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

Funding for District 1 Landslide Mitigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

west seattle landslide west seattle landslide

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

west seattle landslide

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

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

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

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

west seattle landslide west seattle landslide

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

(photos courtesy of SDOT)

Big News – Housing Bond Update

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

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

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

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

OLS Administrative Rules Update

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

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

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

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

Seattle Office of Labor Standards

810 Third Ave, Suite 375

Seattle, WA 98104-1627

Attn: Jenn Round, OLS Enforcement Supervisor/Chapter 140

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

Join me for the West Seattle Grand Parade!

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

Letters of Interest Written in June and July

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

In-District Office Hours Tomorrow

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

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

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

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

Fremont Solstice Parade Help Has Arrived!

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

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

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

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

fremont parade

Photo credit: B. Smith

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