HALA Is the New Redlining

HALA, Seattle’s so-called Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda – crafted by Ed Murray in a room with developers – proposes to upzone valuable land along our main streets and elsewhere giving developers additional stories of height in exchange for nothing.

It’s a political smokescreen for the massive displacement of vulnerable people and small businesses, immense net losses of affordable housing, further erosion of livability, and in case that wasn’t enough to cause us to take a closer look under the hood, let me pile on that it will result in systematic re-segregation as well.  

But isn’t HALA supposed to go a long way to solving our housing affordability and urban livability problems going forward?

Well, it doesn’t even attempt to. It’s fancy “branding” designed to fool you with words like Mandatory Housing Affordability. It’s politicians and political consultants at their worst which, on their terms, is their best. It galvanizes the trajectory of a city that once embraced all, but now favors the spin doctors, the well-connected, and the elite.

Wrap your head around this:

Over 20 years, across this entire city, this humongous hoax will result in – wait for it – 10 units of affordable housing per urban village per year. This is not permanently affordable housing mind you- and it’s not net units of affordable housing after bulldozing the affordable housing we already have in these locations. It’s 10 units of temporarily subsidized below-market rate housing.

TEN. 10. Only 10. 10 units of pseudo-affordable housing per urban village per year.

You’ve got to be kidding me.  

That is nearly the same number of affordable housing units that I created on my own “single family” 5000 sf lot without any “incentive” at all.

The “Grand Bargain” that our disgraced former Mayor Murray worked up with his crony capitalist campaign contributors hurts many of the people, neighborhoods, and small businesses of Seattle, stuffs the coffers of the City and the wallets of the developers, and lays no sustainable path forward for the next generation.

And the BS never stops.

New mayor, same problem. Jenny Durkan bends her ear to the same consultants and benefactors and puts addiction to the rush of the property taxes, real estate excise taxes, and general fund windfall ahead of sustainable policy.

Meanwhile, the City Council tamps down sensible opposition to HALA with neo-urbanist excuses for the duping in a rushed scramble before they resign or get booted out of office.

Ed Murray’s grand bargain is as dishonest as the man himself. Let’s retire policy and electeds of that ilk. Instead of the kind being walking around on leashes by the same consultants and contributors who baked this cake, we need honest electeds making policy and legislation that serves the needs of the people and businesses in the districts across Seattle and beyond.

We need to give Seattle a future that’s better for the next generation and that most certainly means preventing HALA legislation now. Call your councilmembers and the mayor at (206) 684-4000 today because they’re fast tracking.

Remind them that 10 pseudo-affordable units per urban village per year in exchange for massive upzoning is nothing more than a “grand swindle”.

Talk about how it redlines because developers don’t have to actually put those crumbs of units in the new buildings where they displace folks, they can instead pay a fee to concentrate the lower income people elsewhere – further north or south – which is repulsive.

Tell them it’s not even a good response in real time let alone a gesture to the future.

Mention that you will push for repeal of any HALA legislation that finds its way into ordinance.

Don’t let them respond with false claims that we can’t do better because we can and we must.

Going forward we need to shift the focus from the next cocktail to the next generation.  

  • We need all market-driven redevelopment to pay its own way for impacts on our city infrastructure just as Seattle’s historic neighborhoods did when they developed otherwise it won’t get done or punishes the next generation by kicking the can down the road.
  • We need to support all development in every zone across the city to be in sync with our environmental, economic, and social justice aspirations so that we can meet our goals of sustainability and inclusivity with every step we take, not promise we’re going to do it at some later date.   
  • We need to pivot to quality human habitat from the “stack and pack and cram ‘em in on the arterials and transit route” accountant mentality of the last dozen years especially.
  • We need to maximize stable households and happy childhoods with every single move we make for this is where a lot of mental illnesses can be prevented.
  • We need to encourage more opportunities for people to own their own land and develop their own homesteads so that we can have permanently affordable and stable housing in our single-family neighborhoods and elsewhere – for both owners and renters – which will help families, schools, and communities across Seattle immensely.  

Kate wants to be your candidate in the District 6 City Council race.

