In reviewing the tapes for the past year, there were a number of things we misprinted, misstated, and simply missed. In the spirit of the season and proper reflection on our jobs, here are five things we would like to correct before heading into the new year.
The Fate of HB1782
In our December 8th announcement for the legislative preview meetup with Futurewise, we stated: “Last session, statewide zoning reform unfortunately died in the state house, failing to make it out of Chair Gerry Pollet’s Local Government Committee.” This was incorrect in that the bill indeed made it out of the committee.
Rep. Gerry Pollet (Zero #3) sent along a feisty email demanding a correction: “This is easily tracked if you understand the basics of following legislation or reporting on the Legislature. I don’t think this is the first time that you have repeated this erroneous statement, which is easily fact checked.”
The offending line should have read: “Pollet steered the bill through his committee, only after gutting it to his own parameters saying it was necessary to get the votes and avoid angering powerful stakeholders — which include the Realtors lobby and municipalities who want to sell climate destroying McMansions under the guise of ‘local control.’ The bill subsequently failed to make it to a floor vote.”
We regret the error. By the way, in the upcoming session, the Democratic caucus has elected to install Rep. Davina Duerr as chair of the Local Government Committee and shuffled Pollet out of the committee. We regret that didn’t happen sooner.
The Omission of Alternative 6
Sometimes it is difficult to be optimistic, particularly in the face of relentless bureaucratic inertia. When we first reviewed the alternatives put forth for the 2024 Major Update to Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan, we were pleasantly surprised by how Alternative 5 combined what was best about all the other proposed housing growth strategies and offered tweaks to boost that approach. But as guest contributor Ron Davis recently put it, all of the City’s options amounted to “settling for Seattle small.”
Rather than compare Alternative 5 to the other strategies presented, we could have compared it to what our city really needs to confront its crises around housing affordabilty, environmental justice, and climate — a bigger, bolder strategy for growth. That emerged as Alternative 6, a vision first promoted by a coalition banded together by Share the Cities and supported by The Urbanist in our organization letter.
During the City’s multi-month comment period, Alternative 6 was highly popular with 40% of comments backing that vision — more than any other option, according to Share The Cities’ analysis. About two-thirds of comments backed either Alternative 5 or 6, with the small-ball approaches clearly less popular. The City’s Scoping Report makes it clear ‘going big’ was popular, but incongruently it proceeded to leave Alternative 6 out of the study and rejected feedback (including from The Urbanist) to add at least sixplex base zoning across residential areas at a bare minimum. Pro-housing comments might have dominated the City’s public engagement hub, but they are not the voices that Mayor Bruce Harrell seems inclined to listen to.
Still, it’s exciting to see that energy continues to build around implementing a bolder housing growth strategy. Earlier this month, Councilmember Teresa Mosequeda (At-Large) came out strongly for an Alternative 6 in initial council discussions of the Comp Plan. We applaud her for taking on the cause and are eager to see how the conversation around the Comprehensive Plan develops over the coming year. The Comp Plan should boldly go big.
We regret, for now, Alternative 6 remains omitted from Seattle’s comp plan study. Hopefully not for long as all of us learn to dream a bit bigger when it comes to ending the housing crisis and staving off climate catastrophe.
Howard Schultz is a Union Buster and his coffee is awful
A search of The Urbanist’s writing over the past year reveals that returning Starbucks CEO and serial self-serving memoirist Howard Schultz was mentioned only twice, both times in reference to the fact he owned the Sonics and flipped them to new owners like a rundown shack being low-bid gutted for YouTube likes.
As returning, retiring, returning, retiring CEO of one of the Fortune 500 corporations headquartered in the region, Schultz should have appeared in print here more frequently. Specifically, we should regularly talk about how his return has produced a series of maneuvers intent on stopping the unionization of Starbucks employees by closing union shops and punishing employees through access to gender affirming health care. However, we will resist the urge to run the pandering stories about how unions hurt Howard’s feelings. Union busters don’t like being called union busters, apparently something that bears mention in the country’s business pages. Perhaps his coffee would improve with better working conditions.
We regret the omission.
Expecting more light rail stops to open in 2023
Through mid-summer 2022, we were anticipating the next year would be our opportunity to be whisked back and forth across Lake Washington on beautiful, climate controlled, light rail. Our days were full of dreams about a 2023 full of easy connections between East and West Sides of the lake, with stops in Mercer Island just to loiter and piss off the locals.
Then, like a pall of wildfire smoke, the summer air descended on our anticipations as reports started coming in about the most deadly of threats to multi-billion dollar transit projects: concrete. First there was the concrete strike. Then there was concrete wonkiness on the I-90 bridge. Finally, there was concrete testimony before the Sound Transit board. East Link will not fully open in 2023.
While not technically an error, we regret being quite that optimistic.
Sonics Stans are Stunted
In September, a survey of the landscape around Climate Pledge Arena found it wasn’t quite ready for a second nighttime winter sports team. Part of the reason is the area could use a few more bars and restaurants to absorb the crush of fans, as well as finish promised transit improvements to move them in and out.
Alluded to was the fact that a segment of the population is still dealing with the emotional toll of being abandoned by a billion-dollar entertainment corporation. Some fans are still feeling jilted about the Sonics’ move to Oklahoma City and have been toxic to getting a new team.
In response, those exact fans provided quite a bit of evidence that the Superfund cleanup of their emotional baggage hasn’t advanced very far. Messages ranged from “who the hell are you to say we’re not ready?!?” through “get on the bandwagon for a team or get ready to be under it.”
The statement calling out these anti-fans should have been more direct. “When the Sonics left, there was a gaping hole in the community. Many have dealt with their grief and found other pastimes. The people who have not are also the most likely to brigade and harass anyone with an opposing view. Seattle should not get a team until a specific group of stilted fans collectively receive extensive professional counseling for their grief and abandonment issues.”
We regret the omission.