Ten years. That's how long it's been since the United States Supreme Court handed down its opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart, a case testing a federal ban on the intact dilation and extraction abortion procedure. A notable holding: an exception for the health of the pregnant woman was unnecessary because the medical community had not reached "consensus" on this point. Unsurprisingly the opinion was an #AllMalePanel. 

By opening the door to allowing junk "science" into the court proceedings below, and accepting a lack of consensus as a means to ignore the safety and health of pregnant women, the Court has done lasting damage, and we are seeing the effects in tightening of restrictions across the country. While there is the Frye test for admissibility of scientific evidence, the assumption that judges have no bias is wrong. The current administration is hell-bent on demeaning and restricting the rights of women. With his pick of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, it is clear this misogyny will extend to his judicial picks, and anti-choice judges are much more likely to support evidence submitted by anti-choice state governments to meet the need of restricting access to abortion. 

With (some) liberals still obsessing over ideological purity at all levels (seriously, if you think a primary challenge to Sen. Heidi Heitkamp or Joe Manchin will do anything but help Republicans, you're stuck in a liberal bubble), the reality is that we risk a second term of Donald Trump. As part of the lefty "dream team" in 2015, it troubles me greatly to see the rate and velocity in which some are so goddamn convinced that the only way to make the DNC more liberal is to tear apart the Party from the ground up. Ignoring that we have the most liberal DNC Chair in...forever, there remains a loud group of folks hell-bent on burning down all that we have. And the people who will lose - poor people, women, communities of color, the LGBTQ community. The devastation of a second term is that dire. And ideological purity tests in red states is not going to bring about the change we need as a country. 

The most damaging part of this administration will be felt in the courts. While Barack Obama had done plenty to reshape the judiciary, the Republicans did a phenomenal job blocking appointments from occurring. The opening this has created at all levels of the judiciary means, plainly, that Roe v. Wade is at risk. While Carhart opened the door for even more restrictions on abortion based on junk science, eliminating Roe will mean states will outlaw abortion. 

Here in Washington, the impacts of a repeal of Roe will likely be less severe. In 1970, Washington voters approved Referendum 20, legalizing early abortions. That was three years before Roe. Washington recommitted to abortion rights and access in 1991 with the passage of Initiative 120, codifying the holding of Roe into state law. Anti-choice activists attempted to pass a restriction on "late-term" abortions in 1998 with Initiative 694 - and voters soundly rejected the measure, with 57% voting no. 

This leaves us with a choice. With male-dominated legislatures across the country looking to restrict women's access to abortion, the women most impacted will be poor women. Fun fact: wealthy white women will always have access to safe abortion procedures. Money buys a lot. Our choice boils down to this: what will we do as a city and state to ensure that all women, regardless of where they live, can have access to safe, affordable abortions?

For one, as individuals, we can support the CAIR Project. CAIR provides resources so women who have to travel for an abortion, but can't afford it, can have that choice. 

As a government, we can work to provide additional support and funding for organizations like the CAIR Project. This comes in many forms. Using tax dollars to support low-cost short-term medical-rental units, for instance, means more money can be spread to support more women who need to travel great distances for an abortion procedure. Backstop funding for organizations like Planned Parenthood, particularly in light of the attacks by the federal government on family planning dollars, will help keep the cost of abortion affordable. Requiring insurers to provide abortion coverage means fewer women will need the support of the CAIR Project for the procedure cost. 

To me, being pro-choice is about more than just opposing laws that would restrict abortion access. It means being willing to do more to ensure all women have access to the medical care they need, and have access to safe and affordable abortion services. While we continue to make progress on birth control access (HURRAH! on Washington moving to 12-month prescriptions!), and education in the classroom, we must not abdicate our responsibility to women across the state and country who lack access to the full range of family planning options. 

This obligation isn't limited in scope. All levels of government have a role to play - whether in direct action, or through lobbying efforts. I look forward to hearing more from our City Council and Mayoral candidates this year on what they intend to do for reproductive healthcare access, beyond just stating that they are "pro-choice."


