Mayor Murray Loses Spine, Comes Out Against His Own Committee's Recommendation for Increased Density

Comments

1
Mayor Murray had to have a spine in order to lose it...
2
Sigh. I was personally looking forward to building a DADU for my mom to live in. Now it's not going to happen, not with the current (insane) DADU restrictions.
3
@1 Boom!

Murray and the Gov are perfect for each other.

And blaming the Times is typical cub reporter nonsense. Blame the ill informed oceans of single family home owners who would have voted his ass out of office in a red hot minute if he openly supported the recommendations.
4
Does this mean I can't sell off my front yard?
5
@3. FTW!
6
Murray is an empty suit, waiting to do as he's told.
7
@1 - I think you will be able to build your DADU. As stated in the end of the article, that part is probably still moving forward. As for the rest of HALA's plan? Too much. We already have zoning to allow for a hugh number of apartments. By add ADUs to existing single familiy we allow for a very good compromise - more density but still the feel of single family.

I believe the plan had called for allowing non residents to create DADUs, effectively making each SF lot a high priced real estate development. That's not what we need. Also it called for more triplexes and so on in SF areas. Possibly 8 story buildings.

Maybe some time we will need (or want) that kind of density. But let's get there more slowly.
8
SIGH. Today the Stranger learned its opinion isn't as important to the mayor as the Times. Must hurt.
9
I live in the Ballard/Greenwood area, and I can say that our neighborhood blog was shitting bricks about the upzone. I think it's pretty safe to say that the Mayor heard from a LOT of people and very few comments were positive. Let's not give the Times the credit/blame, nobody even reads that.
10
I never did hear the story of how tearing down existing SF houses and replacing them with townhouses and triplexes, how that was going to result in affordable housing. When a for-profit developer starts working the numbers, each new unit is more expensive than the house that got torn down.
11
Ed successfully gets nothing done without getting blamed for it yet again. Status quo maintained.
12
@3 as a single family home owner, I'm thrilled with this news. So blame away!
13
Generally I liked HALA plan. But it's a very delicate balance between encouraging new DADU housing and ending up with slumlords and everything else decent just too expensive (like now). Like other people said DADU alone won't lower rents with out other price regulations or incentives in place.

I remember back in the day when the codes we slack. I lived in a "cottage" near Sandpoint in the 80's. It was cheap. $70 a month! But it was an uninsulated converted garage with rats and bare wires. Twice our hot water heater fell through the rotting floor. Heat was an old space heater that hung from a wall and a wood stove we scavenged from the dump. And yes. It would catch on fire. The landlord would disappear for months. He'd forget to cash rent checks. Great! He'd also forget to pay water bills. Not so great. And you really had no recourse. Other than move.

Shit like that was rampant then. That's why they cracked down.

These places were a scourge. And there are plenty of developers just itching to get away with that kind of shit.

On my street right now is once beautiful old home, rotting into the ground. Boarded up. A total fire trap. In a million dollar neighborhood. Owned by a developer who bought it when the old owner was driven out by the health department for $500k. This asshole is sitting on that shit for nearly four years. It couldve been fixed up a few years ago and rented. It could've been torn down and made something that could house humans. Instead of rats and junkies. His plan is to drive the neighboring B&B under and snatch that up and build his aPODment and quadruple his investment.

These are typical of the type of people iching to develop Seattle.
14
@10: yeah, I'm not so sure I buy that argument either. My complaint against the current zoning rules is that it perpetuates and mandates non-density. We're still locked into stupid rules about setbacks and space between structures. Even for in-fills.
15
I wanted dialog and compromise and consensus. What the heck is up with Murray backing out this fast? Sorry, can't be just the media.

"The Mayor is not actively pursuing HALA’s recommendation for changes for ADU/DADU’s [accessory dwelling units and detached accessory dwelling units, otherwise known as backyard cottages and mother in law apartments] in Single Family Zones."

