Guest Editorial: Luxury Homes for Rich People or Housing for Everyone?

Comments

1

It's not your land. You have absolutely no right to tell those who own it that the onus for "solving" the "problem" of affordable housing is on them.

Also, you have absolutely no right to live in an area just because you really really wanna. Doesn't work that way. Either acquire a marketable skill and the means to live in the urban Seattle core or move to Federal way or Lynwood. Nobody owes you a government supported right to live downtown.

This lesson in being a responsible adult brought to you by the rational centrists in the Puget Sound region. You're welcome.

2

@1, This, 100%.

3

@1 - Well stated.

4

If luxury homes are not built on the Talaris site, then they will be built elsewhere, the demand is not going to subside. Affluent buyers will simply build in the CD, Columbia City, and Rainier Valley. So, congrats, Affordable Talaris: you are facilitating gentrification and displacement of minority communities!

5

@1
1) zoning is people telling you what you can do with your land
2) the residents of Laurelhurst have no qualms about telling the owner what they can do with this site.
3) Laurelhurst isn't downtown, or even 'urban'.

6

When I see words like “equitable”, “fair”, and “just”, I assume (correctly) that you are justifying stealing something that doesn’t belong to you disguised as social justice.

If you’re not privileged with natural intelligence, advantageous pigmentation, industriousness, or born into wealth then you have to grind that much harder to get ahead. There is no scenario that chops the top off it’s society to “equitably” redistribute wealth that ends well for anyone. Stop pretending that’s a solution.

You want better outcomes, support better ideas. Shop at small businesses and pay marginally higher prices. Pay your employees a living wage and pass the cost on to the consumer.

You want to house people affordably? Buy affordable land and build units with competitive construction companies. The fact that you think people are wealthy by no virtue of their own and poverty is some kind of salt of the earth struggle that entitles people to stuff they didn’t work for is insulting to everyone.

7

@1 "It's not your land. You have absolutely no right to tell those who own it that the onus for "solving" the "problem" of affordable housing is on them."

Thrilled to see you agree that single family zoning should not exist.

8

What a goddamned joke this article, its title are Pure hype, propaganda bullshit. That is murica. Th fuking inverted totalitarion, consumption, most radioactive, poisoned and expensive capitalist war monging country in the world. Very few few people will get shelter from 60 units 120 units, a thousand units. They will be anything but affordable. There is no stability in the gawdawful neoliberal, police state called seattle. It is a fake neoliberal fuckhole. The worst libertards, fascists, elitists in the universe. Tens of thousands of youth, elderly, kids, homeless. Condoned by the most coldblooded, indifferent psychopaths in the world

9

Maybe people don't want to live near the poor if they don't have to? How many lefty rich folks are scrambling to build their nice homes in the poorest ghettos they can find? I wonder why they don't do that?

Perhaps we can ask some professional athletes or Hollywood types why aren't they scrambling to move in next to the poor?

10

Hm, so both those on the far Right AND far Left seem to virulently hate this idea - must be a good one...

11

The property is currently zoned for single family residence. The land owner wants to build single family residences. SJWs disagree. Yawn.

12

Indeed, how can we call this country America if the wealthy can't build luxury homes on prime real estate while the rest of the city sleeps outside? Using zoning and permit laws to shape how our city grows so that everyone can benefit is a truly horrible idea. Best to just let the rich do whatever they want, anything else is communism.

13

Nikkita Oliver and Jon Grant cried reading this article. Building single family homes is their life mission. They hate high density housing!

14

"I got mine, the rest of you can go fuck yourselves."
-The Wealthy

15

@14

I think it's more like, "I got mine off of your backs; go fuck yourselves instead of fucking me".

16

@12: Nobody was sleeping outside. Until thousands and thousands moved here with no jobs.

@14, @15. No, it's neither.

17

@14. That was my attitude when I was poor and working for someone else.

Now I have attained financial security (wouldn’t call myself wealthy yet) I am much more generous with my time and resources.

The bigger question is what do we owe each other in society? If you believe we owe people housing, food, healthcare... then answer this. Who’s housing, food, and healthcare? Somebody has to build it (that’s what I do), grow it, or educate themselves and provide it for it to exist. FYI I wont provide this service for free. You have to pay me what I ask to build you something.

It’s nice to want to help people, but if you’re not in a position to contribute anything other than pointing a finger at who should take what from who and give it to them...then you’re an intellectual and emotional child and should get a little more real life experience under your belt before you speak on issues of fairness and equality.

18

As I have mentioned before, set up a Seattle socialist housing authority to assign the homeless to the homes of the housed. Figure out a formula based on square footage for the amount of people assigned to any one house. This way everyone can have a roof over their head, at least for the time being. What could be more socially just?

