West Seattle Bridge Update, June 26; Police Accountability Reports and Plans; Council Repeals Drug and Prostitution Loitering Legislation; Select Budget Committee Update; COVID-19 Updates

June 26th, 2020

West Seattle Bridge Update, June 26

At Wednesday’s West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force, SDOT proposed to allow general use of the lower bridge at Spokane Street from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., when traffic levels are lower. School buses will also be allowed anytime. Other types of uses, such as employer shuttles, healthcare workers and maritime users, are recommended for further consideration:

I thank SDOT for proposing this change; I’ve advocated for other uses for the last few months. SDOT noted that for vanpools and employer shuttle, a key consideration is how many users there are in each vehicle, a challenge during the COVID-19 era of social distancing, and expressed interest in getting data from employers about the number of users in shuttles.

Here’s a link to an SDOT blog post about their rationale. SDOT notes the bridge capacity constraints and the need to monitor conditions for potential changes. SDOT noted that they will also continue to explore increased access, which will depend on scalable enforcement solutions such as automated camera enforcement.

SDOT also presented an update on the status of the West Seattle Bridge. SDOT released a blog post earlier this week about repairing the bridge, where they note “we still do not know how long any repairs would last.” The blog post goes into detail about how steel post-tending systems work and testing to date.

Below is a visual of bridge stabilization SDOT plans, showing what carbon fiber wrap and post-tensioning reinforcement could look like:

SDOT also noted shared a visual showing that some work will be performed from barges, with four temporary platforms. This will reduce the maritime clearance for the bridge by seven feet:

SDOT indicated that this stabilization work would be designed to complement a repair, if that path is chosen.

The Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) also presented to the Community Task Force for the first time.

We learned that one of the members has extensive experience in tunnels, including immersed tube tunnels (e.g. in Boston). As this is a proposal with significant community interest, I’m glad to hear this skill set is reflected in the TAP.

SDOT noted that for replacement, which will be needed regardless of whether a repair is done first, a type, size and location study is the first part of the process. It will involve public comment. The consultant selected through the RFQ process will work with SDOT on this; SDOT indicated it’s too early to say what the schedule for this will be.

Below are the key actions for the TAP, the first item is to review and support the decision-making process for type of repair or not to repair:

SDOT also presented an update on their plans for neighborhood traffic and mobility plans, on the following schedule:

SDOT is calling this the Reconnect West Seattle Mobility Action Plan. It will include specific plans for southern neighborhoods on the peninsula: Roxhill/Highland Park/Riverview/South Delridge, as well as for South Park, Georgetown and SODO. As noted in the schedule, community comment and prioritization is requested when documents are shared the week of July 6. An update to the Community Task Force is scheduled for July 8th, and the 22nd.

Below are some of the neighborhood-specific goals for what SDOT has developed to date:

Here’s a link to the SDOT presentation.

A memo received from the City Budget Office indicates significant shortfalls in revenues, especially from the commercial parking tax and school zone cameras. It notes “SDOT estimates 2020 costs for bridge repair to be $22.8 million. To help fund 2020 costs for emergency repair work, SDOT will take on additional debt supported by an interfund loan in 2020. More funding will be required in 2021 and 2022.”

Travel Times

The most recent travel times show heavy traffic on West Marginal, Highland Park Way, with increases above pre-COVID levels on the South Park Bridge and South Michigan Street. Traffic on the 1st Avenue South Bridge is at pre-COVID levels:

Here are the most recent travel times:

 

Police Accountability Reports and Plans

On Tuesday I held a special Public Safety and Human Services Committee meeting where we heard from the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) and the Office of Inspector General (OIG). These are two of the three legs of the “three legged stool” that make up the city’s police accountability framework, the third is the Community Police Commission (CPC) who unfortunately were unable to attend the meeting.

At the meeting the OPA and OIG updated the Council on their 2019 annual reports, you can read the OPA report here, and the OIG report here. Further the committee discussed the progress on their current investigations regarding the demonstrations. The OPA has a dashboard up here so that you can track their progress on these investigations. The OPA has received over 18,000 complaints of police misconduct since the beginning of the demonstrations in late May which have lead to 17 individual investigations all of which are tracked on the previously linked dashboard. The OIG on the other hand looks at systems instead of individual complaints.  In response to the call for a community led investigation into the actions of SPD, the OIG has begun what’s referred to as a Sentinel Event Review. As outlined on the OIG website:

“Sentinel event review is a systems-based, root cause analysis of incidents with significant negative outcome that is of importance and concern to community. The goal of this review is systemic improvement, and we are seeking to ensure it is grounded in community priorities and perspective, and also informed by law enforcement and relevant subject matter experts. The focus is on system improvement that addresses institutional racism.”

While both the OPA investigations and the OIG Sentinel Event Review will take time, both agencies have put aside other work to ensure expeditious conclusions and accountability of the Seattle Police Department for actions taken during these demonstrations.

After the committee meeting, following up on my questions during committee about whether the decision for all SPD staff to leave the East Precinct was in accordance with SPD policy and procedures, I sent a request for an OPA inquiry into the questions below:

  • What are the SPD policies and procedures to authorize vacating a precinct?
  • What are the conditions, according to SPD policies and procedures, under which SPD can authorize vacating a precinct?
  • Who, according to policies and procedures, authorizes SPD staff to vacate a precinct?
  • In this instance, who directed SPD staff to vacate the East precinct?
  • In this instance, did the person or persons who directed SPD staff to vacate the East precinct have the authority to do so?
  • In this instance, did the conditions exist, according to SPD policies and procedures, for an authorized SPD personnel to order vacating the East Precinct?
  • The Chief of Police and Mayor Jenny Durkan have stated that they did not direct staff to vacate the East Precinct, if not were either of them aware that staff had been directed to vacate the East Precinct?
  • If there is a determination that no personnel directed or authorized SPD personnel to vacate the East Precinct, what is the violation of policies and procedures of individual officers if they did so without direction or authorization?

Council Repeals Drug and Prostitution Loitering Legislation

On Monday the City Council voted unanimously to repeal the City of Seattle’s drug loitering and prostitution loitering laws.  The bills were sponsored by Councilmembers Lewis, Pedersen, and Morales.

The 2018 Seattle Reentry Workgroup Report, written in response to Council Resolution 31637, recommended that “City Council should remove drug traffic loitering and prostitution loitering from the City’s criminal code.”

The City Attorney has declined to prosecute under these laws since 2018.  Repeal will ensure that a charge of loitering can no longer be a basis for arrest or future prosecution when there is no evidence otherwise of drug trafficking or sex work.

The 2018 report also recommended expansion of pre-filing diversion. The City Attorney recently sent the Council recommendations to expand the pre-filing diversion program for young adults aged 18-24 used by Choose 180, to include adults 25 and over. I support this expansion. I’ll be proposing to add funding for this expansion during the Council’s current reconsideration of the 2020 budget.

During the Council meeting, I read the introduction to the report, which led to the recommendation to repeal these laws, which says,

“We would like to acknowledge and thank the many individuals and organizations who provided support, expertise, and shared their experiences and wisdom throughout this process. We also recognize those who have been supporting folks returning from incarceration and organizing for institutional change for a very long time. We know that much of that work has been done without compensation or acknowledgment yet done with love and an unyielding commitment to family and community strength. We thank you for that work and hope these recommendations support you. We also acknowledge that the individuals most impacted by the recommendations in this report are unable to join us at the City’s tables, as they are still incarcerated. We did this work in your honor.”

Select Budget Committee Update

Progressive revenue

Last week, I wrote about Budget Chair Mosqueda’s JumpStart legislation, which I am co-sponsoring. JumpStart is a finely-tuned progressive tax, specifically requiring the largest employers to pay a tax only on the highest salaries that are driving our city’s affordability problems.  It’s expected to raise about $173 million in 2021, the first year, and about $200 million annually after that.

JumpStart has a clear spending plan that will make significant impacts on affordable housing, homeless services, help for small businesses, and investments in equitable development initiatives.  In 2020 and 2021, it will provide additional resources for Covid relief.

I am sponsoring an amendment that will begin the tax later this year (instead of next year), raising an additional $75 million to fund lifelines like housing and food assistance that Seattleites are relying on right now, especially those most impacted by coronavirus, including BIPOC communities.

Starting in 2022, JumpStart will provide significant annual funding, estimated at $132 million a year, for housing that is affordable and available to Seattle residents struggling on the very smallest incomes, and folks experiencing homelessness.   It will also put $20 million annually into the Equitable Development Initiative, an important tool for community-driven development in communities at risk of displacement. And it includes about $40 million annually to support local businesses and economic activity to spur the recovery.

The legislation has a “sunset clause,” which means the tax will end after ten years.  It also includes a provision that would allow Council to end the tax early if a similar, progressive tax is passed by the County or State.  Next Wednesday, Council will consider amendments to the legislation.

Seattle Police Department budget “inquest”

Seattle City Council continued its deep dive into understanding the Seattle Police Department at Wednesday’s Select Budget Committee meeting.  We heard a presentation from Council Central Staff, and representatives of the City Budget Office and Seattle Police Department, focused on questions that Councilmembers had identified on June 10th.  You can view the presentation here.

City Council submitted numerous questions to the Seattle Police Department about the demonstrations after the death of George Floyd.  Some of these questions are related to funding questions related to SPD’s budget.  Here’s a link to the replies to Council questions.

In the Budget Committee on Wednesday, we ran out of time to be briefed on a presentation I requested about 911 response (presentation can be found at the link) and the categories of work involved in SPD response.  I made this request in a previous budget committee begin the process of identifying what work currently done by police officers might best be done by other types of professionals.

While it’s a starting point, I’d like to include work beyond just 911 calls, and a clearer sense of what officer work could best be done by others. Here’s an article with a high-level chart for how officers typically spend time in other cities that’s a useful illustration of what will be helpful for policymakers in Seattle.

Mayor’s 2020 budget rebalancing package

On Tuesday, Council received from the Mayor a package of legislation to help address the expected $300 million shortfall in tax revenue due to COVID19 in 2020.  It’s a complex process that will take up much of Council’s energy through the month of July.  On Wednesday, we received an initial, high-level briefing from Director Ben Noble of the City Budget Office on the rebalancing package; you can view that presentation here.

Particularly at a time when Seattle residents are using their voices and bodies to call attention to the way that SPD investments have increased disproportionately over time, and calling on City Council to reshape our community safety function and make investments in Black and brown communities that have suffered and died from overpolicing – we have to resist the urge to cut without intention, and instead choose investments in Seattle residents and communities that will spur the health of our economy, as well as our neighbors and communities.

COVID-19 Updates

Mandatory face masks starting Friday

You’ve likely heard that the Governor has mandated wearing face masks starting on Friday.  Here’s what you need to know.

Governor Inslee has issued a statewide order requiring individuals to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces such as stores, offices and restaurants. The order also requires face coverings outdoors when you can’t stay 6 feet apart from others.  A face covering is not needed outside if you are able to regularly stay 6 feet away from other people who do not live with you.

Use cloth face coverings. Do not use medical masks.

Wear fabric face coverings, such as cloth face masks, scarves, and bandanas. The face covering must fit over your nose and mouth. Instructions on making cloth masks

It is important to save medical-grade surgical masks and N95 respirators for healthcare workers and people who have special health needs.

Some people do not need to follow this directive, including:

  • Children ages 2 years and younger. Babies and toddlers under age two should never wear cloth face coverings.
  • Children ages 3-5 are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering when possible.
  • Anyone with a disability that makes it hard for them to wear or remove a face covering.
  • Anyone who is deaf and moves their face and mouth to communicate. Check out this guidance for community members who are deaf, hard or hearing, or blind.
  • Anyone who has been advised by a medical professional to not wear a face covering because of personal health issues.
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, or unable to remove the face covering without help.

If you see someone without a face covering, please extend the benefit of the doubt and respect others’ decisions. No one should be subjected to stigmatization, bias or discrimination for wearing or not wearing a face covering. Default to understanding rather than judgement.

In addition to face coverings, the most important things we can do to protect our health and that of others are:

  • Maintain six feet of distance from others
  • Stay home when ill
  • Practice frequent hand washing and respiratory etiquette (cough in your elbow, not the air)
  • Disinfect surfaces often.

These all work together to slow the spread of COVID – especially when the majority of people participate.

Extension of Moratorium on Rental Evictions

On June 18 the Mayor issued an Executive Order to extend the relief policies that have been put into place during the Covid-19 public health crisis. The Executive Order extends the moratoriums on residential, nonprofit, and small business evictions through August 1. This means that unless there’s an immediate threat to health and safety of the community, landlords cannot move to terminate or evict a tenant. If you’ve received a termination or eviction notice, please reach out to Renting in Seattle at 206‐684‐5700 or go online to submit a complaint. For additional resources available to renters, please see this link.

Tired of social isolation?  The City has new resources for seniors

Social isolation is a major problem for older people in the best of times, and worse during COVID19. The City’s Aging & Disability Service (ADS) serves residents who fall squarely within the high-risk category for COVID-19—age 60+; those with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease; people with compromised immune systems; and people with health disparities.

ADS and partners have taken steps to address social isolation, including:

  • ADS produced printed cards for food and meal deliveries that promote Community Living Connections and AARP’s Friendly Voices service
    • Any older adult or caregiver can call Community Living Connections to access resources. All calls are free and confidential: 1-844-348-5464.
    • Friendly Voices arranges calls between older adults and trained AARP volunteers for social connection. Request a call at https://aarpcommunityconnections.org/friendly-voices/ or 1-888-281-0145.
  • Age Friendly Seattle now offers a weekly online program, Thursdays 10:30 a.m.  Log in at https://bit.ly/AgeFriendlyLive.
    • Programs are either a virtual Civic Coffee Hour or a new series called Close to Home: Stories of Health, Tech & Resilience.
    • Live events are fully auto-captioned in English and six other languages, using MS Teams. The captions remain options for anyone who views the programs later on the ADS YouTube channel. This helps serve people who are hard of hearing as well as people with limited English.
  • Look for new programming called “AgeWise TV” on Seattle Channel at http://www.seattlechannel.org/feature-shows/agewise-tv. ADS supported a partnership between the Pike Market Senior Center, Seattle Channel, and other senior centers and community organizations to develop ten one-hour programs for older people.
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Today is Juneteenth; Legislation on Crowd Control Weapons, Chokeholds, and Badge Display; West Seattle Bridge Update June 19; Budget Committee Update; COVID Update

June 19th, 2020

Today is Juneteenth

On Wednesday, I joined my City Council colleagues in unanimously approving a proclamation recognizing today, June 19th, as Juneteenth.  Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved African-Americans in Texas first learned that slavery had been abolished two and a half years earlier by the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.   The first Juneteenth celebration was held in Texas a year later.  In part, the proclamation reads:

WHEREAS, for Black people in this country, Juneteenth is the closest occasion of a “freedom day” to celebrate;

WHEREAS, the struggle for the total freedom of Black people has not been achieved, the gains toward that freedom deserved to be named; and…

WHEREAS, in Seattle, Juneteenth will be observed in people’s homes, neighborhoods, and hearts; and

WHEREAS, there are still many vestiges of slavery that persist and we as country have a long way to go until we reach full economic and social equity, and an to end anti-blackness;

NOW, THEREFORE, we, the Seattle City Council, proclaim and recognize June 19, 2020, as JUNETEENTH in Seattle, honoring its historic importance, acknowledging the work still to come, and encouraging all residents to join us in its celebration, because Freedom is worth celebrating.

Legislation on Crowd Control Weapons, Chokeholds, and Badge Display

Last week, I wrote about CB 119804 banning Seattle police from using chokeholds, and CB 119805 banning Seattle police from owning or using crowd control weapons such as teargas and rubber bullets.  On Monday, both bills passed as amended.  I sponsored amendments to ensure that the Department of Justice received notice of the legislation per the requirements of the federal consent decree that the City of Seattle is under; requiring that mutual aid agreements with other jurisdictions include language banning use of crowd control weapons for crowd dispersal; and requesting a formal recommendation on crowd control weapons by mid-August from the City’s police accountability organizations, as required by the Council’s 2017 accountability ordinance.  All three of my amendments passed unanimously.

The Council also adopted legislation I sponsored to require police officers to display the numbers on their badges.

The legislation was drafted in response to constituent outcry from constituents who indicated that officer badge numbers were not visible during recent demonstrations.

People in Seattle have the right to expect that badge numbers are clearly visible. This law requires it.

West Seattle Bridge Update June 19

On Wednesday the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force met for the second time.

SDOT indicated, for the first time, that their analysis to date shows the West Seattle Bridge can be repaired. Right after hearing this, I asked for clarification. SDOT indicated their radar analysis in the ground showed no fatal flaws, though they did note this is their analysis to date, not their final recommendation, and studies with their consultant continue.

