Comp Plan Docketing Amendments; MHA Update; No Big Salary Bonus for 2016; In-District Office Hours Update

August 4th, 2017

Comp Plan Docketing Amendments

In the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee this Tuesday we discussed and voted on the Comprehensive Plan docketing resolution. An important inclusion in the resolution for “docketing,” or study and consideration in the 2018 Annual Comprehensive Plan Update, is direction to city departments to analyze and propose amendments to our Comprehensive Plan establishing a new developer impact-fee program to fund transportation, parks, and school needs associated with new development. Here is a Seattle Times editorial I co-authored with Councilmembers O’Brien and Bagshaw on the topic.

In addition, I brought forward two amendments:

  1. A requirement for formal community planning engagement before changes to three Morgan Junction Neighborhood Plan policies.
  2. A policy related to monitoring growth in urban centers and villages. This proposal would reintroduce policies that were previously removed from the Comprehensive Plan that would require the City to make adjustments to investments and growth thresholds when growth exceeds or falls short of our projections.

The first amendment was held at committee and not voted on. Councilmember Johnson agreed to work with me to develop a compromise and to vote on at Full Council on Monday, August 7. The second amendment failed with both Councilmembers Johnson and Gonzalez voting against it. While I’m disappointed that this amendment failed, the Office of Planning and Community Development does still report, on a quarterly bases, the growth in our urban center/villages. However, should growth exceed or not meet the Council’s expectations there is no specific mechanism that requires the Council to act in either providing resources to the effected communities in the way of increased infrastructure or neighborhood planning.

Comp plan pic

 

MHA Update

If you have comments on the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) Citywide Rezone Draft Environmental Impact Statement, don’t forget to comment by Monday, August 7, by using OPCD’s online form, by email to MHA.EIS@seattle.gov, or by mail to:

Office of Planning and Community Development
Attn: MHA EIS
PO Box 34019
Seattle, WA 98124-4019

You may recall that I wrote last month about a letter that I sent to Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) Director, Sam Assefa. My letter focused on the displacement risk analysis for Citywide Mandatory Housing Affordability Implementation and it also requested an additional extension of the comment period on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) from August 7 to August 28 and asks OPCD to do additional analysis. This letter addresses serious concerns that I raised in two previous blog posts, here and here. I received a response from Director Assefa and though he declined my request to further extend the comment period on the DEIS, he did agree to significant new analysis on the displacement risks associated with the proposed upzones. I am specifically seeking more detailed quantitative analysis of displacement impacts on people-of-color and a more qualitative analysis of cultural displacement, both disaggregated to the neighborhood level.  Director Assefa has also made an important commitment that the draft Final EIS will be shared with Council prior to publication. If the analysis for the FEIS is not sufficient to quantify disparate impacts, I may consider commissioning additional analyses either through a peer-review of the FEIS or other measure. I appreciate Director Assefa and his staff’s efforts to work with me.

In addition, I am currently working with Councilmember Johnson on a formal comment on the DEIS, including specific D1 concerns, as well as confirming these important commitments with Director Assefa.

For more information about the environmental review process watch OPCD’s What is an EIS? video. The Washington State Department of Ecology also has information about SEPA and the EIS process.

 

No Big Salary Bonus in 2017 for 2016

You may recall, from my email on July 20th, I shared with you a letter to Mayor Murray regarding the Seattle City Light CEO performance pay criteria and asking the Mayor to share those criteria with me. The performance pay criteria are important because of State Attorney General’s guidance in setting objective criteria which measures performance that exceeds the expectations of the job.

I had previously raised concerns about this pay during the appointment of Larry Weis, but ultimately voted to appoint Weis despite those concerns because the Council did not have the authority to prohibit the bonus without first repealing a law a previous Council approved back in 2003.

I’m pleased to report that on July 27, the Mayor replied to my letter, stating that though CEO Weis and he are still in conversations regarding the criteria for future performance pay, that due to expectations having not yet been codified, CEO Weis would not receive performance pay for 2016.

I don’t know if it was my asking whether there were established performance criteria that led to the Mayor ultimately deciding that performance pay was not merited. If so, it shows that when asked, good questions can save taxpayers money.

 

In-District Office Hours Update

Due to the Council’s late August Recess my next tentatively scheduled in-district office hours will be on Friday, September 22 at the South Park Community Center (8319 8th Ave S).

Here is a complete list of my tentatively scheduled office hours for the rest of 2017. These are subject to change.

Date Location Address
Friday, September 22, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8th Avenue S
Friday, October 27, 2017 Southwest Neighborhood Service Center 2801 SW Thistle St
Friday, December 15, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8th Avenue S

 

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South Park Vandalism; Night Out on Aug 1; Legal Aid Pilot; SPU Strategic Business Plan Update; City-Wide Emergency Hub Drill; Elimination of the Sub-Minimum Wage

July 27th, 2017

South Park Business District Vandalism

I am saddened and disturbed to hear of overnight vandalism against businesses in South Park It’s happened three times in the last week, and overnight on both Monday and Tuesday evenings.

On Wednesday morning, I sent the following e-mail to Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole:

Chief O’Toole,

I am writing you about a surge in vandalism in the South Park business district.

For the second night in a row, South Park businesses have had their windows smashed. This is now the third time this has happened in a week; last week, a business was also the target of an arson. This is resulting in a decreased sense of public safety in a fragile business community. I’ve heard from business owners and residents expressing grave concern about this—this clearly appears to be a deliberate pattern targeting businesses in the community.

Revitalization of the business district is a core priority of the South Park community. The South Park business district has suffered from vacant buildings for some time, and the community greatly values local business owners willing to invest in South Park to establish the kind of businesses already common in so many of Seattle’s neighborhood business districts. It’s important that current and potential business owners feel they can safety operate businesses in South Park.

I am requesting that you do whatever you can to put SPD resources into the South Park business district overnight, to seek to prevent additional vandalism.

I am also requesting the Seattle Police Department hold or attend a public meeting to let the community know what you are doing in response to this, as requested by several constituents. I am happy to attend.

I appreciate your response to my letter last year about public safety challenges in South Park, and your willingness to direct additional resources toward addressing them. I also appreciate Captain Davis’ recent response to residents and business owners, which notes:

“Looking forward, we will be investigating the latest incidents of property damage with hopes of a quick resolution.  Each of our three work shifts are on alert of this issue and will patrol the affected areas appropriately.  If any of you should have further concern, please feel free to contact me or any member of my command staff.  Lastly, please take the time to observe the South Park neighborhood’s crime statistics which can be viewed on the SPD website.  I believe you will find the information useful.  Again, thank you for taking the time to convey your concerns.”

Sincerely,

Lisa Herbold

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

In addition, I encourage everyone to support the businesses in South Park that have been damaged, including Burdick Brewery, which just re-opened, Left Bank Wine and La Toscanella.

To seek long-term solutions to public safety challenges in South Park, Councilmember González and I created a South Park Public Safety Task Force, that is currently meeting, and scheduled to make recommendations to the City Council in September, in advance of the City Council’s work on the 2018 budget.  Please let me know if you have thoughts or suggestions.

 

Night Out on August 1

Night Out is a national event promoted in Seattle by Seattle Police Department Crime Prevention. It is designed to heighten crime prevention awareness, increase neighborhood support in anti-crime efforts, and unite our communities. This year’s event is on Tuesday, August 1.

To participate in Night Out and to have your street closed for the event, you must officially register your Night Out event with the City of Seattle. You can close a street as long as you don’t close an intersection, or live on an arterial. There is no fee.

Registration is open until 5 p.m. on Monday, July 31, so there’s still time to get your event listed; you can register here.  A map of events is linked here, just select “Southwest Precinct” or your specific neighborhood; numerous events are scheduled throughout West Seattle and South Park.  Here’s a link to the information page, which includes advice on how to organize a Night Out event on your street, and materials in several languages.

I’ll do my best to get to as many District 1 events as I can!

 

Civil Legal Aid Pilot

On Monday this week attorneys got to work on City-sponsored pilot program that I championed in last year’s budget to prevent people from losing their housing or employment when they are in the midst of a legal defense for an offense unrelated to their housing.  This pilot will allow new civic legal aid attorneys to partner with Public Defenders to advocate for the accused to keep their housing and ability to work.

An arrest that doesn’t lead to conviction sometimes results in a tenant’s eviction or loss of a job, which, to me, feels like the opposite of justice. We’re dealing with an unprecedented homelessness crisis, and part of the solution is ensuring people stay in their homes and keep their jobs. That is why, I spearheaded an effort to include money in the City’s annual budget for three attorneys to provide these additional civl legal services on misdemeanor cases heard through the Seattle Municipal Court.

My office worked closely with King County Department of Public Defense on this pilot project because of the significant, negative consequences like the loss of housing or employment licenses that the process of criminal prosecution has on individuals. Anita Khandelwal, King County Department of Public Defense Policy Director said, “The Collateral Consequences attorneys funded by the City of Seattle will help DPD’s clients avoid some of those consequences and reduce the harmful impact of the conviction on the individual, which makes it impossible for them to move forward with their lives. Ultimately, Seattle’s investment will improve outcomes for DPD’s clients—which is good not just the clients, but also for our community.”

Until a recent change resulting from last year’s budget action, Public Defenders were prohibited from engaging on matters unrelated to their assigned criminal cases.  Seattle’s two year pilot program will operate similarly to existing civil legal aid models from the Public Defender Services for the District of Columbia and the Bronx Defenders in New York City. Council will hear initial findings about the pilot at the end of the year.

 

SPU Strategic Business Plan, Update 4:  Issue Identification

I’ve written a few times about the Strategic Business Plan (SBP). You can see those updates here, here, and here. In this weeks’ committee meeting Central Staff identified issues in the SPU plan that Councilmembers might want to change.  You can find the presentation and memo with specific options in amending the SBP, particularly with the idea of reducing the 5.5% average annual increase. You can watch the committee meeting here.

There are many possible ways to approach lowering the average annual increase, but I would like to highlight a few that I am particularly interested in:

  • Rate smoothing – while this won’t directly lower rates, it will prevent a large spike in rates that can have a more detrimental impact on rate payers than a more gradual increase.
  • Water tap fees – while SPU currently employs a tap fee for new development, it does not recover the full cost of the actual installation. This means that rate payers are subsidizing growth by paying part of the tap fee. If we raise the fees to recover the cost of service we would increase revenue by an estimated $900,000 annually.
  • System development charges – water tap fees are a subset of system development charges however, as I talked about in my last blog post, Seattle has the lowest water system development charges in the region.
  • Examining the SPU Capital Improvement Project (CIP) list to determine if there are projects that can be deferred.
  • Reducing the assumed CIP accomplishment rate from 100% to a rate more in line with historical norms.
  • Tie the utility tax rate to inflation (2.4%) instead of the overall rate increase of the current 5.5%.

If you haven’t done so already, I would encourage you to contact my office with your thoughts, concerns, and any suggestions you have for potential reduced spending so that I can share them with SPU and the Executive and incorporate them into the SBP.

 

City-Wide Emergency Hub Drill

This Saturday, July 29th, the Seattle Emergency Hubs will host a citywide drill. During this drill participants will practice for “the big one.” Specifically, this drill will be a continuation of the Cascadia Rising Subduction Zone earthquake, on day six after the initial quake.

Take a look at the map below and find the closest hub to you to participate.

