West Seattle Bridge Update; Capital Projects Watch List Resolution; Map of Restaurants Open for Delivery and Takeout; Representative Jayapal Telebriefing on Federal COVID-19 Relief Bill April 1; SDOT Answers to Council Questions on the West Seattle Bridge

March 31st, 2020

West Seattle Bridge Update

On Monday, March 30th, SDOT presented an update at the Seattle City Council’s Briefing meeting, one week after the closure of the West Seattle Bridge.

Here’s a link to the SDOT Presentation; you can watch the meeting at the Seattle Channel meeting archive.

I emphasized to SDOT Director Zimbabwe the shock in West Seattle at the sudden closure, and universal support for the quickest action possible. While not to downplay the importance of the COVID-19 emergency, the bridge closure is yet another emergency for West Seattle; its importance cannot be overstated, on a peninsula with limited access points to the rest of Seattle. It carries as much traffic as the former Alaskan Way Viaduct.

In response to Council questions, SDOT Director Zimbabwe said SDOT does not yet have an estimate for how long the bridge will be closed, or the cost of repairs; he estimated 3-4 weeks before this information is available, and he said that the closure won’t be of short duration. SDOT indicated that the bridge must be shored up as a first step, before repairs can proceed. A likely option is to use carbon fiber wrap, as was used for the Alaskan Way Viaduct in the years before it was removed.

I emphasized I was willing to assist however possible, be it through championing funding, expediting any permits needing Council approval, authorizing alternative design and construction methods, or other actions. I also emphasized the need for transparency with the public moving forward.

I asked if SDOT will consider opening the bridge to limited traffic (e.g. 1 lane in each direction) before full re-opening, and Director Zimbabwe said they can consider, but depending upon the result of monitoring traffic volumes on the lower bridge.

I appreciate SDOT’s quick action to install a temporary stoplight at the intersection of Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden Street; I’d like to see similar action in addressing traffic management, which will become more difficult after the COVID-19 epidemic abates, and traffic volumes increase.

SDOT provided a timeline for bridge inspections, which the federal government requires every two years. Beginning in 2014, SDOT performed annual inspections, and noted moderate crack growth in August, 2019. Inspections in October, November and December showed ongoing growth in cracking.

On February 21st, SDOT’s engineering consultant recommended limiting the bridge to 2 lanes in each direction. On March 19, the consultant recommended closure. An SDOT engineer inspecting the bridge the morning of March 23rd recommended closing it that day.

This SDOT Blog post includes a time-lapse graphic of the growth of the cracks, and the significant expansion in March.

I appreciate the action on behalf of public safety, in particular and the willingness of SDOT Bridge Group Supervisor Matt Donahue to act quickly and call leadership from the bridge on March 23rd. However, notice should have been given to the Council and public earlier.  In the best case scenario, the Council and general public would have been notified during the last three months of 2019, when monthly inspections started; this should also have been included in the 4th Quarter capital projects report to the Council. I appreciate the Council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee Chair, Councilmember Pedersen, focusing on this issue, which is relevant throughout the city.

At the very least, I believe that the Council and the public should have been notified on February 21st, when SDOT’s engineering consultant recommended limiting the bridge to 2 lanes in each direction.

SDOT reported that any repairs that take place in the section of the bridge above the Duwamish navigation channel would trigger a requirement for Coast Guard approval, in its federal role with jurisdiction over marine waterways. That would likely add additional time to the closure.

In response to a question my office asked last week, SDOT indicated the assessment of bridge condition ratings for bridges in Seattle will be ready this week.

SDOT’s presentation also included updated information about the lower (Spokane Street) bridge.

SDOT indicated the daily capacity of the lower bridge is 20,000 vehicles, which is stop-and-go traffic.

Last week a traffic count showed 15,000 vehicles; EMT vehicles were stuck in that level of traffic.

In response to written questions regarding the use of the lower bridge overnight, when traffic is lower, and for emergency responders such as nurses, firefighters and police officers, SDOT has noted they are limiting access to emergency vehicles, freight, and transit, and has replied, “We are monitoring traffic on the Low Bridge 24-hours a day from our Transportation Operations Center.  As new traffic patterns develop, we may be able to adjust access.”

SDOT is requesting residents honor the limitations on bridge use.  If residents do not observe these restrictions, SDOT says that they will work with the Seattle Police Department to enforce them.  In addition, Director Zimbabwe seems to be suggesting that the ability of anyone to use the lower bridge could be at risk in the future, if drivers do not observe these restrictions.  “To enforce the lower bridge restrictions, SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe said ‘we have support by the Police Department,’ along with signs, but enforcement might need to increase. So far, there’s been little or no traffic policing. ‘If we have everybody trying to use the lower bridge, nobody will be able to use the lower bridge,’ he said.  See today’s Seattle Times article for more.

SDOT will be completing a load rating study of the lower bridge, which opened in 1991, and will inspect the bridge weekly.

In response to my question about addressing the 5-way intersection below the bridge, SDOT indicated they are using data to adjust traffic signals on a daily basis.

SDOT noted that in the fall of 2020, they plan to begin a study on the West Seattle Bridge’s remaining useful life; they noted a similar study has been ongoing regarding the Ballard Bridge. The West Seattle Bridge opened in 1984.

SDOT has a project webpage for the West Seattle Bridge, where you can sign up for updates. SDOT also posted a summary of the March 30 meeting on the SDOT Blog.

I am sending all constituent questions and suggestions to SDOT. SDOT’s answers to Council questions to date are included below.

Capital Projects Watch List Resolution

The Council adopted Resolution 31942 I sponsored, along with Councilmember Pedersen, Chair of the Council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee. The resolution adds work related to the West Seattle Bridge to the 2020 Capital Project Watch List for enhanced reporting.

Map of Restaurants Open for Delivery and Takeout

The City of Seattle has developed a map showing restaurants that are open for delivery and takeout. To use the map, enter an address or zip code and search, or select the pin icon to the right of the address box, click on the map, and find all the available restaurants nearby. Once you select a restaurant, they can place a takeout or delivery order directly through the app or can receive directions to the restaurant.

If you are a business owner and would like to be added to the map, please contact supportsmallbiz@seattle.gov.

Background information is available here.  This is part of the City’s campaign to support small businesses during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Representative Jayapal Telebriefing on Federal COVID-19 Relief Bill April 1

US 7th District Representative Jayapal will host a tele-briefing on the federal emergency COVID-19 relief bill, and what impact it will have in Washington State, on April 1 at 5 p.m.

You can watch at https://www.facebook.com/RepJayapal/, or dial in by phone at 855-286-0292.

Additional information on federal assistance is available at her COVID-19 website.

SDOT Answers to Council Questions on the West Seattle Bridge

SDOT has answered some of the questions sent by my office and the City Council. Here’s a link to responses from SDOT so far. Below are highlights:

Has SDOT received word from the Coast Guard about flexibility re: times the bridge can remain open w/o or with limited closures?

The Coast Guard has broadcasted a notice to non-commercial vessels with a request to time transit and requests for openings during non-peak commute times. We are making a deviation request for am/pm peak close periods that, if they are not objected to by local mariners, can last for 180 days. Additionally, we can request an official rule change for a close period, but that is a 6-month process and subject to any objection from the local maritime community.

Can SDOT allow vehicle traffic on the lower bridge overnight? I have heard from more than one person whose work shift begins at 3 a.m., when traffic is lighter.

We understand the inconvenience the closure of the High Bridge poses to the West Seattle community.  In light of the current public health emergency, our top priority is emergency access to hospitals and protecting the supply chain, so we are reserving access to emergency vehicles, freight, and transit, and working with our partners at SPD, SFD, the Port, and Metro to determine the extent of the access limitations.  Detour signs are posted and SPD officers are stationed at either end of the Low Bridge to direct GP traffic away from the bridge.  We are monitoring traffic on the Low Bridge 24-hours a day from our Transportation Operations Center.  As new traffic patterns develop, we may be able to adjust access.

I have heard from several COVID-19 first responders (firefighter, ER nurse) who must leave the peninsula for work, and from an immunology researcher at UW working on COVID-19. Could the lower bridge be opened for them?

We acknowledge it is critical for doctors, nurses, researchers and first responders to get to their jobs.  At the same time, we must reserve access to the Low Bridge to emergency vehicle transporting critically ill patients.  Many people who live and work in West Seattle serve many kinds of essential functions – we need to maintain equity for all of them. The Low Bridge is currently open to essential workers who get to work by taking transit, walking, and biking. It’s also open to essential workers who need access to Harbor Island and T-5 and people using emergency vehicles and transporting freight as part of their jobs. For essential workers who are driving private vehicles, they are directed to the 1st Ave S Bridge.

Please explain SDOT’s procedures for providing information the Council regarding ongoing inspections for potential significant problems that could lead to closure of major roadways or structures.

SDOT regularly conducts inspections of bridges in keeping with Federal requirements. These inspections are programmatic in nature, and generally identify preventative maintenance and repair actions, while also tracking the evolution of the bridge structure over time. The load rating project for the West Seattle High-Pass Bridge started in 2019 indicated that the cracking problem was more serious than originally reported in the consultant study we commissioned in 2014 after cracking at post-tensioning anchorage points was first discovered in 2013. We performed an in-depth analysis through the consultant doing the load rating work. As part of this analysis we needed more accurate mapping of the cracked bridge sections near the anchorage points so we inspected the bridge via Under Bridge Inspection Truck (UBIT), interior inspections of the box girders at the anchorage points and additional exterior inspections in October and December of 2019 and again in March of 2020.  As the analysis was coming to a conclusion in March 2020 it indicated that there was a serious load carrying capacity issue with the bridge, we simultaneously noticed that the rate of cracking was increasing at a concerning rate just within the month of March 2020.  This rate of increase was unexpected compared to previous months and gave us reason to close the bridge for safety.

The closure of the bridge, while abrupt, followed SDOT’s commitment to transparency and timely communication with the Mayor, City Council and the public on all issues that will or are quite likely to negatively impact their constituents. What led to the short window of time between alerting the Council and the public and the closure of the bridge on March 23 was the rapid acceleration of cracking within an extremely short period of time.  

Please provide a timeline of SDOT’s inspections of the West Seattle Bridge that lead to this decision.

