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Want affordable housing? Get Seattle / King County out of the way

(File, MyNorthwest)

Guess how many pages there are in the application to trim a tree in the City of Seattle?

Five. I just looked it up. That’s for the initial application to trim a tree. Your tree. On your property. Actually, they call it Urban Forestry now. Trimming your own tree is now classified as Urban Forestry.

Oh, and you have to create and attach your site plan. To trim a tree. If it’s a privately-maintained tree, you’ll have to pay a non-refundable $147 permit fee and a minimum of $150 to the city arborist — to trim your own tree.

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What are we talking about here?

We’re talking about living in the upside down, through the looking glass world of King County bureaucracy.

Somehow, over the years, our community has turned into a place where you can live in a tent directly across the street from the police station and the response from local government is to create a special team of people to come out and beg you to accept free services.

But if you’re a property owner, and heaven forbid, you’d like to trim your own tree, you have to jump through a Byzantine maze of forms and fees.

Now, let’s say that you wanted to do a bigger project. Something like building affordable housing units?

Well, surely the city has created a team of experts to rush out and help you streamline your project. Surely a project like this that so completely aligns with the professed values of the City of Seattle would be rushed through without delay. They would probably hoist you up on their shoulders while singing “He’s a jolly good fellow,” right?

Not so fast. Something like that will take at least a year before you can even start your project.

What? That doesn’t make any sense? What are we talking about here? I thought we wanted affordable housing?

I’m trying to illustrate the absurdity of what our community is living through right now.

There is a building across the street from the KIRO Radio studios that is slated to be demolished and replaced with affordable apartments.

It’s been boarded up, covered in graffiti, and used as a drug stash house for going on a year. A year. As in 365 days.

The builder bought the property, they paid the previous owner a handsome profit. They paid an architect to draw up plans. They paid all the fees to have the plans accepted with the city. They are ready to move on the project to create affordable rental units in a city that is screaming for affordable housing. But it is taking some pencil pusher at the Department of Constructions and Inspections a year to approve the demolition of the old crappy, boarded up, rat infested, spray-painted, drug house. A year just to get to step one.

What are you people doing? How is this possible?


You literally have people marching in the streets for affordable housing. They make signs and crash city council meetings just to shout down city leaders and all the while, the same city government grinds projects to a halt that want to be part of the solution.

I’m not the smartest guy in town. But it sure seems reasonable to me that it should take less than a year just to start a project.

Can we send someone over to the Department of Constructions and Inspections and make sure their wifi is working?

I hate to over simplify things, but can you please do your job?

You can catch “What Are We Talking About Here” every weekday at 4:50 p.m. and 6:50 p.m. on the Ron & Don Show on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM.

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