Myers Way Open Space Saved, Short Term Rental Regulations, Bag Ban Update, Recycling Rate Report, and the West Seattle Grand Parade

Myers Way Open Space Saved

If you didn’t see the fantastic news of the Mayor’s decision to withdraw his proposal to sell the open space at Myers Way, you can read about it here.

On behalf of the residents of District 1, thank you Mayor Murray!

Myers Way property


Short Term Rental Regulations

On June 15, the Affordable Housing, Neighborhood and Finance Committee was briefed on the proposed regulations of short term rentals. While short term rentals are a popular lodging choice for many visiting Seattle, the market is rapidly expanding and impacting the availability of existing long term affordable housing options. According to the Brief: Dramatic Growth of Short-Term Rentals in Seattle Could Reduce Apartment Supply, “Seattle has a higher ratio of listings per 1,000 residents than much bigger cities and the need to know where these units are coming from is important. By 2019, under the same aggressive growth rates we’ve seen, we could lose up to 1,652 long-term units in Seattle to the short-term rental market. In a slower growth scenario, we could lose up to 943 units.” This is in addition to the 759, non-primary whole units we estimate that have already been taken off of the rental housing market.

In response to the impact this new market is having now and may continue, without regulation, to have on the City’s housing supply, the City is seeking to use its regulatory powers to balance the economic opportunity created by short-term rentals with the need to maintain supply of long-term rental housing stock at all price ranges. The regulations are also aimed at ensuring a level playing field for individuals and companies in the short-term rental market; and protecting the rights and safety of owners, guests and neighbors of these units.

As proposed last month, this short-term rental proposal would:

  • Define short-term rentals as a commercial lodging use, distinguishing short-term rental from residential long-term rentals.
  • Add development standards for short-term rentals and align the requirements for bed and breakfast uses with short-term rental requirements;
  • Create a new regulatory license for short-term rental operators;
  • Limit the number of nights a dwelling unit can be provided as a short-term rental if it is not the operator’s primary residence to 90 nights in a 12 month period; and
  • Create a new regulatory license for short-term rental platforms (e.g., Airbnb or VRBO) and require that the platforms provide quarterly reports to the City on all

This proposal has raised additional policy questions for the Council to consider. The concern I raised in the June 15 committee meeting is: if there are limits or prohibitions placed on short-term rental use outside of a person’s primary residence, should existing operators be exempt from those limitations? Under the proposal made on June 15, after 90 days of short-term rental, owners would have to either let the unit sit empty or would have to offer as a full time rental.  I felt neither is a good public policy requirement; in particular I was concerned that forcing people to become landlords – in those cases that they don’t want to – would not be conducive to a healthy landlord-tenant relationship.

I am working with Councilmember Burgess to provide limited amnesty for some existing operators. My proposal would allow existing operators of short term rentals to own one dwelling unit apart from their primary residence if: (1) they had a business license before proposed legislation is adopted; (2) they have paid applicable taxes for that unit; and (3) They have proof that the unit was not used as a long-term rental within the last 12 months; this would ensure that existing landlords are not ending a lease with longtime tenants so they can convert the unit to a short-term rental while at the same time not forcing existing short-term rental operators who have not been a long-term landlord in the last 12 month into becoming one.

The issues will be discussed at the Affordable Housing, Neighborhood and Finance Committee next Wednesday, July 20, 2016, at 9:30am.


Bag Ban Update

In 2011 the Council passed ordinance 123775 banning the distribution of single-use plastic and biodegradable carryout bags. The ordinance also applied a five cent bag fee for paper bags to incentivize shoppers to bring reusable bags as well as help stores recoup their costs for the more expensive paper bags. Finally, the ordinance also required Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) to provide a report to the Council by July 1, 2016. This report was heard in my Committee this week. If you’re interested, check the video out here.

