Seattle District 6 City Council Candidate Forum Summary – May 8, 2019

Seattle City Council District 6 Candidate Forum

Call to Order – Paul Kostek 7:07pm

Question 1: Green Lake Community Center – one of the most used facilities in the state, but also one of the most run down. “What’s up with that?” What do you see as a solution for that?

Jay – Long history with the Green Lake Community Center. Has been coaching basketball there. Does not know why it’s in such disrepair. Doesn’t need to stay that way. It’s something a council member needs to have a good handle on. The facilities are notably not that nice.

Dan – As somebody who has lived around Green Lake, it’s surprising that the facilities haven’t been updated. It’s the responsibility of the City Council to fix it.

Jon – Agreed with the others. Also believes that it starts with budgets and fiscal responsibility. Believes he can do a good job with that. We should be taking advantage of tools available to us, like impact fees, but doesn’t know why we haven’t been doing that.

Question 2: What is your plan to address homelessnesss and encampments?

Dan – We have a crisis and we know what the solutions are. We’ve known for five years. We need temporary housing, with funding to build additional housing. Is absolutely a “housing first” candidate. If you’re having to schlep your things around, it’s hard to keep an ID.

Jay – Difficult to address this massive problem in two minutes. The path to homelessnes is very long and very complex. We know the current approach is not working. Have talked to hundreds of people. Has spent decades advocating with homeless, and also believes we’re failing. Need to work with the police and prosecutors to enforce laws as it’s not helping anyway. We need more housing, we need more shelters, we need more people to help with treating mental health issues. We need to partner with agencies across the region.

John – I think we are getting better, but it’s getting more difficult fast. Also believes in a “housing first” strategy. The state is already bumping up support for this. The city and King County are creating a new entity so we don’t work in silos. We can’t have people camping on sidewalks and in parks anymore.

Question 3: What is your position on rezoning single family areas and accessory dwellings?

Jon – Has been working on this for years. The ordinance didn’t take into account resident feedback – was primarily driven by developers. It’s important that people who want to age in place have that opportunity. The latest ordinance requires developers to be in the house one year if they want to build an accessory unit.

Jay – More and more people are moving here. It’s been discovered. Having the same land use laws from the 40’s doesn’t make any sense. We need to update the laws, but in a way that retains the culture of the different neighborhoods. New generations want to live in localized density and urban villages. All of these things need to be done with good, careful neighborhood input.

Dan – With property taxes tied to increase value of homes, we see values rising and people are really getting pinched. Recently helped someone move out of their home because they couldn’t afford to live in the city. There is a place for ADUs so it can allow people to stay in their home and make an income. Can’t be everywhere and everything.

Question 4: Police aren’t enforcing illegal activity. How would you go about trying to rectify this issue?

Dan – The police said they need more detectives. Has personally been a victim of property crime. We know who they are and don’t know why we’re not following up. Has watched emphasis patrols, and has seen enforcement done in the middle of the night. It shouldn’t be happening then. There’s a balance between rattling someone’s life and checking in on them.

Jay – Every society since the beginning of time has needed a public safety force. Our police are understaffed. They feel underappreciated. Police is under a consent decree. Need to make sure they’re policing in the proper ways. Doesn’t completely understand why we’re not on the same page as far as a strategy.

Jon – Lives in Ballard, and for the first time in maybe eight years saw a cop come down his street. Need another police precinct and it takes a long time for the police to respond. Doesn’t believe that jail is the best place for someone with mental illness or addiction.

Questions from the Audience

Q: Community center was built in the 30’s. The pool was built in the 50’s – first pool in Seattle. The Mayor and City Council has committed to completing a new design with public money. Would you support that?

Jay – The facility hasn’t changed since he played third grade basketball there. Would work with the group to get the facility replaced.

Jon – Absolutely support it. Is with Seattle Fair Growth, and believe we need places like these.

Dan – That’s the response we get from Seattle departments all the time – happy to do a study, but not commit to actually completing the project. Believes we should not only do the plan completely done, but straight away start saving to build the project.

Community center is closed on Sunday – find this abhorrent. It costs around $400/day to keep it open. Can you commit to keep it open on Sunday?

Dan – Yes. Not just our community, but across the city.

Jon – Agreed. We need to have community centers open on the weekend. It is a budget issue.

Question on ADUs. Some allow up to units on a lot. Do you support this? Secondly, how do you feel about this “one size fits all” when it comes to zoning?

Jon – Okay with three units. Concerned about having too many residents on a single lot. Concerned with developers being able to buy, resell or AirBnB those units. Wants people to be able to age in place or have more families in a neighborhood. As far as blanket, “one size fits all”, we think each neighborhood has different needs.

Jay – “One size fits all” doesn’t usually work in most cases. In these sorts of things with property, not a fan, does not think it’s the way to go. Not an expert on the ADU, thinks three would probably be okay. Would like to hear more reasons for or against.

Dan – ADU and DADU, current proposal doesn’t change the rules on the square footage of units on the property. Does support three units because it doesn’t change envelop of what can currently be built.

