Now Live – Vacant Building Monitoring Program; West Seattle Junction Association: Commercial Block Watch, Rainbow Flag Adoption, and Restoring West Seattle Murals; Capital Projects Q1 2019 Update: Center City Streetcar

June 7th, 2019

Now Live – Vacant Building Monitoring Program

The Council passed legislation during budget last year to implement a fee-based enhanced vacant building monitoring program. The enhanced vacant building monitoring program went into effect on June 1.  I will continue to monitor its effectiveness and receive monthly reports from the department. As the program rolls out, I want to hear from you about your experiences with vacant buildings and whether or not you believe the enhanced monitoring is effective.

Vacant buildings have been a major issue in the city and especially in District 1. District 1 had the most vacant building complaint cases of any area in the city with 95 cases, yet, District 1 had the least number of buildings in the previous monitoring program with only 2 properties being checked on a quarterly basis!

Look how quickly an unmaintained property can degrade to the point of it no longer being safe. The condition of this property has degraded after only one year of being vacant.

The new program requires monthly inspections for vacant buildings, which (1) have received three notices of violation, (2) are located on a lot for which a master use permit or building permit application has been filed, or (3) are included on a list maintained by the police or fire departments of vacant buildings that have generated large numbers of calls for dispatch and take away resources for public safety.

Buildings will be removed from the Program after they have been either repaired and reoccupied, have been inspected three consecutive times with no violations, or they have been demolished.

The Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) anticipates an increase of about 1,200 new properties in the monitoring program. In order to support the increased number of properties SDCI has hired three new inspectors.

West Seattle Junction Association: Commercial Block Watch, Rainbow Flag Adoption, and restoring West Seattle Murals

The West Seattle Junction Association is currently District 1’s only Business Improvement Area or BIA.  They do great work in the Alaska Junction. You’ll see the results of some of their programs in the weeks to come, including:

  1. a Commercial Block Watch
  2. Rainbow Flag Adoption celebrating Pride Month
  3. Murals in West Seattle

BIAs are organizations that are established by and run by neighborhood businesses to identify important needs and allocate funding for things like street maintenance, community events and programs, promotions, public safety programs, and in some cases, street outreach and case management services and I encourage you to check them out to stay abreast of all this good work:

Rainbow Flag Adoption

60 Rainbow Flags will be raised in celebration of Pride Weekend on June 29-30 along California Avenue. This is exactly the kind of solidarity and creativity a BIA like the West Seattle Junction can lead on with neighborhood participation.   I’m particularly proud of the Junction BIA in initiating this program having learned just 3 hours ago today, that the Trump administration is rejecting requests from U.S. embassies to fly the rainbow pride flag on embassy flagpoles during June, LGBTQ Pride Month.

I’ve been elevating the issue of an uptick in hate crimes in Seattle with the goal of crafting legislation that would allow the City Attorney to prosecute misdemeanor hate crimes, and update descriptions of gender identity and expression and disability. Pride Month is about celebrating greater acceptance, inclusion, and access for our LGBTQ community members, and physical expressions like Rainbow Flags throughout the Junction go a long way in encouraging those principles. (Dr. Tim Thomas will be joining my Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee on June 11 to give a presentation about how hate crimes are showing up in different neighborhoods in Seattle, and what this may mean by the racial and economic characteristics of the City).

Commercial Block Watch

In January, the West Seattle Junction Association invited merchants in the Junction to a focus group to strategize about how to create a communication network to help community members support one another by sharing “suspicious activity” in the business district. The Commercial Block Watch plans to meet quarterly and will be joined by an officer with Seattle Police Department to provide an update about the illegal activity in the area.

I value the concerted effort of our small business community members, working with law enforcement, to develop and implement local solutions to address illegal activity in our neighborhoods. Creating greater cohesion in business districts can go a long way to ensure that we aren’t over-committing our limited City resources on individuals who repeat low-level property crimes out of desperation or as a symptom of a behavioral health challenge. Eyes and ears on the street to sound the alarm on this kind of activity is an effective strategy to divert people to more effective interventions than the criminal justice system provides.

You can check out a video from the focus group and register to be part of the Commercial Block Watch here.

Murals in West Seattle

There are 11 beautiful murals depicting the history and recreating photos of the Duwamish peninsula maintained by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society. The West Seattle Junction Association is helping to steward the restoration of these murals, and was recently awarded with a $100,000 donation from Adah Cruzen in honor of her late husband Earl Cruzen’s work to attract “world-renowned artists” to beautify and tell the story of West Seattle. This gift will supplement other fundraising campaigns to restore the murals.

Capital Projects Q1 2019 Update: Center City Streetcar

The City Council has received the First Quarter Enhanced Capital Project reports for the 2019 watchlist that I sponsored and that the Council adopted earlier this year.

The reports add new projects not included in the 2018 trial, including the Center City Streetcar, South Park Stormwater Program, and the Center City Gateway (Denny Way) projects.

In the Q1 Watch List report for the Center City Streetcar the project is rated “red” for risk factors, unsurprisingly, given cost increases.

The report notes SDOT will present funding options to the City Council later in 2019, and anticipates requesting a proviso lift from the City Council later this summer; Council limited project construction spending in the 2019 budget.

I sent a note to SDOT Director Zimbabwe that the Move Seattle levy approved by Seattle voters in 2015 requires that “Any proposal to use Levy Proceeds to build or operate streetcars must be accompanied by a narrative presented to the appropriate Council committee evaluating the proposal’s geographic value, productivity, and effect relative to race and social justice implications. The narrative shall describe findings from applying the Racial Equity Toolkit.”

The most recent cost estimate is $286 million; funding proposals have included $75 million from federal funds. Without that funding, the January estimate is that $140 million would be needed.

The 2019 Q1 report notes this funding is less certain, due to the likely expiration of the $50 million included in the 2017 federal budget:

 “FTA Small Starts funding – The City is expecting $75 million in Small Starts Grant funding from the Federal Transit administration. $50 million was allocated to the project in the FFY 2017 budget. The $50 million will expire in Sept 2020 if a small starts grant agreement is not yet executed. We do not expect to have an executed small starts grant agreement by Sept 2020 under the revised, draft schedule, and will need to get that money re-allocated in the federal budget.”

The Risk Profile and Mitigation Plan section notes a concern regarding areaways, though it notes the use of inside lanes of 1st Avenue was informed by earlier analysis:

“Areaways – SDOT will be assessing the impacts of streetcar construction and the current operational plan, which has all non-streetcar traffic operating in the curb lane, adjacent to areaways, on First Avenue. (The decision to operate the streetcar in the inside lanes was informed by earlier analysis of areaways.)”

SDOT is conducting an assessment of areaways in Pioneer Square.

The Watch List reports notes that two projects received bids above the engineer’s estimate. First of all, for the Main Corridor of the Alaskan Way Viaduct; the report says the project budget has contingency to cover the cost. Secondly, the Northgate Bridge and Cycle Track received bids higher than the estimate, so the project is being modified to reduce costs, and re-bid.

The quarterly monitoring reports also include separate updates for Ongoing Programs and Discrete (individual) Projects.

Share


Sound Transit Board selects options for EIS; The First Electric Garbage Truck in the US; Amazon Switches to Union Security Workers; East Marginal Way Funding Adopted, Phase 1 Proceeding; Public Hearing on extension of Pike Place Market Boundary re: Showbox June 4

May 31st, 2019

Sound Transit Board Selects Options for EIS

On May 23rd the Sound Transit Board selected options to study for light rail to West Seattle and Ballard in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Sound Transit Board has regional membership from King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, and approves all projects and spending for Sound Transit.

The Board’s decision was in line with the recommendations made by the Elected Leadership Group (ELG) I served on.

The recommendations identify Preferred Alternative(s), and other alternatives for study. The Draft EIS will be published in late 2020, and the Final EIS in 2022. It will include significantly more fine-tuned cost estimates; current design is only in the 3-5% range.

For some areas, the Board adopted two preferred alternatives, in line with the ELG’s “current budget” options and the “additional resources” recommendations. The terms used by the Board are “Preferred alternative” and “Preferred alternative with third party funding.”

ALASKA JUNCTION

The Preferred Alternative with Third Party Funding calls for a tunnel station in the vicinity of SW Genesee St, SW Avalon Way and 35th Street SW, and a tunnel station in the vicinity of 41st and 42nd Ave SW.

The Preferred Alternative calls for the “representative alignment”, which has little support, due to impacts on residents and businesses. It includes an elevated Avalon station in the vicinity of SW Genesee St, SW Avalon Way and 35th Street SW, turns southwest onto Fauntleroy, with a station oriented north/south either on Fauntleroy, or in the vicinity of 41st/42nd SW.

An elevated alignment in an Urban Village would be unique in Seattle. Urban Villages are designated to accommodate growth in Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan, which implements the State Growth Management Act. The Seattle Design Commission recommended the “proposed alignment between Alaska Junction and Avalon Station should be located below grade to reduce the negative impacts within an established neighborhood with an existing commercial core.”

The Board also directed staff to evaluate potential cost savings opportunities and look for opportunities to minimize community impacts and create a high-quality transfer environment for both the Avalon and Alaska Junction station locations.

This action accepted the recommendation of the ELG and the SAG to eliminate the former “yellow” option that would have traveled through the heart of the East Alaska Junction residential community.