At this point, in short, the key questions are:

  1. Can the bridge be repaired?
  2. If so, how many years could it be in use?
  3. How much would it cost?

In other words, if the bridge can be kept in use, whether it makes sense depends on the cost. SDOT’s chart below shows the path toward repair or replacement beginning with a decision point during the summer:

At the Community Task Force meeting next Wednesday, SDOT will present a proposal for expanding use of the lower bridge, currently restricted to freight, transit, and emergency vehicles.

I’ve advocated for additional users being allowed. For example,  general use during non-peak hours such as overnight, and allowing employer shuttles, van pools and school buses during peak times (I.e. treating them as transit).

The Technical Advisory Panel will present to the task force next week as well.

At the meeting this week SDOT noted goals for managing traffic in 2021, when traffic could increase in line with Governor Inslee’s Safe Start Washington phased reopening plan. Here’s a slide showing how people got around in 2019, and the impact of using the same travel patterns without the West Seattle Bridge:

SDOT’s draft approach for the task force’s consideration shows goals for 2021, and the number of commuters that would need to change in order to meet the goals, without the traffic and transit lanes of the West Seattle Bridge:

Below are outstanding questions my office has in to SDOT:

  • Has any investigation of the dimensions and locations of the current bridge elements been conducted and compared to the dimensions and locations of the bridge immediately after it was built to ensure that movement of the bridge foundations did not contribute to the cracking in the box girders? Has SDOT determined the foundation isn’t or hasn’t moved?
  • The May 15th WSP memo describes several potential modes of failure. Is it not possible to protect against loss of the mid-span concrete by installing additional steel reinforcing bars inside the box girder across the cracked concrete and yielded reinforcing steel to compensate for the loss of strength by the existing steel bars?  This would afford, at least, a temporary protection against the effects of a failure of the bridge to support its own weight.  This might also be part of a permanent repair solution.
  • Past technical discussions (HDR 2014) have concluded that the exact cause of the cracking could not be determined analytically. Is it viable to move forward with a solution without reaching a conclusion about the cause of the current problems?

I’ve also asked for an update about weekly growth of cracks on the West Seattle Bridge. SDOT is gathering this data, and indicates context is important for interpreting what it means.

King County Metro announced they will be adding Water Taxi service starting on Monday, and restoring shuttle Routes 773 and 775 that link to the water taxi.

Traffic volumes continue to be high on West Marginal and Highland Park, and moving above pre-COVID levels on the South Park Bridge, and South Michigan Street in Georgetown on the way to I-5:

Travel times are shown below:

Budget Committee Update

On Wednesday the Budget Committee held meetings during both the morning and afternoon.

During the morning session, Councilmembers heard about Budget Chair Mosqueda’s JumpStart Seattle progressive revenue proposal. Here’s a link to the Central Staff presentation with additional information. The legislation presented in committee provides for rate structures for a payroll tax as follows: for total business payrolls from $7 million to $1 billion 0.7% on total employee compensation from $150,000 to $499,999, and 1.4% on employee compensation of $500,000 or more; and for businesses with payrolls of $1 billion, 1.4% tax on compensation from $150,000 to $499,999, and 2.1% on compensation of $500,000 or more.

The legislation exempts grocery stores and some other entities the city does not have authority to tax.

The overall spending plan includes $86 million in 2020 from the emergency and revenue stabilization funds for COVID-19 relief. The revenue stabilization fund is for revenue shortfalls, which Seattle is experiencing; the emergency fund allows for use in response to epidemics.

This is a finely-tuned progressive tax that specifically requires the largest employers to pay only on the highest salaries that are driving our city’s affordability problems, with spending to addressing affordable housing, homeless services, help for small businesses and investments in equitable development initiatives.

The afternoon session included a discussion with City Councilmembers from Minneapolis, New York City, Austin, and San Francisco about other cities’ approaches to police budgets, and potential cuts, or proposals to lay out a new path for public safety.

COVID Update

King County is Now in Phase 2 – What does that mean?
Limited social gatherings may be held with five or fewer people outside your household. Restaurants, retailers and other businesses can once again serve customers. Most businesses will be required to operate at reduced capacity and hours, and all will be required to follow state guidelines designed to ensure the health and safety of employees and customers. These call for social distancing, regular hand washing and, with few exceptions, wearing cloth masks.

King County Public Health has a helpful webpage that can answer your questions.  And if you’re a business owner confused about the rules you must follow, you can call the King County COVID-19 Business and Community Information line: (206) 296-1608.

New Parks Guidance & Amenities Reopening

Visiting your neighborhood park this weekend?  Seattle Parks and Recreation has issued new guidance to “Keep It Small and Simple.”  Park visitors may enjoy trails, walking paths, and lawns, but must refrain from large gatherings, large sport games, or parties.  Some amenities are reopening.  Here are additional details:

Reserving athletic fields: You can make your field reservations now for practices starting July 1.  Organizations must commit to operating consistent with the Governor’s guidance.

Boat ramps: All boat ramps will be open to the public by June 20. Social distancing at boat ramps and when out on the water is still critical. Additional details on boat ramps here.

Swimming: Select swimming areas will reopen with lifeguards present daily starting July 1.  Indoor and outdoor pools, wading pools and spray parks will remain closed for the summer. While the Governor has permitted pool use in phase 1.5 with very limited capacity, Seattle Parks and Recreation previously decided to focus staff resources to provide outdoor lifeguarded swimming areas for summer 2020. Fall aquatic programming will be announced in August.

Amenities: Outdoor tennis and basketball courts, disc golf, community gardens and skate parks are now open for public use. Maintenance crews will be reinstalling nets and hoops over the next few weeks. No more than five people should be on the court at a time, players should refrain from sharing sports equipment, and give each other six-feet of social distance while recreating.

Facilities that remain closed:

  • Play areas and playgrounds
  • Picnic shelters
  • Fire pits
  • Wading pools and indoor/ outdoor pools
  • Spray parks (currently prohibited)
  • Community centers programs
  • For a full list visit the blog

And as always, these are the most important things you can do to keep us all safe and healthy:

  • practice physical distancing of 6 feet or more
  • frequent hand washing or sanitizer use
  • use of cloth face coverings in public for those who are able
  • avoiding group gatherings and poorly ventilated spaces.

 

Premium Pay for Food Delivery Drivers

I wrote about this premium pay for essential workers a couple of weeks ago – this Monday the Council passed the legislation. The final version of the legislation grants a $2.50 per drop off fee to food delivery drivers in the city of Seattle after negotiations Councilmember Lewis and I led with stakeholders. These workers are essential much like grocery store workers, and yet they were not being compensated for the risk they are taking in doing this work during this pandemic. Furthermore these workers were not being compensated for their time or for the supplies necessary to clean their vehicles between trips.

This legislation was passed under the authority of the Mayor’s emergency proclamation and goes into effect immediately and will remain until that emergency proclamation is rescinded.

Speak up for the arts

Calling all arts and culture champions:  The Inspiration League is a simple and quick way for individuals to amplify the voice of the cultural community for lawmakers to hear as they are developing public policy and appropriating relief funding. Across the state, valuable science, heritage, and arts organizations are struggling to survive and many cultural workers are unemployed. Get involved here to ensure the voices of the cultural communities are heard, and resources are invested in long term recovery.

 

Public Meeting July 1st for Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook Seawall Project

The Seattle District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $3 million contract September 27, 2019 to Redside Construction to replace an existing, 500-foot-long seawall Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook, 4503 Beach Dr. SW, Seattle, WA 98116, that was constructed in the 1920s and has experienced significant erosion and damage from storm events.

You can attend a public meeting on Wednesday, July 1st at 4pm, via your phone or online.  Learn more and find instructions to join the meeting here.   The West Seattle Blog covered the first public meeting earlier this week.

The construction contractor, Bainbridge Island-based Redside Construction, will begin staging equipment soon. It’s anticipated pre-staging will help avoid delays caused by the West Seattle Bridge closure. Redside Construction could start pre-staging equipment and close public access to the park as early as June 22. Construction is still set to begin early-July.

In the first week of staging, residents will see the installation of no parking signs and detours as well as fencing around the construction site. Temporary office trailers and steel piles for the seawall construction will also begin to arrive. Additional construction materials and a crane will be delivered by the end of the third week.

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Demonstrations in Seattle in Response to Police Brutality and Policing; West Seattle Bridge Update, June 12; Budget Committee Meeting and Rebalancing Package; Virtual Office Hours

June 13th, 2020

Demonstrations in Seattle in Response to Police Brutality and Policing

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, and the deaths of countless other black and brown people at the hands of law enforcement before Mr. Floyd, demonstrations continue in Seattle and all over the nation.  The demands for change have spurred a conversation about the history of law enforcement in this country as a slave catching institution and enforcer of Jim Crow laws and what the future of this institution should be given that history.  In light of those national conversations, the police response to demonstrations over the last nearly three weeks, and the disparities in law enforcement we see here in Seattle, I am resolved to do all that I can do to center black voices in our efforts on the Seattle City Council.

I want to recognize the many demonstrations in support of black lives in District 1, including several throughout West Seattle, from the Black Lives Matter event in the Junction last weekend, to Hate Free Delridge’s numerous events, protests on the South Park Bridge, a student-led event at West Seattle High School, in White Center with students marching from Chief Sealth High School, and the Peace Peloton bike ride, to name just some of the events.

It’s my sincere hope that we as a society will truly reach for transformative change, and we must do so here in Seattle as well.

Below are a number of updates about what’s been happening at City Hall during the last week, and votes scheduled for Monday.

Badges

On Monday the Council will vote on legislation I am sponsoring to require officers to display their badge numbers, while allowing mourning bands to observe the death of officers on a different part of the badge. After I announced that I was drafting legislation, Chief Best issued a directive to all officers to display their badge numbers, while wearing mourning bands. I appreciate her order, and believe it needs to be adopted into city law.

Inquests

On Monday, I circulated a letter that Councilmembers signed asking the City Attorney to withdraw the civil petition challenging a reformed process for inquests developed by King County Executive Constantine.  The City Attorney withdrew the petition the next day.  I thank him for taking this action.

The City Attorney notes that Washington state lacks a consistent statewide inquest process; Pierce County doesn’t have inquests at all, so there will be no inquest for Manuel Ellis. I requested the City’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations to add the need to lobby for legislation like this to the City’s Legislative Agenda.

Last weekend King County Executive Constantine called on cities, including Seattle, to withdraw lawsuits against King County inquest reforms developed with the families of Tommy Le, Che Taylor, John T Williams, and Charleena Lyles as well as community groups like the Community Police Commission and others. The reformed inquest process was supposed to be put in place in 2019. In January 2018, Executive Constantine put all inquests on hold pending the review process.

There are currently nine pending inquests that can’t go forward because of the lawsuits opposing the reforms: Isaiah Obet; Damarius Butts; Eugene Nelson; Tommy Le; Charleena Lyles; Curtis Elroy Tade; Robert J. Lightfeather; Mitchell O. Nelson ,and Marcelo A. Castellano.

The Community Police Commission has taken a number of stances in support of inquest reforms, including participation in the inquest process review committee, and a statement of support for the reforms,  which took several months and involved affected families, many concerned King County residents, and solicited input from police agencies and lawyers for police unions. That process ultimately culminated in a package of reforms that found widespread approval from a coalition of community organizations, a police union, and the inquest reform panel.

For many years, the inquest system operated functionally to legitimize and immunize all deaths in police custody.  The County Executive convened a distinguished and balanced panel to lead a community-wide conversation about possible reforms to the inquest process.

Body cameras

The Mayor issued an executive order directing police officers assigned to work demonstrations to activate body-worn cameras at protests and demonstrations. This was requested by community groups and protestors to improve accountability during the ongoing demonstrations.

Letter to Mayor/Chief

I joined a number of local elected officials in signing a letter last weekend to the Mayor and Police Chief.

The Open Public Meetings Act does not allow for a majority of Councilmembers to sign the letter outside of a public meeting; I circulated the letter at Monday’s Full Council meeting to allow other Councilmembers to sign.

The letter firmly requested the Mayor and Chief to direct SPD to change tactics, to take urgent and sustained action to de-escalate police tactics used in daily protests, and noting tactics are placing constitutional rights at risk; exacerbating health risks amidst a devastating respiratory epidemic; bringing emotional trauma and racial aggression; it notes that “deploying police in riot gear to form a wall of officers positioned against peaceful protestors is not conducive to de-escalation and healing”.

The letter includes a commitment to 1) de-militarize the police, 2) further restrict use of excessive or deadly force by police, 3) increase accountability and transparency in police union contracts, 4) give subpoena and other investigative powers to independent oversight boards and 5) redirect police department funding to community-based alternatives.

The Council has taken actions in recent years to promote these objectives; we must do more.

  1. De-militarize the police

In 2017 I sponsored legislation that created a new section 3.28.140 of the Seattle Municipal Code which states “The Seattle Police Department shall not participate in the United States Department of Defense 1033 program authorized by Congress under Section 1033 of the National Defense Authorization Act (codified at 10 U.S.C. §2576(a)) or its successor, or any other federal program that transfers excess military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies at reduced or no cost.” To their credit, SPD had already stopped participating in this program, though I believed it was important to enact this into law.

The Council will be using the June/July budget process to further scrutinize investments in SPD related to this demand (more below).

  1. Use of excessive or deadly force by police

On Monday, City Council will consider legislation sponsored by Councilmember Sawant that will restrict Seattle Police Department officers’ use of dangerous tactics and weapons.  CB 119804 would prohibit officers from using chokeholds, including neck restraints or carotid restraints, in the discharge of their duties.  According to the Seattle Police Manual, a chokehold is considered force that causes or is reasonably expected to cause, great bodily harm, substantial bodily harm, loss of consciousness, or death.  CB 119805 would ban Seattle Police Department from owning, purchasing, renting, storing, or using “crowd control” weapons that are designed to cause pain or discomfort.  This would include items that have been used against protestors over the past two weeks, including rubber bullets, flashbangs, tear gas, and other chemical irritants. Pepper spray would be allowed, but could not be used in a demonstration, rally, or other First Amendment-protected event.

  1. Accountability and transparency bargaining police union contracts

I’ve been working on the transparency requests from the three accountability bodies included in the legislation adopted about bargaining with the Seattle Police Guild in February.  We will have advisors with expertise in police accountability to guide the city in bargaining this year.

  1. Subpoena Power

The Council’s 2017 accountability legislation included subpoena powers for the Office of Police Accountability and the Inspector General. This is mentioned in the resolution I sponsored in February   about bargaining with the Seattle Police Guild as a priority for all three of Seattle’s police accountability bodies.  Specifically, the OIG called for the City to “preserve subpoena power as achieved in the SPMA contract,” the OPA called for the City to “strengthen and clarify subpoena authority and the process for how subpoenas are to be issued and enforced,” and the CPC called for the City to ensure that subpoena authority for OPA and OIG is aligned with the SPOG.

On Monday, I announced that I would be introducing legislation to create a process to allow the Office of Police Accountability and the Office of the Inspector General to use subpoena power to require that uncooperative individuals who have not been forthcoming in responding to requests for information: “produce any records or documents, or for the attendance and testimony of witnesses to give evidence.”

  1. Funding for Police

The Council has taken in recent years is to create a Community Service Officer (or CSO) program that went into effect this year.

CSOs assist with mediating disputes, follow up on calls for non-emergency services, help residents navigate services, support programming for at-risk youth, and attend school and community-hosted events. Some of the work involves assisting homeless persons and individuals struggling with substance abuse to access programs like diversion opportunities, housing, and behavioral health services.  One study shows that law enforcement spends 21 percent of its time responding to and transporting people with mental illnesses.

As noted in the press release announcing the jobs, “SPD seeks to fill the open CSO positions with individuals from demographic groups currently underrepresented in the Police department, including elders, immigrants, and individuals with past involvement in the criminal justice system.”

When the job applications were posted, the response was overwhelming, with more than a 1,000 people applying, eager to participate in a different model.

There is more information about the Council’s efforts to redirect police department funding to community-based alternatives in a separate article at the end of this blog post in the Budget Committee article.

 

West Seattle Bridge Update, June 12

SDOT released a decision tree about the path forward for resolving the closure of the West Seattle Bridge. The starting point is a decision during the summer about whether a repair is feasible, based on bridge structural testing, including core samples taken from the bridge last weekend to test the corrosion of steel.

One path in the chart leads to repair, with opening as soon as 2022, with a lifespan of up to 10 years. In this path, the bridge would still need to be replaced around 2032.

