Bellingham Third Ward Candidate: Dan Hammill

1. Background: For almost a half a century (1972 to present), Western Washington University (WWU) has not built a dormitory on campus, while increasing enrollment by 50 percent (5,000+ students) over the same period. WWU continues to house only about 4,000 students on campus leaving 10,000+ to compete for rental lodging with local residents, including workers and families. Bellingham is now experiencing a severe rental housing shortage. The university plans to add another 2,000 students in the next 5-10 years while adding a marginal 260 dormitory beds on campus by 2021.

Should the university be brought to the table as a major cause of the shortage of rentals in the city? What demands are you willing to make of the university to assist in mitigating Bellingham’s severe rental shortage?

Dan Hammill

WWU is an incredible asset to our community but should play a much more assertive role in providing housing in Bellingham for its students. Whatcom Community College is building new housing for its international students. While I hope Western begins a broad investment in housing, the city of Bellingham has no current jurisdictional authority over Western when it comes to housing provision and I would not make demands of another institution because I believe strongly in collaborative problem solving. I have met with and shared my concerns about housing impacts with leadership at WWU and they know my position on housing. 

2. Background: For businesses to be effective in our information-intensive economy, they need bandwidth delivered on a fiber-optic infrastructure, which provides speed and reliability. Bellingham city government has not yet made the commitment to pursue an effective fiber-optic infrastructure that is offered as an open-access network, giving co-ops, as well as telecoms, access. Doing so would attract new businesses and would provide a wider variety of internet options for existing businesses and residents. We have our neighbor, Mt. Vernon, as a model for success in doing this. 

Do you feel that identifying the city’s current network, and adding to it as necessary to create a reliable fiber infrastructure is a priority? 

Yes, along with free Wifi in urban villages including the downtown core.

3. Background: The current Bellingham Comprehensive Plan envisions that future population growth will find housing in high-density urban villages. How best to provide additional housing in the city is an ongoing discussion. For example, new city code now permits backyard dwelling units.

Do you favor permitting multifamily housing, like triplexes, in areas of the city now zoned exclusively for single-family, detached homes?

Transportation-oriented development, infill in our urban villages, and the explosive growth along Telegraph and other north-side locations are where we are seeing the lion’s share of permits. Additionally, 38 percent of all new housing since 2006 has occurred in urban villages, despite being only 3.8 percent of land area. Growth in our seven urban villages is expected to stay above a third of all new development for the next 20 years and we having been steadily annexing out into UGAs. I voted for the Comprehensive Plan, which calls for a variety of housing types in single-family zones.

4. Background: Nearly a half mile of Whatcom Creek and its estuary are about to have large-scale development projects started, none of which appear to put any emphasis on habitat, climate adaptation (sea level rise), or stormwater runoff. Each of these projects is completely under control of, or the property is owned by, the port, city, or school district. The permits for the State and Ellis bridges were rushed specifically to avoid impending state updates to shoreline and riparian rules. 

What tactics and plans do you have to aggressively restore habitat and enforce the buffers and best management practices suggested by science, new state legislation, and by the city’s own Critical Areas Ordinance?

Bellingham should continue to regulate its shoreline, habitat and CAO ordinances. I voted to remove the diversion dam on the Nooksack to open up 16 miles of critical, pristine salmon spawning habitat. For new projects the city regulates stormwater and any new project that impacts stormwater in the city is required to mitigate their discharge. The bridges at State and Ellis  were advanced to the forefront because they are failing again and are critical transportation points for commuters, transit and commerce.

5. Background: “Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Bellingham, making up 32 percent of all community emissions.” (From the Bellingham Climate Action Plan.)

In recent years, Bellingham has made progress towards an active transportation network that helps reduce our carbon footprint as well as families’ transportation costs. More people are able to get where they need to go by walking, pedaling, and rolling (such as wheelchairs).

However, the connections for safe and active transportation are a long way from being complete, due to U.S. transportation planning that has for decades prioritized the movement of motor vehicles.

What transportation planning and funding solutions will you champion to accelerate both Bellingham’s reduction of carbon emissions and progress toward a safe and connected active transportation system for all ages and abilities?

I will continue supporting the city’s bike/ped infrastructure through the Transportation Improvement Plan, advocate for the passage of the next Transportation Benefits District to fund bike/ped projects as well as secure state transportation dollars.

I voted for the Climate Action Task Force and support getting to 100 percent renewable by 2030. I support investments in charging infrastructure for electric cars and changing from incineration to anaerobic digestion at Post Point to reduce our municipal carbon footprint. I voted to purchase the conservation easement for Galbraith Mountain, protecting over 2,000 acres, including 1,000 in the Lake Whatcom Reservoir. 

6. Background: The Bellingham Municipal Code 13.16 outlines city regulations for 5G small cell installations. These were drafted in response to a 2018 City Council vote to support 5G installs. On January 14, 2019, new FCC regulations went into effect denying local municipalities the right to refuse 5G installations. So, Bellingham is set to proceed, yet there is an increasing outcry nationally and globally about the lack of scientific testing for safety, environmental effects, security and privacy issues. There is strong scientific basis for all these concerns. Some cities and states are suing against the FCC overreach. The Portland mayor refuses to proceed on the basis of health safety concerns, as well as FCC overreach. 

What is your stance on supporting 5G installation in Bellingham?

The FCC has the final authority on 5G installation and science and research should continue on to conclusively determine adverse health and public health impacts.

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