Your contribution to her campaign will make all the difference and will help her qualify for Democracy Vouchers. Your vouchers will arrive in your mailbox in mid-February. Vouch for Kate!

Owner-Occupied Communities

Owner-occupied communities are the answer, not the enemy.

Let’s agree on these things:

  • Seattle is probably not getting any smaller.
  • A diversity of housing types and neighborhoods is essential.
  • Homeowners and small businesses owning their own buildings and land are good things.
  • Affordability is essential for renters and owners of housing and business spaces.
  • Strong families, schools, neighborhoods, and business districts are golden.
  • Trees and open space deserve more than enough room in our neighborhoods.
  • Entire life cycles are natural and our built environment should reflect them seamlessly.

So why are our electeds in such a hurry to toss those things away with blanket rezoning of just about the entire city?

Seattle needs a sea change in November when it comes to the city council’s land-use committee and the sustainability committee in order to re-build the middle class, stabilize housing and its costs for renters and owners, maintain verdant and humane places for people to live, and assure that our next generation of renters, homeowners, small business owners, and entrepreneurs will have a place they can call home.

For some time now, we’ve been fed a steady diet by our electeds that these lovely neighborhoods need to be snuffed out in the name of social, economic, environmental or some other kind of justice.

That premise is false and the battle cry is nearly criminal.

We already have all the potential density we’ll need for the next hundred or 200 years in our “single family” zones (i.e. SF5000). Similarly, our mixed-use commercial zones already have all the potential density they need for at least 25 years, but probably 50 or more since another Amazon in Seattle is probably not going to happen in the immediate future.

So, again, I ask – what’s the rush?

We should all ask our councilmembers to table the rezoning because there is so much political mismanagement of density and affordability issues. A new council not so beholden to developer-driven lobbyist rhetoric can bring better ideas that send a message demanding gentle density and an acknowledgement that the people who live in Seattle and the people that own businesses in Seattle – now and in the future – actually matter whether they own or rent. We all want solutions, not fakery.

In SF5000 zones, with a long-term “gentle density” approach, owner-occupants over generations will develop their land to fill the building envelopes and cover the lots as prescribed. We can expedite that with incentives any time we want, but we never have. Why do the electeds offer obscene incentives to commercial developers to supposedly create affordable housing that they barely create, yet they never do that for residents and business owners who are long-term owner-occupants?

From their developer giveaways, all they get is crumbs in the way of affordable housing and nothing in the way of affordable business space. Did you know that most of the deals they’re making for those crumbs of affordable housing expire into nothing in 75 years? Yikes. That’s one heck of a can to kick down the road, people.

It seems to me that we need those strong-rooted long-term owner-occupant homeowners and business people who are so essential to the neighborhood fabric to be the developers, not necessarily all the folks blowing in for the boom. I hope that makes sense to you.

If we helped folks add affordable rental spaces to their houses, basements, backyards, and business spaces, it would make it so much easier for them to make the payments. More could own their home and place of work and more people could afford the rental spaces those people create. Over time the situation gets nothing but better.

On a SF5000 lot you need to leave 65% open space and limit lot coverage to the other 35%, but you can build up to 35′ to the roof peak with a pitched roof and have a backyard cottage, too.

Additionally, lots of our commercially zoned properties have 40′ limits. Helping people to maximize the residential land they live on and the commercial land they own and run their business on would be huge.

In our SF5000 zones, the height and coverage limits allow for a verdant neighborhood with room for sun, trees, yards, gardens, streetscapes and off-street parking. When the building envelopes are maxed out over time as they are at my house, you can fit a lot of people on 5000 sf without crowding and without increasing building footprints from their historic proportions. People can have room to live a life, not just a place to sleep.

Tax incentives and Zero Interest Loans could help expedite that process whenever we’re ready. I know I am. My neighbors said they’re interested, too. We could certainly create all the affordable housing and business spaces we need in 5 – 10 years.

Long-term owner occupants could keep the “gentle density” development going on into the future, too, because our policies and programs could support that and home economics will insist on it. More homeowners, more businesses that own their own buildings, and more affordable home and business rentals in great neighborhoods. Yes!