Seattle hubs for citywide drill

 

Elimination of the Sub-Minimum Wage

On Wednesday the City announced an intent to end the subminimum wage for people with disabilities. Seattle’s current law mirrors Washington State law which allows employers to pay less than minimum wage. This last June the Commission for People with DisAbilities voted unanimously to end this exemption. The commission then met with the Council and Executive to discuss a path forward in ending subminimum wages for people with disabilities. Seeking the quickest route forward we decided to pursue a Director’s Rule process with the Office of Labor Standards (OLS), which will begin in August. This directors rule will be followed with legislation which the Council intends on voting on before the end of the year.

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Funding for District 1 Landslide Mitigation; Big News – Housing Bond Update; OLS Administrative Rules Update; Join me for the West Seattle Grand Parade!; Letters of Interest Written in June and July; In-District Office Hours; Fremont Solstice Parade Help Has Arrived!

July 20th, 2017


Funding for District 1 Landslide Mitigation

Some of you may recall that on February 15, a mudslide closed Highland Park Way SW, one of the few east-west access points for West Seattle. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Afterwards, I raised questions about the Seattle Department of Transportation’s (SDOT’s) practices for managing landslide risks and whether SDOT should be doing more proactive work to minimize the risk of slides rather than responding with repair work after slides occur. I also sought to increase funding for this important program, which in our soggy, hilly city, is a true public safety issue.

What I found is that 17 years ago, in 2000, SDOT performed a risk assessment for slope hazards for landslides on arterial streets in the City.  This evaluation was based on a set scoring matrix, and SDOT uses that ranking to prioritize our proactive landslide mitigation program.

The assessment used eight design factors to determine the priority of 73 known potential landslide locations along arterial streets.  The criteria were:

  1. Hazard condition of slope
  2. Traffic volume
  3. Street, pavement, and adjacent retaining facility condition
  4. Street or sidewalk access impacts, including Metro, primary emergency routes, and ability to implement detours
  5. Adjacent to community centers, schools, city utilities
  6. Slope modification history that may decrease slope stability
  7. Partnership opportunities with other planned projects to decrease costs
  8. Adjacent to private facilities

Of the 73 locations, 24 were rated a high priority.  Since 2000, SDOT has budgeted approximately $500K per year for landslide mitigation.  With those funds we have been slowly moving through mitigation efforts for those locations. In 17 years, only seven of twenty-four high priority location have had proactive mitigation work done, because the majority of the allocated funds each year end up being needed for responding to slides after they have occurred in other lower priority locations.

The City Budget Office agreed with me that this a significant problem.  I worked with SDOT and the City Budget Office to identify 2017 funds as well as a spending plan over the six-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) to complete the work. Longer-term funding will be addressed during the 2018 budget process beginning in September.

In the short term, the 2nd quarter supplemental budget proposed by the City Budget Office, and discussed by the Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods, and Finance Committee this week, increases funding for addressing landslides by $1.37 million.

Three of the projects are in West Seattle, as follows:

SW Cambridge Street and California Avenue SW: $540,000 to install a retaining wall. According to SDOT,

This slide impacts access for thirteen homes along California Ave SW, north of SW Cambridge St.  The slide also damaged two homes below.  There is no alternative access point for the properties.  SPU completed the initial stabilization and cleanup efforts, since there was also a water main break.  We are currently monitoring the slide, and have limited the access to one lane only.  If there is additional movement, we may need to eliminate vehicle access to the homes, and limit access to pedestrian only. 

The responsibility of the initial response and restoration is likely split between SPU and SDOT, since there was both a slide and water main break, and it is impossible to tell which caused which.

The current proposal for repair is to install a wall and pedestrian connection between Cambridge and California.  There was an informal trail / path that existing prior to the slide. 

west seattle landslide west seattle landslide

10200 block of 47th Avenue SW $350,000 to stabilize a slope due to a landslide. According to SDOT,

west seattle landslide

There continues to be soil movement undermining the roadway at this location.  The current solution would be a 50′ long 8′ high permanent soldier pile wall consistent with the adjacent wall.  If not completed we will likely need to close the roadway for safety and prevent access to approximately 20 residences.  There is no alternative access point for the properties.  The closure would affect 20 homes including those on Maplewood Place SW, with potential impact to the apartments block at 10203 47th Ave SW.

Highland Park Way SW $60,000 to install a rock buttress between West Marginal Way SW and SW Holden Street. According to SDOT,

We need to install a rock buttress and ecology block wall to minimize long term erosion and sloughing.

This slide event occurred on February 15th, and closed all lanes of Highland Park Way SW (Highland) between W. Marginal Way SW and SW Holden St.  Highland Park Way is an arterial and major disruption to commute traffic was noted during this closure.

west seattle landslide west seattle landslide

$400,000 is also included to stabilize a slope in the 9700 block of Rainier Avenue South, and $20,000 for a rock buttress in the 2800 block of Perkins Lane West.

(photos courtesy of SDOT)


Big News – Housing Bond Update

Last week the Office of Housing announced that some of the Council-approved $29 million in bonds for affordable housing, will be available this Fall via the Office of Housing’s (OH) annual competitive Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) process.

Last autumn, the Council authorized $29 million for affordable housing funded by utilizing the City’s existing bonding capacity which is to be paid off over a 30 year term.

Over a dozen non-profit developers have signaled their intent to bid on the 2017 NOFA.   If the City were somehow able to provide all the money they asked for, we’d see over 2,000 new affordable units come online. We can’t do that, but nevertheless, I truly appreciate that we can provide more funds this cycle because of these new Housing Bond resources. I thank OH Director Steve Walker for letting me know of his intent to commit all or most of these funds in 2017.

A portion of the bond funds may also be available later in the year for nonprofit housing developers to rehabilitate existing buildings that are aging to extend their use as affordable housing for the long-term. Further, there may be several requests for proposals (RFP) issued using Housing Bond funds for publicly owned surplus properties in the next few months to create affordable housing.


OLS Administrative Rules Update

The Seattle Office of Labor Standards (OLS) is taking public comment until August 4th on their Administrative Rules for conducting investigations and appeals.

Specifically, I wanted you to be aware of one change that has been a particularly high priority for me. One of the new rules is to address OLS’s Directed Investigation program.  In April 2016, I worked with the City Council to pass a resolution that identified the process and implementation of directed investigations for enforcement of our labor laws.  In last year’s budget process I proposed funding, supported by the Council, to develop a Directed Investigations program.

Directed Investigations are investigations that are initiated by the Director of the OLS without a worker introducing a complaint because many workers are unware of their rights and/or are unlikely to file a complaint because of perceived or actual threats of employer retaliation. We currently have six local labor laws: Paid Sick and Safe Time, Fair Chance Employment, Wage Theft, Secure Scheduling, Hotel Employees Health and Safety Initiative, and Minimum Wage. When the OLS was created in 2014 it was granted the authority to conduct directed investigations.

If you would like to see the full text of the rules, they are available here, and if you would like to comment on the rules, please send comments by email to Jenn.round@seattle.gov or by regular mail to:

Seattle Office of Labor Standards

810 Third Ave, Suite 375

Seattle, WA 98104-1627

Attn: Jenn Round, OLS Enforcement Supervisor/Chapter 140

You can also comment by calling 206-684-4500.


Join me for the West Seattle Grand Parade!

I’m honored that the West Seattle Grand Parade asked me to be the Grand Marshall this year. I hope you’ll join me. The Parade begins at 11am between California Ave SW and SW Lander, and goes through the Junction.


Letters of Interest Written in June and July

  • Letter to Mayor Murray regarding my specific concerns and expectations as relates to labor and arts issue for the memorandum of agreement with the Oak View Group for the proposed KeyArena redevelopment. The Council also sent a group letter, related to transportation and financing, but since I have committee responsibility for Labor and Arts issues it was important for me to address those separately.
  • Letter to Mayor Murray regarding the Seattle City Light CEO performance pay criteria and asking to share those criteria with me.
  • Letter to Office of Planning and Community Development Director, Sam Assefa. The Comment letter on the displacement risk analysis for Citywide MHA Implementation requests an additional extension of the comment period from Aug. 7 to Aug. 28. It also provides initial comments on the analysis in the Housing and Socioeconomics chapter of the DEIS and asks OPCD to do additional analysis. This letter addresses serious concerns I raised in two previous blog posts, here and here.
  • On June 29, I wrote to King County Assessor John Wilson about potential policy options for requiring disclosure of purchasers of some types of luxury real estate and housing. This has been a hot topic of discussion recently.After Vancouver, B.C. passed a tax on foreign real estate investment last year, I asked the City’s Law Department about this. It seems clear the City lacks legal authority for this kind of tax, due to federal law. It could potentially be viable to require disclosure, as a safeguard against money laundering and tax evasion, which the New York Times has written about in their Towers of Secrecy, and the New Republic has written about regarding Trump Tower. However, it’s important that any disclosure be designed in a way that does not foment racial bias or resentment, given Seattle’s history of exclusion laws targeted against immigrants from China in the 1880s.


In-District Office Hours Tomorrow

On July 21, I will be at the Southwest Neighborhood Service Center (2801 SW Thistle St) from 2:00p.m. – 7:00p.m. Please be sure to arrive no later than 6:30 pm, the final meeting of the day will begin at 6:30 p.m.

These hours are walk-in friendly, but if you would like to let me know you’re coming in advance you can email my scheduler Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov).

Additionally, here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours. These are subject to change.

Date Location Address
Friday, September 22, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8th Avenue S
Friday, October 27, 2017 Southwest Neighborhood Service Center 2801 SW Thistle St
Friday, December 15, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8th Avenue S


Fremont Solstice Parade Help Has Arrived!

In the Fremont neighborhood, the Solstice Parade was recently in danger of not continuing. Earlier this year, in my capacity as Chair of the Council committee that oversees arts issues, the Fremont Arts Council asked me for help to stop the potential demise of the Fremont Solstice Parade, due to the loss of the storage space for their very large float bodies.

As Seattle is growing and becoming less affordable, we’re in danger of losing the artistic events and places that help make Seattle’s neighborhoods distinctive. Arts spaces face the same affordability pressures as housing.

District 6 Councilmember Mike O’Brien and I wrote an editorial in the Stranger in June highlighting the issue, and asked the City’s Finance and Administrative Services to reach out to City departments for help locating City property. SDOT property had been available before, but was no longer available due to construction.

Earlier this week City Light announced they had available storage space the Fremont Arts Council could rent. Thanks to City Light for helping to preserve this tradition.

fremont parade

Photo credit: B. Smith

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Seattle Moves Toward Tax Fairness with Tax on High Income; SPU Strategic Business Plan, Update; Priority Hire Legislation; Fair Chance Housing Legislation; Duwamish Head Greenbelt Restoration; High Point Farm Stand is Open

July 14th, 2017


Seattle Moves Toward Tax Fairness with Tax on High Incomes

The City Council has unanimously voted to begin addressing the regressive nature of our tax system, and move toward tax fairness.  On Monday, July 10 the Council passed legislation that I co-sponsored to establish a tax on high incomes.

This vote occurred after a public hearing and discussion over four meetings in the Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee.

This legislation is an important step for Seattle as well as Washington State.  In Seattle, we have an increasing affordability gap between the have and have nots. The middle class is being squeezed as well. And one of the reasons is our outdated, regressive and unfair tax structure.  In Washington State, we have the most regressive tax structure in the nation. Local economist Dick Conway has noted we finish last when you consider fairness, transparency, adequacy, stability, and economic vitality.

