First mayoral debate: Murray vs. Oliver

Activist Nikkita Oliver is running for mayor and wants white Seattleites “to dig into their internalized white supremacy.” (Photo courtesy South Seattle Emerald.)

Before her candidacy for mayor of Seattle, Nikkita Oliver clashed with the incumbent over housing and police reform

On March 22, 2016, Seattle Channel and KCTS 9 co-produced a forum, “Race, Justice & Democracy: Where Do We Stand?” presented in partnership with Seattle CityClub and Town Hall Seattle. KCTS 9’s Enrique Cerna hosted the event. Panelists included Mayor Ed Murray and Black Lives Matter activist, lawyer, poet and teacher Nikkita Oliver.

Almost one year later, on March 8, 2017, Oliver announced she was running against Murray for mayor with the support of the People’s Party of Seattle.

The following is a very edited version of Murray’s and Oliver’s remarks at the forum, which lasted 90 minutes. I have not fact checked the speakers’ remarks.

Affordable housing: racism and HALA

Enrique Cerna [EC]: Mr. Mayor, we are the third fasting growing city in the country. We have an economic boom going on here, but the challenge is that we also have gentrification happening. We have people being pushed out of the city. We have people unable to afford to live in the city. How can you change that?

Mayor Ed Murray (EM): We put together an affordable housing group better known as HALA. One of the recommendations was that Seattle needed to address the racist nature of our housing. If you look at a map of redlining and you look at a map today of Seattle, or you look at a map of covenants from the 1930s and you look at a map of Seattle today; they are basically the same. This is a city that has remained segregated by neighborhood. The HALA group had the courage to step up and say, “This is something we need to address.” We were immediately hammered in the media for accusing folks of being racist.

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Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, George Howland articles, Neighborhoods, Politics

UDistrict upzone a lesson for other neighborhoods: Activists in Wallingford and Central Area know what to do

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Susanna Lin speaks to Mayor: Wallingfordites take stand against HALA upzones and Displacement (photo: KOMO TV News)

Juarez, Harrell, Bagshaw, and Gonzalez parrot Johnson’s pro-developer pro-density message and oppose efforts to minimize displacement

reprinted from a column contained in Pacific Publishing Newspapers by Carolee Colter and John V. Fox

Last month Seattle City Council unanimously approved covering the UDistrict with 240′ – 320′ high-rise towers, becoming the first community to fall victim to the Mayor’s so-called “Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda” or HALA.  And two weeks later, Wallingford and Central Area activists took a stand sending a clear message to all of us on what we must do to challenge the Mayor and City Council’s displacement inducing plans. 

Over the next year, every Seattle neighborhood, already reeling from the impacts of runaway growth under current zoning, will be asked to accept upzones and still more density. In return, developers will be required to set aside a small percentage of new units in their projects at so-called affordable levels—a fraction of the existing low-cost housing across our city we’re going to lose to the wrecking ball.

Over 1500 low-cost units are located in the University District slated for high-rise zoning and now are fated for increased rents and/or demolition to make way for primarily luxury apartments and office buildings. The neighborhood will become as dense as downtown and South Lake Union with canyons of glass and steel, much of its unique lower-rise affordable housing and historical character washed away.

The fact that all nine councilmembers voted for this massive UDistrict upzone is an ominous portent for neighborhoods across Seattle. And now we also know that it will be Councilmember Johnson as chair of the Land Use committee and representative for the 4th Council District where the UDistrict is located, who will be the City Council’s leading and most vocal exponent of density at all costs and the HALA upzone agenda.

Councilmembers Herbold and O’Brien (backed by an unusually restrained Sawant) did make an attempt to pass two key amendments that would have helped mitigate the level of displacement and and other impacts on the UDistrict, but it was Johnson successfully leading the charge to turn them Continue reading

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

Has the Seattle City Council turned against landlords?

sawant clenched fist

Lobbyist Jamie Durkan says Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s militancy has changed city hall’s politics. (

The Rental Housing Association of Washington spent big to lobby the city council, but lost. Will they see the city in court?

Last year, the Rental Housing Association of Washington (RHA) spent the third highest amount of any company lobbying the Seattle City Council: $52,000. Even so, the city council passed three new laws that RHA opposed: a cap on move-in fees; a ban on rent increases at substandard properties; and a “first-in-time” law that aims to eliminate discriminatory practices in rental housing.

Normally lobbyists don’t talk about their successes or their defeats. This year, however, after 30 years as a lobbyist and three years representing RHA, Martin “Jamie” Durkan Jr retired.

Durkan operated as an independent or “contract” lobbyist. Over the years, he has represented many different clients and lobbied local, county and state governments. His newly retired status allows him to speak frankly and he has bad news for his clients and colleagues. “Anybody who spends a dollar lobbying the Seattle City Council is wasting a dollar,” he says. As far as RHA is concerned, Durkan observes, “It was probably the hardest client to represent in Seattle.”

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Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, George Howland articles, Politics

Seattle’s top lobbyist is also mayor’s political consultant


A Comcast customer imbibes some product. (

Sandeep Kaushik works for Murray’s re-election and lobbies for Comcast and other corporations

Seattle’s biggest lobbyist, Sandeep Kaushik, is also a political consultant to Mayor Ed Murray’s re-election campaign. In 2016, Kaushik earned $186,000 lobbying the Seattle City Council on behalf of Comcast ($60,000), Airbnb ($60,000), Lyft ($36,000) and Cannabis Organization of Retail Establishments ($30,000).

