Sore Winner

Low-Income-Housing Activist John Fox Is Working Against the Interests of Low-Income People

Comments

1
Nice how you criticize Fox for demonizing his opponents, then you use guilt by association to demonize him for having the wrong allies. Typical Erica C. Barnett ad hominem.
2
this is a superb analysis of a how misguided the seattle displacement coalition is. thank you for revealing fox for what he is, which is not on the side of low-income folks.
3
John Fox has been a lot of things over the past 20 years, but right isn't one of them. Bravo Stranger for finally unmasking this fool.
4
Curious about your credentials, Barnett,..reporter right? Exactly when and wheer did you learn anything about housing, homelessness, the poor, and the work being done? Ah, maybe you talked to biased and self-serving folks whose orgs need the developers to stay afloat. Sad that you can't quite get to the portion of the story that actually lives and breathes every day in what is happening to persons at risk. SDC has a much closer understanding that 99% of the nonprofits that really, like you, can't talk your way out of a box, even if someone is living in it.
5
and by the way, Rachael Myers no longer works for an organization whose priority is the homeless. It's the Low Income Housing Alliance. She no longer does what she did at Real Change and does not in her new role work much with the homeless at all. It's low-income housing, and yes, there's a difference,...another plum of ignorance you print. Boy, you really know how to check facts,...
6
@Bill
a good example of a "fox"ism in your comments. nonprofits in seattle build almost 100% of the housing for the homeless in this city. do there need to be more resources for this? yes. do we as a city have a long way to go in solving the problem of homelessness? yes. but do these nonprofits somehow need private "developers" to stay afloat? no way. get your facts straight. what they need are more public resources. vote for the housing levy, which is what really helps poor people, not the displacement coalition.
8
How is it that Mr Fox appears to belittle what the Housing Alliance group asked for in the bill. "Oh just a little inclusionary zoning that'd be required in all 20 or so of the cities with rail, no big deal."
9
Mr. Fox may have brought certain predestinations of criticism and compliance along with him in the usual legislative baggage that accompanies long haul reform and reprieve.

Let's work more privacy advocacy into the thin walls of the telecommunication relay mechanisms.

For the sake of your love scream for less intrusive and invasive surviellence.
10
John Fox is now showing his true colors. The purported advocate for low-income housing is at heart an anti-density partisan, eager to join forces with traditional anti-housing zealots like Ray Akers in a crusade of fearmongering against Transit Oriented Communities.

This is quite a spectacle, to see NIMBYs of both the left and of the right, united in their determination to deny people new opportunities to live in transit oriented communities. And make no mistake about it, people of all stripes are eager to live in compact, friendly neighborhoods, where you can walk to many everyday destinations and take good transit to the rest. People have seen such high-functioning urban neighborhoods in many places around the world.

Many of us who live in the Othello neighborhood are supporting the development of a new town center around our light rail station, a neighborhood that will become a model transit oriented community for our region. But such neighborhoods require real density, both housing and jobs, not token density. This terrifies the NIMBYs, deeply set as they are in a dispersed, car-oriented past, unable to even imagine the kind of change that Obama is calling on us to make.

NIMBYs on the left fear that this change will be gentrification, while those on the right fear that it will be crime-ridden urban renewal “projects”. Actually the first are closer to the truth, which is precisely why the original Transit Oriented Communities bill had some of the strongest requirements for affordable housing that I have ever seen, such as 25% of new rental units affordable to those earning 80% of median income or less. (Problem is, requirements this strong will drive developers away from some station areas unless there are subsidies.)

This is why, not just environmentalists, but many housing advocates, are furious with John Fox. They recognize that our future lies with dense, mixed-income communities and deplore Fox’s fearmongering against this bill, propaganda which has cost Fox his credibility, Ray Akers having long since lost his.