We could set goals for continually raising the ratio of owner-occupancy and the number of affordable rental housing and business space in these zones, too, so we can make sure as many people as possible can own the house they live in and the building they do business in, and that the spaces they rent to live and work are stable and affordable.

We can and should slow down the blur that is gutting the fabric of our neighborhoods at the expense of most of us via the current blade and build redevelopment trends directed by our electeds and carried out by their commercial developer comrades. They just might not be thinking of any of us, the importance of quality human environments, or our social fabric.

A new designation or overlay like Owner-Occupied Residential Zones and Owner-Occupied Business Zones could get this done. It would strengthen our families, neighborhoods, schools and small businesses.

There’s so much I could do as a city councilmember to help people get a piece of the rock and hang onto it once they have it and our families, communities, schools and businesses will all benefit.

Please comment or give me a call (206) 579-3703 to share your thoughts.


Your contribution to my campaign today will make all the difference.

PS: Four $25 Democracy Vouchers will arrive in your mailboxes in mid-February. Please consider contributing them to my campaign.

A Sharing Problem, part 1

Seattle is doing way more than their fair share in the way of providing services and facilities to address the homelessness epidemic. The Eastside and beyond need to step up.

Almost 6500 people were unsheltered for the last “one night count”. What they count as sheltered is sketchy. The number is really more like 10,000 in my terms. 

But, look at the numbers below and I fear they’ve skewed even more out of whack in the last year. Seattle is taking 70% and the Eastside is taking 7%. North King Co is taking 3% and South is taking 21%. 

The problem repeats beyond King County into Pierce and Snohomish Counties.

Cut from Capitol Hill Times article. 

The data that jumps out at me is the count in Seattle with a whopping 71% of the county’s homeless, but only 33% of the population.

No wonder we feel overwhelmed and can’t catch up. 

Just because King County government is located in Downtown Seattle, that does not mean that facilities and services should be built disproportionally more here than beyond.

Maybe it would help to move King County government to Bellevue in order to right the ship. 

Even churches on the Eastside build their tiny houses in Seattle rather than in their own backyards. I’m sure their hearts are in the right place, but that’s not sitting right with me.  

As a planner, I think one of Seattle’s biggest planning mistakes – and we’ve made some whoppers – has been to group like things together geographically. The grouping methodology risks the creation of various ghettos. Like SODO (often dead at night except for the wrong uses), 3rd Ave (plethora of bus traffic with dead segments, concentration of service providers and low-income housing feels toxic), and the “civic” neighborhood around City Hall (more dead at night except the wrong uses). Even concentrating commercial uses on the ground floors creates ghettos depending on the time of day. We all have more examples. 

If ever anything needed to be diluted geographically, it is the services and facilities to address poverty, mental illness and addiction. If we could spread the love, neither the affliction nor the cure would be toxic to the people who need the help or hand up, nor anyone else.  As they taught me when I was a volunteer at the North Seattle Boys and Girls Club, everything in ratio. 

I’m a fair person and I can feed a lot of people at my dinner table, and I do, but fair is fair. I can’t feed everyone. Neither can you. Seattle cannot be, nor should they be, the unsupported vessel that receives all of the broke and broken people from across the county, the surrounding counties and beyond.

When we all do what we all need to do, everything will get better. 

Make Kate your candidate in the District 6 City Council race. Your contribution to Kate’s campaign will make all the difference.


Prevention is Sustainable

It’s a lot easier to prevent poverty, mental illness and addiction than to fix them once they occur.

We can’t just keep tamping down symptoms while problems get bigger.  

Seattle and King County are spending over $200,000,000 a year on the downstream side of the epidemic of broke and broken people, but things are getting worse.  While the electeds keep doing the same thing expecting different results, few voters would argue that their approach has failed. 

When the word “prevention” is used by Seattle or King County government in conjunction with homelessness, they usually mean preventing someone from being evicted.  I wish they had more interest in preventing the whole problem of broke and brokenness in the first place. That would certainly stem a tremendous number of eviction problems downstream, but as you know, neither Wall Street nor politicians typically focus on the long term and we all pay a price for that. 

