Community Post

Peter Steinbrueck, Bruce Harrell, Ed Murray and Mike McGinn Answer Questions About Socially Responsible Development

We have been working with a small, diverse group of developers and citizens, including Maria Barrientos and Liz Dunn, all with an interest in promoting socially responsible development toward Seattle’s future built form. Big thanks to the Harrell, McGinn, Murray, and Steinbrueck campaigns for thorough and thoughtful responses to our questions. Please visit the bolded links for the full text of candidate responses. As the responses cannot be succinctly summarized, below is not so much a summary as an excerpt from each full response:

Steinbrueck raises the proposed Transit Communities amendments to the Seattle Comprehensive Plan among his examples of policy-driven socially responsible development (SRD). Harrell defines SRD to include “safe, living wage jobs” for construction workers; “opportunities for minority- and women-owned business”, and the public comment process of Design Review. McGinn expands his discussion of SRD policy to include a mention of the Affordable Housing Advisory Group, as well as “other ways where the City has leverage”, such as the alley vacation requested by Whole Foods in West Seattle. According to Murray, there are still unmet needs in the goal of “mitigating the effects of past injustices”. For instance, “non-profit and neighborhood advocacy groups in the Central District need dedicated space of their own, and we still lack a GLBT community center.”

Potential negative outcomes of growth, for Harrell, include “concrete box buildings”. He also notes “loss of space, privacy and freedom” as well as “loss of neighborhood character and unique identity”. Steinbrueck cites “center city gentrification ” and “social inequities on the poor” as possible negative outcomes. Murray notes a need for decision-making “guided by collaboration and compromise”, with potential negative outcomes including “chaotic and unregulated boom and bust cycles that have characterized growth patterns in too many other cities”. McGinn notes that Seattle citizens might fear “loss of parking” and “gentrification”, but goes on to list a number of projects designed to counter potential negative outcomes in Capitol Hill, Central District, and Southeast Seattle.

Steinbrueck, McGinn, and Harrell are generally supportive of the “Seattle process”, with Harrell defining it as “an effort to get our future right, and to engage in the diversity of opinion that is reflected throughout this city”. McGinn cites a management example from his first term that sped up the permitting process, as well as the regulatory reform task force, as “good examples of private/public partnership”. Harrell suggests benchmarking approval dates during permitting in order to streamline the process. Murray lists community benefit agreements and streamlined permitting as ways to encourage affordable housing stock. Steinbrueck brings up lengthy zoning variance requests, “fee-driven permitting ”, and Design Review as three areas for improvement in the city’s response to housing demand.

In regards to building typologies and parking, Murray believes that focusing growth on neighborhoods like South Lake Union “that are designed to receive” density will, in turn, “reduce development pressure in other areas of the city”. Steinbrueck states that the city’s parking ratios do not reflect the current reality, and that “parking demand should be monetized and cost-out so that the people who don’t own cars can choose not to pay for parking they may not need or want.” All three candidates anticipate an increase in use of transit and car-sharing services, with both McGinn and Harrell noting the number of regional destinations that can be served by transit or car sharing. In contrast to McGinn, Harrell specifies that, while higher-density developments near transit hubs should be exempt from parking requirements, new single family homes should have at least one parking spot per lot.

All the candidates who responded express a desire for a range of affordability across all neighborhoods. Toward that end, all candidates also support increased housing supply and micro-housing. McGinn additionally believes that “reducing the costs of developing new housing” will help encourage the production of more affordable housing, and cites his South Lake Union rezone proposal as “a good example of how more affordable housing could have been realized but was not”. Murray, on the other hand, is critical of the SLU rezoning process, writing that “none of the approaches put forward by the mayor and the Council come close to meeting the stated goals”. Steinbrueck is encouraged by Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) as a way to reduce household transportation expenses, and wants to see the city “honor and adhere to its comprehensive plan targets.” Steinbrueck notes that “preservation of older multifamily housing supports neighborhood character and affordability,” while Harrell prefers to “incorporate affordable housing in the new developments at minimum on a one to one replacement ratio”. Harrell additionally would like to support more family shelter facilities through the 2016 Seattle Housing Levy renewal.

The remaining candidates (with the exception of Staadecker and McQuaid) initially indicated that they would respond, but recent emails reaching out to them have not been answered.


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About Neighborhood Theory

Bo Zhang and Brian Kalthoff are two Seattle residents in the real estate industry. We began as students at the University of Washington, on our desire to better understand the efforts of thoughtful developers who wish to better serve the neighborhoods they care about. We’re most interested in the corners of the real estate industry that intersect with community development and neighborhood-level social structure. We believe that real estate developers are accountable for the block-by-block demographics that contribute to public life, and that this power can be better utilized in collaboration with the communities that developers serve.

5 thoughts on “Peter Steinbrueck, Bruce Harrell, Ed Murray and Mike McGinn Answer Questions About Socially Responsible Development

  1. Thank you for taking the initiative, time and effort to gather this information and sharing it with us. I am going to read the responses in greater detail, but even I saw some things in your report that I had not heard from candidates — or they did not have the time to elaborate — in the many debates I attended or watched.

  2. Hey Neighborhood Theory folks: Thanks very much for publishing this. I’m really interested in your broader project of relating the format and scale of development to neighborhood vitality and demographics. I’m an architecture student at UW and I serve on a couple of community organizations in the CD that take an interest in development. I’m interested in exploring similar ideas myself and I’d love to get together for coffee or a drink and discuss. You can email me at [email protected] – thanks!