Even sadder is the attitude of 37th district representative Sharon Santos, once a vocal advocate for social justice, now sold out to predatory lending lobbyists in Olympia and to NIMBYs in Rainier Valley. She parrots the NIMBY line that housing options are discrimination against Rainier Valley, that we should not be forced to take more than our fair share. And it’s not just affordable housing that she sees as a burden, but the dense, middle-class housing coming to light rail station areas.

Progressive advocates for social justice welcome more well-designed housing, both low and middle income, especially if it is mixed and near good transit. We are appalled at the anti-density attitudes of Fox, Akers, and Santos.
11
Seattle passed Incentive Zoning a couple months ago. It is not voluntary and it requires replacement housing and nearly identical obligations as the Futurewise bill to include setasides for Low Income housing.

How is it that John has cut off his nose to spite his face? The good things for housing that the piece names that John cares about and lost in the Futurewise bill are already in place through Incentive Zoning.

Density goals of the bill aside, why is it that has no one said that as far as the sections of the bill protecting and building more affordable housing goes, this thing is like the emperor with no clothes?

Did the folks who have reported that John's activism has hurt his goals completely forget that we have incentive zoning?

12
Fox is doing a public service if people are even figuring out what impact rail is likely to have. In Saint Paul, the loudest people are advocates who want more light rail stops in the poorest areas. What these advocates are likely achieving is the gentrification they supposedly oppose. Hurray for a real debate. Generally, the people who frame these issues decide the outcome.
13
Since when is TOD the state religion? If one does some research one finds double the transit miles per capita in San Francisco where BART offers 42000 parking spots than in Portland, the Mecca of TOD. Sustainlane.org ranks Seattle 10th in public transit versus Portland at 19th. In Saint Paul, I find advocates who righteously and hypocritically support TOD communities that they do not want to live in, and they support rail for others to ride. (Ironically, the current bus service is preferable to the rail for limited transit dependent people as the bus will stop each block. The rail will not.)
14
Bye bye poor black people. Gonna be weird when my kids attend an all white Franklin High School. How long to till we get the Whole Foods?

Fox is a pinhead and has effectively destroyed any credibility he once had.
15
You want to see what opposition to density does? Look around Capitol Hill, instead of quality steel concrete towers, it got littered with cheap 5-6 story cardboard boxes where you can hear you neighbor snore. Developers cached in, but the community now have a burden to take of these ugly mold bombs for many years to come. Unless there is a good earthquake on the way.

One thing that many anti density activists do not understand is that developers lover 6 story buildings, because they are allowed to use very cheap construction materials. Anything higher, requires to use steel -concrete, which costs much more but increases the quality and sustainability of a building dramatically. However, developers must build very high in order to get some return on those.

Fox wants to preserve the housing values, plain and simple. When demand goes up and the density is capped, the property owner wins and renters lose as the rents go up. urban planning 101.

In the mean time, the most congested parts of town like Belltown and South Lake Union that do not even have any plans for regional transit, are zoned to build 50 story buildings.
16
Erica,

I can't wait for a real journalist (from the demise of the P-I ?) to show up at the Stranger and take your job.
There are a lot of good reporters out of work that do a thorough job in researching a story. I don't know John Fox, but I've heard of him for years and this sure seems like a pretty shallow hit piece. You are making a very poor, obviously hastly written argument here.
You are a very poor journalist, and this is another of of your half-baked, half-researched, half-assed stories. Your sources are lame, how about some folks of consequence?
Stranger editors, how about a good look at Kristin Millares Young who has done such at great job in covering the Port in the P-I ?
Erica, could you please explain why Transpo Choices Coalition has a lobbyist in Oly? Whose compromising with whom?
17
Thanks to the efforts of one man? John Fox? Wow, Erica, John Fox must be pretty powerful.

I guess the bill's demise had nothing at all to do with the 25 amendments that the Republicans put on it after Rep. Nelson offered her striker, nor did the 11 amendments they tacked on it before the striker.

No, it was all John Fox. He's here, he's there, he's every bloody where. He's even in the House Republican caucus, telling them what to do.

