As of last Friday evening, it was official: no fewer than twenty-one candidates formally filed for the 2017 City of Seattle mayoral primary. As usual, most of this unprecedented crop are unlikely, single-issue, or perennial candidates. But Mayor Ed Murray’s announcement that he won’t run for re-election in the wake of multiple accusations of sexual assault encouraged a bumper crop of serious and credible candidates to throw their hats in too. In that category (in alphabetical order) we would place former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, state Rep. Jessyn Farrell, state Sen. Bob Hasegawa, former Mayor Mike McGinn, activist Cary Moon, and attorney/organizer Nikkita Oliver.
Our focus on transit is obvious from our name, but we are also deeply passionate about land use and housing issues, as they are key both to creating a successful transit system and to retaining longtime residents while welcoming newcomers. This post is devoted to presenting the above six mayoral candidates’ positions on those two issues in their own public words, with only a bit of commentary. The campaign is in its early stages, and we will surely be hearing much more (for better or for worse) and doing interviews of our own. But even as of today the contrasts are informative. Hear out the candidates, below the jump.
Former U.S. Attorney (2009-14)
As of yesterday, we have not seen any public statements from Ms. Durkan on transit issues. If you are aware of any, please comment, and we will add them.
“[W]e have to address the fact that housing in Seattle has just become too expensive. Too many people just cannot afford to live here. Houses are too expensive and rents are sky high. And those that are lucky enough to own homes see their property taxes increasing to amounts that just are not affordable. Because of Mayor Murray’s leadership on HALA, our building boom will result in more affordable units and millions of dollars targeted for affordable housing options. As Mayor, I will make sure we use that money wisely. I will also explore ways to go to Olympia and reduce the property tax burden for older homeowners, lower income owners and landlords providing affordable housing.” – Campaign Kickoff Speech, quoted at JennyForSeattle.com
Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-46)
Former Executive Director, Transportation Choices Coalition
“[Rep. Farrell] said she wants light rail from Ballard to West Seattle faster than the currently proposed timeline of 2030 for West Seattle and 2035 for Ballard ‘and I have some ideas about how we’re going to do that.'” – The Stranger, May 12
“[Rep. Farrell] responded to [Brent’s STB post sharply criticizing House Democrats for passing a bill to change the Sound Transit MVET valuation schedule], conceding that legislators missed that the older valuation schedule was prescribed for the MVET in the ST3 enabling law until the ST1 bonds are retired, and that they had not intended to use a schedule that doesn’t reflect car resale value, which the 2006 table does very well. In response to a question on regressiveness, she pointed out that Sound Transit opted not to use the progressive head tax the legislature authorized. In response to what happens next, she was firm, “We say no deal if the Senate changes the bill at all in a negative way.” – STB, April 13. The Senate has not yet acted on the bill involved, and the issue of ST3 MVET valuation remains in limbo.
“[Rep. Farrell] said she supports the mayor’s housing affordability plans, which include some increases in density, but ‘we need to go bigger and bolder and faster.'” – The Stranger, May 12
Rep. Farrell has promised in multiple forums to offer further detail about her positions on both transit and housing in coming weeks.
Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D-11)
Former President, Teamsters Local 174
“I think [the ST3] vote was rigged. I don’t think the ST Board was really honest with the people on what we were voting for. As a legislator they told us Sound Transit 3 was a $15 billion package, and I verified what they were saying, and their news releases, and at the time we balked at the price. But traffic was so bad we had to do something. That was part of the transportation budget bill, which also contained the largest gas tax increase in the history of the state, at over 11 cents per gallon. I think this was one of those times that elected officials really disregarded the impacts on fixed and low income people who are trying to make ends meet. Once we authorized the $15 billion, the powers that be went behind a curtain, massaged something and when they came back out popped a $54 billion project. They knew they had the votes to pass whatever they wanted to, so they were like kids in a candy store. I’m not saying I would’ve voted against it had they originally stated the true cost, but I would have liked to not have had the wool pulled over my eyes.” – Interview with South Seattle Emerald, May 10. Martin rebutted some assertions in this quote in a previous post.
“A person walking the dog, takes a dump on your front lawn, you expect them to pick it up and clean up after themselves.” – Interview with KIRO 7, January 28, 2015. The analogy involved the addition of light rail service to South Seattle neighborhoods.
