Have Any Red Herrings? KIRO is Buying Them!

Once again local media—this time KIRO Radio—has played right into the NIMBYs hands with a story on this morning’s radio and a post on their website. The headline?

Microhousing trend in Seattle ruining property values, warns real estate agent 

I talked with the producer of the story Zak Burns and took him to task for his reporting. It’s really the cheap way out, telling the story of poor, set upon neighbors facing an onslaught of microhousing development.

First, he never bothered to contact anyone on the other side including the developer or anyone who has been on the record supporting this. His source was one real estate agent with an interest in the neighborhood and Dennis Saxman a growth opponent who filed an appeal of microhousing legislation that was tossed out by the hearing examiner. I told Mr. Burns, next time please give us a chance to give our side of the story.

Second, and probably worst of all, Burns simply went out to the neighborhood and took pictures of the microhousing project completely out of context. Lynn Thompson of the Times has done this as well, having a photographer lie down on the ground to photograph a “monster house” without bothering to look at what was across the street.

Fortunately, Publicola ran a post just a couple days ago showing exactly what the street looks like and putting the project in context.

Lastly, I asked Mr. Burns to show me any hard evidence that microhousing as any effect on property values. I reminded him that these people’s property values are already higher than single-family zones because they can sell their land for a higher return—it’s zoned for multifamily use. These neighbors already have a big value advantage because potential buyers can do more with the land.

Reporters, journalists, and bloggers of any persuasion on this issue do themselves and the city a big disservice when they selectively photograph development projects without bothering to look across the street. And they don’t help debate when they buy crates full of red herrings fished up by angry neighbors who don’t want change.

Unfortunately the myth becomes reality, and City Council starts to believe that microhousing projects have “bad design” or are “out of scale.” Remember, microhousing can only be built in zones where there is already significant numbers of multifamily housing.

Hopefully, next time, Mr. Burns will take pictures of what’s on the other side of the street and give us a call.

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