Meeting Minutes from inSPIRe Social on November 17, 2007

We had our eighth and final social event of 2007 at Lita s home on Greenlake. We had a nice turnout with approximately 40 spirited guests to hear our guest speakers Joe Nabbefeld and Darryl Smith from the Seattle Great City Initiative. Thanks so much to Lita for opening up her home!

Our next meeting Our next social will be in January. Details upcoming stay tuned!


Seattle Statue of Liberty Fundraising Libby Carr provided us with an update of efforts regarding the restoration of the Statue of Liberty on Alki: They are fundraising for a new base for our new lady. Information on how you can order a brick or otherwise donate to this effort up on their website: In the meantime, if you want to write a check right now, please send it to: SSLC/Urban Sparks, 4701 SW Admiral Way, Box 234, Seattle, WA 98116-2340

amfAR AIDS Research fundraiser Jacque announced a special sale to raise funds for amfAR. The sale includes gifts, books, toys, home accessories, furniture and more. It is from Nov 7 to Dec 30, on Wednesdays through Sundays from 11:00AM 7PM in Belltown, on the corner of Western and Lenora at 2100A Western Avenue, Seattle, 98121. Cash and checks only.

Non-Violent Peacekeepers Jacque also announced that the Non-Violent Peacekeepers are recruiting new members. Become one of the people in the orange vests who show up at demonstrations and marches to protect and preserve the constitutional right to free speech and assembly. Please contact Jacque at for more info.

Fremont Peak Park and Urban Sparks - Jack Tomkinson, also of the Seattle Great City Initiative, announced a brand new view park in Fremont that the Friends of Fremont Peak Park have been working on establishing for years: Also, please see the great write-up about the park recently in the Seattle Times. (Click here to read the article.) Jack runs a 501c3 non-profit: which helps others initiate and complete public open space and community projects and can be a fiscal sponsor for others projects.

inSPIRe Book Club! We are now reading The Future of Life by E.O. Wilson for our next meeting, December 5th. To join the book club and get on the list, just send an email to

Keynote Speakers, Joe Nabbefeld and Darryl Smith from the Seattle Great City Initiative ( providing us with great insights into our topic of the evening:Affordability in Housing.

Darryl Smith is board chair for the Seattle Great City Initiative. He's a neighborhood leader and activist in Columbia City and SE Seattle. Darryl served as chair of The Columbia City Revitalization Committee, is an alum of Seattle's Planning Commission, and recently finished a two year term as president of the Rainier Chamber of Commerce. He's on the board of Allied Arts. In addition he has over a decade in the real estate profession as Realtor focusing on dense urban housing, and first time purchasers. He is keenly interested in helping to enliven neighborhoods, and making housing choice available to all Seattleites. 

Joe Nabbefeld operates his own real estate company focused on Seattle in-fill housing in support of reducing sprawl's harmful impacts on our environment, health, communities and spirits. The company is RealSolutions Capital ( Activities include a workforce condominium project in the International District, a small-scale condominium development in Capitol Hill, a future performing arts complex in Capitol Hill, a small "green" multifamily development in the Central District and a 32-unit, low-impact cottage housing development in Newcastle. He serves on the board of the Business Improvement Area for the Chinatown International District (chairing its Public Safety Committee). He's on the board of the Charles Royer-led Middle Income Housing Alliance. He serves on the Seattle Chamber of Commerce's Land Use Committee and on the Downtown Seattle Association's Urban Development Task Force. Joe is also affiliated with Greenworks Realty, a Seattle-based brokerage that is the area's leader in promoting green homes, helping people buy, sell and "green up" their homes and educating builders how to improve the "green" qualities of what they build (

Darryl and Joe gave a joint presentation addressing the work of the Seattle Great City Initiative towards ideas to enhance affordability in housing in the Puget Sound region today and also as we grow over the next decades. Joe referred us to an article recently in the Seattle Times (Click here to read the article.) where Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels states that to cut suburban sprawl, Seattle should increase its population 60 percent by the year 2040.Nickels favors an aggressive growth scenarios that would add 350,000 people to Seattle's population, which now stands at about 575,000, i.e., a 60% increase over the next 30 years.

There are many, many issues driving our need to address the upcoming growth in Seattle and the Puget Sound region, as well as most everywhere else. But the overarching issue driving the need for action and sensible planning is global warming. Global warming, driven by human generated CO2 emissions, requires action now we can t afford to wait. Cities must be looked at differently than in the past. The Great City Initiative brings together activists from all over Seattle with a wide variety of expertise on housing issues. They are working on policies towards the encouragement of positive development. Seattle officials have frequently discussed publicly the need for managing our growth and making housing affordable for everyone, not just the wealthy. The Great City Initiative is addressing the question can Seattle walk the talk?

The Great City Initiative will be holding three upcoming public forums. The first will address the need for funding of green investments in light of the upcoming expiration of our current levy. The second will address affordability in housing, and the creation of a housing supply that is affordable. The third will address transportation, focusing on transit and other options over driving, looking at how we should use our local streets for these purposes.

As noted in the Seattle Times article (link above), of four choices for growth put forward by the Puget Sound Regional Council, Mayor Nickels favored the choice providing a target for 60% growth by 2040, attempting to direct growth inwards, rather than sprawl. Joe discussed the huge housing supply requirement this goal would put on Seattle for new, affordable housing. Currently, the city is not making plans to accommodate this type of growth.

