Morning Fizz

Bill Bradburd Thinks the Overall HALA Recommendations Are "Dumb"

An outtake from our general election endorsement interview with city council Position Nine candidate Bill Bradburd.

By Josh Feit September 3, 2015

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We’re now submerged in candidate interviews for PubliCola’s city council general election endorsements.

So, today’s Fizz features an outtake from yesterday’s interview with Seattle  neighborhood coalition  leader Bill Bradburd, who’s running in the at-large Position Nine race; he got clobbered in the primary, getting just 14.95 percent to top vote getter Lorena Gonzalez’s 65.02 percent.

A bellwether on the so-called neighborhood movement he represents? We’ll see in November.

One thing we’re doing with all the candidates, naturally, is asking them for a LIKE or DISLIKE on a list of PubliCola-centric items.

Here’s how Central District resident Bradburd, who’s best known for organizing neighbors to stall pod apartment developments and for campaigning against 2014’s parks district measure (and who has a reputation as a hot headed defender of single family neighborhoods and as a Negative Nancy on development), responded.

 Advance warning: Bradburd, who habitually call things he doesn’t like “dumb,” curses a lot.

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1. The proposed Ballard homeless encampment?

I dislike it because of the process that was used. I’m all for encampments. As a matter of fact, I think we should have more encampments in the neighborhoods.

2. Closing Down Hookah Lounges?


3. The HALA recommendation to upzone six percent of single family zones (the part the mayor didn’t withdraw) and the inclusionary zoning plus commercial linkage fee package? (Check out Josh Kelety’s primer on the legislation to mandate affordable housing in exchange for a default upzone, which council member Mike O’Brien and mayor Ed Murray formally proposed this week.)

I think the big package is dumb. It has to be a more tactical type decision. All HALA  does is say, ‘we’re this big now, and we should be this big [instead.] Inclusionary zoning? I’ve been pushing for inclusionary zoning since the low-rise rewrite. State law allows you to demand affordability out of these units. A couple of council members on the committee, their eyes spun around in their heads. They have no idea what the fuck they’re doing. They shouldn’t even be legislating this stuff in the first place. Okay. The second thing they said is the master builders wont go for it. But we have the ability to do it. I think the inclusionary zoning target is way too low. [Making the units affordable to ] 60 percent of area median income is good, but it should be closer to 15 to 20 percent of the units [the recommendation is for about seven percent.] The commercial linkage fee should be far higher. There’s plenty of fat in that. Vulcan built some buildings they sold to Amazon recently—1.8 million square feet. Vulcan says they built it for $400 bucks a foot and they sold it for $650. And we’re asking for what. $6 a foot. There’s plenty of room in there. And it should absolutely be extended to residential [development].

Bradburd went on to say he didn’t like the default upzone that’s part of the inclusionary zoning “grand bargain.”

Here’s the problem. The way state law is written, we can demand affordable units [from developers] when we give them something. So the question is, what are we giving them. In the low-rise zones, we fucking gave them everything already in 2010. We gave them process changes. You don’t have to do SEPA. Streamlined design review. Greater height. Greater setbacks. We lifted density limits. On any of those things we could have demanded affordability out of, and we gave them everything at once. So, totally dumb. Now we’re going to give them even more. My question is, if we’re doing inclusionary zoning in the low-rise zones, what are we talking about? If we’re talking about eight percent of the units or 20 percent of the units, when you’re building town houses, what does that even mean? In the low-rise zones, a 20 unit apt building where you can get four units affordable, most of that stuff makes no sense whatsoever. So, I’m totally against giving more away in the low-rise zones. Because we don’t get anything out of it.

During a separate part of the interview, we asked Bradburd what he thought of council member O'Brien (and council member Tom Rasmussen's) recent legislation to scale back development in low-rise zones. He told us he liked it, accusing developers of wanting to go bigger and bigger to make more money.

4. The $930M Transportation Levy?

I’ve come out publicly against it [in PubliCola and on the Seattle Channel.] I don’t like the taxing mechanism [property tax], and it leaves the districts unable to identify what their transportation priorities are. And we’re not addressing the backlog.

5. Smoking Ban in Parks?


6. Capitol Hill Street Closure?

This stuff needs to be worked out with the communities so they understand the value of it. In general, I’m very positive about the idea of street closures at certain times and certain places, but we have to be doing it in a way that’s not creating a negative impact for the businesses that we’re supposed to be helping; I saw your piece on the bookstore [Elliott Bay] not being happy with it.

7. The Black Lives Matter protest where the two activists commandeered the microphone when Bernie Sanders was scheduled to speak?

Net effect I liked it.

8. The fact that 65 percent of the city is zoned single family?

The second we lifted the ADU and DADU rules [mother-in-law apartments], we’ve already duplexed. The only question is are we doing that in a way that changes ownership. [During another part of the interview, Bradburd said he was against the HALA recommendation to get rid of the requirement that the property owner had to either live in the main house or the add-on unit: "I think that’s a bad idea. Because you’re subdividing parcels. You want to keep parcel sizes as big as possible.”] 

The 65 percent number should change over time and it should be done in a realistic way. The urban villages and the boundaries should be potentially expanding outward. And the walksheds and transit options and all that [too]. And we need to be identifying new urban villages in other parts of the city. [He specifically said Wedgwood was clamoring to be an urban village, but added that the city told them: “Fuck you.”] But not unilaterally. The mayor doesn’t get to say, ‘I’m putting an urban village here,’ unless we sit down and go through neighborhood planning, and we talk to people about what’s the longterm vision of this area, and what should this neighborhood look like in 50 years.

Agreeing with us that his “process” answer favored rich neighborhoods from stalling development, and noting that poorer single family neighborhoods in Southeast Seattle and North Seattle were threatened by gentrification and displacement from upzones, he pointed to richer neighborhoods as sites for change.

We oughta be developing the hell out of Lake Washington. Leschi north to Madorona. All those hillsides should become towers.

 9 & 10: We also asked Bradburd to identify his own LIKE and DISLIKE, one each.

He jumped on the DISLIKE, saying he  disliked the conversation on density because he believes it’s been reduced to an incremental conversation on development by development rather than being a larger conversation about how much density people want in their neighborhoods overall.

“If our density is 8,000 people per square mile here, do we want to be 12,000?” He argued that places like Capitol Hill and Ballard have met their goals. “We need to put a tarp on it until the situation stabilizes. Some of the urbanists ding me on that. Okay. But when we achieve Boston density are we done?”

But in perhaps the most revealing part of an otherwise non-stop, near-90 minute blur of yacking and sketching out zoning examples for us on scratch paper, Bradburd went silent for an unprecedented 30 seconds when asked to identify something he liked.

He eventually settled on the new districted election system, which he himself helped design and put on the ballot.

District elections. Our intent was to re-shift power, and I think we’re doing that. I got in this race to unseat Sally Clark and from that vantage point I think I’ve won already.

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