The importance of lowering the property tax burden in Seattle was placed in stark relief by the state legislature’s passage of a school funding measure that will increase property taxes by $460 for a median home in Seattle. 63% of Seattle voters supported Initiative 1098 for a comparable state tax; a KING 5/KUOW poll in June showed 66% support, with 23% opposed.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) found in 2015 that state and local taxes paid by the 20 percent of Washington families with the lowest incomes amounted to 16.8 percent of their income. In contrast, the tax burden for the top one percent of families with the highest incomes was 2.4 percent of their income, less than ½ the 5.6  percent average of the  41  states with an income tax. A similar dynamic exists for business taxes, with the smallest 20% of businesses paying 4.8%, and the top 1% paying 0.7% in taxes. That’s why I supported an amendment to include potential reduction of the B&O tax for smaller businesses.

The Washington State Republican party recently sent out a document full of half-truths and scare tactics, while encouraging Seattle residents to break the law by not paying the tax.  Here is my response.

 

WHO IS TAXED?

The legislation would establish a tax of 2.25% on only the income of Seattle residents over $250,000 for single filers, or income above $500,000 for married couples filing jointly. So for a single filer with income of $300,000, only the $50,000 over $250,000 would be taxed, for a total of $1125, or 0.038 percent of their total income.

Some suggested that instead of taxing Seattle residents we tax income earned in Seattle. This approach would create be significantly more complicated to administer, would require businesses to withhold income, and cost much more to implement. That seemed neither feasible nor desirable.

The Council received late-breaking concerns about the impact of legislation on LLCs, S-Corporations, and Sole-Proprietorships; here’s a link to a document that addresses concern regarding business income.  In short, the tax will not be levied against business revenues that are used to offset business expenses or losses.

Further, local income taxes are deductible from federal income taxes, provided you do not deduct sales tax.

 

WHAT WILL THE INCOME TAX REVENUE FUND?

The legislation restricts the tax revenue used to: (1) lowering the property tax burden and the impact of other regressive taxes, including the business and occupation tax; (2) replacing funding lost through federal cuts or responding to changes in federal policy; (3) providing services, including housing, education, and transit; (4) creating green jobs and meeting carbon reduction goals; and (5) and implementing the tax.

 

HOW WILL THE TAX BE ADMINISTERED?

Only residents with qualifying incomes will need to file with the City.  The legislation was designed to minimize the cost of implementation and reporting requirements. Residents with qualifying incomes will file their income as listed on line 22 on IRS form 1040.

 

The tax will go into effect on January 1, 2018 with reporting due by April 15, 2019. Extensions for filing granted by the IRS will automatically apply.

 

Early estimates indicate it will raise approximately $140 million from about 11,000 tax payers.   The Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS), which collects city taxes, will be responsible for administration, and developing more detailed rules for implementation. FAS administers taxes for over 50,000 businesses, and is bound by the strict confidentiality requirements included in the legislation.  Administrative costs are estimated at $5-6 million annually, with one time IT costs at $10-13 million.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE LEGAL CHALLENGE?

There has been public discussion of potential legal challenges.  The final ordinance, as passed on Monday, stuck to the commitment made in Resolution 31747, passed by the Council in May, promising that legal viability would be the primary consideration in developing and constructing the legislation.  Recently former Washington State Justice Phil Talmadge, said to King-5 News, referring to a 5-4 case in 1935 and other old cases, “I thought those older cases should no longer be viable.” He went on to say that the current justices must decide whether the principle upheld in those cases “is somehow now actually harmful and contrary to law and therefore something that it should abandon.”  This was a position he took himself in a dissenting vote on the State Supreme Court.

 

WON’T THE WEALTHY MOVE OUT OF SEATTLE?

A 13-year tracking study released last year by researchers from Stanford University and the US Treasury Department studied whether income taxes on high incomes resulted in millionaires moving. The study found that 2.4% of millionaires move each year, compared to 2.9% for the general population, and 4.5% for those earning only $10,000. So, millionaires move less than others, even with income taxes.  And remember, every state but seven have State income or investment taxes and more than 4,000 jurisdictions have taxes on local income.   With Seattle paving the way, it’s possible that other jurisdictions in Washington State may follow suit.

 

CITY SPENDING HAS GONE UP, WHY DOES SEATTLE NEED MORE TAX REVENUE?

As mentioned above, Washington has one of the most inadequate tax systems in the nation (Table 7). Between FY 1995 and FY 2014, our state and local effective tax rate fell from 11.4 percent (the eleventh highest in the nation) to 9.4 percent (the thirty-sixth highest). No other state in the nation experienced a greater decline over this period.  If the state and local effective tax rate had equaled the 10.5 percent national norm in each year from FY 2005 to FY 2014, Washington state and local governments would have collected an additional $23 billion in tax revenue (Table 8).

income tax proposal - table1

income tax proposal - table1

 


SPU Strategic Business Plan, Update 3

Last week I wrote about the proposed Strategic Business Plan (SBP) for Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), including the history of rate increases from SPU, the origins of the SBP, and what is proposed in the update to the SBP.

This week, Director Mami Hara and her staff, along with the Customer Review Panel (CRP), presented their process to-date, which has included input from hundreds of utility customers from seven community meetings which were held in several different languages as well as an online survey.  You also received a postcard that showed the Executive’s proposal of a 5.5% average annual increase. Upon my request, this post card was mailed to 325,000 customers. Since the card was mailed out, I have received over 170 emails and half as many phone calls. There are many concerns I have heard from you:

  • Affordability is foremost in everyone’s mind. Specifically, concern from and about seniors and those on fixed incomes.
  • A request that we thoroughly vet the proposal to cut unnecessary projects and ensure efficiencies are met.
  • Concerns about compounding and rising costs of living.
  • Requests that we work to smooth out the peak increases in 2019 and 2020.

However, I also heard from many people that they understand the need to upgrade our aging infrastructure. On average our water lines are 70 years old, and the drainage lines are 80 years old.

I have also heard from many people that are concerned about the increase beyond the inflation rate. Below is a graph that was part of the presentation to my committee on Tuesday and breaks out inflation verses other costs. As you can see there is an inflation rate of 2.4%, 0.7% in increased operational costs (O&M), 0.5% in increased taxes, 0.5% for increases in contracts that SPU manages, and 1.4% increases in capital financing.

spu rates

The proposed average annual increase of 5.5% over 6 years includes a 8.2% increase in 2019 and 9.5% in 2020. I believe that these increases are too high, and I have already begun working with Council staff to develop ways to bring those increases down. Specifically, the CRP outlined two ideas to expand revenue streams for the utility without a general rate increase. The letter speaks for itself:

“As the Customer Review Panel urged three years ago, the City should implement expanded revenue streams for the Utility through expanded use of system development fees and connection charges. This action item was included in the 2015 Plan but failed to gain traction. Most cities depend on such charges to help fund system improvements needed to accommodate growth and in turn, keep utility rates more affordable to existing customers. Seattle is growing quickly—as a quick count of construction cranes will readily confirm. Yet SPU’s drainage and wastewater utilities have neither any connection charges nor any system development fees in place. SPU does have a water connection charge, but this contributes less than 0.4% of water revenues — and the charge does not fully recover the cost of connections. Overall, the City lags far behind other cities in our region in asking new development to contribute to these costs. We endorse the premise that growth should pay for growth and believe such charges can be structured in a manner that does not significantly impact the goal of housing affordability.”

I agree with the CRP, growth should pay for growth. I will pursue an amendment to the SBP to expand the use of system development fees and ensure that water connection charges fully recover the cost of installation.  Early estimates indicate that increased water connection charges will result in an additional $80 million in revenue which could reduce rates. The CRP presentation highlighted these concerns and showed us that Seattle has some of the regions lowest water system development charges.

water charges

While these ideas focus on reducing the rate increase by adding additional revnue through other means, I will also be looking at SPU’s Capital Improvement Project (CIP) list and examining whether or not there are projects that can be deferred in order to reduce the rate path.

I would also, again, like to ask that you review the documents that SPU has provided and send me suggestions that you have for potential reduced spending so that I can share them with SPU and the Executive and incorporate them in to the SBP.


Priority Hire Legislation

On Tuesday, the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts (CRUEDA) Committee unanimously adopted amendments to the 2015 Priority Hire legislation. The Priority Hire Program helps women, people of color, and those from economically disadvantaged zip codes to develop careers in the construction industry by requiring contractors to meet hiring goals on City funded public works jobs.   The program requires public works construction project contracts totaling $5 million or more to be covered by a master community workforce agreement. See my previous blog post.

Earlier this year, the Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) issued a 2016 Priority Hire Annual Report with recommendations for improvements. Another report from the Priority Hire Advisory Committee (PHAC) also recommended changes.

On March 31, the CRUEDA Committee discussed the proposed legislative changes and learned that the proposed changes were not supported by the PHAC. In response to these concerns, I asked FAS to reconvene the PHAC. Subsequently, the PHAC discussed the proposed changes, resulting in the following new recommendations, that the CRUEDA committee voted to support on Tuesday:

  1. Reduce from five to three the number of “core employees” open-shop contractors may include on a project before hiring through the Priority Hire hiring process.
  2. Allows open-shop and Women and Minority Business Enterprise (WMBE) contractors to bring 3 core employees and 2 apprentices from state approved training programs that are either:
    1. a worker from a disadvantaged zip code,
    2. a pre-apprenticeship graduate, or
    3. a women or person of color.

 


Fair Chance Housing Legislation

On Thursday, July 13, 2017, the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts (CRUEDA) Committee hosted a informational briefing, panel discussion, and public hearing on the proposed Fair Chance Housing legislation. Fair Chance Housing is meant to address barriers people with criminal backgrounds face when attempting to secure rental housing. Representatives from the Urban League, Columbia Legal Services, the FARE Coalition, the Rental Housing Association of Washington and Pioneer Human Services participated in a panel discussion to discuss their perspective on the legislation.

The Fair Chance Housing ordinance would prevent landlords from screening applicants based on criminal convictions older than two years; arrests that did not lead to a conviction; convictions that have been expunged, vacated or sealed; juvenile records; or status of a juvenile tenant on the sex offender registry. In addition, the legislation supports a new Fair Housing Home Program to help landlords learn how they can implement practices that will affirmatively further fair housing by reducing racial and other biases in tenant selection. The City of Seattle will also work at the state level to reduce the impact of criminal convictions.

Studies show that criminal history is not predictive of successful tenancy.  Other studies demonstrate that when people are housed the incidents of recidivism goes down significantly.  This law does not limit the ability of landlords to use income ratios, employment verifications, security deposits, credit reports, other judgments, and past landlord references in screening tenants.

It is estimated that 30% of Seattle residents over 18, or more than 173,000 people, have an arrest or conviction, with 7 percent having a felony record. One in five people who leave prison become homeless soon thereafter. In the 2017 Count us In survey: 55 percent of survey respondents reported their criminal background as a barrier to accessing housing.   In other words, the current practices in this City for how we allow criminal records to be used to screen tenants is – in a large part – responsible for why we are experiencing so much homelessness in our city.

The need for this type of legislation is informed by the City’s homelessness crisis and compounded by the racial disparities in our criminal justice system.  Even though there is not a greater rate of crime committed by people of color as compared to white people, detentions in King County disproportionately impact people of color. Less than 13% of King County youth are black but black youth comprise 50% of the youth held in King County ‘s juvenile detention center. In WA, people of color receive longer sentences than similarly situated white defendants.

