Highland Park Roundabout Update; False SCS Fliers & SLI History Re: Mobile CHEL Unit; Passage of MHA and What’s Next; High Point Play Area Celebration; Civic Poet applications open through April 24; In-District Office Hours

Highland Park Roundabout Update

During last year’s budget, I was able to get the Highland Park Way SW/SW Holden Street Roundabout project added to the SDOT Capital Improvement Program, the long-term capital planning budget.

Unfortunately, we learned in January the grant application SDOT submitted to WSDOT was unsuccessful. Since then I’ve worked with state legislators to seek funding through the state legislative process.

Senator Joe Nguyen and Representative Joe Fitzgibbon have submitted this as a potential project in the state transportation budget. Funds are limited in the state transportation budget, but I want to give a big thank you to both Senator Nguyen and Representative Fitzgibbon for putting forward applications to their respective Transportation Chairs!

The Chairs of the Senate Transportation Committee and the House Transportation Committee will release their proposed budgets in the next few weeks.


False SCS Fliers & SLI History Re: Mobile CHEL Unit

Opioid addiction is a behavioral health disorder that affects our entire country, and over 700 individuals die each year from opioid overdose in our state. This is a severe public health crisis and requires a humane response. I was disappointed this week to find fliers spreading false information about the siting of a safe-injection site in Pigeon Point. I assume that the intent of these bogus fliers was to foment fear, anxiety, and resentment in our communities; people experiencing homelessness and people of color generally become the targets of fearmongering like this. This is not the way to engage in civil conversation and problem-solving about an issue of great importance to our community; we must find data-driven, performance-based solutions.

Addiction can touch anyone, personally or through family and friends, and creates extraordinary hardship. When you love someone who has an addiction, you go back and forth between the decision to cut the person off or support them. Neither choice feels right and often it seems that neither choice makes any difference.  Ultimately, I believe that recovery is impossible without love, support, and a safe place for someone to meet their basic needs, and people with addictions must find own their path to recovery with the support of their loved ones.

Advocates and public health professionals use a harm reduction-based approach for people struggling with addiction. This approach prevents overdosing and other negative health conditions by creating a safe environment for people alongside recovery resources. The UW research team that provided proof of concept behind the successful Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program has recently published positive findings from a Randomized Control Trial that shows a harm reduction-based approach is effective in reducing alcohol use in a homeless population. This is gold standard research that further validates strategies of sustained engagement with substance users without an abstinence framework are effective in reducing use, particularly in highly marginalized groups.

One of the key strategies in the harm reduction-approach is known as safe-consumption, which makes resources available for people to get support and use in a medically supervised, no-strings-attached environment. There are about 100 safe-consumption sites (SCS) in other parts of the world, and there have been no deaths at any of these sites over the 30-year history of these sites operating.

Public support for SCS in Seattle is strong.  A recent poll by FM3 Research asked King County voters whether they favored a ballot initiative that would ban SCS programs. The results showed that within the city of Seattle, 70% of voters opposed banning SCS and only 27% supported a ban. The poll also showed that Seattle voters favor SCS because they would prevent people from dying from overdoses, use proven harm reduction strategies to get people into treatment, and would get drug use off our streets and into medically staffed facilities. Similarly, a different 2016 poll by EMC Research found that 78% of Seattle voters support “creating safe drug injection sites so people who use drugs can do so safely and we can reduce overdoses, cut the number of needles in the streets, and make treatment options available to them.”

In 2018, City Council passed a Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) that requested the Human Services Department (HSD) conduct a feasibility study to scope the benefits and risks of piloting tools in the “Treatment-on-Demand” framework, bundling on-demand services and treatment with safe-consumption. As a separate action, City Council approved $1.3 million in the case that the feasibility study showed a positive, clear path forward. These dollars were not spent in 2018 and have carried over into this year.

The recommendations provided by HSD in this feasibility study provided that thoughtful consideration be made toward the costs of services like health screenings and assessments, education, syringe exchange program, and social services vital to adequately realize the “Treatment-on-Demand” model.

