This Week in Council Budget Deliberations; SW Highland Park Way / SW Holden Street Intersection Funding in SDOT Budget; SR99/West Seattle Traffic

October 4th, 2019

This Week in Council Budget Deliberations

This week the City Council Budget Committee met on October 2 to discuss:

  1. The Citywide Homelessness Response
  2. The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, with a community panel (which included King County Prosecutor Satterberg) and a City department panel
  3. The Mayor’s proposed tax on Transportation Network Company (TNC) vehicles (the TNC “Fair Share” Plan).

The Budget Committee held the first of two public hearings on October 3rd.

No City Council Budget Committee meetings are scheduled for next week. Councilmembers have a deadline of October 10 to submit Initial Proposals to be included in Budget Deliberation and Issue ID sessions scheduled from October 16-22. We’ll let you know more about the schedule for the Budget Deliberation and Issue ID sessions in next week’s blog.

SW Highland Park Way / SW Holden Street Intersection Funding in SDOT Budget

The intersection of Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden Street is one of the few access points to the West Seattle peninsula. Since 1941 the community has advocated for pedestrian and motorist safety; it has been the site of numerous accidents.

In 2017 I helped secure funding for initial design of a roundabout proposed by the community; SDOT provided additional funding, totaling $500,000 in funding. SDOT submitted grant proposals to the state for different funding programs; I worked with several community groups and residents to gain support for the project, and submitted those letters to WSDOT, which included letters of support from the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association, the West Seattle Transportation Coalition, the Highland Park Action Committee, the Highland Park Improvement Club, the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Coalition, the City Council, US Representative Jayapal, King County Councilmember McDermott.

SDOT’s grant proposals to the state wasn’t successful; a grant for a separate state funding program in 2018 wasn’t successful either.

Late last year I amended the 2019 budget to add the “Highland Park Roundabout” to the SDOT Capital budget, so that it was clear the project was in the City’s plans moving forward.

State Senator Nguyen and Representative Fitzgibbon submitted funding requests through the state budget process, though funding for local projects is very limited.

The community proposed the project for funding through the Neighborhood Street Fund grant process this year. Despite being highly rated in community voting, it was not selected; a community proposal in 2016 had been supported as the highest-ranking project in the Delridge District Council review process, but it was not selected, in part due to cost.

In August I proposed an amendment to the SDOT Capital Improvement Program budget item to increase funding by $2.5 million, and list $3 million in total funding for the project the Council approved in a supplemental budget bill. The amendment also revised the entry to “Highland Park Intersection Improvements,” as SDOT’s cost estimates were increasing.

The Mayor’s proposed 2020 budget, released September 23rd, increases the funding from $3 million to $4.1 million in funding, including $3.5 million in state gas tax funds derived from the sale of properties in South Lake Union (the “Mercer Properties”), which must be used for transportation purposes (it also adds some Move Levy funds).

Thank you to the Mayor for including this funding in her proposed budget.

The entry in the SDOT Capital Improvement Program notes there are currently two alternatives, a roundabout and a traffic signal, and estimates $7.3 million for a roundabout. SDOT Director Zimbabwe noted in a recent Budget Committee that the available funds could fund a traffic signal, sidewalks, curb ramps and marked crosswalks, but would be insufficient to fund the roundabout.

My office has submitted questions to the City Budget office about the spending plan, and timeline for the two options being considered, as well as for SDOT’s perspective about a “mini-roundabout’ proposal from a community member.


SR99/West Seattle Traffic

I have received numerous e-mails from constituents about traffic backups on SR99, the West Seattle Bridge, and arterials in West Seattle that started after the re-installation of a northbound bus lane on SR99 between the West Seattle Bridge and the Downtown exit at Dearborn, and the disruption this has had on their commutes and their lives.  SDOT is seeking WSDOT’s approval to make adjustments to extend the merge 1,000 feet in order to minimize the backup.

Earlier today I sent a letter to SDOT Director Zimbabwe linked here.

(photo sent by a constituent on SW Admiral Way)

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2020 Council Budget Schedule; Diaper Need Awareness Week; Five Bills Passed Full Council to Strengthen Tenant Protections; Amendments to Green New Deal Oversight Board/ Heating Oil Legislation

September 30th, 2019

2020 Council Budget Schedule

On Monday, September 23rd Mayor Durkan submitted her Proposed 2020 City of Seattle Budget and Proposed 2020-2025 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) to the Council. With that, the Council, now meeting as the Budget Committee, begins its work on the 2020 budget.  We will continue through adoption of the budget on November 25th. Here’s a link to the Budget Committee schedule.

Budget Committee meeting agendas are available here.

Here are links to an Executive Summary and Summary Charts and Tables. 50% of the City’s General Fund is dedicated to public safety.

Last week, the Council received high-level briefings from city departments and the City Budget Office. In Wednesday’s Budget Committee meeting, we discussed CBO’s Revenue Overview, and budget overview presentations from the Office of Economic Development, Parks and Recreation, and the Office of Labor Standards. At Thursday’s Budget Committee meeting we heard presentations from the Human Services Department, the Office of Housing, and the Department of Education and Early Learning. On Friday we heard from the Seattle Transportation Department, Office for Civil Rights, Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, a Public Safety Budget Overview, the Police Department, Fire Department. The Office of Sustainabilty and the Environment has been re-scheduled for this coming Wednesday.

This week, the Budget Committee is scheduled to meet on October 2nd to consider homelessness, the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, and the proposed TNC tax. On Thursday October 3rd, the Council will hold the first public hearing on the proposed budget at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers in City Hall at 600 4th Avenue. People will be permitted to sign up, starting at 4:30 p.m.

