Q: Negative Outcomes

What trends accompanying growth and development in other cities, or in Seattle’s history, do you hope Seattle will avoid in future development cycles? What brought you to live in Seattle? What aspects of growth do you believe bring about fear of loss? How can Seattle avoid negative outcomes?

Mike McGinn:

McGinnI came to live in Seattle for work and family reasons, but I stayed because Seattle is a city that shares my values of sustainability – economic, environmental, and social sustainability.

Keeping Seattle affordable for a mix of incomes is a top priority. Seattle is a major North American city that is currently more affordable than many and I will work to keep it this way. Pricing people out of the city is not acceptable.

Conversely, other cities have also seen hard times from the recession and not been able to recover – which means that city investments concurrent with development have not been possible. This is clearly not the case in Seattle, which is experiencing a development boom at the same time that our City coffers are more stable than cities in Washington and throughout the nation, enabling us to invest in neighborhood transportation infrastructure, parks, and other community necessities as the city grows.

I believe that as a city we should take advantage of our economic strength in ways that are beneficial to all. People may have fears of loss of parking, an increase in people living near them, or of gentrification. These discussions need to be a part of the decision-making process. But creating a city where everyone can live, or even thrive, is our ultimate goal.

Preserving and enhancing our historical and cultural resources in neighborhoods has also been a focus of our work. On Capitol Hill, we used a cultural overlay district to help preserve arts and cultural resources, and the 12th Avenue Arts project will reflect those values. In the Central District we’ve supported a sustainable management model for the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute and assisted in the restoration of Washington Hall. We’ve offered training and support for imigrant entrepeneurs. In the Rainier Beach and Othello neighborhoods, we’ve used inclusive outreach models resulting in recommendations (like a multicultural center) that reflect the community’s needs. Our Only in Seattle economic development granting program has assisted in making more of these community investments possible. I will continue to seek opportunities to increase this type of work upon re-election.

Ed Murray:

MurrayI was born in Aberdeen, raised in West Seattle, and have always considered Seattle my home.  I have built my life here, and devoted my career to serving Seattle and its residents. Seattle is unique among American cities for its progressivity, creativity, innovation and natural beauty.  I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

The continued growth and development of Seattle will present both opportunities and challenges.  We have the opportunity to help our poorest and most vulnerable residents, to reduce our impact on the natural world, to substantially invest in our critical infrastructure, to provide efficient, rapid transit, and so on.  That is, we have the opportunity to translate our values into how we actually live and grow.

What we need is a stable trajectory of steady growth, guided and managed in a way that encourages broad opportunity, rather than the chaotic and unregulated boom and bust cycles that have characterized growth patterns in too many other cities.

Decisions about Seattle’s future need to be oriented, towards making the least of us better off, and towards addressing the fears that accompany change. There is no single policy solution to meeting these challenges and avoiding these losses.  But there are solutions. We need to ensure that our decisions about Seattle’s future are transparent and public. We need to make sure these decisions are guided by collaboration and compromise, and that everybody has an opportunity to have their voice heard, to advocate for their interests, and participate meaningfully in the decisions effecting their homes, heritage and livelihood.

Richard Conlin:

McGinnSeattle can avoid negative outcomes from change by fostering an economy that encourages creativity and works for all and by partnering with our communities to implement our neighborhood plans. Historically, Seattle has experienced a boom-and-bust development cycle. So much of our economy was dependent on natural resource extraction or a single industry (gold in Alaska, fish, timber, and more recently aircraft). It also reflects our isolation from much of the rest of the country – the upper left hand corner of the map. We were a medium size city well out of the mainstream. Our development was fueled by speculation and was often on shaky ground.

In the 1970’s, after the Boeing bust, we began evolving a more resilient model, taking advantage of our proximity to Asia, our great natural environment, and our ability to innovate. But the tech bust ten years ago should remind us that we cannot allow ourselves to become complacent – we must encourage and support an education system and an economy that will foster lifelong learning, develop skills, and generate opportunities. In the 1950’s, the City of Detroit had the highest household income of any city in the world, and we should not take our prosperity for granted.

I was attracted to Seattle by its fabulous natural setting and by the sense that here was a City that was working to address core issues of sustainability and to build a multi-cultural society (my family is multi-ethnic, and we were looking for a place where that was welcomed). We fell in love with the neighborhoods we lived in – first Phinney Ridge, then Madrona. I think our experience is similar to that of many people in our City. Most of us – or our ancestors — came here looking for something new and different.

