Last Week Heidi Groover described the 2016 committee assignments under incoming Council President Bruce Harrell. These committees are the figures that do the most to shape legislation in their subject areas. Of most interest to STB readers are Sustainability and Transportation, which manages Seattle’s bus service purchases, Move Seattle implementation, and Seattle’s rights of way; Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability, which handles zoning; and the new “Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods, and Finance,” whose exact relationship to PLUS is not yet clear . Each committee has a chair, vice-chair, member, and alternate, listed respectively below.
Sustainability and Transportation (formerly “Transportation”):
Old: Tom Rasmussen, Mike O’Brien, Jean Godden, Nick Licata.
New: Mike O’Brien, Rob Johnson, Kshama Sawant, Lisa Herbold.
My Take: A big improvement. Jean Godden acted like the former Times columnist she was, skeptical of transportation taxes and anything that reduced the primacy of car access. Licata and Rasmussen are both big bus fans, skeptical of rail, and cranky about different things; Rasmussen turned out to be more obstructionist, but both were on-side when the big decisions came down. All three were, of course, Deep Bore Tunnel supporters.
We expect Rob Johnson , former head of TCC and longtime friend of the blog, to be an absolute rock star. Sawant and (likely) Herbold share Licata’s agitation over regressive taxes, but recognize that it’s better than no revenue at all. We expect them both to not be huge improvements, but mildly less representative of old Seattle and therefore of easy and cheap driving, everywhere, any time.
So the whole committee gets considerably younger (which likely changes their outlook in a positive way) and adds one bona fide rock star.
Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability
Old: Mike O’Brien, Tim Burgess, Nick Licata, Sally Clark/John Okamoto
New PLUS: Rob Johnson, Mike O’Brien, Lisa Herbold, Lorena Gonzalez
New “Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods, and Finance” Committee: Burgess, Herbold, Johnson, O’Brien.
My Take: This is hard to read because there are two committees that cover the biggest fault line in Seattle’s progressive politics: between upzoning and affordable housing incentives.* So perhaps it’s best to view this as Licata being (in more ways than one) replaced by Herbold, Tim Burgess with Rob Johnson (one great urbanist to another), and then the Clark/Okamoto seat filled by a Burgess/Gonzalez platoon. People perceive Gonzalez as a Murray ally and she endorsed HALA without reservation, which is good. And of course the two committee chairs are the two I’d pick for land use stuff. So at the margins there ought to be a bit of an improvement.
This isn’t a set of committee members that will intentionally blow up HALA, but it could try to chip away at some of the pro-growth developer provisions at bit. In particular I can see the PLUS committee finding excuses to softpedal upzones.
* Setting aside the other fault line between pro-growth people and NIMBYs, where every returning member and Herbold have seen fit to side against upzones on occasion.