsession), though well intentioned, read like a low-IQ Robin Hood, aiming his arrow at the wrong target. Something like if Eastern Washington state legislators wanted a special tax on better paid Seattle teacher salaries to help bring better paying teaching jobs to Lincoln County.

The “link” was never real. The best argument I heard for the link came from the smarties at Puget Sound Sage who pointed out that the public investment in Seattle’s infrastructure was benefiting developers. But ultimately, that just highlighted the problem for me. Like everyone, developers are paying taxes already, and so, it made no sense to single them out for benefiting. By that logic, shouldn’t all the new businesses and restaurants and tech shops that are scoring in Seattle’s gentrified market pay for housing? Well, yes. And that’s called the housing levy. And? Murray is doubling it.

The clever thing about the HALA version of the linkage fee—the inclusionary zoning and commercial development fee—is that it creates an explicit link.

As HALA committee member and premier Seattle urbanist Alan Durning told me yesterday during a debrief on the proposal (Durning, by the way, felt O’Brien’s original linkage fee would have slowed development and then raised prices): “The basic principle [of the inclusionary and commercial fee] is, we’re creating wealth by relaxing restrictions, but you (developers) have to give a big chunk of that wealth we’re giving you back in the form of rent restricted units or money.” Voila.

4. One aspect of the HALA recommendations that deserves a stand alone shout out: The committee quietly trashed the city council’s ill-conceived pod apartment legislation—rules the council passed last year to limit micro-apartment construction.

Bolds mine. From page 24:

Remove recently created barriers to the creation of congregate micro-housing. The Committee encourages the City Council PLUS committee to be prompt and diligent in its anticipated review of whether or where congregate micro-housing should be expanded (it is currently allowed in the NC-3 and above zones) and modify recently created barriers to the creation of congregate micro-housing by creating zoning and locational criteria that allow congregate micro-housing to be built by market developers in dense areas of Urban Villages and Urban Centers with 30’ or 40’ height limits. Current zoning criteria restricts congregate micro-housing to zones where the height limits and land cost make congregate micro-housing development unlikely.

According to city data there has been a sharp decline in pod apartment production this year; here the city's Department of Planning and Development permit estimates on construction per square foot on pod apartment construction:

2013: $12.6 million
2014: $39.1 million
2015 to date: $1.1 million.

More to the point, here are the estimated unit counts:

2013: 459

2014: 1,422

2015 to date: 40 

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