These are people who were either never found guilty of a crime and others who have fulfilled the punishment required by the courts.  They are suffering a continued extrajudicial punishment when they are denied housing.  If we believe in the rule of law, that only the courts should be permitted to punish people for their crimes, why wouldn’t we pass a law to stop people for being punished when they have been found innocent or have paid their price to society?

This issue will also be discussed on July 25 and August 8 at 9:30am in the CRUEDA Committee. To track this issue please sign up to receive CRUEDA meeting agendas.

 


Duwamish Head Greenbelt Restoration

You may recall that the City reached a settlement in April for one of the two lawsuits about illegal tree cutting in the Duwamish Head Greenbelt.

The Parks Department has announced they will begin mitigation and restoration work, and will host two information open houses about that work. They will take place at 3201 35th Avenue SW at the dead end of 35th Avenue SW north of Hinds Street. They will be from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 18, and Wednesday, July 19.

Remediation and erosion control work will occur from July to December, with plantings from November through March, 2018. Monitoring and additional restoration work will continue through 2022.

 


High Point Farm Stand is Open

The High Point Farm Stand has opened for the season, with fresh produce from P-Patch market gardens grown by low-income residents at High Point. Its open on Wednesdays through September 29, from 4 to 7 p.m. at 32nd Avenue SW and SW Juneau Street.

They accept EBT cards and participate in Fresh Bucks, which doubles consumers’ first $10 spent on the card. The High Point Farm Stand will again host ROAR, the mobile farm stand that sells produce to neighborhoods with limited access to healthy food. Come see the gardens, meet the farmers, and enjoy their fresh produce.

A similar program is operating at New Holly; go here for more information.

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Part II: Displacement in the MHA Draft Environmental Impact Statement; SPU Strategic Business Plan, Update 2; Income Tax Legislation Update; In-District Office Hours

July 7th, 2017


Part II: Displacement in the MHA Draft Environmental Impact Statement

Last month in my blog post, I wrote a “Part 1” article describing my disappointment in a recent Displacement Risk Analysis being done as part of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed Citywide Rezones that are part of implementing a Mandatory Housing Affordability Program.

AMI Map

As promised, I am following up with you to share my additional thoughts on the displacement risk analysis that was completed. Unfortunately, in addition to the concerns I have already raised about the study’s reliance on relied heavily on Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance (TRAO) eligible households as a poor proxy of the number and types of households at risk of displacement, I am also concerned with the incomplete displacement risk analysis completed in the Housing and Socioeconomic chapter. My main concerns are:

(1) the initial conclusion that increasing development capacity and encouraging market rate development in high displacement risk areas is an anti-displacement strategy in and of itself; and

(2) that this analysis fails to consider the racial and ethnic dimensions of displacement. Using low income households as a proxy for race impedes a more nuanced discussion of the risk of displacement from a race and culture lens.

(3) While the number of households receiving HUD assistance was quantified and accounted for in the analysis, the number of households living in units subsidized through other programs, such as projects developed with funding from the Office of Housing, are not accounted for and likely skewed the analysis of the changes in the number of low-income households in areas with more housing production.

(4) The analysis did not include the last 5 years of record growth in our city.  The high-risk displacement areas may be at a point where just a very small increment of increased growth displaces larger numbers of people than is typical in a less active construction climate.

(5) The analysis did not measure increased speculative activity in high growth areas, i.e. rapid turnover and increases of sales and resales of existing older affordable apartments and how that activity might accelerate as a result of granting increased zoning capacity.

For these reasons, I believe that the conclusion and the methodology used in the analysis requires further consideration.

As part of the DEIS, last August I sponsored, and the Council passed, Resolution 31733, to request an analysis of both physical and economic displacement and to evaluate whether the proposed city-wide upzones would: (1) increase or decrease direct displacement due to demolition; and (2) either introduce or accelerate a trend of changing socioeconomic conditions that may potentially displace vulnerable populations. Check out my August 2016 blog post on the topic.  This resolution put the Council on record declaring its “intent to consider strategies to mitigate any loss of subsidized affordable units and naturally occurring affordable units resulting from an increase in development capacity.”  It also made very clear the kind of analysis that the Council expected as part of the of the Displacement Risk Analysis being done for the DEIS.

I will be making recommendations for additional analysis that includes looking at: (1) how different races or ethnic groups might be impacted differently by the three alternatives proposed in the DEIS; (2) whether the action alternatives either introduce a new trend or accelerate a trend of changing socioeconomic conditions that may potentially displace a vulnerable population to the extent that the socioeconomic character of the neighborhood would change; and (3) is there a pattern or potential for different racial or ethnic groups to be displaced at different rates and/or do they resist displacement with different degrees of success.

You may have heard that this week the comment period on the DEIS was extended from Sunday, July 23 to Monday, August 7.  I have requested a further extension of the public comment period until Monday, August 28. This is in part because I have received numerous requests from District 1 (Westwood Highland Park, Admiral, Morgan Junction, South Park, and West Seattle Junction) constituents  because they are concerned that their public comment was not included in the DEIS and also to give OPCD and consultants the time needed for them to adequately complete the additional analysis I am requesting here.

Please comment using our online form, by email to MHA.EIS@seattle.gov, or by mail to:

Office of Planning and Community Development
Attn: MHA EIS
PO Box 34019
Seattle, WA 98124-4019

For more information about the environmental review process watch our What is an EIS? video. The Washington State Department of Ecology also has information about SEPA and the EIS process.


SPU Strategic Business Plan, Update 2

SPU rate increases

You may have heard that the Executive has proposed a Seattle Public Utility rate increase.  Annual rate increases are adopted in the SPU Strategic Business plan.  Hearing that the Executive is proposing to make amendments to the SPU Strategic Business Plan doesn’t catch people’s attention, but when you tell them that utility rates are proposed to increase, that grabs their interest.

In August 2014 the Council endorsed the first Strategic Business Plan (SPB) with adoption of Resolution 31534 in August 2014, and Seattle Public Utilities’ (SPU) set a six-year rate path with a 4.6% average increase per year across all four lines of business (water, waste water, drainage, and solid waste). This was a reduction from the average rate increase of almost 7% each year over the previous decade, from 2004-2014.

This plan was the first of its kind for SPU and has served as a guiding document for the Utility and its customers in order to create predictability and transparency. The plan is a six-year outlook and is updated every three years to reflect the current financial climate, changes in regulations, new City initiatives and community input. The Council is now beginning its first update to the plan.

On August 15, 2016 the Council  adopted resolution 31694 that re-established the Customer Review Panel (CRP) to provide input on the 2018-2023 SBP. The CRP, with five appointments from the Mayor and four from the Council, has a working knowledge of SPU services, financial policies, major projects, and rates and is tasked with reviewing an early version of the SBP and providing policy direction and alternative actions to SPU, the Executive, and Council.

September through May the CRP met twice a month for three hours at a time to discuss the SBP and provide direction on issues ranging from the Utilities’ facility master plan, to sanitary sewer capacity and repairs. Additionally, the Utility held several public meetings to gain customer input on the proposal, I wrote about those meetings here.   The starting proposal from the Executive to the CRP was a 6.8% average annual increase.  As a result of the CRP’s good work with SPU the current Executive proposal is an average of 5.5% a year over the 2014 plan’s 4.6% average annual increase.  This is good work, but there’s more to be done.

This proposed increase is, to me, an important enough public policy decision that I wanted to make sure that all ratepayers were aware of the proposal in order to give the public the opportunity to impact the Council’s final decision on how much rates should increase over the 2014 plan’s 4.6% average annual increase.  In April I requested that SPU include a notification of the proposed rate increase in customers’ bills.  That did not happen, so as an alternative, I asked them to send the postcard which you hopefully received in the last two weeks.

I have already committed time in at three of my future committee meetings (July 11, 25, and August 8) to discuss the Executive’s proposed SBP.  My committee has previously discussed the business plan twice, you can watch the March meeting here and the April meeting here. You can find SPU’s SBP plan and additional documents in the links below:

The postcard mailer showed the Executive’s proposal of a 5.5% average annual increase. As I’ve written about previously, there are a few major contributing factors to this proposed increase of 5.5% from the original plan’s 4.6%.

  • In 2015, shortly after the first SBP was passed, the Port of Seattle exercised their right to stop being a customer of SPU and created their own utility. Consequently they stopped paying SPU $4 million annually for their services.
  • A federally mandated consent decree from the Environmental Protection Agency has required the acceleration of a combined sewer overflow pipeline in Ballard, called theShip Canal Water Quality project.  Total cost estimates for the project is $423 million.
  • The Move Seattle Levy, passed by voters in 2015, creates an opportunity to access the Utility’s infrastructure while the roads are being repaved.  SPU refers to them as opportunity costs and estimates $116 million in transportation opportunity costs that the Utility proposes that we spend now, in order to save more money later.
  • Many Capital Improvement Projects that we heard about in committee last week which among various projects, include the North and South Operations Facilities, which combined cost and estimated $95 million.

As I have noted previously, the proposed rate increases for 2019 and 2020, when both the Ship Canal Water Quality project and the transportation opportunity costs would hit the rate payers, are excessively high and I would like to spread these costs over the six years so that rate payers are not receiving large increases in any one year. I will also, over the course of my next three committee meetings, vet the proposed list of projects and spending to hopefully trim the fat and bring the overall annual average rate increase down from the proposed 5.5%. To provide some perspective, to achieve a just a single percent reduction from 5.5% average annual increase to 4.5% average annual increase we will need to cut an estimated $457 million in operations and capital spending.

I have heard from many constituents since the post card was mailed out.  The update to SPU’s SBP is a major undertaking that I take very seriously. I am listening to those concerns, many of which I share. I would also ask that you review the documents at the links about and send me suggestions you have for potential reduced spending so that I can share them with SPU and the Executive to incorporate them in to the SBP.

 


Income Tax Legislation Update

The Council has received some late-breaking concerns that contain some inaccurate information about the proposed income tax on high-income residents; here’s a link to a document that addresses issues regarding business income.

 


Fair Chance Housing this Thursday

fair chance housing

Save the Date: The Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee will discuss Fair Chance Housing Legislation on Thursday, July 13, 2017, at 5 p.m. at City Hall in Bertha Knight Landes Room. I hope you will join the conversation.

 


In-District Office Hours

On July 21, I will be at the Southwest Neighborhood Service Center (2801 SW Thistle St) from 2:00p.m. – 7:00p.m. Please be sure to arrive no later than 6:30 pm, the final meeting of the day will begin at 6:30 p.m.

These hours are walk-in friendly, but if you would like to let me know you’re coming in advance you can email my scheduler Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov).

Additionally, here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours. These are subject to change.

Date Location Address
Friday, August 18, 2017 Senior Center of West Seattle 4217 SW Oregon St
Friday, September 22, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8th Avenue S
Friday, October 27, 2017 Southwest Neighborhood Service Center 2801 SW Thistle St
Friday, December 15, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8th Avenue S

 

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SPU CIP Update: Ship Canal Water Quality Project; 35th Avenue Paving Update; Fireworks in Seattle

June 30th, 2017


SPU CIP Update – Ship Canal Water Quality Project

In my committee this week Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) presented  their Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The CIP is the vehicle for rehabilitating, replacing, improving, and expanding the network of sewer and drainage systems throughout the City of Seattle, as well as constructing projects that protect, conserve, and enhance our region’s environmental resources. Proposed spending in the SPU Strategic Business Plan is $1.8 billion, on hundreds of projects, through 2023 and is funded by ratepayers, 69% through bonds.

