The best thing about the Crosscut story on the Escala appeal is the response it elicited from one JJ Smith, a commenter on Disqus to whom we have had occasion to refer previously. We are reproducing Smith’s response here because we appreciate the swift precision of the author’s prose and the accuracy of their thinking. We do not know who Mr/Ms Smith is, but we will offer them a gig if they’ll get in touch.
The author seems to assume, without citing evidence, that the Mayor’s HALA scheme will actually increase housing “affordability” in Seattle. Is it too much to ask to see the independent analysis that proves this before accepting the premise?
Unfortunately, HALA is the product not of a rigorous and public analysis, but of a private handshake deal between major developers and the mayor’s office. From that point on the “grand bargain” was treated as fait accompli, and the rest has all been a sales job.
I for one don’t give a damn whether the wealthy residents of Escala are civic heroes or selfish yuppies. It’s easy to make ad hominem attacks and turn the housing and development debate into a good guys/bad guys soap opera – in fact, the mayor and developers seem to have made a conscious decision to do just that. But that’s a cheap diversionary tactic designed, one suspects, to cow good Seattle liberals into submission. What’s infinitely more important, and difficult, is to articulate and execute a vision for a City that’s both inclusive and preserves a modicum of livability. Here the Mayor hasn’t done much heavy lifting at all.
I am no fan of endless Seattle process. But on the housing affordability issue the Mayor has chosen to drive in the other ditch, involving only a select few – a majority of whom have ties to the development industry – and relegating most of Seattle to the sidelines except as subjects of the HALA P.R. blitz.
One hears claims that those who throw legal roadblocks in front of the HALA juggernaut are delaying a solution and making the housing-affordability crises worse. But consider the other possibility: that as inclusionary-zoning schemes go, HALA is just window dressing: a plan that gives up too much, asks for too little, will drive up land prices, encourage speculation, and lead to the destruction of more existing affordable housing units than it creates.
Keeping in mind Deep Throat’s dictum to “follow the money,” one should never take either a politician or a developer on faith. Let’s see some independent analysis from a truly objective source that suggests this is really the best we can do. Until then, a little skepticism is not an unhealthy thing.