Since I first reported that the vast majority of applications for five community focus groups that will provide input on the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability agenda came from just three North End neighborhoods—Wallingford, Ballard, and Phinney Ridge—hundreds more applications have poured in, and the good news is that they’re far more representative of the city as a whole, demographically and geographically, than the original batch of applications.
The bad news? Some parts of the city, particularly far Southeast Seattle, remain underrepresented among the applications, with only a handful of applicants. North Rainier, Rainier Beach, and Othello each have half a dozen applicants or fewer, as do Roosevelt, Eastlake, and Bitter Lake.
Ballard, Wallingford, and Phinney Ridge remain vastly overrepresented in the applications—with 41, 55, and 26 applications, respectively. Other than Capitol Hill (with 51 applicants), those are the only three neighborhoods with more than 20 applications.
Overall, though, the number of applicants—more than 650, or several times the total number of people who participate in their neighborhood district councils citywide—and their diversity is encouraging to Nyland, who was initially concerned that most of the applications would be from plugged-in homeowners north of the Ship Canal with a vested interest in avoiding zoning changes that might increase density in their neighborhoods. However, she says, people who are opposed to HALA on principle still need to be part of the process. “I think they’ll be part of the conversation whether we put them [on the focus groups] or not, so it’s better that they’re on this list,” Nyland says.
In her office at City Hall last week, Nyland said the goal of the HALA groups is to bring together all perspectives and “push people outside their comfort zone. I think it would be a misstep to only include like-minded people.”
In a departure from the way the city usually arranges advisory groups, the HALA focus groups will be organized by type of neighborhood, rather than geographic area, bringing together “folks who are going to be experiencing like changes, though not necessarily in like parts of the city,” Nyland says. For example, one group, focused on hub urban villages, will likely include not just central neighborhoods like Capitol Hill but also Ballard, Lake City, and the West Seattle junction; another group, focused on areas where urban villages will be expanded under HALA, will include Columbia City, Roosevelt, Rainier Beach, and Crown Hill. All the groups will meet at City Hall so that no one has to drive, bike, or bus all the way across town—say, from Crown Hill to Rainier Beach.
The 661 applications, obtained through a public records request, include:
A young renter and attorney focusing on Indian law who was priced out of Judkins Park and wants to make sure all Seattle residents can afford housing, “Whether that person is currently on the street, makes over $100,000 a year, or makes 60% of the AMI.”
A Beacon Hill resident whose home has been in her family for generations who wants to make sure people are able to keep their homes even as the city densifies around them
A retired resident of Madrona who writes, “I am not an advocate of protecting neighborhoods by creating fortress communities where sensible zoning adjustments cannot intrude.”
A 27-year-old Belltown renter and lifelong Seattleite who says she wants to “be a voice for renters and young people – Seattle’s fastest-growing demographic and that most in need of affordable housing.
A Wallingford homeowner who says it’s “important to me that Seattle protects existing owners from structures that are too tall and/or too close to their existing homes” but also says, “I see way too many people opposing change out of fear, and they don’t even understand what’s in the HALA proposal or have constructive suggestions for improving it.
A New Holly resident and immigrant mother who wants to be a voice for refugees and low-income Somali families.
A property owner and landlord in Green Lake who grew up poor, had “bouts of homelessness in my 20s,” and now says, “I deeply believe in the need to provide a safety net and system for the poor and middle class in order to allow for stories like mine to exist.”
Nyland says the focus groups will be geographically representative despite the fact that certain neighborhoods are overrepresented in the applications.