Running for office means you get the opportunity to learn. A lot. I considered myself a bit of a Red Mage (can do a lot of things, suck at all of it) rather than a specialist during my first campaign in 2015, and came out of the campaign educated on so many more topics than I could have thought of. 

I believe that what someone does with that knowledge is incredibly important. I like to think I view public policy through an equity lens (although not always as successfully as I would like), and that means that it is important to share learning. That doesn't always come easy. I remember a time having beers with Mercedes Elizalde after the primary (she was a candidate in D5), and we were working on a project to educate more people about Tiny Houses, how they are a great interim measure that provide something way better than a tent, job training, and a more aesthetically pleasing option for neighbors. I wanted to have more of a background role in everything, and didn't want to get credit where none was necessarily due. I loved the idea, but it wasn't my idea, and too often we see politicians taking ideas (in particular white dudes from women and people of color), and running with them as if they were their own. I was reluctant to be one of those politicians. 

Mercedes' take: it doesn't fucking matter. Roll with it because the result is far more important than the individuals. Be sure to give credit where it is due, but use the megaphone the electorate gave you during this campaign to turn this into an issue. 

One issue that we didn't discuss much during the campaign, but has stuck with me, is the effects of Initiative 200. I-200 was the ballot measure that effectively ended Affirmative Action in Washington State. Passed in 1998, just over 58% of Washingtonians felt that we had reached such a level of tolerance and acceptance that we no longer needed to focus on policy through equity. 

Tabor 100 is a local organization that works to help support women and minority owned business (WMB) owners connect with each other, and connect with work for their businesses. The organization is named after Langston Tabor, someone who fought I-200, and spent his life working to help black-owned small businesses succeed. Success of WMBs means more positive outcomes for historically marginalized communities, and is part of how we can ensure "all boats are lifted," so to speak. 

Throughout my campaign, I visited Tabor 100 a few times, and spent time listening outside of their monthly meetings to small business owners. One thing that really stuck with me: the impact of I-200 on WMBs, particularly in contracting and sub-contracting with government entities. Prior to I-200, a government could require that a certain amount of sub-contracts on a major contract went to WMBs. Much better than priority hire, this meant smaller developers who were from the community and hiring in the community could get the contracts that would lift them and their workers economically. 

Following I-200, WMBs saw something like a 90% drop in sub-contracts awarded. One man spoke about how he thought he was doing good work because the general contractors said he was. But once they no longer had to hire WMBs for sub-contracts, they decided to go with their white friends' businesses. A reduced ability to build equity in businesses led to fewer WMBs that did construction and other contract work, which led to fewer young men of color having a path to a good job. We are going on 20 years, and the disparate impact is real - even if we don't like to talk about it. 

The long-term impacts, I believe, include the gentrification that we are seeing right now in places like the Central District and down Rainier Ave S. 

Developers get a bad rap in Seattle. However, every time I hear people talk about that time they actually talked with a developer doing a project in their neighborhood, it has been followed by "and they worked to address my concern." Developers from Seattle - wait for it - care about Seattle. This is just as much their community as it is everyone else's. While there are some true jackass developers out there, I don't carry the same auto-hate for local developers that others do. 

But another thing that I have noticed: developers tend to do really great projects in the neighborhoods (and adjacent neighborhoods) in which they live. That's not to imply that developers care less about other neighborhoods, just that they know less. And this can readily lead to projects that don't exactly contemplate the history of a place. Make no mistake, we have some history of places in Seattle, and throwing away the history for the sake of progress is not a wise move. At the same time, blocking progress for the sake of history is equally unwise. 

So imagine, if you will, more of the developers in the Central District, or the south end, being WMBs. By not having an avenue for growth and stability by way of government contracts, we took boats that had holes in them (thanks to historical and institutional racism), and took away the bucket, giving it to the boats that were already in good repair. Instead of working to patch up the holes of institutional racism through contracts and growth of community wealth, we squandered the ability to right many wrongs. I honestly believe that had I-200 not passed, we would have more developers in the south end and the Central District who are from there, and who would develop with the community in mind from the perspective of being a part of that community

As a city and region, we (rightfully) protest unjust immigration laws by refusing to participate in federal deportation schemes. As a state, we thumb our nose at federal drug laws with legal marijuana. I believe we should do the same on I-200. Through acknowledgment of the disparate impact the law has had, and continues to have, the City of Seattle should stand up and commit to re-implementing affirmative action in our contracts. Priority hire is great, but I believe we can do better, and if we are going to be the city of bold action, let's be bold for communities that have been missing out on the fruits of prosperity for far too long. 