I do not believe that people fear change – they fear loss. Community leaders must work with people to understand those concerns and to find ways to embrace changes while ensuring that all will benefit and that the gains outweigh the losses. That is why the core philosophy of our development strategy must continue to be built around engaging people – as we did so successfully in the neighborhood planning process – acknowledging that change will come, and working to find ways to make that change a positive experience. The premise of the neighborhood planning process was that each community was asked if they could sustain the level of projected growth – and then what it would take to make that a positive experience. Surprisingly, every neighborhood affirmed that they could take on the new development, and gave the City a list of improvements that needed to accompany it. For the last decade, I have worked to implement as many of those improvements as possible.

We cannot be successful as a democratic society unless communities can embrace the change that will have to happen as the City grows and transforms. We can only do that if we ensure that development is accompanied by the essential components of livability that will strengthen our neighborhoods – parks, transit, libraries, affordable housing, great schools, a workable transportation system… That requires communication, and dedicating ourselves to ensuring that there is genuine and deep engagement of the diversity of our people. I continue to support the neighborhood planning and neighborhood engagement model that was developed in the 1990’s, but which lost some of its salience and visibility in the ensuing decade. Over the last several years, there has been some excellent work in expanding opportunities to low income and immigrant communities and implementing the Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI), and the Neighborhood Matching Fund has continued to do great work, but we are still not where we should be. That is why I sponsored legislation setting a goal and plan for neighborhood plan updates, initiated the work to dramatically increase our community garden (p-patch) program, and supported the RSJI work. I will continue to work towards a participatory society in which all of our people have a voice.

Kshama Sawant:

sawant Growth and development in Seattle has unfortunately been accompanied by a process of gentrification, whereby people of color, the impoverished, and struggling workers have been pushed out of city centers due to a combination of poverty wages and unaffordable rent, the latter which has jumped by 15 percent in the last two years. Policies hostile to working people have been crafted by the Democratic Party city establishment, to ensure development will not benefit those who need it most. My incumbent opponent, Richard Conlin, has given corporations like Amazon and Paul Allen’s Vulcan real estate company first dibs to prime real-estate land in Seattle, instead of using these properties to build high-quality and eco-friendly public housing. City officials also continue to grease the path for real-estate corporations to buy up rental buildings and increase rents 45% to 90%, in what has been dubbed “reno-victions”.

If big business interests have their way, then development in Seattle will accompany artificial increases in costs of living. What the city must do instead is cut big business out of negotiations over housing and real estate. The priority should first lie in meeting real human needs, which practically translates to using the income the city will obtain from a Millionaire’s Tax and eliminating corporate tax loopholes to build environmentally sustainable, high-quality, subsidized public housing en masse. These homes and apartments should be placed all over the city so that workers can live close to their workplaces and students close to their schools.  Public transit terminals and bus lines should be erected near these public housing units, and small businesses incentivized to set up shop in these neighborhoods.

The construction of quality public housing should be a part of a broader city jobs program to put thousands of employed people back to work, and at living wages. In addition, rents must be frozen and rent control enacted so that working class families can afford to stay in the homes they already have.

In fact, before new housing is built, the city should look at all the empty housing units that currently exist in Seattle because people cannot afford to live in them or have been evicted from them. These units should be filled up first, which forces the city to address the problem of Seattle’s wages and costs of living.

Sally Bagshaw:

BagshawSeattle is recovering better than most from the Great Recession and as more companies move here to do business, we must build the housing and transportation infrastructure to allow growth without sprawl. Our best chance for fostering smart growth is to promote and encourage urban density around transportation hubs. The expansion of the new light rail and the rapid-ride systems gives us a real opportunity to do just this. We can set higher goals to encourage more affordable housing to be built with new developments along these routes. While I value and protect the Seattle culture of single-family housing, I am simultaneously dedicated to creating urban density our urban villages and along the transportation corridors where in-fill opportunities are available. We must work to decrease urban sprawl and protect our beautiful city’s environment at the same time.

Rapid expansion can bring about the fear of loss to many residents – the fear of losing the neighborhood character one loves. It is our citywide responsibility to ensure the public that growth is being smartly, and fairly, managed. That requires the involvement of those who are willing to solve the problem, not just complain about it.

I came to Seattle 35 years ago because I love the northwest and its progressive values. I raised my family here and have deep roots in our community. I’m staying!

Sam Bellomio:

BellomioI moved to Seattle at a very young age due to joining the Army at age 17. After receiving an Honorable Discharge, I attended North Seattle Community College and Seattle University where I received my Civil Engineering degree.

