As part of our endorsement process at The Urbanist, we ask candidates to complete a standard questionnaire to better understand and evaluate their positions on housing, land use, transportation, and other important issues. We then share this information with our readers to help inform their own voting decisions.
This year we are considering 19 candidates running for Seattle City Council positions 8 and 9, Seattle Mayor, and Port of Seattle Commission positions 1 and 4. We are publishing the questionnaires in full this week and next week, concluding with our official primary election endorsements in mid-July.
The following questionnaire was submitted by Lorena González, running for Seattle City Council Position 9.
Do you consider yourself an urbanist? Why/Why not?
Yes. Our city is absorbing about 1,000 new residents every week. It is imperative that City Council remain committed to density and transit-oriented development. As a sitting Councilmember, I have consistently voted to support the mandatory housing affordability legislation and other zoning changes to better align with urbanist policies. The city has much more work ahead of it to continue strategically planning our urban footprint and, as the second youngest person on Council and one of two who relies on public transportation, my perspective on these issues is necessary to advance the city in its planning goals.
Do you support the King County Center and Family Justice Center as designed?
What do you envision as a solution for the current North Precinct building?
I am committed to reviewing the proposed new North Precinct facility to better meet concerns around equity, cost and community needs. The Executive is currently engaged in performing my request for a Racial Equity Toolkit on this capital project and I am awaiting those results along with the Chief’s and Executive’s recommendations based on that review and a renewed assessment of the actual precinct needs for the North End officers and residents.
Are there reforms that you would make to the street vacation process to ensure that adequate public benefits are provided to city residents from vacated rights-of-way?
Yes. I have been supportive of Councilmember O’Brien’s preliminary work in this area. The current criteria is too rigid and is not reflective of the evolving realities of our economy and City.
What changes do you think are needed for the city’s current policy on unauthorized homeless camp removal?
As you know, the City is currently involved in litigation regarding these policies. Because I’m a speaking agent for the City, I am unable to answer this question. As a matter of principle, however, I continue to believe that the City and it’s housed and unhoused residents remain best served by evidence-based, people-centered strategies that are widely believed to effectively move people from outside to inside. I will continue to ask questions about any policy that falls short of that principle.
In our current homelessness state of emergency, what actions can we take right away to address this issue?
As a current councilmember, I have been a staunch supporter of increased density coupled with mandatory housing affordability requirements (both commercial and residential). I continue to support many of the HALA’s recommendations, including changes to zoning laws to support growth in neighborhoods served by mass transit. In addition, last year, I was the prime sponsor of three critical housing investments. The first was funding a $400,000 feasibility study that would assess publicly owned land that would be immediately available for affordable housing development. This investment is expected to produce five new affordable housing projects (approximately 1,000 additional affordable units) that the City could partner with non-profit developers to build in the next two years. The second and third were investments to evaluate and produce clear strategies to producing affordable housing for LGBTQ seniors and youth. These are the types of investments I want to continue championing if re-elected to the City Council. With regard to extremely-low income and very-low income housing needs, I am grateful to Seattle voters who overwhelmingly supported the doubling of Seattle’s housing levy to $290 million. The passage of the housing levy means we are on track to produce and preserve 2,150 affordable housing units and assist 4,500 homeless families and individuals.
What would be your strategy with the remaining Mandatory Housing Affordability rezones? Would you push for higher/lower affordability or density levels?
I fully support the MHA principles, including changes to zoning laws to support strategic growth in neighborhoods served by mass transit. This program will apply to both commercial and residential developers and I believe is key to the City’s strategy for collecting millions of dollars for building affordable housing for those in the 60% AMI category. It is clear that we need more affordable options for lower income families throughout the city and I am committed to using all tools available to us to make that a reality. That includes increasing density in targeted areas. With regard to the levels, I am persuaded by the feasibility study results which divided us with an evaluation of where to place the percentages to maximize construction. There are some unique neighborhood concerns and realities that I will continue to take into account specific displacement needs and adjust percentages, if needed and feasible.
Would you support efforts to raise additional revenue in Seattle directed towards speeding up construction of ST3 projects? If so, what revenue source would you target?
Yes. There will be much discussion on how we can possibly devote city resources to help speed up these important infrastructure investments. The City is, for example, currently exploring a transportation and parking impact fee. I look forward to seeing the results of that study. I have hope that the Legislature will meet its education funding obligations which may free up some funding sources. I remain open to the discussion and moving forward
What are your preferred strategies for increasing multi-modal transportation (e.g., walking, biking, public transit) in Seattle?
I am open to the idea of incentivizing carpooling, ridesharing, transit use and other alternative forms of transportation to get as many people as possible out of their cars. But our strategies in this regard need to be multimodal so people can easily access a transportation option that is best for them. This can range from expanding the amount of bike lanes in the city for more convenient use, or expanding our public transit routes to serve locations that are deprived of this access.
Seattle’s Vision Zero plan aims to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. What policies do you support to work towards this goal?
I fully support working toward zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries. Some ideas to help move us toward this objective include working with our legislative delegation to accelerate Safe Routes to School (SRTS) funding and working to prioritize SRTS projects using equity as primary factor. Trying to expedite building the Center City Network while making key connections from downtown to the rest of Seattle. My main goal is maintaining the city’s commitment to Vision Zero and holding SDOT accountable on all projects that adhere to Vision Zero goals.
Do you support permitting triplexes, rowhomes, townhomes and cottages, in single-family zoned areas across the city?
Do you support adding a local income tax in Seattle?
Do you support adding a head tax in Seattle?
Do you support adding a congestion fee in Seattle?
Do you support the creation of a Seattle municipal bank?
Do you support the creation of a municipal broadband service in Seattle?
Do you support inclusion of the Community Package associated with Washington State Convention Center Addition’s street and alleyway vacation public benefits?
Photo courtesy of Lorena González campaign.