Here’s a brief summary of future key budget dates:

  • October 16-22: Budget Deliberation and Issue Identification: this will consist of Council Central Staff presentations with greater detail about different departments. Councilmembers can have proposals listed briefly in these memos.  We have a 10 a.m. deadline to submit proposals to be included. At this point, proposals don’t need to be detailed or include specific dollar amounts.
  • October 23 at 2 p.m:  Councilmembers have a deadline to develop specific Council Budget Actions, which must include specific costs. Those proposals will be discussed from October 29 to November 1.
  • November 6: Budget Committee Chair Bagshaw will propose an Initial Budget Proposal. Councilmembers have a deadline of noon on November 8 to propose changes to the Chair’s Initial Budget Proposal.
  • November 13:  Proposed changes to the Chair’s Initial Budget will be discussed.
  • November 18: The Budget Chair will release a Revised Budget
  • November 19:  The Budget Committee will vote on the Chair’s Revised Budget. This will be the first round of votes.
  • November 25: The Budget Committee will meet for the final time, and vote, in the morning. The City Council is scheduled to vote on the 2020 budget at its regular 2 p.m. meeting.

Diaper Need Awareness Week

Last week I had the honor to present a Proclamation supporting Diaper Need Awareness Week, a nationwide effort of advocacy organizations focused on the health and development of infants and toddlers. WestSide Baby, headquartered a few blocks south of District 1 in White Center, spearheads Diaper Need Awareness Week locally.  Year round they work to build awareness and provide all kinds of goods for families with infants and toddlers, including diapers. The Proclamation notes that one-in-three families have an insufficient supply of clean diapers, which can cost a family between $70- 100/month. Unfortunately, assistance programs like SNAP don’t cover diapers.

CM Herbold and WestSide Baby Deputy Director Sarah Cody Roth

Please consider supporting WestSide Baby in honor of Diaper Need Awareness Week.

Five Bills Passed Full Council to Strengthen Tenant Protections

Today City Council heard and passed five bills to strengthen tenant protections which I sponsored, two of which I authored. They are as follows:

  1. CB 119658: protecting survivors of domestic violence from being held liable for damages to a rental unit caused by their abuser
  2. CB 119606: allowing tenants to share the costs of rent and enjoy other benefits of living with roommates and family members by prohibiting landlords from restricting legal occupancy limits established by local, state, or federal law
  3. CB 119619: requiring information on the rights and resources of tenants to be included on notices to terminate a tenancy, increase rent, or for the landlord to enter a unit
  4. CB 119620: authorizing SDCI to enforce the state law requiring landlords to provide receipts for rental payments, and prohibits the requirement of electronic payment options
  5. CB 119621: requiring a landlord to register the rental unit with the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance (RRIO) before filing and issuing a notice to terminate tenancy

The Residential Tenant-Landlord Act in Washington state is a self-help act.  This means that, in many instances, tenants must represent themselves in disputes with their landlord. To make things harder, in the 1980s, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that violations to tenants could not be defended within the scope of the Consumer Protection Act by the Office of the Attorney General.

Nevertheless, the City has options to strengthen a tenant’s ability to secure their rights. Due to advocacy and leadership from Senator Kuderer, Representative Robinson, Representative Macri, advocacy organizations like the Tenants Union and Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, and many others, several eviction reform efforts  were passed in the state legislature this year, and the City “harmonized” these various changes in City code this summer (I wrote about it here). The City is working to complement these reforms by increasing education and enforcement strategies to strengthen the provisions of the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act.

The latter three bills I’ve mentioned were proposed by Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) in response to a Statement of Legislation Intent (SLI) I sponsored last year to support tenants in addressing habitability issues more quickly. As these bills intend, and SDCI’s SLI response explains, supporting tenants in addressing habitability issues for the goal of preventing disputes that can end up in retaliation and eviction starts with improving tenant knowledge of their rights and resources. SDCI has experienced an increase in call volume from tenants looking for assistance.  Authorizing SDCI to enforce existing state laws (as CB 119620 does for the requirement that landlords provide rent receipts), and incentivizing registration with the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance, can help a tenant avoid eviction proceedings where the City has limited recourse to intervene.

This strategy can also help manage the increased call volume SDCI is experiencing; each of these bills have fiscal notes stating some adjustments will be made to increase the departments’ capacity but the 2020 Proposed Budget of SDCI notes a 1 FTE reduction for the Compliance program, and no added capacity to the Rental Housing program (pp. 215). I intend to address this during this Budget cycle.

In addition to meeting the priorities outlined in Resolution 31861,  advancing these bills has been an important opportunity for me to respond to the advocacy and leadership of Washington CAN, the Housing Justice Project, and the Coalition Ending Gender Based Violence.

This legislation has also provided me an opportunity to engage with the Rental Housing Association (RHA) and Multi-Family Housing Association (MFHA). Despite representing different constituencies, all of these organizations agree that a survivor of domestic violence should not be punished for the circumstances of their abuse, and that supporting survivors so that they aren’t penalized for damages that can impact their rental history or credit may help to reduce the burden on organizations that support survivors.  In a joint letter with RHA and MFHA, the Domestic Abuse Women’s Network (DAWN) shared that in 2018 they’ve received an uptick of 173% in calls from survivors seeking assistance. Testifiers in committee have shared personal experiences on how domestic violence affects housing status.

Another important aspect of the bill that the Coalition Ending Gender Based Violence played a vital role in working through is a provision that ensures survivors aren’t put at risk of retaliation. Although the legislation specifically names the perpetrator as liable for damages they cause, in responding to concerns expressed by constituents and landlords in cases where the perpetrator cannot be pursued, I’ve introduced a landlord mitigation fund. Per the advocacy of RHA and MFHA, I’ve modeled this fund after a similar program the state provides to support people receiving housing assistance. Conditional on eligibility, this fund can be accessed by landlords in the case that they cannot recoup damages caused by a perpetrator up to $1000 after a $500 buy-in.

Amendments to Green New Deal Oversight Board/ Heating Oil Legislation

During the last few weeks the Council adopted two pieces of legislation relating to the Green New Deal plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Seattle.

The first bill created the Green New Deal Oversight Board to advise the Mayor and Council on items related to the Green New Deal.

I proposed three amendments. The first explicitly states the Board can make recommendations on what they believe the City should prioritize. The second adds two labor representatives to the Board. It’s important that labor’s voice be included early on in consideration of any changes that could affect employment; the Seattle Building and Construction Trades Council has 19 affiliated members with a wide variety of work, so I want to be sure they are involved in the early stages in development of any proposals, in the spirit of the blue/green coalition.

