The HALA attack on Eastlake

Urgent to contact City Councilmembers (final vote is this Monday, March 18, 2 p.m.) about Council Bill 119444, the “Mandatory Housing Affordability” (MHA) rezones and upzones that would enlarge what can be built on every residential and commercial land lot in Eastlake and elsewhere. Of particular concern: proposals for 65-foot (six stories) height on Eastlake Avenue; 80-foot height for Boylston Avenue East and for the east side of Franklin Ave. E. between Hamlin and Shelby streets; and heights on Yale, Minor, and Fairview that are not stepped-down to respect the shoreline. Please let the Councilmembers and Mayor know your views, whatever they may be. With the current urgency, e-mails and voice mails are the best way to reach the City Council; contact info is below.

Latest background

Click here for Council Bill 119444 which (with its related legislation) is flawed in ways that in the last two years the Eastlake Community Council has warned of in a series of communications to the Mayor and City Council. Most recently, ECC’s summarized its concerns in a Feb. 23, 2019 letter which is available by clicking here. Also on Feb. 23, ECC wrote a separate letter specifically regarding the City Council’s last-minute proposal to upzone Boylston and part of Franklin Ave. E. to 80 feet. Click here for that letter:

Despite claims by the Mayor and some City Councilmembers that the legislation will promote affordability, it will actually wipe away much of Eastlake’s affordable housing while creating little to replace it. Existing housing will become less affordable because of the property tax increases caused by the increased development potential that the rezones and upzones will bring. And the tsunami of resulting new development will devastate Eastlake’s livability, destroying most of the remaining large trees on private land, exacerbating our parking problem, and blocking views, sunlight and fresh air.

To see how the MHA rezones and upzones would affect your street or property, consult the maps, links, and explanations that ECC has assembled into a document that is available by clicking here. Unfortunately, the City Councilmembers (several of whom are not seeking reelection, in part because of backlash against these proposals) are being resistant to lowering the height increases that Council Bill 119444 would make for properties in Eastlake and other neighborhoods. Nevertheless, if you are unhappy with what they are proposing for your lot and your street, do let them know (see contact information below).

Concerns about the City’s proposed midrise zoning to increase building height to 80 feet on all of Boylston Ave. E. and on one block of Franklin Ave. E.

Will the other eight City Councilmembers accept our District 4 councilmember Rob Johnson’s last-minute effort to add a further rezone and height increase via a new midrise classification that Eastlake has never had before? (All of our current multifamily zoning is lowrise.) The midrise zoning would be imposed on all seven blocks of Boylston Avenue East, plus the east side of the one block of Franklin Avenue E. between Hamlin and Shelby streets. What’s wrong with this change is thoroughly documented in ECC’s 2/23/19 ECC letter referred to above (click here) and in a transcript and analysis (click here) of Johnson’s Feb. 8 statement to his City Council colleagues that led them to include the amendment in the “consent agenda” that they will be considering at the March 18 City Council meeting.

Among the midrise proposal’s serious problems: (1) endangers many affordable rentals (Boylston has more than any other street in Eastlake); (2) violates City’s promise of livable scale when it designated Eastlake as a “residential urban village” in accordance with the Eastlake Neighborhood Plan; (3) twists and cherry-picks the neighborhood input that advocated for stepping heights down the hillside to toward Lake Union–Councilmember Johnson’s amendment increases height on Boylston and one block of Franklin, but doesn’t grade heights down the Eastlake hillside to honor claims for a stepped down format; (4) unlike reductions in the original MHA height proposals that Johnson and other City Councilmembers are considering in other neighborhoods, Eastlake is only getting a proposal that would increase heights even more than in the original MHA proposals; and (5) Eastlake, where Council Bill 119444 was already proposing to push more growth than in many other neighborhoods, would suffer even more growth from this midrise proposal, shifted away from other neighborhoods that would get less growth than Council Bill 119444 originally proposed.

ECC’s letter requests that all nine City Councilmembers remove the zoning map amendment 4-18 (imposing midrise zoning on Boylston Avenue E. and a block of Franklin Avenue E.) from the consent package for Council Bill 119444; and urges Councilmember Johnson to either withdraw the amendment or to extensively revise it to genuinely step down the allowable building heights on the hillside of Eastlake from higher heights by Interstate 5 down to lower heights by Lake Union.