That is sad to hear because I know that many of my neighbors were fine with MILs and backyard cottages. There is a middle ground and that the Mayor ran to the high ground is troubling.
16
@3 grats on the win!
17
The birds, squirrels, raccoons, possums, trees, bushes, flowers and other small creatures say "Thanks Huboons, btw, we live here too, you fucking greedy, over-breeding, nature's space raping hairless mammals"
18
Ed, there's still time to get the majority of the city cheering your name, announce that you see a path forward for municipal broadband and are sending something to council.
19
It is just amazing. I am watching a left wing rag like the Stranger hop into bed so willingly with supply-sider, laissez-faire, Austrian School economics. And that is pretty much what the HALA committee suggests we do with Seattle zoning laws.
20
@3, true that. Until Westneat's article, SF homeowners were ill informed. Pretty clueless in fact.

Start there if you want to figure why this went south. And then hello, great emancipator, if you want to change society, take a page out of Ghandi or MLK. Start with more than 28 people. In fact, it'd work better if you include all the people for this mass movement. Secret meetings of 28 people handing down edicts are not the way to better race relations if this is a goal of HALA. Is it a goal?

People are confused and scratching their head. What was HALA really about? Race relations? Affordability? Livability? Greedy developers? All the above? How are you going to open up Laurelhurst or Broadmoor to more racial and income diversity? Or vice versa. How can you bring in economic development and richer people to Lake City or Rainier Beach without driving the locals out (as in the CD with gentrification)? And that's a serious question if one is to take all this talk beyond grand rhetoric?

A huge, immediate step toward improving race relations and livability would be to reform SPD and provide public safety so people aren't living in daily fear of mugging, assault, or being shot just because they live in high crime or poor areas. Any mention of this in HALA? If not, why not? The Mayor can do a lot of good here.

21
@10 ftw
"I never did hear the story of how tearing down existing SF houses and replacing them with townhouses and triplexes, how that was going to result in affordable housing. When a for-profit developer starts working the numbers, each new unit is more expensive than the house that got torn down."
22
If we want housing costs to come down, and if we want more people to be able to live in the city, we have to have more housing. PERIOD. Encouraging ADUs is a great way to add affordable housing without dramatically changing neighborhood character.

And there are a fair number of ADUs that can't be legally rented, because the main dwelling is not occupied by the owner. Letting those secondary units be rented would immediately add some (not a huge number, but every little bit counts) affordable housing without any more construction or development.
23
@22, but one of the primary purposes of ADUs and DADUs is to allow cash-strapped homeowners to stay in their homes. If the home is owned by an investor, then that argument goes away. The property becomes just another multi-family rental. Yes, we have a need for more housing, but that does not justify throwing out the rule-book.
24
Thank you to those with reality comments - has anyone seen a developer tear down the single family home and provide 4 new units for affordable housing? In Fremont, you need $700K to get one of the four new townhomes on a lot that housed one single family home (and the home was divided into 3 rental units at $800/month each). Hmm... pause for thought with the HALA committee on which option is more 'affordable'.

Has anyone visited the residential areas of larger cities or lived in larger cities? Think about what works and does not work elsewhere (stop using Portland as a comparison because like Seattle, it seems that 'city planning' is a concept not yet formed). Yes, single family zones can share with multi-family units, but not en masse. Look at other cities - maybe 2-3 of every 10 lots are MFU's - seems to work well. But when you put 8 MFU's next to 2 SF's, now that does not appeal.
25
@3:

Ansel has been covering and influencing the housing debate since your house was an actual crib. If Ansel says the Seattle Times is the power, then one ought not question Ansel. Ansel's Twitter handle is his first fucking name. What's yours?
26
When the developers and real estate agents come for you neighborhood; they will be cloaked in the mantra of density; peddling the myth of affordability.
27
Ansel seems a little butthurt.
28
Density outside the walkable core requires mass transportation infrastructure.
We ain't got none.
29
@24 etc.

How do you propose we make homeownership affordable in Seattle, without adding more homes?
31
@12 not surprised as you watch the value of your home increase by $100K/year. This benefits no one but current homeowners (like Danny Westneat. Remember when he compared riding Metro to living in a third world country?) "Secret" meetings and edicts? Please... It was an advisory panel that was brought together to study an issue that is about to become a crisis. Most young people coming out of college already have so much debt they can't afford to save money for a down payment, especially in a city like Seattle. Where will Danny Westneat be when when you can't buy a house in Seattle for less than $1M and sprawl has taken over Duvall, Snohomish and Carnation? Probably sitting on a beach after he's sold his house in Seward Park. Way to stand up for the landed gentry class.
32
So Capitol Hill couldn't tell the rest of Seattle how to live? Wow, must suck not being the center of the galaxy.

