Upzone protesters challenge Seattle mayor during walk

SEATTLE - Protesters put a twist on a "Find it, Fix it" walk that's meant to identify problems in the city’s neighborhoods. Instead of focusing on potholes, cracked sidewalks or homelessness, this group highlighted the mayor's housing policies.

“We have zero confidence that the HALA will result in a more affordable or livable Wallingford,” said Susanna Lin, a Wallingford Community Council board member.

With Seattle Mayor Ed Murray on hand, neighbors seized the moment to blast away at his rezone plan that would increase housing density in Wallingford.

“We want a city where everybody can afford to live, regardless of their income,” said Miranda Berner, the president of the Wallingford Community Council. “However, this plan doesn't do that."

Murray had come out to lead a “Find it, Fix it” walk, but opponents of his Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) used the event to send their own message.

“The current upzone plan will displace the most affordable rentals in our neighborhood, remove family size housing and demolish homes of historic value," Lin said during one of the stops on the walk.

The mayor wants to change zoning regulations so developers can construct taller buildings. In exchange, developers will have to include rent-controlled units on-site, or pay fees to build them elsewhere.

“We think improving density in a smart way around arterials and where transit is really fits the neighborhood,” said Mark Foltz, one of the neighbors with Welcoming Wallingford, a group that supports the mayor’s proposals.

However, far more people showed up to oppose the upzoning. They worry that existing housing will be torn down to make way for market rate units, and low and middle-income families will be priced-out.

The mayor waited until the end of the walk to address all the criticisms. Murray's goal is to create thousands of new, affordable housing units in the coming decade, and he promised to listen to neighbors and work together through the disagreements.

“I know we can find a way to get to affordable housing,” Murray said. “I know it's not going to be easy, but I know we can get there."

The Wallingford upzone proposal is one of the last that city leaders will take up, and no decisions are expected until the early part of next year.