Now that the primary-election field of 47 has been narrowed to a comparatively manageable 18, I’m sitting down with all the council candidates to talk about what they’ve learned so far, their campaign plans going forward, and their views on the issues that will shape the election, including density, “neighborhood character,” crime, parking, police accountability, and diversity. I’ll be rolling out all 17 of my interviews (Kshama Sawant was the only candidate who declined to sit down with me) over the next few weeks.
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The C Is For Crank [ECB]: You’ve been criticized by neighborhood activists for supporting the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda recommendations, which mandate more density in neighborhoods. What’s your response to people who say this deal was written for developers and at the expense of the neighborhoods?
Sally Bagshaw [SB]: I tell people, when they get all upset about what’s going on in the neighborhoods, that these aren’t bad people coming to live here. We have like 7 billion people on the planet. It’s not like we can put a “No Vacancy” sign on Seattle. People are coming here. With climate change, people are going to want to come here. This is one of the best places to live as the climate changes. People are telling us, in the next 50 years, that this is going to be the place people want to move to, and we need to be ready.
ECB: How do you respond to claims that the committee came up with its recommendations in secret, without any public input or scrutiny?
SB: This is my favorite part—we had 28 people on the main committee and a huge number of people on the subcommittees that all came together and came up with these recommendations. And they are just recommendations. The council will look at them and decide. Nobody likes all of them, but everyone came together to support the package. It’s just like what the mayor did with $15 an hour. That was a model that works. A solution was reached. And it wasn’t secret. Everyone was talking. The agenda was floating around so you could see what they were working on.
But if you are negotiating something and working on issues, you need people who are dedicated to solving the problem to come to the table, and you need to develop trust among the people who are negotiating, and that what you say is going to stay in the room. The HALA recommendations weren’t a done deal. It’s not like a deal was reached. It was a set of recommendations that we can now respond to.
ECB: What did you think of the recommendations overall? Did you support the mayor’s decision to abandon the proposal to increase flexibility in single-family areas?
SB: What I want to do is [transit-oriented development] infill along the light rail and RapidRide routes and inclusionary zoning. The time is right for that. After I did not support the linkage fee [on residential development, which Bagshaw voted against last October], I wanted to do just what happened, which was bringing people together.
HALA includes TOD, increased opportunities to add accessory dwelling units and detached accessory dwelling units, and making the permitting process easier—that’s a huge opportunity. It means that if you’e got a house and you want to change your garage so that your college-age son could live there, or so that you could move into the garage, you would have that opportunity. Inclusionary zoning is in there too. That would require, across the city, people to build affordable units when building housing. I recommendeded ten or 15 percent, and we ended up at about half that—5 to 7 percent.
ECB: How did you feel about the decision to abandon changes to allow duplexes, triplexes, and small apartments in single-family areas?
SB: I don’t think single-family is a priority right now. If we do ADUs and DADUs, we will get thousands of units of new housing. I don’t think [a fight for single-family changes] will be successful. We’ll be fighting that forever. This stuff needs to be phased in. We can get thousands of units by expanding the multifamily tax credit to help with that. We’re going to have to have that conversation, but we can pilot some of these things now. It doesn’t have to all change Monday morning.
We need to see how we’re going to impact neighborhoods and make sure we’re building in a way that we can agree on. We can be successful in some things we know we haven’t done yet, like making sure additional people have transit and mobility. People don’t want to change the character of their neighborhoods, but more than that, they want to drive how we expand. Making sure we have a transit network really expanded is number one. More people will get out of their cars if you frame it as being about mobility and congestion.
ECB: In your district, which includes downtown, the Seattle Police Department did a focused effort to crack down on drugs and crime in a nine-and-a-half block area of downtown where businesses complained that open-air drug markets were making the neighborhood feel unsafe. This resulted in nearly 200 drug arrests in one particular, high-profile sting. Do you think the nine-and-a-half-block strategy worked, and was it the right approach?
SB: Yes and yes. But it was the first pilot too. [Seattle Public Utilities] increased the frequency of garbage pickups. Parks cleaned up Westlake Park, starting early in the morning. Police had units come out early in the morning to reach people who were sleeping. Human services providers came out to link them to services. Evergreen Treatment Services provided access to methadone.
We took 90 days to identify the big drug dealers. I’m not talking about drug addicts. The police have told me there are five different layers, ranging from people who sell to support their own personal use, who we get into [Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion].
Then you move up to the point that’s really worrisome to me. There was a Guatemalan organization that was forcing people to sell drugs. It was a big deal. When they get the [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms] involved, you know it’s a big deal. There was a Vietnamese group that was forcing people to sell. If people that we can help, that are selling for their own use, get into LEAD and get the assistance they need , we can focus on the people who are really committing the crimes and preying on others.
ECB: What about folks who are selling but are also drug users? A lot of the people who got swept up in that crackdown were addicts themselves—people who need help, not prison sentences.
SB: I don’t think those folks are going to be getting prison sentences. They’re going to go into diversion. But people who worked downtown and lived downtown said, we can’t stand it anymore. We don’t feel comfortable in our work or at our home. And new statistics show that there are fewer crimes, both major and minor, in that area.