We regularly inspect our bridges. The events of the past few days is a notable example of why those efforts are critical and why we take this responsibility so seriously. During a 2013 routine inspection of the West Seattle Bridge, our bridge inspectors discovered four sets of cracks in the bridge support structure. We’ve inspected the bridge every year since then; twice as frequently as required by federal guidelines. Since then, we’ve closely monitored and managed the cracks. In 2014, we installed real-time data collection equipment to aid in these efforts, which allowed us to remotely monitor the width of existing cracks on the bridge. At this time, we also began conducting more frequent inspections and implementing best-practice maintenance and repairs. Those annual inspections did not indicate a need for repairs that would significantly disrupt standard use of the bridge. During a 2019 assessment of the bridge’s ability to carry heavy loads, our structural engineering consultant mapped the cracks in the bridge and discovered that they had grown since the previous year’s inspection. We and our engineering consultant continued to closely monitor these cracks and carry out critical maintenance by injecting epoxy into them to protect the steel reinforcements. In late February 2020, our engineering consultant recommended that the rate of deterioration made it necessary to consider traffic restrictions to ensure public safety. As we came to the same conclusion late last week, while we were drafting a lane-reduction plan and preparing to initiate conversations with City leaders and the community, our structural engineering consultant notified us that they had conducted new analysis raising larger concerns. We conducted several observations over the next few days and on Monday, March 23, we found significant new cracking. This confirmed that cracking had rapidly accelerated to the point where there was no other option but to immediately close the bridge.

(in response to a question about 2013, 2016 and 2019 changes to federal bridge load rating standards):

Federal guidelines require that bridges in the National Highway System be inspected every two years (see National Bridge Inspection Standards in 23 CFR 650C). During a 2013 routine inspection of the West Seattle Bridge, our structural engineers discovered four sets of cracks in the bridge support structure. We have been closely monitoring these cracks since then, installing real-time data collection equipment in 2014 allowing us to remotely monitor the bridge condition, and began conducting more frequent follow up inspections in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

In an unrelated process, the FHWA issued new requirements in 2013 that DOTs reevaluate all bridge load ratings by 2022 due to the growing use of heavier trucks for specific kinds of emergency response and construction vehicles. This required SDOT to re-evaluate the maximum vehicle weight that 69 bridges could safely support. We began these load rating revaluations in 2015 and started the West Seattle Bridge reevaluation in mid-2019, according to our planned schedule.

Please provide the most recent list of SDOT’s assessment of Seattle’s bridges (including ratings).

Each year Roadway Structures updates their Project Rating Criteria List based on the previous years’ bridge condition data and rating factors that prioritize local concerns including equity and transportation system impact. The 2019 Project Rating Criteria for SDOT’s bridge inventory is being updated and will be ready the week of 3/30.

Can traffic signals at the 5-way intersection at West Marginal Way, Spokane Street, Delridge Way be adjusted to better serve new traffic patterns? One constituent said they had to wait through 5 light cycles to get to Spokane Street from West Marginal during the afternoon with relatively light traffic.

We know the 5-way intersection has been a challenge even prior to the High Bridge closure. The current intersection design is intended to maintain all potential movements and separates each leg to remove potential conflicts. With increased demand on the intersection as a result of the High Bridge closure, SDOT will re-evaluate the intersection to see whether any design or operational changes can help address congestion while maintaining safe operations.

This signal is on our high priority emergency list to be upgraded so that the signal system is interconnected to our central system. This will allow for us to adjust signal timing actively based on new traffic patterns.  These upgrades also include improved detection to better facilitate new priority movements. This work will be prioritized after our work on Highland Park Way & Holden and our target is to complete it within the next 2-3 weeks.

What was the original design vehicle and what would we use today?

The bridge was originally designed for a design live load commercial vehicle designated as HS-20 (like a large commercial tractor-trailer truck but slightly less axel load than an articulated bus). Since the bridge was brought online in 1984, the size and loading of commercial vehicles have continued to increase as indicated by the much larger HL-93 design loading that is used to design new bridges today. Note that HL-93 loading is not a specific commercial vehicle type, but rather a requirement to choose the worst load combination presented by combining either an HS-20 or Heavy Tandem Trailer with a distributed lane load. The ‘93’ refers to the year that this loading type was adopted as the governing load combination for bridge load rating calculations. This load combination captures the loading of the larger articulated buses that are in use today.

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West Seattle Bridge Update; Seattle Clerk Archives re: 1918-19 Influenza Epidemic

March 27th, 2020

West Seattle Bridge Update

Here are a few updates on the West Seattle Bridge, which SDOT closed on the evening of Monday, March 23rd.

Council Briefings update:

SDOT’s briefing to the at the City Council’s Monday morning Council Briefing meeting is confirmed. The agenda is linked here. You can access the meeting on the Seattle Channel live feed or later at the Seattle Channel archive. You can listen by telephone at 206-684-8566.

Council meetings are being held by telephone due to the COVID-19 virus; in-person attendance is currently prohibited by Governor Inslee’s proclamation.

SDOT website:

SDOT has created a “West Seattle High-Rise Bridge Safety Project” website.

SDOT also posted a blog post about their bridge inspections that led to the closure, including photos and a timeline.

Highland Park Way SW/SW Holden Street intersection:

The blog post also notes SDOT will install a temporary traffic signal at the intersection of Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden Street. Funding for permanent improvements was included in the 2020 budget.

SDOT phone number for information/reporting issues related to the closure:

SDOT’s Customer Care Team is taking calls on the West Seattle Bridge at 206-684-ROAD for information about the closure, and to report issues related to the closure, which are shared with the team working on this.

Constituent Questions:

I’ve forwarded numerous constituent suggestions to SDOT about addressing traffic during the closure. Suggestions include:

  • Spokane Street (lower) bridge use during lower-traffic hours, e.g. overnight and earlier morning, especially for first responders and health care workers;
  • Adjusting signal timing for intersections, including the 5-point intersection below the West Seattle Bridge at Spokane; West Marginal and Delridge; at Highland Park Way at West Marginal; Andover and Delridge; and along the Michigan Street route to I-5 in Georgetown;
  • Limiting openings on the 1st Avenue South bridge (this would involve the Coast Guard as they have jurisdiction over marine waterways);
  • Addressing increased cut-through neighborhood traffic on SW Holden in Highland Park;
  • T-5 traffic, and whether it can be staggered;
  • Could the water taxi access shuttles run further south, to e.g. Roxbury?
  • Water taxi: Could a water taxi be added in another part of West Seattle?
  • Ferry service: can ferry traffic to the Fauntleroy Ferry dock be redirected to Colman Dock Downtown, or can the amount of vehicle traffic be limited? This would involve Washington State Ferries.

Seattle Clerk Archives re: 1918-19 Influenza Epidemic

During 1918-1919, the world faced an influenza epidemic. The City Clerk’s Municipal Archives has shared the following historical items from that period in Seattle:

An October, 2018 letter by Mayor Ole Hanson to the City Council on the City’s response, and requesting an appropriation.

The Department of Health and Sanitation annual reports from 1918-1919 that detailed how the epidemic affected Seattle.

In 2008 Public Health of Seattle and King County produced a history of the influenza epidemic in comic book form.

Here’s a link to the Municipal Archives Spring 2020 Archives Gazette with this and additional items.

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West Seattle Bridge Closure; Governor Inslee’s Stay at Home Order

March 25th, 2020

West Seattle Bridge Closure

SDOT announced the abrupt closure of the West Seattle Bridge on Monday, March 23rd at 7 p.m., after a bridge inspection showed expanding cracks. SDOT’s notice says “complete closure is required to maintain safety as our top priority.” I received notice of this when the Mayor called me to let me know, three hours before the public announcement.

SDOT’s announcement, linked here, says “Buses, freight and emergency vehicles will be moved to the Spokane Street Bridge, which is also called the “low bridge.” Motorists should use the First Avenue or South Park bridges.” SDOT has since suggested alternate routes for drivers (my office asked SDOT to correct an error in the original version, and they did; thank you to the person contacting my office about this).  Pedestrians and bicyclists can use the low bridge.

The impact on West Seattle cannot be understated. This will impact all West Seattle residents.

I’ve heard from many residents how much of an impact the West Seattle Bridge closure will have, in particular for those living in the northern portion of the peninsula, who lose their key access point, and will need to drive several miles south to the 1st Avenue Bridge to leave or enter West Seattle.

I’ve also heard from residents further south; the closure will also impact their neighborhoods, which will now have significantly more traffic, especially at Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden Street, where there are already significant safety problems at this well-traveled intersection.

My priorities are to do whatever I can to collaborate with SDOT to get the bridge up and running as soon as possible, and to minimize the impact of the closure.

We are also in the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic, and Governor Inslee’s shelter in place order. Our first responders, including nurses, firefighters, and police officers are our most important workers. Many live in West Seattle.

I have heard from numerous COVID-19 first responders who live in West Seattle, who must leave the peninsula for work, as well as from an immunology researcher at UW working on COVID-19. Many of them are working overtime in the fight against COVID-19. I have asked SDOT to consider allowing them to use the lower bridge, to minimize the burden of commuting and working long hours to save lives.

I’ve also heard from night shift workers who begin work at, for example, 3 a.m., and asked SDOT whether the lower bridge can be opened to general traffic overnight.

I raised these issues of access for first responders and night shift workers with the Mayor, as well as the possibility, if feasible, of future staged access by other residents.

I’ve asked SDOT about their decision-making process for the lower bridge, and what criteria they will be using for future decisions on the use of the bridge.

I’ve asked what steps SDOT will take for safety at the intersection of Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden, that already have safety problems, and to consider re-timing the signals at the 5-way intersection under the bridge at West Marginal, Spokane and Delridge.

My office has requested that SDOT appeal to the Coast Guard to make fewer bridge openings of the lower level bridge to allow for more buses and cars to cross, as they did in early 2019 when the Alaskan Way Viaduct closed and the SR99 tunnel was not yet open. It’s critically important that bridge openings not restrict emergency and fire vehicles.

I have reached out to Seattle Fire Department (SFD) Chief Scoggins requesting information about SFD’s plans to maintain the level of service provided to West Seattle prior to the bridge closing and how they plan to address possible lack of timely backup resources.

SDOT has been invited to present at the City Council Briefing meeting this coming Monday, March 30th at 9:30 a.m.

I thank King County for increasing water taxi service and quickly planning for alternate transit routes.

My office submitted a preliminary list of questions to SDOT, and continues to develop questions including those sent by District 1 residents.

I’ll have more updates when more information is available.

My questions so far are below; please send me any questions you’d like SDOT to answer.