Honestly, Erica, it's quite amazing to see how fraudulent your reporting can be.

Fact is, this bill had a little something in it that everyone could hate, for example, something well beyond your narrow comprehension -- unfunded mandates for local governments.

This bill attracted opponents like shit attracts flies. To put the blame on Fox, just because you don't like him, is about as bogus as it gets.

Unlike you, I tracked this bill's progress every day. The bill would have died without Fox. If you were a real reporter and not a hack propagandist, you would have found that out.
18
@Bill
I don't know why Erica chose to identify with my last position, but let's be clear: I'm still a homelessness advocate. The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance cares about housing for low-income people across the spectrum, including people who are homeless. We need to solve the housing crisis for people who are homeless, for janitors earning $12 an hour, and yes, for teachers who can't afford to live in the city. This bill addressed a range of housing needs.

If we're placing blame though, let's put it where it belongs, with the legislature. They had an opportunity to do something good for the environment and for housing with this bill, and they failed.
19
How many units of low income housing has John Fox actually built, in all his years of nagging?????
20
Yes, HB 1490 was well-intended but badly crafted, in no small part because sponsors kept the drafting circle too tight. There's a lot of folks in Seattle neighborhoods who are comfortable with higher densities around transit stations, but supporters failed to reach out to them and bring in their support and their ideas.

With a little broader base, some of the initial drafting errors could've been avoided, and some of the reflexive nimbyism could have been avoided also.

The flaws of the initial bill just handed Fox a plateful of ammunition.

A more seasoned bill drafting committee could've seen this coming. Not the first time we've had a good idea badly done.
21
High density requirements = opportunity for a greater supply of low income housing.

Shame on John Fox's ignorance.
22
Forgive my ignorance, but has this been addressed previously by the Stranger? It's a valuable topic and a pressing issue across the nation -- but specific to this bill, why was this article not written MONTHS ago, when your readers could do something about it? It seems like a finger in the eye to print this now, when it's too late.
23
Oh Erica, good luck when you need low income housing due to your stealing problem. What kind of person would take you seriously ever again??
24
what a shock. self-appointed poverty pimp only cares about himself, and not the people he claims to represent. who elected him anyway? and why does anyone listen to him anymore?
25
Many, many of us living in the Rainier Valley opposed the Futurewise bill along with Fox because it seemed like a state solution that did not have local voices in the decision making. John, you had many allies with you on this.
26
umm pimps make a lot of money, especially people with jobs for life paid for with my taxes without producing much, if anything. Look at the overhead of the various non-profits. Some may be good, but none are held to any standards. It would be cheaper to just use the tax dollars to give people housing vouchers.

Displacing people and then building a few apartments that rent for more than the average market rate rents just drives up rents. I'm tired of subsidizing that kind of bull.
27
What information is Fox basing his arguments on? I'm low income. If I can live near a light rail station, giving up my car is doable. If the rent near a light rail station is in my income range, it's all good. If not, then why is moving out to Lynnwood and driving my beater to a P & R another brand new day? This keeps me in the rat tail ghetto while Fox and friends protect what exactly?
28
Due to the plummet of sales tax collections, 15 of the 28 transits statewide will have to reduce capacity during the next two years. Locally, Metro will reduce between 800,000 to 1 million hours of transit service (sales tax receipts forecast to be in defict about $100 million during the next two years). That reduction is greater than the entire service of either Pierce Transit or Community Transit - and you're worried about HB 1490?

Remember during the December snow, when bus after bus passed you by because it was already full - get used to it. It's happening to transits nationally, see the New York Times article: "Rider Paradox: Surge in Mass, Drop in Transit." It ran on February 4th. I supported parts of HB 1490, but it seems silly toe worry about transit oriented development while transit withers.