The second path leads first to replacement, with controlled demolition.  SDOT estimates that a new bridge could take roughly four to six years, opening approximately 2024-2026, depending on the type, size and location of replacement.

The bridge will need to be stabilized and strengthened for both options, before work can proceed. SDOT says,

“Again, we will know more as to whether or not repairs are feasible later this summer, once we complete our analysis on the structural stability of the bridge. Any decisions before then would be imprudent, but has and will not preclude our efforts to prepare for all pivots that data might suggest.” 

The decision tree also notes that if the Repair pathway is chosen, changing circumstances may lead to moving to the Replace path. Repair could potentially mean fewer lanes of traffic than the bridge carried before.

As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, after SDOT released their Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for design of a replacement for the bridge, I requested clarification from SDOT whether the RFQ would allow for a tunnel option, since the RFQ did not specifically reference a bridge as the only replacement option for the West Seattle Bridge.

SDOT revised the Request for Proposals released last week that specifically notes a tunnel, and coordinated options with Sound Transit, as follows:

 Purpose and Background to include the following statement:

Other replacement alternatives will be evaluated as part of the contract, and will include but may not limited to tunnel and Sound Transit coordinated options.

SDOT held the first meeting of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force. At this meeting the members introduced themselves and their backgrounds, and the neighborhoods they live in, and SDOT went over the project at a high level with information previously public. Here’s the Project Milestones timeline they shared at the meeting with actions through 2021:

The second meeting will be next Wednesday.

Here’s an update on the most recent traffic data; traffic remains high on West Marginal, and Highland Park Way.

Below are recent travel times, by time of day:

Here’s a graph showing vehicle traffic volumes since early February:


Budget Committee Meeting and Rebalancing Package

On Wednesday the Budget Committee met and began an inquest into Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) budget. Council Central Staff presented a detailed analysis of SPD’s budget which totals just over $409 million. 75% of SPD’s budget is dedicated to salaries and benefits plus another 7% for overtime. Over the next several weeks I and the rest of Council will be taking a forensic look at SPD’s budget and having a conversation about the hiring goals and whether reliance on growing the size of the department is the best way to make our city safer.  Most importantly, we will commit to reinvesting these funds into people and communities most harmed by historical involvement with law enforcement – black and brown people and communities.

Then Dallas Police Chief Brown noted in 2016, “Every societal failure, we put it on the cops to solve,” several days after a sniper killed five officers in his city.

“Not enough mental-health funding, let the cop handle it. Not enough drug-addiction funding, let’s give it to the cops,” he said. “Schools fail, give it to the cops. That’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems. I just ask other parts of our democracy along with the free press to help us.”

Some are demanding that the Council defund the SPD, which could mean a lot of different things, one specific target is 50%.  Others are demanding that we dismantle the police department.  For instance in Camden New Jersey a few years ago, they relieved all officers of duty, including the Chief, and made them all reapply to the new department.

Though the Council will be looking for cuts to make in the SPD budget to reallocate community-based alternatives, we can’t just flips a switch and then have no police. For instance, in Minneapolis they have committed to a one year process; they aren’t abolishing the police department today.  Minneapolis City Council members are saying they will gradually “dismantle” the department and replace it with one that uses health-care workers and social workers instead of police officers to respond to substance abuse, homelessness or mental-health calls. Violence prevention would be the work of community-based counselors.

What I hope we can have is a systematic questioning of the specific roles that police currently undertake, and then develop evidence-based alternatives so that we can dial back our reliance on them, and identify the most effective public safety approaches.

For instance, we should do an analysis of 911 calls to see how many of them are for mental health distress, overdose, social disorder, or simply filing out a police report after a theft (work that often happens many hours after the crime itself) to determine whether we need SPD response in all cases, or would social workers or substance abuse disorder professionals, CSOs, experts in dispute resolution, or other professionals be more appropriate?

In response to a youth protest Friday, and the position of the Seattle teachers’ union, the Seattle Education Association, the Seattle School Board has expressed an intention to end the practice of having armed “school emphasis officers” stationed across Seattle schools: South Shore PK-8, Aki Kurose Middle School, Denny International Middle School and Washington Middle School.  The School District ending the use of these officers could allow the City to stop providing funding for these officers.

The Budget committee also discussed Councilmembers Morales’ and Sawant’s revenue package. There are three bills included in this legislative package: the tax itself, an interfund loan (IFL), and the spending plan. According to central staff the tax would raise $500 million annually via a 1.3% tax on business payrolls of $7 million or more annually. The bill exempts grocery stores and businesses with payrolls below the $7 million threshold.

As I’ve previously written about before, the city is facing an estimated $300 million shortfall for 2020 according to the City Budget Office. The Budget Committee was set to hear a proposed budget package from the Mayor to address this shortfall, but the legislation was delayed by the Mayor for at least one week to make further adjustments before proposing the package to Council.

Wednesday’s Budget Committee meeting kicked off a six-week budget process where the Council will be meeting on Wednesdays regularly through July 15 and is aiming to have a Public Hearing on the rebalancing package on June 23 at 5pm.

 

Virtual Office Hours

On Friday June 26, I will be hosting virtual office hours between 3pm and go until 6pm, with the last meeting of the day beginning at 5:30pm.

Due to the nature of virtual office hours, you will need to contact my schedule Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov) in order to receive the call-in information and schedule a time. We will be using Skype for Business, and you can either utilize the application or the dial-in number.

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

  • 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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Murder of George Floyd and Demonstrations in Seattle; West Seattle Bridge Update: June 5; COVID Response Funds Available for Community-Based Organizations – Apply by Tuesday 6/9 ; New COVID Testing Capacity in Seattle, with Sites Sought for a West Seattle location; Don Armeni Boat Launch Re-Opens; Emergency Heliports to be Tested at Two West Seattle Parks; Essential Pay for Essential Workers; May Constituent Email Report

June 5th, 2020

Murder of George Floyd and Demonstrations in Seattle

This nation has a long and proud history of protest for change; and an even longer history of racial injustice and institutionalized, racialized violence, especially towards Black men and women.  The protests we are experiencing in Seattle, and seeing around the country, are the result of those histories, sparked by the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.  It’s important that we put these protests in that context: that Black men and women have disproportionately suffered and died at the hands of law enforcement in Seattle, and across the country. And that protesters are pleading not just for justice for George Floyd, but for an end to police violence against Black men and women here in Seattle, and across our country.

I was with many of fellow Seattleites at Not This Time’s event at Westlake on Saturday protesting the murder of George Floyd and generations of harm done to black communities and black people at the hands of law enforcement. The stirring words of rage and sorrow of the many voices lifted Saturday were a lament to the failures of a nation – built by black and brown people – to deliver justice in law enforcement, deliver economic equality, and deliver educational equity.

I have heard many say over the last few days that embracing protest does not have to constrain our rights from expressing rage, sorrow, and heartbreak.  It must not.

Last Saturday, I learned from the Mayor’s Office at 4:57pm about the 5pm curfew, and talked to as many protestors as I could.   That evening when I got home, I contacted Council President González and we decided that we needed to publicly issue a request to the Mayor’s Office, Chief Carmen Best, and Chief Harold Scoggins to brief the City Council and provide updates regarding the number of injuries and arrests, as well as the health and safety impacts.

We asked for a detailed after-action and incident report including details specific to rifles stolen, police vehicles destroyed, damage to property and to the Interstate as a result of the demonstration.  We requested a review of whether the policies for policing of demonstrations in the SPD Policy and Procedures Manual, following implementation of recommendations of the Community Police Commission, were followed.

I convened a meeting of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee on Wednesday. You can view the meeting on the Seattle Channel committee archive.

The meeting included public comment, and three panels: a community panel, Executive departments, and Seattle’s civilian-led accountability bodies. I encourage you to listen to the community panel.   The participants included:

  • Willard Jamison of United Better Thinking: working with youth and young adults who are unserved by traditional service providers.
  • Omari Salisbury with Converge Media a leading producer of culturally relevant audio and media content.
  • Netsie Tjirongo, a filmmaker, community organizer and member of the Seattle Film Task Force.
  • Dominique Davis of Community Passageways, a felony diversion and prevention program leading the way in reimaging and recreating an alternative to today’s criminal justice system.
  • Evana Enabulele of Queer the Land a collaborative project grounded in the self-determination of queer and trans Black/indigenous/people of color (QTBIPOC)

I’d like to thank the panelists on all three panels for their participation on short notice.

Andrew Myerberg, the Director of the Office of Police Accountability, which is responsible for investigating complaints about officer conduct, noted they have received 15,000 complaints (a number are about the same incidents), especially regarding a young girl who was pepper sprayed, as well as numerous complaints regarding flash-bangs and tear gas. OPA is seeking to address as many complaints w/in 60 days as possible. They have delayed work on other complaints, and will be 100% focused on this; the Seattle Police Management Association and the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild have agreed to toll other cases for 30 days, for which I thank them.

OPA is issuing updates on its press release page and twitter feed.

Inspector General Judge noted the Office of the Inspector General is undertaking a systems-based, root cause analysis of recent demonstrations response by SPD. The OIG say it is “OIG is committed to making this a community-centered process” and lists how to comment about this here.

CPC Co-Chair Dave, in response to a Council question about the city’s accountability structure, noted that the promise of the 2017 accountability legislation has not been realized, and other comments noted below.

The Council asked a number of questions for the executive, some of which come from the presenters; SPD published a timeline of events of May 30th.

I have heard from constituents about a number of issues: use of tear gas and blast balls; curfews; badge visibility; the consent decree with the US Department of Justice, police accountability, the labor contract with police officers, use of force, body worn video, and the city budget. I’ll seek to provide information about each below.

Use of tear gas and blast balls:

SPD has policies regarding crowd management. The policies require advance warning before using pepper spray (“OC spray”) or blast balls, but note this requirement is “as feasible.”

The policy states “When feasible, officers will not deploy blast balls and OC spray until a dispersal order has been issued to the crowd and the crowd has been given a reasonable amount of time to comply.”

Constituents have raised this issue, as well as the use of tear gas; during the committee meeting, CPC Co-Chair Prachi Dave also raised the issue of how this was being applied. I also said I was concerned that the references to the “if feasible” language in Chief Best’s response to questions about adherence to this policy was applied in a way that was overbroad.

During public testimony at the committee meeting, a Capitol Hill resident testified (as noted in Councilmember Mosequeda’s tweet” testified that his 3 month old son woke up coughing, spitting out mucus. He and his wife fled the neighborhood with their child.

Others note that we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is disproportionately affecting communities of color. Dr Jeffery Duchin tweeted,

“Public Health – Seattle & King Co opposes the use of tear gas & other respiratory irritants based on the potential to increase COVID-19 spread”.

Councilmember Mosqueda and I asked the CPC, OPA, and OIG for emergency recommendations regarding use of tear gas in demonstrations.

Today the three accountability bodies issued a joint letter to the Mayor and Chief requesting that

“the Seattle Police Department to cease the use of CS gas in response to First Amendment activity, until such time as any appropriate use can be vetted by oversight entities and incorporated into a written SPD policy. That policy should include sufficient safeguards so that CS gas is only used, if at all, in a manner that keeps faith with the public trust.”

The letter notes “The SPD manual does not reference the use of CS gas nor the conditions under which it can be used for general crowd control.”

I support this recommendation; the letter includes additional valuable information.

The Community Police Commission issued a letter in 2015 regarding SPD response to Post-Ferguson and Black Lives Matter demonstrations that mentioned police on blast ball usage required immediate review, and another in 2016, stating, “we reiterate the need we identified in May 2015 for a structured conversation in which the police and community members may together explore these issues. We again offer to convene that conversation unless an alternate forum is provided by the Council or other City leaders. Following that dialogue, we likely will offer recommendations for the use of blast-balls and the appropriate use of de-escalation tactics in crowd management situations. Until this can occur, we ask that the use of blast balls as a crowd management tool be suspended.”

It’s clear we need a broader community conversation about use of tear gas and blast balls. I raised this with the Chief when we spoke yesterday.

Curfews:

Council President González and I contacted the Mayor on Tuesday to express our concern about the lack of stated tactical objectives delineated in the Emergency Order being served by a curfew, and a we requested a description of describe tactical objectives of declarations. The Council has the right to confirm, modify or deny emergency orders.  Tuesday afternoon the Mayor issued another Citywide curfew to run through Saturday morning.

On Wednesday evening, shortly before a meeting notice was to go out for the Council to consider the most recent curfew (24 hours notice is required for Council action) the Mayor indicated her intent to withdraw the curfew notice. I thank her for revising her previous decision.

Badge visibility:

Earlier this week I announced my intent to introduce legislation to require officers to display their badge numbers, while allowing mourning bands to observe the death of officers on a different part of the badge. The legislation will be introduced on Monday.

Subsequently, Chief Best issued a directive to all officers to display their badge numbers, while wearing mourning bands. I appreciate her order, and believe it needs to be adopted into city law. After the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, people noted they could not view the nametags of officers; Councilmember Steinbrueck sponsored legislation to require display of name tags.

SPD policy on uniforms complies with the 2000 legislation. It also statesOfficers may wear the Seattle Police Honor Guard mourning badge in accordance with: 3.170-Honoring Those Killed in the Line of Duty.” This calls for a Mourning Band “affixed horizontally across the center of the badge.” That’s where the badge number is, so in accord with this the policy will need to be updated.

Consent Decree, Accountability, Labor Contract

The Consent Decree, police accountability, and the contract between the city of Seattle and police labor unions are all interrelated.

The City of Seattle and the Department of Justice entered into a Consent Decree and MOU in 2012 after the DOJ found excessive use of force in 2011 in response to a 2010 request letter from a number of community groups.

A federal monitor was appointed to oversee the consent decree process, and issued ten systemic assessment reports on topics such as use of force, stops, search and seizure, early intervention, crisis intervention, community confidence, and other reports on the use of force.

In 2017 the Council adopted the accountability ordinance, after receiving authorization from the federal judge overseeing the consent decree. Accountability had not been explicitly included in the Consent Decree.

Under state labor law, public employees have the right to collectively bargain their working conditions. Consequently, some of the provisions in the accountability ordinance must be approved in collective bargaining agreements with the labor unions representing officers (Seattle Police Officers Guild, or SPOG) and management (Seattle Police Management Association, or SPMA).  These agreements must be negotiated with the unions.

The agreement with SPMA says “the City may implement the Accountability Ordinance.”  The agreement with SPOG includes some provisions of the accountability ordinance, but not others. CPC Co-Chair Dave noted that is why the promise of the 2017 ordinance has not been fully realized.

Labor contracts are starkly different than other legislation the Council votes on; they must be approved up or down; no amendments are allowed.

The process for contract negotiations has placed Councilmembers at a severe disadvantage. Labor Relations, in the executive branch of government, conducts negotiations. Five Councilmember participate in the Labor Relations Policy Committee (LRPC) to plan and adopt the strategy or position to be taken by the City during negotiations. Negotiations are legally confidential.

However, in the past once negotiations began the five Councilmembers have received only monthly updates, which allows for only high-level briefings. This placed Councilmembers at a significant disadvantage, because Labor Relations has the power to conclude an agreement, which the Council then must vote on, up or down, without amendment.

The City Council is required to hold a public hearing before beginning negotiations with SPMA and SPOG, and Councilmember González held public hearings in the committee overseeing public safety late last year; the contracts expire at the end of 2020.

Earlier this year I became chair of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee, and sponsored a resolution regarding collective bargaining with SPOG, which included letters from the three accountability bodies, and states the City will consider in good faith whether and how to carry out the recommendations from the public.

The letters from the three accountability bodies included recommendations for external advisors for negotiations; while the recommendations differ slightly, they include assisting the city while bargaining, to build community trust, and report to the community afterwards, to the extent possible, considering Confidentiality requirements.

The five Councilmembers on the Labor Relations Policy Committee (LRPC) are working to incorporate these recommendations into the negotiations, including greater Council awareness of what is taking place in negotiations.  City work in advance of negotiations has been delayed due to the COVID 19 pandemic.

Two years ago Judge Robart found the city in compliance with the terms of the Consent Decree, and a required two-year sustainment period then began as a precondition for the City to be fully released. Robart subsequently found the city out of compliance on accountability issues.

On Wednesday, the City Attorney withdrew the City’s motion to terminate the sustainment plan elements of the federal consent decree. The motion did not include a request of the court to find the City in compliance on issues related to police accountability, the same issues included in the 2017 Accountability legislation, but not the SPOG collective bargaining agreement.   The City Council asked US District Court Judge Robart, who is charged with overseeing the consent decree, to consider making recommendations for the city to address these issues and he did.

Because the City has not addressed the issues related to police accountability, the same issues included in the 2017 Accountability legislation, but not the SPOG collective bargaining agreement, I advocated for the motion to not include accountability, and thank the City Attorney for not including accountability in that in the original motion and for withdrawing the motion altogether this week.