But in the future why not talk to people who live in places like Greenlake and Ballard and come up with compromises instead of taking a huge smug shit on them like you do?
33
@9 is it http://www.myballard.com//? There are some nice people on those forums but they are some of the nimbiest nimbys i have ever seen.
35
@34-you make some good points re working your way up. However, remember that back in the glorious 80s, along with high interest rates (actually, they were more like 13-17% in the early '80s; see http://www.freddiemac.com/pmms/pmms30.ht…), houses in nice parts of Seattle could cost less than $100k. I also never paid more than $200 to share a house in Seattle in those days. It's a little tougher to save money for a down payment now at an entry-level job.

Having a housing stock that people can start out with is a huge factor in people being able to work their way into the middle class. The situation now is such that those cheaper places are all way out in the burbs, so that sprawl is guaranteed to get worse. The only way out of that is to increase density in the city.

No one is talking about turning Ballard/Greenlake into Manhattan. But we really do need to consider upzoning some of the SF areas into multifamily to make room for more people.
36
There are a lot of very concerned homeowners all over Seattle who I'm sure let the mayor know how they felt. To ascribe that kind of power to the Times editorial board or Danny Westneat shows just how out of touch Ansel is with regular people.
39
@34-
I work hard, and save as much as I can. I don't want ANYTHING handed to me. But the truth of the matter is that housing in Seattle is the most blatant form of class warfare we have going on right now. Unless you are blind as a fucking bat, you can look around town and see all of those cranes protruding into the air, with shiny $$$ signs swirling around them, as every developer with any sort of financial backing has plans on turning the next 1/4 acre plot of land into a low-rise, cookie-cutter, over-priced condo.
Seattle is projected to grow by how many residents over the next 10 years? 100,000? THAT'S AN ENTIRE CITY'S WORTH OF PEOPLE!!!! Where exactly do you propose they go? You have to build UP, plain and simple.
And as to your reference about Seward Park being "poor": Seward Park, Seattle, WA. The current population of Seward Park is 3,545 with the median age of 46. Seward Park's median household income is $101,646, and the average household net worth is $1,027,278. (realtor.com)
"Poor"? What fucking fantasy world do you live in???????? People like you are one of the reasons I moved to Olympia.
40
This is a great article! If anything, I did not realize I had so many specific reasons to disagree with our Mayor on. I look forward to learning more on what that Mike O'Brien does about this. His mention of "adaptive re-use of existing structures." is interesting. Any shelter is better than no shelter at all; even $5K/each recycled/refurbished metal shipping containers would be better than no shelter at all, plus they would be somewhat easily movable if relocation were deemed necessary (such as by local ordinances regarding homeless encampments).
41
Build a subway system, and I'm more than happy to change the zoning laws. Beyond that, allowing MILs in existing houses and finishing basements more than adequate. The changes were being driven by developers, and the last thing they're ever going to do is build affordable housing. Just look at the cost of 600 square foot studios in all the new buildings going up.
42
Murray is a tool. Remember, he gave us Bertha. He tried to derail the $15 minimum wage. He's the personification of what's wrong with Seattle politics: no vision, blown by the whims of NIMBYist idiots, petulantly opposed to anything that would move Seattle from the current gridlocked millionaires club shitshow of today to become a world class city that functions well.