What is the most effective means of addressing greenhous gas emissions, congestion and sustainability? Transit. What did HB 1490 do for transit - NOTHING! Which will impact the working poor more: the passage of HB 1490 or allowing transit to fail? The answer is plain. Why aren't you more concerned? ...
29
As a home owner, low-income landlord, and proponent of low-income housing I support Mr. Fox.
30
What a hit piece on John Fox, Erica. It's very sad that you demonize all the VOLUNTEERS working for their community (John Fox and the "NIMBY's) and subject them to your ignorant derision while at the same time make the paid LOBBYISTS sound like heroes.

When I watch Dan Savage on Bill Maher's show I see him championing for transparency and accountability and the little people. He slags the lobbyists and special interests mercilessly.

What's good enough for DC however is not good enough for Seattle. What you don't seem to realize is that nonprofits can BEHAVE AND ACT just like corporate special-interests and shamelessly plug bills that benefit them with no attention to the greater community. There is no transparency, no accountability to the public from them either.

For instance, one version of the bill mandated that all Light Rail surplus land went straight to affordable housing developers. How is that land grabbed by light rail? Oh, through eminent domain. And now light rail becomes a direct broker to the affordable housing industry...great for them. Your property rights are under fire.

Your op-ed conveniently left out many details about the bill. The key one, which is what John Fox's and all the soon-to-be light rail communities in SE Seattle's main beef was about, was the mandated 1/2-mile radius designation that caught everything in its path: single-family, multi-family, commercial; everything, and mandated TOD standards (up-zoning, etc..) in there. This is called displacement of existing residents and total disrespect for the existing fabric of a community.

The promise of light rail is not to wipe out an existing community but to augment it. This bill did nothing out of respect and you can tell, because Transportation Choices and Futurewise and the Low Income Housing Alliance never once asked community leaders if this bill made sense. We all voted for light rail, but never signed up for this.

Your op/ed has done a similar approach: quoting only proponents of the bill while deliberately not providing any quotes and mischaracterizing the people who didn't like the bill. Debates were held in almost every neighborhood council meeting up and down the valley and the majority of residents were quite alarmed and did not like the bill at all. You conveniently leave this out.

SE Seattle communities are already preparing for areas around the station to receive TOD standards in the appropriate places that make sense for our community. You're slagging of SE Seattle communities as if we are NIMBY's who don't want low-income housing (and no, we don't mind affordable/low-income housing but we have too much supportive housing in our community...it's other neighborhoods in Seattle's turn) is totally WRONG.

You should do a little investigative journalism and set the record straight instead of just parroting talking points spoon-fed to you from the proponents of the bills. These proponents exercised authoritative behavior and look-down their noses on the community. I don't feel sorry for them at all that this bill died.

By the way, it didn't have the political support in congress either, so don't place your blame on John Fox who offers the only truly environmentally "sustainable" solution of protecting existing housing. And your anecdotal ideas of how development financing and investment actually works is high school level at best.

Your critique of John Fox and people who did not think this bill was right for the community is indicative of your unwillingness to hear or represent both sides of the debate.

Why do we have to be characterized as anti-environmental just because we are against the bill? Because this is how you've watered down the issue and resorted to labels and name-calling.

Your role at 'The Stranger' gives you a responsibility to represent the truth and something more even-handed, then what ended up in print.
31
@ William Gatsby,

With the demise of the PI and the Times, there should be many good journalists and writers to pick up and replace Erica.
32
@briktru:

As a Mt Baker resident and home-owner , I totally disagree with you. I'm also getting really tired of the same attitude and falsehoods that get trooped out again and again in the name of SE Seattle.

(1) What the hell do you guys have against non-profits?? Columbia city would not be what is is today without the work of such organizations. Also take a look at the recently completed Rainier House project which you people tortured all the way through development - there is, literally, a cesspool next door. Apparently that is what you would prefer.

(2)The TOD Bill DID NOT mandate rezoning of existing single-family neighborhoods in a 1/2 mile radius as you imply. I understand that pictures of Mumbai were brought to scare the crap out of people at neighborhood meetings. Very effective but false. The mandated 50 units/acre density could easily have been achieved with a combination of mid-rise apartments and townhouses immediately about each station. Like you (sort of) said, the existing standards basically accommodate this density already. Except now there will be the same development without any mandate for the lower spectrum of income.

