Overwhelming Passage of the 2023 Housing Levy / Budget Update / Hearing Examiner Denies Impact Fees SEPA Appeal   / Resolution Passes: New Welcoming Policy for Individuals in Shelter and Receiving Services / CORRECTION on Fauntleroy Terminal Article / More Staffing News / Neighborhood Matching Fund Awards / Musician and Music Venue Survey re: Parking and Loading Needs


Fantastic News of the Overwhelming Passage of the 2023 Housing Levy

There was a lot of election news on Tuesday, not the least of being the approval, by 66% of voters in early returns, of the $970 million Seattle Housing Levy.  That percentage will likely increase as more ballots are counted.

Earlier this year, the City Council unanimously voted to put the Housing Levy on the ballot before the voters. Council did so after a year-long process of developing the measure with community, city leaders, and civic organizations.  The specific additions I worked to include in that final measure were:

  • Targeting homeownership investments toward folks at the highest risk of displacement and those impacted by the City’s previous discriminatory practices
  • Helping residents stay in their communities by bringing affordable homes to more neighborhoods
  • Co-locating affordable commercial space with affordable homes
  • Reporting on the impacts of funding resident services
  • Establishing a formal program to preserve the affordability of homes on the Office of Housing’s existing portfolio wherever possible
  • Setting a goal for the number of affordable homes to acquire from the speculative housing market.

Approximately 16,000 people are estimated to live in levy-supported homes at any given time, a number that has grown every year, thanks to the continuous renewal of the levy, dating back to the passage of the first housing levy in 1981. The 2023 levy provides more support than any other previous housing levy to address the housing crisis in Seattle.  Here is a snapshot of the 2023 Levy deliverables:

  • 3,100 New Affordable Rental and Homeownership Homes Created
  • Housing Workforce Stabilized
  • Short-term rent assistance and housing stability services for more than 9,000 low-income households

Here is the history of the housing levy:

  • 1981 Senior Housing Bond: 297 units
  • 1986 Housing Levy: 1,818 units
  • 1995 Housing Levy:  2,632 units
  • 2002 Housing Levy:   2,459 units
  • 2009 Housing Levy:  1,850 units
  • 2016 Housing Levy: 3,100 units

If you are a senior, a veteran, disabled, or otherwise low-income and you are worried about how the Housing Levy will impact your ability to pay your income taxes, don’t forget that the King County Assessor offers several programs to reduce or defer property taxes for eligible taxpayers. In 2022, the King County Assessors’ Office reported that an estimated more than 26,000 qualified seniors and disabled persons have not applied for a property tax exemption that they would be eligible to receive and only 1 in 100 of those eligible for deferrals are enrolled.  Are you one of those people?  If so, learn more here:

Senior or disabled exemption and deferrals

Learn more about exemptions and deferrals for senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and disabled veterans. This exemption program for seniors, people with disabilities, or disabled veterans is open to people who meet these basic criteria:

  • Own the home you live in
  • At least age 61 by December 31 of the preceding year or disabled
  • Max annual income of $58,423 (exemption)
  • Max annual income of $67,411 (deferral)

Limited income deferral

  • Learn more about the program to provide tax relief to property owners on a limited income. Find out how it works and how to apply. Max annual income of $57,000.

Flood and storm-damaged property relief

Learn more about property tax relief available for flood and storm-damaged property. Find out how the program works and how to qualify and apply.

Current use programs

Learn more about how the programs reduce property taxes. Get information on how to apply.

Next year these income limits for qualification will increase, see here for more:  https://www.seattletimes.com/business/real-estate/bill-would-let-more-wa-homeowners-qualify-for-property-tax-breaks/

This Week in the Budget

The Select Budget Committee did not meet this week, as Council Central Staff worked to develop formal amendments to the proposed balancing package that reflect Councilmember priorities. Early versions of those amendment concepts were presented in late October.

Next week, the Select Budget Committee is scheduled to meet from Monday through Thursday. Here is the meeting agenda.

On Monday, budget amendments will be presented, but there will be no votes. Our second public hearing on the budget is at 5 p.m. on Monday. The sign-up sheet for in-person public comment in Council Chambers in City Hall will be available at least 30 minutes before the meeting starting time. For remote public comment, the sign-up sheet will be available at 3 p.m. on the Public Comment webpage. Additional information is available on the public hearing agenda.

Votes on amendments are scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

The Council’s Communications team has developed a helpful interactive budget amendment tool.

You can see the amendments are grouped into two sets:

  • The amendments in Budget Chair Mosqueda’s balancing package
  • Amendments to the balancing package

For each amendment, you can see which department it pertains to, a summary of what it does, the Councilmembers who originally sponsored it, and a link to a video where that particular amendment is discussed.

For amendments to the balancing package, you can also view the financial impact of an amendment as well as how it’s balanced.

Hearing Examiner Denies Impact Fees SEPA Appeal

On Monday the Hearing Examiner issued a decision by the Seattle Office of Hearing Examiner that supports the City’s position that the proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment receive a declaration of non-significance.  This ruling will allow the city to take a small step forward in its discussion on transportation impact fees.

I am relieved that the ruling means that we are finally going to be able to have this vote. In 2017, the Council made a commitment that the City would consider including in the Comp Plan a list of priority transit, pedestrian and bike safety, and bridge projects that Seattle could consider funding with a transportation impact fee program if legislation implementing the program was adopted later. Council restated that commitment to the public by passing additional resolutions in 2020, 2021, and 2022. What has kept the Council from deliberating about this revenue tool have been successive lawsuits opposing even the recognition of these 25 priority projects as ones that would be eligible if a program were enacted in the future. The City has been trying hard to identify new revenue in anticipation of a 2024 revenue gap.

Here’s the statement Councilmember Pedersen and I released.

A vote on the bill is scheduled for the November 21 City Council meeting.

At the November 7 public hearing, I announced I would be bringing forward an amendment at the November 21st meeting in response to concerns raised by groups such as Seattle for Everyone, Cascade Bicycle Club, Transportation Choices, The Urbanist, and Seattle Subway.

Currently, Transportation Policy T10.7 says, “Consider use of transportation-impact fees to help fund transportation system improvements needed to serve growth.”

The current form of Council Bill 120635 replaces “Consider use of” with “Use.”

The amendment returns to the current language, to “consider use of”.

The ability to enact this amendment with the “consider use” language, and still fulfill the procedural requirement, confirms what we have been explaining.  With either language, “Consider use” or “Use,” the bill does not create any obligation to create a transportation impact fees program.  The Hearing Examiner specifically said: “Adoption of generalized policies of a comprehensive plan do not require (or even guarantee) that implementing ordinances be adopted… There is no imperative or requirement that Comprehensive Plan policies be implemented through subsequent regulations – they may, but they are not required to be.”

But as a gesture of good faith, I am offering this amendment to address the specific concerns of several stakeholders.

Another issue that has been raised is about the timing of an implementation ordinance.  It’s not unusual for Comp Plan amendments to precede implementing legislation. For example, in 2016 the Council passed a major amendment to the Comprehensive Plan with new transportation Level-of-Service (LOS) standards.  In 2019, the Council passed Ordinance 125757, which incorporated those LOS changes into relevant sections of the Seattle Municipal Code. There are also examples where Comprehensive Plan amendments are adopted concurrently with regulations, such as the recent Industrial and Maritime Lands bills. In any case, it’s a matter of preference and an area where the Council has flexibility in how to proceed.

Resolution Passes: New Welcoming Policy for Individuals in Shelter and Receiving Services

This resolution was drafted in collaboration with the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA).  I thank the staff from my office, Elizabeth Cavillo Dueñas and Christena Coutsoubos.  KCRHA staff members Austin Christoffersen, Em Ishiki, and Alan Guittirez were a great help in getting this over the finish line too!

Though in 2016 the Seattle LGBTQ Commission made recommendations to then-Mayor Murray to address these issues, the credit for my taking action goes to Gunner Scott, a former Seattle LGBTQIA+ Commissioner and District 1 constituent.  He contacted me in 2018, calling for me to develop policies to require all shelters to follow the same practices and protocols in creating a welcoming, respectful, and safe space for LGBTQIA+ people experiencing homelessness and a space where they can be open about their identities.