Time to bring back McGinn. After we vote out the idiots in the City Council who whined about how McGinn actually wanted to get shit done, maybe Seattle can move forward with working transit, affordable housing, an improved tax structure, and the ability for my kids to maybe perhaps afford to live in the city in which they grew up.
44
So I own a home (that I can afford) that I purchased BECAUSE it is in a SF zone. Why are homeowners required to subsidize housing for those who CAN'T afford it? Why are those who haven't worked hard enough yet, so much better than I am that they deserve cheap, nice and close-in? WTF? I've lived in several larger-than-Seattle cities and rented crappy rooms (shared) without complaining. When I decided I couldn't afford it and didn't want to waste my money, I flipping moved. Are a bunch of Millennials driving this discussion, or what?
I don't care what kind of cool art-making hobby you have- if you can't earn a living and can't afford to live here, MOVE. All of those uber cool young techies can share rent like everyone else has done in every other city before them until they can afford a new place with all of those awesome salaries. You do what you can until you can do better. Not wait for the handout.
Density belongs in transit hubs. Mass transit to the 'burbs would also help affordability. Shared living works so keep living with your parents if you have to, or shack up with the other whiners around you.
I have NO SYMPATHY because you haven't EARNED anything yet.
45
43: Moving out is not a real option, and people need to stop using the "move to a more affordable city" bullshit argument. People need jobs and services and transit to live farther out. The idea of packing up and moving some place that might not even have jobs just because it's relatively affordable is absurd, especially with the high cost of relocating. Furthermore, even big cities need service employees, menial laborers, not to mention musicians, artists, etc. to thrive. Are we going to start shipping in our lower-wage workers and performers everyday, forcing them endure epic commutes from increasingly un-affordable suburbs? You seem be living under the delusion that there are no blue-collar/service people in Seattle and that artists can live off of air alone. Real cities have different classes intermingling. That's what makes them interesting and dynamic. You can't just import all the help during the day and ship them off at night. Sure, no one is entitled to a condo in the heart of the city, but if they are contributing to the economic and social good of the city then at the very least they need affordable housing. Buying a fucking condo in Olympia isn't going to solve the city's housing problems, and it's not going to keep baristas in the city to serve you your coffee. Your argument is either misguided or completely disingenuous. I can't tell which.
46
44: In my opinion you haven't earned shit either. I love how people like you actually think you've earned something. Demonstrate to me the value you've actually created that isn't just personal earning power. It's funny to me how in the end of the day you have no argument at all other than "I make money." Good for you. It doesn't address any issues, but it makes you feel better about yourself.
47
I think the end of the day what our conservative friends really want is to live in a very green, pretty Dubai.
48
I guess it's hard for readers of The Stranger to understand they are not in the majority regarding how to create affordable housing in Seattle. Nor are they the majority of the news consuming public is this city.

When an elected official gets a clear message from the majority they listen. Ain't politics grand?!

Being annoying goes a long way in any argument, as evidenced by Kshama Sawant, so keep it up. But, unless you get a majority on your side of the discussion you will not achieve your goal, because when it comes time to vote in this country the majority wins.

Most people do not want to live in extremely small homes with no parking and have to drive, bike, walk, or transit down streets so clogged progress cannot be made toward a destination. Most people like to have gardens and views and privacy and space to relax. Cramming more people into less and less space does not necessarily equal lower cost housing or improved quality of life. It just creates more and more stress, congestion, and did I mention stress?

More people read the Seattle Times than read The Stranger. If you never open your eyes to other opinions your view of the world is skewed. That doesn't make you more progressive or less conservative or more correct. It makes you insulated from other opinions, which can be just as correct as your own.
49
"It makes you insulated from other opinions, which can be just as correct as your own."

Yeah, if I run an editorial saying "some dogs meow," I guess we're showing both sides of the issue.

TEACH THE CONTROVERSY
51
I love all of the people smugly lecturing The Stranger's readership on how we're clueless, out of touch, in the minority, just plain wrong. etc. I hope such folks show the same courage when telling the Single-Family bungalow crowd, "you can no longer live in the way you want because the land under your house costs more tha…." No smug lectures on how great majority rule works will address that issue, sorry.

As my spouse noted, we have a "crisis" because middle-class white people are the ones getting displaced. When anyone else has to pack up and move, it's always "the glorious wisdom of the free market guiding civic improvement, argle bargle garble..."
53
"We'll have the Whaaa bulance swing by and pick you up too this morning."

Keep up the empty rhetoric.