Concerns about the City’s proposed increase of building height on Eastlake Avenue to 65 feet

Also particularly controversial in Eastlake is Council Bill 119444’s increase of building height on Eastlake Avenue to 65 feet. The result will be a canyonlike effect that is radically at odds with the City Comprehensive Plan’s designation of Eastlake as a “residential urban village.” The new construction that this upzone will unleash will displace renters and small businesses, to be replaced with unaffordable rentals, condos, and commercial space. And many of the remaining residents and businesses throughout Eastlake will suffer view blockage, shadow, and loss of sunlight in their homes, businessess and on sidewalks, and in parks and other public spaces. As an example, note the below photo taken looking west from the Franklin Green Street that is between the three historic Seward School buildings and the equally historic Rogers Playground. Any building or buildings that are 65 feet (plus additional height for heating and ventilation equipment and elevator machinery) will block the current view of the lake, of the Aurora bridge, the Olympic Mountains, Queen Anne, and indeed any view of the horizon. Whereas current summer evenings bathe the area with glorious evening sun and sunsets, users of the park, Green Street, and school will be in the shade, with little remaining sense of being in a lakeside community.

eastlake-ave-project-site-seen-from-above-ball-field.jpg
This west-facing photo was taken from the Franklin Green Street (the three TOPS-Seward Public School buildings are just uphill behind the camera) and shows Rogers Playground, Eastlake Avenue, and points west. The City proposes to increase allowable heights to 65 feet on both sides of Eastlake Avenue.

Here’s how to reach all nine City Councilmembers

Whatever your views, it is important to exercise your rights as a citizen by communicating with our elected Mayor and City Councilmembers. Please also send a copy to the Eastlake Community Council at info@eastlakeseattle.org. Doing so alerts ECC to your concerns so we can keep you informed and involved about follow-up.

You can reach all nine City Councilmembers at once with this address: council@seattle.gov. HOWEVER, it is far better to communicate with the nine City Councilmembers individually. The City Council e-mail addresses are as follows: sally.bagshaw@seattle.gov, teresa.mosqueda@seattle.gov, rob.johnson@seattle.gov, bruce.harrell@seattle.gov, lisa.herbold@seattle.gov, mike.obrien@seattle.gov, lorena.gonzalez@seattle.gov, debora.juarez@seattle.gov, and kshama.sawant@seattle.gov. Their voice mails (these are also the office numbers; all are area code 206) are: Bagshaw 684-8801; Mosqueda 684-8806; Johnson 684-8808; Harrell 684-8804; Herbold 684-8803; O’B. rien 684-8800; Gonzalez 684-8802; Jurarez 684-8805; and Sawant 684-8016. You can leave a message during the business day by calling 206-684-8888. You can also reach the City Councilmembers by fax at 206-684-8587.

Background on Council Bill 119444, the Mandatory Housing Affordability program (MHA)

MHA would increase the allowable building height of land in Eastlake and 26 other neighborhoods that is zoned either commercial or multifamily residential. It would do so partly by rezones (changing the zoning of many lots in Eastlake to higher intensity zones); and upzones (increasing the potential building height in these zone)s. Except for the houseboats (our neighborhood’s only single family zoned area), all of Eastlake’s residential land is zoned either multi-family or commercial. Thus the MHA legislation would hit Eastlake harder than most other neighborhoods.

If passed by the City Council and signed by the Mayor, Council Bill 119444 would produce upscale development that will displace low and middle income residents, destroy trees and historic structures, and cause traffic and parking problems, shortfalls in facilities and services, and other negative impacts. For background, see the article on pp. 6-7 and 18-19 of the winter 2018-19 Eastlake News, available at the top of the column at right. If you can’t attend or view on Seattle Channel 21 or on-line the Feb. 21 public hearing or the Feb. 25 preliminary vote, you can find out what happened by attending the Eastlake Community Council public meeting on land use and housing issues Tues, Feb. 26, 6:30 p.m. at TOPS Seward School, 2500 Franklin Ave. E.

This upzone process started with a then-secret “Grand Bargain” between developers, Mayor Ed Murray, and City Councilmember Mike O’Brien. District 4’s Councilmember Rob Johnson is now presiding, in a process that has lacked transparency, with no real effort to notify or listen to those renters, home and condo owners, and small businesses who would suffer from the upzones and the failure to produce affordability.

