Homelessness: city leaders blindly push more growth while denying their actions cause massive displacement

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Housing demolitions: not to worry. It’s the magic of trickle down at work

John Fox, Director of the Seattle Displacement Coalition, writes “we need more subsidized housing but we’re losing 3-4 units of existing unsubsidized housing for every subsidized one we build.”  

We’ve said it many times before in this column dating back to the early 2000’s when we first started writing columns for City Living and other Pacific Publishing Newspapers: the city could double or triple rates of new residential construction in Seattle and that still would not bring rents down. We warned it would only serve to accelerate the loss of our existing stock of affordable units to demolition and speculation, drive up rents for poor and working people, and cause more displacement, gentrification, and more homelessness.

It gives us no joy to say, “we told you so” again, because that’s exactly what is happening in our city. In the last five years, new construction has reached record levels. We’ve averaged over 8000 market rate and expensive units built annually since 2013 (over three times the normal rate) and there are projects in the pipeline now for construction of another 22,000 units.  Despite such unprecedented growth vacancy rates remained low and rents kept climbing annually 7-8 percent per year, highest in the country among larger cities over most of this period.  

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Seattle’s ‘brave new world’ of highrises and the loss of its affordability and character

According to the recent annual count, homelessness has jumped this year by 15 percent with as many as 6320 unsheltered on any given night, county-wide (with most found on Seattle streets).  Despite nearly quadrupling what we spend on homelessness and the 13th year of a ten-year plan to end it,  the numbers on the streets and unsheltered rose over the last five years by nearly 30 percent.  Over this same five year period over 3900 existing housing units were demolished and applications are pending for removal of another 747 units.  As much as 80 percent of these were affordable units and many were larger older rental homes for families or serving up to 8 unrelated individuals.   Continue reading

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Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, Density, Displacement, Homelessness, Housing Preservation, Uncategorized

In an unprecedented act of cowardice, city councilmembers repeal the new city head tax

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Mayor Durkan and Bruce Harrell lead repeal of the head tax

This repeal translates directly into more homelessness in our city and a denial of necessary housing and services for hundreds on the verge of becoming homeless

The news hit suddenly with an announcement by Seattle City Council president, Bruce Harrell, that seven of the nine councilmembers would vote the following afternoon to repeal the office head tax.  It translates directly into a loss of tens of millions needed to address our housing and homeless crisis.  A measure that for the first time would have marginally moved our tax system in a progressive direction by calling on big business to truly share some of the costs was dropped less than a month after it was approved by a unanimous 9-0 vote.  In our 40 years of City Hall watching, we can cite numerous instances of capitulation to pressure from big business but never so suddenly and completely.

Such a colossal and unprecedented flip-flop originated with the Mayor and likely Councilmembers Harrell, Gonzalez, Rob Johnson, Debora Juarez and Sally Bagshaw.  Only Gonzalez among CM’s is not up for re-election next year for their district council seats.  Flip-flopping like this only adds to a growing disaffection with these councilmembers among their district constituents who already see them, especially Harrell and Johnson, as too beholding to their key downtown, developer, and big business backers who contribute tens of thousands to get them elected.

But the two councilmembers who stand to lose the most politically given their vote backing repeal, are CM’s Herbold and O’Brien because they risk greatly alienating their progressive base and core supporters.  Their action will never garner them support from big business nor get the the Times endorsement.  And no matter what they may have been offered in return behind the scenes, it likely won’t offset the disaffection felt by many of their backers – that instead of joining Sawant and Mosqueda and leading, they caved to pressure.

Here’s our story posted last week before news of repeal and circulating now in Pacific Publishing Newspapers explaining why we so strongly back the head tax and why its removal represents such an extraordinary set-back

Big business finally (would have) shared the costs of growth and addressing homelessness with the head tax

  • reprinted from issues this month in Pacific Publishing Newspapers

What’s the perfect recipe for creating even more homelessness in our city? What co-incidence of forces coming into play could screw things up to an even greater degree, forcing still more human beings onto our streets, sidewalks, and alleyways?

Let’s start by eliminating millions of dollars in funding for low-income housing and homeless programs. That’s what city voters would do if they repeal the recently adopted employee head tax that would generate another $48 million dollars per year over five years. Two-thirds of the total would be used to create about 600 permanent low-cost units; the rest would fund more homeless shelters and survival services.

