When the government does it: Part 4 After the hearings

January 29, 2018 | Development, Government, Housing, Inclusionary zoning, Legislation and policy, Markets, Seattle, Theory, Universities, Zoning

By: David A. Smith


[Continued from the preceding Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.]


Okay, okay, I’ll apologize to all my readers!


Update from an extremely dilatory blogger: I frequently miss my deadlines – like the government.  They’re my deadlines, I set ‘em and I miss ‘em.


As we saw back far too long ago, using as our source a short factual article University of Washington Daily (November 22, 2017) by student reporter Max Wasserman, in following its categorical imperative – grow the business – the University of Washington is expanding its footprint horizontally and its skyline vertically. 


Convenient verticality makes a ton of sense … and a ton of money for the University


Schumpeter’s creative urbanization is a good thing, but like many good things, it has unwanted side effects – in this case, the creation of a shortage of affordable housing and the upward pressure on the existing affordable housing, and that is why inclusionary zoning has spread nationwide.  We can express it as the law of the inevitability of inclusionary zoning:


The Inevitability of Inclusionary Zoning


Inclusionary zoning is an inevitable emergence in modern cities. 


1.   In any urban environment that is creating new jobs, development will eventually have to go up, not out. 

2.   As it does, this stressed municipal infrastructure, so cities always inevitably adopt citywide zoning to shape the growth.

3.   Once zoning is adopted, verticality commands a premium, and the highest and best use of new verticality will never be affordable housing. 

4.   Therefore the market will produce too little affordable housing, and this is politically unacceptable. 

5.   Given the four foregoing pressures, inclusionary zoning is the only solution.  QED.


(Some urban theorists lay most of the blame for the urban affordable housing shortage on development restrictions, arguing that without them, land would clear and be periodically redeveloped.  At one level this is true, but the economically rational form of affordable housing thus created is a slum.)


But if inclusionary zoning is both inevitable and sound policy, on what basis does government exempt itself from it?  For that matter, can one branch of government exempt all branches of government from a shared burden?


F. Should we distinguish between a municipal government and a state-government polyp?


West campus would be the other development area that would attract external attention: the area includes planned parks one from the university, the other from the city and up to 3 million square feet of development that the university would consider using for partnerships with Facebook and Google. No formal conversation, however, has been initiated, according to Clark.


Plenty of jobs created in the sky, plenty of value created in the sky


The press gathering followed a Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection recommendation that the hearing board overseeing the plan approve it for a city council vote.


Any time there is a case-by-case negotiated plan, as opposed to one that is set by an objective or algorithmic formula, there’s strong potential for the plan to favor one side or the other. 


“If the UW is not going to do this willingly, and it’s likely they’re not, the city really needs to do something about it,” John Castle [of Seattle’s Low Income Housing Institute] said in a phone interview.



Here, when it’s one arm of the government asking another for approval to create value for the government, it won’t be a fierce contest.



G. What is the policy case for universities to be considered ‘government’, anyway?


Nowhere is it written that a university must be connected to government; as far as I know, only the land-grant universities were conscious offspring of the government, and while Washington State is one such, the University of Washington isn’t. 


Castle called for the city to reconsider the arrangement in light of the University’s expanded development.


Evidently it was once envisioned that if a university were connected to state government, tuition would be free or minimal (and many universities have in-state rates much lower than out-of-staters).  In today’s educational environment of rising administrative girth and shrinking governmental largesse, while the State of Washington funds $327 million, by now that’s a minority of the university’s revenue.  Moreover, many universities are acting increasingly like large corporations: building their revenue streams any way they can – and the easiest revenue to boost is tuition, and the easiest boosted is to add more students without worrying about where they will live.


Ready to crack a billion a year


The proposed plan will be ironed out in coming months through a series of hearings, with the first scheduled for Dec. 8.


H. What is consultation, and who must be satisfied?


Naturally, when government is applying to government for permission to act in its self-interest, Zeno’s Public-Consultation Paradox applies:


A blog post always takes longer to write than you think, even when you that this into consideration


Whether the university intends it, campus fluctuations ricochet throughout the neighborhood.


Fluctuations ricochet?  Block that metaphor!



“In 30 years, I’ve seen the university say all the right things, but I haven’t seen them become a partner with the neighborhood in a way that I’d like,” said Doug Campbell, a CUCAC board member and owner of Bulldog News.


It would be interesting to know what type of partner Mr. Campbell would like.


Mr. Campbell says he’s never seen the university become a partner


After the hearings, which end in January, the city council will vote on a finalized plan.


Anybody doubt that it’ll go through?


Like, duh



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