Eastlake Community Council and SCALE letters to the City Council regarding the proposed Mandatory House Affordability program

Click here for 2/23/19 ECC letter requesting that the City Council remove zoning map amendment 4-18 (imposing midrise zoning on Boylston Avenue E. and a block of Franklin Avenue E.) from the consent package for Council Bill 119444 and urging Councilmember Johnson to either withdraw the amendment or to extensively revise it to genuinely step down the allowable building heights on the hillside of Eastlake from higher heights by Interstate 5 down to lower heights by Lake Union.

Click here for 2/23/19 letter that is a reminder and restatement of improvements that ECC has suggested are needed in the text of the Mandatory Housing Affordability ordinance (Council Bill 119444) and related ordinances and resolutions.

Click here for the Dec. 20, 2018 Eastlake Community Council letter to the City Council with suggestions for improving Council Bill 119184, the predecessor bill to CB 119444 .

Click here for the Jan. 15, 2019 letter to the City Council from SCALE, a citywide coalition for affordability, livability, and equity that the Eastlake Community Council co-founded and belongs to.

Mayor and City Councilmembers need to hear from you

Whatever your views, it is important to exercise your rights as a citizen by communicating with our elected Mayor and City Councilmembers. Please also send a copy to the Eastlake Community Council at info@eastlakeseattle.org. Doing so alerts ECC to your concerns so we can keep you informed and involved about follow-up.

Mayor Jenny Durkan accepts comments from the public by e-mail at jenny.durkan@seattle.gov. You can also leave a comment on-line at http://www.seattle.gov/mayor/get-involved/contact-the-mayor (the system will reject any message of more than about 500 words). You can also reach Mayor Durkan by postal letter (which can be longer!) at 600 Fourth Avenue, 7th floor, P.O. Box 94749, Seattle, WA 98124-4749, or by fax at 206-684-5360. The Mayor’s reception phone is 206-684-4000, where you can also leave a voice mail after hours and on weekends.

You can reach all nine City Councilmembers at once with this address: council@seattle.gov. HOWEVER, it is far better to communicate with the nine City Councilmembers individually. The City Council e-mail addresses are as follows: sally.bagshaw@seattle.gov, teresa.mosqueda@seattle.gov, rob.johnson@seattle.gov, bruce.harrell@seattle.gov, lisa.herbold@seattle.gov, mike.obrien@seattle.gov, lorena.gonzalez@seattle.gov, debora.juarez@seattle.gov, and kshama.sawant@seattle.gov.

You can also reach the City Councilmembers by postal letter at 600 Fourth Avenue, 2nd floor, P.O. Box 34025, Seattle, WA 98124-4025, or by fax at 206-684-8587. And again, it is far better to write to them individually rather than to address them all with one letter. Civil and brief voice mails can also help. Each Councilmember has a voice mail number listed at http://www.seattle.gov/council or you can leave a message during the business day by calling 206-684-8888.

Understanding C.B. 119184 the proposed Mandatory Housing Affordability ordinance

The Seattle City Council is considering Council Bill 119184, a proposed ordinance that would upzone every residential or commercial lot in Eastlake, and many others throughout the city. Dauntingly complex, the proposed ordinance can be found by clicking here. For maps, links, and explanations of the rezones and upzones proposed for Eastlake residential and commercial zones, click here. Alternatively, click here for the current zoning map and the preferred alternative map that was released on Nov. 9, 2017. For commercial zones, the existing zone and height are listed first and the proposed new zone and height are listed second. Understanding the notation about residential lots requires consultation with a guide to the abbreviations. But one thing is clear: virtually every residential or commercial lot in Eastlake would have a height increase, and some will also be further upzoned to a more intensive zone.

Background on the legal battle that is still ongoing

On Nov. 27, 2017, a coalition of 26 non-profit organizations including the Eastlake Community Council formed the Seattle Coalition for Affordability, Livability, and Equity (SCALE) and filed an appeal to the Seattle Hearing Examiner, challenging the final environmental impact statement (EIS) regarding the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) proposal. [SCALE’s articles of incorporation can be seen by clicking here.] case is a huge one for our future.