I grow up into adulthood in Seattle. This is my culture, this is my community, this is my identity. And because of this, I can see that the ‘growth’ that Seattle has is not shared evenly across the city. The average citizen is not seeing the benefits and has to deal with the few that are. This is what we need to avoid in the future growth of our community.

Your question implies that this cannot be achieved by using the word ‘hope’. I don’t ‘hope’ Seattle will avoid the loss of community- I will fight to make sure it does not happen. I will stop the city from selling public land, such as Yesler Terrace, to private companies so that they may build expensive housing that pushes the working class out of the city. This is our land, this is our city not the corporations or elite’s playground. How do we solve these issues? The answer to the problem can be found in the question- by solving them. The only reason we have a problem with growth in our city is because our elected officials are not listening to the neighborhoods are only catering to the interest of big business. Let’s engage the problem and actualize the solution! Join www.StandUP-America.us to work towards a community powered city!

Nick Licata:

LicataSeattle is my home. I chose to live here because of the culture of the city. Nowhere else in the world is like Seattle. We have a vibrant arts scene, we have a diverse and powerful economy, and we have a beautiful location. But what makes Seattle truly exceptional are the people. I have never been anywhere else that is so filled with genuine, caring, intelligent, diverse, and hard-working individuals. I live in Seattle for the Seattleites.

But these qualities do not exclude us from the same trends and issues which challenge other cities. I have been a constant advocate of ensuring that as our city continues to grow, it does so for all of its citizens. Seattle is in an economic upswing. Often when growth is greatest, there is a risk of increasing already existing disparities. Our real estate market is one of the hottest in the nation. Our housing market is developing, but the housing stock is becoming less affordable. Avoiding negative outcomes means accommodate the needs of people of all incomes so they don’t have to live outside of the city that they work in. As we add jobs, we can’t delay investment in a transportation infrastructure that provides efficient and affordable access to the entire city. We need to make new public safety investments so that our growing population is safe from crime in our all of our communities as well as from unfair law enforcement practices.

To avoid these negative outcomes, city government officials need to represent and involve all of our neighborhoods equally in our decision-making. One new way to encourage this is by implementing public campaign financing, an idea I firmly support. We also need to ensure that we bring in people from all parts of the community when the plans change. When we leave the bubble of City Hall and really connect with the citizens of Seattle, we can best avoid these negative outcomes.

Mike O’Brien:

o'brienI want to see Seattle avoid future development that centers around the personal automobile as the primary means of transportation. That means not relying on strip malls and big box stores but instead encouraging mixed-use development, ground-floor retail for local businesses and retailers with residential living in the floors above. I know some people feel a sense of loss when they see new growth and development without accompanying growth in parking spaces. But if we can make the needed investments in public transit–which are significant–as well as in walkable, bikeable communities, I think we can demonstrate that we can accommodate growth without accommodating a new car for every new person in Seattle.

Albert Shen:

ShenI came to Seattle from Pullman, WA to go to school at the University of Washington and have lived here ever since. One of Seattle’s most prevalent negative outcomes is our lack of developing mass transportation development relative to our growth and providing access of mass transit to underserved communities that need the service. For example, there is a large gap in access to light rail for communities in the Rainier Valley. This is a perfect example of disparity in our transportation plan with low-income communities of color. The idea of public transportation is to serve people who need public transportation and this was a total miss by Sound Transit and the City of Seattle to serve diverse underserved communities. The Filipino Community Center sits in between the Columbia City Station and the Othello Station each approx. ½ mile to both sides. At one point there was supposed to be a station at the Graham Street but that was taken out and thus left a huge gap for a community that really needs access to reliable and frequent public transportation. I will advocate for another station to be put where it can serve these communities and in moving forward will advocate for more access to light rail in South Seattle so residents, workers and visitors can have equal access to public transportation. It is imperative that as Seattle continues its rapid growth that our transportation infrastructure is planned for the 21st century economy. The overall fundamental transportation issue we have in Seattle is that we have no mass transit system that moves large amounts of people quickly. On average; the Shanghai Metro moves 2,230 Million Annual Passengers (MAP); Washington DC Metro Rail moves over 200 MAP; the Atlanta Martha moves 70 MAP and our Sound Transit Central Light Rail moves approx. 10
MAP. Because we have do not have a mass transit system that moves people at a higher capacity we are faced with putting extra pressure on our roadway network with other forms of transportation such as street cars, bike lanes and light rail and the current city policy is to reduce our roadway capacity in favor of bike lanes.

