9-12 PSHS Committee Meeting // SPOG Leader Says Woman Killed by Another Police Officer “Had Limited Value” // Vacant Building Monitoring Program Legislative Update // Hiawatha Playfield Reopening // Are You Raising a Grandchild? // Seattle Rescue Plan Progress // Impact Fees Update


9-12 PSHS Committee Meeting

The Public Safety and Human Services met on September 12th and considered legislation to incorporate state law concerning possession and public use of controlled substances into the Municipal Code, and stating that “diversion, treatment, and other alternatives to booking are the preferred approach…” There are two kinds of diversion; pre-arrest diversion and diversion that happens after arrest, but before the City Attorney files charges.

The legislation, proposed by Mayor Harrell and sponsored by Councilmember Lewis and myself, passed by a 4-1 vote.

It now goes to the Full Council for a vote on September 19.

I appreciate that the Executive has taken a nuanced approach in this proposal to implement the authority granted by the state legislature, consistent with the role of the Mayor as head of the Executive branch of city government. I appreciate the delineation of how the authority will be used in practice when deciding whether to pursue pre-arrest diversion or post-arrest arrest, and providing clear, practical direction to officers for how to use this authority.

During a previous committee briefing, the Mayor’s office noted the approach is informed by a desire to balance public safety objectives with the Mayor’s experience with the war on drugs.  Further, a law-enforcement only approach wouldn’t work with the limited number of officers and limitations on jail capacity (the jail has a staffing crisis as well).

State law applies everywhere in the state. So, the state law making possession and public use gross misdemeanors applies in Seattle, whether we act on this bill or not.

Councilmember Lewis and I co-sponsored a substitute Amendment, drafted in collaboration with the Mayor’s office, to both address the calls for clarity in legal advice, technical issues identified by Central Staff, and to address non-controversial areas of agreement, all consistent with the policy intent of the original version sent by the Mayor.

Given that this is new authority, it’s important to have ongoing review: the amendment establishes a behavioral health advisory committee to advise the city regarding the needs for changes in police protocol, legislation or other policy and provide data as recommended by the state.

Policies will be developed to implement the bill, if it passes, as is standard for SPD. Other departments also develop rules for implementing legislation, including the Department of Planning and Development, and Office of Labor Standards, so this is a normal procedure. Policies can’t be developed until legislation is adopted.

In closing I want to highlight two recitals included in the bill transmitted by Mayor Harrell. Given the history of how we have enforced drug laws in this country, it is critically important to explicitly state our commitment to not repeat the errors of the past:

WHEREAS, The City of Seattle recognizes that prior federal, state, and local drug offense law enforcement and policies, including the “war on drugs,” disproportionately impacted Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and caused trauma and pain that lingers still today in these communities; and

WHEREAS, The City of Seattle is committed to not repeating the errors of the past and will work to have the implementation of this ordinance balance public safety with the well-being of individuals using controlled substances; and

This commitment, along with the emphasis on diversion, in particular pre-arrest diversion, are key reasons I am co-sponsoring this legislation.

SPOG Leader Says Woman Killed by Another Police Officer “Had Limited Value”

Jaahnavi Kandula, 23, was struck and killed by a Seattle police officer responding to a nearby medical incident.

On Monday the Seattle Police Department released body worn video from an officer response to the death of Jaahnavi Kandula, a student from India who died after being hit by a police car traveling at high speed.

The video has since resulted in numerous articles worldwide, and widespread anger, in particular in India. India’s ambassador to the United States has raised the issue with the Biden administration.

At the start of the meeting Public Safety and Human Services Committee meeting on Tuesday morning, I made a public statement addressing the bodycam footage and audio recording containing inhumane and careless messages about the police killing of Jaahnavi Kandula. I agree with Joel Merkel, Co-Chair of the Community Police Commission, who described this video as heartbreaking and shockingly insensitive, and as damaging to the trust the department is trying to build with Seattle communities.