Kaushik would not comment for this article.

While there is no law against a political consultant lobbying the city council, the arrangement concerns Devin Glaser, policy and political director for Upgrade Seattle—a grassroots group working to make internet service a public utility like Seattle City Light. The changes sought by Upgrade Seattle would significantly impact Comcast’s profits in Seattle.

“To see the [mayor’s] campaign consultant turn around and become a lobbyist is uncomfortable,” says Glaser. “I’d like to see a bigger wall” between campaigning and lobbying.

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Posted in Budget, City Hall, George Howland articles, Politics

Scapegoating the homeless: when concerns about crime tip towards exclusion and prejudice


Milo Yiannopoulos, purveyor of hate speech, gets standing ovation from Neighborhood Safety Alliance leaders

Last year we wrote about the Neighborhood Safety Alliance, a group of largely white north-end homeowners formed for the single purpose of getting police to immediately remove the homeless, drug dealers and criminals from their neighborhoods. Despite the differences between these unique subsets of the street community, the group’s law and order message routinely draws several hundred to its public forums to excoriate elected officials for being too tolerant on crime and failing to crack down, lock up, or otherwise remove these “undesirables” from their community.

In order to broaden their appeal, leaders of the group recently formed Speak Out Seattle (SOS), a new coalition of Seattle “residents, business owners and community groups,” to fight legalizing homeless camping, oppose legalized drug-consumption and treatment sites, and demand as many as 300 new police officers by the end of the year. They’ve been sending out letters and emails to leaders of the neighborhood movement we are a part of, asking them to join their nascent effort.

We’re not knocking the need for adequate police response to real crime. But if there’s no effort to understand and address the disparate impacts of increased police enforcement on people of color, low-income people and the homeless themselves, and no response to the actions of local government that have caused the loss of low-income housing and driven increasing numbers onto our streets, then SOS is little more than a hysterical reaction of people seeking quick fixes.

Worse, by their actions, who they’re fixated on, and solutions they’re calling for, SOS practices a classic form of victimage and scapegoating–targeting a whole class of people (in this case the homeless, disproportionately people of color and those with disabilities), conflating homelessness with crime, casting a net over all, not just the few who cause the problems.

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Posted in Homelessness, Neighborhoods, Politics

Sightline gets it wrong again

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Later versions of code since 1977 cut into single family and expand residential densities everywhere else – not noted by Sightline

In a recent Sightline piece, the writer tells us that the proportion of land in Seattle given exclusively to single family uses has steadily increased over nearly a century long evolution of the City’s zoning code.  We are supposed to be left, of course, with the impression that this single family creep has tied the city’s hands, limiting the diversity of building types and its ability to meet growing demand.  We beg to differ.  

Over my 40 plus years of involvement in city land use and housing policy development including my years directing the (believe it or not it was city-funded) Fremont Public Association’s Neighborhood Land Use Information and Technical Assistance Service, and through various adjustments to the code dating back to the late 70’s, it’s been with a few notable exceptions a case of city officials (and their developer pals) attempting and often succeeding in expanding residential types and allowed density into single family and lower density residential areas.

From the era dating back at least to the late 70’s when the first ‘skinny houses’ were added to the code thru additional allowances for “DADU’s” and “ADU’s”, thru adjustments to definitions of allowable heights and slope calculations to set back and front yard requirements, small lot allowances, inexplicable and contorted code interpretations, institutional expansion, upping SEPA thresholds, master planned developments, and at various junctures when, upon developer request, whole areas were lopped out of single family and lower density zoning, and rezoned for higher density, the amount of land given over exclusively to single family has steadily declined.

(Note that by freezing the writer’s animated maps for 1977, 1992 and 2014 in the Sightline piece, you’ll see a perceptible decline in single-family areas – but what is not noted is the dramatic increase over time from lower density to higher density multi-family and increases in neighborhood commercial to the 90’s minted urban villages and urban centers).   Continue reading

Posted in Density, Housing Preservation, Neighborhoods, Upzoning

CM Johnson’s last minute addition of 3-block area to UDistrict upzone spells loss of another 180 low cost rentals – council unanimously approves covering neighborhood with highrises

CM’s Juarez and Harrell vote against Herbold and OBrien’s efforts to mitigate impacts of upzone  siding with developer backed majority


For youtube vid click here of affected 3 block area 

CM’s Herbold and OBrien (with Sawant backing) failed in their attempt to amend the upzone and remove this area, between Brooklyn NE and 11th NE and NE 50th and 52nd, never intended for upzoning & and failed in their attempt to ensure developers pay more.

Despite many calls flooding Councilmembers especially Harrell and Juarez, the final vote was 6-3 to expand area of the UDistrict upzone and turn back O’Brien and Herbold’s effort to increase the developers mandatory affordable housing requirement by a mere 1 percent from 9 to 10 percent.  It wasn’t much but even that was turned back by the Council’s pro-developer pro-density majority.  The biggest disappointment were CM’s Juarez and Harrell who clearly announced whose side they are on as the Council begins its review of HALA upzones scheduled for the rest of Seattle’s neighborhood’s over the next year.

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Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, Density, Housing Preservation, Neighborhoods, University District