Councilmember Rob Johnson elevates mudslinging to new level equating neighborhood opposition to HALA with Trump’s wall: a neighborhood leader responds


Recent quotes from Councilmember Rob Johnson disparage neighborhood leaders for caring about their neighborhoods.  

In a recent presentation to a large pro-density-at-all cost crowd attending at a Transportation Choices forum, Erica Barnett reports that CM Rob Johnson brought down the house when he explicitly compared neighborhood opposition to calls for upzoning single-family neighborhoods with Trumps efforts to build a wall on our border with Mexico.   Suggesting that “this may cost him his job” he went on to say “we’re adding 40 people per day but we’re only building 12 housing units per day” and essentially accusing neighborhood leaders of “creating an economic circumstance where lower-income people and middle-income people are being forced out of the city”.

Rob Johnson’s words are intensely insulting and polarizing, not to mention wrong.  He should be ashamed of himself.  See our most recent column here for a full response to this McCarthyesque BS.

(Also now posted on the Seattle Times website, listen to UDistrict Community Council President Matt Fox take on CM Rob Johnson over the UDistrict upzone, and blasting him directly for use of his race-baiting tactics:  )

And below, we wanted to post just one of the many emails we’ve seen from neighborhood leaders bearing the brunt of Johnson’s extremist and distasteful comparison.  As Marilyn Wilkinson Cope aptly describes in a letter to Johnson, Johnson’s remarks smack of the kind of disgusting character assassination used by Trump himself.

To top it off, Johnson’s facts are about as factually based as Trump’s  universe of “alternative facts”.  Seattle has a zoned capacity now to absorb 3 times what we need to accommodate our 2035 GMA assigned growth target.  Seattle neighborhoods have experienced on onslaught of upzones in the last decade nearly doubling capacity from 115,000 to over 200,000 units (when our 2035 GMA target is 70,000).  The obvious fallacy that Seattle’s single family zoning is an impediment to growth in this context is laughable.  Just walk out your door Mr. Johnson and open your eyes to the forest of construction cranes not far from your “single family” front door.

Further, as the chart below shows drawing from city figures, since 2012 our record rate of new housing construction has exceeded job formation and continues to bring our jobs to housing ratio down and close to county-wide average (and well within GMA defined acceptable limits). source:  City of Seattle


And in an even more Orwellian (or should I say further Trumpian twist), one day after his remarks, Johnson, as chair of the Council’s Land Use Committee secured committee approval of the UDistrict upzone that directly places over 1500 units of existing low cost and affordable housing in the crosshairs of the wrecking ball (see our study and inventory here and our critique of the “Johnson-Murray” upzone).

And for good measure, Johnson successfully moved an amendment to expand the upzone north of 50th – a move that directly threatens another 175 additional units of existing low cost housing.  The area is chocked full of low income people, retail and service workers, people of color, and students.  There can be only one reason to add this additional area to the upzone since the zoning changes south of 50th exponentially expand zoned capacity above the neighborhoods assigned GMA targets – to accommodate a developer’s request while in the process shoving many longtime residents from their homes and communities.  

Councilmembers Herbold and OBrien we hope will succeed in tossing this change from the plan when it goes before the City Council two Mondays from now.   

Letter from Marilyn Wilkinson Cope responding to CM Johnson reprinted verbatim with her permission (Thank you Marilyn!)

Councilmember Johnson,

I want to express my disappointment in your recent grotesquely hypocritical statement:

“It’s really disturbing for me when I hear somebody talking about how glad they were to see the neighborhood district council’s stand up for single-family zoning and then in the next breath disparage the president for wanting to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.  I see those two things as actually linked”  – CM Rob Johnson

You sir, have every power to open up the urban village boundaries in Ravenna to include your own street. But you have chosen not to do so. Using your logic, what does that say about you and your values? Your statement is pathetically hypocritical and obscene coming from a white man of immense privilege.  I have met with you in the past in an attempt to have a dialogue about urban growth and planning. I can clearly see it was a mistake on my part to assume you would be willing to listen as my democratically elected representative. I won’t forget the lesson learned. There is much to resist these days, and now I will also resist YOU.

My family of immigrants and refugees from Mexico, Peru and Lebanon would NEVER equate their struggle to find safety and stability to that of your proposed first world upzone as necessary to accommodate the rapid growth brought about by the obscene wealth of the tech industry, with only a pittance of affordable units added to address the displacement you refuse to track.  I will resist your false and grotesque narratives and analogies to simplify the very real struggles the people in our communities and our world face.

Sincerely and with utmost disgust from your constituent,

Marilyn Wilkinson Cope

About John V. Fox

Director, Seattle Displacement Coalition
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