Council discussion of CM Herbold’s anti-displacement bill originally scheduled for next week has been postponed

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Demolition begins in University District: Why aren’t developers held responsible for replacing low cost housing they destroy? Herbold’s bill addresses that shortcoming

Community leaders say “without passage of Herbold’s bill, our city can’t begin to manage, let alone overcome, homelessness;  our shortage of low cost housing can only grow”

Originally scheduled for next week’s City Council Land Use Committee Meeting, April 17th, a discussion among committee members with opportunities for comment on CM Herbold’s anti-displacement bill has been postponed.  A later date when it will be taken up has not yet been set. 

Councilmember Herbold’s bill would require developers to replace low income housing they demolish.  Specifically, it would substantially raise the mandatory housing requirement for developers who destroy existing low income rental housing.  The ordinance as currently written would apply only when developers demolish housing in particular areas of the city where there is a “high risk of displacement” as defined in a 2015 “Growth and Equity Report”, but advocates would like to see it apply to other areas of the city, if not all of Seattle.  As one advocate said recently, “someone displaced in Lake City or the University District or Ballard, or West Seattle is is just as displaced as those in the neighborhoods now covered by the ordinance.”

Advocates also are saying that the the developer’s replacement obligation must be increased in the bill to guarantee that at minimum, developers replace ‘1 for 1 and at comparable rent’, the units they destroy, not just a fraction. 

When the City Council finally does get around to considering and voting on CM Herbold’s proposal – and it won’t be too soon say advocates – it could very well determine the fate of a large chunk of what remains of the city’s existing stock of naturally occurring low cost rental housing.   It also will determine whether the city, for the first time in decades, is willing to pass a law establishing the principle that developers must share in the cost of replacing existing low income housing they destroy.

In just three years, 2016-2018, developers tore down 2699 units of housing; most of it affordable naturally occurring rentals and applications are pending for removal of another 900 units.  Recent upzoning has greatly accelerated these losses. It means, say advocates, that “for every unit of taxpayer subsidized low income housing that the city adds to its inventory (about 500 per year are added at a cost of about $50 million) – developers will destroy about twice that amount to demolition alone.  It’s one step forward and two steps backward.”

More low cost units are being lost to speculative buying and selling of existing unsubidized apartments.  The new owners pass on refinancing costs to the tenants pushing up rents and low income tenants out – a trend also made worse by recent upzoning.  Upzoning over time also drives up property values and taxes – costs of which are passed on to the tenants forcing more low income people from their homes.

Advocates also point to data showing that areas most likely now to be redeveloped given recent city-wide “MHA upzones”, will be sites containing the highest concentrations of the city’s remaining low income rental stock and disproportionately affecting communities of color.  

Councilmember Mosqueda, an ardent backer of upzoning, says development (and developers) don’t cause displacement

At a recent meeting of the city council, CM Mosqueda actually questioned the notion that developer induced displacement was even a problem, attributing gentrification to “other economic factors”.  Mosqueda then followed that up, sponsoring her own “lunch and learn” on displacement, carefully orchestrating it to preclude discussion of developer induced displacement.  How it’s possible to hold a hour-long discussion on displacement without delving into the role of zoning and development, the impact of higher rates of growth on housing demolitions and other developer actions that force people from their homes, is beyond me – but Mosqueda managed to accomplish it.  Herbold wasn’t even given time to describe her anti-displacement measure which she’d already introduced and also should have been front and center in the discussion.

Advocates say that passage of Herbold’s bill has become even more important now that the city has approved city-wide upzones affecting especially low income and minority communities. They are urging all their supporters to call and email all the councilmembers and then, when the hearing and committee meeting are set, “to attend, come early and sign-up to speak. Finally it’s our opportunity to lay out in general and very strong terms to the CM’s how displacement is affecting our communities because many CMs just don’t understand – to educate and strongly impress upon all how much demolition is ravaging our housing stock and that developers must pay their fair share.”