During the course of the appeal, SCALE raised and spent more than $200,000 for attorneys and expert witnesses, analyzed 100,000 City documents, prepared hundreds of filings, and presented the case in 19 days of hearings. The Eastlake Community Council donated $4000 in this effort, and thanks the many Eastlake residents who made individual donations. Donations are still welcome and needed, at http://www.scaleseattle.org/donate.html. Please specify that the donation is on behalf of the Eastlake Community Council.

On Nov. 21, 2018, the Hearing Examiner released a 38-page decision that criticized the City’s EIS for failing to describe impacts on individual neighborhoods, but ruled the EIS as “adequate” under SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act). The only exception was ordering the City to redo its historic analysis. The decision, filings, and audio are on-line by clicking here.

While hampered by the state and City SEPA laws (weakened over the years by the legislature and the City), SCALE is reviewing the decision and the possibility of further appeal, which cannot be made until after the City Council has adopted MHA. The Mayor and City Council could make appeals unnecessary by rewriting the MHA proposals to better protect affordability and livability. On how to do so, see the article on pp. 6-7 and 18-19 of the winter 2018-19 Eastlake News, available at the top of the column at right.

A Short History of HALA and MHA (Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Agenda; Mandatory House Affordability legislation

[Note—the following is slightly shortened and lightly edited from a document by Toby Thaler, a volunteer and attorney in Fremont who played a key role in the appeal before the Seattle Hearing Examiner of the Mandatory Housing Affordability proposals.]

HALA Committee: Appointed by Mayor Ed Murray in 2014, was a development interest dominated committee. It met for a year behind closed doors.

July 13, 2015: The HALA committee report with 60+ actions is released the same day as the “Grand Bargain” is announced—the “bargain” is a closed door deal between the City and large developers (primarily Vulcan) to keep fees to build housing very low. The HALA report proposes up zoning single family (SF) zoning Citywide. In response to broad public criticism, Murray pulls SF up zoning out and quietly passes that piece to Mike O’Brien. O’Brien and the City push the SF proposal as ADU legislation. SEPA appeals of the ADU proposal continue with a hearing scheduled in late March (https://web6.seattle.gov/Examiner/case/W-18-009). More info: https://queenanneappeal.org/

City proceeds with “inclusionary zoning”: Initially called Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (July 2015), by the end of 2015 it was called “Mandatory Housing Affordability” (MHA) because as proposed MHA is not truly an “inclusionary housing” program. New affordable housing is not required to be included in new buildings or even in the same neighborhood where existing affordable housing is torn down to make room for bigger boxier more expensive housing.

Summer 2016: The City Council passed the “framework ordinance” (SMC 23.58B) for housing fees on commercial developments in 2016. The framework ordinance for residential (MHA-R) passed in August 2016 (SMC 23.58C). These measures implement major aspects of the “grand bargain” without SEPA review. The City proceeds with preparation to up zone considerable portions of the city to implement the MHA.

A year of “Focus Groups”: The City’s major outreach to neighborhoods for the zoning changes under MHA was a year long focus group process. Applications were required and the City selected five (5) representatives from each urban village to represent all interests. Details of proposed zoning map changes were not made available until half way through the year, and there was little opportunity for engagement with or conversations between people in our communities—owners, renters, businesses, land owners.

MHA Final EIS published November 2017—SEPA appeal: The maps were done and folded into a draft EIS in summer 2017. The Final EIS was published in early November. Nine appeals were filed with the City Hearing examiner challenging the adequacy of the FEIS on numerous grounds: https://web6.seattle.gov/Examiner/case/W-17-006

The consolidated SEPA appeals took a year from start to finish and included extensive discovery and numerous experts and other witnesses testifying at 19 days of hearings.
• All discovery documents are available here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/mzoq3wd8weebqh5/AACqtbFnN13gw__q5UZHPCzya?dl=0
• Transcripts of all testimony are available here:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/6fuc1y82dcmob3q/AAAazEAtTpDx8h0wxmv8ypQQa?dl=0
• Almost all of the exhibits are available here:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/glxlph5zd84s4u2/AACfzSL4ugMdGPVeQ5jTjh90a?dl=0

A few key points uncovered by the appeal hearing:

• The City’s 2016 interdepartmental review of the adequacy of the City’s tree ordinances was buried (not disclosed to the public) and was not used to evaluate the impacts of the MHA zoning changes (or the likelihood of mitigation working). The report explicitly found that the tree ordinance is ineffective and doesn’t not protects trees very well. Only due to an “error” by the EIS authors did this report become public (they forgot to scrub the reference to it from the bibliography). (City’s 2016 tree ordinance study documents are available at:

• The report by the City’s hired land use consultant—architect and former City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck—was not used to inform the MHA proposal. The section of Steinbrueck’s report titled “Evaluation of Livability Characteristics for the Urban Villages” was removed and not published by the City. When Mr. Steinbrueck asked the City’s top comprehensive plan senior planner (his contract administrator) why this happened, “he said it wasn’t needed… I was six months too late to be making these recommendations, so it was not relevant at that point… it has shifted from the comprehensive planning division of the City to the more political side of things, which was the momentum behind MHA.” (Testimony of Steinbrueck, Hearing Day 3, pp. 29-30)

• The City’s SEPA expert testified that the only alternative considered to meet the HALA objective of creating more affordable housing was up zoning. While he agreed that there are viable alternatives to meet the City’s objective, the decision to only look at up zones was “baked into the cake” from the beginning. (Testimony of Weinman, Hearing Day 19, pp. 67, 70, etc.)

• On May 1, 2015, the City’s Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) “Change Team” sent a memo to the HALA committee and the City Executive (Mayor’s Office, Office of Housing, DPD/now OPCD) outlining how “racial equity analysis” should be conducted for proposed actions coming out of the committee’s work. Among the “recommendations and best practices” included in that memo are:
• “People of color have access to rental and homeownership opportunities throughout Seattle.” (emphasis added)
• “Preventing and mitigating displacement as growth occurs.”

Despite having this guidance, the City did not convene an RSJI change team review of the MHA proposal until the Draft EIS was in publication in the summer of 2017. The interdepartmental team did conduct a review and the RSJI documents (discovered by appellants in the course of formal “discovery” during the SEPA appeal) concluding that the MHA program and EIS does not meet the City’s stated racial equity objectives. This is true with respect to tree canopy and open space, as well as housing issues. The team found that the EIS simply did not deal with racial equity issues very well when it dealt with them at all. Most of the MHA related RSJI documents are available here:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/0vb40p9bpcg4svh/AADqMLYOQpgfE6QFK0BkPfS0a?dl=0

• The Appellants’ housing economics expert Bill Reid testified that the MHA proposal would lead to more physical and economic displacement. He pointed out the City’s MHA proposal does nothing to address the home ownership issue (i.e., that addressing inequity requires promoting home ownership among historically disadvantaged communities). (Testimony of Reid, Day 2, pp. 73 et seq) He further pointed out that the City’s own data (EIS Appendix M) shows that displacement is occurring all over the City. (Testimony of Reid, Day 19, pp. 152, pp. 159 et seq).

• While the Hearing Examiner agreed with appellants that the EIS was inadequate on evaluation of impacts to historic resources, he rejected all other legal claims. He went so far as to hold that “Economic displacement is not required to be analyzed in an EIS.” Experienced SEPA attorneys regard this as a blatantly incorrect decision.

Faulty Environmental Impact Statement challenged by SCALE (Seattle Coalition for Affordability, Livability, and Equity), a citywide alliance that includes the Eastlake Community Council

To review the environmental impact statement, click here. Notably, its Exhibit 2.8 is grossly mistaken in claiming that Eastlake residents have a low risk of displacement. In fact, most Eastlake residents are renters whose buildings are more likely to be demolished under the Mayor’s plan, to be replaced by luxury buildings likely beyond their means. The housing fees proposed to be charged for this additional development capacity will build subsidized housing elsewhere–and only for the poorest. The middle class who find Eastlake affordable today would be driven out by the Mayor’s proposal.

For other weaknesses in the EIS, click here for ECC’s Sept. 9, 2016 letter with suggestions for the EIS that the City largely ignored. Also, see the report by InvestigateWest on tree loss in urban villages like Eastlake and how “Livability” (the L in HALA) is being ignored.

What’s up?

The proposed upzones would invite a whirlwind of redevelopment that, due to the increased development potential of every commercial and residential lot, will likely demolish most of Eastlake’s remaining affordable rentals and displace most of our middle and lower income renters and many small businesses. Every residential or commercial lot in Eastlake would have a height increase, some by one story, some by two stories, and some by three stories!

