U-District Rezone & Amendments, Police Accountability Legislation, Mandatory Housing Affordability Meetings, African-American History Month, and In-District Office Hours

University District Rezone and Upcoming Vote on Important Amendments Coming Up

On Tuesday, 2/7/2017, the Planning, Land Use and Zoning (PLUZ) Committee voted on amendments to the proposed legislation to change the zoning in the University District and require all developers to contribute to affordable housing. This is the first area-wide rezone that, if passed by the Council, will implement the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program, passed by the Council last year.  The Mayor submitted legislation (Council Bill 118862) to the Seattle City Council on the 25th of October 2016 to the PLUZ Committee, which held three Committee meetings on 11/16/2016, 11/29/2016, 12/6/16, and 1/19/2017, as well as an evening public hearing, to discuss the rezone proposal. I have heard both concerns and support from small businesses, housing and neighborhood advocates, and human service providers.  I have tried to focus my efforts on mitigating possible negative impacts to small businesses and renters and creating greater accountability.  I, joined by Councilmembers Johnson and O’Brien, proposed several amendments last week.  Many passed by the committee, attended by seven of nine members of the City Council.  Four of them are described here:

  • No changes along the Ave.  This amendment removed the proposed rezone on University Ave NE between NE 41st Street and NE 50th Street  to allow business owners to complete a study of potential impacts on small businesses.
  • Clarify open space will be publicly accessible. This amendment requires privately owned open space required by certain City incentive programs to be publicly accessible.
  • Amend reporting requirements. This amendment makes the reporting requirements annual in frequency instead of every two years as proposed and newly requires reporting on all waivers granted to developers that lets them avoid the required contributions to affordable housing.
  • Affordable housing funds should be spent near developments that generated payments. This amendment added a recital highlighting that the City will seek to use affordable funds generated from the MHA program to build affordable housing “near developments that generate cash contributions.”

There are still important additional amendments that the Council has not yet voted on but will be voted on at the Full Council meeting on February 21, 2017 at 2pm. These amendments address potential displacement risks, seek to increase affordable housing requirements of developers, and signal Council intent to revoke zoning decisions under certain circumstances.

  1.  Increasing Developers’ Requirements for MHA – When the MHA framework legislation came to the Council in Summer 2016 I worked closely with Councilmember O’Brien to make sure language was included in the bill saying that “Council would consider higher performance and payment amounts in areas where the increment of increased development capacity is greater.” The Mayor’s proposal for the highrise area of 240-320 feet requires only 9% of units in the structure be affordable or $20 per square foot be paid in fees for affordable housing.   These are the same amounts as for the smaller upzones of 65-85 feet in the University District.  Some Councilmembers have argued that increasing the requirements from 9% to 10% or $20 to $22.25 per square foot would negatively impact the feasibility of highrise development. But land costs, higher/rising labor and materials, and market demand are really what most drives feasibility.  There is good analysis that shows that these requirements will not increase development costs but instead will be borne by the sellers of property with reduced land costs for developers.
  2. Remove the rezone to midrise between NE 50th Street and NE 52nd Street, maintain low rise zoning. The Mayor’s proposal did not recommend changing the zoning in this area. I support this because: (a) This location is very dense with buildings that are affordable to renters, (b) there are not many underutilized or vacant lots in the area, meaning that increasing the development capacity may make redevelopment of existing apartments in this area more likely, which could result in the displacement of low income renters and loss of affordable units.  This amendment failed 3-4 in Committee.  Because it may impact 175 units of existing rental housing, I am considering bringing it back for a Full Council vote. 
  3. Clawback amendment. In response to community concerns that the mandatory affordability requirements could be invalidated by a future lawsuit, I am offering an amendment that if that did happen then we’d request the courts to also invalidate the upzones.

