Nick Licata sent an e-mail today explaining why he’s trying to stop a rezone to 65 feet on the blocks next to the new light rail station in the Roosevelt neighborhood. Licata’s thinking is framed by a question he’s asked himself; “can the Council support Transit Oriented Development in Roosevelt without increasing building heights to 65 feet across from the Roosevelt High School building?” Licata concludes that it can, so he “will move an amendment in tomorrow’s COBE committee meeting to keep the heights at 40 feet.”
Licata acknowledges that “what is best for the city as well as the Roosevelt neighborhood are inexorably linked,” but his starting point leads him to the wrong answer, that somehow preserving views of Roosevelt High School and denying the developer additional capacity will create TOD in Roosevelt. Nothing could be further from the truth. His own e-mail acknowledges that denying the rezone could leave the neighborhood with a blighted hole, not new housing.
Licata rehearses many of the same arguments that have been offered again and again to oppose increased heights on these key blocks. The neighborhood’s plan is the product of lots of process so it should take precedent, and their plan “takes” more density than other proposals.
Licata’s e-mail goes on to cite the complaints local neighbors have had about the property owner Hugh Sisley. Sisley, Licata says, is a bad actor, having code compliance issues. But strangely he says this:
If the developer cannot build to 65 feet, he believes that his project is not viable and will probably walk away from developing these parcels, perhaps leaving the community these troubled properties until the land ownership changes or another developer presents a different package.
But let’s return to the original question, “How does the Council support TOD without upzones on these properties?” Licata’s answer is that it does that by preserving the “prominence” of the High School, and locking in blight on key properties in the neighborhood. Neither of these creates new housing, and keeping blighted properties blighted won’t help TOD. His amendment fails to meet his own standards.
Licata, if he listened to his own reasoning, wouldn’t be proposing his amendment. If he believes that these properties will stay blighted because the developer will walk away from 40 feet, how does he think that keeping those properties that way helps the goals of Transit Oriented Development?
It seems more likely that Licata starts with ideology rather than TOD in mind. He culminates the e-mail by quoting a resident opposed to 65 feet:
Another resident amplifying a national theme wrote: “It feels as though we are being strong-armed here and that democracy has been spurned. This smacks of the national problem of the one percent exerting its will over the 99 percent.”
So for Licata, it all comes down to the 99 percent. Somehow the entitled single family homeowners are the downtrodden 99 percent, while the people that would move into apartments in the redeveloped properties don’t matter.
Licata’s reasoning is deeply flawed and seems to be linked to the contention that upzones are just giveaways to the 1 percent, rather than opportunity to create more affordable housing and accommodate growth around regional investments in light rail. Licata’s amendment would leave the blocks in question a blighted mess without accommodating any new housing. Is that really what is best for the neighborhood? Or has Licata aligned himself with single family homeowners who can’t get over their anger at Hugh Sisley and who feel entitled to keeping the value of their own investments at a premium at the expense of more housing?
Let’s hope Licata’s amendment, like his logic, fails.