19

“A couple of months ago, on the heels of fantastic organizing for housing at Fort Lawton near Discovery Park,“

So, you’re onto your next bad idea?

“...in the heart of a growing city in desperate need of affordable housing,”

Laurelhurst is not in the heart of Seattle. The “need” of “affordable housing” has not been defined, other than apparently not being the single-family homes that have defined Laurelhurst pretty much forever.

“Since 1994, Seattle’s incredible growth has been concentrated in urban villages comprising just 11 percent of the city’s land.”

Because that was the anti-sprawl, high-density urban planning we citizens had agreed to pursue as good, forward-thinking, environmentalist public policy in the early ‘90s. Are you now saying it’s a bad idea, when we now have far more public transportation and in-city amenities in those urban villages?

20

"I want your's, the rest of you can go fuck yourselves."
-The Moocher Class

21

@Muffy

I'm not from Seattle, and I don't even know where Laurelhurst is, but I do know that zoning land for specific uses is not "stealing" as you put it.
Taxing people isn't stealing either.

I'm a property owner, and I can't just build anything I want on my property, or do anything I want with my property.
If you want to do Home Improvements, permits must be pulled.
You're a contractor, you already know this.

22

@20

Again, zoning laws are not theft.

Is this another example of you not reading the article?

23

@16 Any evidence for that statement there ace? From what I have read most of the homeless population here has not moved in from elsewhere.

24

@20,

The Moocher Class... do you mean the big corporations who guzzle down government subsidies but then offshore all their profits in order to avoid paying taxes? Or do you mean the rural folks who complain about big government interfering in their freedom, while living in places that take more in government resources than they put back in?

25

Good grief! The classism and racism in here... No one is trying to "steal" anything. A very large piece of land exists that is being redeveloped for residential housing. It currently has NO residential housing on it. Some folks are arguing that it should be zoned for more density than single family zoning allows because we are in the midst of a housing crisis and because this is a great opportunity to encourage a new, dense, more affordable part of a neighborhood.

The nearby neighbors happen to be really, really, rich and conservative homeowners. And, surprise!, their only reason for opposing such zoning changes is because they don't want to have "those" people living nearby them.

I'll state again -- No one currently lives on this land. The owner would not be prevented from building on it and receiving market value for doing so. And the people who would move there would have to pay to do so.

So, if you want to support racism and stereotyping -- just admit it in your comments.

27

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. This sums up the homeless crisis in Seattle. In our country, you can't force someone to accept help. However, in order to solve the homeless crisis in Seattle, we need to force people to accept help. It's a paradox. Rather than always looking for more taxpayer money to throw at the problem, why don't we get the collective political will to make the hard decisions using the money we already have available - such as forcing these homeless people into camps ( I suggest in eastern washington) so they can get the medical treatment they need, plus life and job skills training so they don't come back to homelessness. And if they are mentally ill beyond repair, the camps provide them a safe place to live. Maybe they can start a little business or something. Drastic times call for drastic measures. Aren't we sick and tired of always talking about a problem that can be fixed somewhat straightforwardly? Queue up the civil liberties violation discussions.........

28

@25. So if you invest and collect say, vinyl records and purchased a rare or valuable record 20 years ago and TODAY someone wants to pay you above market value for the record, what right do I have to tell you what the fuck to sell your record for?

The right answer isn’t “records and land aren’t the same(they are both property)”. It’s “none”.

@22. Rezoning a currently zoned and profitable future subdivision into an affordable housing projects is the same as stealing in my book. You’re taking someone’s investment and adjusting the returns on it to suit your own need. Pay the investors the difference in profit and invoke imminent domain and I might get on board. Otherwise peel off a chunk of outer suburban dirt at affordable prices and build all the low income apartments you want on it.

FYI. Yes you have to get permits to do construction, but within the applicable zoning rules and trade codes for your property no one can tell you what you can and can’t do. HOAs can’t tell you what to do Historic districts can’t tell you what to do. All the city does is make sure you stay within those guidelines and takes money for the project and reassesses your property to add the value to your property tax.

29

I'd rather see it remain open space. open space is important, too. birds, rabbits, raccoons, coyotes, trees converting CO2 into oxygen.

that kind of shit.

30

I would definitely like to see the zoning changed so as to allow smaller, more affordable homes to be built on that site, and everywhere in Seattle for that matter. If the property owner still decides that they want to do only $2 million mansions that's their right, but wouldn't it be nice if they at least had the option to build something that more average people could afford?

31

" Luxury Homes for Rich People or Housing for Everyone?"

False dichotomy.

Enlightened zoning could easily pack more people in affordable housing in the already developed areas of seattle.

