Building Emission Performance Standard UNANIMOUSLY Voted out of Committee / Alki Stay Healthy Street / Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy at the Regional Policy Committee


Building Emission Performance Standard UNANIMOUSLY Voted out of Committee

My 2023 Select Committee on Climate Action met on Thursday, December 7 and voted 7-0 to send legislation to establish Building Emissions Performance Standards to the City Council for a final vote on December 12th. The legislation applies to existing buildings over 20,000 square feet.

The committee heard an informative presentation from City Light about their preparation for growing electricity use, as we move toward greater use of this climate-friendly energy source. Their Q&A explains City Light’s work on a variety of levels including work on the Integrated Resource Plan, Climate Change Adaptation Plan, and an Electrification Assessment. City Light has been carbon neutral since 2005.

Below are comments I made in support of the legislation:

“Addressing greenhouse gas emissions is one of the greatest challenges of our time, locally, nationally, and internationally.

At the international level, the 28th UN Climate Change Conference has been meeting since November 30. As the UN Climate page says, “UN Climate Change conferences are the world’s only multilateral decision-making forum on climate change with almost complete membership of every country in the world.  To put it simply, the COP is where the world comes together to agree on ways to address the climate crisis, such as limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, helping vulnerable communities adapt to the effects of climate change, and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.”

This multilateral work is critical, but we must also act locally. We are experiencing the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions more and more in Seattle.

Forest fire haze during the summer and even autumn has become normal. We had record heat of 108 degrees in 2021—and in the month of June no less, which would have been unthinkable not long ago.

Some of the discussion topics at COP 28 include health, a just transition, and multilevel action; I’ll speak to those later, though I do want to highlight that for the first-time health has been a key focus of the conference, with a Health Day. A climate and health researcher at the University of Washington, called it a “watershed moment” for her field.

This makes all the more timely the letter we received from Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, Health Officer of Seattle and King County Public Health, urging support for this legislation.

Here in Seattle, with this legislation, today we have the chance to do our part, with this building emissions performance standard legislation developed by the Office of Sustainability and Environment through two years of work, including consultation with numerous stakeholders.

This policy is projected to reduce climate pollution from buildings by 27% by 2050 and is one of the most impactful actions we can take locally to reduce emissions, as buildings are one of the largest sources of pollution.

More work will be needed, nationally, internationally and in Seattle, but today we have the opportunity to take decisive action.

This legislation is about the future.

Some of the most moving comments we have heard are from parents and grandparents, and their children and grandchildren being their inspiration for supporting this legislation.

Earlier I mentioned that COP28 includes meetings on health, a just transition, and multilevel action.

Today, we can do our part for action at our level, City government.

This legislation is part of a just transition; it will create an estimated 150-270 new annual jobs, green jobs that will promote electrification; many thanks to OSE and the Mayor for baking this into the recipe.

I’d like to read an excerpt from the letter mentioned earlier from Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, Health Officer of Seattle and King County Public Health, urging support for this legislation. The letter states,

“The American Public Health Association, American College of Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Medical Association, and many other medical, nursing, scientific, and public health organizations have recognized climate change as a health emergency, while the World Health Organization has declared “climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity.”

It further states,

“Communities that are suffering worst from pollution — often low-income communities of color— have higher risks of death from particle pollution, in part due to the historical impacts of redlining that have led communities of color to be pushed to live in buildings with greater exposure to air pollution.”

“The electrification of multi-family housing, libraries, offices, and other large buildings provides an opportunity to ensure both cooling and effective indoor air filtration, which are becoming more critical as we experience increasingly frequent climate-driven heat waves and wildfire smoke events.”

In closing I would note that Council President Juarez opted to name this committee the 2023 Select Committee on Climate Change. This implies the committee could be convened in subsequent years, so thank you for that Madame President.

This legislation is projected to get Seattle to 50% of the building emissions reductions needed to be carbon neutral in 2050, so this isn’t the end of the story, but it is a very significant chapter, and one we should celebrate. This vote taking place during COP28 could not be more timely.

Our vote today is a critical step forward but there is so much more to do.  As noted in the Director’s report, the Seattle BEPS policy, in combination with existing City and State policies, “gets Seattle about halfway towards net-zero. The remaining cumulative emissions…will need to be obtained from future policies that address nonresidential and multifamily buildings smaller than 20,000 SF and the single-family sector, beyond those that will be already addressed by the existing residential heating oil conversion program (Seattle Clean Heat Program).”