"Of course people can move out of the city if they can't afford the rent or buy a condo. Its done all the time and its a very viable option. In NYC its referred to as the "bridge and tunnel" crowd and they live in places like New Jersey, Trenton, Princeton (very nice communities btw) hop the train and travel to and from work quite easily every day....usually getting off at Penn Station."

You clearly don't get the concept of urban displacement, the fact that the more people are pushed to the suburbs, the higher the prices will rise. Because eventually even middle-income earners won't be able to live here anymore. So the suburbs that the lower-income people have been pushed into will become more expensive (this process has already started if you actually look at average prices for the entire urban ring outside of Seattle), and they will have to move out even farther. This is not an economically sustainable model, nor is it an environmentally sound one.

Allow me to also point out that our shitty light rail is not a subway system. We don't have a real rapid transit system here. This is not the D.C. or N.Y. metro area. So using NYC as your example of how people "commute in all the time" is pretty specious.

"Now with our transit stations, soon to be completed tunnel and enhanced underground its will never be easier to zip from the outskirts of Renton, Shoreline or even Lynnwood."

Yes, transit is actually a good thing, but you see, if developers own all the land around those stations and don't provide affordable housing, there won't be working class or low-income people living on the transit corridors either. But of course, we can always just hope that our suburbs impose rules so that they don't become bedroom communities, but unfortunately we can't just pass the buck to the county or other city governments to house our working class.

"We won't need to import low wage worker's because at $15 Now, they are unemployable."

Care to provide evidence for this that isn't a National Review/WSJ editorial? Because so far I'd say there is not fucking evidence of this all outside of anecdotes.

"They don't have any advanced skills, work ethic or work experience and should make fine barrista in Renton, Shoreline or other outlying hamlets. So its probably better they get a head start on moving out now before the cheap apartments get snapped up.

Meanwhile, better skilled barristas will move in, take their jobs and I'll have much better quality service and coffee in the morning...."

Keep trolling bro, and people won't notice you're not actually saying anything. Better-skilled baristas? Do you understand the concept of industry pay standards? Do you actually believe there are these mythical super-baristas pulling down big wages who can actually afford the average rent or housing prices around here, or are you just a fanasist making shit up? Even $15 an hour isn't enough to rent or buy in Seattle without having a partner earning the same or more, roommates or access to affordable units.

I have known baristas who live in places like NYC. You know how they do it? It's not bootstraps, it's because their parents bought them their condo. In fact, 48 percent of millennials in the U.S. who have bought homes were assisted by their parents.

"granted it will be a bit more expensive, but good things cost money."

Yes, the mythical barista who can demand professional salaries over 40k (bearing in mind that area median is over $53k) a year because they're so good.

"The latter being a concept you have yet to grasp."

No, I understand it a lot better than you do. See, if a coffee shop wants to attract your super-barista they're going to have to pay them competitively, which means their overhead is going to go through the roof, beyond what the $15 minimum wage has already wrought. And the only way this theoretical coffee shop is going to make rent every month and god forbid an actual profit, is raising costs substantially. Prices will skyrocket, and you're going to have $10 lattes. You can't pay a true living wage to a barista in this town and run a coffee shop, and it's not just because of day-to-day business; it's because the cost of living is skyrocketing.

"As for musicians, artists and other folks you refer to as integral to our society, they will find a way to shack up and weather the storm until more housing units are built."

Yes, because musicians and artists should suffer and "Weather the storm" like good little proles while everyone else lives comfortably and enjoys the entertainment they provide. I dunno if you're aware of this, but artists don't actually like suffering for your pleasure. See they're actually skilled workers, and that's how we should think of them. Don't romanticize something you don't understand, and perpetuate the belief that weathering the storm should be part and parcel to being an artist.

"See with all our socialist, free lunch programs, the added higher labor cost will drive out the poor quality labor pool, leaving a much more productive and desirable work force."

You're such a patrician. I bet people love being around you. Again, there is no evidence that the $15 wage is costing all these service jobs. It's a myth rooted in hearsay and discredited editorials. However, given the fact $15 an hour isn't enough to actually live here, I would say displacement due to cost of living is a much bigger factor in people leaving.

