Follow Up E-Mail to Councilmembers Herbold and Johsnon on MIZ Vote
Councilmembers Herbold and Johnson make back to back statements in the video I’ve featured above. Those statements start at roughly the 54:40 time signature on the video.
Hello Councilmembers Herbold and Johnson,
I have a great deal of respect for both of you. And I agree in an odd way with statements you each made before yesterday’s (Monday) vote on MIZ.
However, I also think what you each said should make you support hitting the pause button on MIZ.
First, I couldn’t agree more with you Councilmember Herbold that it simply doesn’t pass the red face test to have a 2 percent inclusion rate in Downtown and South Lake Union while the rest of the city is exposed to a higher rate. It’s not consistent or fair, especially for builders I work with and neighborhoods neither of which were at the bargaining table when this deal was made. I said that to you in your office a year ago. I’m sorry that only myself and Councilmember Sawant are the only ones who agree with you.
Second, I think you’re wrong Councilmember Johnson; we’ve had lots of time to consider the impact of 5 percent inclusion and we know it’s a horrible idea and makes projects infeasible, especially for sale low-rise and townhouse projects. Don’t listen to me though, read the two Sightline posts authored by Dan Bertolet. We know it doesn’t work elsewhere just like you suggest that it “would have a negative impact on the building of residential.” Of course it will, just like it would have downtown.
What we know is true is that the message you sent on Monday is that some neighborhood developers with lots of pull downtown and at City Hall get a lower rate of inclusion and more certainty. Vulcan knows they can pay and play at 2 percent. I think MIZ at any rate is going to increase overall housing prices for very little in return. But you’ve proved my point by killing Councilmember Herbold’s amendment. It’s impossible to quantitatively justify opposing her amendment while supporting 5 percent (and higher) everywhere else based on feasibility. You can’t do it and be consistent. What we have is, as Councilmember Herbold suggested, is a deal that can’t be justified based on a fair value exchange, but rather an exchange of political clout.
On the other hand, what was validated by the vote is that higher rates of inclusion do have a negative impact. You both likely disagree about that. But you can’t have it both ways, suggesting that higher rates impact housing production in some place and not in others. And we have the numbers of Sightline to back that up. And, I guess, on Monday, the Council for that moment agreed with that notion too.
I know you’ll probably hand wave this email. But again, I trust you both. I think you’re smart enough to know this doesn’t make any sense, for different reasons, but still it doesn’t. And while I don’t agree much with the 25 percenters in the neighborhoods, they know that a rate that high is likely to kill development. So do I. And I think the concept of higher rates of fees and inclusion do hurt housing production.
I’d ask, once again, that we resist the urge to do this citywide; please support turning this into a voluntary program outside of Downtown and South Lake Union and see how many developers participate. It won’t be many. But at least you’ll have some data, and were it works more housing. Better yet, support an expansion of programs like MFTE and vouchers that would rapidly leverage development going on right now and levy dollars. We’d be much better off putting money into cost burdened households bank accounts this year, than making them wait for a subsidized unit 5 years from now
The legal implications are also clear; the City does not have a coherent voice of math on the supposed value exchange of requiring performance or fees in exchange for FAR. In some places the dial has been turned down, and in others the dial has been turned up and for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with lowering housing prices or addressing the fundamental concerns people have about where they can find a place to live; in other words, the requirements have no nexus or proportionality.