How will your street and neighborhood be changed by new citywide zoning?


Activists fear citywide MHA will increase displacement of poor people and communities of color. (Map by

Over 24,000 parcels could be affected by latest HALA effort to build more housing

By George Howland Jr

This is the big enchilada.

In the middle of November, city hall hopes to roll out proposed zoning changes for nearly every Seattle neighborhood, according to Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District One, West Seattle). In every neighborhood, the zoning would allow for bigger, taller buildings in commercial areas and urban villages. Ten urban villages would have their boundaries expanded–more could be added later. Inside urban villages and their proposed expansions, more housing would be allowed in many single-family areas. In exchange for this tremendous increase in land value, developers would be required to include low-income housing in their projects or pay into the city’s affordable housing fund.

The plan is called the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program and it is part of former-Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). The citywide MHA could affect over 24,000 parcels of property, according to Jason Kelly, the spokesperson for the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD).

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Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, Density, George Howland articles, Homelessness, Housing Preservation, Neighborhoods, Politics, Upzoning

Outside City Hall won’t be endorsing anyone for Mayor and here’s why


There’s no “there” there when it comes to Moon

Some of our friends in the neighborhood movement and those involved in housing and homeless advocacy have chosen to cast their lot with “Team Moon”.  Moon’s opposition to the current homeless sweeps (while Durkan likely would continue them) certainly is a plus.  And Moon has been willing to attend neighborhood meetings promising she’d listen and involve them when Durkan would not even attend.  For most of these folks however, support for Moon seems less about enthusiasm for her and more about their understandable aversion to Durkan.

As of this week, Durkan had amassed a whopping $802,000 for her campaign, plus another $846,000 in independent expenditures (IE) that big labor and the downtown establishment have raised to promote her election.  By contrast Moon has raised $280,000, half from her own pocket with few IE dollars going her way.  

Clearly, Durkan is the corporate and establishment candidate.   But from our perspective, we simply do not see Moon offering enough substance to warrant backing her.  Despite her cliche laden mailers promising a ‘progressive agenda’ and tough talk aimed at speculators, in very important ways Moon’s underlying agenda, if implemented, could do more harm than good to the future of our neighborhoods. Worse, it would lead to even more displacement and loss of existing low income housing, more homelessness, and accentuate the growing rift between rich and poor, black and white in our city.  

When it comes to development, growth, neighborhood and housing issues there is very little difference between Moon and Durkan. Durkan is more unvarnished in her pro-development pro-developer views and old school while Moon masquerades a bit as something else, i.e., she greenwashes her pro-developer approach but at her core she embraces the density-as-religion view of the world.  One is a bit like Murray – with the same Chamber downtown elite base, the other is McGinn-lite drawing her base from his former self-proclaimed ‘urbanist’ core.  
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Posted in City Hall, Density, Election 2017, Politics, Upzoning

Will Black-Owned Businesses Survive the MidTown Center Redevelopment?

As the Africatown Plaza Project moves forward, business owners are left to wonder if their vision aligns with the developers’


The MidTown Center strip mall at 23rd and Union will be redeveloped into Africatown Plaza. Photo by Melissa Hellmann

By Melissa Hellmann, contributing writer

*Disclosure: The author worked on a project for Ampersand Magazine, which is produced by Forterra, a participant in the MidTown Center project.

In the 15 years that Saad Ali has owned the 99 Cents Plus store on 23rd and Union, he’s seen the historically black Central District radically transform. “Now they’re gone,” he says about some of his black, former customers as he leans over the convenience-store counter on a recent Saturday afternoon. His soft voice is nearly drowned out by the undulating melody of the traditional Ethiopian music blaring overhead.

The change in his clientele marks a neighborhood trend: In 1970, the Central District was nearly 80 percent African American and, by 2016, it was less than 20 percent black, according to The Seattle Times.

“Still, I have my best customers,” Ali adds reassuringly, when asked how business has been going in recent years. He’s optimistic about the future of his store in the MidTown Center strip mall, although he might soon face a similar fate as his former customers who were replaced by newcomers. Continue reading

Posted in Affordable Housing, Density, Housing Preservation, Melissa Hellmann, Neighborhoods, Uncategorized

Sister could raise conflicts of interest for Jenny Durkan

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Jenny Durkan, if elected, may have to recuse herself on important city matters.

T. Ryan Durkan has worked on projects ranging from the Convention Center to Sound Transit.

By George Howland Jr

If elected, mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan must stay mum on city issues where her siblings have a financial interest.

That could include the major expansion of the Washington State Convention Center, on which one of Durkan’s sisters has worked as the lead land-use attorney. Outside City Hall previously reported that Durkan’s opponent in the mayor’s race, Cary Moon, would also be recusing herself from decisions surrounding the expansion, due to the fact that her husband is the lead architect on the project. In that story, Outside City Hall wrongly reported that siblings aren’t covered by the city’s ethics code, giving Durkan some breathing room on the project. In fact, siblings are covered by the code, a complicating factor for Durkan, whose well-connected family has interests across the city.