One very large project that SPU highlighted is the Ship Canal Water Quality Project (SCWQP).  This is a joint project with King County and the largest project that SPU has ever undertaken. This joint project will keep 60 million gallons of combined sewage overflow out of our waterways each year. SPU’s total projected costs for their part of this project are estimated at $423 million. This project is part of a larger program for both King County and the City to address combined sewer overflows throughout the City under a Federal and State Consent Decree.

In their presentation, SPU outlined the strengths and risks with the SCWQP and noted that regional construction market conditions are a risk to the project coming in on time and on budget because of rising labor, equipment, and materials costs. The chart below demonstrates SPU’s assumption for the index value that includes labor, equipment, and materials. The blue line shows the index value to date, the dotted red line shows prior SPU projections for the life of the project, and the pink line shows the potential new index value based on a recent consultant study (the other two tan lines represent the new high and low projections based upon the same study).  We’ll learn more in upcoming months about whether SPU intends to revise the budget for this particular project based upon cost estimate verification of the consultant’s index value projections.  I appreciate SPU letting the Council and the public know this information early in their review of the project costs projections.

SPU’s overview of the CIP also included a discussion of a process called “stage gate,” in which authorization to continue CIP projects must be granted before moving onto the next stage. They also described the “cone of uncertainty,” a concept which represents how project risk that is high at the beginning of a multi-year capital project reduces over the life of the project. SPU presented a timeline of trends in CIP spending: when new facilities are built or major capital programs are initiated, spending – and rates – go up, and when those projects are completed, spending go down.

SPU committed to working with the Mayor’s office and the Council to improve quarterly CIP reports; and will discuss different approaches to help manage their 2018-2023 rate path with my committee on July 11th during the Strategic Business Plan discussion.

 


35th Avenue paving update

You may recall that, in April, I sent SDOT Director Kubly a letter requesting that SDOT expedite the schedule for re-paving 35th Avenue SW, currently not planned until 2023 in SDOT’s 2016-2024 pavement plan.

This week I received a reply from SDOT. In response to hearing not only from me, but many of you as well, they have indicated they have scheduled the rebuild of 35th from Alaska to Avalon for 2019 (in conjunction with Avalon re-paving project). This segment of 35th carries the highest bus traffic. They also indicated they are considering moving forward, from 2023 to 2019, the re-paving work on the Roxbury to Morgan segment of 35th.

In addition, they are planning on spot repairs in 2017 for the northbound travel lanes from Cloverdale to Thistle, Holden to Austin, and Othello to Webster.

After sending the letter, I further asked about a question several constituents have asked about whether the lane reduction from Roxbury to Holly had resulted in a differential weight distribution than the road was originally designed for, thus possibly leading to greater degradation of the road.

SDOT replied that this has been an issue with some lane reductions in Seattle, but they didn’t believe it was much of a factor on 35th, except perhaps in some places. They noted that southbound, the lane reduction had shifted traffic onto concrete, which is structurally more robust. Northbound, there may be some accelerated deterioration in spots that they proposed to mitigate with spot repairs in 2017, as noted above.

I appreciate SDOT’s responsiveness to the requests of my office as well as District 1 constituents in this matter.  SDOT’s reply to my original letter is copied below:

“Dear Council Member Herbold:

Thank you for your letter regarding the condition of 35th Ave SW and for the opportunity to respond. SDOT crews immediately began working on 35th Ave SW when we received your letter in April. SDOT crews also made a concerted effort during the 2017 Pothole Palooza to address additional requests that were reported on 35th Ave SW as a result of the event. If and when your constituents have specific locations that are still needing pothole repairs, they can submit a request by calling the SDOT ROAD line at (206) 684-ROAD (7623), by submitting an online pothole request at www.seattle.gov/transportation/potholereport.htm, or by using the City’s “Find It, Fix It” mobile app for smartphones. We promptly respond to these requests, usually within three business days.

In addition to pothole repairs, SDOT has mapped out some areas of spot paving along 35th Ave SW.  Spot repairs are not a long-term solution but users will likely notice improved pavement quality along the corridor most damaged areas.  Due to the impact of the traffic shift and the striping removal on the northbound lane, SDOT’s Vision Zero program has agreed to share some of the costs, allowing these much-needed spot improvements to be prioritized.  As funds and crew availability/resources allow, staff have mapped out the following repairs for 2017:

  • SW Cloverdale St to SW Thistle St, NB Travel Lane
  • SW Holden St to SW Austin St, NB Travel Lane
  • SW Othello St to SW Webster St, NB Travel Lane

SDOT would appreciate the opportunity to work with your office to let your constituents know that these spot improvements along 35th Ave SW, while not a full rebuild, will improve pavement conditions in the worst areas of the corridor and is in addition to regular pothole maintenance. 

In response to your inquiry about the pavement condition, a contract is currently in process to gather updated 2017 condition data. The data presented in the 2015 SDOT Asset Management Report is the most current assessment we have, which was derived from the last pavement condition assessment completed in 2013.

That stated, it has been clear since 2013 that 35th Ave SW is breaking down structurally under heavy vehicle loading (mainly buses).  The entire length of 35th Ave SW will eventually have to be completely reconstructed. SDOT has scheduled the first leg of this reconstruction from SW Roxbury St to SW Morgan St; this will cost an estimated $25 to $31 million and has been scheduled for 2023 as a part of the Move Seattle Levy. The estimated costs for the entire (low to high) reconstruction are as follows:

  • $25.6 to 31.2M – 35th Ave SW, SW Roxbury St to SW Morgan St
  • $18.9 to 23.1M – 35th Ave SW, SW Morgan St to SW Alaska St
  • $4.6 to 5.6M – 35th Ave SW, SW Alaska St to Avalon Way SW

SDOT is currently reviewing the possibility of moving forward the Roxbury to Morgan segment from 2023 to 2019. We have also scheduled the rebuild of the Alaska to Avalon segment for 2019. (That section carries the heaviest bus traffic).

We apologize for the delay in our response but because of the size and cost of the other two segments, we must re-evaluate the budget, distribution, and schedule of our entire 9-year Move Seattle paving program.  This will determine if we have the ability to fund the $18 to $23 million Morgan to Alaska segment. However, it is important to note that funding this segment will require us to eliminate other Move Seattle paving projects throughout the City. At this time, SDOT is still evaluating these impacts before we make a final determination.  We hope to have this answer to you soon.”

 


Fireworks in Seattle

It seems that this time of year a lot of people forget that, except for permitted fireworks displays, fireworks are illegal in Seattle under the Seattle Fire Code,.

Federal, state, county and city regulations make enforcement challenging.  Though fireworks are banned in many Western Washington cities, according to a 2013 Pemco poll, about one-third of the state’s households set off their own fireworks.

The Seattle Fire Department notes that fireworks pose a fire hazard to property and present a safety risk. When we have a spell of warmer, dry weather, like we do now, the risk is greater.

The Seattle Police Department has noted that “the Fourth is typically a loud and busy day for police and firefighters, and frequent fireworks noise complaints make it more difficult for 911 operators, police, and fire officials to respond to life-threatening emergencies across the city.”

The Fire Department and Seattle Police Department both note that, on July 4th 911 call centers can become overloaded with non-emergency fireworks calls. They both urge people to not call 911 unless you have a life-threatening emergency that needs immediate help from police, fire or medics. Other fireworks violations may be reported by calling the Seattle Police Department non-emergency number at 206-625-5011.

Seattle’s population is 18% immigrants, 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!

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Public Hearing on the Shooting of Charleena Lyles; Good Economic Indicators for Employers and Employees; Rental Inspection Ordinance; Pride Parade

June 23rd, 2017


Public Hearing on Officer Involved Shooting of Charleena Lyles

The tragic shooting death of Charleena Lyles, a mother of four young children, last weekend is a stark reminder of how the calls for police reform nationally must continue to be addressed by Seattle locally.

On Tuesday I attended the vigil for Ms. Lyles and heard the stories from family members telling the story of how loved Ms. Lyles was by her family and how those family members would not rest without answers and justice for Ms. Lyles.  It was there that I responded to the call for a public hearing with my commitment that the Council would hold one.  At times like these, when our institutions have failed our public, it is the responsibility of elected officials to allow the public to face us with their anger and their pain as they quest for answers, justice, and above all, change.

Wednesday evening I attended a private meeting hosted by Solid Ground Director, Gordon McHenry, to hear from the residents of Brettler Place and the other residences near where Ms. Lyles and her children lived.  The residents were given a chance to address each Director McHenry, Mayor Murray, and Chief O’Toole.  I was joined by Councilmember Rob Johnson, Reps Gerry Pollet and Javier Valdez from the 46th District, Brianna Thomas from Councilmember Gonzalez’s office (who was away caring for her mother), and Seattle Human Services Department Director Catherine Lester.

Today, Councilmember González, Chair of the Council’s Safe Communities Committee (GESCNA) announced a GESCNA Committee-hosted town hall forum in response to community calls for a public hearing around the recent death of Charleena Lyles.  Here is an excerpt from the release:

“Lyles, a Sand Point resident, was shot and killed following the response to her call to the Seattle Police Department to report a burglary on Sunday, June 18.  An investigation into the shooting is currently underway.

In partnership with the Community Police Commission and community based organizations, Councilmember González will host the public forum at University of Washington’s Kane Hall in Room 130 on Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. Members of the public will have the opportunity to address Councilmembers with their thoughts and concerns.

The forum will be moderated by the Office for Civil Rights Director Patricia C. Lally and livestreamed online at SeattleChannel.org/live.

WHAT:
Public Hearing on officer involved shooting of Charleena Lyles

WHEN:
Tuesday, June 27
6 p.m.

WHERE:
University of Washington
Kane Hall, Room 130
4069 Spokane Lane
Seattle, WA 98105

WHO:
Councilmember M. Lorena González (Chair of GESCNA)
Councilmembers
Members of the Community Police Commission
Public

Good Economic Indicators for Employers and Employees – 2 New Reports

Last Tuesday marked the three-year anniversary of the passage of Seattle’s historic $15 per hour minimum wage. The Seattle Office of Economic Development released a report on several economic indicators showing that Seattle’s economy is continuing to grow and unemployment is at a historic low of 2.6%.

Additionally, the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment out of Berkeley released a study which analyzes data before and after the new wages went into effect, and “finds no evidence of job loss in the city’s restaurant industry, even as pay reached $13 for workers in large companies…

“The results of the UC Berkeley analysis show that wages in Seattle’s food service industry increased because of the minimum wage law. The wage increase was less pronounced in full-service restaurants, suggesting that restaurants took advantage of the new tip credit included in the city’s minimum ordinance.”

Professor Michael Reich, is the lead author of the report. I invited, and he accepted, to present his findings to the Council this coming Monday, June 26 at 9:30am.

Update to Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance

The Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance (RRIO) was passed by the Seattle City Council in 2013 to help ensure that all rental housing in Seattle is safe. Starting in 2014, all rental property owners in Seattle became required to register their properties with the City. Inspectors make sure all registered properties comply with minimum housing and safety standards at least once every 10 years.

In 2016, the City Council adopted a Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) 25-2-A-2, because of big problems with how the program was working.  You may remember reports of properties with severe code violations that had passed its RRIO inspection despite those violations.

