The lack of transparency of the City and the Council has raised some red flags for concerned citizens.
They have awarded millions in tax breaks to luxury developers without public discussion. This is wrong. Developers should pay their share.
The City’s Missing Middle ordinance was invalidated by the Growth Management Hearings Board. Instead of following the GMHB directive to fix these problems, the City has instead tried 7 times to appeal or dismiss the ruling, and has lost 7 times. Now it is trying again before the superior court. Why not just do the right thing, instead of using up $100,000 of taxpayer money to stonewall its own citizens?
To see a press release regarding the latest GMHB decision, go here.
When the state legislature was getting ready to pass HB 1923 (Missing Middle for the whole state), Olympia paid a lobbyist to push a provision in it that eliminated citizens’ right to appeal any implementation of 1923. Is this the future: citizens having no ability to participate in decisions that affect their own neighborhoods, housing and taxes? Pay but have no say?
Read House Bill 1923 so you will know what you do or don’t want Olympia to adopt from it, and before you consider buying low-density residential property.
Read below to educate yourself on Olympia’s issues.
Learn about what caused Olympia’s housing problems and ways we can build affordable housing here.
Other articles and books about Missing Middle and international investor groups buying up low-density residential homes:
New Article from New York Times about Investors Destroying Neighborhoods https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/06/20/business/economy/starter-homes-investors.html?searchResultPosition=1&fbclid=IwAR0hPvMuUmxHiVSFF0-a5FXVPeuRC3wLSX6Olg5E4uWC47xPWoT1b2cQhlA
Read the new book “Capital City” by Samuel Stein. This book explains what is happening in residential real estate and offers solutions to the housing affordability crisis. A 26-page summary of this book is found at https://noolyupzone.yolasite.com/Summary-of-Capital-City-by-Samuel-Stein.php.
My Viewpoints on Housing and Homelessness
We share the community with everyone, but many times we find ourselves only associating with people just like ourselves. We can often live in our own bubble. To help others, we must be a part of the solution, not retreat and say “this is not my problem.” History, particularly the Great Depression, offers possible solutions.
Our mentally ill have been out on the streets for years, yet our federal government recently gave a 1.7 trillion tax break to the obscenely rich. Meanwhile cities on the coasts of America are struggling with the same housing and homeless situation Olympia is experiencing. No one has a complete answer yet, but there are new opportunities in Olympia to do a complete job of effectively helping homeless, and sharing locations and costs of facilities with our neighboring cities, the county and the state. .
Surely, citizen groups should continue to advocate for the very vulnerable, and use our collective wisdom. We should work with our government branches and community to create a multi-prong plan that deals with the whole problem: mentally ill and drug-addicted homeless, housing homeless who can handle it, and actually building low-income housing that the working poor can afford. Some groups have been doing this work for decades already, but we need more and we need to invite the persons experiencing homelessness to city discussions and decisions. No one person or group has all the answers, but a willingness to interact and put all judgment aside and have real two-way conversations could generate solutions.
Citizens are the stakeholders of the community in which they live. Become an involved citizen and do not be afraid to run for any political office. Most campaigns have less than ten people working on the campaign. Use your talents and interest to make our area better.
Too often, over the decades, I have witnessed City Hall projects that are presented to the public as “done deals,” and public hearings are conducted because they are a requirement. I would rather we have open community conversations about collective concerns regularly that help create City plans rather than to have to take the City to court to be heard. The City of Olympia wastes too much money on lawsuits when they could just invite residents to the table for decision-making in the first place. I am advocating for an awesomely welcoming City Hall, which actually listens to and uses input from the community instead of doing everything possible to smother it in a procedural bramblebush.
Go here for examples of when the City had good public participation and when they did not.
When developers do not pay impact fees, the rest of us have higher taxes or reduced services to make up the difference. The City of Olympia’s budget must recognize and make up for all the impact fees that were NOT paid by new development. We must also include in our budget expenses that are not usually included for citizens to see. It’s our money and I think we have a right to know how it is spent. the current eight year tax freebies to luxury home developers. The rest of the Olympia’s citizens, both renters and owners, pay directly or indirectly for property taxes. Why should developers of luxury housing get a free ride while the rest of us pay? See Dan Leahy’s article on page 4, for details of the tax breaks.
Here is a link about how private/public partnerships should NOT work.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicates that we will have three to six feet of sea level rise by the end of the century.
Of course we must all change our habits as individuals to slow down and (we hope) reverse climate change: transportation and living choices, increasing density with appropriate infill of neighborhoods, eliminating wasteful practices, and supporting with your dollars those products and services that support these same goals.
As a volunteer, I have left homemade fliers about the Missing Middle on nearly 3,000 doorsteps, organized rallies, helped with forums, and educated through social media sites for 17 months. The City of Olympia could have put out a public notice in its utility bills so that everyone would know about the 43 massive residential zoning changes that will affect both renters and homeowners. The City did not choose to notify its residents properly about the Missing Middle ordinance and even today, more than 90% of Olympians do not know what the Missing Middle is. Do you? Please check the following information sites listed below the following paragraphs.