The third amendment states the Council’s request that the Office of Sustainability and the Environment (OSE) “analyze the impacts of potential actions that require Council approval to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the sources identified in the 2016 Seattle Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory, and estimate measurable progress each action would provide towards making Seattle free of climate pollutants by 2030.”

The goal of this amendment is to ensure that Council decisions are grounded in data, and policymakers have a clear sense of how potential actions fit into the overall goal.

The second bill the Council considered was the Mayor’s legislation for a 23.6 cents per gallon tax on heating oil, and to create an implementation plan for regulating the use of hearing tanks. The implementation plan is due July 1, 2020. I proposed four amendments to this bill.

After the plan is submitted next year, a code amendment would be required to adopt any requirement to decommission heating oil tanks.  Under current law, such a code amendment would require a State Environmental Policy Act analysis and be subject to appeal. This wasn’t clear in the public discussion, so I want to make sure it’s clear that this legislation does not adopt a requirement to decommission heating oil tanks.

According to OSE, oil results in 16-18% of residential carbon emissions, and 8-9% of building emissions overall. Reducing building emissions is a key goal in the City’s Climate Action Plan. Carbon emissions from oil-heated homes went down from 109,000 to 65,000 metric tons of CO2 between 2008 to 2014; from 2014 to 2016 the reduction leveled off, to 63,000.

The legislation includes a $120 reimbursement for low-income persons (based on the cost of the tax for 500 gallons), and funding for conversion to heat pumps.

I heard a lot of support for this legislation. I also heard concern from seniors and low-income residents about the impact of the legislation. OSE estimates that 36% of the oil-heated households are seniors. Of those who participate in the City’s Utility Discount Program, 60% are estimated to be seniors.

I wanted to be sure the legislation does no harm to seniors and low-income persons, for both the conversion proposal and the tax proposal; I also was concerned that the funds projected for fully funding conversion are inadequate. I proposed amendments to address these concerns.

First of all, I proposed an amendment to say the amend CB 119607 to add that the proposed implementation plan due on July 1, 2020 should consider: (1) exempting residents over the age of 65 from the proposed requirement that all heating oil storage tanks in Seattle be decommissioned or replaced with a modern tank by December 31, 2028; and (2) a plan to fully fund conversions from oil heating systems to electric systems for households at or below 80 percent area median income (this is roughly $70,000 for a family of two).

While OSE has noted that the cost of operating a heat pump is lower than an oil furnace, and will cover the cost of conversion over time, seniors may not have the longevity to enjoy a benefit. Seniors are also more likely to be low income, or on a fixed income.

Secondly, while the legislation includes the $120 discount to low-income persons, it did not define low-income. I proposed an amendment asking that the report include an analysis of the viability to extend the heating oil tax reimbursement to households whose income is between 70% state median income and 80% area median income.

The City’s Utility Discount Program uses the threshold of 70% of state income; as noted above, the threshold for funding conversions is 80% of Seattle-area median income, which is significantly higher.

Third, the funding for conversion doesn’t appear to add up at this point. It provides funding for 1,100 conversions; that is based on the number of residents with heating oil who participate in the City Light Utility Discount Program. Citywide, however, participation is around 30% of those eligible, according to the report developed by the utilities that I requested through last year’s budget process.

I suspect it will likely be significantly higher than 1,100 out of the 18,000 homes with heating oil (7%), due to the cost of conversions, compared to an electricity bill, which provides a discount every two months. OSE estimates $15,000 per conversion; estimates are significantly higher for some homes.

Also, the Utility Discount Program is set at 70% of median household income for the state, whereas this legislation provides assistance for those at 80% of the media Seattle area household income, so more people will be eligible based on income.

If, for example, 3,000 households participate in the conversion program, it would require an additional $10 million; for the rebate program, it would require $1 million or so (the tax funds conversions).

Consequently, it’s important to ensure the Council can assess whether the math adds up before the tax goes into effect. The legislation as proposed included an effective date of July 1, 2020; I amended it September 1, 2020, to allow for two months of review by the Council.

With the creation of the Green New Deal Oversight Board, I anticipate these kinds of issues will be worked out before legislation is sent to the Council.

These amendments were adopted by the Council, along with an amendment I proposed to note the global warming impacts of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in refrigerants used in consumer appliances, such as heat pumps, and the Council’s commitment to advocate for statewide legislation to expedite the reduction of HFCs with high global warming potential.

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Delridge light rail alternatives: initial assessment results, public comment open through October 4; 508 installation and PDA advocacy; Solid Waste Rates – Good News; Bike Legislation Amendments; No September In-District Office Hours

September 20th, 2019

Delridge Light Rail Alternatives: Initial Assessment Results, Public Comment Open through October 4

Sound Transit has taken a critical next step in implementing Sound Transit 3 in releasing its “initial assessment” of potential additional alternatives to study in the Draft Environmental Impact statement for the West Seattle/Ballard light rail project.   If you recall, in May the Sound Transit Board selected options to study in the Draft EIS, and to do an initial assessment of other options, and decide later whether to include them in the EIS.

You can review and comment on the initial assessment results here.   The additional alternatives for Delridge are called “Yancy/Andover   Elevated” and “Pigeon Point Tunnel.”

I proposed this version of the Pigeon Point tunnel at the Sound Transit Stakeholder Advisory Committee meeting, as a more direct alternative to the earlier, longer version proposed – but ultimately unsupported – by Sound Transit that went further south.  Previously, it was called the “Pigeon Ridge tunnel” option. The good news is that this version of the tunnel is estimated to cost $200 million, which is $300 million less than the earlier $500 million version.

Public comment is open through October 4, 2019. Here’s a link to the presentation at the Sound Transit System Expansion Committee on September 12th.

This will be presented at the Sound Transit Board on September 26. On October 10, the System Expansion Committee will consider potential action to recommend whether to further study this in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.  The Sound Transit Board is scheduled to make a decision on October 24th.