I will be the politician that does.

It makes me think of the decades it took for Finland to go from having one the world’s worst education systems to one of the best, lest anyone think the “Finnish Miracle” happened overnight.  

Failure to effectively guide kids through their development and education systems that don’t work for most are huge pieces of the root problem. When 50% of the kids in our state can’t read, write or do math, it’s no wonder that multi-generational poverty, mental illness and addiction proliferate.

It also makes me think of Iceland and how their youth drug and alcohol use plummeted when they started issuing leisure vouchers so kids could participate in their hobbies and interests without financial barriers.

Kids who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who begin at age 21 and kids who haven’t used hard drugs by the time they enter high school, probably won’t ever use them. 

The ironically named ACEs – Adverse Childhood Experiences – mostly related to abuse and neglect – account for much of the epidemic of broken adults. A healthy, well-developed brain is the secret sauce and since there’s no way to re-do those first 25 years, it is there we should focus. #thisisfixable

Please consider making a campaign contribution so I can talk about strategic solutions that actually fix problems down at City Hall. We can’t just let the electeds waste our money dabbling around with the superficial treatment of symptoms while Seattle continues to reek of political failure. They’re still claiming we can build our way out of this by ramping up failed policies and programs with money from taxes on jobs. 

I hope you’ll head upstream with me to prevent problems from happening. Prevention is sustainable. 

Transparent Campaigns

The immediate daylighting and reform of the status quo candidate questionnaire system is in order.

The immediate daylighting and reform of the status quo candidate questionnaire system is in order. 
Behind the scenes, candidates have to answer dozens and dozens of questionnaires from special interest groups and media, but voters don’t get to see most of the questionnaires and the tedious and redundant process takes candidates away from voters. The campaign staff wind up winging it toward the end which is really too bad because I’m pretty certain voters want answers directly from candidates, not staffers. 

Who knew, right? 

I’m calling for a publicly-selected, universal set of questions for candidates because – as I like to say – this is not my first rodeo, and anyone who has run for office in Seattle knows there are just too many questionnaires and they’re too private.

I’m also calling for word limits on the responses from the candidates for obvious reasons, LOL. 

A predictable and logical schedule for posting questions and answers makes sense.  Candidates will be encouraged to gain content competency in the subject areas if they don’t already have it. As a candidate has a chance to study up, hear from more voters and sharpen their positions, they could edit their responses to keep them fresh. More importantly, if we want more policy and less politics from our electeds, then they need to do their homework, not claim they’re just politicians leaving the important policy development work to others. 

I’m calling for a questionnaire editing deadline that coincides with the Voter’s Guide deadline and intermediate deadlines for responses, so candidates are encouraged to make their draft positions public earlier. This will help  voters to differentiate candidates. 

It would be golden if registered voters could make public comments as constituents under the candidate responses by logging in with their voter card ID and using their real names. Wow, that alone would be amazing. 
I also think  there needs to be other reforms to candidate communications protocols, to shine more light and throttle back on behind the scenes dealing.  The voters should know who is talking to who and what they’re talking about. If the voters told me they wanted me to wear a body camera down at city hall, I would because we’re all pretty mad out here in voter land about how opaque things are down at City Hall. A new City Council could decide to be much more transparent. It would be a refreshing change. 

In that spirit, I’d like to audio record (with permission, of course) if it’s a phone interview or livestream if it’s a face to face interview so the voters can follow along. I challenge my opponent in the District 6 race and the others to do the same.

Looking further in the future, the logical office to help develop the rules and manage access to the information is Seattle Ethics and Elections. I think it’s a do-able step we can take toward transparency and open government. 

Please suggest the important questions you would like to see on the questionnaire in the comments. 

Fair Is Fair Healthcare

It’s time for Seattle Single-Payer.

It would be sensible and economical to open up the City of Seattle’s healthcare plans to anyone who lives or works in Seattle who wants to pay the premium. It’s a real Cadillac plan that is likely more generous yet more affordable than what folks are doing on their own or through their employer.

