Homelessness is a complicated problem for which STB, with its narrow transit-and-land-use focus, would not claim to propose a full solution.  The proposal in Seattle Charter Amendment 29 (“Compassion Seattle“), which may be on the ballot later this year, attracts the usual complaints from those who insist on zero tolerance or zero coercion. Money for housing is good, though unfunded spending mandates aren’t so good.
But, like any worthwhile op-ed, this anti-amendment argument ($) by three former Councilmembers gives us enough information to learn there is at least one piece that I feel qualified to say is very good:
· CA 29 waives the land use code to site housing projects. Zoning, height limits, setbacks, greenbelt designations, notice and “due process” will not apply. This means new housing units or multifamily projects could be added in all zones, including single family.
and indeed, right there in the fifth bullet of Section 1:
Fifth. During a declared civil emergency related to homelessness, and to accelerate the production of emergency and permanent housing serving homeless individuals (“projects”) as required by this Article IX, it is City policy to and the City shall, to the full extent permitted by state law, (a) waive land use code and regulation requirements as necessary to urgently site projects, (b) waive all City project-related permitting fees for projects and, (c) process the application for project-related permits as first-in-line in order to expedite the permitting process. It also is City policy and the City shall refund to the projects all City imposed costs, fees, and the City’s portion of the sales tax on all project expenditures, paid on or after the enactment of this Article IX and during a declared civil emergency related to homelessness.
This is big. If your sense is that the City is spending enough, but incorrectly, this is the most plausible explanation why. These procedural mean lawyers, settlements, and concessions to buy off neighbors.
A very self-satisfied person in the comments is likely to ask whether I would like to have emergency housing put up next to me. One answer is that, as a Capitol Hill resident, these people are already in my neighborhood. Another answer is that of course this is likely to cause more trouble than my current neighbors, and I wouldn’t. But to me, the question is whether it is a fair and good policy outcome for a person of relative means to lawyer up, arguing their block is a very special flower, and shunting these badly needed projects to a place with lesser means. Obviously, it isn’t.
Relatedly, kudos to this measure for taking the notion of an “emergency” seriously, and suspending other considerations to address the problem. A crisis for which we aren’t willing to suspend any of our other policy priorities isn’t one that we consider an emergency at all.
 We would argue, however, that encouraging housing construction of all types and price points ($) is part of that solution.