Jayapal, who supports the upzone, told PubliCola:
“We have an affordable housing crisis and a need for family-wage jobs and transit. The zoning piece of this rests squarely with the city council, but I definitely think that the upzone is an important part of what we need to do to provide affordable housing and jobs.
We need to attract people to that area. Right now it’s a Lowe’s and a parking lot. I can’t imagine that it won’t transform the Rainier wasteland into a viable economic district. I support the upzone. People seem to be worried about what is going to happen to their neighborhoods, and they’re worried about job development. The city has to be worried about how to we bring businesses here. That’s going to require a concerted effort from the city.
I acknowledge the fears and I have talked to a lot of people about this because people only see what is happening in their neighborhood. They’re worried about their neighborhood still being livable. But given that people are still calling a lot of the Rainier Valley an economic wasteland, I don’t think people are necessarily happy with the way things are right now. If you look at how Columbia City developed, it didn’t develop by having a giant manufacturing plant here. It developed by creating housing and having small businesses that were able thrive.”
Jayapal is also concerned over the possibility that a lot of people simply won’t be eligible for enough publicly financed social services and environmental cleanup for new housing even if the city does upzone the area; although “I do support TOD,” she says, “you need to do more than one thing at once, and I do hope that the city will focus on Southeast Seattle and the Rainier Valley more than they have.”
“The problem with the rezone is that I think it’s completely ignoring, first of all, a large amount of the community that is opposed to it. There’s really not any clear objectives other than just to raise the height limits. …
Just because Darigold might maybe not be the appropriate industry for the future, that doesn’t mean that there are no other industries—for example, green independent technology—that might make sense… My primary concern is about the displacement of economic activity.”
In a followup email, Watanabe sent us two photos of the Othello light rail station that demonstrated, he said, the “blight that continues for the small business district” across from the light rail station despite plans for transit-oriented development there and despite the fact that the Othello station is more pedestrian-friendly than the Mount Baker station, which is accessible from the east side of Rainier only by a long, massive pedestrian overpass (or by jaywalking across two major thoroughfares, Rainier and MLK.)
“The city works best when it is brave enough to gather people who disagree with city staff and even the elected officials, and honestly listen to what they have to say. As we witnessed with the Mayor’s wage committee, facing uncomfortable opposition may be painful, but it results in outcomes that are more acceptable to a broader sector of our society.”