What would your plan be to preserve single family neighborhoods?

Jon – Came here because it was one of the most livable cities in the country. Part of that was because of the single family neighborhoods. Need to stick to urban village strategy. A lot of the current development is causing displacement and the problems we’re trying to fix.

Jay – We need to look at it neighborhood by neighborhood. We would lose a lot of the great things if we didn’t do that.

Dan – This is not the city that I grew up in. The city has changed. It’s still coming, and we need to be ready for more.

Developers can buy out of affordable housing in new developments. Since the majority of people becoming homeless have families, will any of you look at changing the requirement for a developer that instead of buying out, that they actually have to replace a percentage of what they tear down? What they’re rebuilding is not affordable.

Jay – You hit the problem on the head. I was talking to a neighbor who is 60 years old, born and raised here, not wealthy, she said she knows the 1964 unit is going to get sold and torn down and doesn’t want to move to Arlington, or where ever. Clearly there needs to be impact fees. Need to make sure we’re not worsening the problem.

Dan – You nailed it. I’ve watched this problem. Either we need to require more units in place, or we need to up the fees. The funds don’t have to be used to build units where the fees were collected.

Jon – Would support requiring building where the fees were collected. Already appealed for a big reason being the low fees. Other cities charge more 15-35%, but here we’re getting 2-9%. There needs to be more incentives to build onsite. 

Everybody’s good on ADUs and DADUs – where do all of those people park?

Jon – I totally agree. The city is going to get over 100k people in the next 10 years. We do need to have the infrastructure, and bike lanes for people getting around. Does think it was a mistake of saying new units don’t need parking. “The city doesn’t want cars, but I still need to get around.” Until we have that infrastructure, we still need cars.

Dan – A lot of promises were made, but they haven’t been delivered on. When we create the ability to go to a bus stop and get where they need to go, people have to rely on their cars. For the first time the city has purchased their own coaches because metro wouldn’t buy the fast enough. You can rely on him to support transit so that people can get where they need to go.

Jay – We need to push for transit and other options to get people where they need to go. That said, says they still need parking. Not as much, but still need it.

There’s a lot of challenges in the city, and the police are having a hard time. Are you going to be pro-police?

Jon – I am pro-police. Just giving compensation is just table stakes. What we really have to do is create a good culture. Not having to deal with homeless is another part of that so that the police don’t have to deal with it. His wife used to ride her bike to work, and she doesn’t anymore because she doesn’t feel safe.

Jay – A really complex issue. Has lived in Fremont for 15 years, two weeks ago was the first time his kids came home and said there was a needle. The police have to partner and have the right marching orders and needs to be done in partnership with the mayor, council and other city and county agencies. What we’re doing now is not working.

Dan – We need to increase the services to support the homeless. Now have ways to direct people to the right services. Only within the last year. The role of the council is to ask questions to the police – is to ask the hard questions.

Was here about two years ago for a meeting with Metro. Was told that they’re about 200 drivers short. What can we do to make the city more affordable to help with transportation?

Jay – Cities have been designed around cars. We can’t be expecting people to take mass transit if it’s not reliable or not safe. Some people complain about the Lime and Jump bikes parked on the street. They shouldn’t be on sidewalks, but they don’t take up anywhere near the space of cars parking.

Dan – Need better transit. Is perplexed by Metro not hiring more drivers. We have the money.

Jon – Looks a Japan for a reliable transportation system. We’ve made a lot of transportation related mistakes. Will have to make some tough choices, including congestion pricing. It’s a tough choice. It’s been proven in Singapore and London.

What are your thoughts on rent control?

Dan – With MHA, we have a number of fees that have not be collected. Would love to see what to do with those fees to address housing issues. Rent control is at the state level. Will fight for income verified housing within the city.

Jay – Need to look at free market options. We need to look at rent subsidies. Would model it after Obamacare – a sliding scale based on what someone can afford.

Jon – The city should have the option of rent stabilization. In some cities, like San Francisco, it can cause gentrification. A lot of people think the best way to reduce housing costs is to build. We’ve been building, and it’s not working here. We’re bulldozing older, more affordable housing, and building more expensive studio and one bedroom apartments.

Doesn’t see the homeless issues in Bellevue that we see in Seattle. Why?

Jon – Bellevue has impact fees and builds the infrastructure we don’t have here. We have services here. We see so many people because of these.

Jay – One of the things you said is it’s embarrassing. I agree with you. A neighbor said she grew up in New Delhi, India, and now I’m seeing scenes that remind me of there. We have a moral obligation to do better.

Dan – When we go to charge developer fees, people get so upset and push back. We see it working elsewhere, but it’s not happening here. We haven’t kept up on pace for creating affordable housing.

If you were elected, which committee would you like to serve on most?

Dan – Land Use and Transportation. Transit only lanes getting around town would be the first issue.

Jon – Land Use and Transportation. Undo a lot of the problems that have been created in the last four years.

Jay – It sounds like they’re going to redo the committees. Is interested in accountability and the budget.