Last night I attended and spoke at the final hearing for Seattle’s citywide upzone. I want to start by saying, myself included, these people don’t speak for our city. This was a hearing that lasted over 5 hours, extending late into the night and many of us, myself included, had the luxury to show up at 4:45pm on a work day and get our early spots in line. About 170 people spoke. This is a city of 730,000 people, not 170 people. The privilege and patience to attend the hearing doesn’t give you the right to speak on behalf of the entire city.
I heard moronic comments waiting in line. The guy behind me said “my young neighbor just bought her first house for $750,000 and if this passes a 40-foot tall building can go right next door to her. She never expected that. I’m here for her”. First off, settle down, Superman, you’re not supposed to save the day without wearing your cape. Second of all, Seattle’s single family zoning permits buildings up to 35-feet in height with roof pitches. How could he not see that a $750,000 home is why we need to share the lots? But Superman wasn’t actually mad for his neighbor about the extra 5 feet of building height. NIMBYs veil their concerns in an attempt to legitimize them. He’s not concerned about an added 5-feet of building height, he’s concerned it will be an apartment building. Also, we all know he’s not talking on behalf of his neighbor either. He’s using this young woman, first time home buyer, as a shield because his story, as a 60 something white Seattle home owner who has exponentially grown his housing wealth, doesn’t sound so genuine.
“my neighbor just bought her first house for $750,000 and if this passes a 40-foot tall building can go right next door to her. She never expected that. I’m here for her”
- some NIMBY hero in line
There were good comments too, don’t get me wrong. One older guy said the idea of 39 people replacing him and his wife on their lot “kind of delighted” him. He was fantastic. And funny. But many of the comments weren’t intentionally funny. One woman called the people moving in to Seattle “Tech Trash”. (Side note: Superman’s neighbor works for Amazon…). But besides the uncalled for commentary, I was most frustrated with the veils.
You see, NIMBYs love to use disingenuous excuses to halt or delay any change to their neighborhood. They’ll tell you it’s the loss of trees, or the added 5-feet of building taking away daylight, or something about neighborhood planning, whatever that means. But we all know why they are there standing in line for 5 hours. I heard about 20 people bring up the loss of trees in Seattle if we pass the upzone. For those who think the world was created yesterday, it might be hard to imagine, but Seattle was actually one massive forest before your neighborhood or houses were ever built there. And, not too long ago, Aurora Avenue had a city sponsored plan to add hundreds of trees to the medians and sidewalks. Auto merchants killed this plan and I don’t recall a single tree protectionist making a protesting comment. There were people from the Interstate-5 edge of Capitol Hill complaining that a dense housing project across the freeway will reflect noise back to their home and trap pollution in the area causing physical harm to their residents. Sounds like an urban highway and auto pollution problem to me? Let’s just point out the obvious, those weren’t their real reasons for protest. Their million dollar sunset views of Lake Union and the Space Needle would be partially blocked. That’s what they were really complaining about.
There were insane comments about tall buildings blocking views for the 4th of July fireworks, comments about some annual mating of Blue Heron birds that occurs somewhere in West Seattle, and, worst of all, people with millions in housing equity saying they don’t support the upzone because it doesn’t do enough for the poor community.
Again, these people don’t speak for our city. They speak for themselves. And they’re ashamed to admit it.