I've been asking candidates about this, and there remains a lot of education to do. It is unfortunate how easy it is to forget about such grossly adverse initiatives, but unsurprising given who has benefited from the passage of I-200. I look forward to more people having meaningful (and public) conversations about how we can right this wrong. Because if we are committed to being a city for everyone, that means committing to opportunity for everyone. 

#April6 Part 2

The ongoing saga regarding Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has continued at breakneck pace this week. Just today, the Mayor had an editorial published on Slog. It's long, but the issue at hand is anything but simple. However, it has made me think, and filled me with sadness, rage, and other feelings that are indescribable. As I noted last week, I believe that our city's response to the allegations will speak volumes. 

One of the troubling aspects of this case is the firm involved. While Lincoln Beauregard says that he is "SUPER pro gay rights," he still actively works to make money for Jack Connelly. Of course, Mr. Connelly likes to say he is not anti-gay, but he continues to hold positions that are contrary to this statement. Running on a platform for State Senate that included opposition to marriage equality, and just last year kicking in $50,000 to repeal rules designed to treat our trans siblings with the respect they deserve, Jack Connelly is, for lack of better term, a bigot. If Mr. Beauregard is so opposed to the anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ dignity politics of Mr. Connelly, maybe he should have left awhile ago, and stopped making money for Mr. Connelly. 

But he hasn't. He continues to be a rainmaker for Jack Connelly. That is not "SUPER pro gay rights." And let's be clear - there is no lack of firms out there that handle the same type of cases. Given Mr. Beauregard's history of success as a litigator, I have faith that many of these firms would gladly bring him in with open arms. He is making a choice. 

And the initial attorney for D.H. made a choice. Connelly Law isn't the only shop in town that deals with sex abuse cases. Schroeter Goldmark Bender, Ressler & Tesh, Gordon Thomas Honeywell, Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala, to name a few. And, to my knowledge, none of these firms have the same history of opposition to LGBTQ civil rights as Jack Connelly does. Had this matter been handled by just about any firm other than Connelly Law Office, then I can't imagine the same type of focus being put on the attorneys (and I also would expect less of a trial by public, and more leaving information to the discovery process - but that's a separate issue altogether). 

Now that that is out of the way - 

Back to the Mayor's piece on the Slog. As a rule, I like to think that in a situation such as this, the "I" is less important than the "we." One would hope that the thought process goes beyond "what do I have to gain," to "how will this impact our city, and how will this impact survivors of sexual assault?" On this, Ed Murray has failed our city, and has failed survivors of sexual assault. 

Regarding the accuser from 2008, Ed Murray has this to say:

"And, most importantly, law enforcement had long ago investigated and declined to prosecute."

This is used as a rationale to explain away this accuser as a liar. Yet, of the 310 out of every 1,000 rapes reported to police, only 11 get referred for prosecution. By Mr. Murray's calculation, if it isn't prosecuted, it isn't true. With this statement, he is asserting that the remaining 299 out of every 1,000 reports are false, which is not supported by data. With this statement, his assertion is that my own perpetrator's lack of prosecution because it was a "troubled teen" vs. an adult makes me a liar. This self-serving and horribly insensitive statement, regardless of the veracity of the current allegations, is shameful. 

"Additionally, his extensive criminal history is very relevant. I would never suggest that those with criminal histories cannot be victims of abuse. Rather, his criminal history proves he cannot be trusted. He has been convicted of numerous crimes of dishonesty, including identity theft, fraud, false emergency reporting and forgery, in addition to numerous convictions related to robbery, theft, unlawful use of weapons, delivery of controlled substances, criminal conspiracy and even attempted kidnapping."