Body worn video

In 1979, Seattle adopted the nation’s first local ordinance limited police intelligence gathering, by prohibiting police from collecting information on lawful political activities. The legislation was supported by Seattle’s Coalition on Government Spying, and forms the backbone of SMC 14.12 in the Seattle Municipal Code.

In 1975 there was disclosure that Seattle police had spied on, photographed and compiled extensive files on hundreds of political activists as well as community and church leaders during the late 1960s and early 1970s at a time when there were lots of demonstrations.

That legislation begins by stating “freedom of speech, press, thought, association, and assembly, as well as the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, are among our most cherished civil liberties, and the right to privacy is indispensable to safety and individual rights.”

SMC 14.12.A states:

“No person shall become the subject of the collection of information on account of a lawful exercise of a constitutional right or civil liberty; no information shall be collected upon a person who is active in politics or community affairs, unless under the same or similar circumstances the information would be collected upon another person who did not participate actively in politics or community affairs.”

I wanted to share this in the context of requests that SPD policies be changed for cameras to be turned on during demonstrations. The American Civil Liberties Union was involved in development of the policies; I’d like to discuss this with them.

SPD’s policies for body-worn video at demonstrations say,

“Employees will not record people lawfully exercising their freedom of speech, press, association, assembly, or religion unless they have probable cause to believe that criminal activity is occurring or when ordered to record by a supervisor, as provided below.

When an imminent risk to public safety or large-scale property destruction appears likely, supervisors at the squad level and/or the incident commander of an event may order employees to record with BWV. Under such direction, employees will record until ordered to cease recording.”

Here’s a link to SPD’s “Body Worn Video” page, that links to a report about stakeholder discussions about this policy; the City also has a surveillance ordinance limiting the use of new technologies.

Right to Observe:

In 2017 I sponsored an Observer Bill of Rights, affirming the right to observe police activity. The legislation created a new section Subchapter VI of section 3.28 of the Seattle Municipal Code.

I am reviewing whether this needs to be updated.

City Budget

The City Budget Office briefed the City Council in April, and indicated there could be a revenue shortfall in the 2020 adopted budget of up to $300 million. The Council’s Select Budget Committee will begin meeting next week to address this.

West Seattle Bridge Update: June 5

Request for Qualifications released June 2

On June 2nd SDOT announced a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a team to design a poteential replacement for the bridge if it cannot be repaired.

An optional pre-submittal conference is scheduled for June 9th; a deadline for questions is noon on the 18th; the deadline for responses is June 30, with interview scheduled for July 28 and 29.

A design to replace the bridge will be needed even if SDOT is able to repair the bridge because repair is estimated to only have a ten-year life span.

The contract is estimated to be in the range of $50 million to $150 million.

The proposal requires responses to include project planning/alternatives analysis approach; project management approach; team skills and cohesiveness; previous project experience; project understanding and approach; and alternative delivery method/construction phase experience and approach.

The “Project Planning/Alternatives” section requires an answer to “relevant examples of how alternatives were identified and evaluated, how a recommended alternative was selected, what criteria was used for the selection” and “previous project experience that resulted in ensuring project planning goals and objectives were met for a bridge project of similar size.”

The “Project Understanding and Approach” section requires applicants to “Identify the three most critical challenges that will need to be resolved to deliver a successful project and your proposed approach to resolving each challenge” and “Describe the team’s approach for coordinating design elements between multiple permitting agencies/stakeholders such as US Army Corps of Engineers, US Coast Guard, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Railroads, Sound Transit, etc” and “Describe your view of the three most challenging elements to be overcome in delivering this type of bridge project.”

Here’s the evaluation criteria scoring for these categories:

Here’s a link to the RFQ, and more about the RFQ on the City’s consultant contracting page.

SDOT expects to know in coming weeks whether the bridge can be repaired. They are releasing to RFQ to begin the process of selecting a design team in order to be able to switch to that, without delay.

Because so many people have expressed interest in the immersed tube tunnel concept, I have asked SDOT whether this RPQ would preclude a team from making a proposal for an immersed tube tunnel for SDOT’s consideration.  Immersed tube tunnels are composed of segments, constructed elsewhere and floated to the crossing site to be sunk into place and then linked together.  Here’s a quick summary of advantages and disadvantages from Wikipedia:

Advantages relative to these alternatives include:

  • Their speed of construction
  • Minimal disruption to the river/channel, if crossing a shipping route
  • Resistance to seismic activity
  • Safety of construction (for example, work in a dry dock as opposed to boring beneath a river)
  • Flexibility of profile (although this is often partly dictated by what is possible for the connecting tunnel types)

Disadvantages include:

  • Immersed tunnels are often partly exposed (usually with some rock armour and natural siltation) on the river/sea bed, risking a sunken ship/anchor strike
  • Direct contact with water necessitates careful waterproofing design around the joints
  • The segmental approach requires careful design of the connections, where longitudinal effects and forces must be transferred across
  • Environmental impact of tube and underwater embankment on existing channel/sea bed.

SDOT plans to release a decision-tree soon to show what’s guiding their decision making process about whether to repair or replace.

Traffic data update

Repaving of Roxbury between 16th and 18th Avenues SW has been completed, in conjunction with King County DOT. SDOT updated the signal controller at 35th and Holden; they’ve updated 26 signals so far. They installed “Do Not Block” signs at intersections and driveways on West Marginal.

Below are the most recent traffic numbers; traffic continues to be high on West Marginal, Highland Park Way, and increasing to above baseline averages in Georgetown on South Michigan, the route to I-5. The South Park Bridge traffic and SW Roxbury has resulted to near baseline levels.  Note: we’ve been informed by HPAC members that traffic counts on Highland Park Way might be incorrect since the equipment was damaged.  The equipment has recently been replaced.

Here are the most recent travel times:

Other updates

The West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force, of which I am a member, will begin meeting next Wednesday.

SDOT has indicated they may bring forward a proposal for potential changes to use of lower bridge.

Last week the Puget Sound Regional Council Executive Board approved a supplemental funding action to provide the city with authority to dedicate $2 million in funds already received toward a bridge planning study.

COVID Response Funds Available for Community-Based Organizations – Apply by Tuesday 6/9

Applications are due June 9th for new grants of up to $25,000 for organizations working with communities at the highest risk of immediate and long-term negative health, social and economic impacts from Covid.  King County’s Equity & Social Justice COVID-19 Community Response Fund Grants will be awarded in these areas:

  • Organizations providing direct service to individuals and families with economic, physical, or social needs.
  • Organizations providing emergency assistance in the form of grants to communities for food security, housing security, and financial assistance.
  • Organizations providing in-language technical assistance to the community (navigating unemployment, health and long-term services and support systems).
  • Organizations supporting undocumented residents not eligible for state or federal benefits.
  • Organizations supporting Black, Native, and residents of color that are LGBTQ, disabled, and unsheltered as those most impacted by the COVID-19 virus and mandatory isolation/social distancing.
  • Outreach designed to raise awareness and increase utilization of local testing resources by communities of color and community-based data collection to record.
  • Organizations that can engage in ongoing data collection efforts to inform comprehensive anti-hate and bias policy and programming at King County.

Full criteria are here, and a link to the application form can be found here.

New COVID Testing Capacity in Seattle, with Sites Sought for a West Seattle Location

Free, drive-through testing sites will open today and Monday in two former vehicle emissions testing locations: North Seattle at 12040 Aurora Ave. (open Monday) and South Seattle at 3820 6th Ave. S. (open today).  The testing sites will operate Monday thru Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for Seattleites who book ahead through the website.

On-site testing will be coordinated by trained Seattle Fire Department (SFD) personnel. SFD estimates pre-registration will allow the testing procedure to take fewer than 10 minutes per test. Together, these sites will be able to test 1,600 people daily.  The City is also looking to add walk-up testing and additional capacity in West Seattle, which it has determined is another high-need area.

These sites are designed and intended for drive-up testing and are not ADA compliant for pedestrians. If you need walk-up testing with ADA accommodations, please call your healthcare provider or Public Health – Seattle & King County at 206-477-3977 for more information.

Under Washington law, Covid-19 testing is free – you can learn more here.  Patients at the City’s two new testing sites will not be charged for testing and will not receive a bill, regardless of health insurance status. For insured clients, UW Medicine will handle the billing of an individuals’ private insurance, Medicaid or Medicare; you will not be charged a co-pay.

Don Armeni Boat Launch Re-Opens

Saltwater boat ramps on Elliot Bay at Don Armeni and Golden Gardens are now open, with social distancing guidelines in place:

  • Stay home if you are sick, and wash your hands frequently
  • Please give other boaters at least 6ft of space at all times
  • Launching boats should be done as quickly as possible, with little to no lingering in the launch parking lot
  • Only go boating with those who live in your household
  • Refrain from linking up with other boats for gatherings/parties

While the ramps will be open consistent with park hours, during busier times the boat ramps will be staffed with employees who manage traffic and will collect data on social distancing compliance and boat launch usage. Only vehicles with boat trailers are allowed in ramp parking lots.

You can learn more here.

Emergency Heliports to be Tested at Two West Seattle Parks

Seattle Parks and Recreation received a proposal from the Seattle Fire Department (SFD) to use Alki Playfield and Walt Hundley Playfield as emergency helipads to transport urgent care patients to Harborview Hospital in the event of an emergency during the West Seattle Bridge closure. SFD will conduct practice runs in early June.

Essential Pay for Essential Workers

Last Monday the Council voted unanimously on legislation brought forward by Councilmember Mosqueda to temporarily expand Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST)  for workers of food delivery network companies (FDNCs) and transportation network companies (TNCs).

This coming Monday the Council will vote on another proposal from Councilmember Lewis and myself to establish a temporary $5 premium fee per delivery from FDNCs (companies such as UberEats, DoorDash, Instacart, and Postmates). Drivers for these companies are typically independent contractors – often misclassified – and are not subject to the City’s $15 minimum wage or other local labor laws.

The $5 fee recognizes the hazardous yet essential work these contractors are providing. The rational for the $5 is broken out into three areas – hazard pay, time to adequately clean their vehicles to meet public health guidelines, and the supplies needed to clean their vehicles.

May 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 May, what I refer to above as “case management services.” The shaded categories and numbers are emails answered in May related to policy or legislation that the Council is considering.  Please note the new COVID-19 row highlighted in yellow.  These are a mix of case management services to get individuals the help they need in this crisis as well as emails answered in response to constituents contacting my office about Emergency Orders and emergency legislation related to COVID-19 response.  I have a debt of gratitude to the work being done by my team to respond urgently to people in crisis in this difficult time.

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West Seattle Bridge Update: May 29; Planning for Seattle’s Economic Recovery; New Dashboard Shows King County’s Progress on Key COVID Indicators; Premium Pay for Essential Workers; Delridge Rapid Ride H Line Project: Work Starting Week of June 8

June 1st, 2020

West Seattle Bridge Update: May 29

Lower Bridge Maintenance Closure

SDOT has announced that the lower bridge will be closed for maintenance during the evening and early morning over the next few days, in order to work on the bridge’s controls and communications systems used to operate the bridge. Here’s the schedule for closure:

  • Friday night: 8PM to 5AM
  • Saturday night: 6PM to 3AM
  • Sunday night: 6PM to 3AM (if needed)

Traffic, including transit, will be detoured to the 1st Avenue South or South Park bridges. The bridge will also be closed to bicyclists and pedestrians; emergency vehicles will have limited access across the bridge.

Bridge advisory groups

SDOT has announced the formation of two advisory groups.

The first, the Technical Advisory Panel, is composed of independent experts with experience in bridge design and construction (especially concrete), to advise SDOT at key milestones in the process.

The second, the Community Task Force, includes residents and business representatives; I’ll be serving as an ex officio member, along with elected officials from the county, state, port, and office of U.S. Representative Jayapal.

Former Mayor and West Seattle resident Greg Nickels, and Paulina Lopez, of the Duwamish River Coalition, will serve as co-chairs. SDOT said, “Members will help ensure transparency, clear communication, and broad community engagement and understanding around both traffic mitigation efforts and the future path forward for the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge as we address new data, public input, fiscal challenges, and many other important factors that will inform consideration of repair versus replace scenarios.”

In the press release, I noted the importance of community voices being involved:

“Community voices must be at the table when considering the future of the West Seattle Bridge. The West Seattle Town Hall last month revealed that many residents, those living with the reality of the West Seattle Bridge closure, have good ideas to improve traffic flow and public transit during the closure. I appreciate SDOT’s commitment to, with this task force, considering the thoughtful suggestions of those most impacted in future planning decisions.” Councilmember Lisa Herbold, District 1, West Seattle and South Park.

Traffic update

SDOT has updated its traffic data format, to include mapping, and travel times by time of day. The most recent updates are below. Traffic on West Marginal and Highland Park Way continues to be high.

The numbers below show average travel times during peak travel times:

SDOT has a blog post with a summary of actions to mitigate the impacts of the closure of the West Seattle Bridge, including installation of traffic monitors, signal timing adjustments, travel displays for route planning, and accelerating road work at South Spokane Street and 6th Avenue South, repaving and adjusting signals at the 5-way intersection by the lower bridge, and links to some of the community letters they have responded to. Paving work, jointly carried out by SDOT and King County SDOT, between 16th and 18th on Roxbury is scheduled to be completed today.

SDOT plans to install “Do Not Block” signs at intersections and driveways on West Marginal Way in response to concerns from businesses about difficulty exiting and entering their properties.

Traffic volumes on Michigan Street in Georgetown continue to increase. SDOT is trying different signal adjustments to keep vehicles moving, though the 1st Avenue South Bridge does have capacity limitations.

SDOT is doing ground penetrating radar surveys to locate drill holes for mounting external post-tensioning in preparation of Pier 18 restrain release.

I’ve requested SDOT provide an update about what they have learned from the recently installed monitoring equipment regarding the stability of the West Seattle Bridge.

Planning for Seattle’s Economic Recovery

It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic is damaging more than just our health.  Businesses and nonprofits have had to close or significantly cut back operations, leaving workers without the ability to support their families, or pay rent or mortgages.  With significant portions of our economy slowed or shuttered, the tax revenue generated by our economy shrinks; and as a result, the City of Seattle is facing an estimated $300 million shortfall for 2020 in a slow recovery, according to an April 22 presentation by the City Budget Office.

While upcoming budget discussions will be difficult, we need to keep in mind the lessons from the past and make investments in people and our economy that will quickly spur growth.  After the Great Recession of 2008, the Center for American Progress undertook an analysis of the impact of government spending on economic recovery.  They found that by 2012, economic recovery was swifter and unemployment lower in the 30 states that increased government spending, compared to the 20 states that embraced an austerity mindset and cut spending.

Unfortunately, Washington was among the 20 states that embraced an austerity approach to budgeting following the Great Recession.  This time, with even more at stake, we must resist the urge to mindlessly cut, and instead choose investments in Seattle residents that will spur our economic recovery.   The lessons of the past are clear:

 A fragile economy can be buttressed and boosted by increased public spending on investments like education, infrastructure, energy efficiency, and putting money in people’s pockets through safety-net programs like unemployment insurance and Medicaid. The government—like families and businesses—also buys a tremendous volume of goods and services from the private market. As businesses see more sales and potential customers, they will have confidence in the economy to add jobs and crank up the economy’s private-sector engine. Dramatically cutting spending in a fragile economy, however, can pull the rug out from nascent economic growth.”

This lesson makes it more important than ever that Seattle identify new sources of revenue that ask those who are thriving right now to contribute more toward our collective recovery.  The truth is that while some of Seattle’s key industries – such as tourism or restaurants – have experienced significant downturns, other portions of Seattle’s economy have been able to continue work largely as usual.

Last week, 65% of Portland area voters approved $2.5 billion in new taxes over 10 years to tackle their homelessness crisis.  They approved progressive taxes that ask people and businesses who are thriving to contribute more with a 1% marginal income tax for people who make $125,000 annually or couples who earn $200,000 combined; and a 1% tax on businesses that generate at least $5 million annually. Importantly, this measure gained the support of a large range of allies, including faith communities, elected officials, and Portland’s leading business association.

I’m grateful to Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda for organizing an Economic Realities of COVID Forum last week, and to those who shared their expertise from Washington State Budget & Policy Center, Front and Centered, People’s Economy Lab, In the Public Interest, Economic Policy Institute, Ventures, Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, ProTec17, and Chief Seattle Club.    You can watch video of the forum here.

