Speak Up Regarding MHA Impacts! (Due September 9)

Increased density and zoning changes are proposed in Wallingford and other urban villages under the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) framework.  The City has determined that MHA will have a significant adverse impact on the environment, and therefore the City is required to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  The EIS will consider potential impacts associated with land use, housing and socioeconomics, public services, transportation, utilities, open space and recreation, aesthetics and height/bulk/scale, and historic resources.

The City government needs to hear from you now regarding the impacts of the proposed zoning changes!  Development without concurrent mitigation benefits no one, regardless of whether one resides inside or outside of an urban village, in an apartment, a condominium, or a house.

Comments are now being accepted on the scope of the EIS.  You may comment on alternatives, mitigation measures, probable significant adverse impacts, and licenses or other approvals that may be required.  Consider incorporating the concerns described below, and send your comments by 5:00 PM on September 9, 2016.

  1. Written comments may be submitted via email to Geoffrey.Wentlandt@seattle.gov.
  2. Written comments may be submitted via standard mail to:
    Sam Assefa, Director
    Office of Planning & Community Development
    700 5th Ave, Suite 1900
    PO Box 94788
    Seattle, WA 98124­-7088
  3. Written or verbal comments may be made in person at the following public meeting:
    Saturday August 27, 2016
    Ballard Summer Parkways EventCityScoop
    Ballard Ave. NW, between NW Market St. and 22nd Ave. NW
    1:00 PM – 3:00 PM


List of Concerns

Housing and Socioeconomics:

Economic Segregation – Under the MHA framework, desirable neighborhoods will experience maximum for-profit development of expensive multifamily housing.  Replacing the existing mix of housing that serves diverse income levels with denser expensive housing will result in stark economic segregation between Seattle neighborhoods.  This will amplify inequities for schools and public services in neighborhoods of different socioeconomic status.

Economic Segregation – MHA allows developers to pay a fee in-lieu of providing affordable housing on-site.  This is a missed opportunity to provide affordable housing in every neighborhood.  Allowing developers to avoid building affordable housing units in the neighborhood increases the socioeconomic segregation of neighborhoods, and further decreases the likelihood that affordable housing will ever be built there.  In addition, the processing of in-lieu fees will greatly delay the construction of critically needed affordable housing units.

Displacement of Low-Income Residents – Encouraging redevelopment of existing housing under the MHA framework will increase turnover of existing low-cost housing while providing very few (2 to 5% of new) affordable housing units.  All new market-rate housing will be more expensive than current housing units.  The threshold of MHA affordable housing is 60% of Area Median Income (AMI), which is too expensive for low-income workers.  The EIS should study MHA alternatives that include more affordable housing, with lower AMI thresholds.

Family Housing – About 700 single-family homes in the Wallingford urban village, many of them rentals, are targeted for redevelopment into multifamily units.  Currently, developers are almost exclusively building studio and one-bedroom apartments, which do not accommodate families with children.  MHA-driven new development will decrease housing diversity and will drive families out of the urban villages.

Increased Cost of Living – Currently, developers do not pay State-allowed impact fees for Seattle development.  Instead, the costs of required infrastructure improvements (for example, roads, sidewalks, bridges, public transit, public safety, parks, schools, utilities, and community services) will be paid for by current Seattle residents and businesses, which increases their cost of living.  Developers profit from increased housing density; they need to help mitigate the economic impact of that development.  Therefore, impact fees should be imposed on builders and developers to help provide these critical elements of livability, which MHA does not provide.

Displacement of Local Businesses – Small businesses contribute to the heart of neighborhood culture and community.  Encouraging redevelopment of existing property under the MHA framework will increase turnover of existing affordable business space, while providing few new affordable commercial units.  All new market-rate business space will be more expensive than current commercial units, which increases the displacement risk to local businesses.  In addition, MHA development-driven disruptions (relocation, construction disturbances, impaired pedestrian and vehicle traffic flow, loss of parking, and diminished ambiance) will threaten the survival of these local businesses.

Public Services:

Public Schools – Seattle Public Schools are already severely underfunded and overcapacity.  Along with additional housing density, MHA does not plan for any of the following: increased demand for schools, identifying locations for new schools, acquiring land for new schools, or funding construction of new schools.  MHA must address these critical impacts for current and future families living in Seattle.

Community Services – The increased housing density proposed under MHA will strain already underfunded community services such as recreation centers, senior centers, and services for the elderly and disabled.  MHA needs to address these concerns.

Parking – The City does not have a comprehensive parking policy.  MHA does not address the increased demand for residential and commercial parking that will accompany the increase in housing density.  In particular, there may be a dire impact on businesses who depend on street parking for customer and delivery access.

Public Safety – With increased housing density and residential population, there is an increased need for police, fire, and public health services.  MHA does not identify, plan for, or propose funding for the increased demand for public safety services.

Transportation:

MHA imposes increased housing density in urban villages, properties zoned multifamily, and properties zoned commercial.  The City has no concrete plan to mitigate the negative impacts of increased density on already-congested street traffic, insufficient parking, and overcrowded public transportation.  Furthermore, the City has not budgeted any funds to mitigate these negative impacts concurrent with construction of increased housing density.  These negative transportation impacts must be addressed under MHA.

Utilities:

The EIS should address the increased demand for public utilities due to increased housing density under MHA.  This includes increased demand for drinking water, electricity, natural gas, sewers and sewage treatment, garbage collection and disposal, and surface water management, and increased strain on existing infrastructure.  Many utilities take decades to plan for increased capacity.

Presently the City is in violation of clean water standards because it discharges untreated sewage into local waterways through Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) during heavy rains.  The City and County solution for this problem will not be completed for 10 to 15 years.  In the near term, MHA will exacerbate CSO impacts due to (1) increased storm water runoff resulting from more impervious surfaces, and (2) increased volume of raw sewage from more toilets.  MHA needs to address the increased risks to water quality, public health, and environmental safety.

Open Space and Recreation:

Open spaces, including yards and parks, improve the health of residents and the environment.  Trees and green spaces provide cooling, mitigate surface water runoff, and absorb pollutants and greenhouse gases.  The density and zoning changes proposed by MHA do not mandate the preservation of trees and green spaces; this needs to be addressed.

Parks and yards provide recreation and relaxation for residents.  By replacing single family housing with multifamily housing, MHA will reduce yard space and will increase the burden on existing park space.  MHA does not provide for the expansion of park space to accommodate the increased housing density.

Aesthetics and Height/Bulk/Scale:

Housing should be more than just containment units for humans.  Wherever one lives, light, air, open space, greenery, and aesthetics are important.  The proposed one-size-fits-all zoning changes do not take these values into account.  The increased bulk and lot coverage of buildings under MHA will significantly decrease access to these amenities.  Livability will diminish as yards, greenery, and open space disappear.

Historic Resources:

Historically significant neighborhoods risk losing their beautiful old homes and buildings forever.  Architecturally valuable older homes and buildings should be protected and renovated, not subjected to demolition.

Links to Additional Information

Determination of Significance and Request for Comments on Scope of EIS
Drugs found in Puget Sound salmon from tainted wastewater
Central Staff Memo – Seattle 2035: Growth Strategy and Land Use Elements
Mayor Murray – MHA-R Press Release Info
The HALA Engagement Problem – Wallyhood Blog
Seattle 2035: Turning the Emerald City into the Concrete Jungle – Wallyhood Blog
MHA: The Mayor’s Path to Upzoning – Wallyhood Blog
Why an “Urban Village” needs HALA – Wallyhood Blog
WallHALA – Previous Calls-to-Action

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