The resulting new development will price them out even as developers buy out of on-site affordability requirements. Eastlake will be the cash cow as the buy-out money goes to other developers who build only subsidized housing for the lowest incomes for which the “forgotten middle” are ineligible. And few, if any of the limited number of new subsidized units will be built in Eastlake because our land values are way beyond state and county limits on the cost to produce each subsidized housing unit.

If the City Council fans the flames of speculation, property taxes will go through the roof, with owners of homes, condos, and apartment or commercial buildings pressed to sell — or dramatically increase their residential or commercial rents. Renters and condo/home owners who stay in Eastlake will suffer a loss of views from their homes and from the increasingly overused public spaces. All Eastlakers will suffer with the deterioration of Eastlake’s quality of life–further overloaded streets and buses, ever scarcer parking, and noise, pollution, and the loss of many of Eastlake’s remaining trees. For more background, click here for additional talking points offered by SCALE, a citywide coalition to which ECC belongs.

This upzone process started with a then-secret “Grand Bargain” (see link below) between developers, Mayor Ed Murray, and Councilmember Mike O’Brien. With Murray in disgrace and District 4’s Councilmember Rob Johnson now presiding, the process still lacks transparency or civic engagement, with no real effort to notify or listen to those renters, home and condo owners, and small businesses who would be upzoned.

Released on Nov. 9, 2017, the current zoning map and “preferred alternative” upzone map can both be found at EIS web map. For commercial zones, the existing zone and height are listed first and the proposed new zone and height are listed second. Understanding the notation about residential lots requires consultation with pages 8-9, 33-5, and 46-9 of the Director’s report.

Affordability and livability could both be trashed in Eastlake

Over strong opposition from the Eastlake Community Council and other groups (in column at right, see section on land use in Eastlake for some of the history), Mayors and City Councils in recent years have increased allowable building height and bulk and eliminated yard requirements, inviting rapacious growth that is destroying affordability and livability. Mayor Murray and some City Councilmembers now are pushing this process to a destructive new level with a proposal to impose on Eastlake and other urban villages an increase in allowable building heights by up to two stories .

For the City’s specific zoning and height increases proposed for different lots in Eastlake and other “urban villages” (released on Oct. 19, 2016), click here. For a collection of links on the HALA upzones and their background, click here. For a one-page citywide summary released in 2016 of the proposed increases in height and floor-area-ratio for different zones around the city, click here.

In November, 2016, the City of Seattle released an analysis purporting to show the economic feasibility of its proposed Mandatory Housing Affordability program (click here. In fact the report shows the opposite. The City report is lengthy (28 pages) and in writing it the City was loathe to acknowledge how its own report uncovered serious flaws in the MHA program. Thus a citywide public interest committee of neighborhood leaders and local developers (including Linda Alexander, Cindi Barker, Bill Bradburd, Marty Liebowitz, Anna Nissen, Dennis Saxman and Irene Wall) conducted an independent analysis of the program; click here for this critique, which was released in January 2017. It distills the City report down to 6 major flaws showing that the program will not perform as projected.

Eastlake renters will be particularly hard hit, receiving little or none of the resulting subsidized housing–which in any case would go only to the very poorest and would be located in parts of Seattle far away. No one with a moderate income would receive subsidized housing. Fees collected from developers in cash-cow Eastlake would subsidize rents in other parts of the City, while the frenzy of development attracted to Eastlake by the increased building size would not be affordable and would cause the destruction of most of Eastlake’s remaining older buildings with currently affordable rents. The results would be neither affordable nor livable, and would worsen an already unsustainable parking situation.

Background on the “Grand Bargain”

In the Mayor’s “Grand Bargain” deal with private and non-profit developers, cooked up behind closed doors without involvement or even notice to neighborhood advocates or the press, a small fraction of the profits from this growth juggernaut would allow developers to buy out of having to build any affordable housing. Their modest housing fee (far less than in other cities using this scheme) would become a slush fund for non-profit housing developers to build subsidized housing for available only to those with incomes 60 percent or below the Seattle median income). But little or none would be built in Eastlake because most projects would still need county, state, and federal money that is conditioned on keeping per-unit construction costs lower than is feasible with Eastlake’s high and growing property values.