  • Please explain the decision to not allow cars on the lower bridge.
  • Please describe what analysis SDOT will be conducting to decide when to re-open the Spokane Street (lower) Bridge, and what criteria you will be using.
  • Has SDOT received work from the Coast Guard about flexibility re: times the bridge can remain open w/o or with limited closures?
  • Can SDOT allow vehicle traffic on the lower bridge overnight? I have heard from more than one person whose work shift begins at 3 p.m., when traffic is lighter.
  • I have heard from several COVID-19 first responders (firefighter, ER nurse) who must leave the peninsula for work, and from an immunology researcher at UW working on COVID-19. Could the lower bridge be opened for them?
  • Please provide a timeline of SDOT’s inspections of the West Seattle Bridge that lead to this decision.
  • Please explain SDOT’s procedures for providing information to the Council regarding ongoing inspections for potential significant problems that could lead to closure of major roadways or structures.
  • Southern access points to the peninsula will see significantly increased traffic. What steps will SDOT take for safety at the intersection of Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden, that already have safety problems?
  • Can traffic signals at the 5-way intersection at West Marginal Way and Spokane Street by the Chelan Café be adjusted to better serve new traffic patterns? One constituent said they had to wait through 5 light cycles to get to Spokane Street from West Marginal during the afternoon with relatively light traffic.
  • Can SDOT work to encourage cars traveling east on Roxbury down the hill to South park to turn left onto the onramp to Highway 99 between 7th and 8th Avenue South if they are traveling north, instead of proceeding into South Park?
  • Please describe what actions you are taking to restrict access to the West Seattle Bridge, specifically by people trying to access the closed bridge by foot.

Below are additional questions that get into the weeds of the budget and SDOT notification to the Council of the impacts of changes from the Federal government related to load ratings that led to higher scrutiny, and now closure, of the bridge:

When SDOT completed its November, 2018 Move Levy Workplan, (or levy “reset”), the work plan included 16 bridges for seismic work (section 12 of the report), including several in District 1: Delridge Way SW Bike/Ped Bridge, the north and south Admiral Way bridges, and the Andover Way SW ped bridge (and ironically the 1st Avenue South Bridge that SDOT is directing West Seattle commuters to). It did not include the West Seattle Bridge.

The 2020 SDOT Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget referenced work on the 16 projects in its listing for Bridge Seismic work. The SDOT CIP noted it was analyzing bridge loads of 69 separate bridges due to 2013 and 2016 federal requirements from the Federal Highway Administration. The March 23 press SDOT release on the bridge closure referred to new 2019 requirements.

  • The 2020-2025 CIP (page 188) references federal changes in 2013 and 2016 to load requirements; today’s press release says, “In 2019, however, the Federal load rating for this type of bridge changed.” When did this change take place?
  • The November 2018 Move Levy Workplan (i.e. levy “re-set”) noted 16 bridges scheduled for seismic improvements from 2019 to 2024; the 2020-2025 SDOT CIP “Bridge Seismic – Phase III) item noted the 16 bridges. Why was the West Seattle Bridge not included in the 16 bridges?
  • How many other, of the 69 bridges subject to the new FHA load requirements, have been triggered for enhanced inspections by bridge integrity specialists to ensure the safety of our city’s bridges?
  • Please provide the most recent list of SDOT’s assessment of Seattle’s bridges (including ratings).

Finally, a word about capital project oversight; the West Seattle Bridge has not been identified as a potential issue in recent reports the Executive has sent to the Council.

In 2018 I sponsored capital project oversight legislation the Council adopted to require enhanced, quarterly reporting from city departments on city capital projects, to ensure the Council received timely updates.

The legislation notes “CIP oversight is a critical function of the Seattle City Council”, and “the Council’s ability to perform effective capital oversight is dependent on access to thorough information and the opportunity to review and process this information in a timely manner.”

The most recent quarterly reports received by the Council, on March 13th, for the 4th quarter of 2019, do not mention the West Seattle Bridge as one of the city’s 200+ capital projects; the bridge is not mentioned in sections on Bridge Seismic work and Bridge Load Rating work, included in the ongoing programs report.

In mid-January city departments sent the Council their proposed list of capital projects for the 2020 “Watch List” for enhanced oversight; the list did not include the West Seattle Bridge.

I have repeatedly requested that the City Budget Office include ongoing programs (e.g. the bridge programs and road paving) in future Watch Lists.

While the City Budget Office has indicated they are theoretically open to doing so, no such programmatic projects have been added in the final list of 2020 Watch List projects. Nonetheless, they do report on the programmatic projects in the ongoing projects list – but just at a summary level, as noted above.

The Council’s resolution requested the Executive work with Council Central Staff to “to develop a method for enhanced reporting for selected ongoing programs, or components of ongoing programs, for potential inclusion in the Watch List.” It’s clear that’s needed.


Governor Inslee’s Stay at Home Order

Gov. Inslee’s Stay at Home order allows you to get outside and take walks, or enjoy your local neighborhood park, as long as you’re practicing proper social distancing.  That means staying at least 6 feet away from others at all times, and avoiding groups.

In order to avoid crowds like we’ve seen recently at Alki and other popular destinations, here are some additional actions taken by the City and State:

  • Play areas, picnic areas and sports courts are closed
  • Beaches and parks are closed for gatherings.  (It’s still OK to walk or use these areas for general exercise – as long as you’re not in a group.)
  • Parking lots are closed at Alki and Lincoln Parks, as well as other particularly popular parks around Seattle, including Green Lake, Golden Gardens, Seward, Magnuson, Gas Works, and Discovery.
  • Parks & Recreation and Police Department staff will be deployed to encourage social distancing at highly frequented parks.
  • All parks programming, rentals, and permitted events are cancelled.

Learn more about these restrictions.

Consider visiting one of your local neighborhood parks instead.  It’s OK to use Seattle’s parks – as long as you stay at least 6 feet away from everyone else, and do not gather in groups.

Your efforts will help us flatten the curve and save lives.  Thank you!

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COVID-19 Updates; Supporting Local Businesses; Seattle Parks and Social Distancing; Supporting Artists and the Arts; Weekly COVID-19 Community Webinars; Canceling District Office Hours

March 20th, 2020

COVID-19 Updates

Two More Emergency Proclamations: Eviction protection for residents, nonprofits, small businesses

Since my last update, the Mayor has issued two more emergency proclamations, both regarding eviction moratoriums. The first halts residential evictions, the Council took this up at our Monday Full Council meeting and the Council amended the proclamation to last for 60 days instead of 30 understanding that this crisis may continue longer than 30 days. The second emergency proclamation was issued on Thursday and addressed concerns that Council raised on Monday about small businesses and non-profits.  I appreciate the collaboration with the Mayor’s office for accepting my input to expand the eviction moratorium from 30 to 60 day and to include non-profits, regardless of number of employees.

US Small Business Administration Loans

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced that King County small businesses and nonprofits are now eligible for low-interest Small Business Administration disaster loans of up to $2 million. Visit disasterloan.sba.gov/ela to apply and receive additional disaster assistance info and download applications. You can also call the Small Business Administration disaster assistance customer service center for more information at 800-659-2955 or email.

Council Passes Legislation Providing Emergency Funding for Small Businesses and Utility Relief

The Council passed a bill, Council Bill 119757, sponsored by Councilmember Tammy J. Morales, on Thursday to transfer $1.5 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to the Small Business Stabilization Fund, to support small businesses facing financial challenges in Seattle resulting from  COVID-19.  Federal CDBG criteria require this Fund to be exclusively for businesses with 5 or fewer employees and business owners must have a household income at or below 80 percent of Area Median Income. For information on eligibility criteria and how to apply, visit OED’s website. Applications are expected to close on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

A separate bill, Council Bill 119758, sponsored by Councilmember Alex Pedersen, passed by the Council waives interest charges on past due utility bills during this crisis for residential, small business, and nonprofit customers.  Flexible payment plans are available and a no shut-off policy is in place as well.  To access deferred payment plans through Seattle City Light or Seattle Public Utilities, customers can call 206-684-3000 or send an email here. Professional translations for City utility services are available when you call 206-684-3000.

Links to COVID-19 Resources

Here are links to COVID-19 resources for public health updates, emergency orders, business support, worker support,

  • Please check my weekly blog for updates here.
  • The Seattle City Council has a webpage with extensive links on resources here (with a newly added table of contents for easy navigating).
  • Mayor Durkan’s page has daily updates here.
  • King County Public Health has a daily update here.
  • Updates from Governor Inslee, including emergency orders, are here.

Supporting Local Businesses: Restaurants Open for Take-Out/Delivery

I want to stress how important it is to continue practicing social distancing, but we can still support our local businesses. While restaurants, bars and coffee shops are closed for dine-in service through March 31 by order of Governor Inslee, they can remain open for carryout and delivery service, while adhering to COVID-19 Public Health Guidelines.

The West Seattle Blog has a fantastic article up about local businesses that are still operating, for takeout and to-go, and how you can support them. Please check it out here. The West Seattle Junction Association has a Junction Delivery Pickup and online services website with information about establishments in the West Seattle Junction.

The Seattle Department of Transportation is installing temporary load zones near restaurants to facilitate pick up service. SDOT noted “The first locations to receive temporary loading zones will be in areas with high concentrations of restaurants on blocks that do not otherwise have enough loading options.”

Restaurants can request a loading zone near their establishment by emailing 684-Road@seattle.gov or calling (206) 684-ROAD – be sure to provide business address and contact information.

Request a Loading Zone Near Your Restaurant

The West Seattle Blog also has a list of our grocery stores and their updated hours which you can see here. Please note that our Safeway stores are reserving the 7am – 9am hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays for seniors and high-risk individuals, so if you do not fall into those categories please do not shop during those hours.


Seattle Parks Update on Parks, Trails and Open Spaces and Social Distancing

I’ve received reports of people gathering and not practicing social distancing in parks and trail areas.  These reports are coming to me from constituents who are elderly or have medical conditions, and are at greater risk if infected by the COVID-19 virus, as well as from concerned members of the public.

The Seattle Department of Parks and Recreations notes: Our parks, trails, and open spaces are currently open. If you decide to visit a park, please follow public health guidelines and please practice social distancing. See some additional suggestions from @NRPA_news below.


Supporting Artists and the Arts

This week, the City announced $1.1 million in relief for artists, and arts and cultural organizations. Learn more here.

The Seattle Office of Arts and Culture has set up a $1 million Arts Stabilization Fund, focusing on arts and cultural organizations that have been impacted by the moratorium on events and public gatherings. These organizations rely on ticket sales, attendance and fundraising efforts. The grant program will be administered through the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture.   Additionally, the City invested $100,000 in two community-based relief funds, Seattle Artist Relief Fund, and COVID-19 Artist Trust’s Relief Fund.

Many artists support themselves through gig work and may not be eligible for protections offered to employees. The performance aspect of their art requires public gatherings, which have been prohibited, and artists are organizing to support themselves. I’m proud that the City is stepping up to provide relief for artists and cultural organizations, as we cannot lose our important art institutions during this crisis and must retain those cultural spaces for the future.

 

Weekly COVID-19 Community Webinars

Seattle Department of Neighborhoods will be hosting weekly webinars every Friday from 2:30-4:00pm that connect community to information regarding COVID-19. Each week will cover different topics.

You are invited to participate in this City of Seattle webinar series aimed at providing consistent and updated information about COVID-19 and its impact on your communities. Please feel free to share this invitation with your staff, trusted advocates, and community partners.

COVID-19 Community Webinar

March 20 | 2:30 – 4:00pm

What you need to know about housing, groceries, and public utilities.

Join via Skype: http://bit.ly/DONwebinar  

Join via Phone: 206-386-1200 ext 720627#

This webinar is intended for agencies and community members working and living in the greater Seattle area.

  • Get accurate and updated information about COVID-19
  • Hear from Seattle Office of Housing, Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment, Seattle Public Utilities, and Seattle City Light
  • Participate in a live Q&A session

Limited capacity of 250 people. This webinar will be recorded.

Seattle Department of Neighborhoods will be hosting weekly webinars every Friday from 2:30-4:00pm that connect community to information regarding COVID-19. Each week will cover different topics.

The City of Seattle encourages all residents to stay informed. Get up to date information from kingcounty.gov/covid.

 

Canceling District Office Hours

Unfortunately, due to social distancing requirements of the current COVID-19 pandemic I am canceling my in-district office hours scheduled March 27th.

Here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours moving forward. These are subject to change.

  • Friday, April 24, 2020
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, May 29, 2020
    Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St
  • Friday, June 26, 2020
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, July 31, 2020
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, August 21, 2020
    Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St
  • Friday, September 25, 2020
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, October 30, 2020
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, December 18, 2020
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
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COVID-19 Update and Information; Paid Sick and Safe Leave Expansion for Public Health Emergency; Your Voice Your Choice Idea Collection Open through March 18

March 13th, 2020

COVID-19 Update and Information

The coronavirus is scary, but it’s important to remember that each of us, individually, can do so much to stop its spread.  These simple actions are the most impactful.  (And thanks to Councilmember Morales’ office for sharing their great graphic!)

I want to preface all this information by noting that things are rapidly evolving and this information is up-to-date as March 13. Things may continue to change and people should continue to check the King County Public Page here for the most up-to-date information.

  • The Governor has also announced that all events with more than 250 people are prohibitedKing County has taken further steps and is prohibiting events with fewer than 250 attendeesunless event organizers take steps to minimize risk including:
    • Older and vulnerable individuals have been encouraged not to attend
    • Recommendations for social distancing and limiting close contact are met
    • Employees or volunteers leading an event are screened for symptoms each day
    • Proper hand washing, sanitation, and cleaning is readily available
    • Environmental cleaning guidelines are followed (e.g., clean and disinfect high touch surfaces daily or more frequently)
  • The City is closing all Public Libraries and Community Centers until at least April 13. However, the shower program for those in need at Delridge, Green Lake, Meadowbrook, Miller and Rainier community centers, and all Parks bathrooms and handwashing stations will remain open.
  • The Port of Seattle implemented new protocols for safe air travel.
    • “Tourism is one of Washington’s leading economic sectors, supporting tens of thousands of jobs statewide and providing millions in revenue to the region. Between February 2 and March 7 more than 80 flights have been suspended to mainland China while airlines have recently announced reductions and cancellations to Seoul, South Korea, and Hong Kong.”
    • The Port also announcedthat it was canceling the first two cruise ship sailings scheduled for April 1 and April 5.
  • The Washington State Insurance Commissioner has a Q&A page herefor healthcare and insurance related questions.
  • The Washington State Health Benefit Exchange has opened a special enrollment period through April 8 to qualified individuals who are uninsured. You can learn more here.
  • West Seattle Blog continues to keep a great list of local cancelations, postponements, and changes, you can see that here.
  • No utility shut offs. The Mayor announced this week that both Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities will work with residential and business customers affected by the outbreak to setup payment plans and the utilities will not be shut off. Further customers can fill out a self-certification Utility Discount Program applicationfor more long lasting relief. UDP income thresholds have not changed.
  • $1.5 million for small businesses.Qualifying small businesses should apply online here.
  • The City’s Office of Economic Development is holding a weekly phone call for small businesses impacted by COVID-19, every Wednesday from 1-2pm. Register for upcoming small business phone calls here.
  • Wondering about whether Seattle’s Paid Sick & Safe Time ordinance can help you out if you or someone you love falls sick? Check out this fact sheet.
  • The Council has created a resource page as well which will be kept up-to-date.
  • This website explains some of the resources available to employers and workers impacted by COVID-19.
  • The Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center has a blog post explaining the importance of social distancing, and what it means.
  • United Way of King County has a webpage with resources and information for people who are unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 virus.
  • Also check out this graphic from Washington State Employment Security Department:


City Council Meeting – COVID-19 Update and Paid Sick and Safe Leave Expansion for Public Health Emergency

City Council meetings take place on Monday are at 2 p.m. and are being conducted by telephone. You can view meetings live on the Seattle Channel at http://www.seattlechannel.org/watch-live, or in the meeting archive at http://www.seattlechannel.org/FullCouncil.  Meeting agendas are linked here.   This Monday we will receive a COVID-19 briefing from the Executive.  We will also be voting on legislation to expand Paid Sick and Safe Leave. The legislation would:

“declare an emergency in response to the high number of confirmed cases and deaths in King County and around the world from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and would establish an immediate effective date for an expansion of paid sick and safe time. The expansion would permit use of paid sick and safe time when the employee’s family member’s school or place of care is closed.”

Additionally, I’ll be bringing an amendment that would allow employees of large businesses (those with 250 or more employees) to access their current Paid Sick and Safe Time when their employer has reduced operations or closed for any health or safety related reason. This is a measured amendment that allows employees of large companies to access benefits that they already have under the threat of COVID-19. Senator Patty Murray introduced a further reaching measure earlier this month that would:

  • Require all employers to allow their workers to gradually earn seven days of paid sick leave.
  • Require all employers to immediately provide an additional 14 days of paid sick leave at the beginning of a public health emergency, including the current COVID-19 crisis.
  • Ensure the leave covers days when a child’s school is close, when an employer is closed, or if a family member is quarantined or isolated due to a public health emergency.

Unfortunately, the measure failed to pass in the senate. Another example is Arizona’s statewide paid sick leave law, which passed in in 2017, specifically cites public health emergency as declared by the Governor.

Your Voice Your Choice Idea Collection Open through March 18

The 2020 Your Voice, Your Choice program is open for idea collection through March 18.

This Department of Neighborhoods program allows community members to democratically decide how to spend $2 million of the City’s budget on these improvements.

Through March 18, community members age 11 and up (13 and up to participate online) who live, work, go to school,  receive services, or participate in activities in Seattle can submit their ideas online. Projects could include park benches, trail improvements, marked crosswalks, and sidewalk repair, to name a few. The only criteria are the project ideas focus on physical improvements to Seattle’s parks or streets, benefit the public, and cost $150,000 or less.

Once ideas are submitted, volunteers are recruited to turn the ideas into 8 – 10 proposals per council district. Then this summer, everyone will have the opportunity to vote for the top projects within their district. Of the $2 million budget, approximately $185,00 is allocated to each council district. The remaining funds are allocated to projects in underrepresented communities or Equity and Environment Initiative (EEI) Focus Areas.  Additional information is at the project webpage.

Projects selected for construction in 2019 are listed here,  and shown on this map. District 1 projects are copied below:

DISTRICT 1

  • Admiral: Crossing Improvements on intersection of SW Admiral Way and 44th Ave SW (Cost: $120,000; Votes received 554)
  • Alki: Calming Improvements on 61st Avenue SW between SW Admiral Way and Beach Drive SW (Cost: $30,000; Votes received: 428
  • Highland Park: Crossing Improvements on 16th Ave SW & SW Holden St (Cost: $30,000, Votes received: 293)*
  • South Delridge: Sidewalk/Trail Improvements on SW Barton St between 21st Ave SW and SW Barton Pl (Cost: $112,700; Votes received: 261)*
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COVID-19 Update; East Marginal Project Letter of Support for Grant Funding; Duwamish Longhouse Bus Access Walk; February Constituent Email Report

March 6th, 2020

COVID-19 Update

As of this morning, Public Health – Seattle & King County confirmed 58 cases of novel coronavirus in King County residents, including 10 deaths.  231 residents in the State are under public health supervision for being at risk of exposure.  As more laboratory capacity for testing comes online, more tests and results will be reported.  The  Department of Health website for coronavirus is an excellent resource for anyone with questions about coronavirus and how to keep yourself safe.

Take Action To Stop The Spread

There is a LOT we can do as individuals to stop the spread of coronavirus and keep ourselves and loved ones safe.  Simple steps are extremely powerful.

  • Don’t touch your face (especially around your eyes, nose and mouth)
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • If soap and water are not available, use at least a 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer to wash your hands
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with an elbow sleeve or tissue
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • If you are in King County and believe you were exposed: stay home, and contact your doctor or the coronavirus hotline: 206-477-3977 between 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM PT.
  • For general concerns and questions,call the Washington State Novel Coronavirus Call Center at 800-525-0127.

To slow the spread/transmission, King County Public Health has made recommendations in consultation with the federal Centers for Disease Control, based on the best information we have currently to protect the public’s health.  These recommendations include:

  • Not holding gatherings of more than 10 people
  • Staying at home if you are over 60 or have underlying medical conditions
  • Working from home if you are able

Seattle’s State of Emergency Proclamation & Resolution

This is a critical moment in the outbreak in our region.  On Thursday the Council called a special Full Council meeting where we heard an update from the Executive on the City and County response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). I encourage you to watch the briefing here at this link.  In attendance were:

  • Deputy Mayors Mike Fong and CaseySixkiller
  • Chief Harold Scoggins, Seattle Fire Department
  • Dennis Worsham, Seattle-King County Public Health
  • Acting Director Laurel Nelson, Office of Emergency Management
  • Director Cuc Vu, Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs
  • Director Andres Mantilla, Department of Neighborhoods
  • Director Bobby Lee, Office of Economic Development
  • Interim Director Jason Johnson, Human Services Department
  • Director Ben Noble, City Budget Office
  • Superintendent Jesús Aguirre, Department of Parks and Recreation
  • Retired Director Barb Graff, Office of Emergency Management

The primary issues of concern that I raised at this meeting included:

  1. I asked how many tests had been done in King County, recognizing that a. as of Wednesday night only 600 tests had been done across the entire county and b. approval locally for the first lab to analyze test results had only occurred the previous Friday. I did not receive a response to the question of how many tests have been done in King County. However, MSNBC has reported that 100 people have been tested in our region.
  2. I asked if testing protocols permitted first responders to be prioritized for testing. Chief Scoggins indicated that they did.
  3. I asked why all City Departments, as of Wednesday, were still expressing concern for lack of necessary supplies and lack of consistent cleaning protocols. The response was that this was a mission-critical priority for the Executive and that our approval of the Mayor’s Proclamation of Emergency would allow the Executive to expedite procurement of necessary supplies. As of 5:30pm today, city-wide cleaning protocols were released by FAS.
  4. I shared that I had been contacted by a West Seattle business that was reporting 20-30% negative year over year comparative sales for several businesses, where they were 5-10% positive over last year before the health crisis. The response to this was that OED is working to access federal funding to help local businesses.
  5. When told that the Human Services Department (HSD) was working with our human services providers on readiness, I asked how we were helping in those instances that they needed supplies. In response, I was told that HSD was facilitating a bulk purchase for our human services providers.
  6. When told that hygiene kits were being distributed by the Navigation Team to individuals living unsheltered, I ask how many had been distributed and over what time period. The answer to this question was unavailable.
  7. Understanding that the CDC guidance for testing requires a health provider’s recommendation for testing, I asked whether public health professionals working with people living outside are empowered to recommend a person for testing in those instances that a person living unsheltered has no primary care physician or is unlikely to go to a health clinic. The answer to this question was unavailable.

