This may be the longest running and most voluminous appeal ever brought before the City Hearing Examiner given number of affected neighborhoods challenging the plan; as one activist said “even if the city wins and it gets to the council before the budget process, how can the Council thoughtfully review hundreds of zoning changes, many neighborhood specific, and then vote on all that before the budget process or even before next year?”
The appeal to the City Hearings Examiner of the City’s massive city-wide upzone plan, dubbed the “Grand Bargain” continues down at City Hall. Now testimony from the city and 29 appealing groups is slated to continue into September given the number of issues that are being raised by all parties.
One of the advocates participating in the appeal says he believes it won’t be possible for the City Council to vote on the HALA plan before they begin review of next year’s budget – at least not without sacrificing due process and any thoughtful review of many dozens of specific land use changes accompanying the plan. However, Councilmember Rob Johnson in charge of the Council’s review, is zealously pro-upzone and shows signs of seeking to rush through a vote on the plan even if there is no time for thoughtful deliberation. It’s unprecedended for a Councilmember to authorize hearings on a plan still under environmental review and pending before the hearing examiner – something Rob Johnson already has done.
While the City has called it the “mandatory housing affordability” plan and it’s been dubbed “the grand bargain”, housing and neighborhood groups from across the city are calling it the grand sell-out. In return for setting aside only 3-11 percent of their new units at affordable levels (renting at 60 percent of area median and not truly affordable to most low and very low income households), developers would receive the benefit of massive upzones worth tens of millions in additional development capacity.
The appealing groups say the number of so called affordable units ‘set-aside’ by developers would amount to only a small fraction of all the exising affordable housing we would lose in Seattle as a result of the additional development allowed under the HALA upzone plan. And these groups have charged that the City ignored it’s own policies requiring their plan be reviewed for its race, equity, and social justice impacts, displacement effects and a host of other environmental impacts affecting all Seattle neighborhoods.
The group calls itself the Seattle Coalition for Affordability, Livability and Equity (SCALE). They are asking the hearing examiner to require the city to go back to the drawing boards and complete a more accurate and detailed assessment of impacts as is required under state environmental law.
If the hearing examiner rules in favor of the appeal it would set back a council vote on HALA plan well into next year. And given that 2019 is an election year for seven councilmembers, it’s unclear whether the Council would even want to take up HALA at all next year and risk considerable backlash from voters already reeling from too much growth.
To help SCALE continue its legal battle, they’re asking you to go to this link below and follow the steps on how you can donate to their effort. Without more help it, they may have to cut short their attorney’s efforts.