I look forward to next year’s Council, working collaboratively with Seattle blue-green coalition and building owners, using the momentum and partnership created by this policy, to take those next steps.”


SDOT Announcement on Alki Stay Healthy Street

Last Friday SDOT announced updates on Healthy Streets, including the Alki Point.

SDOT shared early design concepts in 2022 and evaluated community feedback in 2023. Updates include approximately 0.25 miles of new walking/biking space; 3 new ADA parking spaces; 3 new speed humps; and on-street parking removal to allow for new walking/biking space.

Construction is expected to begin next year.

Additional detail is available at the Alki Point Healthy Street webpage, including detail on the locations for the new speed hump.

I’ve heard some community concern about the segment between 63rd and 64th Avenue SW; there will be a King County transformer project at 63rd Ave SW and Beach Drive SW, to support a permanent backup generator for the Alki Wet Weather Treatment Station Facility and 63rd Avenue Pump Station. Part of this project will include street excavation between the Alki Wet Weather Treatment Facility and Pump Station on Beach Drive.

King County indicated they would coordinate their work with SDOT’s Stay Healthy Street project.


Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy (VSHSL) at the Regional Policy Committee (RPC)

This year, King County voters approved the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Service Levy to fund supportive services for vets, seniors, and resilient communities for another 6 years.  In addition, this levy funds workforce stabilization.

The Regional Policy Committee (RPC) is made up of representatives from the Seattle City Council, the King County Council, and the Sound Cities Association, and reviews and recommends regional policies and plans. I serve as an alternate.  At the November 27th RPC meeting, members voted to support an amendment that would move $6 million workforce stabilization funds into capital needs for food security.  King County Councilmember Balducci and I voted against the amendment.

Because RPC recommendations go to the King County Council, advocates last week convinced the King County Council Committee of the Whole a couple days later on November 29th to reverse the RPC recommendation.  My email inbox was flooded with messages that said in part:

“The staff who connect with veterans experiencing homelessness, bring seniors nutritious meals, and support housing stability are chronically underpaid. Without additional investment to start undoing decades of underfunding, essential workers face additional strain on themselves and the people they serve, unacceptably high staff turnover and vacancy rates, and worse results for every investment area. Without these investments, we lose essential frontline workers to better paying jobs in the for-profit sector. This staff attrition and turnover disrupt critical relationships with the community members we serve, increase program operating costs, and reduce agencywide capacity to address our community’s most urgent issues.”

Workforce stabilization is issue that you will remember I have been promoting at the Seattle CIty Council, with funding to close the “Pay Penalty” gap – which is the 7% increase in salary that someone whose profession is in human services receives as soon as the get a job outside of human services. With Mayor Harrell’s support, we’ve moved the needle in this year’s budget process with a 2% increase over and above the legally required inflationary increase.

While doing this work at the City, many of my colleagues on the Council as well as in the Executive branch, say: “the human services agencies the Seattle Human Services Department funds also get funding from the County, the State, and the Federal government; Seattle’s Human Services Department can’t fix the pay penalty gap alone!”  But other jurisdictions are helping.  Voters supported workforce stabilization in the Housing Levy with $122 million of $970 million for operating, maintenance and services expenses, including workforce stabilization in new and existing permanent supportive housing buildings.  The $1.25 billion King County Crisis Care Centers Levy funds wages at 20 percent above the current average and assumes an additional $20 million to invest in strategies such as subsidizing staff insurance costs, funding costs of certifications, or subsidizing caregiver costs like childcare or eldercare for staff. The $564 million VSHSL included $58 million for workforce stabilization.

Because the RPC action was reversed by the King County Council Committee of the Whole, the measure had to come back to RPC for concurrence.  I’m pleased to report today that I had the chance to join RPC again today, as an alternate, to vote unanimously to restore funding so the full $58 million for workforce stabilization funds is maintained, consistent with the will of the voters.  Capital grants to support food security is still an eligible expenditure for the levy.

Women are over-represented in the human services industry, making up almost 80 percent of human services workers, and Black/African American workers are almost three times as likely to work in human services as they are to work in non-care industries. Thank you to the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness for their strong advocacy for workforce stabilization and fair wages for people who do this life-saving, mission-critical care work.

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