Last year’s City Council elections were the first by Districts, and resulted in several races between grassroots and establishment candidates. In West Seattle’s District 1 race, the long-time staffer to retiring Nick Licata, Lisa Herbold, narrowly beat out the Seattle Chamber of Commerce backed candidate Shannon Braddock by 39 votes. Braddock outspent Herbold by 40%, and independent expenditures for Braddock exceeded a whopping $200K – 10 times those for Herbold.
Herbold arguably was the one of the most experienced Council staffers,and brings to the elected position a wealth of experience in progressive housing and social issues as well as a great understanding of the legislative process.
As the Mayor’s HALA proposals work their way through Council, Herbold has taken a more aggressive stance on the preservation of affordable housing through the upcoming renewal of the Housing Levy. And at last week’s Planning Land Use and Zoning Committee meeting she raised the issue of displacement that rezoning under HALA could induce, and pressed that studying the impacts of HALA on specific neighborhood rezones should be done (the SNC explored this issue in February).
The Mayor’s drop last week of the “Mandatory Housing Affordability” (MHA) framework in a re-branding ploy signals more backpedaling from the State authorized Inclusionary Zoning program to require onsite production of affordable units in all future development. Instead, MHA seems to allow greater use of in-lieu of fees that would deliver affordable units elsewhere in projects built by the non-profit housing industry. The latter has been big cheerleaders for HALA because of the greater funding to them that HALA would deliver. The MHA one-size-fits-all use of zone-wide fees and fixed upzoning seems troublesome with the reality of housing costs and returns being very location specific. The Mayor’s team tried to defend the in-lieu of fees, but Councilmembers Herbold and Mike O’Brien pressed for onsite performance as the real affordability goal to be achieved. And they reiterated that creating more localized affordability delivery options requires analysis and unique zoning rules, implying neighborhood planning and program variability are important to HALA’s success.
Herbold was also notably one of the votes against the SODO street vacation that stymied the forward movement of the heavily subsidized basketball arena, and one of two votes against the bailing out of the troubled Pronto bike share system.
She has also been focused on local West Seattle issues (such as effective transportation spending, the Myers Parcels and clear-cutting by local homeowners) as well as these “big picture” issues, belying the concern that Districts would produce a Balkanization of the city. Its clear that Herbold will equally work for the good of District 1 and the city as a whole.