Appeal of the City’s Grand Bargain and “HALA” upzone will continue into September: the 29 participating housing and neighborhood groups seek donations to complete their effort

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29-member SCALE Coalition appeal continues

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.


Posted in Uncategorized

“It’s not socialists who run city hall”: crowd hears four veteran journalists look back on Seattle’s long history of corporate welfare

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Left to right Juan Bocanegra, George Howland, Maria Tomchick, Mark Worth, Geov Parrish

Journalists discuss stories they’ve covered dating back to the 90’s involving corporate dominance at City Hall: repeal of the office head tax is “more of the same”

Two weeks ago a panel of four journalists told a crowd of about 50 citizen advocates about their long history of covering corporate welfare at City Hall in Seattle.  The forum held at University Methodist Church was sponsored by the Seattle Displacement Coalition’s news site Outside City Hall and the independent radio station  KODX-LP 96.9 Seattle.

For about two hours, journalists George Howland, Mark Worth, Maria Tomchick and Geov Parrish swapped stories of past boondoggles they’d covered while working for various publications around Seattle over the years and how that compares and informs an understanding of today’s political landscape.  They also put to rest the hilarious myth, always hysterically tossed out by big business (and their surrogates) when their power is even slightly threatened – that somehow City Hall has been “overrun by commies and socialists”The event was moderated by longtime racial and economic justice advocate Juan Bocanegra.  A video of this event can be viewed here courtesy of Mike McCormich and KODX 96.9:

Here’s a quick rundown of our panelists and a few high lights or should I say low lights:

Continue reading

Posted in City Hall, Media, Politics

For 3rd year in a row, Outside City Hall joins over 30 local news outlets with coverage of the homeless issue

We offer five stories by authors with years of direct experience working with the homeless and fighting the forces and policy decisions that cause the problem

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Today, as we did last year and year before that, Outside City Hall is participating in area wide news media coverage of our region’s homeless crisisSpecial thanks to Crosscut, KUOW, Seattle PI, and Seattle Times for pulling it together this year.   

What follows are five original-content stories (filled with relevant photos from Seattle) covering critical aspects of the homeless crisis.  The authors have decades of experience not just covering or following the homeless crisis but assisting the homeless directly and participating actively in trying to overcome the conditions and forces at work in our community that give rise to this problem.   

For our previous coverage on this topic, it can be found here  and for today’s stories at other outlets, go to

And here they are: 

Posted in Uncategorized

The Aesthetic Problem: “much more often people become homeless due to systemic failures not individual choices”


Geov Parrish, in this story, traces the rise of homelessness back to conscious choices of local leaders 

* Expect to see more stories from Geov for Outside City in the coming weeks.  The veteran columnist and reporter has covered City Hall for over two decades (for the Stranger, Weekly, In These Times, and “Eat the State” to name just a few) especially on topics related to racial and economic justice issues, low income housing, homelessness, elections, and our neighborhoods 

Twenty years ago, homeless advocates went back and forth endlessly with Seattle’s city council over a proposal to build an “Urban Rest Stop” – a facility, to be sited in the old Glen Hotel on Third Avenue, that the homeless could use for bathrooms, showers, storage lockers, and the like. The proposal was fiercely opposed by the Downtown Seattle Association, which argued that the homeless already had plenty of places to pee downtown – and released a helpful list of 100 or so downtown businesses that generously made their bathrooms available to paying customers.

Names have changed and the budgets have grown, but the sensibilities of city leaders (and the Downtown Seattle Association) have not. Seattle’s homelessness situation is far more dire now than the emergency situation that already festered two decades ago, evidence enough that the city’s approach to homelessness (remember the “Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness”?) hasn’t worked.

In essence, that approach has been to throw money at programs meant to “fix” bad individual choices, and meanwhile try to make our city’s homeless residents simply go away – or, failing that, to render them as invisible as possible. The city has consistently funded far fewer shelter beds than the demand warranted. Familiar providers like SHARE/WHEEL ROOTS, and Nickelsville originally began as organic community Continue reading

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

When is a home not a home?

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Ishbel Dickens writes about an extraordinary effort by residents of the Firs Mobile Home Park in Sea-Tac to save their community backed by a broad coalition of church and community advocates

More than 75,000 households own homes in Washington where they have little security of tenure and few other rights. I’m talking about people who own their homes but who reside in manufactured housing communities.

Many people purchase homes in these communities for a variety of reasons – to downsize after children have grown and “fled the nest”; to remain living independently in a small home after a spouse has passed on; to own a “starter” home in which to raise a young family; or simply to enjoy the American dream of homeownership.

However, few people who purchase manufactured homes are aware of how vulnerable they will be living in their own home but renting the land under it.

