Thurs, Sept 24 – Seattle Displacement Coalition

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    The September meeting of the Ballard Community Taskforce on Homelessness and Hunger (BCTHH) will occur on Thursday, September 24, at 10:30 AM, Nyer Urness House, 1753 NW 56th St.

    Joining us for presentation and discussion will be John Fox, Coordinator, Seattle Displacement Coalition (SDC). Mr. Fox will discuss the increasing displacement of low- and moderate-income units by developers who buy old apartment buildings and rehab or raze them, replacing them with market-rate condos and apartments. He will talk about how that loss has contributed to Seattle’s increasing homelessness problem.

    We will also have an update on the homelessness encampment situation.




    Do they have have these meetings in the evenings so folks with 9-5 jobs can participate?

    If I was able to attend and if you or any other person there blamed developers for displacing people all by themselves and not also the people who sell their buildings for massive personal profit, I would have issue with that. Sure, it’s a real problem, but demonizing developers for having sole responsibility for the issue is short sighted and unfair.
    You want affordable housing then incentivize the sellers, buyers, builders etc. It’s a cohort that causes these issues not just one entity.


    Salmon Bay

    I hope nobody is demonizing the owners that sell or the developers that buy and redevelop. That’s progress, profit and jobs which should be encouraged. But building affordable housing should also be encouraged. In Ballard, we need all types of housing. I’m not sure of the best way to ensure that low income housing is built, since it doesn’t seem to be profitable for developers. I know due to excessive parking requirements, many buildings have underutilized parking garages. I’ve wondered if there could be an incentive for developers to convert these unused parking garages to low income housing.



    Ballard is further beyond its amended 2024 density goal (last time I looked) than every neighborhood in Seattle with the exception of Pike/Pine in Capitol Hill.

    As noted by the Displacement Coalition this dramatic increase in supply of housing in Ballard has not done anything to increase availability of affordable housing in Ballard (recently quantified in proposed legislation as a little over $1,000 a month). In fact it has resulted in the destruction of what had been affordable housing while Ballard has become an expensive neighborhood to rent an apartment. A KUOW analysis by Kara McDermott stated “Ballard rent has far surpassed Seattle’s average, rising 75 percent to about $1,500 for a one-bedroom unit in 2014. Only the Belltown/Downtown/South Lake Union area has a higher average rent. For the most part, Ballard kept pace with the average rent increase in the city until 2009. Then, from 2008 until 2014, rents climbed 61 percent. As a result, a neighborhood that had some of the lowest rents in 1998 (above only Beacon Hill and Rainier) became the second most expensive in the city. No other neighborhood made a wider jump in the rankings.”

    This is prima facie evidence that continuing to promote increased density in Ballard to increase supply of housing in the hopes of driving down rental costs in this neighborhood is irrational. The policy is already failing to have the desired effect.

    With home sales prices rising significantly developers are spending more with each project to acquire land so to make their desired return on investment they are already going to be inclined to build premium to luxury complexes. And exacerbating the matter is the reality that supply and demand is not uniform throughout the city. It varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. Ballard is (still) a very desirable neighborhood for its quality of life, amenities and close proximity to the city. It is only going to be more desirable with greater influx of high income earners and future neighborhood improvements including light rail to Ballard, measures to reduce bridge openings and/or extend water taxi service to Ballard (which have been discussed), completion of the B-G trail, completion of several large commercial developments (including the Martin Selig development at 15th and Market and the announced CD Stimson development on the ship canal waterfront) and the completion of the new Nordic Heritage Museum. In the face of unrelenting demand from people who have the money to afford a desirable neighborhood, developers are going to continue to build premium/luxury housing and profit-take. They are not going to build affordable units unless forced or provided with a major incentive. Maybe the upzone available with proposed mandatory inclusionary zoning and Affordable Housing Impact Mitigation Program will be enough. But the mandatory inclusionary zoning proposal allows developers to opt out of building affordable units at a site by paying a fee into city’s housing trust fund. If they can rent units in a trendy neighborhood at a premium price I don’t see why they wouldn’t just pass their opt-out costs on to renters. And AHIMP essentially works as a converse — it requires a fee of $5–$17 per square foot unless developers build affordable units on or off site. Those fees could be passed on to renters and paid off in a couple years or the developers could simply choose to build affordable units in another part of town.

    The solution it seems to me is to look at neighborhoods that are not at or beyond their development targets and work at promoting more development in those areas while working to slow development in areas that are far beyond target. When you look at neighborhoods most beyond targets you see that generally they are the more desirable neighborhoods like Pike/Pine, Ballard Hub Urban Village and central Fremont. Conversely those that are behind the targets (or basically at but not beyond targets) are neighborhoods that have traditionally been less desirable (it could be due to crime, or distance from the city or lack of amenities etc.) Neighborhoods behind targets include Chinatown, Denny Triangle downtown, First Hill, Rainier and even Lake City. Many of these areas are already more likely to be affordable than Ballard and can be developed more affordably. Then there is SLU.Their target is 8,000 residential units and even with permitted units they are only at 66% of their 2024 target.

    I think it is clear that the city is letting developers rabid to continue developing hip neighborhoods to the maximum extent possible have their way at the expense of their constituents from those neighborhoods and not meeting their obligation to ensure that the city’s density burden falls fairly on all neighborhoods.

    I was a proponent of density in Ballard and some of that density really helped provide enough critical mass of people to support the indie bars, restaurants and businesses I patronize. That mass made it viable for breweries to locate here and for the farmer’s market to relocate here and flourish. Historic buildings on and off of Ballard Ave have been renovated. Ballard Seafood Fest and Synttende Mai have gotten more successful. The city has built parks and greenways, improved Bergen Place Park. There has been a lot of good from density. But in the 15 years I have been in Ballard I have begun to see that development is also having quality of life consequences on Ballard from crowds and traffic (with associated increased incivility) to significantly increased noise, nighttime light, loss of views over the city and Mt. Rainier, diminished privacy, and destruction of neighborhood architectural heritage. I no longer support further growth in Ballard … not for awhile.



    PS I share basic capitalist values but the mere fact that a business owner realizes profit doesn’t mean that I see what they do as valuable or good or that they should be free from public oversight and regulation when law and public policy permit it. I don’t see building as unqualifiedly valuable for society. I think the value depends on what is being built, the purpose it serves, the quality put into the building etc. Although I see the value in citizens having jobs (including building trades jobs) and I do think we need more housing in Seattle I don’t agree that any further housing stock is necessary in Ballard … and when development moves to other city neighborhoods that are not at more than 400% (including permits issued) of growth target still nearly a decade away, those workers will still have jobs — just not at a worksite in Ballard.



    Thanks for the notice, nwc!
    KS – there may already be a mechanism in place that requires a “pause” in the rampant construction in areas like Ballard. I heard recently that the state Growth Management Act requires “concurrency” of infrastructure — specifically, that transportation be upgraded *at the same time* as increased development density, otherwise new development would not be allowed. IIRC, the issue was that transportation adequacy was measured by a certain type of traffic survey, and Seattle SDOT was just not conducting any such surveys. Thus, the City avoided collecting official data and was able to avoid following the state GMA law.

    SB – I had thought that such “unused garage spaces” were an urban myth. Have you any examples in the central Ballard area? I know my building has one space per apartment and they’re always full. In any case, I think we could both agree on a strategy of un-bundling the parking space from the apartment, so that each could be rented out separately. That’s what Wharfside does (it’s the big complex on the east side of 15th Ave W / W Nickerson St).

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