An open letter to Seattle’s Mayor and City Council

From The Coalition for an Affordable and Livable Seattle (CALSeattle)

Neighborhood Leaders call for Development Impact Fees and Control of Runaway Growth to Maintain the Affordability and Livability of our City

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In order to help alleviate the impact of development on affordability and livability, our coalition of diverse Seattle neighborhood groups and leaders calls for the Mayor and the Seattle City Council to immediately:

1) institute a system of development impact fees to ensure that developers pay their fair share of the costs of growth on our transportation network, utilities, parks, and schools;

2) approve rules requiring every developer to replace, one-for-one, low income housing they remove with low income units of equivalent size;

3) adopt rules and allocate funds to help tenants buy and ‘co-op’ their apartments before they’re sold to speculators or demolished;

4) approve new zoning rules that prevent out-of-scale development in all lowrise and single family zones;

5) adopt new budgeting that guarantees “equitable distribution” of tax dollars to all Seattle neighborhoods and newly created council districts; and prevents misallocation of the city’s general funds into downtown and special interest boondoggles; and

6) adopt stiff regulations protecting our declining older growth tree canopy and fragile urban streams.

Seattle is more than meeting its regional obligation to add density, curb sprawl, and get people out of their cars. Since 2005, Seattle has added over 48,700 dwelling units (including those going through permitting). In those 9 years, we’ve already reached 104 percent of our regionally assigned 2024 growth target, while many close-in neighborhoods including Capitol Hill, West Seattle Junction, Eastlake, Green Lake, and Ballard have reached 177 – 317 percent of their 2024 targets (including permitted units).

Yet, while surpassing its growth targets, Seattle also has a 2 billion dollar backlog of road, bridge, sidewalk, bus service, and other infrastructure needs resulting from uncontrolled growth. While developers routinely pay impact fees to cover these costs in cities throughout the region (such as Bellevue and Federal Way), Seattle taxpayers foot the bill with layer upon layer of regressive fees, levies, and added taxes that hurt low income and working people. We are paying for the loss of our city’s livability while special interests benefit.

Despite that backlog of needed infrastructure, and despite unbounded growth and an existing zoned capacity allowing for 150,000 additional units (which would be enough capacity to reach 400 percent of our 2031 regional target), our elected leaders are pushing forward with still more upzones. In the process, we’ve sacrificed tree canopy, our urban streams, sunlight, and precious green space. Signature views from our parks of iconic Seattle landmarks like the Space Needle, Puget Sound, and mountains have also been lost forever.

Worst of all, runaway growth has pushed rents up at record rates. Over 4,000 units have been lost to demolition since 2005, with permits pending for removal of another 1,700. Homelessness has soared, and waiting lists for subsidized housing are now years long. Thousands of longtime residents, low income and working people, seniors, and people of color are being “gentrified” – driven from their homes and out of the city.

We feel strongly that development impact fees and the five other specific policy recommendations above should be adopted with all deliberate speed. Until they are adopted we call on our newly elected Mayor and City Council to exercise their emergency powers and impose an immediate moratorium on further upzones.

This moratorium should also place a hold on issuance of residential permits in – and only in – those Seattle neighborhoods where the following conditions apply:

1) residential growth, including units going through permitting, is now in excess of 100% of regionally assigned 2024 “growth targets”, and

2) capital facilities and infrastructure required to accommodate that growth are inadequate, as defined in the Comprehensive Plan.

Such a moratorium should remain in place until the six recommendations above are fully implemented. There are precedents for such emergency interim legislation, including legislation adopted to address concerns regarding development of undersized lots in single family zones, condominium conversions, mobile home parks, and demolition of low income housing.

We call upon our political leaders to implement these measures immediately.

*Neighborhoods that have achieved 100% or more of their 2024 growth targets according to Seattle DPD including units going through permitting:

Pike Pine – 347% of 2024 growth target

Ballard – 317% of 2024 growth target

Green Lake – 256% of 2024 growth target

Uptown – 239% of 2024 growth target

Eastlake - 229% of 2024 growth target

West Seattle Junction – 216% of 20124 growth target

Commercial Core – 208% of 2024 growth target

23rd & Union-Jackson – 178% of 2024 growth target

Capitol Hill – 177% of 2024 growth target

Columbia City – 173% of 2024 growth target

Bitter Lake Village – 147% of 2024 growth target

Upper Queen Anne – 147% of 2024 growth target

Madison-Miller - 143% of 2024 growth target

Fremont - 142% of 2024 growth target

Othello – 135% of 2024 growth target

Roosevelt – 133% of 2024 growth target

First Hill/Capitol Hill Urban Center – 133% of 2024 growth target

Aurora-Licton Springs – 122% of 2024 growth target

Denny Triangle – 112% of 2024 growth target

Wallingford – 105% of 2024 growth target

Add your name/organization to the CALSeattle Letter to the Mayor here: