Tuesday, July 21, 2015

HALA Report and Roosevelt (Neighborhood and High School)

 Update: well, I guess my haranguing  did something because the open windows in the Sisley home by Roosevelt High are now covered and nailed shut. 

Yesterday, I did three major items on my "to-do"list.

One, I wrote a letter to the Mayor about the HALA report and my neighborhood of Roosevelt/Ravenna.  I dropped the letter - with photos - off at City Hall for both the Mayor and City Council.

Two, I wrote a letter to the City Council about what I believe the City is doing to infiltrate the workings of Seattle Schools.  I now realize I left out one important point (but I did tell the Board this point) - that this infiltration is likely being aided and abetted by senior management, primarily Superintendent Nyland.  It is, in some policy cases, hard to discern who Nyland works for - the Mayor or the School Board.

Three, in taking photos to give to the City Council about the issue of the Sisley slumlords in Roosevelt, I discovered that one house (facing 65th, not RHS) has an open window, covered with opaque sheeting with open access thru the fencing.  Which says to me "squatters."

(I took these photos to ask the City Council why my neighborhood - like U District, Northgate, Ballard and Capitol Hill -seemes to have to take most of the burden of both transit AND density while other neighborhoods will get the benefits but none of the pain. My point to the Council is that our neighborhood suffers this blight, day in and day out (and year in and year out) and now we are being asked to take on more?  Seems unfair.)

You may recall that when I was co-president of RHS that I had one day left my house to go to RHS and came upon a scene on the corner of NE 66th and 15 Ave NE (directly across from RHS) where a building had squatters and one had OD'ed. On heroin.  And the police, learning who I was, asked me to tour the building so I could get my community to do something.  What a lovely memory of filth and rat dropping and, of course, junkies.

And now that may just be the case again.

So there are now less than eight weeks until school starts again.  Let's see, I told the Mayor, the City Council, the City Attorney's office and I guess I'll call the police as well.  But see, this has gone on and on in our neighborhood so I'm not sure who would really care at this point.

Maybe it will take the start of school to get something done.

I hope you understand that this isn't about density.  It's about shared responsibility.  It's about understanding that when the City enables bully land owners, it only empowers other bad actors to believe they can do the same in other neighborhoods. 

As well, the Mayor says this ( about the HALA rec on changing single family zoning):


"..only 6 percent of the city’s single family zoning — or 4 percent of the
whole city — will be tweaked to allow for bulkier developments."


But see, he won't be able to single specific neighborhoods for this particular zoning change.  The change in zoning would apply to all neighborhoods so no one should think, "well, not my neighborhood."  

I'm not against density and I'm fine with MILs and backyard cottages.  But, as Danny Westneat wrote in his column, there are many ways to get that density. 

 My belief is that we will fundamentally change the best thing this city has going - its vibrant neighborhoods - if the HALA recommendations go thru.  (There were at least three HALA committee members at the City Council meeting yesterday, touting their 60+ recs.  I have never seen people so sure of themselves for that many recommendations.) I also absolutely do NOT believe housing or rent prices will come down with more volume.  Hasn't happened in NYC nor San Francisco and it generally never does for desirable cities.  

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Back yard cottages are very different than tearing down a house and putting in an enormous triplex. The difference is in preserving the character and community in a neighborhood.
NEmom

Anonymous said...

Our mayor and the HALA committee do not seem to be concerned about the character of the neighborhoods or that they have been voted in to represent the people of Seattle and their district. I'm not sure why he/they think that a "smart" population like Seattle's wouldn't connect the dots and realize this is not about density/affordability/racial equity. It's about profit for developers pure and simple. Given the lack of due process in this and a few other recent announcements from the Mayor's office and until we have actual real urban planners and a growth management plan that addresses all issue, this SFH owner, parent and tax paying member of Seattle will vote against every incumbent on the ballot and against every single levy, regardless of focus.
-North Annoyed

Anonymous said...

But it's a very slippery slope - once the door is open to a change in zoning, then whose to say what might happen. I do not trust this city's leadership one tiny tiny little bit. I've hit my fill of this city and have plans to leave in the next 10 months or so. There are many reasons, but honestly, the HALA report was the straw that broke this camel's back. So much is lacking in that report - so little understanding of what's wrong with this city - density without a sufficiently supported infrastructure is a recipe for disaster. Without adequate transit and more schools (public, NOT charter)...well, its just not the place for my family anymore. Which is hard to say, after 3 generations of Seattleites.

And I agree- no one wants to accept responsibility for the kinds of issues Melissa has raised here. I understand the need for "affordable" housing. I just don't accept the premise the City wants us to swallow.


reader47

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind, in Ballard developers are buying house for $650K to $720K and tearing down the house and putting 4 units on the lot. The new units are selling for $580+K

$580K with a no down mortgage is a monthly payment of $3600 with taxes and insurance.

These are not low income units nor will any other units built in the future be low income. Those day are long gone. Unless the government wants to lose money on building housing, Ballard will never be "affordable" to families making less then $100K. Affordability would not include any SFR neighborhoods or any mother in laws, because the owners like me want the maximum return on investment and want tenants who are stable. The city can not determine what I charge for rent, if they try to do that why would I bother.

There are better options in South Seattle for affordable housing and North Seattle along the Aurora corridor. BTW what happened to all the low income units in SLU area that were promised? Exactly. Usually these type of deals allow the developers to spread the affordability or average out the unit cost across the city, so they built some really cheap units in undesirable areas and high end units in the Ballard ares where today only SFR are allowed. These deals only benefit developers.

Lip Service

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lip Service is the exactly right phrase.

It is not our children and grandchildren that will benefit from these changes.

Transparency Please said...

"I now realize I left out one important point (but I did tell the Board this point) - that this infiltration is likely being aided and abetted by senior management, primarily Superintendent Nyland."

Community Day School has 1200 prek students within Seattle Public Schools and we know that the city has recently contracted with pre-existing private prek providers within SPS.

Neither Nyland or his staff have created a document and/or made a presentation about the city's next steps. At this time, the city has incorporated only 14 classrooms into their program. What happens to SPS facilities and operations when the city expands their efforts with pre-existing private pre-k providers?

The city has not reimbursed the district for administrative costs and I'm starting to wonder if we are looking at a gift of public funds.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, Is the abandoned house a Sisley property? Boarded up, they're still a blight and many have become trap houses (drug dealing). Is Sisley still developing a high rise near RHS?

Westside

Melissa Westbrook said...

Westside, of course, it's a Sisley property (it's the one they took the guns and explosives out of years ago).

Sisley - via a developer - is going to have a high-rise there but nary a peep about it. My take is that Sisley has them trapped and won't move forward (for one reason or another). The good grace that would be bring all that blight to the ground won't happen because the developer would be on the hook to rebuild them (ha!) if the development doesn't go thru.

Andrea Ptak said...

The Southend is seeing this trend too—especially up-and-coming spots like Columbia City. The new apartment building that is the new home for the Seward Park PCC has RENTS up to 3400/mo. because of its close proximity to the Light Rail. We are losing our neighborhood Post Office to another high-end apartment building, and many lovely homes are being replaced with ugly multiple-family units, or tall-skinnies squeezed 2–3 on a lot. Developers are eager to get their claws on the many larger-than-average lots that hold older homes like mine in the Brighton neighborhood near Seward Park.

We've got slumlords galore along Rainier, and plenty of dilapidated buildings/empty lots that could be developed long before we have to lose another SFH. I agree with Melissa, more units will NOT bring prices down.

Anonymous said...

Andrea to be fair, in the last two decades many people took advantage of the depressed poverty values south of 23rd. In the 80s not many white people would have ever thought of buying there. My sister bought down south in the 90s and it was very dangerous after dark. You could see brand new $500,000 homes across the street from run down homes. There has been lots changes, but in the end the result meant most Black people where pushed out, many to Renton. I don't know if you took advantage of the situation or not, but you should except the fact that there will always be people with more money than you wanting to live there and they will. The next wave of high rise apartment's will most likely be in your area due to it close proximity (5 miles) to the city's core and low political clout with the city. The 2008 recession,unfavorable social economics and height restrictions are the only things that has stopped the area from already being converted. Visitors can't believe there are still so many affordable homes within 3 miles of downtown Seattle. It's very common for cities to be victims of their own success, Seattle as we all knew it, will be gone soon.

