Displacement Coalition files code complaint against University Unitarian Church’s plan to demolish homes for parking lot

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“Activist church” would displace ten residents receiving assistance from Community Psychiatric Clinic (CPC)

Church ignores law restricting demolition of housing for parking lot and city inspectors ask for ‘correction’; Coalition also says Church may have violated just cause and tenant relocation laws

Last week, The Seattle Times published a front-page story about University Unitarian Church’s plan to tear down 3 homes in Northeast Seattle rented to 10 formerly homeless people… for a parking lot.  Community Psychiatric Clinic (CPC) has managed the homes for years behalf of the Church.  The units are offered to people with mild mental health issues and also receive services from CPC.

The Times story does not make clear why church leaders could not include the parking ‘on-site’ incorporated directly into their renovation plan. (CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the houses are on the opposite side of the street from the church. In fact, the three houses are on the same side.)

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The church easily could incorporate parking into their renovation plans instead of demolishing these homes serving low income families

The story left us scratching our heads since we are aware of city legislation passed some 20 years ago barring demolition of existing structurally sound housing for a ‘principle use’ parking lots.  (Recently the City Council watered down this legislation allowing developers to abandon rental homes and then later demolish them, but the prohibition on demolition for a parking lots remains.)

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Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, Homelessness, Housing Preservation, Neighborhoods, Politics

Amid displacement, Mayor Burgess proposes a citywide upzone

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Mayor Tim Burgess is getting pushback from community groups about his housing policy.

Community groups express concerns about race, social justice and city hall’s ability to listen

By Cliff Cawthon, Contributing Writer

Last Thursday, Mayor Tim Burgess unveiled a plan to implement Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) requirements on all new multifamily and commercial development in 27 neighborhoods across Seattle. MHA would allow developers to build bigger and taller building in exchange for including affordable housing in their projects or contributing to a low-income housing fund. Under this plan, the mayor hopes that the city will meet its goal of at least 6,000 new rent-restricted homes for low-income people over the next decade.

The plan overall includes building 50,000 homes by 2025, including 20,000 affordable homes (6000 of these would be income restricted). The plan is purportedly aimed at expanding the housing capacity first in the city’s urban villages, in densely packed neighborhoods including Rainier Beach, Othello, and South Park, all places at high risk of displacement. In other words, places where residents are extremely vulnerable to any immediate economic shock.

This, of course, has received pushback from people in the community who are concerned that this approach would exacerbate displacement and not create enough housing to meet demand.

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Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, Cliff Cawthon articles, Density, Neighborhoods, Politics, Upzoning

New state law requires cities (including Seattle) to recalculate their growth capacity and could lead to more upzoning

– written by Carolee Colter and John V. Fox (reprinted from this month’s editions of Pacific Publishing Newspapers)

State agency hires firm linked to Master Builders Association (MBA) to develop new formula cities will use to calculate future zoned capacity

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Developers deny Seattle has adequate ‘zoned capacity’ but city planners say we have capacity for 220,000 units, three times what’s needed to meet our 2035 assigned regional target. The developers solution; change the way capacity is calculated

Look out! The Washington State’s Department of Commerce just selected a private engineering and planning firm, LDC Consultants, to set new formulas that counties and cities must use to calculate how much capacity for new residential development they have under their existing zoning code. If the new formula shows that more capacity is needed to reach their “2035 residential growth target” under the State’s Growth Management Act (GMA), that city or county is required to upzone for still more development.

What’s especially troubling about this, a key member LDC consulting also is tied to the Master Builders Association (MBA), well known for its interest in promoting as much density and development in communities as is humanly possible. In fact, the MBA credited this individual for doing a lot of their legwork in the recent session of the Legislature that ensured passage of the bill requiring recalculation of the formula.

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Posted in Affordable Housing, Density, Neighborhoods, Politics, Upzoning

Plants and People

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(Photo by Rebekah Demirel)

An excerpt from her new book: “Nothing’s for Nothing” (Rose Hip Press)

by Rebekah Demirel

As long as I can remember, planting, watering and weeding has been a solace for me. Pulling weeds feels cathartic and cleansing. You have to pull them by the roots, though, or they just come back stronger and choke out the tender baby plants.

Over time I’ve pulled a lot of personal weeds from my life. Bad habits, lies, people who choked out what I wanted to grow…I learned to dig deep to extract the noxious elements. I’ve found that I have to weed regularly, and then cultivation of something good can keep the weeds from coming back.