New Dashboard Shows King County’s Progress on Key COVID Indicators

Public Health – Seattle & King County just released a new data dashboard that tracks King County’s progress on key indicators related to COVID, such as trends in reported cases, testing capacity, and healthcare system readiness. These indicators, along with many other data, are key considerations for reviewing current restrictions on activity, recommendations and precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The indicators help determine if current actions are adequate, need to be strengthened, or might be carefully relaxed.

The first couple of indicators are shown below.  To see the full dashboard and check for updates, click here.


Premium Pay for Essential Workers

On Tuesday Councilmember Lewis and I introduced legislation to establish a temporary $5 premium fee per ride for Transportation Network Companies, TNCs like Uber and Lyft, as well as for delivery for food delivery network companies, now often being referred to as “FDNCs.” FDNCs are companies such as UberEats, DoorDash, Instacart, and Postmates. Drivers for these companies are typically independent contractors – often misclassified – and are not subject to the City’s $15 minimum wage or other local labor laws.

This $5 fee – while recognizing the important and hazardous work these drivers are doing – would also compensate workers for their time and supplies to adequately clean their vehicles to meet public health guidelines. Furthermore, these workers often make less than minimum wage once tips are removed and expenses for their vehicle, mileage, and other supplies are taken into account. This $5 fee per delivery will help bring them closer into alignment with the City’s minimum wage.

Council Central Staff presented the legislation to Council on Tuesday morning, you can see their presentation here.

Another piece of legislation that Councilmember Mosqueda has been working on is providing this same group of workers Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST). The City of Seattle has had PSST as a local labor law since 2012, and this legislation would temporarily expand it to independent contractors that work for FDNCs and transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft.  Currently these workers do not receive paid sick and safe time and they may be faced with a decision to work even when they are sick.

Delridge Rapid Ride H Line Project: Work Starting Week of June 8

SDOT has announced that work will begin the week of June 8 on the Delridge RapidRide H Line project.

The project (formerly called the Delridge Multimodal Corridor Project) includes improvement to Delridge Avenue SW designed to increase transit speed and access, in coordination with King County’s planned transition to convert Bus 120 into the RapidRide H line in September, 2021. The H Line will provide Delridge with a direct connection to South Lake Union. Travel times are expected to improve 10-15%; the project will include new shelters, lighting, ORCA card readers, and real-time arrival displays. The project also includes repaving Delridge from Orchard to Andover.

34% of households along the route operate without a personal vehicle.

An online open house has additional information about the project, final design, how community feedback was incorporated, and construction planned for this summer.  If you have questions or comments, please email DelridgeTransit@seattle.gov or call 206-775-8739.

Delridge Way SW will remain open to traffic with 1 lane in each direction during most of the construction. Temporary detours may be needed for some work.

I sponsored “stage gating” requirements for SDOT to report to the Council at 10% design, and at 30% design, before receiving funding to continue, to ensure community input.

In the 2020 budget, I proposed a requirement that SDOT report back to the Council on several issues before proceeding.

The most recent traffic count showed traffic 75% below pre-COVID volumes on Delridge at Andover.

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West Seattle Bridge Update, May 22; Highland Park Way/SW Holden Safety Project Update; City Employees Redeployed to Help Provide Basic Needs; Tackling Chronic Homelessness in King County; Little Free Pantries Hosts Needed in District 1; East Marginal Way Project Letter of Support; $7 Million in Food Access;

May 22nd, 2020

West Seattle Bridge Update, May 22

SDOT released a “Conceptual Modes of Failure” memo earlier this week, developed by SDOT’s structural engineering consultant, WSP. The memo models how the bridge could deteriorate and potentially fail, and thus helps to identify warning signs. While this study was being developed, it informed the development of the multi-agency emergency plan for evacuation of areas near the bridge, if needed. SDOT has stated there is no imminent threat of a bridge collapse.

The memo recommends nine mitigation actions, in order of priority:

  1. Continue daily visual inspections of the structure.
  2. Implement an automated survey system that collects data in real time, with manual surveys in the near term until the automated system is functional.
  3. Implement localized deformation data logging using an automated system that will report total deformation across multiple cracks.
  4. Undertake non-destructive testing (NDT) of select vertical posttensioned tendons in the webs.
  5. Design and construct interim repairs at the distressed locations to arrest the crack propagation in the near term.
  6. Repair the bearings at Pier 18 that are restricting thermal expansion and contraction movements of the structure.
  7. Design, fabricate, and deploy temporary shoring to support the bridge in case of partial or multi-span superstructure collapse.
  8. Evaluate full repair alternatives relative to the potential need for bridge replacement.
  9. Design and construct full repairs if feasible or demolish the bridge and plan for a bridge replacement.

Steps 1-4 assist in better understanding the structural integrity of the bridge, and are being implemented. Step 6, to repair bearing at Pier 18, will proceed if the bridge is stable enough. Step 9 acknowledges repair may not be possible, in which case a replacement will be needed. SDOT has indicated that the addition of monitoring equipment will provide a clearer picture in coming weeks of what is viable.

A collapse in the center portion of the bridge could damage adjacent portions of the bridge, and columns. That’s why the emergency evacuation zone extends beyond the central portions of the bridge where cracking is occurring, to the approach structures.

While this isn’t pleasant to contemplate, I appreciate SDOT making this information public. Here’s a link to SDOT’s blog post. Below are images of potential failure scenarios:

SDOT is conducting daily safety sweeps on the bridge each morning before city staff and consultants begin their work.

Roxbury paving

King County DOT has confirmed they will be coordinating work with SDOT on repaving Roxbury between 16th Avenue SW and 18th Avenue SW, to do the work at the same time. Seattle owns the northern portion of the street; King County the southern portion. Thanks to King County DOT and King County Councilmember Joe McDermott for their work on facilitating this.

Traffic data

The most recent data shows traffic volumes increasing in some locations. For example, West Marginal Way SW @ SW Idaho Street is at 205% of baseline volumes. Highland Park and West Marginal is 57% above average (the figure listed is a typo; it should be 27,240).

South Park Bridge traffic is nearly at baseline levels. SW Roxbury at 15th is also approaching baseline levels. Traffic at Michigan and 4th Avenue South increased above baseline levels.

SDOT’s latest citywide estimates for traffic show it now rising slightly above 50% earlier this week. The neighborhood-based plans SDOT is developing will be very important for managing this; traffic levels will  continue to increase.

King County Metro’s latest update shows bus ridership 71% to 74% below average last week, with ridership 77% below average on the C Line, and 63% on Route 120.

SPD lower bridge enforcement

At my request SPD provided a summary of lower bridge enforcement. The first week was focused on warnings, then switched to citations. Between April 6 and May 8, 177 warnings and 489 citations were issued; nearly every citation was for failing to adhere to the signs regarding use of the bridge.

 

Highland Park Way/SW Holden Safety Project Update, Survey

After the closure of the West Seattle Bridge, SDOT installed a temporary traffic signal at the intersection of Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden Street.

Before that, however, work had begun on permanent improvements to the intersection. Funding for early planning and design was first obtained in 2017; during the 2020 budget, the Council adopted funding for a permanent signal, or a roundabout. SDOT has now reached 10% design for a signal, and other improvements (funding is not sufficient for a roundabout).

SDOT’s 10% design is available at the Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden St Safety Project website. You can fill out a survey there and share your thoughts about the proposal, through May 31st.

There is a presentation on the website; here’s a link to the presentation slides. The presentation notes the increased traffic seen at the intersection shortly after the closure of the West Seattle Bridge, and down the hill at West Marginal Way. SDOT has indicated they will continue to monitor traffic levels.

Proposed improvements in the project area (which goes beyond just the intersection) include a permanent traffic signal with left turn phasing at the Highland Park/Holden intersection; concrete curb bulbs and sidewalks, and widening the existing path that goes down the hill on the east side of Highland Park Way SW. SDOT also notes a potential southbound protected bike lane; the presentation notes it will be re-evaluated when traffic volumes normalize. The proposed improvements slide also notes evaluating 16th and Holden for left-turn signal phasing. A Your Voice Your Choice funding grant is funding adding a left-turn lane at the signal on 16th.

A design update and review meeting is planned for fall 2020, with implementation for neighborhood traffic calming in the 4th quarter of 2020, and construction in the 4th quarter of 2021.

You can take the project survey here; translation services are available at 206-727-8697.


City Employees Redeployed to Help Provide Basic Needs

Over the past couple of months, I’ve shared a lot of information about City programs quickly designed to help people impacted by coronavirus.  From deferred utility payments and grocery vouchers to support for artists and grants to small businesses, every City department has been asked to find ways to pitch in.

I’ve been especially impressed with an effort that hasn’t garnered much attention: City employees being reassigned to work at community organizations.  In their new (temporary) roles, these employees are on the frontlines of the coronavirus response, working alongside nonprofit employees, responding to our neighbors’ increased needs for food, shelter, and safety.

Human Services Department (HSD) staff have been reporting to work at homeless shelters and food banks from almost the first days of the public health emergency.  They’re filling a critical gap and allowing essential services to stay open, as many nonprofits are struggling with short staffing, fewer volunteers, and increased operating costs.  For instance…

  • Between March 26 and April 25, HSD staff covered 242 shifts at two different homeless shelters, contributing a total of 723 hours of service.
  • Since May 6, HSD staff have covered 78 shifts at food distribution sites, contributing a total of 380 hours of service.

And of course, many more HSD staff were already on the frontlines in their usual jobs, providing care and support to help more Seattleites thrive.

This morning, I had the opportunity to volunteer alongside redeployed HSD staff at the South Park Senior Center, where we helped pack food for distribution to neighbors.  I am immensely proud of our City employees for their willingness to take on this work during the public health emergency.  Thank you to the Human Services Department, all of our providers, and to everyone who is helping neighbors in need stay safe, healthy, and warm during this difficult time.

Tackling Chronic Homelessness in King County

This week, I joined a coalition of business leaders, nonprofits, researchers, and advocates at the launch of an ambitious effort to help neighbors who have persistently struggled with homelessness.  The Third Door Coalition unites an unlikely group of allies around a common goal – bringing people living outside into safe, permanent homes – and an ambitious plan to build sufficient permanent supportive housing within five years. 

Permanent supportive housing (PSH) is well-established as the most effective and cost effective solution to chronic homelessness – people living outside or unstably for long stretches of their lives, struggling with disabilities and unable to afford rent.  Ninety-five percent of people housed in PSH, stay housed, regardless of their disability, mental health challenges or substance abuse disorder.  Research conducted at Seattle University School of Law found that:

“…PSH is associated with better outcomes related to quality of life, emergency services, physical and psychiatric hospitalizations, and substance use…  Better outcomes for residents also save money, making PSH the most cost-effective, long-term solution to chronic homelessness. When people experiencing chronic homelessness receive PSH, they are less likely to use emergency departments, hospitals, detoxification facilities, and shelters. PSH residents are also less likely to interact with law enforcement, get arrested, and be incarcerated.”

It’s effective for people and a much better use of public resources than hospitals or jails, the place that – without sufficient housing – people with mental health, disabilities, and substance abuse disorder end up.  On year of Permanent Supportive Housing costs the same as only 3 days in the hospital or 3 months in jail.  That’s why I have consistently called for doubling the City’s investment in permanent supportive housing.

Third Door Coalition members have identified a plan that will reduce the cost of building PSH, while raising the resources required to bring PSH to scale across the region: 6,500 units in five years.  Their work recognizes that cities can not do this work alone.  I was glad to be an inaugural signatory to their call to action, which includes these declarations:

  • We need the support of a county-wide, broad-based, cross-sector coalition of businesses, nonprofit service providers, academic institutions, healthcare providers, faith communities, advocacy organizations, funders, individuals, government and more.
  • The clear solution is to build, lease, or otherwise provide enough permanent supportive housing to meet the needs of people experiencing chronic homelessness in King County.
  • Government alone cannot solve the issue, especially with the strain on budgets as a result of the pandemic. A public-private partnership can fund the level of permanent supportive housing we need.
  • The time to act is now.

If you have ever been concerned about how our region can help more people leave homelessness behind for good, please take a look at Third Door Coalition’s smart ideas and follow their work.

Little Free Pantries Hosts Needed in District 1

Are you looking for a way to help feed your neighbors?  Little Free Pantries volunteers just hand-built eighteen new pantries, and they’re looking for District 1 hosts!  Hosts agree to paint and personalize their Little Free Pantry, securely install it in their yard, keep it stocked and in good repair, and spread the news to your neighbors.  Learn more and ask about becoming a Little Free Pantry host here.

Here’s how LFP founder Molly Harmon describes it:

“Little Free Pantries help neighbors feed neighbors.  They aren’t intended to replace food security agencies or eliminate the need to support them; rather, they work alongside each other to draw awareness to food insecurity and create community through collective action in a neighborhood.

“LFPs bring this issue front and center to our neighborhoods, but in a supportive and caring way.  Micro-communities form around Little Free Pantries and in turn, connect neighbors who otherwise would not have met.  By neighbors stocking their neighborhood Little Free Pantry with non-perishable foods, it keeps the pantry full and helps those needing a meal.   Whether a need for food or a need to give, Little Free Pantries help neighbors feed neighbors, nourishing neighborhoods.”

Check out this recent Seattle Times article about Little Free Pantries, and follow LFP’s work here.

 

East Marginal Way Project Letter of Support

On Monday I coordinated the Council signing a letter in support of a federal BUILD grant application for the East Marginal Way Corridor Project.

The Council signed a similar letter in February for a separate federal grant.

The grant application is for $20 million; the SDOT Capital Improvement Project (CIP) budget listing indicated SDOT was considering approaches for full funding; the earlier federal grant application was for $13 million (an INFRA grant); the Port of Seattle is also contributing $5 million to the project. The funding gap listed in the CIP was $38 million.

The project is important for West Seattle, to improve safety by separating bike commuters from traffic; with the closure of the West Seattle Bridge though at least the end of 2021, this corridor will be increasingly important, as freight uses the lower bridge to West Seattle as well.

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. The project will Improve safety and reliability in the movement of people and goods in this industrial and maritime area; support freight loads by rebuilding the roadway and promote efficiency through signal modifications and intelligent transportation systems (ITS).

SDOT could apply for federal grants for the West Seattle Bridge in the future; for this funding cycle, with uncertainty about which solution to pursue, it wasn’t ready for a grant proposal.


$7 Million in Food Access

Last Wednesday the Mayor announced an additional $7 million in food access program for older adults and people experiencing homelessness. The funding comes from the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and Families First Coronavirus Response Act and will be dispersed by the Seattle Human Services Department.

Working at the West Seattle Food Bank, and this week at the South Park Senior Center, has given me insight to the enormity of the food access challenge during this crisis. I’m so grateful that food banks and free school lunches are helping children and families, but we know that seniors and those experiencing homelessness need more access. This city’s direct investment of $7 million will ensure older adults and our homeless neighbors don’t go hungry during this pandemic.

 

Emergency Water Main Repair Tonight

Tonight Seattle Public Utilities will begin work on repairing a 16-inch water main that is leaking near SW Holly Street between California Ave SW and 39th Ave SW. The West Seattle Blog has the report here. Repairs will require water to be turned off between 9pm today and 5am on Saturday, May 23. The loudest portion of construction will occur between 8pm and 10pm tonight when crews break up the pavement to access the leaking water main.

Some of you may remember an old drainage issue nearby at California Ave and SW Orchard St, this was not a leaking water pipe, but what’s called “seep” where water naturally surfaces. I had communicated with both Seattle Department of Transportation and SPU to try and effectuate a fix as this was a safety hazard in the winter when the water turned to ice. It wasn’t until late December 2017 when SPU Drainage and Wastewater operations staff discovered an abandoned storm water pipe which allowed SPU to correct the problem of the water collection because that they could use the abandoned storm water pipe as a connection to newly route the water away from the street surface. SPU does not believe these issues are related.

 

Virtual Office Hours

On Friday May 29, I will be hosting virtual office hours to comply with the extended Stay Home, Stay Healthy order from Governor Inslee. They will begin at 3pm and go until 6pm, with the last meeting of the day beginning at 5:30pm.

Due to the nature of virtual office hours, you will need to contact my schedule Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov) in order to receive the call-in information and schedule a time. We will be using Skype for Business, and you can either utilize the application or the dial-in number.

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

  • 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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West Seattle Bridge: May 15 Update; Ferries’ Letter Update; COVID-19 Updates; City Consent Decree Filing; Virtual Office Hours

May 15th, 2020

West Seattle Bridge: May 15 Update

SDOT announced they have completed installing intelligent monitoring systems to assess the condition of the West Seattle Bridge. This equipment includes movement sensors, crack monitors and cameras from Pier 15 to Pier 18. SDOT notes this will:

  • “Keep us informed on how the bridge reacts to environmental changes, bridge stabilization measures, temporary shoring, and potential future repairs.
  • Give us a better indication of bridge distress that could warn of impending failure.
  • Guide us to a decision about the technical feasibility of repair or replacement.”

