Retail Marijuana and Affordable Housing

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This post is the 3rd in the series of the Redmond City Council’s Public Hearings on Encampment zoning and Retail Marijuana.

Post 1 is here
Post 2 is here

**Opinion***

I wondered what exactly, other than ‘for show’ the “Affordable Housing Week” proclamation means.  Will the City do more than required to make housing affordable in Redmond?  How will Redmond ACT on this proclamation?}

 

I sent an email with questions to Mr. Myers, Mr. Carson and Ms. Allen; thread below:

May 19, 2016:

Long night Tuesday night!  Thanks for spending so much time on the issues!

I’m going through my notes and I have a few procedural questions so I know how this all works.

  • When an item is pulled from the Agenda, what happens?  In this case the Buck and Zhang Annexation approvals were pulled and there was discussion of “move to date certain” vs. just removing from agenda.   Tuesday night the vote was 6-1 to “remove” (from agenda) vs. move to date certain.  Does this go back to study session?  Questions for Staff?  When would it come back to Council Meeting for approval?
  • Will the City be considering any other actions that encourage or promote “Affordable Housing Week”?  I know there have been Study sessions on MIL units (I can’t remember the acronym used), permitting and the like.  But will there be any action that tackles the actual homeless issues and affordable housing?  http://www.archhousing.org/resources/pdfs/Housing_101_Summary_Pages_2011.05.13.pdf (as you can see Redmond is only at 10%)

    Thank you as always for your answers and keeping me informed and educated!  

Hi Paige-

  1.  I pulled the 2 items from the consent agenda for individual consideration. 

The 2 items involve properties just outside the city limits which have failing septic fields that need to connect to Redmond sewer. As a condition to connecting to Redmond sewer, the property owners have to sign the annexation petition for that area and the annexation petition has to be filed with the boundary review board. 

The owners expressed some difficulty with the condition that they wait until the petition is filed before hook up because they would like to have the work completed before it starts to rain again. The timing of the filing of the annexation petition was unclear. 

I was also troubled by the information, which I was seeing for the first time, discussing the potential storm water runoff impact from the development that we had approved on the neighboring church property.

My request to move these two items from our agenda on Tuesday to a date certain failed for lack of a second. When it came time to vote on the items, I voted no because I thought that we should delayed the vote until staff heading opportunity to fill in some of the uncertainties.  Staff has agreed to work with the owners to help them craft a plan that gets the work done before the next rainy season. 

  1.  Byron and I spent a couple of hours earlier on Tuesday at a meeting convened by Rep Joan McBride which brought elected’s, planners, nonprofits, and for-profit developers to the table to develop a consistent message from the Eastside on strategies to increase the stock of affordable housing. We believe this is very crucial to obtaining local options, like tax credits and other financing options, in the next legislative session in Olympia.


Glad to assist.  The process can look like insider baseball sometimes.

One correction—the items I pulled {sewer annexation} were to approve agreements for the Mayor to sign allowing the 2 properties to connect to our sewer system.  The agreement has a clause that the Mayor cannot sign it until the area petition for annexation has been submitted to the Boundary Review Board, which is something the 2 owners cannot control.  That’s why I wanted to delay to see if we could build a fix into the agreement.

Best regards, 

Kim

 

 

Hi Paige,

The Consent Agenda lists items that have been usually vetted twice before coming to Council for a final vote.  On this particular issue, the City has a policy of not extending city services such as sewer and water outside of city limits.  Usually when an exception is made, it is in an areas when annexation is expected, and the process is underway in that neighborhood in north Rose Hill.  One of our requirements to extend services into unincorporated areas is that the property be owner sign the petition for annexation.  Kim Allen was essentially asking about how well the petition program was going, and staff didn’t have an answer.  I think Kim was concerned that the petition would fall short so annexation could not proceed and we would be providing services beyond city limits.  Her motion would have postponed approval until June 7 to get an answer on the progress of the petition drive.  The Council did get an update on the petition process, but I think Kim missed that meeting.  In any case the rest of us (speaking for myself, but think is was shared) felt the progress on the petition and expected outcome were positive.  We felt we could vote in confidence, particularly as the applicants were in the audience.