DELRIDGE

In Delridge there is one Preferred Alternative, the “blue” line with a station north of Genesee on a diagonal between Delridge Way SW and 26th Avenue SW north of Genesee Street.” This option has significant residential impacts. The Board also included an alternative for the EIS with a station south of Andover, further to the north. This station would be above Delridge Way (the “yellow”) option, and would have similar residential impacts.

The Board also directed staff to conduct an initial assessment of two alternatives, to establish whether further study is warranted.

The first is the “Pigeon Point Tunnel” option I proposed at the ELG meeting in April, to address residential impacts in Youngstown and Pigeon Point; it is a refinement of the former “Pigeon Ridge Tunnel” option; the line would travel in a tunnel through Pigeon Point, with a station at Genesee. It would minimize impacts to the Youngstown residential neighborhood, and has the best transfer environment for buses from the south, an important conclusion of the Race and Social Justice analysis. The motion notes that based on current information this alternative option would require third party funding.

The second option for additional study is the “Yancy/Andover alignment”, “along the Yancy/Andover corridor with a Delridge Station serving Youngtown.” These two options were requested by the Youngstown neighborhood.

The assessment of these options will be brought back to the Board for review and potential action.

The Board also directed staff to “explore refining the Delridge station location, prioritizing a further south location and looking for opportunities to minimize potential residential impacts, create a high- quality transfer environment, optimize transit-oriented development (TOD) potential and reduce costs.”

DUWAMISH RIVER CROSSING

For the Duwamish River crossing, the Board adopted a Preferred Alternative that crossed to the south of the West Seattle Bridge, and listed a North Crossing as an alternative to be studied in the EIS. The most recent cost estimate has the north option costing $300 million more; it would also impact the Port Terminal and Nucor. Staff have indicated it needs to be studied to have an alternative to potential impacts on Pigeon Point in the south crossing alternative.

The Board directed staff to conduct an initial assessment of the Pigeon Point Tunnel option I proposed and return to the board for review and potential action. This option would cross closer to the West Seattle Bridge than the earlier Pigeon Point option, to reduce potential impacts to fishing rights raised by tribal governments, and concerns raised by some industrial businesses.

Here’s a link to the motion adopted by the Board.

Thanks to all the West Seattle constituents who got involved and helped develop these options. They are better because you took the time to get involved!

While I served on the ELG, I’m not on the Sound Transit Board; for the City of Seattle, the Mayor and Councilmember Debora Juarez serve on that board. Thanks for their work on implementing the recommendations of the SAG and the ELG. Thanks also to Board Members King County Councilmember Joe McDermott and County Executive Dow Constantine, and to former City Councilmember Rob Johnson for his work as a board member.

The Board motion notes, regarding options with any additional costs, “After publication of the DEIS and receipt of public comment, the Board intends to reaffirm or change the preferred alternative. Board identification of the Preferred Alternative with Third Party Funding as the preferred alternative would be contingent on the identification of third-party funding to cover the gap between the cost of delivering the Preferred Alternative and the Preferred Alternative with Third Party Funding.”

So while there’s work to do moving forward, this action step keeps us on track for bringing light rail to West Seattle in 2030.

 

The First Electric Garbage Truck in the US

Late last week Recology, one of Seattle Public Utilities’ (SPU) solid waste collection contractors, received their first 100% electric garbage truck. What makes this momentous is not just that Seattle is leading the way in electrifying their waste collection trucks, Chicago also has a pilot program in place, but this truck is the first ever Class 8 rear loader in the United States. These are the typical garbage collection trucks (pictured below) that we see servicing our neighborhoods. The hilly topography of Seattle and the rear load collection of a Class 8 garbage truck make them difficult to fully electrify, but Seattle is the first in the Country to do so.

I am proud of have played a small roll in bringing this to fruition. In 2017 when the City’s solid waste contracts were out to bid, I wrote a letter encouraging SPU to implement an electric fleet pilot program and become an early adopter of electric garbage trucks. The Council took another step closer to meeting that goal when we adopted the new contracts in April of 2018, and I wrote about that then. We now have the delivery of our first Class 8 collection truck. This is the first, and exciting step in the creation of a fully electrified collection fleet. Collection contractors such as Recology can now begin real world testing of this vehicle and begin to iron out any wrinkles.

In addition to this electric truck pilot program, SPU also announced the rollout of new trucks for the City’s “Green Fleet.” which will be made up of nearly 200 collection trucks powered by renewable natural gas (which is collected from our garbage in the landfill!) and hydrogenated-derived diesel which comes from a range of products such as vegetable waste and soybean oil. Both alternatives produce substantially lower emissions than typical fossil fuels. This new fleet of trucks are all model year 2018 or newer and show Seattle’s commitment to combating climate change.

 

Amazon Switches to Union Security Workers

Perhaps you’ve read the recent news that Amazon has announced their plans to contract security needs to two unionized companies, rather than renew their contract with Security Industry Specialists (SIS)?

This is the exclamation point on a conversation workers started with Amazon nearly three and a half years ago. At that time, I wrote my own letter to Amazon’s Director of Global Real Estate and Facilities John Schoettler about the unfair working conditions of SIS workers.  I wrote this letter just 15 days after I first took office.

“For years, SIS has engaged in practices ranging from wage theft and discrimination to harassment and denial of legally mandated breaks and benefits. From the start, I have met regularly with SIS workers, Amazon and SIS leadership, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 6, who has stood side-by-side with these workers who for years have been fighting for better working conditions.

SEIU Local 6 cataloged many claims against SIS and in part stated that, “labor practices of SIS at Amazon show a pattern of disrespect—for workers, veterans, families, local laws, American labor laws and fundamental human rights.”  The Seattle Human Rights Commission have also previously written in regards to this issue.  When SIS took over the security contract at Amazon in July 2012, the company fired more than 200 union security officers who had full-time work, regular raises, affordable healthcare and paid time off. This mass layoff was out-of-step with the customary security industry practice of retaining officers during a transition in security contractors.

From my 2017 letter to Jeff Bezos:

The labor market is changing. We all know that. The gig economy is proliferating and more of our workforce is made up of employees who are contract workers. If this is the new face of labor and you are a visionary leading the evolution of this new model of work, should you not also be a visionary on the forefront of finding ways to help this new workforce – and your workers – thrive? Contract workers don’t have the same rights and are not protected by many of our labor laws. But just because an employer can take advantage of contract employees with few rights under the law doesn’t mean that employers should.

For better or worse, your quest to turn what was once a small internet sales operation into the multinational behemoth has turbo-boosted Seattle’s economy. But not everyone has benefited. You’re providing 40,000 Seattle jobs and your company has become a pillar in the foundation of our local economy while you fulfill your dream – and your customers’ demands. However, you continue to find yourself faced with accusations about hostile work environment and harsh working conditions.

I congratulate the security workers who have struggled and fought for years, and now they will receive better pay and improved working conditions – both of which they have earned.  While there is much to celebrate, there remains so much more work ahead. We cannot forget about the thousands of other contract workers that Amazon employs, such as delivery drivers, who have yet to share in the success of Amazon.  This may be a historic victory for labor unions, but in addition, it is notable that with this decision, Amazon is recognizing their workers as people with real needs and real lives, not as a metric.

 

East Marginal Way Funding Adopted, Phase 1 Proceeding

On Monday the Council voted to accept $5 million in grants for the East Marginal Way Corridor Improvement Project. This will allow Phase 1 work to proceed.

This is good news for bicycle access from West Seattle to Downtown. When I met with West Seattle Bike Connections members in March, this project was a high priority.

Phase 1 work will include work in the northern portion of the project:

  • Constructing a bicycle facility between S Atlantic St and S Spokane St with full separation between people biking and people driving and delivering goods to make biking safer and more predictable
  • Rebuilding the existing traffic signal at S Hanford St to protect all bicyclist and motorist movements
  • Constructing a new traffic signal at S Horton St to provide a protected diagonal crossing for bicyclists
  • Updating the existing signal at S Atlantic St and S Spokane St to work better with the changes to the corridor
  • Potentially relocating the railroad tracks at S Hanford St to provide more space between truck traffic and the bicycle facility

Phase 1 design work will proceed in 2019 and 2020, with construction starting as soon as fall 2020. The project website has an update about the timeline.

In addition to the $5 million in grants, the Council legislation conditionally accepted another $4 million, which may become available soon. Voting to approve this now allows SDOT to accept the funds without an additional vote. The additional funds can be used for design of all the project work on East Marginal as far south as Diagonal Avenue. This will make it easier to apply for large federal grants.

The website notes “Expect to see additional materials and events starting in summer or fall 2019. Comments and questions are welcome by emailing EastMarginal@seattle.gov or calling 206-684-8105.”

East Marginal Way is a major freight corridor that provides access to the Port of Seattle terminals, rail yards, industrial businesses and the regional highway system, and between local Manufacturing and Industrial Councils (MIC’s). It is also a designated Heavy Haul Route, critical last-mile connector and vital route for over-sized trucks or those carrying flammable cargo. In addition, the corridor provides a major connection for people who bike between the West Seattle Bridge Trail, downtown, and the SODO neighborhood.

This project will:

  • Improve safety and reliability in the movement of people and goods
  • Support freight loads by rebuilding the roadway
  • Promote efficiency through signal modifications and intelligent transportation systems (ITS)
  • Improve safety by better separating non-motorized modes from freight traffic

 

Public Hearing on Extension of Pike Place Market Boundary re: Showbox June 4

Last year the City Council voted to adopt an interim boundary expansion for the Pike Place Market Historical District to include the Showbox Theater. The ordinance, authorized by RCW 36.70A.390, was adopted to study whether to permanently expand the District to include the Showbox Theater. The interim expansion will expire on July 23, 2019.

The Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday, June 4 on legislation to extend the interim boundary expansion for six months, to allow the Department of Neighborhoods (DON) to conduct the analysis necessary prior to taking action on any permanent changes.

The June 4 hearing will be at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the 2nd floor of City Hall at 600 4th Avenue, between Cherry and James. Here’s a link to the notice. Sign up begins at 5 p.m.

Supporters of the interim boundary expansion to include the Showbox into the Pike Place Market District have pointed to the following factors:

  1. Historic connection to the Market in use and proximity: The Showbox, when built in 1917, was itself a public market
  2. Current, modern-day connection to the Market: There is a commercial synergy; patrons of the Showbox shop and eat in the Market and vise versa.
  3. Visual connection to the Market: the Showbox is both physically contiguous to the Market and visually looks like it is part of the Market

DON expects that their consultant will complete much of the work needed to develop a preliminary recommendation by the end of June. If the recommendation is for a permanent expansion, environmental review would follow the preliminary recommendation. If this review results in a Determination of Nonsignificance (DNS) and such a DNS is not appealed to the Hearing Examiner, the Council could consider a bill to adopt a permanent expansion of the historic district in time for such a bill to be in effect by January 23, 2020. If the SEPA review results in a Determination of Significance, which would require an Environmental Impact Statement, or a DNS is appealed to the Hearing Examiner, an additional extension of Ordinance 125650 would likely be necessary.

There will be additional opportunities for public comment and a public hearing in the future before any permanent changes are considered by the Council.

Separately, the Landmarks Preservation Board will hold a meeting to consider the nomination of the Showbox as a historic landmark. This meeting begins at 3:30 p.m. on June 5th, in the Bertha Knight Landes Room on the main floor of City Hall. Here’s a link to the agenda, and procedures for public comment.

Landmark designation is governed by SMC 25.12.350 – Standards for designation.

An object, site or improvement which is more than twenty-five (25) years old may be designated for preservation as a landmark site or landmark if it has significant character, interest or value as part of the development, heritage or cultural characteristics of the City, state, or nation, if it has integrity or the ability to convey its significance, and if it falls into one (1) of the following categories:

  1. It is the location of, or is associated in a significant way with, an historic event with a significant effect upon the community, City, state, or nation; or
  2. It is associated in a significant way with the life of a person important in the history of the City, state, or nation; or
  3. It is associated in a significant way with a significant aspect of the cultural, political, or economic heritage of the community, City, state or nation; or
  4. It embodies the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or of a method of construction; or
  5. It is an outstanding work of a designer or builder; or
  6. Because of its prominence of spatial location, contrasts of siting, age, or scale, it is an easily identifiable visual feature of its neighborhood or the City and contributes to the distinctive quality or identity of such neighborhood or the City.
Share


Legacy Business Program Update; Community Service Officer Jobs; Utility Contact Center Tour; Delridge Multimodal Corridor/H Line Project

May 24th, 2019

Legacy Business Program Update

At my last Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts (CRUEDA) Committee meeting on May 14, I hosted new acting Director Bobby Lee and Michael Wells from the Office of Economic Development (OED) to  give an update on the Legacy Business program that I have been working to develop since taking office in 2016. Legacy Businesses are long-standing, independently-owned, small businesses that contribute to the cultural vibrancy and local economy, and give our neighborhoods character and create a bridge to our city’s past.

In 2017 I requested and helped fund a study within the Office of Economic Development to scope out a City program that could help Seattle’s Legacy Businesses survive and thrive. The study showed that Legacy Businesses face similar challenges as most small businesses such as marketing and promotion, however there are unique issues like succession planning and long-term stability in commercial leases that pose specific threats.

In the 2017 and 2018 budget cycles, I sponsored funding requests to bring a Legacy Business program to life, specifically by 1) developing and launching a nomination process, 2) developing a marketing and branding plan, and 3) promoting technical assistance tools that are culturally-relevant and use the assets available in a neighborhood.

The program is transitioning toward the implementation phase, specifically crafting tools and resources, and developing a nomination and designation process. As we move in this direction, I want to ensure that we stay focused on the original goal of preserving and creating sustainability for Legacy Businesses. Drawing from his experience in working for the City of Portland, Acting Director Lee made the apt connection that a simple, no-cost tool the OED can provide is support with succession planning. When matched with strategies like cooperative ownership, operation by a nonprofit, and community-owned crowdfunding, succession planning can create a “pipeline” of ownership for Legacy Businesses.

Aside from the program support, our conversation also revolved around the real financial challenges in supporting Legacy Businesses, specifically to help businesses afford rent costs. The City is limited by State law on providing financial assistance to for-profits, but the City can provide an important role in promoting resources that attract private investors through new market tax credits and establishing relationships with Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI)—these are community-based financial institutions that provide loans to small neighborhood businesses, community organizations, and affordable housing providers that may face barriers in accessing mainstream banks.

I have, together with OED, been working on developing a pilot program to support Legacy Businesses funded by new market tax credits.  I am a member of the Seattle Investment Fund Committee and we are working towards investing $800,000 to incentivize the development of affordable commercial tenant improvement space for Legacy Businesses in Targeted Investment Areas, or neighborhoods identified as high displacement risk areas in the City’s 2035 Growth and Equity Report Analyzing Impacts on Displacement and Opportunity Related to Seattle’s Growth Strategy; and currently experiencing significant development activity.  We have received some exciting applications for the funding and I hope to share news of the recipients soon.

An additional partnership that OED has been developing is with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), like the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund, a CDFI that has served the Rainier Beach area for 20 years.

I’m looking forward to finalizing the nomination strategy for neighborhoods to identify Legacy Businesses and developing the designation, or selection, process. I am encouraged and in alignment with the recommendations of Director Lee and Wells in ensuring that the nomination and designation process involves our Business Improvement Areas, chambers of commerce, and merchant groups, but also smaller businesses that face barriers in being part of the mainstream business community and patrons that need more support in elevating their voice. I’ll keep you updated as OED makes progress on Legacy Businesses!

Community Service Officer Job Positions Posted

The Seattle Police Department has posted the job position for Community Service Officers. Applications are open through June 18th.  You can see additional information and apply here. 12 new Community Service Officers will be hired. The posting notes,

“The Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) Community Service Officer (CSO) Unit is staffed by non-commissioned officers who are trained and work as liaison personnel between the community and the SPD. CSOs do not carry weapons nor enforce criminal laws. Instead, they serve to bridge the service gap on non-criminal calls for service and perform a variety of public safety-related community service and outreach work that does not require the enforcement authority of a sworn police officer.”

For desired qualifications, the posting notes:

“The CSO Unit should be comprised of individuals who are representative of the communities it serves. SPD seeks to fill the open CSO positions with individuals from demographic groups currently underrepresented in the Police department, including elders, immigrants, and individuals with past involvement in the criminal justice system. Preference will be given to applicants who have a proven history of community involvement as well as applicants who are multi-lingual. Competitive applicants will also possess one or more of the following:

  • Cultural competency and a commitment to race and social justice.
  • Training and/or experience working with at-risk individuals, including but not limited to at-risk youth, unsheltered individuals, chemically dependent, physically and mentally ill and the elderly.
  • Excellent written, interpersonal and problem-solving skills; ability to communicate effectively and respectfully.
  • De-escalation skills.
  • Knowledge of and/or existing relationships with Seattle social service providers and community-based organizations; familiarity with City services.”

City Council initiated re-establishment of the program; I co-sponsored. Here’s the Mayor and Police Chief’s statement with additional information. Adding these positions will assist officers in being able to focus on 911 calls.

Thanks to SPD for their work to re-establish this program.

Utility Contact Center Tour

I wrote about the Contact Center last July, and promised that I would continue to monitor the issues customers had getting good customer service at the call center.  Last Friday I had another opportunity to tour the Seattle Public Utility (SPU) Contact Center. The Contact Center answers phone calls related to billing and utility service issues for both SPU as well as Seattle City Light (SCL). SPU manages the day to day operations of the Contact Center; however, 60% – 70% of the calls received are related to SCL. This is in part due to multi-family housing where SCL has a meter for each unit, and SPU only has a meter for the building.  Therefore, they have significantly fewer customers.

The Contact Center employs roughly 100 people who answer approximately 625,000 calls annually. As Seattle has grown at a rapid pace, the Contact Center has not seen an appreciable increase in staffing to help manage the increased workload. This is can be seen in the date, below are two charts, one from 2015 which shows the number of calls “offered” (total calls received), calls answers, the average wait time before an employee could answer, and the average handle time (the time spent on the phone call). The second chart shows the same information but for 2017.

You can see that the average number of calls has increased from 614,450 in 2015, to 637,110 in 2017. The wait times increased from 1 minute and 13 seconds in 2015 to over 11 minutes in 2017, and the handle time increased from 8 minutes and 16 seconds in 2015 to 10 minutes and 36 seconds in 2017. The Contact Center had not had an increase in staff since 2001. It is because of this increased workload that I supported the addition 24 additional staff members spread out over 2019 and 2020 to manage the increased workload.

You can see in the graph below that average wait times have already decreased as compared to 2018.

The work of the Contact Center employees truly amazes me, and during the tour and in conversations I’ve had with Contact Center employees, it is evident that they truly care about and take pride in the work they are doing. I want to thank the employees of the Contact Center for their hard work and dedication. They have done an astounding job in improving the efficiency of the Contact Center.

