The C Is for Crank Interviews: Tammy Morales

Now that the primary-election field of 47 has been narrowed to a comparatively manageable 18, I’m sitting down with all the council candidates to talk about what they’ve learned so far, their campaign plans going forward, and their views on the issues that will shape the election, including density, “neighborhood character,” crime, parking, police accountability, and diversity. I’ll be rolling out all 17 of my interviews (Kshama Sawant was the only candidate who declined to sit down with me) over the next few weeks.

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Today’s interview: District 2 candidate Tammy Morales. I met up with Morales at Lottie’s Lounge in Columbia City.

The C Is for Crank [ECB]: You finished primary election night far behind your opponent [council incumbent Bruce Harrell, who got 61,72 percent to Morales’ 24.66 percent]. What’s your strategy to make up some of that ground and have a strong showing in the general election?

Tammy Morales [TM]: My goal is to get back out there. We’re regrouping now. I got into the campaign because of displacement and the lack of strategy around development. I was feeling like there wasn’t a good strategy to manage growth. There was a strategy to help developers, yes, but not one to make sure people don’t get pushed out.

I’ve been thinking throughout the campaign about police accountability and the need to adjust our public safety approach with the community. I’ve been feeling  that we need to do something to address public safety, gun activity, and gun violence. That would certainly be something I’d want to focus on. There is a palpable sense of frustration down here. I’ve been to a community meeting about guns and gun violence once or twice a week for the last few weeks. From Rainier Beach up to the International District, it’s an issue. We need more power. One of the things I’ve been advocating all along is, we probably need to change the way we do education in this city.  These are not issues the city council can solve alone, but they haven’t been helping very much either.

ECB: How do you mean?

TM: For one thing, Bruce has been putting provisos on youth violence and Career Bridge money. [Funding for Career Bridge, which is supposed to link people convicted of crimes to job opportunities, was cut after a city audit found it was helping only a fraction of the people it was supposed to assist].  It doesn’t help. If you have questions about how these projects are run, that’s fine, but you don’t solve the problems by cutting all of their funding. His solutions are largely technological, like putting body cameras on everybody. I’m more about initiatives that can help them from the beginning.

ECB: Do you not support body cameras?

TM: I know currently, that’s what people are talking about, but I don’t think that’s going to solve the problem of accountability. Here in Seattle, we already have video of police officers brutalizing people, and that has not led to prosecutions.

ECB: You mentioned when you walked in that you had been at a meeting about restorative justice. What can you tell me about that? 

TM: Restorative justice is a whole constellation of approaches—bringing people together to talk about what happened [when a crime was committed], rather than relying on the strictly punitive criminal justice system. The idea where would be trying to improve some procedures, putting some resources into the school disciplinary process, not putting resources into the youth jail, and putting more into prevention. Just locking them up isn’t going to solve our problems, when we know there’s a connection between school suspension and the juvenile justice system.

ECB:  I want to go back to the issue of displacement, which you touched on briefly. You supported an alternative to the mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda [HALA] recommendations that called for rent control, large fees on new residential development, and strict anti-displacement provisions. Why do you support these approaches instead of HALA?

TM: The problem is that there are not enough affordable units being built. People don’t have livable wage jobs, and there’s not enough affordable units. [Gesturing toward the Angeline, a new development with about 200 apartments and a PCC on the ground level] The units down there are going for $3,000 a month.

I understand the need for growth and density. I support most of the HALA recommendations. The plan I signed on to was an addition, not a substitute, necessarily. I know a lot about development. I’ve been studying this for more than 20 years I wrote my masters thesis on HOPE 6 [a federal program aimed at increasing income diversity in publicly funded housing],  so I understand the need to have a mix of different kinds of people living close to each other. I think we need to replicate the urban village strategy more and support it better.

ECB: But by supporting an alternative to the plan that was agreed to by both social justice advocates and developers, aren’t you saying it’s OK to jeopardize the so-called Grand Bargain? Is getting a residential linkage fee that important to you?

TM: I think the goal is to generate more revenue, and when you leave money on the table, then you’re not generating that revenue. It makes no sense that you’re not taking that revenue that’s lying on the table.

ECB: The argument against a residential linkage fee is that charging more for development will drive up the cost of development, and make Seattle a less attractive place for developers to build, creating a situation where excess demand drives up the cost of housing.

TM: I ‘m skeptical about how much development would diminish. Given that we have such a red-hot market, I think [the residential linkage fee] is something that should be considered for its long-term potential to create  more revenue. I feel like what we really need to be focusing on is generating enough affordable housing.

ECB: Any other concerns about HALA?

TM: I think the urban village strategy works. I was disappointed to see the mayor take the single-family option [allowing a greater diversity of housing forms in single-family areas] off the table sooner rather than later. People are coming—they have to go somewhere. Where I get challenged is when I hear people saying, we don’t want any growth, we don’t want any change anywhere. I was looking at a map of the parts of the city that didn’t participate in the urban village strategy and they include Lakewood and Seward Park, where I live. We have a tiny little commercial area where the PCC used to be. The neighborhood commercial business districts are what makes neighborhoods thrive.

Having more robust neighborhood commercial districts is the kind of the thing that supports more frequent transit, more frequent bus services, and better connections between communities to each other. This is a problem we find in suburban areas, and I think of single-family as somewhat suburban. We need to retrofit those areas and in some cases we need to go back after the fact. If we end up putting more commercial nodes in the Seward Park area, I’m fine with that.

Bruce Harrell, District 2

Michael Maddux, District 4

Rob Johnson, District 4

Mike O’Brien, District 6

Catherine Weatbrook, District 6

Tim Burgess, Position 8

Jon Grant, Position 8

Lorena Gonzalez, Position 9

Bill Bradburd, Position 9

17 thoughts on “The C Is for Crank Interviews: Tammy Morales”

  1. Well let me deny it here, djw. Let’s not be knocking down perfectly good SF housing stock to replace with MF. Let’s put an equivalent amount of MF into MF zones, and leave the SF zones alone. Increase the volume of housing all you want; if not enough MF zoning, then increase MF zoning. The MF you seek doesn’t have to all go into SF zones!! The urbanist fanaticism on this is truly breathtaking.

  2. So the best you can offer, to middle-income families who want to raise their children in a SF home, your advice to them is buy in the suburbs. Seattle has no future for you. I don’t accept that.

    1. What’s your plan, then? Your strategy–the one you claim is working just fine–has lead to the destruction of the vast majority of naturally affordable single family housing, and will finish off what’s left in short order. You don’t even bother to deny this.

      Your preference is clear–you’re perfectly fine with Seattle’s single family neighborhoods being turned into enclaves for the rich within a generation, a development that enriches you and/or your heirs considerably, long as we make sure it remains illegal to taint your neighborhood with something as monstrous as a duplex. We’re all entitled to our preferences, I suppose, but I do wish you’d admit you just don’t actually care about affordability.

      1. Replacing $400K “affordable” houses with $600K townhouses ($670K in my neighborhood) sends neighborhoods upscale and more costly. Fewer SF houses in the inventory pushes up their prices, for those families who aspire to own one. Smaller inventory coupled with competition from developers would be the death knell for families in Seattle — forcing them to the ‘burbs or into MF. Most Seattle families still want to raise their children in a SF home.

        Broaden your horizons! Since when did SF zoning become the single “must do” for urbanists? Even the mayor has backed away, acknowledging that the numbers just aren’t there to make much of a difference. We have lots of real estate already zoned for MF. If it turns out that we don’t have enough, then expand the urban villages and up zone them.

      2. Replacing $400K “affordable” houses with $600K townhouses ($670K in my neighborhood) sends neighborhoods upscale and more costly.

        You love repeating this line, but of course the boring old 400K home will be there soon enough, if we don’t allow supply to be added. You don’t even bother to deny this.

  3. More faith-based real estate economics from the urbanists. Here’s a more realistic scenario — that “building next door” gets remodeled because the neighborhood is now going upscale; its rents go from $1100 to $1900 a month. The older building on the other side gets knocked down and replaced by high-end construction. The old building’s $900 rents disappear, replaced by more $3000 units.

    1. We’ve been doing things your way, Roger, and virtually all the “naturally affordable” older housing stock you speak of is gone–certainly a tiny fraction of it remains compared to redevelopment.

      Listening to you, one would think most of that affordable stock has been lost to teardowns and remodels, but of course that’s not true at all–they make up a tiny fraction of the once affordable, but now not, SFH rentals. The housing stock has become more expensive because it’s scarcer. The house across the alley from my girlfriend’s place in Greenwood, a functional but not updated or particularly charming 2 bedroom in Greenwood, just rented for 2300. Lots of applicants. The people living there when we moved into the neighborhood in 2009 were paying 1400. Scarcity kills affordable housing far efficiently than fancy new development ever could.

      The best possible scenario for your strategy to preserve affordable housing is that it might preserve it for another 2-4 years. (Of course, as a strategy to drive up the value of current SFH owners, it’s a much more effective long term strategy, but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.)

    2. I gave you a specific example, bro. No faith required. My rents went up less than 1% this year specifically because of development. No faith required.

  4. I don’t know why it’s *so hard* for anti-HALA (anti-growth) people to understand that new things have a price premium over older things. This is true for cars; video games; clothes; and yes! even housing.

    Tammy Morales pointed to units that are going to $3,000/month, but didn’t point to the building next door (rhetorically speaking of course) whose rents won’t go up as much due to that $3,000/month unit existing. Personally speaking, the rent for my apartment in Belltown went up only $15/month over last year, and there’s new construction all over the place near my building.

    Tammy: we know, for sure, that supply tends to disinflate rents for all apartments, and putting a large tax on them has the effect of inflating rents for everyone else.

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