Movement sensors throughout piers 15 and 18 will measure expansion and contraction at the expansion joints. Deck monitors, which were activated and have been recording data since late April, measure vertical and lateral bridge movements in real time.

New crack monitors will complement the current crack monitoring equipment installed in 2014, which could measure the width of cracks in four specific locations on the bridge.

Monitoring cameras near the center span will record visible crack growth, and provide quick visual verification if sensors indicate excessive movement.

SDOT notes, “The new intelligent monitoring system is already ‘talking’ to us and telling us that there is some potential for failure. What we don’t yet know is how great that potential is. The new system will help us better determine that.”

I appreciate SDOT’s candor. SDOT indicates that after a few weeks’ worth of data, they will have a clearer sense of the stability of the bridge, what work can be done.

Traffic Updates

SDOT has installed additional traffic cameras on Roxbury on 15th, 16th, and 35th, and on 35th at Barton, Holden, and Morgan. You can view the camera feeds on SDOT’s camera page by clicking on the camera icons on the map. Areas with more than one camera in close proximity have a + sign on the camera; when you click on the camera image, you can click “next” to see the other camera (e.g. 15th/Roxbury and 16th Roxbury).

Traffic levels continue to be high in the most recent counts on West Marginal, and are up slightly on the South Park Bridge, Roxbury and 15th, 35th and Raymond, and on East Marginal Way and 1st Avenue South. Citywide traffic levels are around 50% of normal volume.

SDOT has installed three dynamic message signs displaying travel route times via West Marginal Way SW, at SW Admiral @ 34th St SW; at Fauntleroy Way SW @ SW 38th Street; and at 35th Ave SW @ SW Snoqualmie Street.

SDOT is coordinating with King County Metro on paving work on SW Roxbury St between 16th Ave SW and 18th Ave SW; they plan to do the paving later this month.

SDOT is working on neighborhood-based traffic management plans to prepare for the significantly higher levels we can expect. Draft plans for the neighborhoods that will see increased traffic off the peninsula (e.g. South Park, Highland Park/South Delridge/Riverview/Roxhill, as well as SODO and Georgetown) will be released for public comment and further work with the community in early June; SDOT has met with a number of community groups and committed to further meetings to discussing the draft plans. SDOT is considering public suggestions. You can send ideas to SDOT directly at 684-ROAD@seattle.gov. I’m happy to pass on suggestions as well.
Ferries’ Letter Update
Washington State Ferries replied to my letter requesting they consider re-directing some of the ferry traffic from Vashon and/or Southworth, that usually travels to the Fauntleroy ferry dock, to Downtown Seattle instead; and that they consider trips from Fauntleroy to Downtown. Numerous constituents have written to suggest this.

Ferries replied they are “working with transportation agencies and stakeholders from across the city of Seattle and King County to better understand this dynamic situation, and together we are analyzing a variety of options to address this challenge.”

I appreciate Ferries’ reply, and commitment to work with the City, and analyze options.

Ferries also noted challenges related to their terminals include the limited capacity at Fauntleroy; the reconstruction of Colman Dock through 2023, reducing the number of operating slips from 3 to 2; potential impact to Seattle/Bremerton and Seattle/Bainbridge routes and those communities; the number of ferries they have available; and public input requirements for any schedule changes.

Ferries also notes that their most recent origin-destination study showed 60% of passengers aren’t heading downtown or points north (which is why my request was to “directing some of the traffic between Vashon and/or Southworth to Downtown Seattle”).

COVID-19 Updates

Welcoming YouthCare to the Neighborhood

Last Friday, a number of young people experiencing homelessness became temporary District 1 residents, moving into the Southwest Teen Life Center.  YouthCare’s usual shelter building didn’t offer enough space for residents to safely shelter in place during the day, when residents would generally leave for education or work, but were suddenly required to stay indoors. YouthCare worked quickly to find alternate locations, and the young people themselves helped make the decision to move to the Southwest Teen Life Center.

My office has been in contact with our new neighbors during their transition.  The new space requires some changes to their usual program, and we have been helping ensure they are able to keep their clients safe and well-fed in their new home.  Please join me in welcoming these young people to our community!

Starting Monday, Wear a Face Covering When You Leave the House

Starting on Monday, May 18th, Seattle & King County Public Health issued a countywide health directive instructing residents to wear cloth face coverings in confined public spaces – indoors and out.  Specifically, cloth face coverings should be worn while indoors (except for at home), and outdoors in places where maintaining six feet of physical distance is difficult.

You don’t need to buy a cloth face covering – they can easily be made at home with any piece of cotton fabric.  The Centers for Disease Control has these step-by-step instructions on how to make a cloth face covering.

This effort is critical to slowing the spread of #COVID19 in our community. Learn more, including individuals who may be exempted from the order: kingcounty.gov/masks

Additional Emergency Services for District 1

One of my first actions after learning about the closure of the West Seattle Bridge was to request what additional emergency services would be placed in District 1 to ensure the health and safety of my constituents. In 2010 when the Spokane Street Viaduct was closed the Seattle Fire Department added another fire truck to the area to ensure adequate coverage.

Last Friday the City announced the addition of another ladder fire truck with four firefighters-EMTs to be located at Station 37 (SW Holden St and 35th Ave), and another medic unit with two paramedics at Station 26 (South Park). I am grateful that Fire Chief Scoggins placed these new resources in District 1 to help ensure our safety.

Alki Stay Healthy Streets Extended

Alki’s Stay Healthy Streets segment has been extended – see the map below.  In District 1, Stay Healthy Streets are also available in Delridge/Highland Park and High Point.

Stay Healthy Streets are neighborhood greenways that are closed to thru-traffic so people can bike and walk in the road. Local traffic is still allowed on the streets.

Curbside Pick-Up Zones for Retail

As retail stores begin reopening in the coming weeks, look for Curbside Pick-Up Zones!  Starting today, the Seattle Department of Transportation will install temporary curbside priority pick-up zones to support safe, easy, and critical access to Seattle retail businesses that are open for curbside pick-up.  Look for these signs.

Under Governor Inslee’s Safe Start Washington plan, retail businesses can now open for curbside pick-up orders only.  Curbside pick-up zones are special, temporary 15-minute loading zones to support those retail businesses, similar to restaurant pick-up zones.  The 15-minute time limit gives people a chance to quickly and safely pick up purchases, while ensuring frequent parking turnover so the locations remain reliably available for wide use.

To request a curbside priority pick up zone, contact SDOT at 206.684.ROAD or 684-ROAD@seattle.gov and provide your business name, address and contact information.  SDOT will review requested locations to make sure a new zone will fit within the nearby curb regulations. Generally, they will install one new zone per block, so it may need to be located where it can serve several stores on the block. Curbside Priority Pick-Up Zone signs are not assigned to specific businesses, and can be used among several businesses along the block.

City Consent Decree Filing

Earlier this month the City Attorney filed a motion  to terminate the 2-year Sustainment Plan for the Consent Decree between the City of Seattle and the US Department of Justice.

During Phase I of the Consent Decree, the Monitor conducted  ten assessments over three years, which led to new reforms at the Seattle Police Department. The reports included use of force, supervision, crisis intervention, stops, search and seizure, and community confidence.

In January 2018, based on the Monitor’s assessments, the Court found that the City achieved full and effective compliance with the Consent Decree’s Phase I requirements. The Court then approved the two-year Phase II Sustainment Plan, whereby the Court continues to monitor compliance.

The gains in implementing the Consent Decree regarding, for example, lowering use of force and enhancing accountability came about because of the actions the department–especially police officers– so I thank them for their work for public safety and constitutional policing.  Although the Monitor has said: “Seattle has come to be seen as a national model on how to address fundamental issues relating to use of force, stops and detentions, and bias-free policing” and there has been a 60% reduction in the use of serious force, it is important to me that the City recognize in its filing the continued racial disparity in use of force.   For 2019, 22% of total incidences of use of force were for black men, significantly higher than Seattle’s population of black men, and shown on SPD’s use of force dashboard, which includes use of force data. As part of reforms, SPD now has significantly more online data.

As relates to racial disparity in the use of force, the filing says the following:

“The City is not satisfied with simply meeting Consent Decree requirements in this area. SPD has explained, ‘[a]s is reflected in statistics nationwide, racial disparity is of significant ongoing concern, and is an important issue that requires continued discussion and analysis within the limited role of law enforcement but also beyond.’ SPD’s Use of Force Annual Rept. (Dkt. 605- 1) at 9. To that end, SPD has ‘committed to continuing these avenues of inquiry into where disparity is occurring in its interactions with the public, and what the possible causes of that disparity are.’ Disparity Review Pt. II (Dkt. 600-1) at 26.”

The filing leaves one important issue for a later filing: concerns raised by Judge Robart in his May, 2019 Order about accountability and discipline, in which he agreed with concerns raised by the Community Police Commission, and ruled the city was out of full and effective compliance on accountability and officer discipline, and would need to regain compliance. The city’s filing notes the plan to file a subsequent motion by August 1 to address these issues.

It’s important to remember that this process was begun by community groups in 2010, who sent a letter to the US Department of Justice in response to their letter, the US DOJ released findings in 2011 of a “pattern or practice” of unconstitutional use of force within the Seattle Police Department. The City and the DOJ entered in to a consent decree in 2012. Included in this was an oversight role by a federal monitor.

As a result of reforms, the City now has a three-pronged accountability structure. The City’s filing notes the City:

“created a powerful Office of Inspector General for Public Safety (OIG) to “ensure the fairness and integrity of the police system as a whole” and “oversee ongoing fidelity to organizational reforms implemented” by SPD under the Consent Decree.

The City established the Community Police Commission (CPC) as a permanent body and broadened its authority to encompass advocacy and engagement related to police-community relations, SPD policies and practices, and police oversight.

The City also increased the effectiveness of the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) to further strengthen mechanisms for holding officers accountable, including by bolstering its independence and improving the investigations process.”

As Chair of the Council’s committee overseeing public safety, I regularly meet with and consult with these three accountability agencies.

The City’s press release includes additional background noted below:

  • SPD has reduced the incidence of serious force by officers by 60 percent and virtually all uses of force now meet constitutional requirements, demonstrating that there is no longer a pattern or practice of excessive force.
  • SPD has become a national leader in crisis response training and its rate of using force in crisis incidents is extraordinarily low.
  • SPD does not engage in the “no suspicion” stop-and-frisk tactics decried in other jurisdictions, and the legality of its stops and frisks does not vary by race.
  • SPD and the Community Police Commission have collaborated to design and implement high quality implicit bias training and to study the sources and effects of racial disparity in policing.
  • SPD overhauled its patrol staffing and supervision to ensure that all patrol officers have a consistent, highly trained supervisor.
  • The Office of Police Accountability conducts thorough, complete investigations and has adopted key recommendations from the Monitor and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Virtual Office Hours

On Friday May 29, I will be hosting virtual office hours to comply with the extended Stay Home, Stay Healthy order from Governor Inslee. They will begin at 3pm and go until 6pm, with the last meeting of the day beginning at 5:30pm.

Due to the nature of virtual office hours, you will need to contact my schedule Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov) in order to receive the call-in information and schedule a time. We will be using Skype for Business, and you can either utilize the application or the dial-in number.

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

  • 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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West Seattle Bridge: May 8 Update; COVID-19 Update; New Eviction Defense for Renters; Advocacy for Small Businesses; Changes at District 1 Parks; Payroll Tax Legislation/Governor’s Order

May 8th, 2020

West Seattle Bridge: May 8 update

Emergency Response Plan

On Monday, May 4th SDOT announced an emergency response plan developed with a multi-agency task force in the event that the West Seattle Bridge becomes unstable. The plan would entail evacuation of areas near the bridge in the event it becomes necessary. SDOT says “there are currently no indications that we will need to put our emergency response plan into action,” and that the bridge remains stable. The purpose of this plan is to preserve public safety, should the need arise.

SDOT further notes that the “only section of the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge that currently has cracks is the highest span directly over the Duwamish River between West Seattle and Harbor Island.”

The evacuation area would include the lower bridge, part of Harbor Island and the Duwamish, and part of West Marginal Way.

The task force includes the City of Seattle, King County, Washington State, Port of Seattle, Northwest Seaport Alliance, United States Coast Guard (USCG), and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

The plan calls for three potential scenarios: immediate evacuation; one to five days notice; and controlled demolition.

The plan notes there are no residences within the area that would need to be evacuated. More information is available here; SDOT encourages people to sign up for Alert Seattle for any emergency notices.

I have asked what SDOT’s plan is for traffic management, should the emergency plan be implemented.

While SDOT indicates the West Seattle Bridge remains stable, cracks continue to grow, though at a slower rate than before it was closed. SDOT has installed real-time monitoring equipment that will allow a clearer picture of whether the bridge can be first stabilized, then repaired.

SDOT’s design consultant, WSP, estimates crack growth rate at two inches per day in the worst cracked section in the south girder wall of the south girder, center span. SDOT’s consultants expect to have results from updated evaluations based on monitoring equipment in mid-May.

Road Work Updates

SDOT is planning to repave the westbound lanes of Roxbury between 16th and 18th Ave SW as early as mid-May, depending on weather. SDOT indicates they are coordinating with King County, which has jurisdiction over the eastbound lanes. SDOT will be doing outreach in advance.

On May 1, SDOT replaced the second pedestrian gate on the lower bridge, which will result in few outages affecting lower bridge openings. SDOT continues to adjust traffic signals.

Traffic Levels

SDOT has reported that citywide traffic levels are now at 50%; until recently they have been at 40%. King County Metro notes that bus ridership is down 75% overall, including 60% on Route 120, and 78% on the C Line, and down sharply for water taxi service.

Though traffic levels are lower than average in most areas, they continue to be two and a half times higher on West Marginal as compared to the early February baseline. The Lower Bridge is 29% below the early February baseline.


COVID-19 Update

Governor’s Phased Safe Start

Governor Inslee announced this week a phased reopening of Washington.  Dubbed Safe Start, the phased approach includes four phases, that will last at least three weeks each. Phase one began on May 5 and continues much of the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, but allows for some outdoor recreation including hiking, golfing, fishing, hunting, and boating. Gatherings of any kind are still not allowed. Travel will still be limited to essential travel needs and travel associated with the previously mentioned activities.

Phase one also opens some new businesses including existing construction that meets specific criteria, landscaping, auto sales, retail with curb-side pick-up order only, and pet walkers. Again the below phases will last three weeks each at least, and the Governor will rely on meeting metrics in order to move into the next phase.


New Eviction Defense for Renters

On Monday the Council unanimously passed Council Bill 119784 which creates a defense to evictions for non-payment of rent for six months after the end of the declared public health emergency.  It requires that renters file a certification of financial hardship with the court in raising the defense.

This coming Monday the Council will consider two additional pieces of related legislation. CB 119788, sponsored by Council President González,  would allow residential tenants to make up past due rent in installments. I’m bringing forward an amendment that would allow the payment plans to be a year in length, if more than two months of rent is past due. As crafted the legislation would require that two months’ rent be paid back over the course of six months. However, that burden of such a large payment is concerning to me. If, for example, someone’s rent is $2,000 and they miss three months of rent, they would (under the current proposal) have six months to pay back $6,000 which would make their total monthly payments $3,000 each, which would be incredibly difficult to meet.

The second piece of legislation, CB 119787, sponsored by Councilmember Morales, is related to the use of eviction records and would prohibit landlords from considering evictions related to COVID-19, as part of an application, during and six months after the civil emergency.

Advocacy for Small Businesses

This week, I joined my colleagues in signing a letter requesting additional assistance for small businesses from our state leaders and federal delegation.  Among other things, this letter asks for: forbearance of business mortgage payments; supports to ensure that smaller small businesses have equitable access to funding opportunities; direct grant stimulus to small businesses; and adequate testing and contact tracing capabilities.  Based on concerns I heard from constituents, I added these requests to the letter:

  • Provide technical assistance to all small businesses to help them navigate federal assistance programs.
  • Increase production and distribution of personal protective equipment (such as masks), so that all small business employees can protect themselves.
  • Reform the federal Payroll Protection Plan to set aside funds based on the characteristics of the businesses to be supported, instead of the characteristics of the lender.

The situation for small businesses changes rapidly.  An important resource to keep on hand is is the City’s Office of Economic Development (OED).  They provide technical assistance for small business owners and share information about resources available from multiple levels of government.

Changes at District 1 Parks

This coming weekend will see changes at some of our most popular parks.