32

@25: The invocation of race and class originated in the article:

“Many communities in South Seattle, the Central District, and Chinatown-International District were kept out of communities in Northeast Seattle through redlining and racial covenants.”

Both of which have been flatly illegal for decades. To the extent they still exist, that is a law-enforcement issue.

My favorite piece of idiocy invokes the long view. And gets it wrong:

“Once luxury houses are built at Talaris, we are stuck with them for generations. Seattle will regret it.”

Today’s “luxury housing” IS tomorrow’s “affordable housing.” For years, I rented below-market rates at a place which had originally been built as a luxury address.

Finallly, the idea that Laurelhurst is some enclave of rich people is just laughable. It’s been mocked as downmarket Windermere for a long time.

There may be a good argument for higher-density housing in Laurelhurst. This article doesn’t make it.

33

Good insights tensor. I trust my kudos won't blemish you.

34

Unless the city wants to take this property through eminent domain and purchase it, this is all a moot point. I'm sure the new luxury homes will be lovely!

35

Calm down, y'all. We're talking about land use here. Anyways, what's being asked is that we rezone this piece of land. It's around a mile from a light rail station and sitting immediately on another high capacity transit line. It's walking distance to the biggest university in the PNW. Is asking it to be something else more than 2 million dollar SFHs so outrageous? Nobody has an inherent right to live anywhere without paying for it sure, but if we leave this as SFHs, we're not even trying.

36

@35: The site is also relatively close to retail (U Village). Residents could walk to games at Husky Stadium. Children’s Hospital is nearby. As I wrote, there could be reasons sufficient to justify re-zoning the Talaris site.

On the other hand, this article is a mishmash of class-based grudge, dishonest invocations of past racism, bitter scolding presented as facile cheerleading, and contrafactual nonsense. It harms the very idea it supposedly exists to advance.

37

@30 "If the property owner still decides that they want to do only $2 million mansions that's their right, but wouldn't it be nice if they at least had the option to build something that more average people could afford?"
Exactly
@35 "Nobody has an inherent right to live anywhere without paying for it sure, but if we leave this as SFHs, we're not even trying."
Yup

38

"Finally, the idea that Laurelhurst is some enclave of rich people is just laughable."

Median household income in Seattle is $74,458
Median household income in Census Tract 41 (which encompasses the site) is $146,902

We report, you decide.

(2016 American Community Survey 5 Year Estimates)

39

"Density is how the working poor [everybody else] outbid[s] the rich for urban land," writes Nolan Gray, currently a graduate student in city and regional planning at Rutgers University.

@1 Do you think you are supporting the rights of private property? If you were the current landowner at Talaris, wouldn't you want to realize the highest possible sale price for your land? What if it could realize a higher value if this property were zoned for multi-family housing?

Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC), a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization that can offer its donors a break from federal income taxes for their donations, has fought tooth-and-nail to prevent this property from being developed. They fought the previous owners (Batelle/Talaris), going back all the way to the 1980s, for making use of the property as a conference center. A small group of wealthy individuals has locked up the site through zoning and a phony designation of landmark status.

LCC also fights the interests of real public charities and nearby businesses (Children's Hospital, QFC, University Village, etc.) that want to expand to offer new services and create new jobs. LCC is a classic NIMBY organization that fights against the needs of the larger urban community in the interests of a small group of homeowners, often cynically using the rhetoric of victimization and environmentalism.

(Look up the Laurelhurst Community Center IRS filings online! Because they are a public charity, these records are open to scrutiny.)

If you believe in private enterprise, the free market, and private property rights, then why is a small group of wealthy donors able to organize, achieve tax-exempt status, and fight the interests of both the property owners and the public at large?

This unique site is near mass transit, hospitals, shopping, and the University of Washington. The people of Seattle, Sound Transit, and the state of Washington have billions of dollars invested in higher education, regional light rail stations, and health care in the immediate vicinity, yet there is insufficient housing in northeast Seattle for students and working people.

Upzone Talaris!

40

@Muffy

"Rezoning a currently zoned and profitable future subdivision into an affordable housing projects is the same as stealing in my book."
Your book is wrong, it's not stealing.

Any investor, including real estate Developers, realize that they can lose money on their Investment.
Rezoning happens, and anyone who buys property should know that.
Anyone buying property in Seattle, which is experiencing a housing shortage, should realize that any property they purchase could be rezoned.

As for homeowners pulling permits to renovate their homes, they cannot do whatever they want, as you said yourself.
"within the applicable zoning rules and trade codes for your property"
Any property owner or real estate developer should understand that zoning rules and trade codes can and do change.

I should also point out that there's no such thing as a "profitable future subdivision".
Never count your chickens before they hatch.