Here are numbers for all the councilmembers you are urged to call and/or email: 

Posted in Affordable Housing, Density, Displacement, Gentrification, Homelessness, Housing Preservation, racial justice, Uncategorized, Upzoning

MHA upzones: 60 percent of lots the city identified as “likely to be redeveloped” are located in lower income areas of the Central District, Southeast Seattle, and other Southend neighborhoods

Map of the city’s list of vulnerable sites shows communities of color face potentially the greatest change due to MHA upzoning: 85 percent of the 1000 largest upzoned single-family lots are in Central District and South Seattle

There’s some startling information longtime housing and neighborhood advocate David Ward uncovered as a result of a public disclosure request he recently submitted to the City of Seattle  After seeing a very hard-to-read map contained on page 50 of the City’s 2016 Growth and Equity Report, he asked for the source data that was the basis for the map.

The map PSX_20190403_180643shows small clusters of teeny green specks scattered across Seattle indicating parcels “likely to be redeveloped” under current zoning; “underutilized” lots where small older brick apartments or single-family homes may now sit but where much higher density development could be built.

Ward asked for specific information about each of the identified parcels on the map including their addresses and amount and type of housing currently on those sites.  And since the information was dated, he also requested an updated list of every parcel likely to be redeveloped as a result of city-wide upzones accompanying the “preferred alternative” studied in the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the new Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) plan.  These are the upzones recently approved with only minor changes a month ago by our City Council.  Ward knew there was such an updated list of parcels likely to be redeveloped because such a list was the basis for some of their analysis in the EIS for the MHA plan.

After some time and a lot of patience, Ward obtained the information he was seeking.  And with the help of a mapping expert put together his own set of updated maps.  And his maps are a revelation.  They are far more detailed and you can blow them up revealing in a very graphic way, every block and lot the city has identified as likely to be redeveloped under the new MHA upzone plan.  The maps also distinguish single family zoned sites (in blue) from other sites, commercial or existing multi-family apartment areas (in red) that the city identified as “likely to be redeveloped”.

PSX_20190403_181558And what especially leaps out; you can clearly see the disproportionate impact the MHA upzones will have on Southeast Seattle, South Park, Georgetown, Westwood Village-Highland Park, Beacon Hill, and Central District neighborhoods – specifically areas that just happen to contain the city’s highest concentrations of low income renter and homeowner households and households of color.

Working from the lists of addresses reflected on his maps, Ward found that about 6200 of the 10,400 or 60 percent of the lots the city identified as likely to be redeveloped city-wide under the new MHA upzones are located in these Central District and South Seattle neighborhoods.  He also pulled from this larger list 1000 of the largest formerly single-family zoned parcels and found that fully 85 percent of these are located in the same CD and South Seattle areas.  Of all sites the city identified as likely to be redeveloped these perhaps have been placed at greatest risk.  That’s because after upzoning, these larger sized sites that likely held a single-family home on it, they can now be redeveloped to much higher density.  These sites too are where low income renters and people of color now live – especially larger low income families that rely on these larger units to rent.

Other areas that have been upzoned with concentrations of sites now “likely to be redeveloped” include Fremont, Ballard, Crown Hill, Lake City, and areas along Aurora Avenue North.  Census data indicate that most of these areas also contain high concentrations of lower income people and renters.  

So yes, with these maps, we can see rather clearly there are indeed racial and economic justice implications accompanying the new MHA plan.  And they are tied directly to the conscious decision by our elected leaders to upzone without regard to how it will affect low income people and communities of color – those most likely to be displaced and gentrified out of their communities.

To view a map of your neighborhood and other areas of the city, click on this link:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FYOEPpijQKGLCEXOHkRT4VPLySuuDnzv/view

Posted in City Hall, Density, Displacement, Gentrification, Housing Preservation, Neighborhoods, Upzoning

Upzone for “the Ave” has been removed from the City Council’s city-wide MHA plan; city attorney’s opinion confirms Coalition’s claim that environmental analysis first is required

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2017 demolition of storefronts along University Way: “we’ll see more of this unless the Council addresses first loss of historic buildings”

Councilmember Johnson says he’ll reintroduce upzones later and continues to ignore a pledge he and other CM’s made over two years ago to first put in place measures that prevent displacement of existing small businesses and historic buildings

The full City Council will vote on the city-wide Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) plan on March 18th – a massive upzone affecting 27 neighborhoods.  But, as recently reported in the Seattle Times, an upzone for “the Ave” has been removed from that plan.