Seattle implemented the bag ban in 2012, and since then an additional 12 cities in Washington have passed similar ordinances and we have been joined by other large cities such as Austin, Chicago, New York City, Minneapolis, Honolulu, and Boston. Additionally, Tacoma’s City Council also just voted  Tuesday to ban plastic bags.

We learned from this report that from 2010 to 2014, the amount of plastic bags in residential garbage declined from 262 tons to 136 tons, a nearly 50% decrease over a four year period. This decrease also came during a period of 10% growth in the City’s population. However, we also saw from a small random sampling that there is still non-compliance, specifically at smaller grocery stores and convenience stores. The ordinance already allows for a $250 fine, though SPU has not utilized this yet – I believe that four years into this rule we can increase our compliance and further decrease the use of plastic bags by incentivizing non-compliant businesses with enforcement.

In the 2011 ordinance, the five cents per paper bag charge had a sunset clause for end of this year. I will be introducing an ordinance to remove that clause; we have heard from many establishments that they support the five cents in order to recoup the cost of the more expensive paper bags. Additionally, at the recommendation of SPU, I plan on restricting the green tinting in plastic bags to biodegradable bags only. The green tinting on non-biodegradable plastic bags has led to confusion about which bags are compostable and which are not, leading to an increased contamination rate.

Keep an eye out for this legislation by signing up to receive my committee agenda here if you haven’t already.


Recycling Rate Report

The other report that we heard in committee from SPU was the Recycling Rate Report. In 2007 the Council passed Resolution 30990 which asked SPU: “[to] report to Council by July 1 of each year on the previous year’s progress toward recycling goals, as well as further steps to be taken to meet goals in the current and upcoming years.”

Additionally, the resolution set a goal of 60% recycling by the year 2012 – this was revised in February of 2013 to a goal of 60% by 2015 and 70% by 2022. This recycling percentage includes compostable waste as well. In 2015 we increased the recycling rate from 57.1% to 58%, which is the twelfth year in a row of continuous recycling rate growth. Seattle leads the nation in participation in recycling programs.

There are five main recycling streams, single family, multi family, self-haul, commercial, and construction & demolition debris. In 2015, single family recycling increased by 3.2% reaching a new high point of 74.3%. Multi-family recycling continued its trend by rising 2.2% for a total of 36.8%. SPU will be focusing new efforts on owners of apartment buildings to improve participation in recycling in rental housing. Owners of multi-family housing are required by law to provide a location and receptacles for recycling. SPU reports that tenant participation in recycling often is a result of inconvenient locations for the receptacles. Contact my office if you are a renter and you either 1. Don’t have access to a recycling container in your building, or 2. Have an idea for how your recycling containers can be more conveniently located. SPU will work with your building owner address these issues.

The self-haul sector fell slightly by 0.2% compared to 2014, which continues a downward trend since 2007. SPU does not expect an increase in self-haul recycling participation until the new North Transfer Station facility opens, which is expected in 2019.

Commercial sector recycling increased by a nominal amount of 0.1% for a total of 62.3% for 2015. Finally, the construction and demolition (C&D) debris sector reported a decrease in recycling participation, particularly for concrete which has a large impact on C&D recycling.  The recycling of C&D commodities other than concrete such as wood waste increased and the amount of C&D disposed through the private solid waste transfer stations and processing facilities decreased.  Overall, however, C&D recycling fell from 64% to 57% and the amount of wood recovered for beneficial use increased from 7.4% to 9.9%.  The preliminary C&D diversion rate from landfill disposal is estimated at this time to be 67.2%.

On the whole, Seattle once again sets an all-time high recycling rate. There are certainly areas of improvement, and I will work with SPU in order to seek out those improvements to ensure our recycling participation improves across all sectors. If you would like to see the whole report you can check it out here.


Join me for the West Seattle Grand Parade

Next Saturday, July 23rd, join me for the West Seattle Grand Parade. We’ll be meeting at 44th and Lander at 11:00am.

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