May 30 Open House for Delridge Multimodal Corridor/H Line Project

SDOT and King County Metro are holding an open house on upcoming work to convert Bus 120 into the Rapid Ride H Line in 2021. SDOT’s work on this is the Delridge Multimodal Corridor project, to increase transit speed and access.

The open house will be on Thursday, May 30th from 5-7 p.m. at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center at 4408 Delridge Way SW.

Here’s a link to SDOT’s project page, and KC Metro’s H Line webpage.

Last year the Council voted to amend the criteria for the voter-approved Seattle Transportation Benefit District to allow for additional funding for Route 120.

As part of my work on enhancing capital project oversight, I have sponsored two “stage-gating” spending restrictions on the Delridge Multimodal Corridor project to require check-ins with the Council before voting to authorize additional spending for design. Earlier this year the Council approved spending to complete design; final approval will be considered during the 2020 budget process, beginning when the Mayor releases her proposed 2020 budget in late September.

The project includes bus lanes, landscaped medians, crosswalk improvements, protected bike lanes, neighborhood greenway connections, signal upgrades, paving, water and sewer pipe upgrades, spot parking and bike lane removal, and public art.

Share


Accountability on Spending and Oversight of Ship Canal Water Quality Project; South Park Community Safety Walk & Reflections on our Multi-departmental Programs; In-District Office Hours

May 17th, 2019

Accountability on Spending and Oversight of Ship Canal Water Quality Project

In my Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts committee (CRUEDA) on Tuesday we received another update from Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) on the Ship Canal Water Quality (SCWQP) project.

As I’ve written about previously, the SCWQP is a joint project with King County to address a significant amount of combined sewer overflow (CSOs). 85% of Seattle’s 2018 overflow volume was from five outfalls which will be addressed by this project. This project is part of a larger effort for both the County and the City to limit the number of overflows in order to reduce contaminated water from reaching Puget Sound.  This work is required under a Federal and State Consent Decree.

As I wrote about last year, SPU reports that the project will cost $570 million. This is a very large project, one that’s funded with ratepayer funds. Because of the size and importance of this project, during the 2018 budget process the Council included a spending proviso on this project in order to exercise our oversight role on the project to have accountability for the rate payer dollars used for the capital construction of this project.  A budget proviso ensures that spending can’t occur at a certain stage in project development, until the Council specifically allows additional spending. In the case of the SCWQP, the Council stopped spending at the 100% design phase of the tunnel portion of the project.  After reporting on the status of the project, the Council can choose, if there’s good news, to vote in favor of releasing the funds to proceed with the rest of project. If there’s bad news, the Council can stop spending on a project, or change the project scope to address problems that might arise.

The good news is, SPU has updated their confidence rating from 65% to 70%, which means that the project is 70% likely to cost $570 million or less (the City’s share is approximately $393 million). The confidence rating increases as the project moves closer to completion and as risks go down. The SCWQP is actually five major construction projects. The storage tunnel is the largest project estimated at $218 million. As SPU moves closer to securing a contractor for construction of the tunnel – which will be in the 3rd quarter of this year – the confidence rating should continue to go up.

My committee voted to lift the proviso and allow SPU to continue forward with the selection of a construction contractor. The Council will get another update from SPU later this year as a contractor is selected and preconstruction works begins on the tunnel with construction beginning in earnest in early 2020.

 

South Park Community Safety Walk & Reflections on our Multi-departmental Programs

Last Thursday I participated in a Community Safety Walk in South Park organized by community partners with the Duwamish Valley Clean-up Coalition (DRCC) and Seattle Neighborhood Group (SNG) in partnership with the Mayor’s Office. Multiple city departments were present, including the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, Seattle Public Utilities, Office of Economic Development, Seattle Parks and Recreation, Seattle Department of Transportation, Department of Neighborhoods, Seattle City Light, Seattle Police Department, and the Department of Construction and Inspections.

The Safety Walk started at the South Park Community Center, and took us on a loop down toward the Duwamish Waterway Park on 10th and South Elmgrove, through the industrial parkway along the Duwamish Bike Trail on Kenyon, a stop by César Chavez Park next to SR-99, past the South Park Library on the Duwamish Trail to Henderson by SeaMar, and finally down an alley between Cloverdale and Donovan to the small business district at Cloverdale and 14th.

I pointed out a condemned property that several constituents have contacted me about on Dallas Ave South since 2017. I’ve supported the constituents in working with Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections in requiring the building to be repaired or demolished within 60 days of 4/2/18 so that the property could be put to better use.   Unfortunately, the property still has neither been demolished or repaired and the community is very frustrated that the city is not holding the property owner accountable to fulfilling the requirements of the January 2018 ruling.

Particularly in a housing crisis, this and several other abandoned properties we saw reaffirmed my efforts to strengthen the Vacant Building Monitoring Program (I’ve written about this most recently here).

Other issues pointed out during the tour were:

  • graffiti
  • overgrowth in the public right-of-way, specifically on the trail and the skatepark
  • hotspots for garbage accumulation
  • RV encampments
  • The need for more parks programming that youth can access

With leaders like Paulina Lopéz, Carmen Martínez, Robin Schwartz, and Cesar Roman facilitating the Safety Walk, City officials like myself heard first-hand the priorities from the perspective of active members of the community. For instance, Carmen spoke to the work of the Youth Corps in engaging private property owners whose properties have been tagged, and how graffiti reflects and contributes to youth gang violence. The City has had a Graffiti Nuisance ordinance on the books since 1994 based on reporting and cooperation from property owners. Carmen explained that the Youth Corps should be resourced-up specifically with matching paint to cover the graffiti, because graffiti intervention can be a gang-prevention and community beautification strategy that activates youth in the neighborhood.

This is exactly the kind of community-up collaboration that I find effective. Last budget cycle, I supported and City Council approved $500,000 for the Your Voice Your Choice Neighborhood Parks Street Fund that grants community-driven improvement projects—in 2018 two projects were funded in South Park: one to improve the pedestrian walkway under SR-99 and help connect people walking from Concord Elementary to the South Park Library, and another to install better traffic barriers at 12th and Thistle. These grants provide constituents an opportunity to improve their communities. This is a message that I think many City officials need to hear, and should be a major principle in creating safer, just neighborhoods.

 

In-District Office Hours

On March 31, I will be at the South Park Community Center (8319 8th Ave S) from 2:00pm – 7:00pm. 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, 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
Share


Firefighters Propose Health Help Changes for Homeless People; Addressing Hate Crimes in Seattle; Count Us In and HSD Updates on Homelessness Intervention System

May 11th, 2019

Firefighters Propose Health Help Changes for Homeless People

This week, in Councilmember González’s committee, the Council received a report and an update from the Seattle Fire Department on the Mobile Integrated Health Response Team pilot program. Under Councilmember Bagshaw’s leadership, the Council passed funding during the last budget to provide services to individuals, primarily homeless people, who are currently sent to the Emergency Room because they are in need of care, although they help they need doesn’t actually require a trip to the Emergency Room.  This is a huge waste of resources.

These are called “low acuity calls” which are usually “chronic or acute minor medical issues where the patient has no access to appropriate care; lifting a resident back into a wheelchair or bed after a fall; mental health crisis; social service needs; and issues related to drug or alcohol use.” Fifty percent of the time, 911 calls to SFD result in a. no action, b. a non-emergency ambulance transport to an Emergency Department. Or c. connection to a sobering van or mental health crisis team.  Only half the time do the 911 calls to SFD actually result in an ambulance transport.  The Seattle Fire Department currently responds to 911 calls to SFD calls with a fully staffed engine, ladder, or aid car.

Many of the locations that SFD fire fighters are responding to are organizations that have connections or contracts with other City and County departments and often have medical professionals onsite during the day, but there is no one on staff in the evenings when the low acuity calls are more numerous. As more individuals are referred to Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), people who most need services and housing are being better prioritized; however, yet funding for these services has not kept pace with their needs. This means that while the Seattle Fire Department provides training on low acuity call diversion for the staff of PSH providers, the high rate of staff turnover due, in part to low wages, reduces the long-term effectiveness of this training. Beginning this month, the Seattle Fire Department, IAFF Local 27 (the fire fighters’ union), and other partner City and County organizations will bring this pilot program online in order to lessen the impact of non-emergency requests for service on SFD operations units. The Council will continue to track this pilot and evaluate its effectiveness and determine if it can be expanded based on its success.

Addressing Hate Crimes in Seattle

The City Auditor has released a report completed at my request, Review of Hate Crime Prevention, Response and Reporting in Seattle: Phase 2 Report.

The report finds significant increases, almost 400%, in reported hate crimes and incidents in Seattle, from 106 in 2012 to 521 in 2018; reports of hate crimes doubled from 2014 to 2016, and again from 2016 to 2018. The protected classes of race, LGBTQ, religion, and ethnicity had the highest number of reports.  The largest increase in reported hate crimes and incidents, with a 427% increase in reporting of hate crimes and incidents motivated by race.

The report notes that a rise in reported hate crimes doesn’t necessarily mean more are occurring.  It can also mean that law enforcement is prioritizing these crimes (in recent years SPD has hired a bias crimes detective, and posted data on hate crimes). However, the FBI has found that hate crimes have risen across the nation as well during the last four years, so it’s clear this is a trend we must respond to.