Apparently, the City Law Department has advised the City Council (as we did two weeks ago in a letter largely ignored by most councilmembers) that adding an upzone later for the “The Ave” (University Way NE) when it was not part of the city-wide MHA plan studied in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) would violate State Environmental Policy and Growth Management Act (SEPA and GMA) requirements.

The upzone for the Ave and a few other areas of the University District were quietly added four months after completion of the FEIS.  It should have been preceded by environmental review, a ‘threshold determination’, and public notice, with all pre-requisite opportunities for public comment.

While the full content of the City Attorney’s opinion is ‘privileged’ and reviewed only by Councilmembers, the Displacement Coalition said in its letter to Councilmembers that a supplemental EIS should have been required before inserting it into the MHA-plan. 

Now, since it has been pulled effectively from the MHA plan, they say a separate EIS should be required.  The upzone for the Ave covers about a dozen blocks and threatens over 100 small businesses, many historic buildings, and over 200 units of existing low income housing, plus other areas of the UDistrict will be upzoned.   The Coalition says together these changes clearly cross the legal threshold of more than a moderate impact on the environment and “demand a detailed EIS study and mitigation”.  And they say, “affected small businesses and tenants deserve due process which they’ve been denied so far by Councilmember Johnson.”

Ideally, however, the councilmembers wouldn’t proceed at all with an Ave upzone, and instead fulfill their pledge made two and half years ago in resolution form (passed then unanimously by Council), and proceed to seriously review and adopt measures that first would help preserve the historic character of the Ave, the low income housing there, and its rich ethnically diverse cultural small business character.  

But we are also told that CM Johnson may attempt to make this a quick turnaround, reintroducing upzones separately for the Ave and undertaking some level of cursory environmental review and attempting to ram it through quickly. The Coalition says such a move clearly would run afoul of GMA and SEPA requirements.

As one Ave small business leader has said, “Johnson seems oblivious to how these upzones would do so much harm to the lives so many people and longtime businesses. ” Nor apparently does he care about the Council’s formal promises made to the community to first address their needs and concerns, and he obviously cares little about the law.  

Small businesses at least now have a reprieve and more time to appeal to Johnson and other CM’s and to first fulfill their pledge.  They hope instead that the Council “will focus on adoption of measures to preserve legacy businesses, low income housing, and historic buildings there – making that the priority.  ” 

And there’s something else to consider here.  Rumors abound that since Johnson has said he will not run for re-election, he may step down before the end of his tenure, possibly soon after the full Council votes next week on the city-wide HALA-MHA plan. And if that happens, the person the Council appoints to replace him until voters elect someone in the fall; would she or he be as fervent about upzoning the Ave or call first for measures to preserve the character of the Ave?  Or would it be proper to wait until voters elected the new councilmember who’d their seat next year before returning to the question of whether to upzone the Ave? 

Also, regarding those areas in the University District, in addition to the Ave, where zoning changes also have been added to the MHA plan after completion of the FEIS, the Coalition says this may have happened to other elsewhere. They have urged other neighborhoods to be looking for such after-the-fact’ additions that also would clearly be outside scope and require further SEPA/GMA review.

Posted in Uncategorized

CM Herbold’s Anti-Displacement ordinance only topic for Wednesday PLUZ committee meeting 930AM March 6th Council Chambers

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

Please share with our supporters: CM Herbold’s Anti-Displacement Measure is the only topic for consideration, we’re told, this coming March 6th Wed, 930AM in Council Chambers at the Planning and Land Use Committee meeting.

If you care about the continued accelerated loss of our existing low income housing stock, destruction of historic buildings and displacement of small businesses to demolition in your neighborhoods and reining in developers and making them share in the cost of replacing low cost housing they remove, please plan on attending and getting up at beginning of meeting and testifying in support of CM Herbold’s measure. Without such a measure, look for many many more existing low cost units (in historic buildings also holding many small businesses) wiped out in our city. Expect to see more homeless on our streets and growing divide between rich and poor in our city.

