King County released final 2019 election results data on Monday and precinct maps show people in multifamily areas and single-family zones have very different politics. Progressive candidates cleaned up in Seattle’s Urban Villages and renter-heavy areas. Conservative votes mostly tracked Lake Washington and Puget Sound, representing million-dollar view homes. Between the camps, visions for the future of Seattle are not the same.

And unfortunately for single-family preservationists, they’re not making more land nor more detached single-family homes, as much as Seattle Times columnist Brier Dudley can pine for them–at least not at the rate we’re adding apartments and condominiums. This presents a problem for the Milquetoast Moderates (or “Pragmatic Progressives” if you prefer) going forward. Apartments keep going up, meaning more voters who generally lean progressive and are not attached to the project of freezing single-family neighborhoods in amber–the pet project of the Seattle Times Editorial Board, which had the exact opposite endorsements for Seattle City Council as we did.

Alex Pedersen is their lone voice on the Seattle City Council. And he won by less than 1,400 votes, with at least that many apartments likely to open in District 4 within a year–take a look around the U District, Roosevelt, or Wallingford if you doubt that. The math isn’t favorable to the moderates and conservatives.

In more ways than one, zoning is destiny. And even though our zoning still reserves the majority of Seattle for single-family homes only, the inclusionary multifamily zoning we do have is enough to tip the scales–even in a off-year election where turnout trails Presidential years and Midterms, especially in apartment-heavy areas. Turnout maps reveal that wealthy single-family areas had the highest turnout. However, given how decisively they went for progressives, tenants still carried the day even with lower turnout. A side by side of a zoning map and win margins show that urban villages and progressive strongholds were one and the same.

Moving City Elections to Even Years to Boost Turnout

And speaking of off-year elections, Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-West Seattle) announced legislation to address the problem–likely switching city council races to even years–which he says will be introduced this coming session. The move is intended to encourage high turnout elections. Hopefully, that bill will find support in the Democratic-controlled state legislature.

Redlining’s Impact Still Felt

Add in historic redlining maps–commissioned by the federal government and enforced by banks and real estate agents–and you will see that time is a flat circle. The wealthy areas marked green and blue for “desirable” still largely vote against sharing the neighborhoods they live in with more people, particularly of different socioeconomic backgrounds. We are still living that legacy. The formerly redlined areas marked in red and yellow for “hazardous” and “declining” were the base of support of progressive candidates. Progressive candidates and voters tend to support opening up more of Seattle to apartments and missing middle housing.

This redlining map from 1936 concentrated communities of color in red and yellow areas while denying them access to loans for homes and business. This was before what is now D5 was annexed into Seattle. (Map by Knoll Company)
This redlining map from 1936 concentrated communities of color in red and yellow areas while denying them access to loans for homes and business. This was before what is now D5 was annexed into Seattle. (Map by Knoll Company)

Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s results–in which she dramatically came from behind propelled by formerly redlined neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill, First Hill, the Central District, Judkins Park, and the International District–highlighted the lingering pull of redlining maps most starkly. The richest areas of Seattle benefited from federal policy that funneled federally-insured loans to them while denying them to people of color. That White privilege and generational wealth is still at play today.

Socialism Gaining Traction

The other thing we learned is that socialism is far less scary and fringe as it used to be. Mayor Jenny Durkan attempted to brand Tammy Morales as a socialist in a fundraising email, but the shameless redbaiting backfired. Morales ended up snagging more than 60% of the vote, trouncing Mark Solomon, who was backed by Durkan and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

Though a member of the Democratic Socialist of America, Morales identifies as a Democrat rather than a socialist. That appears to allow her to straddle both camps and dominate. Scott, meanwhile, fully embraced the socialist label, but he came up just short. His close loss upended a lot of conventional wisdom that Sawant was an aberration and nobody else stood a chance of winning as a socialist. That (and Sawant winning again) could mean that the socialist floodgates are open now, particularly in high-turnout even-year elections.

Without further ado, here are the precinct maps by district.

