Responses may be lightly edited for clarity and formatting. Please note that Historic Seattle does not endorse candidates for public office.
1. What’s your favorite historic place in Seattle and why do you think it’s important?
I am a big fan of the Youngstown/Cooper School. The 80 year history educating North Delridge children made it the heart of the neighborhood and “a symbol of hard work and success.” Now it’s the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, and an important contribution to the community and adds vitality and value.
2. How can Seattle accommodate its increase in density while preserving the unique character of its neighborhoods?
By 2035 Seattle is expected to grow by 120,000 new residents, with 70,000 new housing units. While I am supportive of the HALA recommendations, I do have some reservations. Upzoning areas creates incentives to demolish existing housing in order to reap higher profits from building up. I have, over the years, expressed my great concern that the City describes MHA as “housing displacement mitigation tool,” but has badly analyzed how development removes more affordable housing than the resources from MHA are sufficient to replace.
For example, in the case of the University District MHA upzone in 2017, the City estimated that only 40-275 units of existing affordable housing would be demolished over 20 years. The EIS estimated likely demolition by identifying specific redevelopable parcels and quantifying their existing housing (zero, for parking lots and commercial buildings). The “full build-out” scenario wherein construction occurs on all redevelopable parcels to the full capacity of the proposed rezone was estimated to result in the demolition of 275 homes over 20 years. In less than 2 years, based upon a Council Central Staff analysis of new development projects that are currently in some stage of having their Master Use Permit issued or Early Design Guidance reviewed and that are subject to the new zoning put in place in 2017, 96 units of affordable units are already planned for demolition.
Displacement is a challenging issue and we need many tools to address it. For this reason, I introduced legislation to address those instances when existing affordable units in areas having a high risk of displacement and low access to opportunity in the Growth and Equity: Analyzing Impacts on Displacement and Opportunity Related to Seattle’s Growth Strategy, in the Comprehensive Plan Seattle 2035.
This ordinance would use authority granted under the State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) to create a requirement for developers to mitigate the impacts resulting from the loss of affordable housing in those areas of the city that, if we didn’t do so, the result would be a failure to fulfill our obligation to “affirmatively promote fair housing” — in other words, in areas where disproportionate displacement of communities of color and other protected classes is likely to occur.
If reelected I will work with my new colleagues to continue to move this bill forward.
3. The cultural spaces which many people feel define Seattle are increasingly at risk of redevelopment. Do you feel that it is important to preserve these places, and how can we accomplish this?
Preservation of cultural spaces is important in Seattle. Affordability, and avoiding displacement, is a critical question not only for people: it is also critical for keeping our cultural spaces. I am working to avoid displacement of residents, and also cultural spaces.
The Office of Arts and Culture published an innovative report, The CAP Report: 30 Ideas for the Creation, Activation and Preservation of Cultural Space. The report addresses the question of cultural space affordability directly. I held a briefing in the committee I chair, and I’ve worked to implement a number of the recommendations.
For example, I created a joint arts/permitting liaison position, to assist cultural space projects in navigating the permitting process. I’ve recently shared this with people in District 1.
Perhaps most important is the recommendation to “Create a Cultural Space Management PDA” (Public Development Authority).
This proposal in the report is to: “Develop a new organization with the means and authority to manage large amounts of space for cultural uses. This new semi-independent organization can lease, develop, or purchase real estate for the purpose of subleasing to cultural users at subsidized rates.”
As noted in the report, a PDA can help preserve cultural spaces in a number of ways:
● Developers can point to secure long-term revenue from cultural tenants, which is attractive to financers
● Developers do not need to seek out cultural tenants and replace them, if necessary, over time
● Artists and cultural organizations can depend on consistent rental rates
● A PDA can serve as a source of information for those seeking cultural space
● PDAs may be able to offer additional sources of revenue for cultural projects
● Grants and fundraising efforts can subsidize cultural organizations’ lease rates
I passed a budget motion to require a report to the Council on whether development of a PDA is feasible, the results of a racial equity toolkit analysis, and an implementation plan.
The Office of Arts and Culture (ARTS) published a preliminary report exploring this recommendation, Structure for Stability, that includes analysis on recommendations on potential paths forward involving a PDA, a nonprofit, and the City. The report emphasizes the importance of keeping a focus on race, and being community-driven. I plan to host a briefing on this report in the committee I chair, and on the final report, extended later this year, on the final recommendations.
It’s also important to give credit to private sector developers who have prioritized maintenance of cultural spaces. John Bennett has done great work to preserve cultural spaces in South Park and Georgetown, and keep rents affordable.
4. How would you strengthen the City’s historic preservation program to ensure continued protection of designated Seattle Landmarks and historic districts?
I’ve learned through my work with Historic Seattle trying to save The Showbox that we should consider expanding the permitted controls negotiated for landmarked properties to include controls that preserve the use of a property.
5. What role does historic preservation play in planning and land use beyond designating landmarks and historic districts?
Seattle has an inventory of historic properties, many of them not in historic districts and many of them not landmarked. We must use those inventories when making zoning changes so that we don’t inadvertently create incentives for developers to demolish and redevelop those properties.