(3)The argument that protecting existing low-density housing as the "only truly environmentally sustainable solution" is plain stupid or incredibly myopic. Where does the new population go? More sprawl. More obsolete communities that we all pay for in every sense.

The saddest thing is that you work against your own self interest which I interpret to be PRESERVE REAL ESTATE VALUES (please be more forthright about this). The TOD Bill could have been the genesis of a grand effort to fix the obvious holes in the urban fabric all up and down the MLK and Rainier corridors. The proximity of well-designed walkable communities would surely increase the value of your home but the failure of imagination here has killed that. Congratulations.

Last, there are more than a few people who dispute who the "community leaders" are in SE Seattle. I for one am deeply ashamed at the actions and outcome of all this... This is not going to happen again.
33
What do I have against nonprofits? Nothing; except when they all land in your community and make themselves the de facto leaders of your community and economic development and then do NOTHING except build housing projects with Moneytrees and Paydays in the retail space. Then, they take over the district council while providing no representation to any constituents and rubber stamp every City policy such as blighting your neighborhood. When nonprofits begin behaving badly in order to be self-serving about keeping their payroll fed (they need more projects in SE seattle to keep going), then the community is subordinated to that objective.

You present idealistic myopic and moronic arguments that show you don't understand the bill. I never believed the pictures of Mumbai but the 1/2 mile radius was ALWAYS part of the bill. The mandate was lifted out for us after the 2nd draft, but a 1/2 mile formula was still in place. That 1/2 mile radius then becomes the playground for any new zoning decision the City wants to make.

Be deeply ashamed that our mayor continues to do nothing to address the 80% increase in murders in our community, and the 126% increase in violent burglaries in our community, and the nonprofits want to keep stuffing supportive housing in our neighborhoods.

We're planning for TOD in our neighborhoods. You think this bill had any magic to stitch back the urban fabric? Give me a break. This was an unfunded mandate that offered nothing but give-aways to the special interests lobbyists.

You can keep putting your faith in LOBBYISTS and nonprofit developers; but really ask yourself if they have done anything to improve SE Seattle's economic development and public safety issues and that answer is a big fat NO.

You like the status quo, then that is your decision. But its time to hold the people who provide mediocre results in our community accountable. There is NOTHING to be ashamed or outraged about demanding that for your community. I'm just sorry you feel the need to be an apologist for the status quo.
34
What do I have against nonprofits? Nothing; except when they all land in your community and make themselves the de facto leaders of your community and economic development and then do NOTHING except build housing projects with Moneytrees and Paydays in the retail space. Then, they take over the district council while providing no representation to any constituents and rubber stamp every City policy such as blighting your neighborhood. When nonprofits begin behaving badly in order to be self-serving about keeping their payroll fed (they need more projects in SE seattle to keep going), then the community is subordinated to that objective.

You present idealistic myopic and moronic arguments that show you don't understand the bill. I never believed the pictures of Mumbai but the 1/2 mile radius was ALWAYS part of the bill. The mandate was lifted out for us after the 2nd draft, but a 1/2 mile formula was still in place. That 1/2 mile radius then becomes the playground for any new zoning decision the City wants to make.

Be deeply ashamed that our mayor continues to do nothing to address the 80% increase in murders in our community, and the 126% increase in violent burglaries in our community, and the nonprofits want to keep stuffing supportive housing in our neighborhoods.

We're planning for TOD in our neighborhoods. You think this bill had any magic to stitch back the urban fabric? Give me a break. This was an unfunded mandate that offered nothing but give-aways to the special interests lobbyists.

You can keep putting your faith in LOBBYISTS and nonprofit developers; but really ask yourself if they have done anything to improve SE Seattle's economic development and public safety issues and that answer is a big fat NO.