Q Where is this growth coming from, i.e., is Seattle atypical?

A The Puget Sound Regional Council does growth estimates. The population of urban centers dropped dramatically over the past 40 years with the migration to the suburbs. Now folks are moving back to the urban centers. Seattle is a very desirable city still! In comparison to many other cities around the country, Seattle has a very desirable and temperate climate and is located in a great natural environment. Sometimes people that have lived in Seattle all their lives don t realize how Seattle compares with other cities back east.

Q What are we doing about the need for low-income housing?

A The real key is creating the supply of housing. Without adequate supply, demand will drive housing prices upwards, thus housing won t be affordable.

Certain things tend to drive people out of the city to the suburbs. Families tend to move to where the better schools are, which is often driven by the money available in a community for education and public schools. People are always driven to places where they can afford to live, and as urban centers become more and more expensive, people are forced to move outside and then commute further to work, etc. Also, as a community matures, sprawl tends to happen. To relieve the pressure of sprawl, we need to focus growth into the urban centers. Global warming requires our living habits to be much more efficient.

Darryl and Joe showed a PowerPoint with maps of the Puget Sound. The first showed us today with our current land use. The second showed how our land use will dramatically increase by 2100 if we don t begin better planning. The third map showed a significant reduction in land use in 2100 with sensible planning to direct growth.

Joe and Darryl stressed that we need an honest conversation around density. Most folks will agree to certain density plans as long as it isn t in my neighborhood . We need to have more creativity. Today it takes too long with zoning to do smart developments. Seattle has no cottage industry ordinance. Well designed co-housing is needed, as well as many other things. This is the key: the answer isn t just one thing. The answer involves looking at all of the above and working out the best solutions to handle our density and make sure that housing is affordable. It takes a balance. People tend to want it all, but frequently having a great urban neighborhood as well as having lots of open green spaces don t match up. Joe and Darryl showed multiple schematics of today s more typical designs of buildings, neighborhoods, streets, etc. as well as ideas for making these areas more livable.

Sprawl costs society in many ways, including building costs, transportation costs and energy consumption costs. Planned, higher-density neighborhoods are much more efficient. We need to keep the greater concerns, such as our lifestyle impact on global warming, in our minds and in our choices as we grow.

Joe and Darryl shared a recent Seattle Times editorial by former Seattle Mayor Charles Royer which included the following points for enhancing affordability in housing in Seattle:

  1. 1. Reduce the cost of land by increasing the supply available to public and private housing developers through assembly and surplusing of publicly owned land;
  2. 2. Work with and encourage city government to develop incentives that are effective, practical and workable, like a greatly expanded and usable multifamily property-tax exemption to stimulate the construction of affordable housing;
  3. 3. Support nonprofit organizations that are capable of building truly mixed-use and mixed-income housing developments;
  4. 4. Work with state and local government to find new funding sources, such as a growth-management infrastructure fund;
  5. 5. Tie transportation investments and policies more closely to dense, mixed-use housing developments, including allowing greater housing densities along major transportation corridors. Loosen costly parking requirements in these corridors and around transit stations;
  6. 6. Develop strategies and incentives, as other places have done, to encourage employers to put in place programs to help their employees have more choice in living closer to where they work.

There are many issues to consider as plans are put forward towards smarter and greener growth. An example is the recent initiative by Seattle City Councilman Peter Steinbrueck. Steinbrueck has proposed that development regulations be changed to require a carbon footprint assessment. But what will be the result of this? This will add extra costs towards development will these higher costs drive development further outside of Seattle, thus moving the supply of housing further away and resulting in more driving, thus a higher carbon footprint? This is just an example of how the full systemic view must be considered in our growth choices.

Audience Point changing our Seattle City Council to election of members by district will enhance democracy within the city and promote more positive change, as well as enable citizens to more effectively lobby their officials.

Q What about rail and the idea that if you build it they will come?

A We need to address changing zoning around the rail lines. Will people use rail if they must walk a number of blocks to the station? Why not allow greater density near the rail stations? But a question exists as to what will we do with the existing buildings what is best for the neighborhoods? How will they change?

Q Is the key to good development really verticality ?

A Verticality is a key component, but as mentioned before, we must look at many, many solutions to make this work.

Audience Points density isn t always good. Verticality isn t always good.

Q Why don t we just disallow growth in Seattle and force it into a new city elsewhere?

Q How do we address social equity and the needs of the poor?

Q How do we address the displacement of so many of our citizens due to lack of affordability?

A Seattle has gotten so expensive that it is hard for normal people to afford to live here. This is what the Great City Initiative is trying to address. Government as well as non-profits needs to be involved. Great City is trying to engage this discussion. We don t have all the answers. Great City is still developing their policies and positions; it is a new organization. But we need to do better in this city. Today we are falling short.

As always, many, many questions were asked but not recorded. Sorry!

Many thanks to Darryl and Joe for this informative and important talk!

See you at the next inSPIRe meeting!

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Speaker: Darryl Smith


Speaker: Joe Nabbefeld


Many thanks to Lita for hosting!


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