After Gunner’s advocacy, I worked with Seattle’s Human Services Department (HSD) to begin to develop guidelines for homeless service provision to the LGBTQIA+ community.  This led to HSD contracting with Seattle’s Ingersoll Gender Center to develop recommendations and a report that also named the fact that in Seattle, “transgender women of color are profiled as predatory and fraudulent in how they present their gender identity when accessing shelter services or when being denied housing.”

HSD created an Action Plan to implement these recommendations, but due to the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic and the transfer of the HSD’s homelessness investments to the KCRHA, the Action Plan was never implemented.  Happily, I am a KCRHA Governing Board member and thus had the opportunity to pick up this work in that role.

This resolution aims to ensure that all clients can be served in an equitable and dignified manner by:

  • Establishing standards of inclusivity as relates to names, titles, and pronouns
  • Use of Inclusive language
  • Signage with anti-harassment expectations and guidelines in common areas
  • Requiring professionalism and staff conduct
  • Creating an obligation of confidentiality and privacy
  • Requiring equal access to gender-affirming facilities, programs, and services.

The resolution also includes a commitment by the KCRHA to ensure accountability and compliance by providing training and support to its funded nonprofit providers to support with their implementation of this Resolution. The resolution lays the ground for further work by including descriptions of the next steps that the KCRHA will take to support the implementation of this Welcoming Resolution.

Community stakeholders who contributed to the content of the resolution included members of the Gender Justice League, POCAAN, Utopia WA, Queer the Land, Trans WOC Solidarity Network, New Horizons, and more.

A 2015 study by the National Center for Transgender Equity also found that one in four Black transgender people “avoided staying in a shelter because they feared being mistreated.”

Several other jurisdictions already have Welcoming Policies for LGBTQIA+ clients including, New York City and the state of Massachusetts.

CORRECTION on Fauntleroy Terminal Article

Last week’s article about the Fauntleroy Terminal didn’t transfer accurately from the draft to the published version. Only the first sentence of this paragraph below was included:

“On the other hand, I have some concerns.  In the meeting I asked the question of whether the “no action” alternative could include the traffic management options requested by the community, such as use of Good to Go passes and advance ticketing.  The response was that a no action alternative could not include these elements.”

An updated version with the correct text is available here: https://herbold.seattle.gov/#fauntleroy-ferry-terminal.

More Staffing News

As I get closer to the end of my term, another staff member has taken a new step forward in their public service.  Sonny Nguyen has left Team Herbold as of this week, but they haven’t gone far.  Sonny will be working in the Department of Neighborhoods in community engagement. I wanted to let you, constituents of District 1 and other City of Seattle residents, know this news because many of you have received Sonny’s indispensable help during the past year.

Sonny has aided the constituents of District 1 with kindness and determination. Perhaps you have received help from Sonny with a complaint against your employer for violating a labor law, to address a public safety issue, to get help as a tenant having a problem with a landlord, or to get help addressing a code violation or zoning issue in your neighborhood.  Sonny’s constituent services portfolio was broad and the assistance they have provided District 1 residents has been appreciated by all!

On the policy side, please also join me in recognizing Sonny for the many policy accomplishments that would not have been possible without their work to learn the Seattle City Council legislative process, collaborating with community stakeholders, and building relationships within City Hall.  Here are some of their projects in my office:

Neighborhood Matching Fund Awards

The Department of Neighborhoods has awarded $950,533 to support 23 community-initiated projects through the Neighborhood Matching Fund (NMF). Here are District 1 projects that were granted funding:

$46,000 to Senior Center of West Seattle for Center for Aging Well to expand offerings and programming within their current building in the Alaska Junction and expand services to Delridge, Arbor Heights, Morgan Junction, and Roxbury. The funding will also help with re-branding efforts by hiring a communications consultant and graphic designer to help with a name change, new website, and creation of a mural on the exterior of their Senior Center building. (Community match: $23,055)

$44,930 to Morgan Junction All Wheels Association for Morgan Junction All Wheels Area Feasibility Study to assess the possibility of adding a free, public all-wheels terrain at the Morgan Junction Park. (Community match: $24,900)

Musician and Music Venue Survey re: Parking and Loading Needs

SDOT has announced a survey seeking feedback from musicians and music venues about potential solutions to improving parking and loading near music venues. Here are the links to the survey, which takes about 5 minutes:

In 2014 the City implemented a pilot project at five music venues.

Additional information is in this update.

© 1995-2018 City of Seattle