The second sentence in this paragraph is dwarfed by the rest. While crimes of moral turpitude must be taken into account by a trier of fact - this is how testimony is weighed, after all - this entire paragraph lends itself to an "out" for any accused whose accuser has a "checkered past." 

The allegations against Mr. Murray are severe. If they are untrue, then the damage is done, and cannot be undone - and that isn't fair. And if they are true, that does not change the significant, progressive record that Mr. Murray has - hate crime legislation, anti-discrimination legislation, marriage equality, transportation packages, minimum wage, pre-school, housing affordability, inclusionary zoning, and so much more. These are real, tangible goods that will be felt for generations. 

But to turn this whole situation into a forum to victim-blame and shame, and to insist that non-prosecuted means a false report, and to all but directly state that "troubled teens" are never telling the truth - this is a disservice to our community. I continue to wait to hold judgment on the underlying issue of whether or not the specific and broader allegations are true. But I will not withhold judgment at the way in which this man has responded. We deserve better. 



Conventions are (generally) a good time. An opportunity to see friends from all over the state, and make new ones. During business sessions, a chance to hone skills of working with other chapters for votes (a/k/a - whipping), and a personal endeavor to work with committees to better understand their product (without necessitating prolonged points of information). 

Young Democrats of Washington have interspersed throughout the day various educational panels on topics ranging from Bridging the Urban-Rural Divide to The Politics of Indian Country. There are also the work panels which, by design, include representatives from each chapter (county chapters and University chapters).Throughout it all, we pride ourselves on being the inclusive and accessible organization we sometimes imply other Party organizations are failing to be. Not perfect, but working to get there. 

Like any good convention, this included a dinner on the main night. And like any good Party organization, this also included a host of speeches and awards! Imagine my shock, however, when the program was eerily reminiscent of the 2013 Maggie Awards. Aside from the Chair, the speaking program that the committee put together was monochrome, and almost exclusively male. It was something that we were noticing at my table as the night wore on, and it was particularly troubling to me watching this unfold on the same day as a phenomenal panel on being a white ally included the need to make meaningful spaces for people of color. 

So I posted on Facebook (as one does).

The swiftness of the response, and in particular of white men to defend themselves or try to deflect and change the subject was expected. Quite a few "well, what do YOU do" conversations were had (fun fact: I do things, and don't tell people when I'm doing them, because the point isn't for me to look good, it's to elevate voices and use my privilege and megaphone to do the same). There was also a fair amount of folks who saw my post was a condemnation of the YDWA President - a queer women of color. 

Not as a condemnation of the mostly white committee that put the event together. 

Not as a condemnation of the Congressman who, in his absence, sent another white dude to speak. 

Not as a condemnation of the lack of diversity in the decision making panels that each had chapters send folks (hint: mostly male, even more mostly white). 

Rather, the direct response was a belief that criticism of an almost all-white organization was critical of the President. To me, this is indicative of our race problem. We expect that the person of color in the room has a duty to tell us when we're doing a shitty job. We expect that when we elect people to the highest positions, that in itself is enough. 

But it isn't. 

We have an obligation as white people and as men, who have perpetuated institutional racism and sexism in politics, to proactively and affirmatively do better. When offered a microphone, we must look at who else is being offered a microphone, and be willing to step back, or hand our microphone to someone whose voice is not being heard. When put in a position to elevate voices that have a wildly different perspective than us, bust our asses to make sure those voices are heard. And through it all, we cannot idly sit by and expect that the woman of color has to be the one to correct us at all times. Asking LaKecia to do her (volunteer) job as President, and make reparations to errors made by a committee tasked with putting on an event for an organization that purports to be "better" than other Democratic Party organizations is fucked. 

My hope is that, as an organization, we recognize our place in perpetuating white-centered power structures. And for the three months I have left before aging out, I will assuredly continue to call out where we can do better, and provide what support I can to ensure the future of our organization is one that is reflective, is self-aware, and is willing to make the tough and uncomfortable choices. 



