Councilmember Clark left office on April 14, 2015.
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Incentive zoning

With last Monday’s 6-3 vote to spread “incentive zoning” beyond the downtown area we wrapped up a year of work and came to the end of a long ride. The program, which allows the city to trade new development area (usually height) for a little bit of moderately affordable housing, asks way too little in the view of some advocates for low-income people and way too much in the view of some business, big-development advocates. I believe we hatched a sound program that provides an incentive and will result in more housing affordable to people who make a decent living, but still have a tough time finding a way to live in Seattle. We’ll get to test out the program when we consider major upzones and after the lending markets recover. “Recover” is an interesting idea since any recovery will look, must look different from the credit system we’ve had for the past 10 years.

One of my colleagues asked a difficult rhetorical question during one of the committee debates on incentive zoning. With regard to the opposition arguments about incentive zoning and the assertion that it simply won’t work, he ask, “Do we just not believe them?” It’s a great question to ask out loud. I think it was followed by an awkward silence at the committee table. It signals openly that councilmembers are always wrestling with how to evaluate the arguments for and against proposals. How much of an advocate’s argument is based in fact? How much in passion? How much in self-interest? How much in dogma? Advocacy is about all of those elements. Public policy gets flavored by all of it.

In the case of incentive zoning, I heard some advocates speak from self-interest and a few from dogma, but I mostly heard well-researched positions and well-reasoned opinions. They just happened to totally disagree.

Next up for the exciting Planning, Land Use & neighborhood Committee? The Dearborn/Goodwill rezone request in January.