On the affordable housing issue, we tend to talk a lot and do little.  We not only have expensive housing to begin with, but rental rates are going up more and quickly.  You have seen the posts on the EdHNA site about people looking for lower costs housing, and being force to move from rental units.  We do participate in ARCH, but our zoning and building codes add a lot to the basic cost of housing.  Our affordable requirement in the more than 10 apartment complexes is for units affordable by families making 80% of median household income, which is still a big number.  As a part time employed retiree, my wife and I do not earn that much.  There is some sympathy on the Council to reduce that number to 50% of median for future projects.  30% was raised but was thought to be unrealistic and drive away potential developers.  One issue that may come up is allowing subdivision of existing houses into two family units.  I live in a trilevel, with access on the middle and lower levels from the outside.  We could convert the lower level to a living room, ¾ bath, small kitchen/laundry room and bedroom which would be adequate for a single for a single of a couple, and we would live on the upper two floors.  This would create much lower cost starter units while giving the empty nesters adequate space.  When the couple decides to have a family they could move into a larger unit, or perhaps swap living quarter with the empty nesters who are now retired and could live in a small space.  This also works for full two story houses, where the downstairs is bigger and can accommodate a larger young family.  This is a “sharing economy” solution like Uber and Air BNB to get full utilization out of existing (and generally lower cost) buildings.  Rental rates in the new downtown apartments run at $2.50-3.00 per square foot.  If I could get half that for my 700 square foot lower area that $1,000 a month would be a real Godsend.

Thanks for the questions,

 

Hank

 

 

I also find it interesting that affordable housing is a multi-layered issue that encompasses so much.  For instance, my 22-year-old son lives at home with us.  No biggie, he’s a great kid, and he pays rent to us, holds down a job and helps around the house (not as much as his ‘landlords’ would like but…)

At one point he was working 2 part-time jobs; totaling about 50 hours a week at a bit more than minimum wage.  Before taxes, that’s about $500 a week or $2k a month.  He doesn’t have a car, but puts money on the ORCA card as necessary.  He pays for his own phone bill; doesn’t pay for groceries, insurance or other “homeowner” expenses.  He has most of the money he’s earned in savings, doesn’t spend a lot.

 

About every 6 months or so he looks around for a place to rent.  His ‘requirements’ are that they take cats, be close to a bus line and have laundry in the complex.  He could care less about other amenities like weight room, pool, etc.  He’ll need internet as well as the other utilities, maybe cable.   He’s looked at studio apartments, 1-bedrooms and larger; he’s even looked into renting with others.

 

A couple of blocks from our house is an old apartment complex; recently purchased and updated.  “The Anna” has studio apartments with NO amenities to speak of. They have no availabilities at this time, but their lowest rental is $1295 a month for a 600 sf. 1 bed/1 bath apartment.  (https://www.abodo.com/redmond-wa/the-anna)

 

Downtown, across from City Hall, there is a complex called “Allez”.  They are pretty new, in downtown, near shopping, dining, bus-line plus a ton of amenities.  Studio apartments range from 544 – 620 sf; monthly rents at $1213 – $1660.

 

http://www.allezliving.com/Apartments/module/property_info/property%5Bid%5D/76979/

 

A third option, although rarely with availability are the apodments or ‘mini-suites’ in Redmond.  Tudor Manor and Vision 5.  Tudor Manor offers 149 sf for $700/month.  The mini-suites have a bathroom and small mini-kitchen space.

 

Vision 5 is managed by the same company, Muse Management but offers slightly larger studio mini-suites. 225 sf.  At this time none are available and there is no rental price listed; although I have been told they rent for about $800/month.

 

http://www.apartments.com/tudor-manor-redmond-wa/9m59dn4/

http://www.apartments.com/vision-5-redmond-wa/8yfk633/

 

 

So, here is the issue as I see it.  NO ONE can afford to live in Redmond.  Our house is about 1900 sf of living space with a nice, fenced back yard and great neighborhood.  We’re near schools, parks, churches, bus line and not far from downtown, freeway access and of course, Microsoft.  (I’m not sure why “Microsoft” is continuously listed as an amenity in real estate listings.  Not everyone works there and they’re laying off more and more people)

 

Our house ‘value’ has increased from just over $77k in 1986 to over $500k in 2016.  I can’t calculate the percentage increase because fractions are so 4th grade but it’s a huge, WHOPPING amount.  Houses in our neighborhood have been selling in an average of 4-5 days for at least $80k over asking price.

