Reply from Candidate Alon Bassok

posted Jul 24, 2015, 7:19 PM by PRCC Webmaster   [ updated Jul 25, 2015, 11:51 AM ]
Thank you for the opportunity to comment. Please find my responses to your questions below within your original text. 

Kind regards, 

Alon 

Dear city council candidates:

 I am writing on behalf of the Phinney Ridge Community Council. We are currently reviewing the mayor’s proposed “Roadmap to an Affordable and Livable City,” and would like to know the council candidates’ positions on several of the mayor’s proposals. We are asking the questions of all candidates who will appear on the ballot in District 6. We intend to distribute your answers to our members and post a link to them on our Facebook page.  Please feel free to provide an explanation for your answers as you see fit. Thanks in advance for taking the time to promptly respond. 

 Here are our questions:

1.    Do you agree with the mayor’s proposal to allow “small lot dwellings, cottages or courtyard housing, rowhouses, duplexes, triplexes and stacked flats” in single-family zones?

Yes. We already allow for single family homes to have either a basement apartment or a detached backyard cottage. That is already two--not one. The new regulations would allow both. That would bring us to three. 

Since we would have three, I am open to different versions of three. 

Some people argue that the accessory units as opposed to duplex/triplex would generate income for the owner and prevent displacement. This is not likely because the remodel of a basement and construction of a backyard cottage would cost upwards of $200,000. For people in danger of being displaced, a load of that size is likely out of reach in addition to their existing mortgage. As such, I don't believe Mother-In-Laws and Backyard Cottages will produce a lot of new housing. 

However, I think there is a lot of potential for other housing types to add more housing. For example, imagine a home that from the street appears to be a two story single-family home with a daylight basement. But, inside you would have separate condos in the daylight basement, first floor and second floor. This would require less space, keep more room between houses and can maintain look and feel of existing streets. 

I believe most of the problems we have with regards to development have a lot to do with poor design. We need better design guidelines. All of the building types you have asked about can be done tastefully and be attractive. 

No one will be required to build or tear down under the new rules. But, we need a lot more housing in this city and the HALA recommendations are a good first step forward. 
 

2.      Do you agree with the mayor’s proposal to expand the boundaries of some urban villages, such as in Ballard?

In general, yes. I believe we can expand the boundaries where it makes sense to do so. There are also some places (for example, the are in the West Seattle village with six churches/schools) that likely don't make much sense for that designation. 
 

3.      Do you agree with the mayor’s proposal to reduce parking requirements in transit-served areas and in multi-family zones outside urban centers and urban villages, to ensure that parking requirements are not re-introduced in urban villages and urban centers, and eliminate parking requirements for “small-scale” housing types in single-family neighborhoods?


Yes. One of the last things I did before leaving my position with the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies to campaign full time was to complete a study on parking in Ballard and West Seattle. The study may be found here: http://realestate.washington.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Runstad_Center_Parking_Study_2015_final.pdf. What we found in this study was that by and large, people living in microhousing units do not park on the street. 

Most of the vehicles parked within the urban villages were registered to single family homes and to apartments that had parking. This makes sense. If you live in an apartment that charges you for parking, it's not hard to do the math on free street parking being cheaper. For a single family home, parking on the street and using the garage for storage or shop space is cheaper and more convenient than renting shop or storage space elsewhere.  

And, most importantly, we found there to be available parking spaces at night for the stationary population. The lack of parking is a commercial business issue and not a residential one. 

The problem that we have is that so many of us do not have good transit options to get to the commercial cores of our neighborhoods. We need transit that serves not only commuters and downtown but also the neighborhoods.  

4.      Do you agree with the mayor’s proposal to increase allowable height and density in multi-family, neighborhood-commercial and commercial zones? Do you believe that such an increase is necessary to create affordable housing?

Yes. I support the height increases because I fully believe in the efficacy of inclusionary up-zoning. This is a tool that can provide us with many thousands of affordable housing units while not increasing the tax burden on Seattle's residents. 
 

5.      Do you believe that the mayor’s proposal does enough to require developers to help provide affordable housing and mitigate the impact of development?  Would you support other measures, such as a tougher inclusionary-housing requirement, or broader linkage and impact fees?

I would hope that the HALA recommendations could have gone further to increase the percentage of housing units required to be affordable. Throughout my campaign, I have called for mandatory inclusionary up-zoning requiring 1 in every 5 new units built be affordable to people making the minimum wage. The HALA report calls for 7%, compared to my proposed 20%. My proposal may be found here: http://www.alonbassok.com/images/bassok-housing-paper.pdf