508 Installation and PDA Advocacy

September 7 was International Overdose Awareness Day. To mark the occasion and kick off a campaign about drug user health, the Public Defender Association (PDA) erected an art installation highlighting the 508 overdose deaths since the 2016 release of recommendations from the Heroin and Opiate Task Force. This installation seeks to raise the public awareness that over $1.4 million earmarked for drug user health hasn’t been spent. The installation was erected by Steve Lambert in partnership with PDA.

Photo courtesy of Public Defender Association (PDA)

The installation is intended to be interactive for people to leave messages, flowers, and tokens in honor of the lives that have been lost.

The PDA represents people of color and people living on low incomes who are disproportionally impacted by the criminal legal system.  The PDA works to “shift from a punishment paradigm to a system that supports individual and community health.” I’ve had the honor to partner with PDA on issues of homelessness policy and criminal justice reform efforts such as the development of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program.  Since 2016, LEAD has worked to divert people from the costly and ineffective revolving door criminal justice system toward more effective community-based intervention agencies.

Earlier this summer, PDA asked the City to commit the 2019 funds dedicated to treatment to a pilot program for Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for methamphetamine users in Seattle. The letter states:

“Providing a stimulant analog (MAT) in a controlled, legal, subsidized context may allow patients to refrain from using illicit stimulants, enable them to engage in medical care for their mental and physical conditions and access services that will lead to greater stability and less incidents of hospitalization and incarceration.”

Health care facilities in Washington state are authorized to use MAT treatment for opioid-users, and PDA’s recent advocacy is focused on employing this strategy for methamphetamines. This effort is specifically in reference to new data from the Seattle-King County Public Health Department showing a significant increase in the rate of overdose deaths by methamphetamine use.

The “Yes to Drug Users Health” campaign emphasizes the need to house people with the most severe housing barriers, including people with substance-use disorder and co-occurring mental health needs and people with criminal histories; funding tenant education and prevention; and piloting safe consumption strategies in supportive housing settings.

On Thursday, the PDA hosted a closing ceremony and, before taking down the installation, noted that another 32 people had died in the past month from overdose.

Solid Waste Rates – Good News

In my committee meeting last week we received an update from Seattle Public Utilities on its proposed Solid Waste Rates for 2020 – 2022. Solid Waste is one of three lines of business that SPU manages, the other two are Drainage and Wastewater, and Water (think drinking water). The rate proposal stems from the SPU Strategic Business Plan which the Council passed in 2017 and I wrote about here. The Strategic Business Plan is a six-year outlook and guiding document that the utility updates every three years to reflect the most accurate and up to date information about the utility rates needed to support projects and their costs.

As you can see from the chart below, rates were predicted to go up 4.0% next year, 3.0% in 2021, and 3.8% in 2022; however, they will only go up 3.2% next year, 2.9% in 2021, and 2.9% in 2022.

The savings are due to:

  1. Solid Waste Collection Contract savings. SPU negotiated a contract that we passed which saves the utility roughly $5 million a year. This contract also helped deliver to Seattle the country’s first class 8 electric garbage truck!
  2. Increased demand for solid waste services due to an increase in population which results in $6 million in unanticipated revenue over the three-year period
  3. Updated financial policies
  4. Better projections for Utility Discount Program customers. SPU previously projected more single-family homeowner participation in the UDP, but the new assumptions show that there will be more multifamily UDP customers. SPU estimates that it will cost $7.8 million less over the three-year rate period to serve customers that live in multifamily buildings.

The official rate setting bill will be included in the budget the Council will pass in November.

Bike Legislation Amendments

Earlier this month the Council voted on two pieces of legislation regarding bicycles; I proposed amendments to both.

The first bill increases transparency and fiscal oversight regarding bicycle lane projects, and ensures projects are sequenced together to save money. Approved projects are included in the Bicycle Master Plan; it’s more expensive to add bicycle lanes separate from major road construction projects, and more time consuming, so this provides for efficiency and fiscally responsible oversight.

The legislation increases transparency by requiring the SDOT Director—who has authority over City streets—to provide a report to the Council if a bicycle lane is not included in a major street project, what alternatives were analyzed, and how connectivity could be advanced without a bike lane.

My amendment, which was incorporated into another amendment, added language to note the “expectation that the final scope and design of the project reflects continued community engagement.” This amendment is modeled on an earlier amendment I proposed for the Delridge Multimodal Corridor project; the process included in this legislation is more or less what’s happened on that project.

The second piece of legislation is a resolution regarding the Bicycle Master Plan and implementation projects. My amendment adds the Georgetown-South Park Trail, which was requested by the community.

No September In-District Office Hours

The Mayor will be proposing her 2020 budget on Monday.  Due to the scheduling of City Council Budget Committee meetings on Friday September 27, I am unable to hold in-district office hours as originally planned. I apologize for this inconvenience and hope to see you at my next office hours on October 25 at the Southwest Customer Service Center (2801 SW Thistle St).

If you have a more immediate issue, please email me to let me know and I or one of my staff will be happy to work on getting it resolved.

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Metro Re-Routing West Seattle/Downtown Buses Starting September 12; Your Voice Your Choice Voting Open through September 30; August Constituent Email Report

September 7th, 2019


Metro Re-Routing West Seattle/Downtown Buses Starting September 12; 1st & Dearborn Intersection Closed Beginning September 12

King County Metro announced changes yesterday to the West Seattle/Downtown bus routes, beginning on September 9th. Here’s a link to a map showing the changes (also shown below).

WSDOT announced that on September 12 they will begin removing what remains of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, and will need to close the intersection at 1st and Dearborn for up to 10 days.

Starting September 9th, buses traveling from Downtown to West Seattle will travel onto the 2nd Avenue Extension, then on to 4th; a new stop will be added on the 2nd Avenue Extension, at South Main Street.

This routing will be in effect until early 2020.

Buses will no longer travel southbound on 1st Avenue, and the stop for southbound buses at 1st/King will close.

Northbound buses, from West Seattle to Downtown, will travel on the SODO Busway and 4th Avenue. The C Line will have a stop at Prefontaine; the 21X, 55, 56, 57, 113, 120, 121, 122, 123 and 125 will have a stop at James Street, as shown on the map.