While I am angry and disappointed to hear the way this detective talked about a fatal collision, I appreciate the role that the accountability system plays to daylight this type of culture within the department.

As horrifying as this conversation was, I am thankful to the SPD employees who discovered this and appropriately escalated this issue through the chain of command to the Chief’s Office. I also appreciate that Chief Diaz referred the matter to OPA for investigation.

As Seattle hires police, we need to be focusing on those who would be guardians, not warriors, so SPD can shift their culture as well as retain officers with an interest in protecting human life and upholding the peace and wellbeing of our city.

The Council and Mayor, working with the Office of Police Accountability, Office of the Inspector General, and the Community Police Commission, have set the priorities for the next SPOG contract with consideration of the 2017 accountability ordinance improvements sought by Judge Robart and memorialized in Resolution 31855 in 2018.

SPOG should embrace this opportunity to restore trust by supporting accountability system improvements, just like SPMA did last year.

Vacant Building Monitoring Program Legislative Update

This week, Land Use Committee heard a briefing and discussion on legislation to update the Vacant Building Monitoring Program, run by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI). The Vacant Building Monitoring Program was last updated by several bills that I sponsored in 2018 and 2019, before the COVID-related recession significantly changed the landscape of our city’s economy and public safety services.  In the first year of the program alone, 77 vacant properties in D1 were being monitored, a huge improvement over only 2 vacant buildings in District 1 being monitored before the passage of the new program.

The Vacant Building Monitoring Program requires monthly inspection of vacant buildings, which (1) have received three notices of violation for failure to maintain the property in accordance with the Vacant Building Code, (2) are located on a property with a redevelopment plan (a filed master use permit or building permit application), or (3) are included on a list maintained by the police or fire departments of vacant buildings that have generated large numbers of calls for dispatch and take resources for public safety. Properties are enrolled in the program and charged fees until they have been found to be in compliance for three consecutive inspections.

Between 2021 and 2022, SDCI found a 41% increase in unsecured vacant buildings – buildings with windows or doors open and free to entry. In the same year, there was also an increase in buildings found to be generally secured, but with violations – buildings where the active points of entry were secured but other safety standards were not met.

The new legislation raises technical standards required to meet compliance with the program in the interest of improving public safety by requiring stronger reinforcement of entry points, allowing requirements of clear polycarbonate for window coverings to allow line of sight for first responders, and requiring buildings be kept free of graffiti.

The bill also streamlines interdepartmental communication by allowing fire and police to refer a call for dispatch to SDCI to add a building to the program instead of maintaining three separate databases of vacant buildings. My hope is that this allows police and fire departments to have better tools to protect neighbors of vacant buildings without new criminal code changes.

Finally, the bill would give SDCI the authority for an administrative filing for a lien to address nonpayment of fees. The collection rate of fees charged by the Vacant Building Monitoring Program dropped from 57% in 2019 to 37% in 2022. This authority gives SDCI the opportunity to enforce their fee structure with lower cost to the City.

These updates are intended to encourage compliance with the program. I was glad to hear that Seattle Fire Department, Seattle Police Department, SDCI, and the Mayor’s Office have formed a special workgroup to identify the most hazardous buildings in our city and get those buildings taken down more quickly. I am looking forward to hearing the plans being developed by this special workgroup.

Hiawatha Playfield Reopening

Hiawatha Playfield is now open to the public and the Hiawatha Playfield Turf Replacement project is substantially complete. This project replaced the aging synthetic turf at the field with markings for baseball, soccer, football and softball, resurfaced the rubberized three-lane running track, and replaced the batting cage.

A few items are still being finalized: new soccer goals, completing the batting cage frame and tunnel, and safety fencing for the outfield.  For more information on the project, visit https://www.seattle.gov/parks/allparks/hiawatha-playfield#turf or contact Kellina Stamm at Kellina.Stamm@seattle.gov or (206) 584-1690.