Neighborhoods with home owner associations ( HOAs) will have to enforce their covenants themselves. The City will not even notify you when they grant permits and you only have 2 weeks to object. Also, if your convenants have not been used for quite a while, they may not be legally enforceable. With the passage of the Missing Middle ordinance, single family zoning has changed. Go to the City of Olympia Missing Middle Web site and look at the zoning change map to find out how the Missing Middle affects your neighborhood
A group of Olympia citizens and neighborhood leaders knew some of the City’s MM zoning changes, and their process for creating the plan, were illegal. They then organized to appeal the MM ordinance with the State Growth Management Hearings Board. Not appealing would have been to accept that the City could ignore citizens and laws when making decisions in the future. This group is called Olympians for Smart Development and Livable Neighborhoods (OSD&LN). The Board ruled in OSDLN’s favor, showing that the City didn’t follow the law in creating MM. Some of the key actions taken so far are:
May 23, 2019 – The Growth Management Hearings Board heard the case against the Missing Middle ordinance
July 2019 – The Growth Management Hearings Board issued a ruling in July 2019 that INVALIDATED the Missing Middle ordinance for Olympia.
The City of Olympia is has exhausted its appeals to the Growth Management Hearings Board, trying to reverse the decisions. (In my opinion, the City is again wasting our tax money and not choosing to listen to its residents after nearly 18 months.) To see the latest OSD&LN newsletter describing this process, go here.
To find out more, check out:
House Bill 1923 establishes a 20-month window (through March 2021) for cities like Olympia to make zoning changes (like allowing duplexes/triplexes and fourplexes on every lot in a single family neighborhood) or allowing one single family neighborhood to have any number of units per acre without rezoning as long as the city average for that zoning type stays under an overall limit (up to 36 units per acre, 3 times the previous limit!) Affected residents will not be able to appeal these actions.
The State Environmental Policy Act has been amended in HB 1923 and your rights as residents to appeal building projects are adversely affected. You can read the bill here.
Help stop any attempt to put House Bill 1923 into action. This bill needs to be removed, in my opinion, during the 2020 legislative session. Originally, the sponsors of the bill wanted to make the bill a statewide mandate, but now it is voluntary. And the Association of Washington Cities originally opposed the bill.
The Olympia Comprehensive Plan was adopted and created in a five year democratic community-centered process in 2014 and provides for the 20,000 expected new residents in three nodes. We have plenty of land for those needs for the next 20 years. We do not need House Bill 1923 to undermine our community effort in our Comprehensive Plan.
Although many politicians and groups have weighed in, in support of Missing Middle and HB 1923, some don’t understand all the effects of these plans. For example:
Eliminating near-town single-family houses, forcing those still wanting them to build into farmland. There is nothing directly stopping sprawl here.
Favoring developers and investors over home-owners who will buy and then rent former owner-occupied properties at higher prices and drive up residential prices.
No provisions to build low-income housing or lower-rent apartments
Suddenly changing zoning in low-density residential neighborhoods. Home-owners who chose a house in their neighborhood because that was the life they wanted, have put their life savings into their houses there. Their quality of life will erode.
Olympia has beautiful parks, clean drinking water, adequate green space so far, and State Capitol views for everyone to enjoy. But we do have major environmental problems that need correction such as placing development in areas that harm our salmon runs and not making the environment a priority both in the past and present. Wouldn’t it be great to have a team of neighbors, volunteer retired scientists, area environmental groups and young people in Olympia schools to help advise our city council as they make decisions before development projects are approved? That is this campaign’s idea of a real “Community and Development” department at the City. What do you think?
You can start your political education by attending an Olympia City Council meeting on Tuesday nights at Olympia City Hall in the Council Chambers. The meeting starts at 7 pm, but if you want to speak you need to sign up by 6:30.
You can submit a Public Records Request online and or in person at City Hall and ask that the information you are requesting be put on CD as that is less expensive than copies. Be very specific when asking for the information you want. You might want to ask the City how much money they have lost by giving out free 8 tax exemptions to developers of market rate and luxury housing or how much money the City has spent in any other area of your concern. You have a right to know how your tax money is spent.
You can also arrange FREE classes on how to navigate and be effective with the upcoming legislative session by visiting the Washington Legislative Information Center Web site. I have taken several classes and learned a great deal.
You can start organizing your neighborhoods and other interest groups on legislation you want your representatives to sponsor. You do not have to write the legislation in formal yourself ; the Office of Code Reviser does that part, but you do have to get the attention of your representative. When you organize at least 500 people, representatives tend to listen better. So if an issue really matters to you, organize well before the legislative session or any public hearing.