But see this whole argument is kind of pointless because you really believe you're important and superior, and deserve great things in life by virtue of wealth. Cities are not your playpen. They're democratically governed municipalities that are answerable to the people who live in them. But you fundamentally don't get that, and probably never will.

54
Thankfully, I also know Seattle is going to go bust in the coming years, so in a way it will all work out in the end!
55
@52 So, just reading your last comment it sounds lie you are for up-zoning? Or am I misunderstanding?
56
No smug lectures....just a plain speaking, simple explanation of the facts.

But that "better utilization" in Single-Family neighborhoods can't happen because our current zoning laws won't let it. Changing those laws is a political issue your smug lectures have yet to address.
57
like*
60
Mistral -- yeah, $15 min wage has sure driven restaurants out of business! Oh, wait, they keep opening up all over the city. Oh wait! $15 is still not the historic high for the minimum wage in the US. It was higher back when we had a middle class.

The cause here is the giant sucking sound of the 1% hovering up the productivity and wealth created by the 99%, and then propagandizing against working people effectively so people like you feel like you know What's Up With Econ 101.

It's class warfare here... but it's the capitalist class against the rest. It ain't $15 minimum wage
62
@61 "There are very few if any real restaurants of genuine consequence that have opened. This is particularly strange since the economy is booming."

WTF mate? Seriously, what are you even saying here? Can you give an example of a "restaurant of general consequence?" Are you waiting for more Olive Gardens or something?
63
It's hardly a surprise that the current Seattle city government deep-sixed these proposals, given its history of knee-jerk opposition to anything other than suburban density in the majority of the city's land area. That said, there's still plenty of land on which to densify in existing urban "villages" (which due to their location immediately adjacent to the busiest streets end up feeling very urban but not very village like).

That will enable the current situation of basically anything quieter and nicer than an apartment on a busy street being a SFH, which in turn will ensure that such surroundings become even more of a class privilege in Seattle than they already are. Which is in contrast to most other cities that haven't been so neurotically obsessive about single-family zoning (in Portland, most neighborhoods do have apartments, duplexes, and triplexes scattered through, so it's easy to score one on a quiet street). Which of course sucks for all but the privileged.

But, eventually a tipping point will be reached due to all the new residents of those so-called "villages" (who will want to upgrade to a condo or apartment in a residential area) outnumbering the NIMBY's. That's probably a decade or two down the line. A decade or two ago, nobody was even questioning the primacy of SF zoning in Seattle. Now they are. Change often happens frustratingly slowly.

If you really can't stand it and don't want to wait for it to get better, it's probably time to do what I did and move out of Seattle. Frustrating, perhaps. Sad, definitely. But true.
64
@58 -- I wasn't asking if you wanted higher density in what are now SF neighborhoods. I was noting the fact your precious "free-market" solution won't happen without changing zoning laws. This was supposed to hint that you need to tell us how this huge political change will happen. Instead, you gave more smug lectures.

Blathering your made-up nonsense about "free markets," old lies about the minimum wage causing problems, and fabricating dinner menus all do nothing to prove whatever point(s) you thought you made.
66
So will it be with Mayor "flip-flop". He'll go back and forth, take consensus polls, read the newspaper editorials and eventually come up with a city wide zoning plan.

And that plan will pass through the City Council via the same magic, no doubt.

Look, the entire point of this story is that even the smallest proposed changes in the zoning of SF neighborhoods provoked a huge political backlash. You're now claiming much larger changes will magically happen without any political work being done. I'll ask you again: how do you propose to build a political coalition to change zoning in SF neighborhoods? (Hint: antagonizing voters who likely agree with you, such as residents of Capitol Hill, is not a good answer.)

Meanwhile, we'll pay attention to your blather about $15Now after you explain why the Seattle-Bellevue-Tacoma area -- you know, the part of our state with the highest minimum wages -- has an unemployment rate below our state's average.
67
I'm really hoping we still get some of these reforms. As a homeowner in north Ballard, I have dreams of converting the basement to a ADU to provide low-rent lodging for a friend or acquaintance. Renovation costs are high enough that I'm hesitating, especially if in 10-15 years I want to move elsewhere and rent the entire house; current law means that I couldn't rent the upper and bottom unit separately.