CM Johnson inserts an upzone for the ‘Ave’ into the city-wide HALA-MHA plan ignoring council’s pledge to first adopt measures that protect small businesses

Historic older buildings with low income housing already are being advertised to developers as tear-downs in anticipation of the zoning change

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Councilmember Rob Johnson and city planners quietly buried the ‘Ave’ upzone into their 350-page HALA-MHA plan even though it was not included in the “preferred alternative” nor was it subject to environmental review. Only months later was it added while 29 citizens groups were in he midst of appealing the larger plan.

When the City Council approved the UDistrict upzone in February 2017, they postponed upzoning of the Ave – the area from 52nd south along both sides of the Ave to 41st.  That area was slated for an upzone from 65 to 85 feet. But because of a strong showing from affected small businesses demonstrating what a threat this was to the historic character of the Ave and it’s businesses,  the Council, including even Johnson, agreed to pull zoning changes for the Ave. out of the plan.

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Rob Johnson not running for re-election: who will developers get to replace him

Instead, they passed a resolution postponing plans for University Way until the impacts of upzoning there could be better understood.  A pledge was made to take several steps including conducting a survey of small business needs, how they felt about the upzones, and how it might affect them.  The resolution also referenced the need to undertake a thorough evaluation of the historic character of the ‘Ave’ and identify specific strategies that could be adopted to preserve both its historic character and ensure that longtime small businesses would not be displaced.  The resolution likely would not have been approved without Rob Johnson’s stamp of approval.

The Ave’s small businesses cheered.  And then, at their own expense, they contracted with Peter Steinbrueck of Urban Strategies to complete the required survey which was presented to the Council last year.  But to date, steps have not yet been taken by the City Continue reading

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What is an urbanist?

Don’t be fooled by those who drape themselves in pseudo-urbanism and (mis)use the term to mask their pro-developer sentiments

  • by Carolee Colter and John V. Fox, reprinted from the August 2018 issue of Pacific Publishing newspapers

Urban Planning icon Jane Jacobs

In Seattle, as in many other large cities, we’ve seen waves of rapid growth and development over the past 50 years. The first wave occurred in the late 70s when big business and corporate capital saw the advantages of locating within the inner city.

After a slight downturn from 1980 to 1982, redevelopment picked up steam again, fueled by the Reagan tax cuts that favored the rich. After another downturn, a surge of new office development in the mid to late 90’s fed into “the tech bubble,” and another slowdown in the early 2000’s. Things built to another bust in 2008 and now we’re at the apex of another boom with no end yet in sight.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, growth in Seattle has not lifted all boats. Historically it has always accentuated cleavages between the haves and have-nots. More existing low-income housing is lost, more people are displaced and homelessness skyrockets.

In these earlier eras, things were much clearer. Seattle electeds generally gave developers everything they asked for (as they do now), but at times grassroots groups would prevail. There were broad coalitions of neighborhood groups, environmentalists, minority, senior and tenant rights groups, and even Democratic party organizations. Unified we secured passage of the nation’s first demolition control and anti-abandonment laws, just-cause eviction and a succession of housing levies.

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Large U-District crowd hears panel of small business and elected leaders call for measures to preserve historic character of neighborhood businesses districts threatened by upzones and runaway growth

While the Mayor’s budget removed funding for a “legacy business” program that helps small businesses weather growth, CM Herbold was able to restore it

You can view the entire panel discussion by clicking on the pic.  The forum was entitled: “Who rules Seattle: Can our neighborhood small business districts survive upzoning, runaway growth, and gentrification,” including former Councilmember now Port Commissioner Peter Steinbrueck reporting on his survey of small business needs in the UDistrict, leaders of the University District Small Business Association including Gayle Nowicki, owner of Gargoyles on the Ave, Rick McLaughlin, owner of the Big Time Brew Pub, Chris Peterson owner of the Allegro Coffee House, and Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who spoke about solutions she is pursuing including implementation of a “Legacy Business Program” aimed at preventing displacement of small businesses throughout Seattle.  The event was moderated by Cliff Cawthon, race and social justice advocate, teacher, and journalist frequently contributing to the South Seattle Emerald and Outside City Hall.

Special Note – since the panel discussion was held and this article was written, changes were made to the proposed budget reinserting funding for the Legacy Business Program.  We can thank Councilmember Herbold, Bagshaw and others for making sure this addition occurred

And Councilmember Rob Johnson moves ahead with another attempt to upzone the ‘Ave’, this time without any notice to the community or affected small businesses

Councilmember Rob Johnson has moved ahead with a planned upzone of the University District’s historic University Way (The ‘Ave’ as it is called) before any protections for small businesses are put in place to prevent or at least mitigate the threat of displacement accompanying those upzones.  Johnson has done so, with the full cooperation of the Mayor’s Planning Department despite a pledge made two years ago (later approved in resolution form by the full Council) to suspend any upzoning along the Ave until strategies first were studied and then implemented to mitigate the effect of upzoning on the UDistrict’s historic “Ave” small businesses.   Johnson has made no attempt to move forward with implementation of such strategies.

While the “preferred alternative” studied in the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the city-wide HALA upzone plan (completed last November) and now being appealed by 29 neighborhood and housing groups, DID NOT call for upzones along the Ave, CM Johnson and the city’s planners apparently added it into their final set of recommendations sent to Council later in February of this year.

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Record rates of new residential construction since 2012 continue to keep pace with rates of population and employment growth in Seattle


Yes there’s a problem but it’s not a supply problem?

By John V. Fox and Carolee Colter, reprinted from Pacific Publishing newspapers

We hear a common refrain from developers that we’re not adding enough new housing to keep pace with soaring population and employment growth in Seattle. In common economic parlance we’re told that supply isn’t keeping up with demand. This notion is fully embraced by most Seattle Councilmembers and Mayor to legitimize citywide upzoning at the center of the “Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda” or HALA plan.

But how much truth is there to the claim? Since 2012 we’ve broken records for new residential construction and it’s generally kept pace or exceeded on an annual basis the increased number of households relocating to the city. There also is more than enough capacity under current zoning to easily accommodate future growth without the need for more upzones called for under HALA.

Since 2012, Seattle’s total population grew by 114,400 people, an 18.5 percent increase. However, since the average household size rose over the period from 2.06 to 2.12 persons, that translates into an additional 45,500 households over the period, only a 15.2 percent increase. While employment grew by 98,000 or about 20 percent, federal transportation data indicates only about 40% of all Seattle workers choose to live in the city, so that’s an increase of 10% in number of job holders seeking housing in Seattle since 2012.

By comparison, during the same period, counting units pending and soon to come on line, new residential construction grew by 18.8%. In fact, annual rates of new construction since 2012 are 2-3 times normal rates and show no sign of abating.

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Sources:  Family Size:  Job Growth: Housing Growth

Current zoning certainly hasn’t strangled growth despite developer complaints that too much of our city’s land area is ‘locked up’ by single-family zoning. Quite the contrary, we’re ‘overzoned’. In 2005 the city was assigned a new 20-year growth target Continue reading

Posted in Density, Displacement, Gentrification, Housing Preservation, Neighborhoods, Uncategorized

Neil Power’s friends in Seattle gather to celebrate a life well-lived

Some pictures and three videos of our service for Neil Powers here in Seattle October 6th


Below Peter Steinbrueck, Port Commissioner and Neil’s former boss when Peter was a City Councilmember (the following five close-ups we’re taken by Sharon Lee):


Below, current Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold addressing attendees (video for most of Lisa’s presentation also is included further down)


Below, David Okimoto, retired senior vice president of United Way and friend of Neil’s reads poem mid-way through the service


For full story follow link below

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Neil Powers memorial services October 6th 3pm Seattle First Baptist Church – former aid to Peter Steinbrueck, GLBT activist, housing and homeless advocate, and good friend of mine

Neil & K-H - Edited

It came as terrible shock to all of us who had the good fortune to know and work with Neil Powers, especially those of us who have maintained longstanding and close friendships with him.   Two weeks ago Neil Powers passed away of natural causes at the age of 63.  Since it was like him to keep details like this secret, it took some digging for us to discover his exact birth date, Feb 25th, 1955.

Services for Neil will be held Saturday October 6th, 3pm in the Social Hall of Seattle First Baptist Church, 1111 Harvard Avenue on First Hill.   

Born in Scranton Pennsylvania, Neil took his first job in Seattle in the mid-90’s (after living and working in Canada, a place he loved and spoke often about).  The job with a small non-profit involved outreach and providing assistance to homeless youth in the University District.  But he was hired away from that job in the late ’90’s and went to work as one of Seattle Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck’s legislative assistants until he stepped down in 2007.  Neil specialized in areas of Land Use, Housing, and Homelessness but maintained a deep grasp of city politics in general.

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Posted in Personal Essays, Uncategorized

Local environmentalists call Councilmember Rob Johnson’s tree preservation ordinance a ‘tree removal’ law

Public hearing on Johnson’s tree legislation is Wednesday September 5th 9:30AM in the Council Chambers; concerns raised that notice of hearing was not posted until day before Labor Day


More of this if Rob Johnson’s new tree ‘preservation’ law is approved?

Longtime tree advocates and environmentalists headed by a group called TreePac has sent out a request to the larger community asking the public to join them at what may be the only public hearing on Councilmember Rob Johnson’s new tree ordinance.

The public hearing is set for Wednesday September 5th 9:30 AM in the Seattle City Council Chambers though advocates are asking their supporters  to show up at least as half hour early.  Concerns have been raised that Johnson did not announce the hearing until Friday, the day before the long Labor Day weekend and only after he was alerted by advocates it had not yet been posted.  Advocates say Johnson’s timing for the hearing and his failure to provide adequate notice highlights how rushed this process has been.

Councilmember Johnson’s also is holding the public hearing before completion of the environmental review process, a practice that community advocates say raises serious legal red flags.  He’s undertaking review, holding hearings, and bringing legislation to his Continue reading

Posted in City Hall, Density, Politics, Trees, parks, and open space, Upzoning