We applaud Herbold’s intent here; it would be a great leap forward to hold developers responsible for replacing any portion of the low cost housing they remove. Urge Councilmembers to support and also strengthen it. Developers should be required to replace 1 for 1 every low in come unit they destroy and at comparable price. And it shouldn’t apply just to a few select “high risk” areas of the city but all areas of the city. A low-income person in Lake City or the UDistrict or elsewhere forced from their home due to demolition is no less deserving than those driven out in Bitter Lake or South Park. They’re just as “displaced”, just as threatened with homelessness.

here’s a link to her proposal, click text at bottom for full read:
https://seattle.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx…

Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, Density, Displacement, Gentrification, Homelessness, Housing Preservation, Neighborhoods, Upzoning

Number of housing demolitions exceeds number of subsidized units the city created from 2016 through 2018

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The city spent $175 million over last three years producing 1434 ‘subsidized’ low income housing units but developers tore down 1889 low income units: Recent MHA upzones and more on the way will greatly exacerbate this trend

Drawing from city data sources (with links below) we’ve compiled amounts of money the city spent 2016-2018 to create new subsidized units, according to the City’s Office of Housing Annual Reports, and then added up the total units created for each of those years and then broken out total number each year priced at or below 50 percent AMI. It comes out to $175 million spent to produce 2565 units but only 1434 were priced for those at or below 50 percent of median.

Over the same years, 2699 units were torn down.  Assuming 30 percent were homeowner and higher income rentals not affordable to low income folks, a total of 1889 units were removed serving low income households.  175 million spent over those three years – all to come out at the other end with a net loss of 455 low cost units in our city. There are applications pending for removal of another 910 units so far in 2019.

We also could add to this, the number of units lost each year to speculative activity, developers buying and selling existing low cost buildings driving rents up and tenants out, and due to increased taxes that result when an area is upzoned.  We estimate at least 1000 more low cost units are lost each year as a result of upzoning and developer actions taking advantage of those upzones.  These trends are about to be greatly exacerbated by the pending council passage of its city-wide “MHA” upzoning plan.

(A special note: our estimate that 70 percent of demolished units are occupied by low income households is based on past surveys we have done of residents occupying units in buildings where permits were pending for demolition and by using the reverse phone directory to call former residents of buildings torn down or already vacated for demolition. To downplay the impact of demolitions, city’s planners point to a much smaller number of low income households displaced from these buildings who qualified for and received relocation assistance under the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance or TRAO.  But most low income tenants in demolished buildings often aren’t even made aware of their eligibility under TRAO or for other reasons never apply for assistance, or the landlord forces them out before applying for permits so they never even receive notice of their eligibility.  Also, TRAO limits eligibility for assistance to only households with a combined income below 50% of median.  It means the majority of unrelated low income individuals who pool their rent and live together in a unit, most of these folks are not eligible under TRAO and go uncounted by the city.  In otherwords using TRAO as a method for calculating numbers of low income people displaced by demolition is wholly inadequate.)

Sources:

City spends about 70 million to produce a total of 1197 units in 2018 but only 557 units were affordable to those with incomes at or below 50% of median) htt

https://durkan.seattle.gov/2017/12/city-of-seattle-announces-100-million-in-affordable-housing-investments/  2017 report indicates the city spent about 70 million to produce a total of 896 units of which 588 were offered to those with incomes at or below 50% of median

http://murray.seattle.gov/mayor-announces-47-million-affordable-housing-investments-2016/  2016 report indicates that the city spent about 35 million to produce 472 new units of which 289 were offered to those with incomes at or below 50% of median

https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/OPCD/Demographics/AboutSeattle/Citywide_Permit_Report.pdf   this chart shows total demolitions by year

Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, Density, Displacement, Gentrification, Housing Preservation, Upzoning

“Save the Ave” Rally at the “friendly” Big Time Brewery in support of their effort to stave off a decidedly “unfriendly” upzone

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Ethnic shops and low income housing removed at 50th and the “Ave’ two years ago – an upzone for the Ave would guarantee that much more of this would occur, say Ave small businesses

“You’re invited” Monday, February 25th – 5-9pm

Small businesses along the “Ave” in Seattle’s notably funky and historic UDistrict are hosting a rally this coming Monday February 25th, 5-9pm at the Bigtime Brewery and the public, customers, and all “those who love the Ave” are invited.  As their announcement describes: “Come on by and show your support to help us stave off a planned upzone of the ‘Ave’. that threatens historic buildings, would displace over a hundred longtime businesses including many first generation immigrant and minority owned shops, and lead to demolition and loss of over 200 low income housing units.”