 

Our taxes have increased over the years as well.  Annual taxes for our home are $4200; up from $2400 in 2004.  Property taxes remind me of how sad my husband was when his parents had to sell their home in 1987.  On their retirement income they could no longer afford to pay for property taxes on a home that they owned in total.  The same home they built by hand and had taken care of for over 30 years.  The very same home will soon be demolished with the over 2 acres of land subdivided into 8 lots; estimated value of the house and land right now is over 1 million dollars.

 

For the first time in our married lives both of us are actually considering, at the same time, selling the house and moving somewhere less expensive.

So, my son with his entire career life ahead of him cannot afford to live in the town he grew up in; while his parents who have lived here their entire married life cannot afford to live here either.  One of my adult daughters lives in Renton because houses are too expensive in Redmond; they commute north (to Factoria and Redmond) daily.  My other adult daughter lives in a 3 bedroom apartment in Redmond; they too cannot afford to buy a home in Redmond so continue to live in an apartment.

 

It is no wonder that so many are homeless or nearly so in Redmond; I only wonder at the theory of having homeless encampments in Redmond; if the stated purpose is to help people find housing eventually.  If the residents can barely afford to live here; how could anyone with financial insecurity even begin to afford it?

 

 

 

Regarding Retail Marijuana in Redmond…

 

Interesting that public hearings for both encampments and marijuana on same night.   Both are high-risk, high-maintenance issues; both are volatile.  Wondering if there was a reason to put them in the same evening?

 

I am guessing there is quite a bit of civic dialogue left about these issues; although the Retail Marijuana ordinance has been sent to City staff for writing.  The next step is for council to approve; which then means the licensee (The Grass is Always Greener) could sign a lease as soon as they find an available location.

 

I laughed a bit at the recent insert in the weekly “Redmond Reporter” called ‘My City Redmond’.  Page 13 has a half page advertisement for “Issaquah Cannabis Co.” with a disclaimer that’s a mile long and completely with odds to the advocate’s position on the safety of their product.

 

“Disclaimer: This product has intoxicating effects and may be habit forming.  Marijuana can impair concentration, coordination, and judgment.  Do not operate a vehicle or machinery under the influence of this drug.  There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product.  For use only by adults twenty-one and older.  Keep out of reach of children.”

 

Nearly all of the advocates that I’ve heard talk about cannabis have passionately stated that it’s no worse than alcohol.  That all the stores are secure with additional protections against minors ‘accidentally’ getting on premises or getting ahold of the substance.

 

One council member even went so far as to remind parents that they were parents and needed to use any occasion as a “learning opportunity”; nearly shaming parents who were fearful of their children being exposed to marijuana as an opening for education instead of a safety mechanism.

 

Meanwhile, there are plenty of studies coming out that show the dangers – both long and short-term – of cannabis usage.

 

Still some council members stressed that because marijuana is legal in this state, retail marijuana is here to stay and everyone should just get used to it.  Regulating sales will help destroy the ‘black market’ for marijuana.  Marijuana (and other drugs) have always been present in Redmond; it’s just that it’s legal now.

 

I think it’s a bit short-sighted to rely on the myth that regulating sales will lessen the black market for this or any other drug.  It’s also a bit naïve to believe that teens won’t be talking their adult friends (and yes, unfortunately family) into buying it for them.  And, of course cigarettes and marijuana are gateway drugs to other more hard-core substances.
I am not going to tell you that I am against retail marijuana; neither am I going to tell you it’s a good idea to have stores that sell it vs. the corner drug dealer.  But I will tell you that it’s really not about fear or safety or even regulation.

 

I’ll just leave you with this:

“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” ~ Unknown

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3607444/Smoking-cannabis-ALTERS-DNA-causing-mutations-trigger-illness-including-cancer.html
http://www.scpr.org/programs/take-two/2016/05/11/48736/car-crashes-involving-marijuana-doubled-in-washing/

 

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/01/11/a-20-year-study-on-marijuana-use-yields-5-surprisi.aspx

 

 

 

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