The northbound changes are scheduled from September 12th through 21st.

In early 2020, these routes will use Alaskan Way, and access Downtown on Cherry Street, then continue on 3rd Avenue.

Here’s a link to KC Metro’s announcement.

Thank you to Metro, SDOT and the County Executive for their responsiveness to constituent concerns. My earlier newsletters about this are here and here.

Also, earlier this week WSDOT announced they will begin charging tolls for the SR99 tunnel beginning November 9. My office has spoken to WSDOT about the importance of closely monitoring how this goes, as it has the potential to add more cars Downtown, and affect traffic and bus trip times, especially between November 9 and when buses begin using Alaskan Way. WSDOT indicated they are aware of this and will be monitoring it.

WSDOT’s announcement for the closure of the 1st/Dearborn intersection says: “This closure will cause unavoidable disruptions to traffic and we ask drivers to make a plan for their trips: consider alternate routes or ways of getting around, including exiting SR 99 at Spokane Street, using transit or taking the King County Water Taxi. Next month will also bring demolition to the section of viaduct around Marion Street and changes for passengers arriving at Colman Dock. This construction is just one component of the #SeattleSqueeze as Seattle updates its transportation infrastructure to match the city’s mobility needs.

Your Voice Your Choice Voting Open through September 30

Voting for the Your Voice Your Choice program has begun, and is open through September 30.

Projects were identified by community members earlier this year, and reviewed by SDOT and Parks. Here’s a map of candidate projects.

You can review District 1 projects here, and vote here.

Voting is open to anyone age 11 and up (must be 13 and up to vote online) who lives, works, goes to school, worships, receives services, volunteers, or is part of a program in the City of Seattle. Each voter may cast one ballot per City Council district, and may choose up to three (3) projects per district. You can vote online or by paper ballot at any Seattle Public Library branch. Printable ballots are in the dropdown below.

Ballots are available in other languages here.

Information about past projects is available here.


August 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 August, what I refer to above as “case management services.”  The shaded categories and numbers are emails answered in August related to policy or legislation that the Council is considering.

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Tenant Protections for Survivors of DV and Roommates; KC Metro Examining Potential Bus Reroutes, Testing Thursday; Senior and Disabled Persons Property Tax Exemption Income Level Raised; Delridge Comp Plan Amendments; Want to Name a Park?

August 14th, 2019

Tenant Protections for Survivors of DV and Roommates

This week we had a first discussion in Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee on legislation I’ve sponsored to protect survivors of domestic violence from being held liable for damages incurred by an abuser, and to protect roommates and family members from categorical housing denials and evictions. I have been working closely with advocates with Washington Community Action Network and the Housing Justice Project to draft and advance this legislation.

Both of these bills were identified as priorities in the “Losing Home,” report. In several places, the report shows how domestic violence (DV) is often a “precursor to housing instability, especially for women” who may fall behind on rent after missing work due to domestic violence, or experience a change in income after reporting and/or separating from an abuser.

Another financial impact that survivors of DV face is outstanding costs of damages to a unit; under current law, tenants are responsible for paying for all damages, even if it was caused as a result of domestic violence, and outstanding debt due to damages can impact a persons’ credit and rental history, creating another barrier for survivors to leave a DV situation. Council Bill 119598 seeks to change that by prohibiting a landlord from holding a survivor liable for damages to the unit so long as:

  • They are provided written documentation that the tenant or household member was a victim of DV, and that the damage was caused by a perpetrator of DV;
  • The documentation is signed by a qualified third party and describes:
    • the time, date, and location of the act of DV that resulted in property damage occurred;
    • a brief description of act of DV that resulted in property damage; and
    • that the tenant or household member informed the qualified third party the name of the perpetrator; and
  • The tenant or household member informed the qualified third party of the name of the perpetrator of the act of domestic violence and property damage.

The top goal of this legislation is to ensure that survivors of DV aren’t held liable for damages related to the circumstances of their abuse. It makes more explicit the protections under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)—public housing organizations like the Seattle Housing Authority follow VAWA by explicitly prohibiting denial, termination, or eviction against people on the basis of being a survivor. The issue of liability during incidents of DV in rental housing also has precedence in the state legislature—current statewide protections permit a survivor to terminate a tenancy within 90 days of an incident of abuse without penalty.

That said, the ability to determine who should be held responsible for damages to a unit is still important to work out. As it’s currently written, the legislation doesn’t require that the name of the perpetrator be disclosed to a landlord so as not to put the survivor at risk of retribution. That said, if a landlord does have the name of perpetrator, they can seek recourse for damages. We are looking to see if this bill can create a path that facilitates the ability of a landlord to pursue damages against the perpetrator.

CB 119606 prohibits a landlord from limiting the number of people residing in a rental unit to fewer than the legal occupancy limit established by local, state, or federal law. The bill requires any rental agreement to allow occupancy by:

  • A tenant;
  • A tenant’s family or household members;
  • One additional person who is not a tenant’s family or household member; and
  • The additional person’s family and household members.

In a high rent environment, living with roommates and family members is necessary to help renters make rent and afford other expenses like food, health care, childcare, transportation, etc. The 2019 National Low Income Housing Coalition report shows that the average housing wage (what a tenant needs to make to afford a rental unit at fair market rate) is $36.52 for a 2-bedroom home in Seattle-Bellevue area. This is more than twice the minimum wage.

I appreciate how this bill ensures that our private housing market can be inclusive diverse household compositions. A constituent who came to testify in support spoke to the need to care for aging and disabled family members while renting—with this legislation they won’t have to worry about being denied from a home so long as they can meet their obligations as a lease-holder.

This bill also restricts a landlord from imposing additional screening criteria when a household member or roommate is added to the household, and protects the remaining tenants’ authority to bring on additional roommate(s) if one or more spaces of the legal occupancy is vacated.

KC Metro Examining Potential Bus Reroutes, Testing Thursday

On Thursday, August 14 King County Metro will reroute buses from Downtown to West Seattle that currently travel on 1st Avenue.