In addition, Council will vote on the following resolutions:

  1.  Resolution 31733 The Displacement Risk Analysis for the proposed University District Rezone was insufficient to allow the Council to consider new strategies to mitigate displacement.  If passed, this resolution will lead to a more thorough evaluation of residential displacement from increases in development capacity.  It also declares the Council’s intent to consider strategies to mitigate future loss of affordable units resulting from an increase in development capacity.
  2. Resolution 31732  Among other items such as requiring an implementation plan for business district support and infrastructure improvements such as a festival street and new open space developments, additions to the resolution that I have sponsored will lead to the City working to explore how to create a childcare voucher fund for employees in the U District. The resolution also will lead to completion of an assessment of the feasibility of enacting school impact fees to help pay for increased needs for schools resulting from growth.

Police Accountability Legislation

Earlier this week the Council had a first briefing on police accountability legislation, which would expand and institutionalize oversight by making the Community Police Commission permanent, creating a new Office of the Inspector General, and allowing for additional civilianization of the Office of Professional Accountability. The legislation is being considered in the Gender Equity, Safe Communities and New Americans committee, chaired by Councilmember González; here’s a link to the schedule, which includes public hearings on March 23, and May 3. A Central Staff Memo includes information on how we got here, and the origins of the 2012 Consent Decree with the US Department of Justice. I am one of eight Councilmembers co-sponsoring the legislation.  I joined the Mayor last week for the announcement of the legislation last week; here’s my quote from the announcement:
“This legislation would never have happened if it wasn’t for the work of the 34 community groups who called on the US Department of Justice in 2010 to ‘investigate whether the Seattle Police Department has engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of civil rights by using unnecessary and excessive force against the residents of Seattle in violation of federal law,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold. “I’d like to thank them, and especially Reverend Harriet Walden, for her tireless advocacy for police accountability.” Additional information is available at the announcement release, and see here for Councilmember González’ infographic, and the materials linked to the legislation.

Upcoming Mandatory Housing Affordability ((MHA) Meetings in District 1 Neighborhoods:

You can also email Spencer.Williams@Seattle.Gov or call (206) 384-2709 to register for meetings.

African-American History Month – The Kijiji Festival

During the month of February I will be featuring an upcoming event in my emails to help promote the dozens of events that are happening in honor of Black History Month. Here is one such event:
One Vibe Africa and Seattle Art Museum proudly present Kijiji Festival, which means “village” in Swahili. This exciting evening will feature traditional music performances, an African market, and a special screening of Madaraka The Documentary.

When: Saturday February 11, between 6:30pm and 8:30pm

Where: Seattle Art Museum – Brotman forum

You can RSVP for free at this link.

Artwork of One Vibe Africa’s Piga Picha Project will also be on view in SAM’s Community Gallery. Piga Picha, on view Wednesday, February 1 through Sunday, February 26, features paintings and photographs created by students from the port city Kisumu, Kenya, with photographer Meg Stacker.

In-District Office Hours

I will be at the South Park Community Center (8319 8TH Avenue S) on Friday, February 24th from 12:00pm – 7:00pm.  The final meeting of the day will begin at 6:30pm. These hours are walk-in friendly, but if you would like to let me know you’re coming in advance you can email my scheduler Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov). Additionally, here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours. These are subject to change, but I wanted to make sure you had a rough idea of when I would be available and where.

Date Location Address
Friday, February 24, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8TH Avenue S
Friday, March 24, 2017 Senior Center of West Seattle 4217 SW Oregon St
Friday, April 28, 2017 Southwest Neighborhood Service Center 2801 SW Thistle St
Friday, May 26, 2017 Senior Center of West Seattle 4217 SW Oregon St
Friday, June 23, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8TH Avenue S
Friday, July 28, 2017 Southwest Neighborhood Service Center 2801 SW Thistle St
Friday, August 18, 2017 Senior Center of West Seattle 4217 SW Oregon St
Friday, September 22, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8TH Avenue S
Friday, October 27, 2017 Southwest Neighborhood Service Center 2801 SW Thistle St
Friday, December 15, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8TH Avenue S




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