To say this has been a difficult week in Seattle would be an understatement. It only worsened the afternoon of April 6, when the city was alerted of a lawsuit against our Mayor, alleging he engaged in rape of a child in the 80's. The facts alleged in the Complaint paint a very troubling picture, and the additional allegations discussed in the Seattle Times article...it is nothing shy of shocking. 

It isn't unknown that there is a power structure at play in the LGBTQ community, particularly among white men. Those with power and money have been known to exert it over those without - much like what we see with straight men in power lording over women. The fact remains that men in power can abuse that power, and abuse people in the process. 

Throughout my own campaign in 2015, I endured - and at times was advised to endure (for the purposes of raising money) - unwanted touching and attempts to engage in sexual activity with men who I didn't know, but whom felt their superiority over a younger LGBTQ male without wealth and without office or grandeur. When I am asked for advice on being a candidate from young LGBTQ men who are in similar situations, I am always sure to warn them. 

What I can say: Ed Murray has never been part of that group in my experience in local politics. He has a lifetime of championing LGBTQ rights, and hearing such accusations against a civil rights hero is distressing. That they are being done through a firm whose owner, John Connelly, and wife donated $50,000 to Just Want Privacy, because Mr. Connelly wants to expand his discriminatory beliefs across the state, makes it even worse. 

I can only draw from my own experiences. During my years at Ressler & Tesh, I worked on many cases on behalf of children abused by adults. The fact patterns are horrific, and a running theme in the abuse - physical, sexual, emotional - was other adults flippantly dismissing what was happening to these kids. So the abuse was simply prolonged. As noted in my #Trauma piece (citing information from RAINN), sexual assault and rape is a very under-reported crime. The infliction of additional hurt from dismissal of facts, and chastising of victims, leads more victims to refuse to report, for fear of making their own suffering worse. 

In the instant case, D. H. was clearly the victim of sexual assault. Being a homeless teenager in the throes of addiction, whose parents were also in the throes of addiction, he relied on selling himself for $10-20 in order to survive. This culmination of failures in our mental health and housing systems that continues today failed this man. This man has bottled up shame and self-doubt for a lifetime, and in recovery from addiction, and working to make his life less shitty, he is coming forward with his story. 

That the Mayor, his team, and his supporters are rushing to blame D. H., or say his motives are political, or question why he didn't come forward sooner - that is being complicit in the ongoing pain this man already feels. Question 7 in the facts of the complaint simply requests that Ed admit or deny whether he has ever paid for sex with an underage boy while he was an adult, or if he has ever engaged in unlawful sexual relations with a minor while he was an adult. That is a simple question. Ed can defend against these allegations without turning the tables and re-victimizing a man who clearly has had suffering in his life. If Ed did not commit these acts, he most assuredly deserves the opportunity to defend himself based on the facts.  

This is a tough situation, to say the least. Now is not the time for political haymaking, and it is not the time to drag a survivor through the mud. The facts alleged in the Complaint make me sad. And if they are true, they make me furious. They are a reminder of the systems that are broken, and continue to need fixing. A reminder of the power structure of powerful men taking advantage of those without power. A reminder that in the wealthiest country in the world, we continue to harm those most vulnerable. 

Now we have to watch our response as a community. It will be telling. 



I was recently talking with a friend of mine, and we were discussing the idea of running for office, and promises one makes on the campaign trail. There's what people want to hear, and what we can actually get done. We were in agreement that a trait we both like to emulate, and see in politicians seeking our vote, is that honesty of what can get done, and willingness to educate as to why what people want to hear may not be realistic. 

As I've been continuing down the rabbit hole of housing policy, politics, politicians, and campaigns, one thing that keeps rearing its head is the question of 25% Mandatory Housing Affordability as a goal requirement in Seattle. The idea, as floated, would require all new development (ostensibly multifamily) have a 25% on-site performance requirement for affordable housing. Nikkita Oliver says that her platform policy mirrors that of Jon Grant. So here is Jon Grant's (at least the section relevant here):

25% Affordability Mandate on All New Development

Across the country the cities with the worst housing affordability crises have already imposed a 25% affordability requirement on all new development. Seattle must do this too. Given the tremendous job growth in our city we must require developers to share the cost of mitigating the demand on our affordable housing stock.