Wayne Barnett, Executive Director of Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC), says, the Seattle Ethics Code requires Durkan to recuse herself from “any matter that her siblings have a financial interest in.” Barnett explains, “Anything where [Durkan’s] siblings make money or lose money.”

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Posted in City Hall, Election 2017, George Howland articles, Politics

The mayor’s race: will Durkan’s money bury Moon?

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Durkan and her allies have raised over $1 million more than Moon. (Flickr)

As of Oct. 11, Jenny Durkan has raised $728,000 and the Chamber’s pro-Durkan PAC has raised nearly $900,000

Political observers say the race for Seattle mayor is close—except for money. Former U.S. Attorney for Western Washington Jenny Durkan and her allies have a huge fundraising advantage over social-justice urbanist Cary Moon. As of Oct. 11, Durkan’s own reported fundraising combined with the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce’s pro-Durkan political action committee have raised over $1.6 million. Moon has only reported $237,000, nearly $112,000 of which the candidate contributed herself. In the next month, Durkan will try to use her fundraising advantage to defeat Moon, before the voters even cast their ballots.

John Wyble, a 30-year campaigner and a principal at WinPower political consultancy, says you can tell the race is still up for grabs because Durkan, the presumed frontrunner, is attacking her opponent. It’s usually the underdog who attacks, while the frontrunner tries to look noble by staying above the fray. “The Durkan campaign is incredibly nervous about being cast as the downtown business-establishment candidate so they are working very hard to define Moon in a negative light early,” says Wyble. For instance, Durkan has mischaracterized Moon’s housing proposals as “xenophobic,” “discriminatory” and “wrong.” (Moon, as expected, has also been aggressively attacking Durkan.)

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

Cary’s Convention Center Conflict

convention center addition

The proposed four-block expansion of the Convention Center as seen from 9th and Pine. (Washington State Convention Center)

CORRECTION: According to Wayne Barnett, Executive Director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan, if elected, must also recuse herself from “any matter that her siblings have a financial interest in.” Barnett explains, “Anything where [Durkan’s] siblings make money or lose money.” Outside City Hall sincerely regrets this error.

According to the Hillis Clark Martin & Peterson website, Durkan’s sister, attorney T. Ryan Durkan, has represented the Washington State Convention Center, the University of Washington, Amazon, Pacific Place, Daniels Development and many other clients whose interests are affected by Seattle City Hall. It is not clear what clients T. Ryan Durkan currently represents.

When Outside City Hall reached T. Ryan Durkan by phone, she refused to answer any questions and requested that questions be put in writing.

Since Jenny Durkan has seven siblings, Outside City Hall will post a new story regarding potential areas where Durkan might need to recuse herself.

Under the Seattle Ethics Code, mayoral candidate Moon could not provide oversight on the over two-million square-foot, eight-acre expansion in the middle of downtown

By George Howland Jr

If elected, Seattle mayoral candidate Cary Moon will recuse herself and her staff from all matters related to the $1.6 billion expansion of the Washington State Convention Center. The four-block expansion is, by one account, the “single largest real-estate development in Seattle history.”  Moon admits that she has not been actively declaring her conflict on the campaign trail—even when the Convention Center comes up. She is not, however, defensive about the issue. “I welcome the scrutiny,” says Moon. “People deserve to know.” The question of whether Moon’s recusal would, however, weaken the city’s ability to fairly evaluate the project remains unanswered.

Moon’s decision that she would recuse herself and her staff was simple: The candidate’s husband, LMN’s Mark Reddington, is the lead architect on the project.

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Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, Density, Election 2017, George Howland articles, Neighborhoods, Politics, Trees, parks, and open space

Is the Seattle Peoples Party Viable?

Nearly 200 people attend the party’s first general assembly


Seattle Peoples Party organizers gather after the first general assembly. Photo by Melissa Hellmann.

By Melissa Hellmann, Contributing Writer

On Saturday, Sept. 23, about 200 people piled into Nagomi Tea House in the heart of the International District to discuss their vision for the future of Seattle. The multicultural and multi-generational crowd settled into black fold-up chairs as they faced a stage where Seattle Peoples Party organizer, Jerrell Davis, cupped a microphone in his hands. A palpable energy buzzed around the room, as attendees chatted volubly with their neighbors like they were at an end-of-the summer block party.

Davis, 25, has long dreads and wears a black baseball hat bearing the phrase “Make History Now.”

“Are you here for the Seattle Peoples Party’s first general assembly? Make some noise!” he encouraged the audience as they erupted in applause. After requesting a moment of silence to acknowledge the Duwamish land that Seattle was built upon, Davis introduced organizer Edwin Lindo, who cradled a newborn baby in his arms as he spoke about moving beyond electoral politics by prioritizing community building.

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Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, Election 2017, Homelessness, Melissa Hellmann