This will apply to southbound service on the 21 Express, 37, 55, 56, 57, 113, 120, 121, 122, 123, 125 and the RapidRide C Line, from 5 a.m. on Thursday to 5 a.m. on Friday.

There will be a temporary bus stop on the 2nd Avenue Extension South between Main and Washington. The bus will not travel on 1st Avenue, and so won’t use the stop at King Street.

Here’s a link to Metro’s notice, which notes, “The data we collect will be compared against current routing and last week’s temporary reroute and used to determine options to improve pathways during the “Seattle Squeeze.” Their post also provides information re: frequently asked questions.

Thank you to KC Metro for doing this. SDOT has completed the work on signal timing on 1st Avenue they committed to.

Last Monday Metro noted the work on 1st Avenue, and said, re: moving the buses on to a different pathway (e.g. 4th Avenue) “these measures would be difficult and costly to renew and maintain for an extended time.”  After seeing that I sent a letter to the Mayor requesting information about how much this would cost; the letter quotes from bus riders who e-mailed me about their experiences with long delays.

The letter further asked the Mayor to consult with the Fire Chief whether traffic conditions on 1st Avenue affect the ability of the Fire Department to provide timely fire life/safety response in the Pioneer Square neighborhood.

You can sign up for KC Metro bus alerts here; once you sign up you can select which bus routes you’d like to receive notices for.

Here’s a link to background about my earlier requests to SDOT, including  regarding a bus lane in 2018, and re: using 4th Avenue in April.


Senior and Disabled Persons Property Tax Exemption Income Level Raised

Earlier this year the state legislature passed legislation that will make more seniors and disabled person eligible for property tax exemptions in 2020. The legislation went into effect on July 28.

The legislation required the State Department of Revenue to update income eligibility thresholds in each county in the state beginning August 1, 2019, and every fifth year thereafter (listed as Income Threshold 3 in the 2020-2024 chart).

For 2019 taxes the income threshold for eligibility was $40,000; for 2020 taxes in King County the eligibility level will be $58,423.

The King County Assessor webpage notes that applications for 2020 taxes will be available in January; you can sign up for the list to receive information here.

The Assessor notes that only 1 in 100 qualified senior and disabled persons have registered for the program, so if you think you might be eligible please go to the KC Assessor’s webpage about exemptions (which includes information about deferrals as well).

After taking office, I heard about a desire for property tax relief from numerous seniors in District 1; it can affect people’s ability to remain in their homes.

The City’s 2017 State Legislative Agenda spoke in general terms about affordability for seniors, but after hearing from numerous seniors in District 1, I wanted to include more specific language.

So I worked with the City’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations to add a specific request to the City’s 2018 State Legislative Agenda: “The City supports reviewing and updating the eligibility requirements under the property tax exemption for senior citizens and disabled persons.” It was also included in the 2019 State Legislative Agenda.

Many thanks for 45th District Senator Dhingra and other co-sponsors for work on this very important legislation.

Delridge Comp Plan Amendments

At Monday’s Full Council meeting one of the actions we took was to pass a resolution to identify possible amendments for further study for the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan – this process is known as docketing.  The Council included in that resolution, attachment A, which proposes a number of changes intended to enhance the Delridge Neighborhood plan, and requests recommendations from the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) and the Seattle Planning Commission including:

  • Increasing usage of parks, trails and cultural/recreational facilities by engaging historically underrepresented communities in the planning process;
  • Coordinating with community members and supporting Delridge Community Center, the Southwest Teen Life Center and Youngstown Cultural Arts center to provide culturally supportive programming;
  • Reduce pollution and stormwater impact to Longfellow Creek by with Natural Drainage Systems in the public ROW;
  • Increase sidewalks, implement the Pedestrian Master Plan, and engage in ST3 station planning focused on transit-oriented development efforts;
  • Increase opportunities to access affordable healthy food, and support urban farming and education; and
  • Use the RSJI toolkit when scoping capital projects and programming and emphasize inclusive engagement efforts to increase access for communities of color, immigrants, refugees, Native people, people living on low incomes, youth and limited-English proficient individuals in Delridge in planning process.

This is a step following up on the passage of the North Delridge Action Plan Resolution, which I wrote about here last April. The City’s Comprehensive Plan is typically updated once a year and those updates derive from the docketing process. The adoption of attachment A means that OPCD will complete an environmental review and recommendations of the proposed amendments, and Council then moves forward with the adoption of amendments in the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan.

Want to Name a Park?

Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) is inviting the public to submit potential names for the new park which will be located at 48th and Charlestown. SPR originally purchased this property in 2014 and anticipate the new park will be completed by 2021. You can find more information about the park here.

There is a Parks Naming Committee which is comprised of one representative designated by the Board of Park Commissioners; one by the Chair of the City Council Civic Development, Public Assets and Native Communities Committee; and one by the Parks Superintendent. Naming criteria for the park can be found here. All names will be considered by the Committee who will make a recommendation to the Parks Superintendent who will have the final say.

If you would like to submit a name for the park you need to do so by Friday, October 18, 2019. It is requested that you please include an explanation of how your suggestion matches the naming criteria. Send to:

Seattle Parks and Recreation, Parks Naming Committee
100 Dexter Ave. N, Seattle, WA 98109

or by e-mail to Paula Hoff

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Impact Fees; Delridge Day this Saturday; July Constituent Email Report; In-District Office Hours

August 9th, 2019

Impact Fees

This week the Sustainability and Transportation Committee had a briefing on impact fees. Impact fees are charges to developers to address the needs for capacity improvements to transportation, parks, schools, and fire facilities. I last wrote about impact fees here and provided some history about the Council’s efforts to develop an impact fee program.

This weeks’ briefing, which you can watch here (start at 3:05:36) explains what transportation impact fees are, which other local jurisdictions have them & how they compare with each other, and potential next steps.