The City Auditor will present the report in the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee meeting on May 14th where I will propose updated legislation to allow the City Attorney to more easily prosecute misdemeanor hate crimes.

Current city law limits prosecutions to those hate crimes that a motivated by someone’s age, parental status, political ideology, marital status, and homelessness.

The proposed legislation would allow the City Attorney to also prosecute misdemeanor hate crimes based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, mental disability, physical disability, sensory disability.

The legislation also updates descriptions of disability and gender expression or identity to conform with legislation recently passed by the state legislature.

The report also includes recommendations for tracking hate crimes, and geographic analysis of hate crimes. The geographic analysis found hate crimes most frequently occur in 1) high traffic areas on transit routes (e.g. Rainier Avenue in SE Seattle); 2) areas of dense demographic diversity, and 3) borders of racially diverse neighborhoods. 23% of hate crimes occurred on a bus or at a bus stop; Downtown had more anti-race and ethnicity crimes, while Capitol Hill experienced more anti-LGBTQ crimes.

The City Attorney prosecuted 23 malicious harassment cases in the six years from 2012 to 2017.  This is evidence of the limitations of existing law, not in the interest of the City Attorney in prosecuting these crimes.

King County is able to prosecute a wider variety of bias categories. The audit examined the 118 cases prosecuted by the county from 2012 to 2017. The audit found that 85% of perpetrators of hate crimes prosecuted in King County were male; 77% were white, and 19% black.

The proposed legislation includes a requirement for an annual report from the City Attorney on the demographics of the defendants and protected class of the victims. It’s important to track how the legislation is used to address hate crimes, while keeping in mind valid concerns about existing disparities in prosecution, where black men are more likely to be prosecuted for violations such as assault.

Thank you to City Attorney Holmes for his work on this proposal, and to the Seattle Police Department for their increased attention to hate crimes in Seattle.

Here’s a link to the 2017 Phase 1 report; that report focused on the practices and processes the Seattle Police Department (SPD) follows to identify, respond to, and prevent hate crimes.  The press release I sent out in response to the new Phase 2 report is linked here.

I believe that with the divisive rhetoric coming daily from the current administration, a rise in white nationalism, and the cowardly violence of domestic terrorism, it’s not enough to know that these crimes are being committed. Now that we have a better picture of the trends, it’s incumbent on leaders and allies to take action to prevent, respond, investigate and prosecute hate crimes.

Count Us In and HSD Updates on Homelessness Intervention System

Last Friday, All Home, the organization that coordinates, conducts, and reports the homeless persons point-in-time (PIT) count, put out an advanced news release previewing the “Count Us In” report. This report Is a sort of census of homeless people.  Participation in PIT Counts is required by jurisdictions that receive federal dollars for homelessness like McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants and distinguishes homelessness by two groups; people living unsheltered outside or in places not meant for human habitation (like cars), and people living in emergency shelter or transitional housing.

Count Us In is a snapshot in time and is generally regarded as an undercount. But it is also an important foundation to assess how our region is doing in addressing homelessness. The release provided some helpful data to reflect the concerted efforts of the City and County in moving people experiencing homelessness to housing: throughout all of King County, there was an 8% decrease in the overall population of people experiencing homelessness (from 12, 112 from the 2018 PIT count to 11,199 from the 2019 count) and specifically a 17% decrease throughout King County of people living unsheltered. All Home also records additional details like a. demographics, b. a city by city count of the numbers of homeless people (we currently only have the countywide number), c. people’s last physical address was before they became homeless, and d. the primary event that led to their homelessness.  We don’t have this detail yet. All Home has a new dashboard tool that will provide a monthly snapshot of people who have accessed services from a program that participates in the Seattle-King County Continuum of Care’s Homeless Management Information System (HMIS).  People accessing services have steadily increased through the last quarter of the year in 2018. Tracking our homelessness intervention system successes depends on our ability to capture data on how we connect people to our tiny house villages, enhanced shelters, or rapid rehousing services. Earlier this month, the Human Services Department (HSD), which coordinates our City’s homelessness intervention system, also released data that reflected positive results.

Prevention programs so people maintain housing and don’t become homeless:

1302 households served with 89% success

Basic Shelter:

5121 households in 668 shelter beds (down from 964 in 2017 because of conversion of basic shelter to enhanced shelter) served with 4% moving to permanent housing (same as 2017)

Enhanced Shelter (provide showers, laundry, safe cooking facilities, storage for belongings, and accommodate couples and pets):

6554 households served in 1411 beds (up from 749 in 2017) with 21% moving to permanent housing (up from 13% in 2017)

Tiny House Villages:

658 households served in 328 units (up 255 from in 2017) with 33% moving to permanent housing (up from 23% in 2017)

Transitional Housing:

905 households served in 717 units (down from 833 units in 2017, because we are evolving the transitional housing model to permanent support housing) with 66% moving to permanent housing (up from 55% in 2017)

Diversion (funds that help people homeless people bypass shelter):

1401 households served with 72% moving to permanent housing (up from 67% in 2017)

Rapid Rehousing:

1179 households served with 78% moving to permanent housing (up from 72% in 2017)

Permanent Supportive Housing:

2056 households served in 1922 beds (up from 1107 in 2017) with 93% staying in their housing (up from 92% in 2017)

In addition, because we are funding more agencies that provide culturally-relevant services, exits to permanent housing of American Indian/Alaska Native household increased by 87% and that of Black/African American household increased by 27%. Data reflecting the success of our enhanced shelters is particularly important to me.  The City Auditor recommends increasing enhanced shelter because “lack of enhanced shelters adversely affects the Navigation Team’s ability to make alternate living arrangement referrals.” When having to move because of an encampment removal, people living outside accept enhanced shelter at a much higher rate than basic shelter.

Last year, the City Auditor, at my request, reviewed the Navigation Team’s outcomes connecting people living unsheltered to alternatives.  The objective is to provide accountability for our investments in the Navigation Team and to assess the fidelity of our encampment removal process in 1) mitigating health and safety risks for people living unsheltered and their surrounding communities, 2) connecting people with services and housing, and 3) using a person-centered, trauma-informed approach. I want to be sure that removing people living unsheltered is focused in areas that are of the most imminent health and safety risk, and that we are offering alternatives to where people can move. In the 2018 budget I sponsored a proviso on Navigation Team funding based on submissions of quarterly reports to evaluate their performance meeting the Navigation Team goals. You can watch the most recent of these audits from Civil Rights, Economic Development and Arts Committee here in February here. I intend to share updates from this audit report in future posts.

Share


Elected Leadership Group Recommendations for Light Rail EIS Alternatives in West Seattle; JuNO Community Planning Meeting with OPCD; April Constituent Email Report

May 3rd, 2019

Elected Leadership Group Recommendations for Light Rail EIS Alternatives in West Seattle

Last Friday the Sound Transit Elected Leadership Group (ELG) made recommendations for what options to study in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for ST3 light rail to West Seattle and Ballard.

The recommendations go to the Sound Transit Board, which is scheduled to decide which options to study on May 23rd. Their decision will be informed by coordination with the Federal Transit Administration.

After the Board selects options to study, work on the EIS will begin. The Draft EIS is scheduled to be published in late 2020; conceptual engineering and station planning work will take place as well. When the Draft EIS is published, there will be a public comment period; the Board can then confirm or modify options. The Final EIS is scheduled for 2022, after which the Sound Transit Board will select the option to be built.

I requested that Sound Transit release the public scoping comments to provide adequate time for review; I thank them for doing that; having the public comments was helpful. Thanks to everyone who took the time to do that.

Sound Transit expressed interest to the ELG in having two options for study in the EIS: one that would require additional resources beyond the baseline budget included in the ballot measure, and one that met the project budget.

The format Sound Transit used for the ELG meeting was to seek recommendations by consensus, rather than voting.  During the meeting I spoke to themes in the comment letter I submitted to Sound Transit.

For the West Seattle options, the ELG’s recommendations were similar to recommendations made by the Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG), with some modifications. The West Seattle recommendations were in three separate areas: the Alaska Junction, Delridge, and the Duwamish crossing.

ALASKA JUNCTION

The ELG recommended removing the “yellow” line from consideration. This line would have traveled through the East Alaska Junction residential neighborhood and resulted in significant residential displacement. I strongly supported removing this option; thanks to the residents who helped demonstrate the potential impact.

Additional resources option:  The ELG recommended moving forward the “blue” tunnel option, with a tunnel stations at Avalon, and one on Alaska at 41st/42nd as recommended by the SAG, though not limited to those areas.

Current budget option:  The ELG also recommended moving forward, as an option that is at the current budget, the red “representative” alignment. This option has little support, due to the impacts on residents and businesses. Going through a developed residential neighborhood with an elevated alignment in an Urban Village would be unique in Seattle. Urban Villages are designated to accommodate growth in Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan, which implements the State Growth Management Act. Removing opportunities for housing would be counterproductive.

DELRIDGE

Current budget option:  The ELG recommended the “blue” line, which has a lower station and guideway than the other options, and a station further to the south. This option has significant residential impacts, however.

Additional resources option: To address this I encouraged Sound Transit to include study of the purple line, as I did last year. The Level 2 Racial Equity Toolkit analysis noted this option was best for avoiding residential displacement and for ensuring good transfers for the communities to the south with higher concentration of people of color.  While this option has additional costs, I noted that the costs combine the cost for a tunnel in Delridge and for a tunnel in the Alaska Junction.  I believe in examining the cost of the purple line we should isolate the costs of the tunnel in Delridge ($500 million) and not conflate them with the costs of a tunnel in the Junction ($700 million).