On Tuesday 6/20/17, the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee (PLUZ) voted on Council Bill (CB) 118974, to make changes to the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance (RRIO).

The legislation originally sent to Council proposed the following:

  • Require inspection reports from private inspectors so SDCI knows what properties have problems. Previously, owners were not required to submit these reports, so the SDCI was not aware of the problems private inspectors would find.
  • Modify the percentage of units selected for inspection so that more units in multi-family buildings are sampled for inspection.
  • Add requirements related to lead paint, carbon monoxide alarms, minimum fire and safety requirements for exiting, improving security standards for exterior doors.

In response to concerns from stakeholders including tenants and landlord advocacy groups, I proposed the following amendments, all of which were voted out of Committee.

  1. Selecting Additional Units for Inspection. This amendment will adopt specific criteria to require that more units are inspected when initial units fail their inspection under certain circumstances. While SDCI has the authority under RRIO to require inspection of additional units when a unit has failed, SDCI has not used that authority and it has resulted in buildings continuing to pass their inspection when they clearly should not pass.  
  2. Reduce “Gaming” the Inspection Process. This amendment will shorten the identification of the specific units selected for inspection, while observing tenants’ legal rights to receive advance notice, in order to reduce the current practice of rush repairs being made to pass inspection while obscuring the inspector’s awareness of likely larger problems in the rest of the building.
  3. Tenant notification. This amendment will require the inspector to notify tenants, following an inspection, whether the unit passed or failed, information for how to contact SDCI for questions, and a tenant survey.
  4. Adjusting RRIO Program Fees. This amendment asks SDCI to evaluate and address any imbalances in the fee structure for small landlords while continuing to set fees to cover the cost of administering this program. SDCI is preparing RRO program fee adjustments in 2019. This amendment is in response to both concerns that (1) the fees are overly burdensome for smaller landlords; and (2) the fees will not fully cover the costs of administering the RRIO program.

The Full Council will vote on the final legislation on Monday, July 10, 2017, at 2pm.

LGBTQ Pride Parade

Seattle City Council 2017 Pride

This year marks the 43rd year of the Seattle Pride Parade. It will be held at 11:00 AM, on Sunday June 25.   The theme for this year’s Pride will be “Indivisible” –  a single word that conveys the core principle of our nation.  Shouldn’t “We the People” mean that inclusion and intersectionality make us stronger?

The parade will last about 2.5 hours, starting along 4th Avenue in downtown Seattle and ending at Second Avenue and Denny Way near Seattle Center. Viewers are encouraged to watch the parade from the sidewalks, leaving the street open for the parade.  Bring your water bottles and sunscreen because the weather is expected to be HOT!

One Center City Update and Potential West Seattle Impacts

one center city timeline

Since late 2016, the  One Center City working group has been meeting to coordinate management of a high volume of changes coming to Downtown transportation between 2017 and 2013. The working group includes SDOT, Sound Transit, King County Metro, and the Downtown Seattle Association. Different government agencies would implement elements of the proposal.

Upcoming projects in that time frame include the removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and opening of the SR 99 tunnel; the closure of the Downtown Transit Tunnel to buses with the arrival of light rail to Northgate, Lynnwood and the Eastside; the re-opening of Alaskan Way; a 1st Avenue Streetcar; a Bus Rapid Transit line on Madison; and the proposed Convention Center expansion (see chart above).

On June 8 One Center City released a “Proposed Near-term Projects” plan; you can download the pdf file here. While most of the proposals affect Downtown, some of the projects could impact West Seattle bus access to Downtown.

The proposal includes potential changes to rush-hour only Routes 37, 56 and 57 in the Alki, Admiral and Alaska Junction neighborhoods, as well as to buses from White Center and Burien (see slide 23), by re-routing buses onto to go by the Pioneer Square Light Rail Station on 3rd Avenue, then proceed eastbound to First Hill.

King County Metro will begin a public engagement about these potential service revisions beginning in July.

A second potential impact on West Seattle service would be during 2019, when the Alaskan Way Viaduct is closed. Buses such as the C Line that currently access Downtown via the Alaskan Way Viaduct will access Downtown by Alaskan Way when it reopens in 2020. However, this leaves a gap of around a year where buses will need to be re-routed. In my discussions with SDOT and King County Metro, 1st Avenue and 4th Avenue have been mentioned as potential options, but there isn’t a specific proposal yet.

A potential concern is regarding the construction of the 1st Avenue Streetcar project. SDOT is planning to phase work in conjunction with Viaduct removal, though it will need to be well managed to avoid any delays; any work on 1st Avenue must be completed or paused if West Seattle bus routes such as the C Line are re-routed onto 1st Avenue during 2019-2020.

Help Save the Reading Partners Tutoring Program at Highland Park Elementary

I learned from a constituent this week that the Reading Partners tutoring program at Highland Park Elementary in West Seattle is facing elimination due to budget cuts. The volunteer tutors need $30,000 to continue. July 15 is the fundraising deadline– donations collected only if the goal is met. Please contribute, to benefit children’s future success!  Here is her “lively one-minute video to illustrate why the program is so compelling. Raising reading scores is crucial, but it’s more than that.”

Save Highland Park Reading Partners

And here is how you can support the program:  https://www.gofundme.com/Save-RP-at-HP

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LSG Sky Chefs: Taking a Stand; Fixing Our Broken Tax Structure; MHA Displacement; Help Columbia City Theater; West Seattle Greenway Meetings

June 16th, 2017


LSG Sky Chefs – City and Union Take a Stand

Today, I wrote letters to each Alaska Airlines, Lufthansa, American Airlines, Delta and United Airlines.  Each airline has hubs serviced by a company called LSG Sky Chefs. LSG Sky Chefs provides catering and much of the food on these airlines as well as others, and is a subsidiary of German airline Lufthansa.  They also produce some food sold at 7-Eleven convenience stores.

At those three airlines alone, last year LSG Sky Chefs served over 126 million passengers.  Maybe you flew one of these airlines this year & ordered a Sky Chefs meal?  I did.

So, why did I write to these 5 airlines?  LSG Sky Chefs employees work in my Council District 1, in a West Seattle facility. In early January, the Seattle Office of Labor Standards (OLS) ruled that LSG Sky Chefs failed to pay workers the correct minimum wage going back to 2015, and totaling $335,000 in back wages and fines.  OLS even gave LSG Sky Chefs a break on the fine if they agreed to pay what they owed these workers.

LSG Sky Chefs is accused in several other jurisdictions including: San Francisco, San Diego, Denver, and Miami. The loss of wages total $12 million according to a recent report from Unite Here, the union representing LSG Sky Chef workers.

Wages

In the West Seattle case, LSG Sky Chefs admits that it did not pay employees the minimum wage, but asserts that Seattle’s minimum wage is preempted by the Railway Labor Act (RLA). However, per the U.S. Supreme Court, the RLA “does not undertake governmental regulation of wages, hours or working conditions.” LSG Sky Chefs also argued that “the Minimum Wage Ordinance did not apply between April 1, 2015 and January 7, 2016 as the result of conflict preemption because it was engaged in collective bargaining…” However, the City of Seattle argues that there is no legal basis for LSG Sky Chefs’ argument and that they are required to pay its Seattle employees the minimum wage.

On Monday LSG Sky Chefs motion to dismiss the case was denied by the Hearing Examiner.

 


Fixing Our Broken Tax Structure

Here’s an update on my efforts to address our inequitable tax system. Did you know that, in Washington State, people earning $20,000 a year devote two entire months of pay to their yearly tax bill, while the top one percent pay their annual tax bill in only six days?  Not only do we have the number one most regressive tax structure in the nation, but we also rate second worst in the nation in transparency and ninth worst in stability.   We neither know how much we pay each year as tax payers nor can we reliably predict how much revenue our state and our city will collect from year to year.

To address this, I introduced Resolution 31747, expressing the City’s intent to adopt a progressive income tax for high-income households. The Council unanimously adopted the resolution in early May. This week, I, along with Mayor Murray and co-sponsor Councilmember Sawant, announced a council bill that, if passed, will implement the goals of the Council’s Resolution 31747, and shift Seattle toward to more progressive and sustainable tax structure. Here’s a link to the draft council bill, and a summary sheet.

The May 31 committee meeting of the Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance (AHNF) Committee included a presentation by prominent local economist Dick Conway, who detailed the regressive nature of our tax system, and its lack of fairness, transparency, and stability.  The Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee held their most recent briefing and public hearing on Wednesday, June 14, in the City Council chambers. There will be additional opportunities to testify before the Council in future AHFN Committee meetings and Full Council.  The next opportunity will be next Wednesday, June 21 at the 9:30 am AHFN committee meeting.  To sign up for future committee agendas, see here.

The council bill, as proposed, would place a two percent tax on total annual income over $250,000 for individuals, and, for joint filers, a two percent tax over annual income of $500,000. As an example, for an individual with $300,000 in income, only the $50,000 over the $250,000 threshold would be taxable.

The draft council bill specifies that use of the revenues would be restricted to: (1) lowering the property tax burden and the impact of other regressive taxes; (2) replacing federal funding currently received by the City that may be lost due to federal budget cuts; (3) providing public services such as housing, education, and transit; (4) creating green jobs and meeting carbon reduction goals; and (5) the cost of implementing and administering the new City income tax.

The tax would apply to income received after January 1, 2018 and would not be collected until 2019. Early estimates indicate it would raise approximately $125 million. It would apply to Seattle residents only.

The Department of Financial and Administrative Services (FAS) would be responsible for administering the tax, including the future development of more detailed rules for implementation. Only residents with incomes over the thresholds would be required to file with the City. They would file their total income as listed on line 22 on IRS form 1040.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) has found Washington State’s existing tax structure to be the most regressive in the nation, disproportionately hitting low-income households. ITEP found in 2015 that state and local taxes paid by the 20 percent of Washington families with the lowest incomes amounted to 16.8 percent of their income. In contrast, the tax burden for the top one percent of families with the highest incomes was 2.4 percent of their income.

Resolution 31747 noted that legal viability would be the City Council’s primary consideration in developing and constructing the legislation.

 


Displacement in the MHA Draft Environmental Impact Statement

On June 8, the Office of Planning and Community Development released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) as a necessary step before the Mayor proposes and the Council considers legislation to implement a Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program city-wide including in District 1: Westwood-Highland Park, South Park, West Seattle Junction, Admiral, and Morgan Junction.

As a recap, in order to implement MHA citywide, the Council would have to pass legislation to change zoning to allow a small amount of additional development capacity in Urban Villages and Commercial Zones throughout the city. In exchange for this additional development capacity, the City would require developers using that additional capacity to contribute to affordable housing.

A key component of the DEIS includes the analysis and evaluation of displacement as requested under Resolution 31733. This was a resolution that I authored and sponsored to make sure that the Council was on the record declaring its “intent to consider strategies to mitigate any loss of subsidized affordable units and naturally occurring affordable units resulting from an increase in development capacity.”

Chapter 3.1 Housing and Socioeconomics of the DEIS contains the full analysis used to evaluate whether the proposed city-wide upzones would: (1) increase or decrease direct displacement due to demolition; and (2) either introduce or accelerate a trend of changing socioeconomic conditions that may potentially displace vulnerable populations.  The analysis looks at both physical and economic displacement. Physical Displacement is defined as displacement that occurs when acquisition, rehabilitation, or demolition of propriety requires a household to move from their place of residence.  Economic Displacement occurs when residents can no longer afford escalating housing costs.