At this meeting the council also affirmed the Mayor’s proclamation of emergency as amended and passed a resolution.

Under the Mayor’s proclamation of emergency, she can forgo legal requirements for making temporary hires, contracting, spending, and assuming debt. The Mayor can also now open new necessary facilities to address the emergency without the permits and notice usually required.

Changes made by the Council to the Mayor’s proclamation of emergency included the following:

  • Verification and submittal of emergency purchases and contracts to the City Council
  • A requirement to list and describe all actions taken that would otherwise have been subject to the notice requirements of SMC Chapter 25.05 (for regulatory permits)
  • A requirement for a future order by the Mayor or the Board of Public Health – Seattle / King County before any actions by the Fire Chief or Police Chief are taken to enforce anything other than existing laws and regulations

The resolution states that the Council will reevaluate the civil emergency by April 5 and includes these specific requests for expenditures:

  • Hand washing stations
  • Hygiene services such as mobile pit stops, as approved in the 2020 adopted budget
  • Investments that increase access for lower income persons to COVID-19 testing
  • Investments in culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach materials for limited English proficiency communities

Further, the resolution asks the executive to review:

  • Options for City staff and contractors to take paid days off, if their leave runs out, especially in the case of hourly, new and temporary workers
  • An analysis of the Race and Social Justice implication of exercising emergency powers
  • Consideration of how emergency powers could impact homeless communities
  • Issuance of an order related to economic controls and price stabilization on products that may be used by the public to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as disinfectants and hand sanitizer, and price controls on essentials for survival such as housing and shelter
  • Identification of actions the City can take:
  • To encourage service sector employers, gig economy employers, and employers whose activities require close proximity to large segments of the public to provide sanitary and safe working conditions and to allow their employees to use paid sick time for time away from work for public health purposes, other than sick leave; and
  • To discourage and prevent punitive actions against employees who miss work because of illness or public health reasons.

The resolution also requests the Executive provide a weekly report to Council including:

  • Emergency expenditures by departments
  • New contracts entered into or amendments to existing contracts, including information on contract amount and contracted-for service
  • New permanent and term-limited positions added or empty positions filled to address the civil emergency, as well as temporary staffing re-assignments
  • A list detailing whether and how enforcement of current criminal and civil laws and regulations are being prioritized to address the public health, safety, and welfare, and
  • For each action taken pursuant to civil emergency, any limitation identified by Seattle Municipal Code Section, adopted financial policy, or other governing internal or external regulation or statute to the action being taken without emergency authority.

The Council also identified in the resolution that city staff and contractors should work from home as much as practical.

The City Council President, Lorena González, and Council President Pro Tem Teresa Mosqueda issued a directive for the entire Legislative Department, through March 31 (or until they are lifted by the Council President/President Pro Tem), to:

  1. Direct all Department employees to work remotely to the greatest extent possible.
  2. Advise City Council committee chairs to cancel committee meetings until further notice.
  3. Endeavor to conduct all official Full Council and special meetings remotely, utilizing appropriate technology, in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act.

As new information is available from public health officials, this directive will be continuously evaluated.

Viruses Don’t Discriminate

I want to be clear that Coronavirus doesn’t recognize race, nationality or ethnicity. Having Chinese ancestry – or any other ancestry – does not make a person more vulnerable to this illness.  Misinformation about coronavirus can create fear and hostility that hurts people, and makes it harder to keep everyone healthy.

Staying Healthy

Many of us work in places with easy access to handwashing stations, and can use sick & safe leave, or access health care via insurance provided by our employers. Or if we’re sick, we can stay home, care for a family member or get in to see a doctor on the same day we have symptoms that concern us.  However, that’s not the case for everyone:

  • Our first responders — fire, police, nurses, doctors, care givers, public health scientists don’t get to call in sick.
  • Or the teachers, staff and custodians who are asked to stay behind and “sanitize” the school while their students and many of their parents stay home during the exercise.
  • Or the folks who provide us services that we rely on, perhaps even more at times like these: those who sell us the hand sanitizer, who deliver our grocery or online orders, who drive the buses, who carry our mail, who prepare our food.

It’s their job and they do it because no one else can or will.  They risk their health and safety to keep US safe.  I want to recognize and thank them for that.

Steps Taken Already

We must take this health crisis seriously, and we do.  Here are some important steps that have been taken already:

  • The City has activated its Emergency Operations Center, which coordinates the activities of executive departments to ensure the strongest, quickest possible response
  • King County Executive Dow Constantine issued a State of Emergency,enabling “extraordinary measures” to fight the outbreak, including waiving some procurement protocols, and authorizing overtime for King County employees, among other powers
  • In addition to City and County government encouraging work from home arrangements, many of our largest employers are doing the same
  • The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs is translating coronavirus information into multiple languages. The public can find that information on seattle.gov. 
  • The County has started to set up isolation/quarantine sites in multiple areas throughout the County, using portable trailers. The Executive has also indicated King County is in the process of purchasing a hotel to use as a quarantine site
  • The City is increasing shelter resources during this public health emergency, which will take 2-3 weeks to make operational and will add capacity for up to 100 individuals. The locations are: Lake Union Tiny House Village: Expansion of the current tiny home village by up to 20 units, New Cherry Hill Church Tiny House Village: The City expects capacity to be 30 units, Former Treatment Facility: Former Evergreen Treatment Facility in the Bitter Lake neighborhood with capacity for up to 50 people
  • The City’s Navigation Team is distributing hygiene kits and sharing information about COVID-19 with people who are living unsheltered
  • The Seattle Times has lowered/deactivated their “pay wall” to ensure that all of our neighbors have access to the latest information and updates
  • Washington state’s insurance commissioner issued an emergency order directing all health insurance carriers, through May 4, to provide health care provider visits and novel coronavirus testing without co-payments and deductible payments to enrollees who meet criteria for testing
  • UW announced they now have permission and ability to test for coronavirus, and the region could potentially test up to 1,000 samples each day, a significant expansion in our testing capacity
  • Public health officials through Public Health Seattle & King County have been consistent on keeping the public up to date and sharing information on how we can remain healthy, and are giving daily media updates to the public (see their website for a helpful fact sheet and answers to frequently asked questions).

East Marginal Project Letter of Support for Grant Funding

Last year the Council voted to approve funding to begin work on the East Marginal Way project.

The project is a high priority for bike connections between West Seattle and Downtown, to fully separate bicycles from motor vehicle traffic in the SODO industrial area.

East Marginal Way is a major freight corridor that provides access to the Port of Seattle terminals, rail yards, industrial businesses and the regional highway system, and between local Manufacturing and Industrial Councils (MIC’s). It is also a designated Heavy Haul Route, critical last-mile connector and vital route for over-sized trucks or those carrying flammable cargo.

SDOT has applied for a $13 million federal grant to help fully fund this project. The Council signed a letter in support of the grant.

The project website shows 60% design; you can also take a survey or sign up for the project e-mail list at the website.

Duwamish Longhouse Bus Access Walk

My staff participated in a walk to the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center from a bus stop at Delridge Way SW and SW Andover Street. This bus stop is over a mile away from the Longhouse, and it’s the walk the receptionist at the longhouse on West Marginal Way has to take each day, with the absence of bus service on West Marginal.

The walk was organized by the Duwamish tribe to raise awareness; other participants included the D1 network, SDOT, and transportation and community advocates.

The walk includes areas without lighting or sidewalks, and high vehicle speeds, which makes access difficult, and raises concerns for safety. Below are images from the walk.

February Constituent Email Report

Constituent correspondence is a very important task in my office. My staff and I spend time every day helping you improve our community, whether that’s by getting you help from a city department with our constituent case management services or giving you information about legislation that the Council is considering. The unshaded categories and numbers are problem-solving emails answered in February, what I refer to above as “case management services.” The shaded categories and numbers are emails answered in February related to policy or legislation that the Council is considering.

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Coronavirus/COVID-19; Police Staffing and Hiring Update; Delridge Way SW – RapidRide H Line Project: SDOT Final Report; Park District Planning Meeting Tonight; Free Tax Help; Auditor Report on Trash Around Unsanctioned Encampments; Committee Workplan; Delridge Neighborhood Development Association Fundraiser

March 2nd, 2020

Coronavirus/COVID-19

For updates on the coronavirus, you can follow Public Health – Seattle & King County or sign up for AlertSeattle – the City of Seattle Government’s emergency notification system – to receive customized alerts via text, email, voice mail, or on Facebook or Twitter.

More info at alert.seattle.gov.

Police Staffing and Hiring Update

I’ve heard support for hiring more officers from residents of neighborhoods all over West Seattle and South Park. In the annual public safety surveys Seattle University does, this is listed as a top priority every year in all the neighborhoods in the Southwest Precinct. Since becoming Chair of the Council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee in January, I’ve heard the same message from residents throughout the city. During the 2020 budget, the Council voted to fund 12 items recommended in the 2019 Officer Recruitment and Retention Report.

On February 25th the Public Safety and Human Services Committee I chair hosted an update from the Seattle Police Department on staffing in 2019 and 2020 hiring plans.

The presentation notes a net increase in 16 officers in 2019, and the highest percentage of people of color hired during 2019 in SPD’s history, 39%. It’s encouraging to see, and I thank SPD for this work; a police department that reflects Seattle’s diversity is a primary pillar of our effort to grow the number of officers available to serve.

The presentation also notes items SPD is working on included in the 2019 Officer Recruitment and Retention Report. Here’s a link to the presentation, and the Council staff analysis. You can watch the discussion here.

A new community-focused hiring campaign was announced on February 24th.  I had the opportunity to participate in the event along with Mayor Durkan and Chief Best.

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The Council adopted several budget motions requiring updates on progress to the Public Safety and Human Services Committee throughout 2020. The Council received the first monthly staffing update required by those budget actions; it shows a net gain of 7 officers in the month of January alone. An update on the implementation of Recruitment and Retention Report is requested by May 29th.