41

@38: Laurelhurst consists of single-family homes. A single-family home is usually owned by two persons. Factor in the number of single-person households across the city, and you come to the conclusion that Laurelhurst is not “rich”. (Indeed, by the numbers you cited, the two-income household in Laurelhurst earns slightly less than two single median incomes.)

But really, if you really do think a household income of less than $150K is “rich” by modern Seattle standards, then why should anyone care about anything you claim to know?

42

@41, compare the Laurelhurst census tract to Seattle as a whole: https://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/16_5YR/S1903/1400000US53033004100|1600000US5363000

No matter how you slice it, people in Laurelhurst earn more than your average Seattleite. The median family with kids in Laurelhurst earns $250k, compared to $114k in Seattle as a whole. The median single female in Laurelhurst earns $73k, compared to $40k in Seattle as a whole.

Whether that qualifies as "rich" or not is a matter of opinion. As a matter of fact, Laurelhurst is richER than the Seattle average, significantly so.

43

It's shocking how much ignorance and libertarian naiveté populate these comments. Zoning has been used successfully (and not so) throughout the history of the modern city to solve the problems that arise inevitably from shifting markets and fluctuating densities. It's hard to tell if these are just juvenile trolls "educating" people on the way their fantasy world, Galt Gulch paradises would(n't) work or if these are really, really ignorant property owners. I'm hoping it's the former. When public resources are spent that benefit neighborhoods unevenly (there's no way to avoid this, obviously), bad zoning policies can effectively "rob" from urban populations to enrich the already wealthy. Smart zoning is essential in shaping a healthy and vibrant city/suburban economic ecology. I think most with a modicum of background in city planning know the pitfalls of the shortsighted market idealist. It always baffles me how the less educated rich will often favor policy that prevents a healthy urban progress. They ultimately shoot themselves in the foot if they believe that clinging to the past and building gates will preserve value and QoL. You see this mistake time and again in Seattle and similar burgeoning cities. It's not how growth works and it's a surefire way to prevent good cities from becoming great ones.

44

@27: Great idea; I've been advocating the same thing as well. Our current approach fails because it is all carrot and no stick. It isn't fair to tax the elderly, retirees, and Seattle's working class out of their homes just so Andy Addict and Vicky Vagrant can be given a free 1bdr/1ba downtown to drink and drug in to their heart's content.

The homeless need shelter, as well as supervision and guidance to put them back on the right path. The paradox of homeless poverty is that you can't solve it by simply throwing money at homeless people. They will simply keep making the same mistakes that put them in the mess that they're in in the first place.

45

I'm not sure about Talaris, but the Ft. Lawton is a terrible waste of resources and theft from the public. Does anyone in their right mind actually that the housing created will remain affordable once title changes to private parties? I get that we have a homeless and housing problem, but there are SO many better ways of spending resources to address the problem without ripping such unique land from the public's use.

46

@42: Just stop taking statistics out of context to justify the demagoguery in the title of this post, please? Just stop. No amount of misleading statistics can turn Laurelhurst into Broadmoor.

What we do need is more of the conversation as we've seen here, about how higher-density zoning on the Talaris site can provide below-market-rate housing in an area with excellent support services, including transit, for folks with lower incomes than the current average in Laurelhurst. Is that benefit worth any costs associated with changing the zoning? That conversation is the one we should be having. Too bad posts like this one only distract from that conversation.

47

@28, building dense housing would provide MORE revenue for the owners of the land. There are to be 60 parcels at $2 million each. That's $120 miillion total value, and some of that is no going to the owners but rather to the companies and workers who build the houses. Replace those 60 mansions with 30 five story buildings each with 80% market rate units and 20% subsidized and you only need to pay $4 million for each building to end up with the current owners getting the same income.

But of course a five story building with twenty units is worth MUCH more than $4 million. It's a win for everyone, except the directly adjacent properties which would lose some evening sun.

48

I don't know the site well (and it's hard to tell how challenging the terrain is), but looking at the map, I'd like to see the street grid connected on all sides (except where the terrain prevents it). Then you zone for single-family homes east of a newly extended 40th Ave. Then you rezone everything west of there and north of 41st St. including the existing single-family areas as multi-family or mixed-use because it's all within a quarter mile of bust stops on Sand Point Way. Over time property owners can choose to convert their SFH properties to multiple units, but it would happen gradually.

49

Of course, luxury homes for rich people! But seriously has the neighborhood surrounding Talaris Site ever been rezoned for more density even once???? Well now they can be densified just like the rest of us.

50

Thanks again for publishing us, The Stranger.

If folks want to see some of the reasons we have support in the community check out the comments section of our change petition:
https://www.change.org/p/seattle-city-council-stop-luxury-housing-at-talaris-and-build-housing-for-everyone