The County Executive also spoke to further examination of a potential option like the Yancy Street alignment included for consideration earlier, but with a station in the Youngstown neighborhood, in advance of the May 23rd Board meeting. This option would also minimize residential impact in Youngstown.

DUWAMMISH RIVER CROSSING

Current budget option:  The ELG favored crossing the Duwamish to the south of the West Seattle Bridge, due to lower costs. Sound Transit indicated that both north and south crossings will be studied, as for environmental review they need to have alternative to address environmental impacts to the Pigeon Point neighborhood.

Additional resources option:  I encouraged Sound Transit to include study of a Duwamish crossing to the Delridge station at Genesee, suggested by community members as a modification from the earlier Purple line Duwamish crossing version. The earlier version proceeded south in SODO and crossed from east to west over the Duwamish, then through a tunnel to the Delridge station at Genesee. Tribal government had concerns about this crossing due to potential impact on fishing rights; they support a crossing close to the West Seattle Bridge. Some industrial businesses also opposed the original purple line due to the impacts to their operations.

In response to these concerns, the modified version would have a crossing closer to the West Seattle Bridge, and cross diagonally to the Delridge station at Genesee. Going a little further south over Harbor Island could also reduce the impact on the Port and maritime businesses; the Longshoreman Union also suggested a similar Duwamish crossing.

Finally, a word about cost estimates and funding.

Groups such as the JuNO and the East Alaska Junction Coalition suggested studying the elimination of the Avalon Station, in order to save money to help fund a tunnel. When I raised this with Sound Transit, they were reluctant to consider this, in part due to legal concerns.

Understanding their legal concerns, I encouraged them to study in the EIS the cost and ridership impacts of not building the Avalon station. The West Seattle Transportation Coalition letter noted, “Would building only two stations severely impact ridership or would ridership adjust itself?” The Avalon and Junction stations are closer together than stations in other neighborhoods outside of Downtown, so I believe it’s worth studying.

The cost estimates we have to date are based on very early design. The current cost estimate for the blue line tunnel in the Alaska Junction is $700 million above the baseline, and $500 million for the purple line tunnel through Pigeon Ridge in Delridge.

For previous rail lines, detailed study has shown that tunnels cost less than originally estimated. In Bellevue, early cost estimates for a tunnel in 2009 were in the range of an additional $600 million, $700 million,  to as much as $900 million higher than an above-ground line. After engineering study, the estimate was reduced to under $300 million, which allowed Bellevue and Sound Transit to reach an agreement in 2011 on how to split additional costs.

In the Roosevelt neighborhood, study reduced the estimated cost of a tunnel as well, compared to an elevated line. In both cases, the Sound Transit Board approved a tunnel, when above-ground rail had been originally planned.

Sound Transit has focused on “third party” funding for additional costs beyond the baseline earlier than usual in their processes. Part of the reason for this is that they are using an accelerated process, designed to deliver light rail faster than usual. They made this decision in response to community pressure. Below is their slide that compares this process with the process for ST2, and how it’s different:


JuNO Community Planning Meeting with OPCD

Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) will have their first meeting with the Junction Neighborhood Origination to discuss community planning around ST3 and updating the neighborhood plan to reflect the final route and location of the light rail station. As I wrote about in a previous MHA update, the community has expressed a desire for additional zoning capacity, but informed by community planning efforts and with understanding of the likely location of a future light rail station. OPCD committed to beginning to scope out this process in 2019, with planning starting in earnest in 2020.  This is the first meeting.

When: May June 6, 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Where: Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St

April Constituent Email Report

Constituent correspondence is a very important task in my office.  My staff and I spend time every day helping you improve our community, whether that’s by getting you help from a city department with our constituent case management services or giving you information about legislation that the Council is considering.  The unshaded categories and numbers are problem-solving emails answered in April, what I refer to above as “case management services.”  The shaded categories and numbers are emails answered in April related to policy or legislation that the Council is considering.

Share


Community Service Officers; Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) Interim Director Lockhart Confirmation Hearing #2; Capital Project Oversight Reports; Highland Park Neighborhood Cleanup, Saturday May 4th; 48th and Charlestown Park Development

April 26th, 2019

Community Service Officers

The Mayor and Chief of Police announced the relaunch of the Community Service Officer (CSO) program initiated by the City Council in the 2016 budget.

Bringing back Community Service Officers will be a valuable addition to policing in Seattle, especially in the Southwest Precinct, where a top community concern is that the number of police officers are not sufficient to meet the staffing needs to adequately address public safety.  I have long been a champion of the CSO program.  I was proud to co-sponsor legislation to bring back CSOs in 2016. These unsworn officers can prioritize non-emergency services associated with law enforcement, freeing up police officers to better respond to 911 calls. Given the challenges Seattle and other large cities face in hiring new officers, 80% of large cities in the US are not meeting their recruitment goals, bringing back the CSO program is an important step.

The CSO program existed for 33 years until 2004, when it was eliminated due to budget cuts.

CSOs are non-commissioned officers who are trained to work as liaison personnel with the community and the Police Department, and support community-oriented policing.

CSOs will assist with mediating disputes, follow up on calls for non-emergency services, help residents navigate services, support programming for at-risk youth, and attend school and community-hosted events. Some of the work will involve assisting homeless persons and individuals struggling with substance abuse to access programs like diversion opportunities, housing, and behavioral health services.

As noted in the press release, “SPD seeks to fill the open CSO positions with individuals from demographic groups currently underrepresented in the Police department, including elders, immigrants, and individuals with past involvement in the criminal justice system.”

Here’s a link to SPD’s Program Development Report, and Community Engagement Report.

10 CSOs, and two supervisors will be hired.

Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) Interim Director Lockhart Confirmation Hearing #2

Interim SOCR Director Lockhart joined us in the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts Committee on April 9, as well as this past Tuesday, for confirmation hearings for permanent tenure as the Director with the SOCR. These hearings gave Director Lockhart an opportunity to expand on her responses to a series of questions covering a breadth of important topics; advancing anti-racist culture within City institutions; adopting alternatives to enforcement for people who submit civil rights and discrimination violations; and working to support staff in a resource-tight environment.

Director Lockhart has been at the helm of the department as an Interim Mayoral appointment since January 2018. SOCR is vital resource for our City in implementing new anti-discrimination policies like my own Fair Chance Housing and Source of Income Anti-Discrimination laws; facilitating our nationally-regarded Race and Social Justice Initiative; and investigating issues of discrimination throughout Seattle. With such an important body of work, strong leadership and commitment to social justice is fundamental for this position.  I sincerely respect Director Lockhart’s contributions during her interim tenure.

This confirmation effort has allowed us put to work new provisions that amended the SOCR appointment process to better involve SOCR staff, the Seattle Women’s Commission, the Seattle Human Rights Commission, the Seattle LGBTQ Commission, and the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities. In concert with this confirmation process, SOCR has been engaged in exploring different structures of independence for the office, and upon the submission of recommendations of this study in May, Director Mariko has acknowledges that she will necessarily have a role in implementing those recommendations if the Council decides to enact them.

Full Council will be considering Director Lockhart’s confirmation on Monday, April 29.

Capital Project Oversight Reports

Work on improved capital project oversight began in 2016 when Councilmember Johnson and I called for additional oversight of city capital projects. The Council subsequently passed Resolution 31720, to “institute new rigor in capital project oversight that will increase appropriate and timely oversight and provide more transparency to the public,” through, among other things, “[e]nhanced regular CIP reporting developed in conjunction with the City Budget Office, including but not limited to quarterly reports to the Budget Committee on project scope, schedule, or budget deviations.”  I later, in 2018, proposed legislation stating the Council’s expectations for the contents of the oversight reports that are a part of the new approach.

This first report is for the 4th quarter of 2018, based on a trial list of projects. This year I sponsored legislation to establish the 2019 Watch List for expensive, complex high-profile projects for which quarterly updates are required. The first quarter 2019 report is expected later in May, and will include additional projects, such as the Center City Streetcar, and South Park Stormwater Program.

The purpose of the Watch List is to identify problems with expensive projects early on, to allow for corrective action. On projects from previous years like the Seawall and Combined Utilities billing system, the Council found out about cost increases late in the project cycle.

The principal risk factors used to rate projects are Budget, Scope, Schedule, Coordination, Community Impact, and Political. Departments rate the risk on a scale of 1 (low) to 3 (high). A green light rating means all areas are ranked “1”. Yellow means that two or more elements are ranked “2”. Red indicates at least one element is rated “3”, or all risk elements are ranked “2.” The Reader’s Guide has additional information about the report format.

The 2018 4th quarter Watchlist report has the individual reports for 12 projects identified in the 2018 trial list.

I requested that future reports include additional detail be included about which specific risk factors are triggering the particular yellow or red ratings; some individual reports note this, but not all.

The Watch List report notes potential problems, but also potential successes. The South Lander Street Grade Separation bridge project has a current projection of $102 million in spending for a project budget of 125 million (though it notes a schedule challenge of working with railroads). One project with a current 4th quarter “red” rating is the Denny Substation Development, regarding the current project stage of closeout.

A separate document the Council requested for this program is reporting for Ongoing Programs, such as street paving, seismic work on bridges, and pedestrian and bike master plan implementation.

