Not to vilify the Seattle City Council, but on Tuesday they did some villain shit when they voted 7-2 to reject the Connected Communities Pilot program, which would have offered development incentives for low-income, community-centered housing at no cost to the City. The vote flies in the face of their campaign promises to “talk less, do more,” listen to stakeholders, and promote “gentle density” to avoid displacement in the quest to mitigate the housing crisis. 

Council Member Tammy Morales started working on her Connected Communities Pilot program more than two years ago. She introduced it to the previous council last Septemeber and then held five committee meetings with her new colleagues even though the council usually votes after just two. 

The program would have offered development incentives to up to 35 projects where developers partnered with community organizations to curb displacement risk for marginalized people. The bill would allow private or nonprofit developers to build taller or wider buildings, skip the often arduous design review process, and avoid some fees if they partner with community organizations to construct buildings with at least 30% affordable units. 

The bill won support from affordable housing developers, housing advocates, environmentalists, unions, and marginalized people who have watched the housing crisis price out their communities. But the seven newest council members tacitly insisted they knew better when they voted “no”—Council Members Rob Saka, Joy Hollingsworth, Martiza Rivera, Cathy Moore, Bob Kettle, Tanya Woo, and Sara Nelson. 

But some council members fought affordable housing harder than others. In the council meeting, Rivera, Moore, and Woo voted against every amendment and spoke passionately against the uncontroversial bill—it really only saw opposition from their developing NIMBY caucus and tree advocates. 

Rivera and Moore argued that the council should wait to talk about density bonuses in the Comprehensive Plan, a roadmap for the city's next two decades of growth that the council will start working on this year. 

Similarly, Woo worried the council was acting hastily, even though Morales worked on the bill for two years and held a bunch of extra meetings. Morales conducted a much more diligent process than Nelson’s quest to overturn the minimum wage for gig workers to please her corporate overlords. Just saying!

There’s no real reason the council needs to wait any longer, Morales said. We’re in a housing crisis after all. 

Record Scratch

Rivera, Moore, and Woo stood against the bill since Morales introduced it in the Land Use Committee in February. At the time, Rivera argued against pilot programs in general and worried the Connected Communities Pilot would overwhelm City departments. Rivera and Moore also complained about a condo ownership provision that may not fall under councilmanic authority. Woo worried the bill made it too easy to qualify for the incentive. She also wanted to restrict the incentives for developers that build units for people who make 30% of the Area Median Income, instead of 80% AMI where Morales had set the bar. Woo would bring this up at full council, too.

Morales tried to address these concerns in an amendment at the committee vote last month. The amendment would nix the confusing ownership element, change the criteria for community organizations to qualify for the program, and require developers to build studios and one bedrooms for renters who make 60% AMI.

When Morales tried to compromise, Rivera, Moore, and Woo rejected the amendment and the underlying legislation. They had moved the goalposts, taking up the argument that the council should wait until they get to the Comprehensive Plan. 

Strauss supported Morales's amendment in the April committee meeting but abstained from the underlying legislation when it failed, promising to bring forward an amendment to full council. 

The Final Vote

At full council this week, Strauss introduced an unfriendly amendment that as Hollingsworth said “made housing smaller and more expensive” by adding a whole host of restrictions in an effort to align Morales’s program with the City’s density bonuses for religious institutions

He and Saka voted “yes” on the amendment and everyone else voted “no.”

Morales reintroduced her previously rejected amendment. She, joined by Saka, Hollingsworth, and Strauss, voted in favor. Rivera, Moore, Kettle, Woo, and Nelson voted against it. 

As for the underlying legislation, Morales voted “yes,” Strauss said “sure,” and everyone else voted against the incentives for affordable housing. 

Still, the opponents claim they care about the housing crisis. If you say otherwise, you might just get scolded by resident pearl-clutcher Moore. 

At a council briefing Monday, Moore accused Morales of vilifying her and her colleagues in the media. Specifically, she claimed Morales called her “evil” and a “corporate shill.” No reporter has uncovered any such remarks in Morales’s public statements and quotes to reporters. Moore has not responded to my request for comment about what she’s specifically referring to. Maybe it's projection, maybe she reads The Stranger too much.

Morales referenced Moore’s tangent at the full council meeting. 

“I am not impugning anyone's motives for how you vote,” Morales said. “I'm pointing out that we can't just say that these things are important. As policymakers, our actions speak louder than words.” 

With the council’s rejection coupled with Moore admittedly losing her temper, the newbies continue to exceed expectations for how hostile they will be to progressive ideas, advocates, and their colleagues.