STB did its endorsement interviews late in the day, but that wasn’t enough to catch all late policy revelations. I think it would be an overreaction to actually retract an endorsement — they didn’t rest on that thin of a reed — but the changes are notable.
First, in her interview District 5 STB endorsee Mercedes Elizalde strongly implied she was not for linkage fees, before signing up for the Jon Grant/Kshama Sawant drive to amend the delicate HALA compromise in just such a way. Erica wrote about the apparent contradiction or change on her personal blog, so check it out. We’re sticking with Elizalde, who impressed us with her developer wonkery and good service planning instincts. In any case, some of us are skeptical of linkage fees rather than violently opposed. But if this is more of a dealbreaker for you than it is for us, then I’d suggest Sandy Brown as your next best choice in a stacked 5th District race.
Second, endorsees Mike O’Brien and Tim Burgess led the stampede out of changes to single-family zones (SFZs), soon followed by Mayor Murray himself. Here’s Burgess:
While the list of recommendations from HALA is long, one specific policy has received the most attention and criticism from neighborhoods across Seattle. It’s the recommendation that single-family zoning be relaxed in all areas of the city to allow for new duplexes, triplexes and stacked flats, a policy some believe will lead to speculators buying up homes, tearing them down, and replacing them with more expensive multi-family structures. We should take a step back from any policy that leads to that kind of speculation, disruption, and the widespread loss of existing, more affordable housing.
And here’s O’Brien, speaking to Josh Feit at Publicola:
While O’Brien told me he supports “in principle” tinkering around the edges of SFZs (rezoning about six percent of SFZs around transit corridors, urban villages, and SFZ/multi-family borders)—though he still wants to evaluate the specifics of each rezone—he also told me that allowing the possibility of tearing down an existing house for new duplex or triplex construction in the remaining 94 percent of the SFZs “would be taking it further than I’m willing to go—or I think the city is willing to go.”
While only one aspect of a very large plan, the SFZ proposals was probably the biggest qualitative strike for diverse and affordable housing types in Seattle. Duplexes, triplexes, and row homes in single family zones are by far the most plausible path to more large-family housing in Seattle, and critical if we’re not to restrict such housing to the very prosperous and the winners of the subsidized housing lottery. Furthermore, it also further endangers the compromise between all the interest groups on HALA.
You don’t have a great alternative in District 6, but in Position 8, Burgess opponent John Roderick blasted the flip-flop.
We can’t talk about Seattle’s severe shortage of affordable housing without talking about how how much of the city is zoned single-family. This is part of why the HALA report made it clear that it was a package deal — everyone has to give a little for the city to gain a lot, and it’s disappointing to see even the most basic changes to zoning laws, like allowing more duplexes and mother-in-law apartments, sacrificed on the altar of single-family zones and “neighborhood character.”… If I am elected and HALA hasn’t been implemented yet, I would vote for it and push other councilmembers to support it, and I say that as a homeowner in a single-family area myself.
To her credit, District 3 candidate Morgan Beach, not endorsed by STB but in a weak field in terms of urbanist candidates, also criticized Mayor Murray’s capitulation on single-family zones.
These events haven’t radically changed our perspectives. But if existing trends continue, it could absolutely affect how people like us approach the general election in November.