A guy in a tree suit showed up everywhere the candidate did holding his sign. "Would you care for me if I was a tree?"
City Council voted to finalize the Capehart Housing acquisition in Discovery Park on Monday, which was a surprise to approximately nobody. It was good to see political leadership from Sally Clark and Peter Steinbrueck that upgraded the one-to-one housing replacement language and made it non-contingent on the Fort Lawton deal going through.
I was surprised to see Tom Rassmussen quoted in the Post-Intelligencer describing the inappropriateness of the park for "people in transition."
An editorial in the PI makes the same point.
We did have some concerns, however, about access to shops and transportation.Have these people ever been to a ghetto? But even this is beside the point. Perhaps some people have argued for use of the housing for homeless people, but most folks I know feel that the housing should be maintained as workforce housing until its useful life is exhausted. Tom is arguing against a position nobody supports.
For example, the nearest bus stop we could find was close to a mile away and basic drugstore supplies required a trip of more than two miles. It appears that the Seattle City Council agreed, and voted to knock down the homes.
Most people who know about housing — and I count Rassmussen in this category — know that there is a relationship between availability of workforce housing and housing for the very poor. As available options become scarce, those on the bottom rungs of the market start getting knocked off. We all get this.
This is why the Capehart housing should be preserved for however long this is possible.
We've seen portrayals, most notably by Tim Ceis, of this housing as some sort of rotting from within, asbestos-laden, lead paint hazard that any sane person would pretty much tear down on sight, but this is belied by the fact that the families who will live there into 2009 find it perfectly habitable. In fact, everyone who sees it tends to describe it with the same word. "Nice."
There has been a false dichotomization of this issue along the lines of park and green space supporters versus homeless advocates. I don't see it that way. No one I know is making the argument that housing, once built, should never come down. And certainly no one is arguing that housing should be rebuilt on the Capehart site.
Contrary to the Post-Intelligencer's editorial yesterday, there isn't anything in Monday's decision to move ahead with purchase that necessarily commits the City to immediate demolition of the Capehart housing.
The question is whether this housing gets bulldozed in 2009, when the last family moves out, or whether another decade or so of use can be squeezed from this resource at a time when housing affordability in Seattle is at a crisis point.
In the end, no matter what, nature wins. The housing comes down and the park space expands. What needs to be considered is whether this can be a win for people as well as the trees.
From what I understand, there are some potential issues here having to do with the City's authority to provide housing that is above the low-income level, but one would think that this could somehow be worked out. Times like these call for creative solutions. It seems that some sort of compromise can still be achieved, if the will is there.