For more information on SPD’s recruitment and hiring initiatives, including information on how to apply to become an officer, salaries, benefits, and testing schedules, visit www.seattlepolicejobs.com.

Delridge Way SW – RapidRide H Line Project: SDOT Final Report

SDOT has delivered a report the Council required for the Delridge Way SW – H Line project in a budget action. The report includes an update on SDOT’s work on final design and construction schedule, and response to community suggestions, and why they were or weren’t included.

The report requested SDOT report back on several items, including public outreach, feedback, changes from 90% to 100% design; status of funding; construction schedule; business outreach and engagement; pedestrian access and crossing at bus stops; decisions regarding 24/7 bus lanes; implementation of Bicycle Master Plan (included in last week’s newsletter), and consideration of a traffic diverter and speed humps where cut-through traffic is occurring.

Project work is scheduled to begin in early summer of this year, and continue through late 2021 or early 2022. In September 2021, bus route 120 is planned for conversion to the Rapid Ride H Line. The project includes re-paving of the roadway from SW Orchard to SW Andover.

Changes included in 100% design compared to 90% design include reducing the level of pavement restoration between Andover and the West Seattle Bridge, to avoid the need to remove new pavement if Sound Transit builds a Delridge station at that location; adding an emergency cut-through for Fire Department emergency access north of SW Hudson Street; and improvements for bicycle safety on the Delridge Neighborhood Greenway on 26th Avenue SW.

SDOT outreach to organizations and businesses is included in an appendix.

Here’s a link to the report.

Park District Planning Meeting Tonight:

Join neighbors to help Seattle Parks & Recreation strengthen your local parks and invigorate your community.  The Park District is holding a community meeting on Monday, March 2 from 6-8pm at Delridge Community Center, 4501 Delridge Way SW.  Your voice will help develop a plan for the next six years of parks investment.  Learn more here.

If you can’t make it to the Monday meeting, take the public survey here.

Free Tax Help

If you make less than $66,000, United Way of King County will help you prepare and file your taxes for free. From January 13 through April 18, 2020, they’ll have free tax experts at 33 locations, ready to help you maximize your refund. No appointment is needed.

Locations in District 1 include:

  • West Seattle Food Bank, 6516 35th Avenue SW
  • YWCA Greenbridge, 9720 8th Avenue SW
  • South Seattle College – Jerry Brock Student Center, Room 140, 6000 16th Avenue SW

Be sure to bring…

  • Social Security card/ITIN letters for everyone on the return
  • Photo ID
  • All tax statements (W-2 form, 1099 form, SSA-1099 form, etc.)
  • Health insurance form 1095-A
  • Your spouse, if you are filing together

Learn more, and check hours of availability here.

Auditor Report on Trash Around Unsanctioned Encampments

On Monday the City Auditor released an audit with recommendations titled Five Steps the City of Seattle Should Take to Reduce Trash Around Unsanctioned Encampments.  This audit was undertaken upon my request.

In short, the report makes five recommendations to help prevent trash accumulation around unsanctioned encampments:

  • Track trash accumulation systematically
  • Develop and implement strategies for persistent trash “hot spots”
  • Protect urban streams and watersheds
  • Improve needle recovery efforts, and
  • Use best practices to deter metal theft

I have already been working on many of the issues this report makes recommendations on. During budget last year, I proposed several budget actions in order to address these concerns. Specifically:

  • HOM-50-A-2 expands the Encampment Trash program with a nonprofit provider to allow for a more efficient expansion of the encampment trash program (purple bags).
  • Statements of Legislative Intent (SLIs)  for the Human Services Department to develop Good Neighbor Agreements that include garbage and needle collection requirements in provider contracts.  While not included in the final budget, both are Select Committee on Homelessness Strategies & Investment workplan issues.  The Auditor’s recommendation will help insure this work gets done.
  • SPU-4-A-2 begins mobile pump-out services to RVs. The pilot program would service between 40 and 64 RVs per month near infrastructure that drains to waterways as critical areas under the City’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
  • HOM-16-A-1 provides funding to buy and staff five mobile bathroom facilities, aka Mobile Pit Stops. The Mobile Pit Stops are a place for people to use the bathroom, dispose needles and pet waste, and have staffing to ensure safety and cleanliness that the Auditor estimates is less costly than the self-cleaning bathrooms the City sold years ago, and less than the recently installed Ballard Commons Portland Loo.
  • SLI SPD-9-A-2 requests SPD to develop a Citywide approach to collect and report the theft, damage or vandalism of City assets, namely copper wire and the damage caused by the theft. This SLI requires a quarterly report to Council that:
    • Identifies whether City departments are tracking damage to City infrastructure, including damage caused by copper wire theft;
    • Recommends how City departments could most effectively track damage to City infrastructure; and
    • Recommends steps that SPD and other departments can take to deter theft and to identify and address frequent offenders of copper wire theft
  • SLI SPD-10-A-2 requests that SPD investigate the purchases of copper wire at the Seattle scrap metal recyclers, and requests a report that:
    • Indicates how SPD examines records of copper wire transfers;
    • Identifies steps that SPD is taking to ensure that metal recyclers are keeping accurate records of transactions and deterring purchase of stolen metals; and
    • Identifies financial or personnel related resources that are needed to ensure that SPD has what it needs to do this work.

I will continue to track the progress of these items as either report backs from departments or in other committee workplans, to be tackled over the course of the year.

Committee Workplan

On Tuesday, in my new committee, Public Safety & Human Services, we had an updated from Council staff on the draft committee workplan.

Committee workplans help identify our work products, division of labor, and can be used to hold ourselves accountable for the work we promise to undertake.  The Committee workplan is not intended to capture all of the priorities I have for the year, only those that will go through my specific committee because they are the responsibility of either the Seattle Police Department, the Seattle Fire Department, the Human Services Department, the Office of Emergency Management, the Seattle Municipal Court, or the Law Department, the Office of Professional Accountability, the Office of the Inspector General, and the Community Police Commission.

Council intends on voting on the finalized workplans today at Full Council, and once approved they will be posted here.

Delridge Neighborhood Development Association Fundraiser

The Delridge Neighborhood Development Association (DNDA) is having their annual fundraiser on Friday, March 6. A non-profit, DND is developed to social, racial, and environmental justice. Their mission is “Integrating Art, Nature, and Neighborhood to build and sustain a dynamic Delridge”

You can support DNDA at their annual fundraiser:

When: Friday, March 6 – 6pm mingle, program starts at 7pm

Where: Metropolist, 2931 1st Ave S

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Black History Month; Hiawatha Play Area; Business Taxes and Preemption; SDOT Report on Delridge Way SW and Bicycle Lanes; Youth Employment Program Application Period is Now Open; In-District Office Hours

February 21st, 2020

Black History Month

If you haven’t already, consider taking time before this month is over to learn about the history and contributions of Black and African Americans in our country and community.  Here are some of our office’s recommendations.  What are yours?

  • You’ve probably heard about Ta-Nehisi-Coates’ The Case for Reparations, published in The Atlantic back in 2014. It explores our country’s history of officially discriminating against Black people in housing, and it’s as urgent and relevant today as it was then.
  • Redlining was the widespread practice of legally restricting people of certain races from living in certain neighborhoods. The Wing Luke Museum’s exhibit, Excluded Inside The Lines, closes this weekend.  It’s an excellent overview of how redlining worked in Seattle, and its impact on Seattleites who grew up here.
  • Did you know that 2019 was the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans arriving in our country? The New York Times produced 1619, a podcast series (with transcriptions, if you prefer to read) to explore the “long shadow” of slavery here.
  • Be inspired by Iconic Black Women: Ain’t I a Woman, an homage by artist Hiawatha D. to the “resilience, power and beauty of Black women and Black women history-makers” at the Northwest African American Museum in the Central District.
  • Check out Hair Love, this year’s Short Film Oscar winner, a joyful short that shows an African-American dad learning to care for his daughter’s natural hair. The filmmakers were inspired by the Crown Act in California, which bans discrimination based on natural hairstyles.  Washington lawmakers are currently debating similar legislation – you can learn more here.
  • 1865 – a podcast that tells the story of how the promise of the right to vote and 40 acres and a mule for freed slaves was betrayed. Particularly interesting for me was the role suffragist John Mercer Langston  He recruited thousands of African Americans to fight for the Union Army and promised that their service in the war would earn their right to vote and property ownership. The Freedmen’s Bureau, originally founded to help slaves own property seized from slave owners evolved (after the nation went back on its promise to confiscate land to deed to former slaves) to oversee labor contracts, run a bank, and establish schools for freedmen and their children.

Hiawatha Play Area

Please join Seattle Parks and Recreation on February 27 at the Hiawatha Community Center to learn about the Hiawatha Playfield relocation and renovation, review design options, and provide input to the preferred design that will be presented in May 2020.

Thursday February 27, 2020

11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (Tot Gym)

Or

6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. (Evening Meeting)

Hiawatha Community Center
2700 California Ave SW, Seattle 98116

The project will remove the play area from the north end of the park and provide a new play area just south of the wading pool. The project will provide new play equipment, park amenities and landscaping. The new play area site and features will provide improved visibility and access for all. The project includes restoring the old play area site for nature play.  Learn more here.

Business Taxes and Preemption

House Bills 2907/2948: Last week, I joined my colleagues in expressing strong support for HB 2907 and its companion SB 6669, bills before the state legislature in Olympia, which would give King County the authority to tax businesses, and commit the revenue to addressing our region’s homelessness and housing needs.  This tax would be levied on business payroll for salaries over $150,000; small businesses would be exempt.  As of Thursday, 2907 was replaced by HB 2948, a clean version that will continue to be debated.  In both cases, it’s a truly progressive vision for a tax that impacts only businesses who are benefiting the most from our thriving local economy.

Negotiations have been intense among the bills’ sponsors, business interests, labor, local cities and King County.  One of the biggest questions is about “preemption”: whether Seattle’s own ability to leverage a progressive business tax would be taken away by this bill.  On February 10th, Councilmembers signed a letter to the bills’ sponsors clearly expressing our opposition to pre-empting Seattle from using our own limited revenue options.  Here are some excerpts from that letter:

“We understand that conversations about including preemption continue and we oppose any such additions to the legislation at this time.”

“(W)e cannot currently support attempts that preempt us or strip us of our limited resources and make our city’s tax code even more regressive. The City’s taxation power is already extremely limited and, as it relates to this taxation tool, in many· ways underutilized. To allow preemption in that context, sets up municipalities like Seattle to be on a slippery slope to further limiting our already narrow taxation powers. In the long-term, this would be a mistake.”

“Do not pass legislation that preempts the City of Seattle from using the limited revenue streams we currently have.”