Lip Service

Anonymous said...


Who do you recommend for District 6? I don't want to vote for Mike O'Brien. He has just helped the developers along, all under the guise of density and affordable housing. There are so many ways to increase density and have more units of affordable housing without the destruction they have done in Fremont and Ballard. I'm concerned that the non Mike O'Brien votes will be split and he will end up in there again. Thoughts?
Greenwood

Anonymous said...

This was the latest I'd heard of the Sisley properties, but seem to think the city has backed down from it's park plan:

http://www.king5.com/story/news/local/seattle/2015/03/12/seattle-slumlord-housing-roosevelt/70238296/

Word is that Roosevelt area property values will continue to increase with the opening of light rail (meaning wait a few years to further increase your gains). $500,000 single family "fixer uppers" are currently flipped and sold for $700-800,000. Affordable for whom?

neighbor

Melissa Westbrook said...

Neighbor, and if you split that one house into three, then that's a lot more profit for a developer.

Anonymous said...

Pieces at Crosscut on the HALA recommendations and on HALA's (and by extension Murray's) impugning SF house owners as racists by David Kroman and Eric Sigliano are worth reading, as are many of the comments.

oldhill

Melissa Westbrook said...

OldHill, I said something to one HALA member after the City council meeting. I told him that it appeared that some neighborhoods are expected to take on more burdens than others. He said, "So much for dialog." I said it's hard to have a dialog when the Committee used language that is hurtful to homeowners.

Anonymous said...

Oldhill or MW, where is the text you are referring to where HALA is "impugning SF house owners as racists"? I haven't read the HALA report, but I'd like to see where they are making comparisons to Seattle with our neighborhoods.
Thanks,
NEmom

Anonymous said...

Oldhill or MW, Nevermind-- I realize from the Publicola comments on the same topic that SF is Single Family (not SanFrancisco, which is what I first thought). Now I get what is being talked about.
NEmom

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay a few things to help. The report itself (I had to get this link from the Mayor's webpage. The one at Google is broken. As well, the Appendix B link of the report appears to be broken.)

http://murray.seattle.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/HALA_Report_2015.pdfHome

The HALA report references the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project (another great read) but here's their statement on the HALA's use of their project (partial):

"First, we applaud the attention to Seattle’s history of segregation and the continuing problem of racial discrimination. Tragically, racism continues to shape housing opportunities and the composition of neighborhoods today. By linking the issues of racism and affordability, the report highlights two of the city’s most important challenges.

But it would be inappropriate for the Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project to speak for or against the specifics of the HALA proposals. We are a history project, not policy advocates. We were alarmed to see a July 21, 2015 article in the Seattle Times appear under the headline ”UW reacts to mayor’s single-family zoning, segregation comments.” We would never pretend to represent the views of University of Washington. Moreover, we had carefully stayed out of the media controversy surrounding HALA, with the exception of a short clarifying statement posted on our Facebook page. The reporter used one sentence of that statement and used it in a misleading way that seemed to suggest that we opposed the HALA report. That is incorrect."

From Publicola's Segregation by Design post:

"But what of mayor Ed Murray’s and the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda committee’s references to the racist and classist roots of zoning in the city?"

The Mayor said:
“In Seattle, we’re also dealing with a pretty horrific history of zoning based on race, and there’s residue of that still in place.”

Publicola notes:

"In UW Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project’s segment on covenants, it states: “The use of racial restrictive covenants removed the need for [segregationist] zoning ordinances. In that way, they served to segregate cities without any blame being placed on municipal leaders.”

Melissa Westbrook said...

Continued:

To note, the City didn't have (and does not have) zoning based on race. What was in place (and was horribly, terribly wrong) was redlining by realtors (steering different people to different parts of the city) and neighborhood covenants (like in Broadmoor or Blue Ridge) that excluded blacks.

