H.A.L.A. Open Houses / Community Protests

Posted by | December 02, 2017 | 1 Meeting to Connect | No Comments

Booming population. Choking streets. Skyrocketing costs.

Managing growth in Seattle was a key campaign issue this past November as we voted for a new Mayor and both city-wide Councilmembers. Despite some new leadership, City Hall is plowing ahead with the land use and housing policies hatched by disgraced Mayor Ed Murray — his backroom deal with influential real estate developers called H.A.L.A. (Housing Affordability & Livability Agenda).

As part of its plan to up-zone 27 Seattle neighborhoods, the city government released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS) on Nov 9, 2017 and is hosting “Open Houses” to tell us all what to expect regarding upzones in our neighborhoods.

According to the City website, “Come and review maps of proposed MHA zoning changes to your urban Village.

District 4 includes the following urban villages:
Eastlake, Fremont, Greenlake, Roosevelt, U-District, Wallingford

Districts 5 + 6 includes the following urban villages: Aurora-Licton Springs, Ballard, Bitter Lake, Crown Hill, Greewood-Phinney Ridge, Lake City, Northgate.”

Unfortunately, the Final EIS fails to adequately address how the city will handle the increased pressures on bus service, school capacity, parks, trees, and other issues. For example, Section 1.43 (page 75 of the 1,050 page document) offers a lame response to how the Seattle Public School (SPS) District would respond to the city government’s 27 upzones: “SPS would respond to the exceedance of capacity as it has done in the past, by adjusting school boundaries and/or geographic zones, adding/ removing portables, adding/renovating buildings, reopening closed buildings or schools, and/or pursuing future capital programs.”  While the upzones will financially benefit many real estate investors, the final EIS has no specifics, timeline, or decision on whether to have those profiting from the upzones forgo some of their Return on Investment by paying Impact Fees — which could help to build schools like they do throughout Washington State and the nation.

Moreover, while City Hall leaders wring their hands about economic inequities, their Final EIS also fails to address the economic displacement of existing residents.

Due to the shortcomings of the City’s massive upzone plans, a coalition of community groups is protesting HALA by formally appealing the Final E.I.S. For information about coalition or to support it, CLICK HERE. For mainstream media coverage of their formal appeal, CLICK HERE.

In addition to the concerns mentioned above, many are upset by the lack of true affordable housing in the so-called “Mandatory Housing Affordability” (MHA) policy that accompanies the upzones. They feel our city government is “giving away the store” to for-profit developers who refuse to set-aside apartment units for low-income tenants. That’s because city government is allowing for-profit developers not only allow to build more than authorized under today’s zoning code, but also to write a check instead of actually building the urgently needed affordable housing onsite — many would agree that policy is not  “welcoming,”  “equitable,” or “progressive values” as touted by City Hall.

It’s important to note that several real estate developers think HALA will not benefit them. Smaller real estate developers, in particular, often generate a smaller return on investment, depending on the project they are building. The blame/burden rests not with for-profit developers who naturally strive to build profitable projects while trying to influence an unpredictable City Hall (as distasteful as that might feel), but rather with the City Hall officials and their inability or unwillingness to rigorously use math, business acumen, and best practices to negotiate a fair deal for the public they serve.

For our previous columns on HALA concerns, CLICK HERE.

This season’s “Meeting to Connect“: H.A.L.A. OPEN HOUSES / COMMUNITY PROTESTS.

NORTH SEATTLE DISTRICT 4 upzones:

  • WHAT: Upzones/Mandatory Affordable Housing (MHA) “Open House”
  • WHEN: Tuesday, Jan 30, 2018 at 6:00 p.m.
  • WHO: you, your neighbors, and small businesses fromEastlake, Fremont, Green Lake, Roosevelt, U-District, and Wallingford.
  • HOSTED BY: the City Hall officials pushing H.A.L.A.
  • WHERE: Hamilton Middle School 1610 N. 41st Street, WA 98103.

NORTH SEATTLE DISTRICTS 5 & 6 upzones:

  • WHAT: Upzones/Mandatory Affordable Housing (MHA) “Open House”
  • WHEN: Wed, Feb 28, 2018 at 6:00 p.m.
  • WHO: you, your neighbors, and small businesses fromAurora-Licton Springs, Ballard, Bitter Lake, Crown Hill, Greewood-Phinney Ridge, Lake City, and Northgate
  • HOSTED BY: the City Hall officials pushing H.A.L.A.
  • WHERE: Whitman Middle School gym, 9201 15th Ave NW Seattle, WA 98117

For the full calendar from City Hall, CLICK HERE. For the maps, CLICK HERE.

IDEOLOGUES / LOBBYISTS / INTEREST GROUPS WARNING: The audience might be swarming with activist members of single-issue interest groups — many of whom are funded by the for-profit developers pushing the upzones — and other ideologues encouraged by city officials and lobbyists to attend in order to insulate City Hall from the criticism of the residents and neighborhood businesses skeptical of the upzones. So, find your neighbors and don’t be shy about asking questions of city officials. It’s complicated stuff, requiring overlapping maps and “insider-baseball” land use terminology. Be persistent — the city officials work for you and this is your community.

Like the many Seattle residents who want to grow affordable housing and impede urban sprawl, we have been extremely frustrated with H.A.L.A. because it falls short on both affordability and livability. And, while the changes forced by H.A.L.A. benefit several real estate developers, landowners, and land speculators, City Hall is imposing H.A.L.A. in an undemocratic and divisive manner — pitting well-meaning people against each other and demonizing or steamrolling long-time Seattle residents who express skepticism or concern. Bullying residents is bad policy — it’s not sustainable in Seattle, it’s not scalable to other cities, and it’s just not right.  Without the H.A.L.A. bulldozers revving their engines, the same neighborhood leaders, interest groups, and residents barking at each other over Twitter would probably be enjoying a beer or coffee together, discussing how best to manage growth within Seattle and how to stem the harmful development sprawl spreading rapidly in areas east of the Cascades and throughout the U.S.

photo of bulldozer at NE 50th Street & Brooklyn on March 7, 2017

Get our free "4 to Explore" newsletter delivered to your inbox every month. Click Here to Subscribe