I fear the loss of our maritime and manufacturing industry. These account for 17% of the local family wage jobs and over 34% of our local B&O tax revenue. We must protect our major transportation corridors in order for these important economic engine industries to continue to support our economy. I do not support the reduction of our roadway system in order to just make it safer for one specific demographic. Our roadway system is used by a very diverse range of uses and I rather move our pedestrian walkways and bike lanes to grade separated modes. For areas of high concern for pedestrian safety, there are a multitude of technology-based applications that can be deployed for pedestrian safety. More importantly I will advocate for pedestrian overhead walkways at major intersections in order to maximize safety as this is the only way to preserve a free flowing freight corridor and provide a safe walking environment.

Bruce Harrell:

HarrellI was born and raised in Seattle and believe it is the best city world. Seattle is my home and has generously provided opportunity for the development and success my family and I. I love its growing urban environment, the diversity of people and perspectives, its thriving cultural community, as well as the city’s beautiful natural surroundings. A trend from Seattle’s past that I would prefer to avoid in the future is concrete box buildings, some of which are located in our downtown core. Those buildings may have intended to be durable, but they lack significant character and detract from the natural beauty surrounding the city. An example would be the concrete box of the IBM Building as opposed to the aesthetics of the building once known as the Washington Mutual Tower. One of the aspects of growth that bring about fear of loss is the discussion of density. Many perceive this as the loss of space, privacy and freedom. Many also fear the loss of neighborhood character and unique identity. Again, our leadership must communicate what we want to see in the growth and development of our urban centers, while still respecting and protecting the character of our individual neighborhoods. We must embrace culture as pertains to design and the built environment.

Peter Steinbrueck:

SteinbrueckI am a Seattle native (for 55 years), and while I love Seattle, I also truly enjoy visiting other great cities such as New York, Chicago, New Orleans, and San Francisco, as well as internationally. Seattle, for its place on earth in the great Northwest, its natural setting, culture, and diverse economy is unique in the country. I can’t think of a better place to live.

Yet we struggle to hold onto what we have as growth pressures continue to challenge our quality of life, the environment, livability, and social equity. This is what most people are concerned about when it comes to changes that growth brings. As Alan Durning, founder of Siteline Institute in his 1997 book, “This Place on Earth,” said:

“If we cannot create an environmentally sound economy here (in the Pacific Northwest), in the greenest part of history’s richest civilization, it probably cannot be done. If we can, we will set an example for the world.”

It is my greatest hope that as our urban populations grow in the Seattle metropolitan area and the Puget Sound region, we can tackle our three greatest co-dependent challenges of densification, transportation, and the environment in socially just ways that protect and enhance – not degrade –quality of life and livability for all.

For several decades now, I’ve been an avid student of many diverse patterns of urban growth and development of cities in the U.S. and all over the world. My focus and professional practice in recent years has been on developing a framework for urban sustainability and greening of cities in the U.S.

In 2010, I was honored to receive a year of independent research under the Loeb Fellowship program at Harvard University. This gave me the opportunity to pursue my passion for sustainable cities in an academically rigorous and concentrated way. Under my Loeb Fellowship I studied at the Lincoln Land Institute, MIT, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and the Graduate School of Design. I audited courses by leading urban scholars and researchers ranging from Urban Ecology, to Transportation Planning, City and Regional Planning Theory, and New Landscape Urbanisms.

My independent research allowed time to read extensively some of the most current books. Among the best of them I recommend “Growing Greener Cities”, edited by Eugene Birch and Susan M. Wachter, and “Urban Regions, Ecology and Planning beyond the City,” by Richard T.T. Forman. My research included dozens of other articles and academic research addressing challenges in the age of climate change, mass urbanization, and population growth.

I have also gained knowledge and insight from my many study missions over the years to cities ranging from New York City to Birmingham, Ala., and to Istanbul, Vancouver, B.C., London, Berlin, and Copenhagen.

We are living in a new urban age. Urbanization is an unstoppable global trend, with now more than 50 percent of the world’s population living in cities. Population growth, resource depletion, over- consumption, depletion of natural resources, energy demands and climate change require cities to become more sustainable. Seattle, as an innovator of climate solutions and the greening of cities, can set an example for sustainability, but only if we are successful in turning our aspirations into practice.

A recent study on the location of poverty in America by the Brookings Institution revealed a trend among the nation’s 95 largest metro areas in 2000 and 2008. Suburbs were becoming home to the largest and fastest-growing poor population in the country. The suburbanization of the poor is a worrisome pattern and is the direct outgrowth of center city gentrification. It creates social inequities on the poor, such as food deserts, environmental injustices, long commute times and lower standards of living. Smart growth, complete neighborhoods, transit-and-pedestrian-friendly communities, and socially responsible development, if scaled up, can all serve as a check on these inequities.