People aren’t moving to Seattle because we are building more buildings. They are moving to Seattle because of our tremendous job growth. By 2035, Seattle expects to grow by 120,000 residents and 115,000 jobs. Many of these new jobs are for high earners in the tech sector, so developers are motivated to only build luxury housing. But we know that for Seattle to be a vibrant and diverse city we must have housing affordable to everyone. Given the incredible demand for housing, the city has a tremendous bargaining position with private developers. The city has so far asked for very little; currently our affordability requirements are as low as 3% in some parts of the city. It’s time for us to ask for more.

If existing communities are going to thrive in a hot rental market, the question is how can the city recapture new value from growth and redirect it toward more affordable housing. Requiring 25% of all new housing to be affordable to low income and working class people is the best tool to achieve that goal.

First, a quibble: this doesn't define "affordable housing." There are ideas all over the map of what it means, but since this specifically references "cities with the worst housing affordability crises," I'm going to go with what New York and San Francisco go with: Below Market Rate (BMR) units of housing. 

So, with that in mind, let's take a look at affordable housing programs in other cities. I touched on San Francisco's in a prior post. Notably, the 25% requirement in San Francisco is only for multifamily units that have 25 or more units being constructed. There is a pay-in-lieu option, and it does not include the urban-mixed-use zoned areas. Also of note: the 25% rule didn't come into play until mid-late 2016 following a ballot measure. 

This is an important distinction, because prior to 2016 San Francisco's Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning (MIZ) requirement was 12-14.5%, and since 1992 has only created about 3,000 units. With the dramatic increase to 25%, and data already suggesting it wasn't being used with regularity, there is no reason to believe that units will actually be produced at 25%, making the effective production rate 0.

There is also a legal question, and one that creates an apples to oranges situation when comparing Seattle to San Francisco. In California Building Industry Association v. City of San Jose, the California Supreme Court contemplated a 15% MIZ plan in San Jose, which required all development to include housing that would be deemed affordable to individuals and families making up to 120% of the Area Median Income. The San Jose statute also had a pay-in-lieu option, but along with the lower on-site percentage option, packaged other incentives, including city funds to subsidize the BMR units, reduced parking requirements, reduced set-back requirements, and density bonuses. 

The opinion also turned on statutory issues in California, notably that California State Law explicitly allows for this type of zoning requirement (unlike Washington State Law). In the concurrence, Justice Ming Chin noted that nothing in the subject ordinance required the internal fixtures of the BMR units to be the same as the market rate units. Combined, it was determined that because of the incentives and the ability for there to be profit made, there was no "taking" of private property, and the compelling interest requirement was met, therefore the 15% was acceptable. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review this case. At the same time, however, this was a 15% requirement with some significant give-backs. The San Francisco plan has not been tested in courts in California, so we have yet to see how legal it is. 

The other city we look to is New York. New York City has a 25% MIZ program in place, but there's is also markedly different from Seattle's. For one, the "give-back" is an increase in FAR of 100-130% in areas where the MIZ is required. So a 7-story building can now become a 14-story building. In Seattle, this would be akin to having a 4-story LR-3 project now be able to rise as high as 8 stories - and that to be allowed to happen everywhere. New York also excludes Much of Manhattan from its MIZ program. The program is designed to cover folks making up to 150% AMI. Also, New York gives additional tax benefits, including directing for-profit developers to utilize the federal Low-Income Tax Credit, to compensate for the MIZ.  

New York also gives a full tax exemption (known as the 421a program) that is similar to MFTE, but limited in scope, and is typically combined with tax credits and affordable housing bond dollars given to for-profit developers. To put it another way, New York City meets its 25% requirement due to (a) massive zoning changes and (b) significant contribution of tax dollars (both direct and indirect).

