Bill Bradburd, longtime chair of the Seattle Neighborhood Coalition (SNC), has identified a critical underlying issue in the upcoming battle over HALA and the Comp Plan. “Who speaks for Seattle’s neighborhoods?” Around this question revolve issues of democracy, political power, and economic justice.
Bill has assembled an intriguing panel to discuss the issue: Saturday, June 11, 9:00 AM at “The Central” (Central Area Senior Center), 500 30th Ave S (map) in the Leschi neighborhood. Here’s the announcement from Bill:
Former Mayor Mike McGinn ponders “who speaks for Seattle’s neighborhoods” in a recent Crosscut op-ed. This month we will hear from a panel of neighborhood activists who represent organizations that feel they speak with a “neighborhood” voice:
- Catherine Weatbrook – Co-chair of the City Neighborhood Council and past chair of the Ballard District Council
- Ruedi Risler – President of the University Park Community Club, a neighborhood council that does not allow renters to be members
- Zachary Pullin – President of the Capitol Hill Community Council, a neighborhood council that tries to engage renters in the organization
- Deborah Jaquith – Chair of the newly formed Crown Hill Urban Village Committee for Smart Growth
As the City pushes upzones throughout Seattle as part of HALA, community engagement is now an orchestrated affair rather than the neighborhood planning of years past (or as found in other cities).
Neighborhood organizations nonetheless have set their sights on HALA. For example, Queen Anne has filed an appeal against the backyard cottage legislation, and the City Neighborhood Council and SNC have for months been seeking an explanation of how the HALA upzones will actually produce the promised affordable units. This response seems justified since HALA has largely been a one-sided conversation from the City, with the script written by developers and those with a vested interest in the mechanisms in HALA.
So what better way to counter the efforts of these neighborhood activists raising questions about HALA than to discredit them. (McGinn was invited to participate on the panel but did not respond).
Developer funded organizations, as well as the City, are working overtime to promote HALA. Vulcan, who orchestrated a sweet deal in the “Grand Bargain”, is funding Seattle for Everyone which unsurprisingly has a steering committee made up of HALA creators and financial beneficiaries (Vulcan also funded McGinn’s pre-mayoral Great City Initiative , the proto-urbanist Seattle “group”).
Neighborhoods targeted for changes and the one-size-fits-all up-zoning in HALA have to respond with volunteer hours and effort which will likely receive the usual barrage of insults: “NIMBY”, “exclusionary”, “racist”, and now, perhaps, not an “authentic voice”.
This month we will explore whether volunteer (and unfunded) neighborhood organizations have a role to play, and what that role may be in the future in a city that moves further away from neighborhood power.