In the permaculture way of thinking, weeds are not called “invasive.” Plants that grow very quickly in places where they are not cultivated – often smothering food sources, using precious nutrients and water – are known as “opportunistic” plants. They find a place to insert themselves, often in disturbed soil, and then they are hard to get rid of. They keep reproducing.

Just like bad habits.

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Posted in Healing, Personal Essays, Rebekah Demirel articles, Trees, parks, and open space

Jenny the juggernaut 2: the general election

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Durkan dominated all electioneering aspects of the mayoral race. (Photo: Durkan campaign)

Seattle’s establishment candidate Durkan wins mayor’s race

By George Howland Jr

On election night, former U.S. Attorney for Western Washington Jenny Durkan ran up a huge lead, 61-39 percent, over urbanist Cary Moon. While Moon refused to concede, the numbers are daunting (for more on the math, see below). Minutes after the first batch of votes were counted, The Seattle Times had declared Durkan the winner.

All in all, it was a very good evening for the Seattle political establishment.

The mayoral contest was never much of a horse race.

Durkan had a fantastic showing in August’s primary election, getting 29 percent of the vote in a 21-person race and besting Moon by 12 points.

Durkan was a candidate made for Seattle voters. Durkan has had a long and storied career as a lawyer in the state Democratic Party, working for former Gov. Mike Lowry and defending former Gov. Christine Gregoire’s razor-thin victory in court. Not only did Durkan serve former President Barak Obama as a U.S. Attorney, she was also the first openly LGBTQ U.S. Attorney in our nation’s history. Before Durkan became U.S. Attorney, she worked hard on police reform at a local level. Once she became U.S. Attorney, she dragged former Mayor Mike McGinn into a consent decree that mandated changes for the Seattle Police Department’s use of force and biased policing.

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Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, Election 2017, George Howland articles, Homelessness, LGBTQ, Politics, Upzoning

Long-term housing market worsened by Airbnb

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Belltown Court is one building that has helped Seattle have the highest number of short-term rental listings per capita in the U.S. (Photo by Melissa Hellmann)

Activists say short-term rentals may lead to more displacement

By Melissa Hellmann, Contributing Writer

When Noelle Million, 70, purchased her Belltown Court condo unit in 1997, she was hoping to cultivate a community with neighboring homeowners. Instead, she shares a floor with a constantly rotating crop of visitors. “You hear kids thumping around the halls all the time, because they don’t realize it’s a home,” Million says one morning in late October. She has short, blonde hair that she covers with a bright blue cap. Over nearly the past ten years, Million has battled with investors who own condos advertised through short-term vacation rental companies like Airbnb and VRBO.

“Short term,” Million says as she points to door after door during a quick jaunt around her fifth-floor hallway. Soon, she’s counted over half of the red doors on her floor as visitors, forming a mental map where her condo is an island surrounded by a sea of short-term renters.

According to Million, over 80 of the 249 units are short-term rentals, most of which are owned by real-estate investors who live off-site. Such commercial use of condos and apartments takes them off the long-term housing market, according to a Seattle City Council policy brief. As a result of the steady stream of visitors, Million and some of her neighbors complain that their water bill has drastically risen, housecleaning costs have increased and building security has been compromised in recent years.

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Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, Melissa Hellmann, Neighborhoods, Politics

Trauma, ACES, homelessness and love

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In other words, love matters, a lot. (Photo: Sinan Demirel)

An excerpt from her new book: “Nothing’s for Nothing” (Rose Hip Press)

by Rebekah Demirel

ACEs stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences study. It’s a well-known tool, used by health professionals, social workers and other social-service providers to assess how difficult childhood experiences may be impacting their clients.

The questions ask about adverse events happening before age eighteen, like parents divorcing, substance abuse and mental illness in the home, family violence, etc. The more points you score, the more likely it is for you to be impacted by addiction, poverty, violence, incarceration, chronic health problems, to name a few.

The relationship between childhood trauma (as measured by ACE scores) and chronic health problems has captured the attention of a growing number of researchers. Findings indicate that those with high ACE scores (four and up) are more likely to experience violence and abuse which, over the course of a lifetime, correlate with many chronic health problems (a phenomenon referred to as COLEVA: Consequences of Lifetime Exposure to Violence and Abuse).

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Posted in Addiction, Affordable Housing, Homelessness, Rebekah Demirel articles