In addition to everything else above, it should also be noted that these cities do not have the same MFTE, Incentive Zoning, or Housing Levy programs that we have in Seattle. Seattle's MIZ program (Mandatory Housing Affordability) finds its legislative authority in RCW 36.70A.540, which explicitly requires give backs to avoid a "taking" under the U.S. Constitution. The five named options are (i) Density bonuses within the urban growth area; (ii) Height and bulk bonuses; (iii) Fee waivers or exemptions; (iv) Parking reductions; or (v) Expedited permitting. 

In Seattle, we currently have over 3,000 units that are part of the MFTE program, with rents set below market rate, and affordable for folks at 80% or below AMI. Developers who take advantage of MFTE must provide 20-25% of their units as BMR. If this is expanded to include preservation investment (ie: the PTE), then even more units can come online with rents set below market rate. 

Over 13,000 units have been produced with funds from the Seattle Housing Levy, with units being rent-restricted to households making 60% or below AMI (with a fat chunk at 30% or below AMI). With the passage of the 2016 Housing Levy, this is expected to grow by over 2,000 more homes in the next 7 years. 

I don't have in front of me the amount of units produced through the Incentive Zoning program in Downtown and South Lake Union, but if I remember right, it's a couple hundred more. The Commercial Linkage Fee units are also expected to begin being produced soon, adding more developer-funded affordable housing stock to our city. 

We have a totality of programs in Seattle that address affordable housing needs. They're not perfect, and never will be, but actual production of units exceeds that of San Francisco, and the MHA plan is expected to continue that trend. In addition to the affordable housing requirements, other programs require childcare facilities, improvements to pedestrian and transit infrastructure, open space requirements, and so much more to be included with new development. 

That said, throwing out 25% as a number without explaining the whole story is troubling and misleading. The reality is that we may well see some projects in the University District, for instance, having upwards of 35% affordable housing requirements (between the 9% MHA, and if they take advantage of MFTE). This exceeds what is being promised by some politicians in Seattle. 

When I ran for City Council in 2015, MIZ was a hot issue. I disagreed with the 5-7% citywide number that was floating around, and instead stated that 10-15% seemed more on point, particularly when matched with a stronger MFTE. Overall, though, I believed then, and continue to now, that the goal needs to be total homes, using a combination of all available resources. 

When a politician says to you now, however, that 25% is the gold standard, my recommendation: ask how we do it. With calls for a "pause" on development, I'm not convinced that we are getting the full story. 25% works in New York because they are doubling and then some building height and bulk limits. In California, it is much the same. If politicians are going to call for 25%, but not support more housing types throughout the city, then they are effectively selling you a bill of goods. Expect more and demand more, including a plan to get to a goal that is actionable. Right now, however, 25% MHA is not an actionable goal, especially with the concurrent calls for a freeze in zoning changes and development city-wide. 


All 5 regular readers of this site know that I enjoy me some hyperbole. Aggrandizing small things to make a point (or for sheer entertainment) is something I do here, and, frankly, when I'm engaged in motions practice in my professional life. It's sort of who I am. 

That said, my aim is typically directed at the nuance of issues and/or civic discourse. Even when I take on #BernieBros, I look to be clear that it's the bros, not all of the Sanders supporters, who are earning my ire. While that may be (or often is) lost among some, I find it an important distinction. 

One term, however, I find rather distasteful: NIMBY. For those unaware, NIMBY is an acronym for "Not In My Back Yard." Often flung at individuals protesting specific changes or types of changes in their neighborhood, and always as an epithet, I fear that it no longer has much in the way of usefulness. Instead, it is a term lobbed when there is disagreement about a process, or the edges of a policy. 

There are some clear times, I believe, where the term is appropriate. In 2014, Seattle Public Schools began moving forward with a Recovery School on Queen Anne. This is a specialized program for high school students who are recovering from drug addiction, and trying to get back on track in school. The location was near John Hay Elementary School. The teachers of John Hay wrote a letter welcoming the new students. 

But not all of the community members joined in. They signed a petition, and put up two pictures: one of the site, and one of a group of black kids. They raised alarms to the media. They expressed support for "these students," but were clear that they did not want them to be educated on Queen Anne. In fact, they came up with the preposterous idea that students in recovery on Queen Anne might bring their old dealers up to the hill. 