The proposed FAR and height increases are part of a supposed “grand bargain” that was cooked up behind closed doors and pushed through the Mayor’s so-called Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee. Contrary to that committee’s name, the proposals would undermine Eastlake’s affordability and livability—not surprising considering that the committee was ludicrously overloaded with development industry sympathizers who will profit from that result.

The only concession that the Mayor and City Council have made to public outrage over this unseemly process has been to promise not to change to multifamily zones any of the single family zoned land that is not located in a designated urban center or urban village like Eastlake. This cynical departure from what has otherwise been portrayed as an indivisible “package” should have invalidated any “grand bargain,” but of course the advocates are choosing instead to push the additional development pressures on Eastlake and other multifamily zoned neighborhoods that are not equally protected.

Central to the HALA proposals from Mayor Murray and some City Councilmembers would be a major increase in the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) allowed in “residential urban villages” like Eastlake. FAR may seem arcane, but the proposed increase would translate into height increases of at least ten feet and possible twenty feet or more in the multifamily and commercial zones that comprise most of Eastlake’s land. These changes could destroy much of Eastlake’s remaining affordability and livability–and yet were proposed by a “Housing Affordability and Livability” advisory committee (nicknamed HALA). To see the map that has all Eastlake land proposed for much bigger buildings than currently allowed, click here. For background from the City’s point of view, click here.

On August 15, 2016, the City Council unanimously passed an ordinance authorizing these “affordability” requirements–but the gesture will mean nothing unless a zoning ordinance allows the increased building heights and footprints. (For the official line, see the web site of the City Council’s Committee on Planning, Land Use & Zoning (http://www.seattle.gov/council/committees/planning-land-use-and-zoning).

Although the Nov. 21, 2018 decision by the Hearing Examiner ruled that except for historical resources the City’s environmental impact statement (EIS) as adequate, the Hearing Examiner also found that the EIS did not analyze MHA’s the impacts specifically upon each neighborhood, including Eastlake. The Hearing Examiner’s ruling held that state law and the Seattle Municipal Code do not require that the EIS specifically analyze the impacts upon each neighborhood.

Go figure: Whatever large trees still exist on private land would be wiped away as boxy new buildings take over. Eastlake’s remaining moderately affordable rentals would fall to up-scale development as our neighborhood becomes a sacrifice area and cash cow for building subsidized housing elsewhere for those on lowest incomes. Let us hope that the EIS is thorough and not politically driven.

More background on the City’s Mandatory Housing Affordability proposals to allow increased height and footprint of new residential and commercial buildings for the claim of affordable housing

Under the State Environmental Policy Act, the City of Seattle is required to conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS) about the Land Use Code ordinance that some City officials and some in the development industry want as a way toward highly profitable increases in height and floor area of new residential and commercial buildings.

The legislation would impose on urban villages or centers like Eastlake (which is classified as a residential urban village) a height increase of one or two stories and an increase in building footprint (reduced “setbacks” — no longer yards of any meaningful size). In exchange, new projects would either provide some affordable units on site (don’t bet on it) or would buy themselves out with a modest housing fee into a City fund to help non-profit housing developers build subsidized housing (available only to those with incomes 60 percent or below the Seattle median income). On Sept. 9., 2016, ECC sent to the City a four-page letter with HALA EIS scoping comments. To see it, click here. We will provide progress reports here about the EIS as they become available.

Contacting the City Councilmembers

As mentioned above, the City Council needs to hear from you. Be sure to communicate with the nine City Councilmembers individually, rather than by a collective e-mail or letter (which is far less likely to be heeded). The e-mail addresses are as follows: sally.bagshaw@seattle.gov; teresa.mosqueda@seattle.gov; lorena.gonzalez@seattle.gov; bruce.harrell@seattle.gov; lisa.herbold@seattle.gov; rob.johnson@seattle.gov; debora.juarez@seattle.gov; mike.obrien@seattle.gov; and kshama.sawant@seattle.gov. You can also reach the City Councilmembers by letter at 600 Fourth Avenue, 2nd floor, P.O. Box 34025, Seattle, WA 98124-4025, or by fax at 206-684-8587. Please cc the Eastlake Community Council at info@eastlakeseattle.org, so we can keep you in the loop as these debates continue to heat up.

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