This too shows a clear success: the Pedestrian Master Plan School Safety line item had 28 projects planned for 2018, with a budget of $5.1 million. Instead SDOT completed 41 projects, 68% more projects, including flashing beacons, walkway improvements, curb ramps, and speed humps. On the other hand, implementation of paving, the Bike Master Plan, and new sidewalks are behind schedule.

As noted in the Council’s resolution setting the expectations for reporting, the 1st Quarter 2019 report is expected eight weeks after the end of the quarter, in late May.

Thanks to the City Budget Office and city departments for their work on these reports, and to Councilmember Bagshaw for hearing this report in the Finance and Neighborhoods Committee she chairs.

Highland Park Neighborhood Cleanup, Saturday May 4th

On Saturday, May 4th, the Highland Park Action Committee will be hosting a Neighborhood Cleanup from 10 to noon.

The focus will be on trash along Highland Park Way SW. The cleanup begins at the corner of Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden Street. Trash bags and grabbers will be provided; please bring work gloves if you have them. Refreshments will be provided.  They’re also encouraging neighbors to host block and traffic circle clean ups from noon-2.

48th and Charlestown Park Development

The Department of Parks and Recreation is seeking community feedback on the design of the land banked site at 4801 SW Charlestown St. Join your neighbors on Tuesday, April 30th between 6:30pm and 8pm at Dakota Place Park, 4304 SW Dakota St to give you input.

Share


North Delridge Action Plan Resolution; Neighborhood Street Fund Voting; Creative Economy Report; In-District Office Hours

April 19th, 2019

North Delridge Action Plan Resolution

On Wednesday, the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee passed a resolution recognizing the North Delridge Action Plan. This resolution memorializes the many years of effort by community members in North Delridge to develop their neighborhood plan. I want to thank David Bestock, representing Delridge Neighborhood Development Association/Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, Lynda Bui, representing the Vietnamese Cultural Center and Parie Hines for taking the time to come and present the Action Plan for North Delridge to the PLUZ Committee. 

The Action Plan identifies six priority areas:

  • Diverse and engaged communities
  • Dynamic neighborhood destinations
  • Access to affordable, healthy food
  • Active transportation choices
  • A healthy Longfellow Creek basin
  • Supportive parks and cultural facilities

The Resolution also requests that the Executive review and make recommendations regarding the action items identified in the six priority areas.  You can review those action items here. Finally, the Resolution requests that the Office of Planning and Community Development review and make recommendations relation to these proposed amendments, as identified by the community in the Action Plan, in the 2035 Comprehensive Plan for consideration in 2020.

Many thanks to the community members who participated in the development of this Action Plan.

Neighborhood Street Fund Voting

Voting has begun for the Neighborhood Street Fund.

Over 300 project ideas were submitted, followed by community prioritization to help narrow the number of projects.

You can vote through May 5th online, or any Seattle Public Library branch, or at pop-up events, including Wednesday, April 24 from 3:00 – 6:00 PM at Safeway (9620 28th Ave SW). 

Voting is open to anyone age 11 and up who lives, works, goes to school, worships, receives services, volunteers, or is part of a program in the City of Seattle.

You may cast one ballot per City Council district and may choose up to five (5) projects in your district. If you mark more than 5 projects, your vote will not be counted.

You can research projects at www.seattle.gov/NSF. Votes will determine which projects move forward for final selection by the Move Levy Oversight Committee.

Creative Economy Report

The Office of Economic Development, Office of Film and Music, and the Office of Arts and Culture have released the first-ever Creative Economy Report.

The report, the first to quantify the value of Seattle’s creative economy, notes that Seattle’s creative economy is strong, with above-average growth compared to other sectors; however, disparities exist along race and gender lines.

From 2012-2017, growth in creative occupations was 15% to 23%. A median hourly wage for creative occupations is $30.76.  Creative industries in Seattle contributed 18% to our gross regional product, compared to 4% of the U.S. gross domestic product.

The report covers fields including computer occupations, the arts, design, entertainment, and media, which vary in wages. In most fields, people of color are underrepresented, and women are overall underrepresented.  The disparity varies by occupation, particularly in higher-paying occupations.

Computer-related occupations have the highest earnings; arts, design, entertainment and media occupations have the lowest earnings.

The report notes 67,350 creative jobs in Seattle during the period of study.  The top five occupations were software development, photography, graphic design, writing, and computer programming. The fastest growing occupations are web development, software and app development, acting, library technicians, and writing.

The report speaks to the need to invest in skills and competency-based education and workforce development programs to prepare young people, and to the need to understand the barriers to entry.

Many thanks to Kate Becker, the recently departed Director of the Office of Film and Music, for all her work on this and music and film issues over the years.

In-District Office Hours

On April 26, I will be at the Southwest Customer Service Center (2801 SW Thistle St) from 2:30 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, 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
Share


South Park Library Temporary Closure; Council Vacancy Process; Only in Seattle Program Update; Office Hours

April 16th, 2019

South Park Library Temporary Closure

The South Park Library will be closed starting Tuesday, April 16 for up to two months for refurbishing and improvements.

The project has an approximate budget of $424,000 and consists of:

  • Re-carpeting
  • Repainting inside
  • Adding new electrical outlets
  • New furniture
  • Modifications of the circulation desk
  • New mobile shelving
  • New collaborative spaces

The Library anticipates that the project will be completed by early summer. However, there will be some disruptions. As many of you know, the Library serves as a hub for several programs and services. Specifically, Kids Café and Homework Help programs. I have learned from the Director of the Library that the Bookmobile will be available at the South Park Community Center between 3:45pm and 4:30pm on 4/30, 5/14, and 5/30. Additionally, the Kids Café program will be relocated for the duration of the closure to the Community Center, and Homework help is scheduled to be at the High Point and Rainier Beach branches of the library. Finally, the Southwest branch will be designated as the default branch for holds and pickups unless otherwise indicated.

The current efforts by the Library to address the needs of South Park library patrons during these changes are appreciated, but I’m concerned that they are insufficient to meet the needs.  I have reached out to the Chief Librarian and have made three requests:

  1. That the Bookmobile be in South Park twice a week with hours extended for 30 minutes before and after the Kids Café program.  The Bookmobile is proposed to only be there 3 days over the 2-month period (4/30, 5/14, 5/30), and for less than an hour each day.
  2. That the Bookmobile be available to bring requested books if patrons put them on hold.
  3. That the Homework Help program move to the South Park Community Center along with Kids Café.

Council Vacancy Process

As many of you know, Councilmember Rob Johnson (District 4) has resigned. The City Council has 20 calendar days after a Council vacancy to fill it. The 20-day period is from April 6 to April 25. You can track the process here, the website is being updated regularly with new information.

There are currently 11 eligible applicants.  They are listed here in alphabetical order: Brooke Brod, Darby DuComb, Kathryn Gardow, David A. Goldberg, Jordan Goldwarg, Sherae Lascelles, Jay Lazerwitz, Abel Pacheco Jr., Marjorie Press, Maritza Rivera, and Luke Wigren.

There will be a Special City Council meeting on Wednesday, April 17 at 5:30 pm, which will provide qualified applicants the opportunity to formally present a 3-minute presentation and respond to questions from City Councilmembers. The public will have the opportunity to provide comments.

The Council will vote to fill the vacancy at the 2:00 p.m. Full Council meeting on Monday, April 22.

Only in Seattle Program Update in CRUEDA this Week

Theresa Barreras and Leon Garnett joined the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts Committee (CRUEDA) on Tuesday for a program update on the Only in Seattle (OIS) Initiative. OIS, a program of the Office of Economic Development since 2011, works to provide grant funding and technical assistance to support local businesses, property owners, and community members in building cohesion between “local commerce, community, and culture” to maintain the history and character of a neighborhood and keep dollars local.

Mr. Garrett, representing the Central Area Collaborative, talked about their use of Only in Seattle grants to fund a lighting study, advocate for culturally-relevant products in the New Seasons store at the former 23rd Promenade space, and supporting projects with the Historic Central Area Arts and Culture District to promote local Black artists in new community-driven development.

This presentation was particularly timely given two weeks ago I had the honor to talk about the work I’ve done to promote and support Legacy Businesses at the Main Street Conference hosted in Seattle this year. This Main Street movement is an effort to protect and revitalize historic main streets/downtown areas and neighborhood commercial districts that have experienced disinvestment due to suburbanization and corporate competition, or ethnic and cultural erosion driven by displacement. The Only in Seattle program applies this same approach by using community engagement and data to understand the unique challenges and assets of a neighborhood, then focusing on four strategies:

  • Supporting businesses/business development
  • Marketing and events to attract customers
  • Placemaking
  • Cleanliness and safety

To implement these strategies, OIS offers grant opportunities for neighborhood action planning and public space projects. In this past funding cycle, OIS issued $1.3 million in grant opportunities to neighborhoods across the city, including $50,000 for action planning in South Park.

OIS prioritizes funding based on three major considerations: “equity districts” based on percentages of people of color (POC) living in the area, people living on low incomes, and business owners of color; districts with established hubs of business, economic activity, or a Business Improvement Area (BIA); and communities in the beginning stages of establishing a neighborhood action plan or Business Improvement Area. 

Given the impact of displacement and commercial affordability for POC business owners in areas of high-displacement risk, the OIS program can be used to encourage established BIAs to engage and include business owners of color.  The trainings and technical assistance for business owners facing displacement can help them negotiate favorable lease requirements and strengthen relationships with landlords.  I see this as part and parcel to my work with stakeholders and POC-led community-based organization efforts around an anti-displacement ordinance.

