Morning Fizz

Moving In and Moving Out at City Hall

Gardheere in at city, Kiker out at Bike Club, Sage out of Murray coalition, renters in at lower costs, and neighbors out of Local Improvement District?

By Josh Feit November 23, 2016

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1. Ubax Gardheere, the program director at the city’s influential social justice group, Puget Sound Sage, announced Monday that she’s leaving to go work for the city’s Office of Planning and Community Development (formerly the Department of Planning and Development.)

This is a super political get for the city as OPCD leads the charge on the city’s controversial plans to do upzones around 11 of the city’s 20-plus “urban villages” as part of the mayor’s mandatory affordable housing proposal to allow more density in exchange for making developers pay for affordable housing.

Specifically, Gardheere will be working on the Equitable Development Initiative, a fund for community centers and neighborhood projects that will in part be funded with $16 million from the recent sale of the long-empty lot across the street from city hall.

At Sage, Gardheere pressured the city to make good on its pledge to fund the EDI as part of its commitment to mitigate the impacts of development on low-income communities. Gardheere has also been one of the main voices from the social justice community to advocate for recent transit investments, such as 2015’s successful $930 million “Move Seattle” levy and this month’s successful $54 billion light rail expansion, two of mayor Ed Murray’s biggest recent election season pushes.

2. Interestingly, earlier this fall, Sage formally dropped out of the ad-hoc group of developers, greens, and low-income housing advocates that symbolizes Murray’s “grand bargain” (the aforementioned plan to upzone development in exchange for mandatory affordable housing.) While Sage told the group they still supported the grand bargain and would testify in favor of it when the controversial neighborhood-by-neighborhood upzones come before council, they said they could no longer prioritize the issue.

Sage’s decision wasn’t surprising given that their base of supporters was never comfortable being in an alliance with developers.

3. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Kiker, the executive director of another local advocacy non-profit in Sage’s constellation of overlapping urban policy groups, the Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes, announced her resignation earlier this month. Seattle Bike Blog had the story, which includes the news that one of the group's all-star program directors, Ed Ewing, left in late October.

4. After being delayed a month ago, six city council members— Lorena González, Lisa Herbold, Rob Johnson, Debora Juarez, Mike O'Brien, and sponsor Kshama Sawant—passed Sawant’s cap on renter move-in fees out of Sawant’s energy and environment committee yesterday.  

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The legislation caps nonrefundable move-in fees (background checks, for example) at 10 percent of first month’s rent while also saying the total cost of a tenant’s security deposit plus the move-in fee may not exceed first month’s rent. Additionally, landlords must offer tenants a six-month plan to pay the security deposit, the move-in fees, and last month’s rent.

Juarez, who Sawant had blamed for last month’s delay, passed an amendment, with Sawant’s yes vote, that would scrap the payment plan on move-in costs if the move-in costs are less than 25 percent of rent. Juarez said the intent was to reward landlords who were keeping costs low to begin with.

5. A quick follow-up to yesterday’s post on neighborhood concerns about the waterfront redesign. The second biggest funding source for the $709 million plan, a proposed $199 million neighborhood property owner tax (known as a Local Improvement District, or LID), requires local property owners to support the idea.

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Getting buy in on the LID, formerly the biggest funding source for the project, had already been flagged as a potential problem even before neighborhood groups started demanding further impact studies. LID tax increases on local property are based on the positive impacts that projects supposedly have on the area.  

I have a call in to the city’s waterfront program director Marshall Foster.  

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