"I would strongly urge you to support all Nick Licata amendments," Cabdi testified today. Council members obliged.
This morning, a special committee of Seattle City Council members gunned through another slew of amendments to the Yesler Terrace legislation before ultimately passing the package, setting the measure up for its all-but-inevitable passage by the full council on September 4.
A few of the amendments were technical clarifications necessary to ensure this $290 million, 5,000-unit redevelopment project overlooking downtown Seattle moves forward smoothly, but the majority addressed the most incendiary community concerns with the megalithic project—everything from the nebulous number of low-income units to whether the public land could be leased instead of sold—and helped clarify the accountability measures that will define the 20-year relationship between the city and Seattle Housing Authority (SHA), the public housing group responsible for the rebuild.
· An amendment proposed by Nick Licata would satisfy low-income housing advocates by requiring the SHA to build an additional 100 units of extremely low-income housing in Yesler Terrace (bringing the total number up to 661), provided that the group has already built a required number of other low-income and workforce units. As Licata explains, 661 extremely low-income units has always been the goal of SHA, but this new amendment makes that goal enforceable, "not just aspirational," he explains. "It’s a requirement, given that certain conditions are met."
· Another amendment directs SHA to explore the feasibility of leasing the highly valuable public land in lieu of selling it, and reporting its findings back to the council by September 2013.
· The council also directs the city to explore the feasibility of building a mixed-use building in Little Saigon that includes more low-income housing and a Vietnamese Cultural Center, as hundreds of residents in the area have petitioned.
· Council member Bruce Harrell introduced language that would make SHA more accountable to its low-income residents during the long-term relocation process—which addresses one of the concerns that caused Yesler Terrace commissioner Yusuf Cabdi to resign in protest last week.
"We need an appeal process to the housing committee to make sure this process goes smoothly," Harrell said, echoing Cabdi's concerns. "If it goes sideways, we need a structure in place, an advocacy process [for residents] so that an appeal could be heard."
All of these measures passed unanimously, as did amendments mandating that SHA reinvests all the proceeds from selling up to 42 percent of Yesler Terrace land back into Yesler Terrace, that SHA provide the city with a detailed, annual report on the sales, and that if SHA approaches the city for future housing levy dollars (they've already secured some in the agreement), they'll have to apply and compete for those funds like everyone else.
"It’s a no-cut-in-line amendment,” explains Licata.
Council President Sally Clark explained that the package showed "the greatest respect for residents and greatest look towards the future… [it acknowledges that] these resources are scarce, they’re precious, and there’s a long waiting list for people who need that support.”
And after sitting through a festering bedsores' worth of meetings on the matter, I tend to agree.