Key Findings, Physical Displacement

  1. Based on Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance (TRAO) data, about 17 households under 50 percent Area Median Income (AMI) were displaced per 100 demolitions. My note: relying too heavy on this finding is problematic. Low income households are considered to be those households under 80% AMI (see chart). This analysis does not include low income households earning more than 50% AMI (see chart) that may have been displaced nor does it include other low income households that are ineligible for TRAO, such as low income, unrelated individuals that share housing expenses but ae not considered a household under the law.  These numbers of uncounted displaced residents are likely to be significant.rent and AMI
  2. Census tracts with more housing production were slightly more likely to gain households with incomes at or below 50 percent of AMI (see chart). My note: this is likely a result of low income housing funds & development being focused in those areas.
  3. The evaluation of physical displacement concludes that historical analysis indicates that net new housing production has not been associated with a loss of low income households at the census tract scale. Conversely, the study states that tracts that have received more net housing production were more likely to see increases in low income households during the period of analysis. This finding applies to tracts in all displacement risk and access to opportunity typologies. My note: I’m concerned that the issue raised in #1 above relates to this finding as well. How does one calculate net “increases in low income households,” if all low income units demolished are not being counted?
  4. Very few census tracts in high displacement risk areas experienced a loss of low-income households, but many census tracts with low displacement risk lost low income households. The study states that this indicates that displacement can occur in all areas of the city and may not be more likely to occur in areas classified as high displacement risk.

Key Findings, Economic Displacement

  1. Overall, Seattle has seen an increase in income disparity.
  2. Between 2000 and 2013, the number of high income households (above 120 percent AMI, see chart) and extremely low income households (below 30 percent AMI, see chart) grew the fastest.
  3. Seattle lost households with low- to middle-incomes (60-120 percent AMI, see chart).
  4. Areas with high displacement risk and low access to opportunity, such as Bitter Lake and Othello, were the fastest to gain extremely low income households (below 30 percent AMI) and very low income households (30 to 60 percent AMI, see chart); but it is unclear if this can be attributed to development of low income housing.
  5. Areas with high displacement risk and high access to opportunity such as Columbia City and Northgate gained households with incomes (between 80 and 120 percent AMI, see chart) while other areas of the city saw loses.
  6. The study claims that loss of low income households does not correlate with areas of rapid housing development, although the data used does not reflect the most recent development boom. Census tracts that experienced more net housing production were more likely to gain low income households.

Based on these findings, the Draft EIS identifies three new alternatives using the SEPA process to test and construct a program that would ultimately be proposed for action by the City Council to mitigate displacement. These alternatives may be modified and/or a preferred alternative may be identified in the Final EIS.

Next week I’ll provide a short summary of how each alternative differs and additional analysis on the displacement findings.

 


Arts Update: Help Columbia City Theater

columbia city theater

Please consider supporting this fundraising campaign to pay for some long overdue repairs, add a new marquee & awning out front, upgrade sound and lighting technology, and create the capacity to smoothly execute an ownership transition to a new leadership team with deep roots in the South Seattle music community.

 


West Seattle Greenway meetings, June 17th and 21st

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has released a “most promising route” for the West Seattle Neighborhood Greenway. The route they identify goes from 30th Ave SW and SW Roxbury Street to 42nd Ave SW and SW Edmunds Street. It was selected from options released last year. The route reflects the Bicycle Master Plan, which calls for a neighborhood greenway primarily on 34th, 36th and 37th, and public comments.

SDOT will host two drop-in meetings during the coming week:

  • Saturday, June 17: 10 – 11:30 AM
    Uptown Espresso
    4301 SW Edmunds St
  • Wednesday, June 21: 5:30 – 7 PM
    Southwest Public Library
    9010 35th Ave SW

In addition, an online survey will be available at the project webpage from June 17-July 9.  The project contact is Dan Anderson, you can reach him at westseattlegreenway@seattle.gov.

Information about neighborhood greenways is available at the project webpage; here’s a link to information about the Delridge/Highland Park Greenway.

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South Park Public Safety Task Force; MHA Amendments & Upzones; Your Voice, Your Choice Voting through June 30; Pulse Vigil; Office Hours

June 9th, 2017


South Park Public Safety Task Force Update

During the 2017 budget process, Councilmember González and I co-sponsored a budget action to create a South Park Public Safety Task Force during 2017. South Park had the 3rd highest number of gunshots reported in Seattle neighborhoods during 2016, and the highest increase over 2015, according to Seattle Police Department data.

The purpose of the task force is to formulate and report to Council recommendations regarding the public safety and vitality of that neighborhood, including strategies that reflect the unique situations or dynamics of the neighborhood and are culturally and linguistically responsive data-driven approach to improving the City’s relations to and effectiveness with the South Park neighborhood.

The task force had its first meeting in May, and went over designed outcomes for the task force, and vision for South Park. Areas identified include more police visibility, youth development opportunities, lighting, open communication, drug houses, as well as various items re: the business district.

Meetings will continue over the next few months, with a final report due in September, in advance of the commencement of the Council’s budget process for the 2018 budget. The report will go to Councilmember González’s Gender Equity, Safe Communities and New Americans Committee.

 


CID MHA Amendments and Johnson Report on SLU/Downtown MHA Opt-in

Chinatown / International District

On Tuesday, the Planning, Land Use and Zoning (PLUZ) Committee held its fourth meeting to discuss the proposed legislation for the Chinatown and International District (CID) mandatory housing affordability (MHA) upzones.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the PLUZ committee voted on an important amendment to Council Bill 118959 to expand the size of the International Special Review District (ISRD) sponsored by Councilmember Rob Johnson, the PLUZ Committee Chair.   This amendment will allow the ISRD the authority – in a larger geographic area – to make recommendations that preserve the District’s unique Asian American character and to encourage rehabilitation of areas for housing and pedestrian-oriented businesses.

I am also sponsoring one additional amendment that will come to Full Council in July.  The amendment to Council Bill 118959 will allow developers an additional 10 extra feet of height to projects with 10 or more units affordable to very low-income households (30-50% of Area Median Income). Normally, the MHA units produced through performance and or payment must be used on units at or below 60%. I am offering this amendment to incentivize market rate developers to develop units with even deeper affordability. C/ID residents have asked for deeper affordability to ensure those currently living in the CID can remain living there.

In addition, we voted on a variety of amendments for the companion Resolution 31754. I worked with community members in the Chinatown/International District (C/ID) on several of these amendments, which passed unanimously out of committee, here are a few highlights:

  1. A commitment to business community stakeholders to develop strategies to promote economic development and commercial stability;
  2. Consideration of specific changes to the ISRD rules and guidelines including:
    • Reducing the maximum permitted size of retail uses;
  3. Specifying important characteristics of storefront entrances and their spacing;
    • Amending the list of conditional uses;
    • Applying limits to formula retail uses;
    • Allowing administrative review for minor changes to buildings, rather than ISRD board review;
    • Providing authority to the ISRD board to grant departures from Land Use Code requirements; and
    • Changing the structure of the ISRD board; and
  4. The addition of two anti-displacement strategies for the C/ID. The first is exploring opportunities to reuse publicly owned property for affordable housing development in the neighborhood. The second is exploring creation of a new Unreinforced Masonry Preservation pilot to increase the supply of affordable housing in vacant floors of buildings in the Chinatown/International District. The pilot program could be funded through either MHA funds from developers, proceeds from the $29 million housing bond approved by the Council in the 2017 budget, or by creating a new targeted growth fund with revenues from an increment of increased property tax revenue from future growth.

Responding to the requests for additional time from many members of the C/ID, the PLUZ committee vote the bill out of committee, but not send the legislation straight to Full Council as is the practice.  The intent it to support additional community engagement with community members. Groups like Humbows Not Hotels are doing fantastic organizing work in the C/ID and I want to support them and their work.  I am also interested in using the extra time to work with PLUZ committee members and Executive staff to increase the developer requirements to contribute to affordable housing.

I appreciate that Councilmember Johnson agreed to delay the Full Council vote on this legislation despite his concerns that delays may lead to projects in the C/ID not having the opportunity to “opt in” to MHA and contribute to affordable housing.  There are currently about 55 projects in the development pipeline located in the C/ID.  You may recall that last month Councilmember Johnson released a statement that said, “developers from seven already-permitted building construction projects have begun the process to opt-in to the new Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program in Downtown and South Lake Union.  Contingent on Department approval, those projects could result in a staff-estimated $25 million of payments for affordable housing, which could result in 320 new affordable units (after MHA funds are leveraged with other dollars).”

I asked for additional information about this interest of developers to opt in voluntarily to MHA in South Lake Union and Downtown and voluntarily contribute to affordable housing.   I learned that since the Downtown / SLU rezone ordinance only just became effective the actual outcome from the opt-in provision is still essentially unknown, and specifically:

  1. While some current applications without issued Master Use Permits (MUPs) have shown alternatives to the Design Review Board that incorporate the additional development capacity, none of the approximately 7 projects that could opt-in have gotten to the point of actually formalizing their commitment to opt-in by getting an approved MUP or MUP revision  that utilize the extra development capacity; and anecdotal stories statements of interest are not guarantees of future action.  But I do hope these developers do voluntarily opt in!
  2. The $25 million estimate assumes maximum build out of a site, again despite the fact that we have no specific information about MUPs approved for maximum build out. In other words, the numbers assume that a developer who might at some later date opt in will use all of the additional capacity granted through the Downtown  / SLU rezone ordinance.  That also might not be the case.  We simply do not know.
  3. Further, even if these 7 projects were to either receive MUP decisions under MHA or submit and receive new MUPs for maximum build out of these seven locations, the $25 million estimate does not derive from MHA obligations. The $25M figure is not the addition from the added MHA increment.  The total from the MHA increment would be between $2.6M and $9.1M, the existing incentive zoning program accounts for the rest.  Each of these projects already (without some future possible voluntary opt-in to MHA affordable housing requirements) would contribute between $16M and $22M under their current MUPs, depending on what’s eventually built.

 


What’s New about the City Wide Proposed MHA Upzones?

Hot off the presses, the Office of Planning and Community Development published the Mandatory Housing Affordability Draft EIS on June 8, 2017. The comment period is open until July 23, 2017. Please comment using the online form, by email to MHA.EIS@seattle.gov, or by mail to:

Office of Planning and Community Development
Attn: MHA EIS
PO Box 34019
Seattle, WA 98124-4019

For more information about the environmental review process watch our What is an EIS? video. The Washington State Department of Ecology also has information about SEPA and the EIS process.

 


Remember to VOTE – Your Voice, Your Choice Voting through June 30

Public voting for the Your Voice, Your Choice “participatory budgeting” program has begun, and will be open through June 30th.   Here’s a map view of where the projects are located.

You and your neighbors can vote to award funding for the city’s Neighborhood Park and Street Fund, which funds street and park projects up to $90,000; $285,000 will be awarded for each of Seattle’s seven City Council Districts.  You can vote for a total of three projects and anyone age 13 and over can vote online. Eleven and 12 year-olds can vote in person.

If you want to vote online, go to the voting webpage, and select your Council District, then open the voters’ guide with information on the projects, and vote. Here’s a link to the District 1 voting webpage.