D1 – Herbold (blue) Takes 56%

In D1, Lisa Herbold took the urban villages and middle class areas, while Phil Tavel took wealthy areas with Puget Sound views. 55.7% to 43.9% was the final tally. (Viz by Jason Weill)
In D1, Lisa Herbold took the urban villages and middle class areas, while Phil Tavel took wealthy areas with Puget Sound views. 55.7% to 43.9% was the final tally. (Viz by Jason Weill)

D2 – Morales (orange) Takes 60%

It was decisive win for Tammy Morales in D2. Mark Solomon did have a beachhead of support along Lake Washington. (Viz by Jason Weill)
It was decisive win for Tammy Morales in D2. Mark Solomon did have a beachhead of support along Lake Washington. (Viz by Jason Weill)

D3 – Sawant (orange) Boomerangs to 52%

Kshama Sawant decisively carried the historically redlined portion of district, where minority communities were formerly confined and denied loans. These area also the densest precincts. Egan Orion did well in mansion land. (Viz by Jason Weill)
Kshama Sawant decisively carried the historically redlined portion of district, where minority communities were formerly confined and denied loans. These area also the densest precincts. Egan Orion did well in mansion land. (Viz by Jason Weill)

D4 – Pedersen (blue) Clings to 52%

It was a tale of two D4s. Nearly every urban village–from Fremont to Roosevelt and the dense areas inbetween–went to Shaun Scott. Alas, D4 has scant density (and no urban villages) northeast of the U District. (Viz by Jason Weill)

D5 – Juarez (orange) Blows Past 60%

Lots of orange for Debora Juarez. Ann Davison Sattler managed to take some Lake Washington and Puget Sound real estate. (Viz by Jason Weill)
Lots of orange for Debora Juarez. Ann Davison Sattler managed to take some Lake Washington and Puget Sound real estate. (Viz by Jason Weill)

D6 – Strauss (blue) Takes the Inland Route to 56%

Dan Strauss won just about every precinct from Greenwood to Ballard/Fremont while Heidi Wills (orange) did best near the sound and Green Lake. (Viz by Jason Weill)
Dan Strauss won just about every precinct from Greenwood to Ballard/Fremont while Heidi Wills (orange) did best near the sound and Green Lake. (Viz by Jason Weill)

D7 – Lewis Rides High on the Lowlands with 53%

Uptown, Belltown and the Denny Regrade carried D7 for Andrew Lewis. Surprising little of D7 is designated an urban village and that almost tipped the race to Jim Pugel. (Viz by Jason Weill)
Uptown, Belltown and the Denny Regrade carried D7 for Andrew Lewis. Surprising little of D7 is designated an urban village and that almost tipped the race to Jim Pugel. (Viz by Jason Weill)

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Looking at D7 yeah every section that went for Lewis is where all the apartment/condo buildings are located in Magnolia. Only exception being district 36-1702, though about half the apartment/condos in that section are highly isolated from city services like buses. Its actually faster for those residents to walk across the locks to Ballard and catch a bus there. I think there is also a higher portion of older/retired people living in those buildings, at least from what I’ve seen through casual observation.

  2. Your thesis doesn’t totally hold up in D6. Heidi Wills appears to have won central Ballard and the urbanized areas around Green Lake. If I’m not mistaken it looks like there’s an urban village in N Fremont that voted for Heidi as well.

    • If you compare zoning, aerial imagery, and the precinct maps, it turns out that Wills still lost Central Ballard by a lot (over 60% for Strauss); she only won one precinct. She also only took single-family precincts in Greenlake; she lost the UV. And again, in Fremont, she only took single-family blocks. That said, she did take two precincts in the Greenwood UV; one next to the zoo by a single vote and the other by 12 votes with both precincts mostly dominated by single-family homes. There’s a theme here.

      • I havent looked that hard into it, but doesn’t that diagonal orange zone that voted for Wills include Ballard Ave? Also as far as I’m aware almost all of those “inland zones” through north ballard and fremont are SF5000 zoning, and they voted for Strauss.

        • Glad you mentioned that. Much of greater Ballard has grandfathered multiplexes and other Missing Middle forms. It was downzoned after it was largely built out. And, like Fremont/Wallingford, even single family zones seem to vote more progressive when they are still dense due to small lots and grandfathered uses. Progressive support seems to scale with density. More on how land use changes here: https://www.theurbanist.org/2019/01/08/north-seattle-land-abuse-bike-ride-recap/

        • As you’ll note, I mentioned that the precinct was the sole one in the UV. But Central Ballard is much larger than just Ballard Ave and Leary Way and she lost it hand over fist. Take note that nearly all of the votes for Wills came from a retirement home on the west side of Leary. I mention this because if you check out South Lake Union, the only precinct that went to Pugel was where the primary housing is the Mirabella retirement apartments.

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