“Preemption” is not the only issue that is of critical importance to the City of Seattle in this legislation.  Our letter also expressed the equally important needs to:

  1. increase the total revenue authority
  2. specifically allocate at least 50% for housing, with the remaining funding allocated for other evidenced-based supports, and
  3. clarify the share of revenue available to Seattle.

Councilmember Sawant’s Resolution 31934:  On Tuesday, Councilmember Sawant introduced a resolution opposing all preemption in the state legislation.   I joined four of my Council colleagues in voting against this resolution, which was much narrower than the letter Council had sent on February 10th.  It only discussed a blanket opposition to preemption and did not include any of the additional concerns referenced above.

I also voted no because I don’t believe the resolution would have strengthened our position in the ongoing negotiations in Olympia, being led by the bills’ sponsor Representative Nicole Macri (who received the Council’s letter last week).  My goal is to give Rep. Macri maximum flexibility to negotiate a package of very important priorities that the Council holds, including and beyond opposing preemption.

The Long Game:  I am in this for the “long game,” and that requires looking at the bigger picture of progressive revenue options the city may use – not getting hung up on one particular approach.  For instance, an important “long game” principle that HB 2907/2948 will facilitate is regional funding for housing and behavioral health and homelessness services.  A “Seattle only” approach – which CM Sawant has proposed separately – will not accomplish this.

Think of it as a building block.  If suburban cities receive funding from this new regional revenue source and build affordable housing and provide their own behavioral health and homelessness services, they will receive the benefit of those expenditures, and see that it is in their own self-interest to do more locally – such as developing partnerships with low income housing developers, instead of relying on Seattle to do the building.

Upside Down v. Progressive Taxation:  Enshrining the principle of progressive taxation in state law is another critically important “long game” policy objective, which the Seattle-only approach will not accomplish.  Washington is unique in having a constitution that has previously been interpreted to forbid income taxes.  As a result, our state’s tax code is the most regressive in the nation.  Washingtonians struggling on the smallest incomes pay six times more in taxes than those earning the highest salaries.  It’s completely upside down.

Seattle will likely have yet another opportunity to pursue a more equitable tax structure in the near future.  In 2017, City Council passed my municipal tax on high incomes, and in 2019 the State Court of Appeals issued a ruling that challenges the State Supreme Court’s 1930’s-era, 5-4 decision that found a city income tax to be unconstitutional.  The Court of Appeals found the City does have the statutory authority to impose an income tax and ruled it unconstitutional to prohibit cities from enacting net income taxes.

The high earners income tax ordinance identified many priorities for the revenue, including addressing the homelessness crisis, affordable housing, education, transit, mental and public health services, green jobs, and meeting carbon reduction goals.  The State Supreme Court is poised to consider whether to take this up this Spring.  2017 estimates were that this would raise $140 million annually in progressive revenue. If we win this case, my priority will be to use some of the revenue to lessen the impact of our upside down taxes, including sales and property tax and taxes on small businesses.

Strong Champion:  I am heartened that Rep. Nicole Macri is representing the City’s interests in these complex negotiations with a large number of moving parts. Rep. Macri is nationally known as a Housing First expert and for her deep understanding of effective strategies to end homelessness for people living with serious disabilities.  I am confident that Rep. Macri will be vigilant in negotiating to deliver as many of the city’s priorities as possible. She has spent her professional lifetime working on affordable housing and homelessness.  Rep. Macri is as interested as anyone in ensuring that the City of Seattle has the progressive revenue tools we need to adequately address our homelessness and housing crises and help more Seattleites find homes.

SDOT Report on Delridge Way SW and Bicycle Lanes

During the Council’s budget process, I sponsored a budget proviso requiring SDOT to report back to the Council on a number of items before proceeding with the Delridge Way SW – Rapid Ride H Line project.

The Council has received the first report, regarding “Implementation of the Bicycle Master Plan as part of the project, as required by Chapter 15.80 of the Seattle Municipal Code.” SMC 15.80 comes from Ordinance 125902, adopted by the Council in September 2019 to require that “whenever SDOT constructs a major paving project along a segment of the protected bicycle lane network, a protected bicycle lane with adequate directionality shall be installed along that segment.” It states that If the SDOT Director determines that “the characteristics of the physical features or usage of a street, or financial constraints of full compliance prevent the incorporation of a protected bicycle lane,” the Director shall provide a written report to Council detailing the following information:

  1. Why it is impractical for this project to comply with subsection 15.80.020;
  2. That the alternatives analyzed in determining that full compliance with subsection 15.80.020.A are not practical; and
  3. How connectivity of the protected bicycle lane network could be advanced in the absence of a protected bicycle lane including a cost estimate for providing such connectivity.

SDOT has determined that meeting the conditions set forth in the ordinance are not practical for Delridge Way SW RapidRide H Line because, as stated in Section 1(B) of the ordinance, the “physical features or usage of [the] street… prevent[s] the incorporation of a protected bicycle lane with adequate directionality.”  SDOT’s report to Council outlines the technical constraints that influenced the decision-making process, the alternatives considered in determining full compliance is not practical, and how connectivity of the bicycle network is advanced through the project.

Here’s a link to the report, which describes alternatives considered, and SDOT’s decision making process.

SDOT has indicated a report on the remaining items identified in the budget proviso will arrive soon.

Youth Employment Program Application Period is Now Open

The Seattle Youth Employment Program (SYEP) is open to young people, ages 16-24 for low-income households and communities that experience racial, social, and economic disparities with the goal of increasing their ability to pursue careers that pay well and are meaningful to them.

There are two components to the program, an exploration and learning experience during the schoolyear, and a summer internship where interns will be paid $16.39 for up to 150 hours over six weeks.

Check out the website to see if you’re eligible and are interested in applying. The application period will close on Tuesday, March 17.

In-District Office Hours

My next in-district office hours will be on Friday, February 28 at Senior Center of West Seattle (4217 SW Oregon St) from 2:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.  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 and receive a confirmed appointment (rather than first come first served for the walk in folks) 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.

  • Friday, March 27, 2020
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, April 24, 2020
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, May 29, 2020
    Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St
  • Friday, June 26, 2020
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, July 31, 2020
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, August 21, 2020
    Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St
  • Friday, September 25, 2020
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, October 30, 2020
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, December 18, 2020
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
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Roxhill Wetland Update; Seattle/King County Clinic; Transitional Encampment Legislation; Letter re: HB 2907; Council Passes Winter Evictions Defense; West Seattle Chamber Luncheon; In-District Office Hours

February 14th, 2020

Roxhill Wetland Update

The Roxhill Bog Committee has been working on this issue for many years attempting to save this important wetland. You can read a detailed timeline and history compiled by the Committee here.

Roxhill bog, at the Longfellow Creek headwaters, is actually a fen, defined as “open wetland systems that generally receive some drainage from surrounding mineral soils and are often covered by grasses, sedges or reeds.”

The importance of this effort is best described as the advocates have themselves: “to provide the community with a safe and engaging natural area for recreation and education… the health of Longfellow Creek, its salmon. and saving of one of the last peat fens in Seattle. Climate change and urbanization have caused Roxhill Bog to degrade to a critical tipping point if not addressed now, restoration of its natural functions may no longer be feasible.”

King County prepared a report in 2000 for Seattle Parks and Recreation which revealed that after the park was replanted the fen was no longer retaining sufficient water and recommended that a hydrological study be conducted to understand why the water was not being retained and how to engineer a solution. Seattle Parks and Recreation did not seek a hydrological study.

In 2015, SPU used CCTV to try and determine where the loss of water was occurring, with inconclusive results.

Since taking office in 2016 I have worked with the community on this issue including getting the Seattle Public Utilities and the Department of Parks and Recreation to attend a meeting at the Fen with the community. I’ve provided letters of support to both the American Rivers Association and King County to assist with grant applications. With King County Councilmember Joe McDermott’s support, the community recently received the WaterWorks grant from King Council which will allow the community to proceed with their own hydrological study.

Preservation and rehydration of the fen is so important because the future of salmon species that spawn and rear in Longfellow Creek is at a critical point.  Their numbers have diminished.  Improving the water quality in the creek is critical to their long-term survivability because of the effects of stormwater pollution on the health of the salmon. A natural hydrologic system that filters stormwater before it reaches the creek will improve water quality and save salmon.

Seattle/King County Clinic

In need of free medical, dental, or vision care?  Mark your calendar for the Seattle/King County Clinic, hosted at Seattle Center through Sunday 2/16.   The Clinic provides free services on a first come-first served basis for anyone who shows up – even if you have health insurance.

  • All are welcome regardless of income, insurance, housing or immigration status
  • Patients will not be asked for ID or documentation of any type
  • Free parking is available

Learn more, access flyers in multiple languages, and have your questions answered here.  Please help spread the word!

Transitional Encampment Legislation

I wrote about this topic a couple weeks ago and wanted to provide an update since the Committee voted this week at a special meeting of the Council’s Select Committee on Homelessness Strategies and Investments.  Councilmembers in attendance approved legislation allowing for more transitional encampment permits; Tiny House Villages are one type of transitional encampment.  The legislation was needed because the current permitting ordinance was scheduled to sunset in March – and transitional encampments are an important tool for the City to help people stay safe while finding homes.

Data shows that Tiny House Villages are the most effective type of temporary shelter in helping their residents find permanent housing.  In the first six months of 2019, 37% of encampment residents found their own homes, compared to 23% of people in enhanced shelter and just 4% of people in basic shelter.  Tiny House Villages are continually improving this important work, more than doubling their success rate from 2018 to the first half of 2019.

Councilmember Sawant’s bill, CB 119656, would make changes to encampment permitting procedures, including:

  • allowing the City to issue up to 40 permits for interim use encampments;
  • permitting encampments on a wider variety of sites including publicly owned land and residential zones; and
  • allowing unlimited renewals of one-year interim use permits, subject to compliance with all applicable regulations.

I sponsored two amendments that were approved by committee members:

  • Geographic dispersion – This requires that new encampments are equally distributed among Council districts, so that communities that are already generously hosting encampments will not be overburdened with additional sites.
  • Setbacks – This ensures that encampments are modestly set back from the property lot line in residential areas, allowing some distance from neighbors while still giving encampments plenty of room for living areas.

Additional amendments may be offered.  Councilmember Lewis has an amendment to require case management and security at interim use encampments and to clarify that the definition of transitional encampment includes modular structures as a type of shelter.

It’s important to note that this bill only changes the permitting process for transitional encampments; it does not allocate any additional funding to establish additional encampments.  The 2020 budget passed last fall included ongoing funding for the operation of the current eight transitional encampments, as well as Council-added funding to site and support two additional transitional encampments in 2020, which would prioritize referrals from the City’s Navigation Team and Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program.  That funding remains unchanged.

This legislation will be discussed and voted on during the next full Council meeting on Tuesday, February 18th.   You can learn more about city-permitted villages here.