You like the status quo, then that is your decision. But its time to hold the people who provide poor results in our community accountable. There is NOTHING to be ashamed or outraged about demanding that for your community. I'm just sorry you feel the need to be an apologist for the status quo.
35
This legislation had many horribly written provisions including a clause that allowed for "just compensation" of people living in houses in areas that were under-utilized. This is the very definition of eminent domain, and COULD be used by developers to acquire properties where low income families ALREADY live.

In fact, in communities that already have sufficient or close to sufficient density (that is 50 units per acre mandated in the law in question) are also ALREADY home to higher than the city average of low income families. This law would have given developers a tool to displace those families in the name of meeting arbitrary density targets assigned outside the community.

Remember that the Growth Management Act worked because it allowed for local control with broad mandates. The specific mandates in this law overrode local control and in Seattle's low income neighborhoods amounted to nothing new EXCEPT for the introduction of yet another zoning overlay, and lots of new, state-sanctioned powers that could be used to displace local low income residents.

That is in part why John Fox opposed the law. If you read the text of the law you'll see that it offered EXISTING low income communities very little in the way of advantage, and a lot in the way of unintended consequences.
36
Seattle's Mayor lobbies against parts of a bill, and it's John Fox's fault it doesn't pass? Good grief.
37
@Fresh Egg

"The mandated 50 units/acre density could easily have been achieved with a combination of mid-rise apartments and townhouses immediately about each station. Like you (sort of) said, the existing standards basically accommodate this density already. Except now there will be the same development without any mandate for the lower spectrum of income."

Not so in Columbia City where development in the station area is primarily focused on SHA property (Rainier Vista phases I and II), which comes with Title VI mandates around density and low income development. Also not so at Othello Station.

"(2)The TOD Bill DID NOT mandate rezoning of existing single-family neighborhoods in a 1/2 mile radius as you imply."

You're right. It merely granted developers and the city the right to re-zone those areas... a process which again and again has demonstrated little regard for community input. We have drafted neighborhood plans only to have the re-interpreted by city government to mean the opposite of what they say. The whole notion that the community would somehow be given some influence AFTER the bill was already past strains credibility. The neighborhoods were dubious that once we allowed for 1 mile diameter circles to be plopped into our neighborhoods, we would be allowed to participate in deciding what went where.

This is based on ample past experience... not some immature nimby-ish reaction.
38
It's about balance and the role of each neighborhood in the regional economy.

The bill tried to assert a one size fits all zoning solution, and a raw bid to build build build with no regard for what is needed in each neighborhood to get into balance.

In SE, economic development is needed. If the urgency of this bill were true, we would have seen much more development besides HUD projects around the station areas by now. It would have happened during the boom times. Light rail is coming online soon. I do not see anyone moving to develop much of anything. Instead it's all focussed on Westlake.

Bel-Red area is planning a whole TOD development. Where are the jobs? What is going to happen to the small businesses that are there? Should they build for all income levels? Sure. They already have inclusionary zoning in place.

In settled areas, what is light rail for but a way to move people around that is perceived to be better than roads? It needs to go places that people need and want to go to.

The final final version of the bill started out pretty good, saying that there must be transit oriented planning and jusrisdictions need to show evidence of that by 2013. And that they get thier arms around all modes of mass transit and report how they are doing with housing. I'd add economic development measures. It then started to fall short again with prescriptive stuff.

The 'what' needs to be measures of good socio-economic balance against a neighborhood's role in the regional economy. The exact 'what' and 'how' needs to be worked out locally.
39
The content of this article was great, although it read a bit like a smear campaign.

But I think you're correct in your analysis, if not a bit heavy handed.
40
Futurewise is a joke, as is this article.
41
Can someone explain to me how 34,000/yr per individual for new housing was considered 'low-income'? And that was the low end of the bill. It's better than nothing I guess.
42
Good for Fox...

Fuck social engineering. Your progressive yuppietopia is just a bunch of flavorless, homogenous mix-zoned garbage.

High density development has no soul. Nor do you greenfreaks.