A study recently commissioned by the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce indicates at least another $410 million is needed to make a dent in homelessness, in the form of added shelter and services and moving another 14,000 homeless households into affordable housing. (In reality, the cost of building permanent affordable housing for 14,000 households at the going rate of $250,000 per unit exceeds $5 billion. And simply Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized

Update: Hearing on appeal of HALA upzones by 29 neighborhood and housing groups will begin June 25th

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Wallingford residents last year greeting former Mayor Murray on one of his neighborhood walks:  what residents think of HALA upzone plan

Grassroots coalition filing the appeal asks public for contributions and volunteers while the City Council’s Land Use Chair Rob Johnson continues to hold hearings and review the HALA upzone plan as if there is no appeal

“The City has not adequately assessed the negative impacts of its planned upzones, nor studied reasonable alternatives to upzoning to create affordable housing, nor has the city accompanied its plan with measures to prevent displacement of longtime residents and small businesses, loss of tree canopy, loss of open space, and the loss of historic buildings that inevitably will result”.

So says the Seattle Coalition for Affordability, Livability and Equity (SCALE), an organization of 29 community and housing groups representing every corner of the city.  This quote explains why together they have filed a legal appeal of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) with the Hearing Examiner.   The appeal originally was scheduled to be heard more than two months ago, but because of the time and complexity of the case – and motions for summary judgement and other pre-hearing machinations by both sides, the case now is scheduled to start June 25th and is likely to last for several days and possibly ‘extended’ into July.  

A successful appeal would force the City to take their planned upzones back to the drawing boards for a more detailed, accurate, and thorough assessment of how these upzones affect our city.   And, it is hoped such a ‘remand’ would force consideration and adoption of effective mitigation measures such as a stronger tree protection ordinance, developer impact fees, small business protections, and a requirement that developers replace 1 for 1 any low cost housing they destroy.  “Without such measures,” said one of the appellants, “to simply move ahead with these upzones is tantamount to destroying both the affordability and livability of our city.” 

A SCALE representative says that so far, it has been successful in securing contributions to sustain their appeal due to generous support of many Seattle citizens. But, given the complexity of the effort and enormous number of issues raised by 29 appealing organizations, much work remains to be done and that costs money.  While there also has been an extraordinary volunteer effort that has helped significantly to allay expenses, the group says more fundraising and volunteer help are needed.

Attorneys representing SCALE are Claudia Newman and David Bricklin considered to be among a handful of the state’s best land use attorneys working on behalf of neighborhoods and environmental advocates.


SCALE asks you for contributions to their cause:

According to one SCALE participant, “If you have already donated, please consider digging a little bit deeper if you can.  Or if you have not yet donated to the effort please consider doing so.  Truly the future of our great city hangs in the balance”.   Those interested in donating can do so by linking to this site  to contribute on line.  Or they can send a check (made out to “Seattle Fair Growth” and “For FEIS appeal” ) and mailed to:

Seattle Fair Growth Appeal
2442 NW Market Street, Box 487
Seattle, WA 98107 

Posted in Uncategorized

Ray Jackson passes away at age 83; Husky football legend, community leader, role model and coach of mine

Husky Rose Bowl great made decades-long contributions beyond football and should be remembered for his early role in the fight for racial equality in the school’s sports program 

– John Fox reprinted from April edition of City Living and other Pacific Publishing Newspapers

Image-63543_20180319 - EditedUniversity of Washington Husky running back and legend, Ray Jackson, passed away recently at age 83.  Star of the great Rose Bowl teams from the 1959 and 1960 seasons, he’s considered by many to be one of the best players from the “Coach Jim Owens era”.

But Jackson’s contributions to our community went beyond his football career extending over decades .  He also must be remembered as a pioneer and an early symbol in the fight for racial equality in sports here in the Northwest.  Jackson also was a coach of mine who left an indelible mark on my life.

As reported recently in the Seattle Times, after his career at running back Jackson became one of the first two African Americans to coach football at “Huskyville”.  The other was Carver Gayton, another outstanding Husky football player from Coach Jim Owens Rose Bowl teams.