Alki Beach, Lincoln Park, and West Seattle Stadium will all close for the night at 8pm (instead of 11:30pm), starting on Friday.  This change is meant to deter the gatherings that have been occurring there in the evenings.  In all, seventeen parks across the city will observe the new 8pm closing time each day.

Parking lots remain closed at major parks, but at Lincoln Park, nine accessible ADA parking spaces (four at lower beach lot, and five at the southern upper lot) will be available.  No other parking will be allowed, and violators will be ticketed.

Stay Healthy Streets will now be closed to traffic 7 days a week, 24 hours a day –  not just on weekends.  In addition to High Point, the City will add Stay Healthy Streets in Delridge/Highland Park, and Beach Drive SW in Alki.  These are pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets, often adjacent to local businesses and amenities, where only local traffic is permitted.  They’re a great alternative to destination parks, which may be crowded.

Mother’s Day is traditionally one of the busiest of the year at Seattle parks.  Please following these  “Keep It Moving” guidelines:

  1. Stay Home. If you need to leave the house, visit your neighborhood park.
  2. Keep it Moving. Keep walking, running, rolling or biking. That means no picnics, no BBQs, no sports, no gatherings at our parks.
  3. Visit at Off Peak. Visit parks, greenways and farmers markets at off peak hours.
  4. Crowded Spaces will mean Closed Spaces. If you see a crowd, go somewhere else.

To report crowding at parks, call 206-684-4075, email pks_info@seattle.gov or tweet @seattleparks. pks_info@seattle.gov or tweet to @seattleparks

Questions about what’s open and closed?  Seattle Parks keeps this list updated.

Payroll Tax Legislation/Governor’s Order

The Council’s Select Budget Committee has recently met twice to consider legislation related to a proposed payroll tax on large businesses, a bill for a related spending plan, and a bill to enact an interfund loan to allow the City to spend the funds on the spending plan priorities before the City collects the payroll tax.

I’ve long believed we need progressive revenue sources and a more fair tax structure.  I have worked on and will continue to work toward these goals. I also strongly believe in the importance of open government as a linchpin to our democratic system of government.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 23rd, Governor Inslee released Proclamation 20-28, “suspending certain statutory requirements in the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) and Public Records Act (PRA) for 30 days.” He subsequently extended the order through May 4th, and later through May 31st.

The order a. prohibits public agencies from holding in person meetings and b. prohibits them from taking action as long as meetings are not being held in person  “unless those matters are necessary and routine matters or are matters necessary to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

This proclamation carries the force of law, and notes penalties for failure to comply.

The State Attorney General offered the following guidance for this order:

“As a result, we suggest that an agency will want to keep in mind the OPMA’s open government cornerstones. These cornerstones would support reasons to temporarily limit a governing body’s usual business during this outbreak and for it to focus instead on only those matters necessary and routine, or those needed to deal with the outbreak, until the public can again fully attend all OPMA meetings, including in person if they choose.” (underline added)

In person governance is a critical aspect of open, democratic governance. This was starkly highlighted for me in a digital town hall on the West Seattle Bridge I co-hosted on April 22nd, when 3,200 people viewed the town hall. I couldn’t tell if anyone shook their heads in disappointment, frowned or nodded, booed or clapped.

Due to my concern about two of the bills, CB 119722 and CB 119774, not meeting the standard of the Governor’s order and the Attorney General’s advice, I declined to participate in the discussions of the Select Budget Committee about these bills. I sent a letter to Council President González expressing my concerns about two of the three proposed bills not meeting the standard in the Governor’s proclamation.

I proposed two alternate paths for the Council to consider for moving forward on consideration of legislation: 1) to scope the bills so that they complied with the Governor’s order to address needs arising from the COVID-19 public health crisis, or 2) taking up the proposed legislation after the restrictions on in person meetings in the Governor’s order expire.

In response to the letter I sent last week, yesterday Council President González sent a memo to the Council.  In it she thanks me for my ongoing conversations with her about my concerns and my clear communication to the Council.  She explains her intent to strictly comply with the Governor’s order and the Open Public Meetings Act.  She goes on to say that she too has serious concerns about whether the package of bills meets the standard of “necessary and routine “ or “necessary to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.”  She concludes by requesting the Council Chair of the Select Budget Committee, Councilmember Mosqueda, to cease deliberations on these bills through at least May 31st.  Councilmember Mosqueda has agreed.

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West Seattle Bridge: May 1 Update; Washington State Ferries; Sexual Assault Survivors; Small Business Owners; West Seattle Farmers’ Market; Friday Night Lights; March Constituent Email Report

May 1st, 2020

West Seattle Bridge: May 1 Update

Contractor Hired for Bridge Stabilization

SDOT announced they have hired a contractor, Kraemer North America, to carry out stabilization work needed for the West Seattle Bridge.

Cracks have continued to grow on the bridge, albeit at a slower rate than when traffic was on the bridge. For this reason, the bridge would need to be stabilized in order for repair work to proceed.

SDOT’s announcement notes the company “is an industry leader in segmental bridge repair and construction, as well as in concrete post-tensioning. This expertise will allow the team to carry out key stabilization activities, help in forensic investigation of the bridge, provide the engineering team with construction input to determine the best approach to stabilization, and confirm repair estimates.  

With recent work on WSDOT’s Duwamish River Bridges Project, Kraemer also comes with a detailed understanding of the immediate vicinity, as well as knowledge of US Coast Guard permitting requirements. This is essential because obtaining these permits – or not – could add or subtract months to any stabilization, shoring, repair, or replacement efforts.”

SDOT further notes that Kraemer will conduct repairs designed to stop further cracking in the bridge’s most vulnerable sections, then, and only if determined to be structurally feasible, Kramer will replace the lateral bearings on Pier 18 at the east end of the bridge. These bearings, when working correctly, allow the bridge to expand and contract with temperature change. They will work with SDOT and the engineering consultant team to develop and finalize strengthening solutions for the bridge.

Bridge Monitoring

SDOT’s instrumentation consultant, BDI, measured crack depths on the sides of the box girders where they meet the deck and also used ultra-sonic pulse echo imaging and ground penetrating radar to help in understanding if there is any weakness in the steel rope that holds the bridge in compression.

On April 22, SDOT’s design consultant, WSP, provided an estimate of rate of crack growth as well as a critical failure projection. WSP also continues work on a decision tree to inform the question of whether or not to replace or repair the bridge.

SDOT also is installing additional structural health instrumentation (such as crack-width gauges, strain gauges and high-resolution cameras). This is mostly complete and will allow for a clearer definition of the condition of the bridge, and which path to pursue.

I’ve asked how the rate of crack growth informs the question of whether or not to replace or repair the bridge, and about the critical failure projection.

Road/Traffic Update

SDOT paved and reconfigured the 5-way intersection below the West Seattle Bridge last weekend; average daily traffic on the low bridge is down to 6,480 vehicles per day, approximately the same as the baseline. Here is the most recent traffic data we’ve received, with West Marginal and Idaho, and Highland Park and Marginal showing significantly higher than usual volumes:

SDOT has installed new controllers, added communications to signals, and tweaked signal timing in both the Roxbury and 35th corridors, and has upgraded these intersections over the past two weeks:

  • Chelan 5-Way Intersection
  • 17th Ave SW & SW Roxbury St
  • 16th Ave SW/Delridge & SW Roxbury St
  • 15th Ave SW & SW Roxbury St
  • 35th Ave SW & SW Thistle St

SDOT also noted they are planning to improve operations at the following intersections over the next few weeks:

  • 30th Ave SW & SW Roxbury St
  • 26th Ave SW & SW Roxbury St
  • 20th Ave SW & SW Roxbury St
  • 8th Ave SW & SW Roxbury St
  • 35th Ave SW & SW Roxbury St
  • 35th Ave SW & SW Barton St
  • 35th Ave SW & SW Henderson St
  • 35th Ave SW & SW Trenton St
  • 16th Ave SW & SW Austin St
  • 16th Ave SW & SW Holden St
  • 35th Ave SW & SW Kenyon St
  • 35th Ave SW & SW Holden St
  • 35th Ave SW & SW Webster St
  • 35th Ave SW & SW Myrtle St
  • 35th Ave SW & SW Holly St
  • 35th Ave SW & SW Morgan St
  • 35th Ave SW & SW Raymond St
  • 35th Ave SW & SW Findlay St

Changes include allowing SDOT to manage signals from a central location, rather than needing to go to the signal to manually make changes.

Town Hall Question Totals

For the Town Hall held last week, over 1000 questions and comments were submitted: 133 on the use of the lower bridge, 156 on traffic management, 212 on transit (including ferries), 63 on whether to repair or replace, 209 on process and oversight, and 254 on multiple subjects, or other items. My office is continuing to organize the suggestions.

Letter to Washington State Ferries

I sent a letter to Washington State Ferries, linked here, asking that they consider re-directing some of the ferry traffic from Vashon and/or Southworth, that usually travels to the Fauntleroy ferry dock, to Downtown Seattle instead; and that they consider trips from Fauntleroy to Downtown, and options suggested by the public.

The letter notes that during some previous years, for example 1981, 1993 and 2002, eastbound ferry traffic has been diverted to Downtown on a temporary basis. Thanks to the community members who assisted with this research.

Help Is Available for Sexual Assault Survivors

As Chair of the Human Services & Public Safety committee, I was proud to bring forward a Proclamation declaring April to be Sexual Assault Awareness Month at this week’s Council meeting.   The single most important message I have for survivors of sexual assault, who may feel that what happened to them is not important during this time of emergency:  Your experience matters.  Support is available.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, please let them know that help is still available.

  • The 24-Hour Resource Line is available at 888.99.VOICE (888.998.6423), run by King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. Every hour of the day, trained advocates will answer your call, provide crisis intervention, information and referrals, and on-going support, 7 days a week. In-language service is available.
  • Si usted o alguien a quien ama ha sido afectado(a), nosotros podemos ayudar. Dando Voz proporciona servicios confidenciales y gratuitos a víctimas de abuso sexual y a sus familiares en la comunidad hispana. Para mayor información en español, por favor contáctenos por teléfono al 425-282-0324 o por correo electrónico a dandovozstaff@kcsarc.org.
  • Medical exams are available to survivors of sexual assault at Harborview, UW Montlake, Children’s, Valley Medical Center, Virginia Mason and Swedish First Hill. Their counseling and advocacy services are all available through telephone and telemedicine.
  • Home is not a safe place for everyone. If you are not safe at home, the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” proclamation specifically encourages you to leave your home and find a safe alternate location.  It’s OK to leave home to find safety.

One in 4 women, and one in six men will be affected by sexual assault in their lifetime.  That figure is much higher among specific communities, including American Indian and Alaskan Natives, people with disabilities, those living unsheltered, transgender women, and transgender women of color.  Over the course of the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” emergency order, more people are calling sexual assault hotlines regarding the distress they are experiencing related to COVID-19.  Please reach out for help.

I’m grateful to Idabelle Fosse, MSW, and the Seattle Women’s Commission for their leadership on the proclamation, and to API Chaya, Coalition Ending Gender Based Violence, King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, Harborview Abuse & Trauma Center, and the Mayor’s Office on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault for their support and assistance.

Technical Assistance and Language Interpretation For Small Business Owners

Last week, the federal government approved a $484 billion relief package, including additional support for small businesses:

  • $320B to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
  • $60B to replenish the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Loan Advance program (EIDL).

These funds will likely not last long, so businesses are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.  Applications for the PPP became available on Monday.

The City’s Office of Economic Development (OED) is helping small business owners with their applications.

  • Learn about four funding options from SBA to help you overcome the economic disruption due to the COVID-19 outbreak
  • For technical assistance – available in multiple languages – call (206) 684-8090 or email OED@seattle.gov
  • Join OED’s weekly webinar for small businesses, where these and other programs are discussed and questions are answered. Sign up here.

West Seattle Farmers’ Market Reopening

This Sunday, May 3rd, the West Seattle Farmers’ Market is reopening, but will need to operate under strict guidelines that have been worked out in partnership with Seattle-King County Public Health. The Market is asking everyone to follow the new guideline and consider taking the Farmers’ Market Shopper Oath.

Additionally, you might think about signing up for the Ripe & Ready Newsletter, which will announce the list of May 3 vendors accepting pre-orders.

There will be modifications to the market itself which include:

  • Modified layouts to ensure 10’ between vendor booths to allow for greater circulation and distance.
  • Market entrance at Alaska & California to control the capacity and foot traffic. You can expect a line to enter the market.
  • Hand sanitizer will be provided at Market Manager tents, with public hand washing stations available in the market.
  • There is no sampling or prepared food until further notice.
  • No music, entertainment, cooking demos, or public seating areas.

The West Seattle Blog has a short write-up and the full release from the West Seattle Farmers’ Market here.

Please remember to wash your hands regularly or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, wear a facemask if you have once, avoid touching your face, and cover your coughs and sneezes.

Friday Night Lights

On Friday, May 1 (today!), and for at least the next two weeks, the Seattle Firefighters will be back for #FridayNightLights! This is an effort to honor all #EssentialWorkers for doing their part to keep us healthy and safe including healthcare workers, utility personnel, pharmacy and grocery store employees, first responders and more.

You can “join” them by looking out through your window or coming out onto your doorstep between 6:30pm and 7:30 pm. To see if you’re in this week’s area see the yellow highlighted areas on this map here (zoom in to see street addresses).

March 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 April, what I refer to above as “case management services.” The shaded categories and numbers are emails answered in April related to policy or legislation that the Council is considering.  Please note the new COVID-19 row highlighted in yellow.  These are a mix of case management services to get individuals the help they need in this crisis as well as emails answered in response to constituents contacting my office about Emergency Orders and emergency legislation related to COVID-19 response.  I have a debt of gratitude to the work being done by my team to respond urgently to people in crisis in this difficult time.

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West Seattle Bridge: Digital Town Hall, Update; SDCI Legislation Update; In-District Office Hours; COVID-19 Updates; #LightItBlue for West Seattle Healthcare Workers; Summer Fest Cancellation

April 24th, 2020

West Seattle Bridge: Digital Town Hall, Update

On Wednesday Councilmember Pedersen and I co-hosted a digital Town Hall on the West Seattle Bridge with SDOT. If you missed it, you can watch the forum on YouTube. The Q&A starts about 35 minutes in.

There were over 3,300 RSVPs, 1,000 questions submitted, and 4,600 views. This is testament to just how critical the West Seattle Bridge is to those of us who live in West Seattle, and the overwhelming desire of community members for updates and participation.

Thank you to everyone who participated, and sent questions or suggestions. I am also encouraged by the number of people who have contacted my office since March 23 with their ideas for how best to address this crisis. There were a lot more questions than could be answered during the event, so my office will be organizing the questions and suggestions by subject area, and hope to share them next week.

My office will work hard to get you updates and ensure that SDOT considers your suggestions seriously – whether they are suggestions about traffic management needs along alternative routes, suggestions for new or expanded transit, repair and replacement ideas, or your recommendations about process and oversight.

Thank you to SDOT for participating in the forum, and to Councilmember Pedersen, Chair of the Transportation & Utilities committee. I appreciate the attention he is giving to this.

SDOT published a number of updates on the SDOT blog during the last week.

SDOT noted they are drafting safety plans for the areas around the West Seattle Bridge, in case the bridge becomes unstable. This would involve potential removal of traffic from the low bridge and surrounding areas; SDOT notes they are “creating an emergency traffic plan with our partners that would re-direct transit, freight, and emergency vehicles, as well as personal vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians.” SDOT said this plan is for a worst-case scenario; they noted this week they do not believe the bridge is in imminent danger of collapse. SDOT has installed real-time monitoring equipment on the bridge.

SDOT also provided an update about Pier 18, and the problem with the lateral bearing. It explains what a lateral bearing is, the role in plays in the bridge, and what work needs to be done to address the problem. The post includes a visual showing the part of the bridge that needs to be repaired:

SDOT also announced they are planning to repave the 5-way intersection underneath the bridge this weekend and reconfigure parts of it.

SDOT will also be adding a new bus lane from Andover to the lower bridge:

SDOT has added traffic monitoring at a number of locations. In some places, counts are lower than usual due to COVID-19; that will change in the future as traffic resumes normal patterns; citywide, it’s 40% of average, and bus ridership is down over 70%.

That said, there are two locations where traffic counts show higher than usual traffic in the most recent count: Highland Park Way SW and West Marginal Way SW (up 38%), and West Marginal Way and SW Idaho Street (up 142%):

This will need to be closely monitored, as traffic counts are likely to increase significantly in the future.

Traffic counts on the lower bridge are roughly at baseline levels. SDOT is restricting use of the bridge to transit, freight, and emergency vehicles.