Letter re: HB 2907

You may have heard that the state legislature in Olympia is considering a bill that would give King County the option to levy a new tax on large businesses, and that the revenue would help address our region’s homelessness and affordable housing crises.  Here are the basics:

  • 1% to 0.2% tax on businesses with more than 50 employees
  • The tax is levied on compensation that businesses pay to employees making at least $150,000.
  • Small businesses are exempted from paying the tax.
  • It’s estimated the tax could raise up to an additional $121 million a year.
  • The revenue would be required to be spent on homelessness and housing.

Sounds good so far, and it appropriately asks our neighbors who are benefiting the most from Seattle’s prosperity to pay their fair share towards solving some of the problems that result from a booming economy and competitive housing market.

But under pressure from big business lobbyists, state legislators are considering adding a “pre-emption” clause.  If they are successful, and the legislation passes, that would mean that Seattle would be prohibited from using its own, very limited revenue authority to raise any additional funds beyond the $121 million.

A new report from McKinsey estimates our region will need an additional $450 million to $1.1 billion annually to build the affordable housing we need for people currently experiencing homelessness and those struggling on the very lowest incomes (around $33,000 annually for a family of four).  The $121 million raised would be welcome, but insufficient to meet the region’s need.  Seattle, last year, provided about $128 million in funding to build more affordable housing.  In 2019 King County provided about $134 million in funding to build more affordable housing.

At the Seattle City Council meeting this Monday, Councilmembers signed a letter to the legislation’s sponsors, thanking them for their efforts to increase our region’s revenue options, and asking them to:

  • Increase the amount of revenue that can be raised through their legislation
  • Not pre-empt Seattle from using its own revenue authority.

Council Passes Winter Evictions Defense

The Winter Eviction legislation was introduced by Councilmember Kshama Sawant in December.  It was heard in her committee, Sustainability and Renters’ Rights, in January when it passed out of committee with Councilmembers Sawant, Lewis, and Morales voting in favor and Councilmember Pederson abstaining. At Monday’s Full Council meeting we unanimously passed an amended version of the legislation.

The intent of the legislation is to help prevent evictions which may lead to homelessness during the coldest and wettest months of the year. The legislation builds on the City’s Just Cause Eviction Ordinance which was passed in 1980 and prevents landlords from arbitrarily ending rental agreements. The legislation states that in order to end month-to-month lease agreements, a landlord must use one of the 18 listed reasons. Some examples of Just Cause Evictions are:

  • Failure to pay rent after receiving a pay or vacate notice
  • Owner wishes to sell the property (must give 90-day notice to tenant)
  • Owner wishes to move into the property or have immediate family move into the property (must give 90-day notice to tenant)
  • Owner wishes to demolish or substantially rehabilitate the property (must go through the Tenant Relocation Assistance licensing process first)

The newly passed Winter Eviction legislation amends the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance by providing another defense to an eviction.  The tenant, once before a judge would need to say that the Winter Evictions legislation is their defense, and the eviction would likely be delayed until the end of February. However, a tenant can still be evicted in the winter months for eight of the 18 causes listed in the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance.

During the Full Council meeting on Monday several amendments were passed including an amendment I sponsored. My amendment ensured that landlords could still have the possibility of evicting a tenant for not only criminal activity, but also for activity that threatens the health or safety of other tenants or the owner. Other amendments which passed include:

  1. Exemption of small landlords who own four or fewer rental units.
  2. Reducing the no-eviction period from 5 months to 3 months, or December 1 through March 1.
  3. Making the winter defense available only to moderate-income tenant households, defined as households whose income does not exceed 100% of Area Median Income.
  4. Establishment of a mitigation fund for low-income tenants who utilize this defense and cannot access funds through other assistance programs, or to  affordable housing providers who demonstrate that (1) an eviction was delayed during this period because the tenant raised this defense and (2) the tenant is unable to pay rent during that period independently.

Council staff estimates that this mitigation fund would need just over $500,000 to ensure all landlords of households likely to be otherwise evicted are reimbursed for unpaid rent over the winter months.  This estimate is derived from households that could not take advantage of other mitigation funds and that rental assistance would be needed for all three months covered by the legislation.  This estimate is based upon the number of tenants evicted in the three winter months in the Losing Home Report, or 187 evictions for non-payment of rent for the time period.  Last year existing rent assistance funds were able to help 32 households a month, or about 96 tenants over the three winter months.  This means about to fully assist the number of renters likely to owe money for failure to pay rent over the winter months, we’d have to provide funding sufficient for 95 additional renter households at an average of $1900 per renter, or the average assistance provided by Home Base in 2019.

West Seattle Chamber Luncheon

I appreciated having the opportunity on Thursday to address the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce at their February luncheon.  I was asked to speak to my 2020 plan for District 1 work.  As Chair of the new Public Safety and Human Services Committee my focus this year include SPD hiring goals including implementation of a hiring and retention plan that the Council funded in last year’s budget (we’ll get a staffing report at me February 25th committee meeting).   Other Committee priorities for District 1 include:

For more about my District 1 plans for work being done in other committees on which I am a member (Finance and Housing, Select Committee on Homelessness Investments and Strategies Vice Chair, Public Assets and Native Communities Committee member, Transportation and Utilities Committee, member), you can see the PowerPoint presentation at this link here.

In-District Office Hours

My next in-district office hours will be on Friday, February 28 at Senior Center of West Seattle (4217 SW Oregon St) from 2:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.  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 and receive a confirmed appointment (rather than first come first served for the walk in folks) 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.

  • Friday, March 27, 2020
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, April 24, 2020
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, May 29, 2020
    Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St
  • Friday, June 26, 2020
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, July 31, 2020
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, August 21, 2020
    Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St
  • Friday, September 25, 2020
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, October 30, 2020
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, December 18, 2020
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
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Permanent Bus Pathway to Open for West Seattle/Downtown Buses; SPD Arrest in Alki Shooting; Legacy Business Nominations; Seattle Planning Commission; Constituent Email Report

February 10th, 2020

Permanent Bus Pathway to Open for West Seattle/Downtown Buses

King County Metro and SDOT have announced that, beginning on February 22nd, buses that formerly traveled between West Seattle to Downtown on the Alaskan Way Viaduct will access Downtown through Alaskan Way and Columbia Street. This is the permanent travel path planned for buses, and comes with the planned completion of two-way bus lanes on Columbia Street Downtown.

This will be an important improvement for many District 1 routes, including the RapidRide C Line, 21 Express, 37, 55, 56, 57, 113, 120, 121, 122, 123 and 125. Buses will no longer travel through the temporary routes on SODO or 1st Avenue. Planned bus stop locations are shown on the map below.

The C Line and the 120 (planned for conversion to the RapidRide H Line in 2021) carry a combined total of about 20,000 riders each day.

The next step will be the completion of dedicated transit lanes on Alaskan Way between South King Street and Columbia Street in lane 2021. Here’s a link to King County Metro and the SDOT Blog releases.


SPD Arrest in Alki Shooting/Public Safety Update

Many thanks to SPD for their work to arrest a suspect after last weekend’s late-night shooting at Alki Beach.

Gun violence affects our communities, not only in Downtown, but throughout Seattle. There is no one action that will end violence in our community.  All jurisdictions must work together.  The City’s 2020 State Legislative agenda states, “We support common sense, responsible solutions to reduce gun violence, including efforts to limit high capacity magazines and expanding gun free zones, and we believe that local governments should have the ability to regulate firearms or weapons to ensure the safety of their communities in accordance with local circumstances.”  If you want to learn more, contact the Alliance for Gun Responsibility at the link here.

During the last few years, SPD has conducted emphasis patrols in the Alki neighborhood during warm weather months; the Council approved funding in 2020 to ensure emphasis patrols continue.

Community Service Officers (CSOs) will begin work in coming months. CSOs are unsworn officers who can prioritize community services associated with law enforcement such as crime prevention and non-emergency tasks, and free up SDP officers for 911 response.

Reinstatement of the CSO program has been a Council-driven initiative and the Council, after providing funds in 2017 for the 2018 budget, has been keenly interested in the deployment model for these CSOs.  The Council, in 2018, passed Budget Action 38-5-A-2, “SPD Report on CSO Program Development and Implementation.

The CSO program re-launched in April with 10 officers and two supervisors; the jobs were posted in May for application.

The Mayor subsequently proposed adding an additional 5 CSOs and a supervisor in the 2020 budget, which the Council approved. The proposed 2020 budget notes, “The five officers and supervisor will expand the CSO team to 18 which will allow the teams to be based in precincts.”  I know that some have suggested that a full third of CSOs should be based in a downtown storefront to address public safety issues in the Westlake area.  I will continue to be an advocate for distribution of this important new resource to Southwest Precinct communities, with deployment based upon needs and defined by crime data.

Reminder: Legacy Business Nominations are Due in One Week

Small, locally-owned businesses are the heart and soul of District 1’s beloved neighborhoods.  Do you have a favorite local business that you believe deserves city-wide recognition?  Show your love and nominate them here by Valentine’s Day, Friday, February 14th.

The Office of Economic Development will selaect one business from each of the seven Council districts.  To be eligible, a business must be an independently owned, for profit business, in continuous operations for a minimum of 10 years in Seattle, and have fewer than 50 employees, including the owner.  Winners will receive public recognition at an awards ceremony, and small business support services.

I was thrilled to champion this program after the idea was brought to me by a District 1 resident.  Let’s honor the resilience of our beloved businesses and recognize their contribution to our communities’ cultural vibrancy, our local economy, and our sense of place.  Learn more and nominate your favorite District 1 business here.

Seattle Planning Commission Openings and Upcoming Open House

The Seattle Planning Commission is seeking new applicants. The Commission advises the Mayor, City Council, and City departments on planning goals and policies as well as advising on land use, zoning, transportation, and housing issues. The Commission is made up of 16 members.

Specifically, the Commission lacks a District 1 representative, so I’m reaching out and asking you to apply if this is a commission you might be interested in serving on. Commissioners are volunteers who serve three-year terms with the opportunity to serve two terms.

If you have questions, would like to speak to current Commissioners about their role, or would like to apply please contact Vanessa Murdock, Executive Director at 206-733-9271 or via e-mail at Vanessa.Murdock@seattle.gov by February 28.

Additionally, there’s an open house on February 13 from 5 – 6pm at City Hall in room L280.

January Constituent Email Report

Constituent correspondence is a very important task in my office. My staff and I spend time every day helping you improve our community, whether that’s by getting you help from a city department with our constituent case management services or giving you information about legislation that the Council is considering. The unshaded categories and numbers are problem-solving emails answered in January, what I refer to above as “case management services.”  The shaded categories and numbers are emails answered in January related to policy or legislation that the Council is considering.

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