Paper ballots are also available at all community centers and libraries. If you need a paper ballot, please contact Kraig Cook at Kraig.Cook@seattle.gov or 206.256.5944.  The Your Voice, Your Choice main page includes multilingual instructions . Ballots will be tallied after June 30 and winning projects will be announced by July 18.

Events where you can vote are listed here on the “Vote in Person” tab. Here are upcoming locations where you can vote in person in District 1:

West Seattle Farmer’s Market
Sunday, June 11, 2017
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Farmers Market, 44th Ave SW & SW Alaska St or park at Alaska & 42nd Ave SW

Stewart Manor Resident Council Meeting
Monday, June 12, 2017
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Stewart Manor, 6339 34th Ave SW

Morgan Junction Festival
Saturday, June 17, 2017
10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Morgan Junction Park, 6413 California Ave SW

Delridge Neighborhood District Council
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, 4408 Delridge Way SW

Here’s a link to the History of Participatory Budgeting in Seattle, which began with a youth-oriented focus in 2016, and allowed youth from 11-25 to vote.

 


Pulse Vigil, We Will Remember, 1 Year Anniversary

pulse 1 year anniversary

One year ago, on Monday June 12th, 49 people were killed and another 53 were wounded in an attack at an Orlando nightclub. At 7pm in Cal Anderson Park the community will come together to remember the victims and celebrate their lives. There will be music, and a reading of their names while we stand as a community in their honor.  Please bring signs, banners, friends and join us to stand in love.

 


In-District Office Hours

I will be at the South Park Community Center (8319 8th Ave S), Friday June 26th from 2:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Please be sure to arrive no later than 6:30 pm, the final meeting of the day will begin at 6:30 p.m.

These hours are walk-in friendly, but if you would like to let me know you’re coming in advance you can email my scheduler Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov).

Additionally, here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours. These are subject to change.

Date Location Address
Friday, July 21, 2017 Southwest Neighborhood Service Center 2801 SW Thistle St
Friday, August 18, 2017 Senior Center of West Seattle 4217 SW Oregon St
Friday, September 22, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8th Avenue S
Friday, October 27, 2017 Southwest Neighborhood Service Center 2801 SW Thistle St
Friday, December 15, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8th Avenue S
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Sweetened Drink Tax; South Park Pride Picnic; Highland Park Find It Fix It Walk & Roundabout Design Funding

June 1st, 2017


Sweetened Drink Tax

Yesterday, in the Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee the public finally saw the newly proposed bill for the sweetened drink tax.  This has been an issue that I’ve been tracking closely for the last couple of months as I’ve had several concerns about not only how to spend projected revenue, but about the tax itself.

I voted no on the final package yesterday.  The bill will be heard and voted on at Full Council this coming Monday, June 5th.  The tax, if passed and enacted, will support a lot of good programs like addressing the food gap with Fresh Bucks (Fresh Bucks provides a dollar-for-dollar match on EBT (SNAP/Basic Food/Food Stamps) purchases (up to $10 per day) at participating farmers markets to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables), and funding Pre-K and Seattle College’s 13th Year.  I support those programs so I’m writing to let you to know why I voted in opposition to the tax that is proposed to fund them.

This kind of tax will always be a regressive tax, meaning that the tax burden of this kind of tax will always be greatest on those with lower incomes.  Despite my concern about our reliance on regressive taxes, and the fact that the Council is currently discussing passage of an income tax so that we can get out from under our regressive tax structure, I was still willing to consider supporting this tax.  Unfortunately, the bill that came out of committee isn’t only regressive, I feel that it is punitive to low income people and small businesses.  See here for why I feel this tax goes beyond acting as a deterrent like the taxes we levy on cigarettes, alcohol, and cannabis, but is actually punitive to consumers:

Sweetened Beverage Tax Proposal - 1

In addition, the tax as proposed in committee, has a racially disparate impact on people of color.  The Mayor and Council’s Racial Equity Toolkit (RET) analysis of the tax proposed only on sugary drinks and not diet drinks concluded that, “In contrast to these trends for sugary drinks, Whites and high-income Americans are more likely to drink diet soda compared to communities of color and low-income Americans.”  Consequently, in response to the RET findings, the Mayor wisely amended his proposal to include artificial sweeteners, in their report they wrote that: “including drinks with artificial sweeteners and lowering the overall tax, the impact will be spread across a broader cross-section of Seattle residents and will have smaller impact on low-income communities as businesses will not have to raise prices to the same extent.”

Due to my concerns with the proposal that was distributed to Councilmembers at 5pm on the Tuesday before the Wednesday meeting, my staff and I worked through the night to bring three amendments to committee on Wednesday morning:

  1. A reduction in the tax rate from 1 ¾ penny per fluid ounce to a more fiscally responsible and measured penny per fluid ounce.
  2. Prioritization of funding to programs that close the food security gap, as well as access to healthy food programs such as Fresh Bucks – over that of programs to support early childhood learning.
  3. Expansion of the definition of “sweetened beverage” to include taxation on beverages sweetened with non-caloric sweeteners (“diet” beverages), excluding zero-calorie natural sweeteners (e.g. Stevia).

Unfortunately, the amendments to significantly reduce the tax rate and include diet beverages failed at committee, but my amendment to prioritize nutrition and access to healthy food programs passed unanimously.  Councilmembers have argued for a higher per ounce tax because they feel that a higher tax will result in more consumers reducing their use of these products.  Healthy Food America says that a 10% tax results in a 10% reduction in use.  If that is true, my proposal still would have resulted in a nearly 27% reduction in use.  I have concerns basing our policy decisions on this 10% reduction formula because it is not clear that the data considers that jurisdictions with this tax, some people cross the jurisdictional boundary (like across Roxbury to the Safeway) to buy their soda.

Since the committee vote, I have learned that the City Budget Office (CBO) projects that a 1 cent per ounce tax that includes diet would raise $15.5 million in annual revenue. Alternatively, the package that was passed out of committee yesterday is projected to raise only $14.8 million a year with a 1.75 cent per ounce tax that does not include diet.

Sweetened Beverage Tax page 2 - HerboldI hope my colleagues on the Council will see, now that these new revenue projections are out, that my proposal not only raises additional revenue – more than the revenue raised by the version that moved out of committee – for important programs that we all support, but also reduces the negative impacts of this regressive tax on low income people, jobs, and small business, and in doing so creates a more responsible package that balances several important competing policy considerations.

 


South Park Pride Picnic

The 7th Annual South Park LGBTQ Pride Picnic is coming up this weekend. There will again be free tamales for the first 200 people to arrive, prepared by Carniceria el Paisano in White Center!

There will be several local performers including Carlos Cascante and his band Tumbao, EmCee Isabella of Noche Latina, Aunt Betty Malone of Rainbow Bingo, and the Sisters of the Motherhouse of Washington.

When: Sunday, June 4, 2017.
Time: 1 – 4 p.m.
Where: Duwamish Waterway Park 7900 10th Avenue S

Check out the Facebook event and RSVP here.

 


Highland Park Find It Fix It Walk & Roundabout Design Funding

Last Thursday, May 25, I participated in the Find It, Fix It community walk in the Highland Park neighborhood in West Seattle. Here’s a map of the walking route, which was focused on SW Holden between 9th and 16th.

Find It Fix It walks provide an opportunity for community members to identify neighborhood needs and discuss challenges directly with City leaders.

The first stop was at Riverview Playfield. Paul West noted the Parks Department will be rebuilding the restroom this summer that was damaged in an arson, and also talked about the need to replace the telephone poles adjacent to the park, which prevent cars from driving on and damaging fields. He also talked about trails in the West Duwamish Greenbelt, and noted their Facebook page, with a website coming soon.

The second stop focused on speeding through residential streets between 9th Avenue SW and 16th Avenue SW. Alan Robertson noted that Highland Park Way is one of only three east/west access points to the peninsula (if you could the upper and lower West Seattle Bridge as one access point). As a result, lots of traffic comes through the neighborhood from and to other neighborhoods in West Seattle. Backups on SW Holden often result in motorists driving on side streets at high speeds.

SDOT’s Jim Curtin noted that the speed limit on non-arterial streets have been reduced from 25 to 20 mph, which allows SDOT to deploy traffic calming measures in a more streamlined fashion, and allows SPD to do more vigorous enforcement. He also noted that a 2016 Neighborhood Park and Street fund project for a traffic circle at 12th and Kenyon is moving forward, and currently in design. He further noted that in 2017, a raised crosswalk will be added at SW Myrtle Street, a curb bulb and flashing beacons @ Kenyon Street; SDOT is looking at flashing beacon @ SW Webster Street. He also noted a project under consideration in the Neighborhood Street Fund “Your Voice Your Choice” process is for crossing improvements at SW Henderson and 11st SW, near Highland Park Elementary. SDOT also noted the presence of the crosswalk with curb bulbs and flashing beacons at 11th and SW Holden was a community-generated project.

The walk then went to talk about the intersection at Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden. The community has long advocated for a solution for pedestrian and motorist safety at this intersection, which has seen numerous recent accidents; Michele Witzki noted the community has requested action at the intersection dating back to 1941. During last year’s Neighborhood Street Fund process the community proposed a traffic roundabout (as they had in 2013), and SDOT did a conceptual design. It was the highest-rated project of the Delridge District Council, but wasn’t selected in the final city approvals, in part due to the cost.

Highland park roundabout

I’ve worked with the Mayor on locating funding for initial design work, and announced that SDOT will be dedicating $200,000 of existing funds to advance design for a roundabout, to improve safety and alleviate congestion by improving traffic flow, which could also help lower the incidence of drivers using side streets. Thanks to Mayor Murray and SDOT for agreeing to do this work, which should make it easier to apply for grants. Earlier that day, SDOT met with representatives of the state Transportation Improvement Board on-site about applying for a construction grant, and they were bullish on the project according to SDOT.

The other item discussed at that location was about the February landslide, which closed Highland Park Way for a few days.

I did some research during the first quarter supplemental budget process, and found that in 2000, SDOT performed a risk assessment for slope hazards for landslides on arterial streets in Seattle. The assessment rated 24 locations as high priority; however, only 7 have had proactive mitigation work done, since a majority of the approximately $500,000 allocated annually since then has been used for reactive work in other locations.

I’ve been working with the City Budget Office to advance funding to accelerate this work. Here’s a link to a letter I distributed during the committee discussion.

For Highland Park Way, SDOT says they are periodically monitoring the site and has asked for a small amount of additional funding for this site ($60K, lumped in with the other landslide mitigation requests) in the 2018 budget to install a rock buttress and ecology block wall in the right-of-way.   I will try to get that funding this year instead in the second quarter supplemental budget legislation.

The next stop was at the staircase on the north side of the street at SW Holden and 14th Avenue SW, with a review of the condition of the staircase, and needed maintenance.  The final stop was at the surplus City Light property on the southwest corner of 16th Avenue SW and SW Holden Street. Business owner Jenni Watkins and resident Beth Adrisevic talked about the intersection, and the property. The lack of a left turn signal was noted, an issue which also affects traffic onto side streets.

In late 2015, the community requested that City Light not immediately sell the property, to allow the community time to pursue a rezone to allow for a mixed-use housing development with an opportunity for low-income housing and/or commercial uses, which the community lacks. Then Councilmember Tom Rasmussen removed this location from legislation placing the property for sale. Last year I asked OPCD Director Sam Aseffa to include this property in the MHA rezones, and he agreed. That process is ongoing.

Here’s a link to the Seattle Channel’s video of the walk.

 

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