Jackson’s would leave football in the 70’s and go on to a successful career at Puget Power retiring in 1998 as its budget director.  He also for many years was a boardmember and coach to Central Area youth, earlier a police officer, and always a community leader.

For kids like me, growing up in the suburbs north of Seattle in the early sixties during an era when Husky football was essentially the only game in town (along with the  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized

Community councils have long history fighting racism and backing efforts to preserve Seattle’s low income housing stock

Attempts to link the neighborhood movement and single family character of the city to exclusionary practices are off base – the shoe is on the other foot

In 2018, when the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) Upzone agenda works its way to the City Council, we can expect developers, and their pro-density Redlining_PHOTO_STimes_8-25-1975 - Editedmouthpieces to renew charges of racism against anyone who stands in the way of their “trickle-down” market-driven agenda.

To be sure, land use, zoning, and growth have a lot to do with the divide between rich and poor, white, and non-white in Seattle, but not as HALA proponents would have you believe.

In the late 1970s, John was the research coordinator for the old “Central Seattle Community Council Federation (CSCCF)” This is the early name and forerunner for what today is the citywide “Federation” of community councils. 

Seattle’s lineage of neighborhood activism and a network of what now is over 150 community councils covering every corner of the city, much of it can be traced to the 60s and 70s and the activities and ‘inspiration’ of the “Federation”.

The demographics of Seattle 40-50 years ago were different of course.  There was a greater proportion of the housing stock in single family but the Federation represented Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized

Triggers and Healing Trauma

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Rebekah (the author) holds the child of a homeless couple living out of their RV and facing a forced move by police from their location on Northlake Way

An excerpt from her new book: “Nothing’s for Nothing” (Rose Hip Press)  by Rebekah Demirel, Contributing Writer

The term “triggered” describes how something happening in the present moment can bring up emotions from a similar time in the past. Not just emotions arise, but bodily sensations connected to stimulation of the nervous system become engaged and suddenly we feel as if we are re-experiencing past stress.

When we are triggered we may experience being frightened, anxious, confused, angry, sad, or many other feelings. Heart palpitations, sweating, dry mouth and digestive irritation are just some of the physical sensations that come with sympathetic nervous system upregulation, caused by stress, resulting in decisions which might not be in our best interest, or we may even strike out at others, verbally or physically.

Certain things can cause a pattern of stress response to become triggered and whether or not we become stressed can also depend on factors like whether we have eaten, rested well, already had a lot of stress that particular day, or are coming down with a cold or flu. The quality of our past interactions with people also affects our responses, as do many other ways we are influenced personally by our environment. All these things impact the way we perceive stimuli and how we interpret what we see, hear, smell and, therefore, think and feel.

Continue reading

Posted in Homelessness, Neighborhoods, Protest, Rebekah Demirel articles

Historic Sheridan building in downtown faces demolition; under old housing bonus program the developer was required to replace these 56 low cost units… but not under HALA-MHA

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Sheridan Apartments at 5th and Virginia

The incentive zoning or ‘housing bonus’ system in place for years required developers to replace 1 for 1 any low cost housing they demolished as a condition for increasing the height and density of their buildings. The new HALA-Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) Program does not include this requirement.  And wherever incentive zoning still applies in Seattle, city planners intend also to remove the obligation.  Hundreds of existing low cost units in Seattle will be lost if this occurs.  

A 44-story luxury apartment building at 2005 5th Ave (NW corner of 5th & Virginia) is proposed by a Taiwanese developer that would rise above the empty shells of the historic Griffin Building and the Sheridan Apartments, and will remove 56 units of currently occupied and very affordable downtown housing ($990-$1170/mo. rent at time they applied for permits).  Only the facades of these two buildings would remain.

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Griffin Building

Under the housing bonus program in place for years, a developer has been granted slightly less added density, and required to contribute to construction of the 18 units, and replace 1 for 1 the housing they removed.  Now under the HALA-MHA program, they’re on the hook only for the 18 units.

A preliminary recommendation giving the go ahead to the project already has been made by the Design Review Board with only relatively minor modifications suggested by the Board.

The developer however must return to the Board with a response before they’re given final approval.  No date has been set as yet for that to occur but unless Continue reading

Posted in Affordable Housing, Density, Displacement, Housing Preservation, Upzoning