Are You Raising a Grandchild?

Last Sunday was National Grandparents Day!  I hope my fellow grandparents got to connect with their grandkids.  In your honor, I wanted to share these thoughts from Karen Winston, who coordinates the City’s annual Grandparents Day celebration:

No matter which relationship grandparents have with their grandchildren, they have influence. They pass on family history and cultural identity. In many cultures, grandparents and other elders are highly revered cornerstones of their communities. And many grandparents exude (and also enjoy) unconditional love.

A sizeable number of grandparents have custody of their grandchildren. If you are a grandparent who is working so you can support a grandchild, and are responsible for that grandchild’s care, you may have trouble making ends meet. Help is available.

The King County Kinship Navigator program directs caregivers to the community resources such as food, clothing, household items, transportation, legal fees, school and youth activities, and one-time help with rent or utilities to prevent eviction or shutoffs. For more information, e-mail kinshipprogram@ccsww.org or call 206-328-5951.

Seattle Rescue Plan Progress

In the early years of the pandemic, my Council colleagues and I rapidly appropriated $302 million in federal relief funding to help Seattle residents survive the compounding health, economic, and mental health crises.  I focused my efforts on securing critical funding for seniors, artists and culture-bearers, and mental health supports.  This legislation was known as Seattle Rescue Plan; you can read up on it here and here.

The City’s latest performance report illustrates how the Seattle Rescue Plan continues to help residents recover from the pandemic. The report highlights accomplishments across 35 programs with new performance data from 2022-2023.


Seattle funded over 350 community organizations and non-profits through the Seattle Rescue Plan. The City and its community partners have delivered a wide range of services, including the following achievements:

  • Purchased four buildings that will offer 445 new affordable housing units
  • Provided services to over 3,500 small businesses and grants to over 50 business associations
  • Funded over 300,000 meals and supported an additional 1,000,000 food bank visits
  • Supported public events that saw over 700,000 attendees
  • Provided free childcare for 690 children and awarded funding to projects that will provide childcare services for an additional 311 children
  • Supported over 800 Seattle Promise scholars to complete or re-start their college education
  • Collected over 3.2 million pounds of litter and cleaned 100,000 square feet of graffiti
  • Invested $3 million in downtown revitalization to bolster our region’s economic engine

More achievements are detailed on the Seattle Rescue Plan Transparency Portal and in the 2023 Seattle Rescue Plan Performance Report.

I am especially proud that a Brookings Institute report found that Seattle led the way in quickly distributing federal relief to boost household and economic recovery.  An analysis by the Center for American Progress found that during the 2008 Great Recession, economic recovery was swifter and unemployment lower in the 30 states that increased government spending, compared to the 20 states that cut spending.

Impact Fees Update

On Wednesday, the Land Use Committee heard a briefing on a bill to amend the Comp Plan to include Transporation impact fee related policies.  In last week’s newsletter, I reported that there would also be a Public Hearing scheduled for this meeting.   It was canceled unfortunately.  Before Council action on this bill, a 30-day public notice is required, so consequently it will need to be re-scheduled, to allow for passage before adoption of the 2024 budget.

The legislation Councilmember Pedersen and I are co-sponsoring would amend the transportation element of the Comprehensive Plan to allow for impact fees if the Council created such a program in the future. The proposal would not create an impact fee program; that would need to be a separate, future action.

The presentation in committee showed impact fees in other local cities:

The presentation also showed comparison charts developed in response to questions about the cumulative impact of various fees in housing production, including transportation, school, and fire impact fees, water, drainage, and wastewater fees, and affordable housing fees, compared to other jurisdictions.

The charts below are illustrative examples designed to answer public questions about the total cost of housing production and is based on the average transportation impact fee for Western Washington. There is not currently a fee proposal by a Councilmember. That would be a separate step possible only if a Comprehensive Plan amendment is adopted.




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