They claim that Councilmember Rob Johnson secretly inserted an upzone for the Ave into the city-wide MHA-HALA plan several months after the plan was finalized and a legally required environmental review had been completed.  To add it “after the fact” they say should have triggered a new notice to the affected businesses and residents, opportunities for them to comment, and extensive additional environmental analysis.  But none of that occurred.

Also, the businesses say that CM Johnson and the city’s planners are pushing this upzone despite a pledge and a resolution unanimously passed by all Councilmembers over two years ago that no upzoning would occur along the Ave at least until measures were first put in place to preserve and prevent displacement of historic buildings and longtime businesses and first generation immigrant shops.

Their announcement invites everyone to drop by the Bigtime any time between the hours of 5pm-9pm, and partake in great locally-brewed beer and enjoy some of their great food Monday, February 25th from 5-9pm. Their address is 4133 University Way NE.  And it’s family-friendly until midnight.  In their words; “We will be sharing stories and collecting signatures to preserve the Ave from the upzone. Come join us! “

Posted in Uncategorized

CM Herbold releases her anti-displacement plan: require developers to replace low cost housing they remove while Mayor’s just announced strategy takes small step

Seattle Displacement Coalition responds today to CM Herbold’s and Mayor Durkan’s anti-displacement strategies 

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Lisa Herbold wants developers to replace low cost units they destroy

The Seattle Displacement Coalition is a 42-year-old housing and homeless advocacy group and for the better part of those years we’ve been pushing especially our locally elected leaders to do more to combat displacement.  No agency or organization has so consistently fought to address the on-going loss of our city’s existing  unsubsidized affordable housing stock. And we’ve had many successes along the way, but one thing has eluded us – securing passage of a effective measure that holds developers accountable to replace the hundreds of existing affordable units they demolish each year “one for one” and at comparable price.

In a just released five page press statement, Mayor Durkan announced she was launching a new anti-displacement effort in the form of an “Executive Order”to stabilize low income and minority communities in the face of runaway displacement in our city.  But despite the five pages of verbiage which essentially repeats current inadequate efforts, there is only one new initiative she is proposing: a “community preference policy” giving preference and access to displaced neighborhood residents into publicly subsidized low income housing built in neighborhoods where they were displaced.

While this is a small step in the right direction to ensure at least a small fraction of those displaced in Seattle have first priority for the city’s limited supply of subsidized low cost units, it will do nothing to stop the dramatic loss of existing unsubsidized older lower income rentals due to runaway development and market forces here in Seattle. Every year, over 500-1000 existing unsubsidized units are destroyed each year by developers demolishing to make way for luxury and market rate development.  And when an area is upzoned, speculation and turnover of lower priced existing rentals by developers drives rents up forcing out another 1000-2000 existing low cost units each year, forcing these households from their homes.

Our City Council and Mayor are on the verge of substantially upzoning all our neighborhoods which will set in motion – further encouraging these trends – and an even more dramatic loss of existing naturally occurring unsubsidized units in our city.  These losses – are destroying 3-4 times the number of subsidized units we are creating in this city causing even more displacement.   It cannot be offset by simply guaranteeing a few of these folks priority for the few subsidized units that become available each year in their neighborhood.  Many more times that number are being forced out by developers.

There is a tool we should have implemented a long time ago that could stem displacement – require developers to replace 1 for 1 any low cost units they remove and at comparable price.  CM Herbold is proposing such a policy and if implemented now – before upzoning our neighborhoods with the HALA-MHA plan.  It would be groundbreaking and the first real solution to the problem of displacement proposed in years and it would truly and fundamentally make a dent in displacement and gentrification sweeping our city.  It would hold developers responsible to replace what they destroy “and one for one”.

Here are excerpts directly from CM Herbold’s recently released press statement describing her proposal and responding to Durkan’s press event (all the follows are quotes of hers):

Councilmember Lisa Herbold to Introduce Anti-Displacement Ordinance

SEATTLE – Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle, South Park) will introduce an anti-displacement ordinance that would authorize additional displacement Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized