Jon Grant, one of two candidates for the at-large city council Position 8, has a favored talking point that he pulls out at every opportunity: His opponent, Washington State Labor Council lobbyist Teresa Mosqueda, has taken a “maxed-out contribution from the developer who was one of the lead architects of the Grand Bargain.” The Grand Bargain was an agreement hammered out by the 28-member Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda committee, which included developers, nonprofit housing groups, social justice advocates, and planning experts, to require developers to build or fund affordable housing in new buildings. But it has become a kind of shorthand for selling out to developers among Seattle’s socialist-leaning left. Associating Mosqueda with the “developer architect of the Grand Bargain” is thus a way of implying she will compromise on goals like affordable housing if the developers who back her campaign tell her to do so. (“Maxed-out,” in the case of city council elections, means a contribution of $250.)
So who is this ominous deep-pocketed puppet master? Meet Maria Barrientos, principal of barrientos RYAN and one of the only women of color building affordable housing in Seattle. Barrientos—whose business partner is also a woman—integrates affordable housing into market-rate apartment buildings in dense urban areas (like this upcoming development in Pioneer Square), and is currently developing the city’s first Passivhaus-certified mixed-use apartment building on Capitol Hill.
I called Barrientos last week to get her reaction to Grant’s characterization of her and her work, and to find out more about why she’s supporting Mosqueda. Here’s what she had to say.
On why she supports Mosqueda:
I know her through her labor organizing work, mostly. She’s a friend. But more importantly, I like how she goes about listening to other people’s views on issues. I can honestly say I don’t agree with her on everything, but what I appreciate is any person in a public position that is able to listen and really understand the different sides of issues, weigh them respectfully, get the big picture about our city and what makes it work, which involves a dozen different things, and weigh that against the city’s visions and goals and what we’re trying to achieve. I really appreciate thoughtful people. You can’t be in a public position and be effective if you have only one small constituency.
I also maxed out with Lorena Gonzalez and Debora Juarez. I will always give to a woman of color.
On working with Grant on the HALA committee:
The difficulty with Jon’s position is that he never came to the table to work with anyone else. It was always ideological—’Here’s what we represent and what we believe, and we’re not compromising. We’re not giving.’ What do you do with that? It’s not very helpful when you’re trying to work toward solutions. And the basic inability to even understand or accept that there are a myriad of other perspectives in our city, and we have to put all these interests together—none of them are evil, they’re just different. He never participated, and he ended up marginalizing himself, because he didn’t come to the table with any ideas or solutions or input. It was just negative: ‘Here’s my ideology and I don’t want to [discuss anything else].’ It’s very difficult to work out a solution if you’re not willing to listen.
On her work as a developer:
Our company does a combination of market-rate work, affordable housing, and some collaborating with low-income housing providers. We’ve always had our foot in all three parts. We care deeply about trying to provide more affordable housing, although that’s not the only housing we develop. Back in 2010, when the economy was in the pits and there was no development going on, I spent half my time helping [the Low-Income Housing Institute] develop two low-income housing projects. I was happy to do that. The two big projects we’re working on right now are the Othello Station project and the Pacific Hospital project. We’re partners with Homesight to develop a multicultural center [at Othello] and we are working with the Pacific Hospital PDA on a 300-unit apartment project on the north lot of their property. Half of that project is going to be affordable housing for seniors and families, and the other half will be market rate.
I find it fascinating that he’s decided to focus on a small, minority- and woman-owned firm. We’re probably considered one of the smaller firms, because we do a lot of just urban infill. All our work is only in Seattle. We don’t take big corporate national funds. It’s all local funds, local investors. I find it curious—amazing, actually—that he’s decided to focus on me of all people. We are probably the top developer in town that does affordable housing, market rate housing, and low-income housing.
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