Passionate arguments as neighborhoods appeal Seattle housing plan

SEATTLE — More than two dozen groups filed an appeal today to Seattle’s housing affordability plan.

They gathered at City Hall to announce their appeal of the final environment impact statement on the affordable housing plan known as HALA. The plan gives developers the ability to build larger and taller buildings.

“The purpose of the State Environmental Policy Act, SEPA, is to facilitate this process by requiring that the negative impacts of alternatives be explored. The city has failed to do so,” said Toby Thaler of Seattle Fair Growth.

They believe the planned upzones will threaten neighborhood character without creating much affordable housing. And they say the city hasn't listened to them.

“Generally something is wrong when there is this many people. We joined because something is so wrong in Seattle now,” said Jane Nichols of Save Madison Valley.

Passions grew when an Antioch University graduate student challenged the group.

“You are going against a process that has taken years of us trying to make this work. Obviously, nothing is perfect,” said Yenifer Baynes who studies the displacement that can occur when richer people move in to poorer neighborhoods. She said she is not paid by any HALA supporting group.

“If you care about affordable housing and you care about people of color and ethnicity in Seattle, you should stand up with us and actually care about how our city is growing and changing,” responded Rick McLaughlin of the University District Small Business Association.

Asked what she thinks is behind the opposition, Bayes responded, “It's NIMBY’s, people who don't want their own neighborhood changing or changing the way thing are. They're just pushing, blocking change."

Supporters of HALA were hoping for a City Council vote this summer. The appeals could delay that.