HSD’s feasibility study also considered legal risks of opening a SCS to implement in Seattle. Efforts in San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York, Denver, and Boston were reviewed, and the strong recommendation was to wait based on a civil lawsuit filed against a nonprofit planning to open a safe-consumption site. The City of Seattle will monitor the progress of this lawsuit as it continues to explore the best way forward.

This conversation and process is involved, and it demonstrates the City of Seattle’s genuine commitment to implement best practices in interrupting the opioid crisis and saving lives. I take this work very seriously and will stand by the City Council in continuing to scope the appropriate role in city government to make harm-reduction strategies available.


Passage of MHA and What’s Next

On Monday the Full Council took its final vote on the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) legislation. As I’ve written about before, the trade off of additional development capacity for contributions to affordable house is a step toward funding more housing, but this step is not enough.

The City plans to develop 6,000 affordable units with the implementation of the MHA program. However, I also believe that we will lose many currently affordable units due to demolition and redevelopment of existing housing.  The estimated gain of 6,000 new units built through the MHA program may be offset by these losses.

Though our city is full of the stories of people whose rental housing was torn down and replaced with a building that they would not be able to afford to rent, the city relies on data.  The data we have about demolished rental units is scarce, so we have to draw some conclusions about what data we do have.

From 2016-2018, 2699 units were lost to demolition. (see link) One survey reports that about 70 percent, or 1889 of those units, were affordable to low income households with incomes at or below 50 percent of median or 1889 units.

During same period the city spent $175 million to create 2,565 subsidized units but according to OH Annual Production Reports, only 1434 of those reached down and rented for those with incomes below 50 percent of median.

In effect, over this period, demolitions alone accounted for and led to a net loss of over 400 very low income units serving renters earning less than 50% of the median income in Seattle. Applications are pending right now for removal of another 910 units.

Due to this concern, I have brought forth another bill to address the displacement of our most vulnerable communities.  I initially wrote about this bill at the end of February, and was first heard in Councilmember Johnson’s Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee on March 6. You can watch that discussion here. Housing built through the MHA program will help build affordable housing, but in order to address the affordable housing crisis we will need many tools, and specifically tools to address the loss of affordable housing and displacement we are seeing in our vulnerable communities.

A review of permitting data reveals only about 1 in 10 new projects required removal of existing housing, conforming to city figures showing that during the 2016-2018 period the total units demolished (2699 units) amounted to about one-tenth the amount of new units added (28,244 new units). While the new units were expensive and smaller, most lost were low income and larger with many larger ones (single family rentals) serving families or up to 8 unrelated individuals.

In other words, if my legislation, as some people fear, created a disincentive to build on sites with existing housing, this would not significantly affect rates of new construction. Further, my bill is limited only to five areas of the city where the risk of displacement is high and access to opportunity low, further limiting the percentage of new construction that would be affected.

I want to thank Puget Sound Sage, Rainier Beach Action Coalition, Black Community Impact Alliance, Catholic Community Services, Housing Development Consortium, HomeSight, and WashingtonCAN for coming to present, and those of you that attended the Lunch and Learn this week hosted by Councilmember Mosqueda where we continued the conversation about displacement and the need to address it.


High Point Play Area Celebration

Since last August the High Point Play Area has been closed due to construction – this Saturday it is reopening! Come join in the fun this Saturday between 2pm and 4pm. There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony, music, face painting, and food. Best of all it’s free and fun for all ages.


Civic Poet Applications Open through April 24

The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture is seeking applications for Seattle’s Civic Poet.

Anastacia-Renee Tolbert is the current Civic Poet; the previous Civic Poet, Claudia Castro Luna, is the current Washington State Poet Laureate

The deadline to apply is April 24th; more information, and how to apply, is available here. Background on the Civic Poet program, started by former Councilmember Nick Licata is available here.


In-District Office Hours

On March 29, I will be at the Southwest Customer Service Center (2801 SW Thistle St) from 2:00 p.m. – 6:45 p.m.  The final meeting of the day will begin at 6:30 p.m.

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

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

  • Friday, April 26, 2019
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, May 31, 2019
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, June 28, 2019
    Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St
  • Friday, July 26, 2019
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, August 16, 2019
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, September 27, 2019
    Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St
  • Friday, October 25, 2019
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, November 29, 2019
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, December 20, 2019
    Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St
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