As homeowners they will be expected to maintain their homes and many choose to invest thousands of dollars upgrading both the interior and exterior of their homes. However, as “renters of the land” they will also be required to maintain the land around their home, landscape the garden, often to specific requirements of the landlord, and in many instances they will be responsible for the upkeep of car ports, sheds, and driveways, even though these are legally the landlord’s responsibility. In some ways akin to sharecroppers – keeping the property in good condition for the ultimate benefit of the landlord.

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The Firs in SeaTac; 69 mobile homes; tranquil (except when happy kids home from school can be heard). well-maintained by the families that live there, affordable, but threatened by redevelopment (screenshot courtesy of Google)

Regardless of how well they take care of the property, how much they pay in property taxes, and despite spending a lot of money upgrading their homes, these homeowners have no security of tenure. The landlord can evict them whenever (s)he wants to sell the land, close the community, or change its use. At this point the homes become worthless, since there is no where to move them to and even if there was, it is expensive to move these homes and some of the older ones might not survive such a move.

Continue reading

Posted in Affordable Housing, Displacement, Gentrification, Homelessness, Protest, Resistance, Uncategorized

Vehicle Camping: “Numbers don’t lie and leaders lie still”

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2nd Ave S. and S. Spokane Street: Seattle’s only remaining safe lot for RV’s with room for  about 12 vehicles compared to 2300 vehicle campers each night on city streets

The Rev. Bill Kirlin-Hackett gives us an update on the status of vehicle campers.  Guess what, there’s still no government response despite most recent homeless count showing that for the first time “those living in vehicles exceeds those in other unsheltered settings.”

Sadly, the number of persons homeless in King County reflect the ongoing failure to address homelessness in successful ways. What would success look like? That’s not too hard to answer. It would be more people exiting homelessness than entering it. It would mean the most vulnerable receiving help first. It would mean no child sleeping unsheltered. It would mean that whatever the unique circumstances of one’s state of homelessness, there is a pathway at hand to exit homelessness.  It would always begin with a safe place tonight.

For many years the Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness has directed some of our attention toward persons living in vehicles. We do this because the system has utterly failed to address what we call vehicle residency. My shorthand for how the system addresses persons living in vehicles is, “incidental, not intentional.”  By that I mean that for any of the inadequate number of persons doing outreach to those who are homeless intentionally, the number of those who live in vehicles receiving outreach occurs only tangentially to the main goal of those doing that outreach.


Shawn and his dog and best friend Max. They live in Shawn’s car in Ballard near the waterfront.  Shawn receives some Disability assistance because of his bad heart. He worked most of his life on boats, takes care of the area where he and Max are parked, picking up trash and befriending whoever comes by.  Shaun’ wants work but his heart condition limits his opportunities.  His limited income precludes finding a place to rent. He’s very worried about his car getting towed, an aging Honda

We do intentional outreach through the Scofflaw Mitigation Team where we respond to Seattle Parking Enforcement notices to alleviate the harm awaiting vehicle residents afoul of the Scofflaw Ordinance (2011). We then navigate them to the Court for remedies to tickets that it will provide only with our input. Our issues, like repair needs, always come up.

For a few years before it ended in 2017 the “Seattle Road to Housing” program managed 12 or less parking spaces at congregations, and did keep many on its case management list. But the program was expensive and at the same time inadequately resourced (i.e., no housing to which to refer people).  Outside Seattle there are several congregations who Continue reading

Posted in Homelessness, Uncategorized

Highrises for the wealthy while in their shadow; more homelessness and human suffering

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Joe Martin, homeless advocate and social worker for 40 years with the Pike Market Clinic, writes about the growing divide between rich and poor in this county, the causes of homelessness, and his hope for change

In the Seattle Times (7/6/18) there was a glossy insert heralding the coming of “SPIRE”, an extravagant, elegant new 41-story highrise. The slick advertisement gushes: “An ambitious partnership of art and architecture is rising at the intersection of Seattle’s legacy and its unbridled future.” Contained therein will be “more than 350 condominiums and four floors of uncommon common areas.”

Depending on the floor height, living quarters range in price from $5 million down to a little less than $450,000. Better hurry, because the line of eager buyers is likely forming already for this latest addition to the affluent neighborhood of South Lake Union. The unbridled future referred to would seem to belong to an elite of the opulent and not the kind of future accessible to most common folk—and surely not the impoverished—though most all of them are still fellow citizens of the exuberantly wealthy.

On Sunday, July 1st an article in the Seattle Times sported this headline: “Bay Area family making $117,400 is ‘low income’”. In a later article by NY Times journalist (and Seattle resident) Timothy Egan that figure was deflated slightly to $117,000. That’s for a family of four. The California Association of Realtors state the median cost of a home in and around San Francisco is now over $1 million.

In the bubbling realm of the nation’s housing market we are now told that once impressive financial earnings are by today’s measure actually modest dollar accumulations. In New York City an income of $83,450—again for a family of four–is Continue reading

Posted in Affordable Housing, Displacement, Gentrification, Homelessness, Housing Preservation, Uncategorized