King County Hotel-Motel Tax Legislation; Fireworks




King County Hotel-Motel Tax Legislation

The King County Executive last week announced a proposal “to bond against future hotel-motel tax revenues to generate an additional $100 million that could be made available to build housing units for people earning between 30 percent and 80 percent of Area Median Income, with a likely focus on 30-60 percent of AMI.”

This is a welcome step toward providing lower and moderate income affordable housing in King County, as is the Executive’s intent to incentivize fast delivery of units.

This spending is authorized by a 2011 change in state law that requires, beginning in 2021, at least 37.5% of lodging tax revenues collected by King County to be dedicated to “nonprofit organizations or public housing authorities for affordable workforce housing within one-half of a mile of a transit station,” or to services for homeless youth. The revenues may be used for bonding as well. That section of state law also requires at least 37.5% of lodging tax revenues to go to arts, culture and heritage museums, the arts and performing arts, and notes the remainder must be used for tourism promotion.

Legislation before the County Council, Motion 2018-0266, states that beginning in 2021, King County intends to allocate 37.5% to arts, culture and heritage museums, the arts and performing arts, and 37.5% to affordable housing and ongoing services to homeless youth and 25% to tourism promotion.

60% of the tourism promotion portion (or 15% of the total) would be dedicated for 23 years from 2021 to 2043 to amenities and upgrades for Safeco Field; the fiscal note estimates this portion would generate $177-191 million over 23 years, which gives a sense of the potential for this funding source.

However, it’s worth noting that spending for affordable housing does not need to be limited to 37.5%–that is the minimum required by state law. This is an invaluable opportunity to provide funding for the affordable housing we desperately need in our region, as others have noted.

Thanks to King County Councilmember Upthegrove for his efforts to convince his colleagues on the King County Council that we should increase the minimum contribution for low income housing production beyond the floor in State Law.

Though Seattle voters again, in 2016, approved a housing levy measure that will fund construction of 2,200 new units of affordable housing by 2023, the fact remains that without greater investment in affordable housing, our success moving people out of homelessness will continue to be limited by affordable housing shortages.

The most recent reporting measures for homeless spending in Seattle, released earlier this week, show improved success in rapid rehousing and diversion, and high performance in preventing homelessness. The rate for exits from shelter to permanent housing increased 4% to 20.5% in the first quarter of 2018; the key factor limiting further success is the availability of affordable housing.

The recent Count Us In survey of homelessness in King County found 12,112 people experiencing homelessness. The recent McKinsey report commissioned by the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce estimates we have a supply gap of 60,000 affordable homes in King County.


Fireworks

In Seattle, except for permitted fireworks displays, fireworks are illegal under the  Seattle Fire Code.

The Seattle Fire Department has noted that fireworks pose a fire hazard to property and present a safety risk as well. Seattle’s population is 18%  comprised of people who have immigrated to Seattle, some from war-torn countries, for whom fireworks may be frightening. Pets can be frightened as well.

For safety’s sake, the consideration of people who don’t like or are frightened by loud noises, and the comfort of our furry friends please enjoy a local, legal, permitted fireworks display, so we all can have a happy and safe 4th!

I’ve received numerous constituent contacts about fireworks over the last two summers. Last year I requested that SPD enforce the law prohibiting fireworks; they indicated there were too many complaints to respond to. After July 4th last year, I made a number of inquiries and compiled information about the number of complaints in the SW Precinct, as noted below.

This year I asked the Mayor and SPD to take a different approach to fireworks law enforcement this year, as follows:

“I am requesting that you ask that SPD take additional and different action this year, first with notice to the public in the upcoming weeks leading to July 4 about a change of approach and then with a plan that emphasizes warnings and confiscation of fireworks, in order to hopefully impact behavioral change.”

I’ve copied my request to the Mayor below.

Dear Mayor Durkan,

I am writing to you regarding the forthcoming July 4th holiday season in Seattle. According to a  2013 Pemco poll, about one-third of the state’s households set off their own fireworks.  I’ve received an increasing number of constituent complaints during the last two years about fireworks.  I myself have experienced what I believe to be an increased frequency of fireworks use.   Over the years, frequent fireworks noise complaints have made it more difficult for 911 operators, police, and fire officials to respond to life-threatening emergencies across the city.

Last year, my office asked questions about SPD’s policy and fireworks.  In response to those initial inquiries, I learned in January 2017 that SPD received 132 fireworks complaints from resident in the Southwest Precinct and responded to 16 of them and wrote only two reports.  I then asked follow up questions, intending to base my subsequent requests to SPD related to fireworks law enforcement upon the answers to those questions. I’d hoped these questions would give me a more complete understanding of SPD’s practices:

  1. How a dispatcher receiving a call determines whether there is a potential hazard.  This was intended to understand why there were on 16 SPD responses to 132 complaints.
  2. What actions an officer has available when sent to the scene, and how they decide they decide whether to take an action, or take no action
  3. Data on the final outcomes of the 18 instances in 2017 when officers were sent out to the scene.

However, despite repeated inquires to both SPD and your staff over the last six months, I have not received any reply to that follow up inquiry.  My most recent inquiry was:  June 18th; before that on each April 17, March 15, and February 1.

Based upon what I do know today, I believe that the 2017 SPD response rate points to a clear need for a different approach this year.  I fear that with ever-escalating fireworks use, the current laissez-faire approach, will result one day in someone getting hurt.  By the way of this message, I am requesting that you ask that SPD take additional and different action this year, first with notice to the public in the upcoming weeks leading to July 4 about a change of approach and then with a plan that emphasizes warnings and confiscation of fireworks, in order to hopefully impact behavioral change.

Best,

Lisa Herbold

District 1 Councilmember, Chair Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts Committee

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