"To back up their talk, the HALA committee points to a massive historical project put together by researchers at the University of Washington in 2006 called the Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project. In particular, the committee cites—on pages 5 and 25—Seattle’s grim history of racially discriminatory covenants: amendments to property deeds that forbid minorities from purchasing, renting, or occupying property in a given neighborhood. At the time (between the 1920s and ’60s), this was perfectly legal."

"James Gregory, a history professor at the University of Washington and director of the UW Civil Rights & Labor History project, declined to comment on the HALA report. But earlier today, the project’s Facebook page released the following statement:

“Racially restrictive covenants placed in property deeds applied to housing rentals and home ownership alike. So did realtors’ racist practices. So did bankers’ redlining practices. They were not specific to single family zoned spaces-- they covered nearly all-residential housing in the region."

The HALA report did not say people are racist for living in single family zoning. And it's fine to give a historical backdrop but saying that the City did zoning for this purpose is wrong. (The Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project says this is somewhat academic as the City did little to discourage what was happening.)

My read of the HALA report is the belief there is subtext to what is written about single family zoning. For me it feels like if you raise any questions about this issue you are a NIMBY and possible racist. It's not fair and the Mayor and the City Council should elect to make sure that any overtones coming from HALA do not reflect that.

Robert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Robert, What do you mean every house is a rental? There are no rentals in my area. Also, it's not clear who from the rented house who is trying get into the popular high school, the family? or the house owners?. If someone want's to move what's the problem? Do you expect people to have stay in one place their entire life? Hey maybe if all things where equally as bad there would be no point in needed to move.

Tim

Anonymous said...

yeah Tim that could have been clearer. Here it is again:

I agree MW. I am also concerned about the 6% comment. Let's be real, even if it was just to up zone the urban villages it will effect everyone in the city. Drive to Ballard and try to park and you know what I am talking about. In fact there are urban villages throughout the city. And of course every house is now a potential rental property x3. I wonder how that will change enrollment numbers. Last year our neighbors rented their house to a family so the renters could get into a popular high school.

Robert

Anonymous said...

Having good schools in your neighborhood can add thousands to you selling price. In Bellevue some houses go for $100K over asking based on the schools. My house would never get a school bump, very poor schools from K to 12. Hey Robert, where did the owners go? It not like you can rent cheaper.

Tim

Anonymous said...

They were empty-nesters so renting made sense Tim. Now they can rent to two more families. Or one could rent and then sell the address on craig's list to other families. The neighborhood plan that could have raised all schools is defunct and so are enrollment projections based on this.

-Robert

Melissa Westbrook said...

Robert, I agree. I think the HALA report recs could very much affect school boundaries. Wonder if the Board realizes this.

And yes, I predict that some families will rent an apartment near good schools (especially high school) to get into them.

Anonymous said...

There is no planning in this urban planning and no actual dialog happening with neighborhoods, especially those likely to be affected most (within a 10 minute walk of proposed or planned light rail, for example).

Wallingford as a _neighborhood_ would largely disappear as everything several blocks N and S of 45th would be re-zoned to allow at least 3 story multi-unit dwellings, if not higher. It'd only be the lucky/wealthier living closer to Lake Union that'd likely escape... possibly because some of the developers live along the water (areas along the water are strangely not much affected by the current plans being discussed). Add in the lack of other transit, since light rail is no savior, infrastructure and, most of all, lack of public schools that are especially lacking in the North End, and you have a small disaster brewing rather than some theoretical panacea of fair, low-cost housing.

Anonymous said...




Reposted for non-named anon:

There is no planning in this urban planning and no actual dialog happening with neighborhoods, especially those likely to be affected most (within a 10 minute walk of proposed or planned light rail, for example).

Wallingford as a _neighborhood_ would largely disappear as everything several blocks N and S of 45th would be re-zoned to allow at least 3 story multi-unit dwellings, if not higher. It'd only be the lucky/wealthier living closer to Lake Union that'd likely escape... possibly because some of the developers live along the water (areas along the water are strangely not much affected by the current plans being discussed). Add in the lack of other transit, since light rail is no savior, infrastructure and, most of all, lack of public schools that are especially lacking in the North End, and you have a small disaster brewing rather than some theoretical panacea of fair, low-cost housing.


-Robert