Really what it came down to: these folks did not want the Interagency Recovery School in their neighborhood. I recall comments about how the school should be "closer to where these kids come from," and all sorts of hullabaloo. These, my friends, are the arguments of a NIMBY. Despite education from the district about the school, the requirements for staying in, how treatment for addiction works, etc., these folks persisted. 

Another example would be Cindy Pierce and Harley Lever of the Seattle Neighborhood Safety Alliance. Here, we have a group of folks who regularly and adamantly speak out against having to see extreme poverty in their neighborhood. I remember during a meeting of theirs in 2016, I asked if they would be supportive of permanent housing for folks exiting homelessness in their neighborhood (instead of tents and RVs), and couldn't get a straight answer. However, Subhadeep Chatterjee later explained it best after the meeting: they don't care where "those people" go, so long as it isn't Ballard, Magnolia, or North Queen Anne. I believe that this also qualifies as NIMBY. (Although credit to Mr. Chatterjee - he also supported more density in his neighborhood, so there's that).

But then there is the way we see the term used most often - for people with disagreements on zoning. Don't get me wrong - there are some folks who want no changes whatsoever, and endorse putting more housing outside of Seattle, or just disallowing more births. My experience is that these are people who moved to Seattle from New York or the San Francisco Bay Area, and want it to remain a sleepy town that is one giant suburb with 11% of the city being a city. Some of these folks have a perverse belief that the longer you've lived here, the more of a voice you deserve. I reject this notion in its entirety. Every member of our community should be valued, and by ostracizing people because of when they moved here, we are simply behaving in a manner fit for the White House, not for Seattle. 

More often, however, it is the process where we find disagreement. Often wrapped in the (rightful) concern around the livability aspect of our city, when people talk about having plans in place for good transit, or addressing public open spaces, as part of zoning changes, they are immediately labeled a "NIMBY." (I mean, I do it, too, but apparently I'm a "developer shill"). Discussions regarding setbacks for high-rise construction to maintain walkable neighborhoods are chastised and disallowed because "NIMBY". Even attempts to maintain mini-downtown cores in neighborhoods is smacked down as "NIMBY." 

When I speak with folks more in depth, however, I see and hear something different. A desire to ensure that there is maximum public benefit, not for themselves, but for the new folks moving into the city. A true desire to share what's great about a neighborhood with new neighbors, not see it all sterilized and Bellevueized. Maintaining more streets to be similar to Davie Street in Vancouver isn't NIMBY, it's good for community. Whether that's University Way in the U-District, or 45th in Wallingford, or Leary in Ballard, these are the gathering places (along with parks and open spaces) for neighbors to meet each other. By insulting the intention and value set by immediately throwing "NIMBY" before learning anything else, we shut down conversation and the ability to progress with greater numbers (and sometimes better ideas). 

There is also a social justice component. When Nikkita Oliver raises concerns about development, she is initially speaking about the damage being done to historically African American communities. Working to preserve parts of the International District isn't NIMBY, it's equity. White folks created these segregated areas of the city, and the people being oppressed turned them into communities. I don't see it as "NIMBY" to want to preserve that history and heritage, especially when we continue to keep low-density housing in the SF zones off of the table. 

There are other tactics people are using to completely stop development. This 25% push, for instance, is not really designed to actually be successful. Relying on San Francisco (where it hasn't been fully implemented, and prior MIZ has yielded pathetic results) or New York (where there is no Incentive Zoning, Low-Income Tax Credits are used as part of the 25%, and there isn't MFTE, so other taxpayer subsidies go to help private developers reach the 25%...also, it isn't in Manhattan) is comparing apples to oranges. Housing policy is much more complex, after all.

But generally, I continue to find that most people that some in the urbanist community immediately tag as "NIMBY" are not anti-growth at all. They may prefer different ways to achieve production targets, and other amenities in addition to the housing, but if we keep insulting them and pushing them away because of their differing opinion or non-reliance on urbanist orthodoxy, then we risk losing the bigger picture of ensuring a more affordable and welcoming city. I like to think we can do better.