Why is this coming up now? In my last write up I reported on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) list of eligible projects which is required for a Comprehensive Plan amendment.  That list of projects includes:

  • Bicycle Master Plan
  • Freight Master Plan
  • Pedestrian Master Plan
  • Move Seattle Plan
  • Capital Improvement Program

To meet requirements, the Transportation Impact Fees methodology must “separate the share of project costs that address existing deficiencies from the share of project costs that add multimodal capacity and serve new growth. The resulting growth-related improvement costs are then further separated to identify the share of growth related to land development in Seattle versus growth from outside of the City. New development in Seattle cannot be charged a fee to pay for the capacity needs generated by development outside of the City.”

The EIS received a determination of insignificance, but it was appealed by Impact Fee opponents to the Hearing Examiner in November. We now expect the Hearing Examiner to rule by the end of August or early September. Depending on the ruling the Council could potentially move forward with an impact fee proposal this year.

Next Steps:

Step 1 – Comprehensive Plan Amendments

  • Hearing Examiner decision on appeal expected by mid- August
  • Committee discussion and action on Comprehensive Plan amendment legislation

Step 2 – Fee Schedule and Program

  • Policy and regulatory decision on a fee schedule, exemptions
  • Discussion and potential action on implementing regulations
  • September – October: Discussion of potential amendments to the Mayor’s proposed budget based on an impact fee program
  • November: Potential Full Council action on Comprehensive Plan amendments, implementing regulations, and associated budget amendment

You can read more about impact fees here.

Delridge Day this Saturday

With over 50 booths this year’s festival will be the largest yet. There will be skate lesson from Skate Like A Girl at 12pm and 2pm, field games for all ages throughout the day, martial arts demonstrations, and live music from Bill Wolford, Ellis Brothers, The Slags, and Roo and the Few.

FREE food will be provided thanks to the support of the Seattle Police Foundation, and the Police Department will be there too for the annual Southwest Precinct Picnic. Last year they brought a working canine, a bomb squad robot to hand out candy, and mounted officers.

Come join your neighbors:

  • Date: Saturday, August 10, 2019
  • Time: 11:00 am–3:00 pm
  • Location: Delridge Community Center and Park

July 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 July, what I refer to above as “case management services.”  The shaded categories and numbers are emails answered in July related to policy or legislation that the Council is considering.

In-District Office Hours

On August 16, I will be at the South Park Community Center (8319 8th Ave S) between 2pm and 7pm. 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, September 27, 2019
    Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St
  • Friday, October 25, 2019
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, November 29, 2019
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, December 20, 2019
    Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St

 

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Bus Commutes on 1st Avenue // Center City Streetcar, $9 Million Proposal

August 2nd, 2019

Bus Commutes on 1st Avenue

West Seattle bus riders are facing unacceptably long wait times on 1st Avenue to get back home in the evening.

Earlier this week my office sent a request to SDOT Director Zimbabwe to examine options to speed up traffic. The email that I sent to constituents earlier this week requested an update from SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe; today SDOT replied. Here are the four separate actions SDOT has identified:

  1. Revising signal timing at 1st Ave S & S Dearborn St and Alaskan Way S & S Dearborn St to further aid transit operation
  2. Further optimizing the signal timing plan for the 1st Ave corridor through Pioneer Square while emphasizing the north and south movements
  3. Implementing pre-game event timing to support the last two mid-day baseball game for the season
  4. Working to ensure high priority for incident management during the morning and afternoon commute time

Thank you to Director Zimbabwe for responding to this important issue for West Seattle commuters.

Center City Streetcar, $9 Million Proposal

The Mayor and SDOT have sent legislation to the Council requesting a $9 million “interfund” loan for the Center City Streetcar.  The loan is intended to pay for necessary extra design work because SDOT ordered streetcars that are too large to fit in portions of the alignment and the maintenance base. The funding will also allow SDOT to re-evaluate the strength of 1st Avenue in Pioneer Square.

The $9 million loan is proposed to eventually be paid back from the sale of the city-owned Mercer Megablock properties, expected in 2020.

The current cost estimate of the Center City Streetcar is $286 million, with a funding gap of at least $65 million. I’ve written about a Center City Streetcar here, here and here, so I’ll address only a few points here.

First of all, in 2017, when the estimated cost was $158 million, the Council adopted an amendment I proposed requiring that SDOT report to the Council to “identify contingency strategies and potential funding sources to address the risk that future Federal Transit Agency funds are not included in the federal budget to reimburse the capital construction costs of the project.”

SDOT’s report said only “If the full $75 million is not appropriated by Congress, SDOT will identify alternative funding sources to complete the project on schedule.”

The Council still has not received an answer about how to pay for the extra costs of the project, nor have we received a proposal to fully fund it.

This matters.  The most likely option to be proposed for how to pay the extra costs of the projects is by not funding other transportation priorities.

If the City receives all $75 million from the federal government and the Council authorizes a bond sale, estimated to be $45 million, to dedicate commercial parking tax revenues to fund the bonds there will still be a $65 million gap.

The more likely scenario is a $140 million funding gap.  Here’s why:

Thanks to the First Quarter Enhanced Capital Project reports for the 2019 watchlist that I sponsored and that the Council adopted earlier this year, for better accountability over large capital projects, we learned that: “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.”

Even if it was possible for the federal funding to come in, and there were no additional cost increases, $75 million would cover only 26% of the construction costs.   But in reality, as we learned from the watch list report, the new, hoped for $25 million in FTA funding is speculative but, also the original $50 million will expire too, requiring Congress to do a new future budget appropriation in 2020.

Keep in mind that in February 2016, when former Mayor Murray announced that $75 million was proposed for federal funding, the total project cost was listed at $135 million. This estimate was included in the October 2015 SDOT “Small Starts” grant funding application to the Federal Transit Administration. That application listed the FTA grant as funding 55.6% of construction costs.

The FTA funding for this project is more uncertain than ever, resulting in a possible $140 million funding gap, nearly half of the project.

While SDOT and the Mayor’s Office have different leadership today than that when the report was issued, and have been more transparent about costs, I still believe that it would be bad stewardship of public resources if the Council voted before have a funding proposal for the project.

