Affordable Housing

Rob Johnson: Citywide Rezoning Should Continue as Planned

Johnson says remaining staffers and department heads will be able to stick with the expected timeline without Murray.

By Hayat Norimine September 14, 2017

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Former Mayor Ed Murray left the executive office on Wednesday after nearly four years of big changes with a lot of his goals accomplished—the $15 minimum wage, police accountability legislation, HALA negotiations, to name a few.

But one piece to Murray's housing affordability plans left unfinished was the Mandatory Housing Affordability citywide rezoning. The final environmental impact statement is scheduled to be released in October with final recommendations (later than the September date initially expected), alongside city legislation, and only then can the Seattle City Council move forward with its citywide zoning changes; that includes implementing MHA in most of Seattle's urban villages, with the hope that the process concludes by the budget cycle next year at the latest. 

City council member Rob Johnson, who chairs the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee, told PubliCola he met with planning and construction department heads for their regular meeting on the rezoning Wednesday—by chance, the same day Murray stepped down. He said they discussed what would happen next after Murray's resignation. 

"They are still planning to send down that legislation sometime in October, and I requested that they continue the work," Johnson said. "Given the number of conversations I've had with my council members about the citywide proposals, I would anticipate that whoever is the interim mayor that that individual will ask the departments to still send down that legislation."

Johnson told PubliCola he doesn't think the Murray's absence from those talks would affect the bill's progress at this point. Department directors, members of the executive team, and land use staff who have been involved throughout its process will still be there to continue where Murray left off, he said.

"Those folks aren't going anywhere," he said, "and the expectation that I asked of the departments (Wednesday) was enthusiastically received." 

Not only should the public expect legislation in October—but the city's also releasing all the public meetings laid out for the coming months next year, Johnson said. That will include dates and locations to give people "lots of time and public input opportunities." The Office of Planning and Community Development got about 800 public comments from city residents on the draft EIS released in June, OPCD spokesman Jason Kelly told PubliCola in August. 

Some of those public criticisms mirrored concerns from council member Lisa Herbold that there wasn't enough comprehensive analysis on race and equity and displacement risk. Kelly said the draft EIS's displacement risk analysis relied on several demographic factors including income, education attainment, and race; and that the OPCD is taking steps to identify more analysis that can be included, like information on the effects of past discriminatory housing practices and the 2017 Assessment of Fair Housing.

Updated September 15, 2017, at 9:06am to include more info on Herbold's concerns and Kelly's response. 

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