“The problem is [the City of Seattle] are charging $60 per permit to park in your own neighborhood to mitigate an impact that was created by Sound Transit’s construction there.” – January 2015 debate on a bill perennially sponsored by Sen. Hasegawa to require Sound Transit to pay for residential parking permits near light rail stations, previously covered by STB.
“Equitable development is in the eye of the beholder. What’s equitable for the developer is not necessarily equitable for the person who can’t afford to live in an area any more. I think the city has identified growth areas, and I’m not necessarily opposed to things like transit-oriented development. Regardless of how that development is implemented, affordability is also a relative term. I think what’s been missing out of the conversation is talking about public housing. I don’t know that the city has been doing any public housing developments – Yesler Terrace, I guess. I’m not sure of the minute details of the deal the city did with Vulcan to develop that area but it didn’t seem like it was generally good for the public. I think it was scheduled to create 5000 new units, of which 1700 would be considered affordable. In the process they’re building fewer units than those that existed [This is wildly incorrect – STB]. That doesn’t deal with either the housing crisis or affordability when you start trading away your rights to developers. The city is looking to do what they can because they don’t have the financing mechanisms available to be able to build public housing, so one of the things I want to do is to create a municipal bank that would be owned by the people of Seattle.” – Interview with South Seattle Emerald, May 10.
“I’d like to push decision making down more to the neighborhood level. [I would be in favor of bringing back the neighborhood councils], and give them some authority and budget to work with to develop their neighborhoods. If you have a problem that needs to be solved it’s probably best to talk to those impacted by the problem.” – Interview with South Seattle Emerald, May 10.
Former Mayor of Seattle (2010-13)
“Streets aren’t just for moving cars. Or even for moving buses, bikes, and people on foot. They are places that support the social and economic activity of a community and should be designed that way.” – Column in Crosscut, May 25, 2016
“What if in 2001, right after the Nisqually earthquake, we had decided to build transit? Instead of a ribbon cutting in 2019 for a new highway tunnel, the politicians could have celebrated new rail lines to Ballard and West Seattle then. The recently approved Sound Transit 3 program will eventually open those lines — in 2038, after an extra 20 years of terrible traffic.” – Column in Crosscut, April 5
“I’m in favor of the policies that I’ve always been for. I’ve been a supporter, as you know, of missing middle housing. In my term, we tried to make it easier to build small apartment buildings, microapartments, backyard cottages, and the like. We were for those things. The critique I’ve had—and this is, I think, where some of the confusion arises—was of the HALA process. It was good-hearted in the sense that a bunch of people came together to promote their best ideas, but coming from my own experience as mayor and my own experience in the green community, I could sense what was going to happen, and it did happen, which is that there were a lot of people who were left out of that process and there was an immediate backlash against the proposals, which led to some of the more promising proposals just being dropped [specifically, upzones of all single-family areas to allow duplex/triplex construction – STB] entirely right off the bat.” – Interview with The C Is For Crank, April 24
I think [the HALA] process is going to obviously run its course through the council. There’s a number of things happening and we can quibble over specific policy details, but I do think it’s not going to produce the types of changes in housing policy that we ultimate need. It’s just not the scale that we need. So we’re still going to have to revisit the issue of, how do we make it so that people can live here. – Interview with The C Is For Crank, April 24
Former Director, People’s Waterfront Coalition
“Traffic congestion is one of the biggest growing pains in our city. We need to address housing costs and transit access together. Working people are being pushed out of Seattle to chase affordable housing in places that are not served by transit, which leaves them isolated from their communities and services. Lack of transit options forces workers to drive, compounding congestion on our streets. In addition to improving transit options, we need to focus on safe streets, walkable neighborhoods, a basic bike network and a strong freight and delivery network. We need to be efficient with our limited street space and make alternatives to driving more viable for commuters.” – CaryMoonForMayor.com
“Add more bus transit and protected bus lanes because when transit is fast, convenient and reliable, people use it.” – CaryMoonForMayor.com
