Poll Tests Messaging on Pro-Density Bill, Dunn Blasts Program He Voted For, Seattle Nice Debates Eviction Ban

1. Supporters of a bill that would legalize small multifamily buildings in residential areas across the state were testing messages for and against the legislation in a telephone poll last weekend.

The bill would eliminate the kind of exclusionary zoning that has preserved three-quarters of Seattle’s residential land exclusively for detached single-family houses, allowing very modest density (between two and six units, depending on proximity to housing and employment centers) in residential areas.

Although the bill is complex, selling it politically will boil down to messaging, which is where polls come in. This one tests how a number of positive messages impact a respondent’s support for the bill, including:

– Bans on homes like duplexes and triplexes make it more difficult for people of color to live in high-opportunity neighborhoods;

– Making more home types available and affordable helps protect our climate and prevent sprawl;

– The housing crisis spans municipal borders, which is why we need statewide solutions.

The poll also tests a number of messages opponents may use against the bill to see which ones are most convincing, such as:

– Traffic here is already terrible. It is impossible to live without a car here. This plan for massive new development will put more cars on the road and some units will not have to have off street parking. Our region is already growing too fast. Let’s not make it worse.

-We need to preserve the character of local neighborhoods. This is blanket fix that eliminates local control of development. It’s a one-size-fits-all mandate, even where new housing does not fit local character and the infrastructure isn’t there. Middle-income housing should not be burdened with fixing the housing crisis.

– This bill will accelerate and increase gentrification. too many working people, especially people of color, have already been forced to move and the solution should be rent control. This is another attempt by politicians in Olympia to line the pockets of wealthy property owners.

Although voters won’t get a direct say on HB 1782 or other legislation aimed at increasing access to affordable housing, a successful messaging campaign could put pressure on wavering density supporters to solidify or back off on their support for pro-housing bills. As happened last year, density opponents are already rolling out competing bills that are riddled with loopholes and designed to preserve the single-family status quo.

Although Dunn voted to fund Restorative Community Pathways’ $5 million budget at the end of 2020, he told PubliCola it turned out to be a bait-and-switch

2. King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn introduced a motion on Tuesday to pause a new juvenile diversion program, arguing that the program softens the consequences for crimes he considers too serious for diversion.

In a press release, Dunn cited similar complaints from the mayors of Kent, Auburn, Federal Way and Renton, who said the program could exacerbate the recent uptick in gun violence.

Dunn is challenging Democrat Kim Schrier to represent Washington’s 8th congressional district—a historically Republican seat. His criticism of Restorative Community Pathways is the latest in a series of high-profile provocations that position Dunn as a law-and-order stalwart on the council; he also led the charge to condemn City Hall Park, adjacent to the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle, as a public safety hazard.

Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell, the only other person quoted in Dunn’s press release, is campaigning to replace outgoing King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, also on a law-and-order platform.

Restorative Community Pathways, launched at the end of 2021, relies on nine nonprofits—including well-known organizations like East African Community Services—to provide counseling and supportive services to young people charged with low-level crimes, ranging from car thefts to some assaults. Most of the roughly 70 people referred to the program so far were arrested for misdemeanors, but the program is also open to young people charged with felonies.

Sean Goode, the director of the diversion nonprofit Choose 180, which is involved in Restorative Community Pathways, questioned the mayors’ reasoning, saying that “their neglect in addressing the material conditions their constituents are living in has more to do with the current uptick in violent crime than a program that has only existed in practice for a month.”

Although Dunn voted to fund Restorative Community Pathways’ $5 million budget at the end of 2020, he told PubliCola it turned out to be a bait-and-switch. “[King County Executive Dow Constantine] asked us to take it on faith that it would have a reasonable scope,” Dunn said. “Instead, the program is opened up to people charged with residential burglaries or brandishing a gun, which I’d say goes beyond ‘lower-risk crimes.'” He hopes the prosecutor’s office will scale back the program to exclude felony cases.

3. If you aren’t listening to the Seattle Nice podcast, featuring me (Erica) and my real-life friend (and online political frenemy) Sandeep Kaushik, this week’s episode about Seattle’s longstanding eviction ban is a great place to start. As one of his first acts as mayor, Bruce Harrell just extended the city’s moratorium on evictions—enacted at the beginning of the COVID pandemic and maintained ever since—through mid-February.

Sandeep argues that with COVID on the wane and the economy on the rise, it’s time to start enforcing the rules, which means making tenants pay or face eviction. I counter that without a serious infusion of cash assistance, most people who have been unable to pay their rent during the pandemic will face eviction—an event with massive legal, personal, and financial consequences, even when it doesn’t lead to literal homelessness.

Check out Seattle Nice (and rate, review and subscribe!) on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

—Erica C. Barnett, Paul Kiefer

3 thoughts on “Poll Tests Messaging on Pro-Density Bill, Dunn Blasts Program He Voted For, Seattle Nice Debates Eviction Ban”

  1. Seattle is a small city with a number of A list corporations. For decades the population hovered around 500,000. It’s now headed towards 800,000. Most of that is due to downtown mid-rises, and a few high rises like the Premier (40 stories), and a fantastic conversion of mostly crappy, single family homes into new townhouses, revitalizing many neighborhoods, not just visually, but with the economic, cultural and tax base boost that density brings. Seoul Korea is a place to look to as a stellar example of the joys and beauty of density. Google street view will give you a good sample. Check out the bike trails for 50km on each side of the Han River with a nice bathroom ( not a disgusting sanikan) every km, even more exercise stations.There are many, many clusters of 20, 30, 40 story towers.Their residents support an amazing array of small businesses that they can walk to. The city has public amenities that Seattle can only dream of. I’m a cyclist and and street quality in Seattle is 2/10, Seoul, 8/10, (France 10/10).Many positive things come with well-planned density. Lack of density is very expensive, allows for less maintenance, etc, etc.

  2. Increasing density of housing using the excess capacity that exists in residential areas makes sense. It is clear that housing options for people of low to middle income are few and far between without forcing people to move and forcing people to drive longer distances to get to work. These are the people who provide all of us with the goods and services that we all use. It doesn’t make sense when we have the capacity through modest zoning changes to increase housing options.

    “Making more home types available and affordable helps protect our climate and prevent sprawl”

  3. Erica: All three items offer abundant and redundant evidence that Progressives never think about the consequences of their actions and their lies, then end up shocked at the results. Here is the summary:
    1. What lies must we tell the voters to convince them that the State should hijack local control over zoning. Don’t worry, we can trust the Legislature not to mis-use another power grab and not destroy nice neighborhoods.
    2. How can softening the consequences of crime increase violence? Who knew?
    3. When the eviction ban ends, it will end the free stuff that free-loaders depend on and some may need to choose between Florida, Texas, or a blue tarp. That’s a shocker!
    Actions have consequences. Please keep repeating that until you finally understand. I know, its hopeless isn’t it? Steve Willie.

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