Master Builder

June 2016

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BY ROGER VALDEZ SMART GROWTH SEATTLE SEATTLE CITY LIGHT (SCL) We've been working on two serious issues with SCL. One has to do with the number of strikes required to connect live/work and other housing developments to the grid. In the past, builders could count on needing only one strike. Today, Seattle is demanding multiple strikes in some cases. This adds costs and can dramatically slow down projects, even making some infeasible. We've been working with legal counsel to craft a solution and are making progress. We're also working with SCL to improve wait times, especially in south Seattle. SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITIES (SPU) Water meter installations currently take 140+ calendar days from when payment is received — that's longer than it takes to build a new home. This isn't acceptable, and we've asked SPU to address it. They've been responsive, adding more staff and taking other measures but we'll keep working to reduce this wait time. If you've had problems with this, please contact me at roger@smartgrowthseattle.org or 206-427-7707. THE GRAND BARGAIN The so-called Grand Bargain wasn't much of a bargain for you. In exchange for modest upzones citywide, builders and developers outside downtown Seattle and South Lake Union are expected to fund as many as 6,000 rent-restricted units over 10 years. We've pointed out that: This isn't fair. Why do downtown Seattle and South Lake Union developers get a low enough in-lieu fee to avoid having to build rent-restricted units while everyone else doesn't? 2016 has been a busy year so far! Here are some updates on our work to improve housing choice, opportunity and supply in Seattle. It's probably infeasible. The value exchange of more density for building rent-restricted units probably won't materialize for many sites in zones across the city. Imagine trying to finance a project in the low-rise zone, with more square footage to pay for and complicated requirements for inclusionary housing. It's probably illegal. If projects fail to meet basic financial thresholds because of mandatory zoning requirements to build rent-restricted housing, there's a good chance that the proposed bargain violates state law. We've been exploring this with legal resources, trying to determine your options if the requirements pass. Questioning the Grand Bargain isn't popular since the funding from in-lieu fees paid by downtown Seattle and South Lake Union developers go to local non-profit housing developers. They get cash to build more subsidized housing, and the mayor gets credit for solving the housing "crisis." Asking tough questions is our job, and we'll keep asking them until we get answers or a solution that doesn't jeopardize your work building housing in Seattle, even if it makes people uncomfortable. Many of you have already sent in contributions to support our work in 2016. Thank you! Your help allows us to keep communicating, researching and advocating to make it easier to do a good thing: build more housing! Smart Growth Seattle Guest Editorial Emerald City Evolution 56 master builder 06.16 government advocacy

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