I have advocated for allowing access for, for example health care workers during the COVID-19 emergency, or opening the bridge to general traffic overnight. Another emerging issue is shuttle buses for companies that provide them, such as Amazon and Microsoft. Others have mentioned school buses once classes resume.

SDOT has so far not been willing to provide further access to the lower bridge; they note that once SPD stops enforcing the restrictions, some vehicles return. Abiding by the limitations will make it easier to advocate for allowing other uses.

SDOT is also making signal updates to 35th Avenue SW, and will be upgrading signal controllers to 35th and Roxbury to allow SDOT to control the signals remotely.

On Wednesday I participated in a meeting of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition (WSTC).  Earlier that day the WSTC sent a letter of requests to SDOT.  SDOT was able that evening to provide an initial response to many of the requests.

WSTC Letter: Actions Taken

  • Managing SODO and the Spokane Street corridor diversions
  • Worked with WSDOT to manage I-5, SR 99 and SR 509 diversions, and use other statewide notification modes
  • Installed oversized signs to highlight high- bridge closure and re-route requirements in key Peninsula centers
  • Installed signal at SW Holden and 9th Ave. SW-SW Highland Park Way
  • Improved signal timing and operation on all anticipated detour routes
  • Initiate SPD traffic patrols over the low bridge and authorize violation fines
  • Coordinated a short-term detour for commuters from Vashon and 
Southworth-Kitsap who drive through Fauntleroy
  • Prominently sharing information through our website, blog, and email.
  • Simultaneously sharing information with the West Seattle Blog, Westside Weekly, and other news outlets.

WSTC Letter: Actions In-process

  • Creating individual street plans and detour signage, to reduce or eliminate cut-through traffic impacts on West Seattle neighborhoods
  • Working with King County Metro on the following:
    • Increasing West Seattle Water Taxi service if demand warrants, expanding parking for Water Taxi commuters, and coordinating 773/775 with new sailing schedule, expanding 773/775 service to Morgan Junction, for the duration of the High Bridge closure; 
adding midday bus service for Admiral area residents, who are most effected by the closure

WSTC Letter: Actions Not Taken

  • SW Delridge Way and 21st Ave SW, to allow L & R turns onto Delridge, and ease pressure on SW Holden from SW Highland Park Way
    • SDOT: Not encouraging additional traffic to 21st Ave SW because of intersection geometry and lack of traffic signal
  • Allow (1) registered King County Van Pool vehicles and (2) medical staff vehicles to use the low bridge
    • SDOT: Low Bridge restricted to freight, transit, and emergency response vehicles

One final update for this week on the West Seattle Bridge, the City Council received an answer to a question my office asked March 23rd about SDOT’s assessment of Seattle’s Bridges (CM Pedersen’s office asked as well): the updated answer is copied below, including a link to the 2019 bridge ratings.

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

Each year SDOT updates the NHS Bridge Project Rating Criteria List (PRC) based on the previous years’ bridge condition data and rating factors that account for City of Seattle priorities, including equity and transportation system impact. With the 2019 SDOT NHS Bridge Project Rating, based on the May 2019 inspection, the West Seattle High Bridge was ranked 40, the same as its ranking in the 2018 SDOT NHS Bridge Project Rating. 

The process of reranking bridges in the PRC happens annually in Q1 of each year based on the previous year’s inspection data. If we were to rerank the PRC based on inspections from February and March 2020, then the 2020 NHS Bridge Project Rating will place the West Seattle High Bridge on the top of the list.

The West Seattle High-Rise Bridge inspection reports from 2013 through 2020 are posted on our website. We share these important reports to provide transparency to the documents that informed our decisions over the years.  

We believe the reports show our careful, proactive monitoring effort that put into place the systems necessary to make sure we could act quickly to preserve life and safety. Additionally, they show that during our frequent inspections of the West Seattle Bridge over the past several years, there was no indication that the bridge was unsafe for ordinary use or that maintenance needs would impact normal use of the bridge. These concerns emerged only very recently after continued inspections identified accelerating deterioration.” 

My earlier newsletters about the West Seattle Bridge and related issues are @ March 25, March 27, April 3, April 10, April 17. SDOT has a project website where you can sign up for e-mail updates.

SDCI Legislation Update

Last Monday the Council voted on CB 1197689 which would:

  1. Allow development projects that would normally be reviewed by the Design Review Board to be reviewed by SDCI staff through Administrative Design Review for the next six months, unless the department can transition all board reviews to virtual meetings or safely return to in-person meetings before then.
  2. Expedite the production of affordable housing by exempting publicly-funded affordable housing projects from Design Review if the project applicants are ready to submit a complete building permit application within the next six months, and allow the SDCI Director to waive or modify certain development standards for those projects.
  3. Allow developers preparing for Design Review to conduct their required Early Community Outreach via electronic or digital methods instead of in-person outreach methods.
  4. Allow developers of proposals for planned community development packages to conduct other types of public outreach instead of having in-person public meetings.
  5. Allow DON staff to review requests for certain alterations/modifications of City landmarks and buildings within Special Review Districts, Landmark Districts, and Historical Districts, as well as requests for development standard departures for City landmarks and controls and incentives agreements for City landmarks in instances where DON staff and the owner are able to reach written agreement.
  6. Allow DON staff to review requests for flexibility from development standards by public schools.
  7. Suspend the following board/committee reviews and extend any associated review timelines for 60 days:
    1. Nomination/Designation of new City landmarks.
    2. Requests to approve new buildings and larger alterations/modifications of City Landmarks and within Special Review Districts, Landmark Districts, and Historical Districts.
    3. Controls agreements for City landmarks where staff and owner are not able to reach written agreement.
    4. Major Institution Master Planning processes.
    5. Various other public meetings that are required as part of the land use process.

I am generally supportive of this legislation, given the fact that in-person meetings required by law are not allowed under the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order.  I had a number of amendments to this bill, but of all of the amendments I proposed, the one I believed was most important was removal of the section of the bill exempting affordable housing projects from the Administrative Design Review (ADR) process. I have been a stalwart advocate of affordable housing for more than 30 years of my life.  Under different circumstances, if the Administrative Design Review process is a proven barrier to the production of affordable housing, I would be amenable to reform in this area to increase the speed of affordable housing development.

My concerns about this section of the bill stem from the Governor’s Proclamation 20-28 and the subsequent guidance from the State Attorney General, which prohibits Council actions that are not either: (1) “necessary and routine,” or (2) “necessary to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and current public health emergency.”

This section of the bill (number two above), appears to be a policy discussion unrelated to COVID-19.  Many people have written and testified that ADR has been – before the COVID-19 crisis – a barrier to affordable housing production.  Though the policy discussion is worthy of having at the Council, these statements make clear to me that the problem has not been created by COVID-19 and under the Governor’s order I am concerned that the Council would be violating the law as it does not appear to me that expediting affordable housing that will be built in a year addresses the CURRENT public health emergency caused by COVID-19, which I believe is what the Governor’s order requires.

At a time when government on all levels is seeking the cooperation of the public in adhering to Emergency Orders, I believe it is incumbent on the Council to adhere to the Emergency Order directed at lawmakers, Proclamation 20-28.

I sponsored an amendment to strike this section of the bill; that amendment unfortunately failed 5-4.

I also sponsored two amendments that Councilmember Strauss incorporated into a substitute version of the bill and included a modification to address concerns about language access requested by Chinatown/ID stakeholders.

  • Modify the suspension of meetings of the Landmarks Board and other regulatory review bodies from 60-days to the earlier of (a) 60-days, (b) when virtual meetings are possible, or (c) when in-person meetings resume. This clarified that meetings could be held earlier than 60 days, if possible. Historic Seattle wrote in support of this amendment.
  • Add a new section to the bill to provide a limited authorization to the Historic Preservation Officer (HPO) to negotiate controls and incentives agreements prior to the Landmarks Preservation Board’s consideration of a landmark designation at a property owner’s request. This would keep the process moving forward for projects that have already been nominated, but are not yet designated, by allowing the staff to commence negotiations. Historic Seattle also supported this amendment.

To pass, because the bill is emergency legislation, it required a three-fourths vote of the Council. Ultimately it failed with three votes against it.  In voting against the legislation, I was joined by Councilmembers Pedersen and Morales.  Although I was supportive of much of the bill, I voted against it due to my belief that, with the section exempting affordable housing from Administrative Design review included, the Council would be violating the Governor’s order.

The bill is now scheduled to be reconsidered on Monday.

In-District Office Hours

On Wednesday April 29, I will be hosting virtual office hours to comply with the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order from Governor Inslee. They will begin at 2pm and go until 6pm, with the last meeting of the day beginning at 5:30pm.

Due to the nature of virtual office hours, you will need to contact my schedule Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov) in order to receive the call-in information and schedule a time. We will be using Skype for Business, and you can either utilize the application or the dial-in number.

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

  • 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

COVID-19 Updates

West Seattle Chamber Gets Action for D1 Restaurants

On April 14, the day after San Francisco enacted an Emergency Order capping the service fees on 3rd party service delivery apps, I was contacted by a D1 business owner to urge Seattle to do the same.  Today, I’m very pleased to share this announcement:

Mayor Jenny A. Durkan, Council President M. Lorena González, and Councilmember Lisa Herbold today announced a new Emergency Orderto impose a 15 percent commission cap on third-party delivery services. The necessary statewide ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy’ order has caused restaurants to rely solely on delivery and takeout services for revenue, and many restaurants use third-party delivery services to meet the needs of their customers and keep their staff safe. The 15 percent commission cap will remain in place until restaurants are allowed to offer unrestricted dine-in service in the City of Seattle. 

“We know that so many of our small businesses are hurting because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that delivery services have been a lifeline for our restaurants during this unprecedented time. Unfortunately, some third-party delivery services are charging exorbitant commission fees, which exacerbates the financial hardship many restaurants are already experiencing,” said Mayor Durkan. “This commission cap will be critical to ensuring that delivery and takeout remain viable options and don’t cause increased financial hardship. At the City, we’re doing everything we can locally to support our small businesses during this unprecedented moment in history. We’ve identified millions of dollars to invest directly in our most vulnerable small businesses and are working with our partners across government and in the private sector to help many who are struggling. With many of our neighborhood restaurants still open, we can support our small businesses by ordering pickup or delivery during this time.”

“Our beloved main street restaurants are reeling from this economic crisis and exorbitant delivery service charges further threaten their ability to weather this storm. Restaurant owners across Seattle have adapted their business models to delivery or takeout only service, resulting in the unemployment of thousands of service industry workers and even thinner margins for these important small businesses. With tight margins, every dollar paid to an app-based delivery service is a dollar taken from our local restaurants, economy and workforce. We know some of these corporations are imposing inflated fees and profiting from this crisis on the backs of our main street. We cannot allow that to happen. This Emergency Order will provide much needed relief and establish a system that is more fair and equitable to our restaurants,” said Council President M. Lorena González

Councilmember Herbold, representing Seattle’s District 1, thanked the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce for their early advocacy on this issue and recognized that the West Seattle Chamber shared their members’ experiences of these apps unfairly charging local businesses 30 percent on deliveries. The West Seattle Chamber has written that these apps have been “using this opportunity during the COVID-19 challenge to tell consumers that using their services are helping small businesses when the only one benefiting from these programs are these corporations.”

Restricting restaurants to takeout and delivery service disproportionately impacts small, independently-owned or minority-owned businesses that already operate on thin margins, adding to financial pressures in the industry that predate the current public health crisis. Many residents support local restaurants by using third-party, app-based delivery services, and these third-party platforms charge commission to restaurants based on the purchase price. Each service agreement between restaurants and third-party companies varies, but some include commissions that are 30 percent or more of the purchase price. These unregulated charges place an undue burden on small business owners and require some of them to turn over a significant percentage of their badly-needed revenue to a third-party. 

To further protect delivery drivers who, as independent contractors, are often shut out of federal unemployment relief, the Emergency Order requires that 100 percent of tips go to the drivers, and it includes provisions to make clear that it is illegal for a third-party platform to reduce driver compensation rates as a result of this order going into effect for the duration of the order. 

“Marination and Super Six currently rely on takeout and delivery in order to have an opportunity to survive in this new economic environment. Because so many of these platforms charge such high fees, we have started to handle all takeout and delivery orders in-house. But this commission cap will allow us to transition to a third-party delivery service without facing further financial stressors and allows third-party platforms and restaurants to do what they do best,” said Kamala Saxton, co-owner of Marination and Super Six.

The 15 percent commission cap will take effect immediately and will remain in place until restaurants are allowed to offer unrestricted dine-in service. Violating the 15 percent commission cap is a misdemeanor offense and would be prosecuted by the Seattle City Attorney’s Office. Restaurants who wish to report a violation of the commission cap should call the Seattle Police Department’s non-emergency line at 206-625-5011. 

D1 Service Providers Call:  Last week, leaders of about 15 nonprofits serving the people of District 1 joined me for a phone call to share how their work is changing in the public health emergency.  We discussed how COVID-19 is impacting the people they serve, their staff, and how they have changed their programs or services as a result.  Some of the common themes we heard:

  • COVID-19 is impacting everything about their work, and they are building new models to serve people in real time
  • The needs are greater than ever, in particular for food and rental assistance
  • Lack of masks, gloves and other protective equipment is making it difficult to serve people and protect their health
  • There is a need for more information and supplies among the Spanish-speaking community

I am incredibly grateful to everyone who participated, and who is serving their community during these difficult times.  If you are a service provider and would like to be included on the next phone call, please email my office.

Rapid Testing for Shelter Staff:  Shelters that serve people experiencing homelessness are seeing increased cases of COVID-19 among staff and guests right now.  One of the challenges they have to keeping people safe is the length of time it takes to receive coronavirus test results – an average of 4-5 days.  During that time, employees with suspected COVID-19 cannot report to work, leaving shelters short-staffed during this crucial time.

My office has been working with Seattle Fire Department to help shelter staff access their quick-turnaround testing site.  Now, employees at two major shelters can get tested at the SFD’s own testing site, and get their results within a day.  This will help keep everyone safe and healthy.  I’d like to express my gratitude to Chief Scoggins for making SFD’s additional testing capacity available to this crucial group of frontline workers.

Bench Closures at Alki: Last weekend, crowds continued to congregate at Alki Beach despite the Mayor’s Keep It Moving guidance.  Parks ambassadors were capturing data about park usage, and report that of all the 15 parks they monitored last Sunday, fully 1/3 of the people counted were at Alki.  No other parks reported this high usage and crowding.

Instead of closing Alki entirely, Parks is taking the step of closing down specific benches, as well as all picnic tables and shelters, to encourage people to keep moving through the park.  Many constituents have written to express their concern that seniors, people with disabilities or people with injuries will not be able to use park at all, without a place to rest.  Parks has assured me that some benches will remain available to people who need to rest during their exercise.  I have asked for more details about how many benches remain available, and their locations.

Parks has indicated that they will monitor usage at Alki this coming weekend, and I will follow up to see what they learn.  In the meantime, please follow the Keep It Moving guidelines, and consider discovering a new neighborhood park to help avoid overcrowding.

#LightItBlue for West Seattle Healthcare Workers

Inspired by the nationwide #LightItBlue campaign that lights up blue landmarks for health care workers, the Junction had an idea to show support for the people on the frontlines during COVID-19. The West Seattle community tree that sparkles with lights during Hometown Holidays, was the perfect choice to show support on behalf of West Seattle community members.

Located in Junction Plaza Park on 42nd Ave SW in the heart of the West Seattle Junction, the merchants worked with Flemings Holiday Lighting, who lights up the Junction in December and many spectacular events throughout the year, to take the charge on lighting up the tree blue.

The Junction wants to thank Nucor Steel for the financial support of this West Seattle #LightItBlue project. A neighborhood supporter, Nucor immediately stepped into the idea with a resounding “Yes!”. The Seattle Parks and Recreation staff jumped into the idea too, allowing for this campaign.

The iconic tree will be lit up blue throughout the pandemic showing West Seattle 24/7 support. Thank you healthcare workers from West Seattle you are our beacon of hope!

Photo Credit: Westside Seattle Patrick Robinson

Summer Fest Cancellation

After much discussion, the Junction has made the safest decision for the community – to cancel the 2020 Summer Fest – July 10-12th.  We are saddened but hopeful we will rise like a Westside phoenix to bring back Summer Fest stronger than ever July 2021.

In the meantime, they’re developing a plan for a block party style community gathering that will be announced as soon as they’re confident it’s safe to bring people together. Current events and info from King Co Public Health give us hope for a late August date.

We’ll continue to monitor all health regulations, and sincerely hope the Junction merchants can show appreciation of the outpouring of community support by bringing you one day that celebrates all the West Seattle goodness we’ve stored up through this pandemic.

Stay tuned, stay healthy.

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