In-District Office Hours

On April 26, I will be at the Southwest Customer Service Center (2801 SW Thistle St) from 2:30 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, 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
Share


Prolific Offenders Report Follow Up; Proclamation honoring April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month; Library Levy and Public Hearing; March Constituent Email Report

April 5th, 2019


Prolific Offenders Report Follow Up

There has been a lot of discussion and coverage of a recent report commissioned by a collaborative effort of several of Seattle’s small business associations. The television special called “Seattle is Dying” further amplified the public dialogue.

Let me first say that we need, and I commit to bring urgency to developing solutions. We have unacceptable numbers of people living outside, and some of those people – by no means all, or even most – are among those in the report, having been arrested 4 or more times in the two-month period that the report covers.  But the fallout from the television show called “Seattle is Dying” – when it was revealed that one of individuals that was filmed at length was not homeless – demonstrates the harm done when homelessness is conflated with criminal activity and/or addiction.

I think it’s notable that the report doesn’t call for a particular solution. The business associations commissioning the report, in not making specific recommendations, has thoughtfully recognized that we have to collaborate with public safety policy experts in best practices as well as working with experts in data-driven programs that that serve people who are homeless, mentally ill and/or have substance use disorders.

The report calls for city leaders to elevate these issues and take steps to improve the situation. In response to that call, I met this week with directors of each of the organizations involved in commissioning the report, the SODO BIA, Ballard Alliance, U District Partnership, the West Seattle Junction Association, the Alliance for Pioneer Square, the Downtown Seattle Association as well as Visit Seattle. As the Councilmember with oversight of economic development issues, I know how critical it is that we collaborate with not only the policy experts, but the advocacy organizations that represent scores of small businesses throughout Seattle.

These groups have given voice to our inability to a. house people (lack of housing for this population was noted in the report) and b. support long term coordination between prosecutors, officers, neighborhood groups and case managers, to make good individually-based decisions when known individuals engage in ongoing problematic behavior.

This group has given voice to the impacts on their ability to run their businesses in a compassionate way that shows how they too understand the complexity of the issue. I’m appreciative of the tone that they’ve set, and I sincerely believe that it’s this kind of approach that can facilitate a successful conversation about solutions and how to enact them. Here’s one example of a respectful, compassionate email I’ve received, I’m sharing it here, because I believe it models the kind of engagement that we see less and less of – at least it seems that way sometimes. This business owner writes: They have “been proud to be part of the pioneer square community for 15 years. We value being in this culturally rich area, but the present public safety conditions are deeply concerning. These concerns are not only saddening but present a business liability. Customers have told us they will no longer visit… and individual members have experienced threatening behavior which forces them to lock the doors. Besides being outright frightening, the current safety conditions have set a tone of vigilance that makes it impossible to have an inclusive and open-door space that welcomes everyone in our neighborhood. Please help us keep Pioneer Square commercially viable and culturally vibrant. We know this problem is complicated…”

I believe we can learn a lot from King Counties’ Familiar Faces initiative. Familiar Faces refers to a population who are frequent users of King County jail, being booked into jail four or more times in a twelve-month period and also have mental health and/or substance use issues. See here for more.

I’ve reached out to City Attorney Holmes, Mayor Durkan, and Councilmember González so that we can do the necessary work with our small business advocates as well as public safety and mental health/drug treatment policy experts, but so we can also strive to do a better job of demonstrating our commitment to urgent action.

 


Proclamation Honoring April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and I will present a Proclamation, crafted in partnership with the Seattle Women’s Commission, honoring the month in Full Council on Monday, April 8. Please join us!

SAAM was first nationally observed in 2001, but has been used to raise awareness and organize against sexual- and gender-based violence since the 1970s. I want to acknowledge the important work of the Seattle Women’s Commission, the Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence, the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, and the Mayor’s Office on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault for leading in our region to support survivors and work to eliminate sexual assault, rape, and gender-based violence in our communities.

It’s also important to recognize the work of advocacy groups elevating how women of color, indigenous women, people with disabilities, and trans women are disproportionately impacted by sexual violence. An important report by Seattle’s Urban Indian Health Institute “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls” has put a spotlight on how murder is the third-leading cause of death among native women across the country, and how negligent efforts to capture this data is an outcome of institutional racism.

The #MeToo movement has generated an important national conversation on sexual violence. It has also brought to light the cultural and institutional barriers for survivors to come forward that serves to keep dangerous men in power. Reporting sexual assault and harassment isn’t only retraumatizing, but it can lead to discrimination that could jeopardize a survivor’s opportunities in areas of employment, public accommodations, housing, and contracting. Read more about a bill I championed and passed last year to extend the statute of limitations here.

Additionally, on April 24 the City of Seattle will observe “Denim Day.” Denim Day was founded after a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned in part because the victim was wearing tight jeans.  Denim Day is designed to draw attention to victim blaming and to allow all of us to take action to say that they is no excuse for sexual assault.  I will share more details about this year’s Denim Day events as they become available.

 


Library Levy and Public Hearing

As you’ve likely read about, the Mayor has proposed a new Library Maintenance and Operations Levy to replace the previous levy from 2012 which is set to expire at the end of 2019. The previous 2012, $123 million property tax levy approved by voters focused on four main areas: Open Hours and Access, Collections, Technology, and Maintenance.

The proposed levy from the Mayor is a $213 million seven-year levy that would be put on the August 6 ballot this year. Here is the breakout of the newly proposed spending:

  • Open Hours and Access – $67.5 million (annual average – $9.6 million)
    • $61.7 million to sustain funding for operating hours added as part of the 2012 Library Levy.
    • $5.8 million in new funding to support morning and evening hours at three additional branches as well as moving four additional branches to seven-days-a-week operations by adding Friday hours. The program also includes one additional operating hour on Sundays at all 26 branches at no incremental cost.
    • Collections – $58.2 million (annual average – $8.3 million)
  • $45.3 million to sustain funding for collection investments added as part of the 2012 Library Levy.
    • $8.0 million in new funding to support fine-free access to the Library’s collections, eliminating a barrier that disproportionally impacts low-income patrons.
    • $5.0 million in new funding to support patrons’ shift to use of higher-cost digital materials.
  • Technology – $29.4 million (annual average – $4.2 million)
    • $16.2 million to sustain funding for technology investments added as part of the 2012 Library Levy.
    • $8.0 million for two major technology system upgrades. The first is to replace or upgrade the Library’s primary business platform which manages materials procurement, manual and automated check-in and self-checkout processes, and provides a discovery layer for patrons to access and explore Library resources from any digital device 24 hours a day. The second is to upgrade aging technology infrastructure responsible for providing highspeed public internet access at the Central Library and all 26 branches, to accommodate patrons growing bandwidth use through personal devices and growth in availability as well as availability and consumption of more bandwidth-intensive materials.
    • $5.3 million to sustain the Library’s technology and digital equity investments currently funded by cable franchise fee revenues.
  • Maintenance – $55.7 million (annual average – $8.0 million)
    • $42.1 million to sustain investments in regular and preventative maintenance, and major maintenance added as part of the 2012 Library Levy.
    • $13.8 million in additional funding to undertake seismic retrofits to reduce the risk of injury and loss of life during an earthquake at three Library locations identified as high-risk in a 2016 survey.

For greater detail on the previous levy and how the funds are proposed to be spent in this levy, please see the summary and fiscal note.

The process as outlined by the Council President is a fairly quick one to put this levy on the ballot. As such there will be a Public Hearing on Thursday, April 11 starting at 5:30pm at City Hall in the Council Chambers. If you have comments about the levy, I would encourage you to come to this Public Hearing.

I want to address one of the issues some of you have written to me about — the proposed elimination of library book late-fees.

While late fees are proposed to be eliminated, customers who do not return an item will be still be charged to replace it.  If an item is not returned within 40 days after its due date, then the item will be considered lost and in need of replacement. The library patron will be charged for this replacement.  In addition, they will not have their access to library services revoked.

The Sno-Isle Library system made this change 35 years ago!  The Sno-Isle Library system, serving Snohomish and Island counties, is one of the largest systems in the state with 23 branches. The Sno-Isle Library cites the disproportional impact late fees have on children and their families, and that the costs of collecting late fees may exceed the benefits; furthermore, the practice is not effective in reducing or eliminating overdue behaviors.

As Sno-Isle libraries found out more than 3 decades ago, this is an equity issue that unaddressed impacts low income residents and their children. At the South Park library, patrons owe an average of $15.91 (more than $15 blocks the account); in Magnolia and Queen Anne the average amount is just $4.60. At South Park library 20 percent of frequent users’ accounts have been blocked, compare this with the Fremont, Magnolia, Greenlake, and Montlake libraries where only 7 percent are blocked. The proposal to eliminate the fines is projected to cost a little more than 1 million a year.

Again, if you have comments about this proposal, please attend the Public Hearing scheduled for Thursday, April 11 at 5:30pm.

 


March Constituent Email Report

Constituent correspondence is a very important task in my office.  My staff and I spend time every day helping you improve our community, whether that’s by getting you help from a city department with our constituent case management services or giving you information about legislation that the Council is considering.  The unshaded categories and numbers are problem-solving emails answered in March, what I refer to above as “case management services.”  The shaded categories and numbers are emails answered in March related to policy or legislation that the Council is considering.

Share


© 1995-2018 City of Seattle