“I think we missed some opportunities with HALA. There’s some good things in it. I like the mandatory affordability proposal. I like the proposals about what to do in single-family zoning to add townhouses and duplexes and accessory dwelling units—building the missing middle. But I think we’re missing some good opportunities. We’re not really understanding everything that’s driving up demand. So yes, let’s build houses for everyone who wants to live here, but there are other causes that are escalating housing prices that the city is not considering. We need to figure out what to do with those. If you look at what’s happening in other world-class cities, you see this phenomenon of outside investors piling on and taking advantage of everyone wanting to move here. It’s just like Wall Street—when Wall Street sees a stock go up two days in a row, all of Wall Street piles on to that stock. That same phenomenon is going on in our housing market. Housing used to be local. It used to be local players, building housing for local people. Now they’re acting more and more like Wall Street, where outside predators are piling on just left and right.” – Interview with The C Is For Crank, April 26
“How much of our condition of escalating prices in Seattle is driven by these other factors—these hedge fund speculators jacking up rents, Wall Street landlords taking starter homes off the market, and global hot money parkers? We can only guess, because the city or county doesn’t track who is buying what. We do know that 38% of purchases in Seattle real estate are done with cash, which is a red flag suggesting something is out of whack. We don’t know how many homes are used as primary residences or are sitting empty, or how many are used solely for AirBnB short-term rentals, or how many are owned by shell companies, how many are owned by Wall Street hedge fund spin-offs purely to extract maximum rents. It is probably some mix of all of the above. Clearly, these other forces beyond the local demand of job growth are driving up both rental prices and home prices—but we can only build a vague picture instead of crisp detail needed to fully understand the dynamic.” – Article in The Stranger co-authored with Charles Mudede, April 20
Organizer and attorney
“Nikkita and the Peoples Party are anti-displacement and pro-strategic equitable density development. Effective urban planning requires we also consider the implications for public transportation and the sort of infrastructure necessary to ensure 1) people without cars can safely, effectively, and efficiently get to and from work; 2) people with cars may choose to forego the use of their automobiles because public transportation is so effective; and 3) lessen the impact upon the City and environment of more cars on the roads. Lastly, the geographic constraints of the City cannot be overlooked, but they must be clearly articulated to the public and opportunity for questions, solution building and shared understanding of the implications must be created.” – SeattlePeoplesParty.com
“There is no compelling reason that Seattle should not require a larger amount of investment from developers that is at least comparable with the demands made by other large cities such as New York City and San Francisco. Nikkita and the Peoples Party will align with Jon Grant’s recommendation and require that 25% of all new up-zoned developments be affordable.” – SeattlePeoplesParty.com
“I think we need to get into communities and dig into, what does Seattle as a whole really want? And this is the whole platform that we’re running on. This is participatory government. And I don’t think we’re going to get to the answer easy because there are people who want hella density. Some of y’all are in this room. If we get more density but not better transportation, then we’re screwed. If we get more density and it still pushes black and brown folks out, we’re screwed. So, I think we have to put a pause and really think strategically. And there’s nothing wrong with thinking strategically. I don’t know why people are afraid of that. Evidence. It works.” – Live at Shadow Council, March 29
“What HALA and MHA does is, one, it doesn’t ask for enough in investment from developers in the city. It makes us very reliant on the private market to develop enough housing to meet the needs of the people who are already here and the people who are coming, and we just know from basic supply and demand that that’s going to increase the cost of housing. So yeah, we do talk a lot about displacement, because Seattleites of all colors and ethnicities and backgrounds have actually been displaced from the neighborhoods. So when we think about displacement, there’s making sure we don’t continue to push people out, and there’s finding ways to build enough housing fast enough that people could in theory actually come back. And I think it’s a multifaceted strategy. It’s not just MHA and HALA. It’s also thinking about market intervention strategies, like looking at who’s buying what, what places are left unused, addressing the conversation about speculative capital and how that’s impacting our overall economy.” – Interview with The C Is For Crank, May 15
“Q: Did you support the housing levy?
A: Which levy?
Q: The one that passed last year, that will bring in $290 million to build affordable housing.
A: Honestly I don’t remember.
Q: It was a property tax levy that doubled the amount the city is spending to build affordable housing.
A: That’s where we’re at, right? Using property taxes to pay for things. If we’re not asking developers to invest at a higher level, we’re going to have to continue to leverage the dollars of people that have already taken on the burden of what development is doing in our city instead of asking the developers to take their fair share of that burden.” – Interview with The C Is For Crank, May 15