Most municipalities, many corporations and lots of unions are self-insured. Self-insurance pools cut out the insurance companies other than using them for administration of the self-insurance and it turns out that the bigger the pool the lower the costs.

The City of Seattle is self-insured and that plan covers about 28,000 people – most of their employees, their children, and some spouses. We could make that 100,000 people or 200,000 people.  It’s literally the more, the merrier or at least the cheaper. 

For employers to be able to just put the cost of that in someone’s check and have it all be handled elsewhere, they’d save money and headaches.

This could be helpful to anyone who isn’t on Medicaid or Medicare.  

This would also make health insurance more portable. Workers wouldn’t be shackled to “benefits” so much. More freedom to navigate a family, a career, a life.

And it wouldn’t cost the city an extra dime because the pool pays to participate in the program, not the city. 

Here is a summary of some of the benefits:

  • Provides an option for anyone who doesn’t qualify for Medicaid or Medicare
  • Reduces individual costs with enlarged self-insured pool
  • Strengthens bargaining power with providers and pharmaceutical companies
  • Gives workers more flexibility with portable insurance
  • Simplifies employee health insurance benefits for businesses
  • Adds no costs for the City of Seattle

Let’s lead the way. Fair Is Fair Healthcare has no drawbacks and provides better coverage than most plans for less money. Everyone wins. 

Please like and share this post to so others can learn about my plan for single-payer in Seattle. Thank you. 

Room to Recover

Seattle could lead the West Coast by redefining our city as one that supports people to recover and reclaim their lives, instead of as a hopeless dead end destination for people on a downward spiral.

There is an epidemic of broke and broken adults. Many people who survive  childhood or adult traumas (abuse, neglect and more) without therapeutic attention suffer a lifetime of mental disorders including self-medicating addictions. Additionally, hard times and bad luck can strike anytime. Many of us are just a diagnosis or a tragedy away from despair.

I’m certain that we need to build resilience to poverty, mental illness and addiction upstream. Prevention is Sustainable

Meanwhile, everybody deserves to recover, even when their demons are directing them to lay low or stay on the path of destruction. 

I suspect that once people take a few steps toward their recovery, most Seattleites would open their homes, businesses and wallets to further support these people in their upward mobility.

We have to make choosing recovery an irresistible opportunity. Right now we don’t even have an obvious and easy-to-access portal for recovery. When someone is ready to choose recovery, we need to embrace them in that moment completely.

$200M is being spent annually by King County and the City of Seattle to deal with the crisis of homelessness which itself is a symptom. It’s easy to say it’s about building more affordable housing, which is super important and I have many ideas for how we can put that effort on steroids, but fixing homelessness is really about fixing broke and broken people and protecting them from becoming broke and broken in the first place.  

Many of Seattle and King County’s downstream strategies to address those broke and broken people’s issues aren’t working at all. Even “bright spot analyses” are hard to come by which would allow us to at least replicate successes that may be occurring in some areas. One incredibly sad reality is that neither Seattle nor King County even know who composes this unfortunate group of people. The nature of their problems are instead generalized which ignores opportunities to address people as individuals. Meanwhile, upstream strategies – things that would actually fix the problems – are mostly non-existent.

As a councilmember, expect me to be vigilant and critical of seemingly co-dependent relationships with the problems because the failure industry has a way of creeping in. This happens when success relies on more failure. It’s not that different from the perverse incentives of running a private prison – more prisoners is good business. In this way “the homelessness crisis” reminds me of the “the achievement gap”. Tons of money is being spent, a mushrooming of industries responds to that money, and evidence of progress is difficult to find. Some call it the “schools to tent pipeline” and that’s probably not too far off.

Another important aspect of solving this crisis of broke and broken adults is sharing the responsibility fairly with the other towns and cities in King County, our state, and beyond. Two-thirds of the population of King County is outside of the City of Seattle, yet few facilities and programs are distributed there. Everyplace needs to take on the responsibility of providing solutions in ratio with their populations.  Another post “A Sharing Problem, Part 1” addresses that in more depth.

As a councilmember, you can expect me to focus on recovery strategies and to insist that the other jurisdictions pull their fair share of the load.

Please consider making a contribution to put Kate on the council.