There were many factors that led Pio Renteria, Natasha Harper-Madison and Paige Ellis victories last night that had little to do with land-use or transportation policy. But the policy outcome is unambiguous: City Council next year will be far friendlier to dense development and public transportation.
This is how I described it last night:
Whether or not they use the term to describe themselves (most don’t), I use the term “urbanist” to describe those who are consistently in favor of encouraging more multi-family housing, mixed-use development and public transit.
I am tentatively putting Paige Ellis in the urbanist camp. Although she steered clear of the CodeNEXT debate during the general election campaign, she emphasizes the need for more housing and “building up instead of out.” Of course, we’ll have to see how she votes. An angry neighborhood association can change things quickly. But District 8 is not as inclined toward anti-development activism, if for no other reason than much of it is already protected by the Save Our Springs ordinance and large parts of it are unlikely to be targeted for density. Whatever happens on land use, Ellis will definitely be a much bigger supporter of alternatives to cars than her predecessor, Ellen Troxclair, or her opponent in the runoff, Frank Ward.
In District 1, Natasha Harper-Madison will be a big change on land use and transportation from the current representative, Ora Houston. Harper-Madison not only holds urbanist positions, but all indications are that she will be a very vocal proponent of increased housing and public transit. Unlike her predecessor, Harper-Madison thinks bikes are a pretty nifty form of affordable transportation. Of course, this race was won for urbanists last month, when Harper-Madison and Mariana Salazar, who holds similar positions, advanced to the runoff.
Last but not least, urbanists let out a huge sigh of relief in District 3, where Pio Renteria held off sister Susana Almanza yet again. While Renteria finished the general way ahead of Almanza, the low turnout in runoffs makes them very hard to predict, which explains why so much money (yep, from developers) poured into District 3 in support of Renteria. Granted, from the looks of the Almanza party last night, it didn’t appear that many preservationists thought she had much of a chance. Even a few members of her regular crew weren’t around when I was there (but maybe they showed up later). Almanza claimed that her campaign had shifted the conversation about development in the district and that her brother had “heard the message loud and clear,” but when I talked to Renteria later that night the only message he was sending was that the city needs to be denser, for the sake of transit and housing costs.
The strength of the urbanist majority on Council will depend on how Adler and Kitchen act. My guess is that, coming off a big victory and with no reelection on his mind, Adler will feel more comfortable supporting his natural policy inclination, which is density/transit. I would say the same thing about Kitchen, but unlike Adler, she very likely has her sights on another election some day. Do you catch my drift? I’m saying she is thinking about running for mayor in four years.
I spent last night zig-zagging around the east side covering the two races there. Check out my article on District 1 and District 3 in the Monitor, as well as Jo Clifton’s account of the District 8 race.