Secondly, we need more information about the funds from the sale of the Mercer properties. How much will the City have available to spend from the sale of those properties? What could we do with those funds?

The first use of funds from the sale is to repay around $18.5 million in loans taken out against the properties, principally to fund the Mercer Project. Some of the funds must be used for transportation (100% for one of the properties, 42% for the other). In Resolution 31786, adopted by the Council in late 2017, the Council stated its intent to use additional non-transportation revenues for affordable housing.

This context is needed to make an informed decision about what the best use of these funds is. Is it $9 million? Or more?

Finally, it’s increasingly important for all of Seattle to have good transit connections to the South Lake Union employment center. When the C Line route from West Seattle shifted to run to South Lake Union, rather than ending in Downtown, ridership went up. Route 40, connecting Ballard and Fremont to South Lake Union since 2012, has high ridership. The H Line Rapid Ride project is scheduled to connect Delridge directly to South Lake Union beginning in 2021.

I-976 has qualified for the statewide November ballot; if it passes, in 2020 the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) would lose $25 million in vehicle license fees Seattle voters approved in 2014 for additional bus service, beyond what is funded by King County Metro. This could affect Seattle’s ability to maintain current funding levels for service in 2020; on the C Line, for example, over 1/3 of service is now funded by Seattle. While the City has some reserves, this is important to keep in mind.

Consideration of legislation for the $9 million is planned for Tuesday, August 6 in the Sustainability and Transportation Committee.

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Housing Bond and Eviction Reform Update; Business Stabilization Fund Pilot; DNDA Spotlight in the Seattle Times!; Bag Ban Report

July 26th, 2019


Housing Bond and Eviction Reform Legislation Update

I’ve been advocating to use the City’s bonding capacity for affordable housing and services since taking office in 2015.  In 2017, I sponsored legislation that authorized the City to issue $29 million in limited tax general obligation (LTGO) funding for building affordable housing—using the City’s line of credit which gets paid back through tax revenue over time. Over a dozen nonprofit developers indicated their interest to help bring over 2000 units of affordable housing online with this added funded capacity.

Since future tax revenue is necessary to pay off the debt, this authority is best used when connected to a revenue stream to pay the debt.  The $29 million dollar bond issuance authorized by the Council in 2016 for housing will be paid off with revenue generated by the Short Term Rental tax.

House Bill 1406, passed in this year’s session of the Washington State Legislature, gives local cities and counties the opportunity to retain sales tax revenue that is already collected and would otherwise be given to the state for acquiring, rehabilitating, or building affordable housing.  This means that the City of Seattle now has a dedicated revenue source to pay a our continued use of our bonding capacity and to help bring affordable housing online much more quickly. This added bonding capacity could also help leverage more state and federal dollars for our affordable housing. As I wrote a few weeks ago, the bill will go into effect next week, starting the clock on a 6-month timeline for the City to pass a Resolution stating the intent to use the new authority, and a year to pass an ordinance enacting the authority.

That said, given our affordable housing crisis we know we can’t drag our feet on this! I appreciate that Councilmember Mosqueda and the Mayor have also been diligently tracking this timeline, and I am excited for the opportunity to partner with them to find a way to double the City’s annual housing investments in each of the remaining four years of the Housing Levy and better reflect the projected County-wide need to adequately fund our homelessness intervention system identified in the 2018 McKinsey report.

Additionally, some much-needed reforms to our eviction system have also been made in the state legislature that aligned with my priorities to help people stay in their homes highlighted in the “Losing Home” report. Some of these changes were heard in my Committee this Tuesday in a bill that ‘harmonizes,’ i.e. aligns, City policy with new state requirements. Specifically, these changes are:

  • Extend the 3-day pay-or-vacate notice for nonpayment of rent to 14 days—so tenants have time to access services, support, or the next paycheck to get caught up and avoid eviction;
  • Define rent as “recurring and periodic charges identified in a rental agreement,” and clarifying that it be applied before other costs like late payments, damages, legal costs, or other fees. This provision is important to insure that landlords don’t use rent to pay for other costs and trigger a basis for an eviction.
  • Extend the minimum notice to 60 days in advance for all rent increases (upon completion of a fixed-term or month-to-month rental agreement), replacing Seattle’s 60-day notice required for increases above 10%. This provision will provide tenants more time to anticipate and make plans in advance of a rent increase, as well as incentivize landlords to plan ahead.

These changes will help check off a few items from Resolution 31861 that I sponsored earlier this year to outline City Council’s efforts to codify the recommendations made in “Losing Home”.

I will be introducing two more bills this summer that will meet two more items from this Resolution: ensuring that survivors of domestic violence aren’t held liable for damages done by their abuser, and to prevent roommates and family members, oftentimes sources of financial support in a high-rent environment, from being denied housing or evicted. I’ll keep you updated as these bills advance.


Business Stabilization Fund Pilot

South Park community members identified the need for small business help at a May community walk with City of Seattle departments.  This walk allowed the City to engage with communities to identify and address needs, including landscape maintenance on City-owned properties; replacing streetlights; removing graffiti; improving sign and pavement markings; and removing debris from illegal dumping. But also, this engagement helped lead the Office of Economic Development to launch a new Business Stabilization Fund Pilot program.

The need for a program like this was also underscored by the experience of the Luna Park Businesses impacted with reduced customers during the Avalon/35th SW Seattle Department of Transportation work there to complete paving, add a protected bike lanes and add a transit lane.

The new program is intended to provide financial support to a small business impacted by destabilizing event like the impact of construction projects, raising rents, displacement, crime, or a personal emergency. Funding is in the form of small grants up to $25,000 through one-time Community Development Block Grant (CBDG) funding dedicated to stabilization for low-income small businesses that might not have the financial wherewithal, or face cultural/linguistic barriers, to applying for a bank loan.

The Small Business Stabilization Fund has a deliberate focus on countering the displacement impact driven by economic growth in the City. I’ve written before about local economist Dick Conway’s analysis of job creation in what OED Director Lee calls the “knowledge” sector like tech, but also it creates increased demands on our infrastructure and public services. This, in combination with our regressive tax system, results in a deep burden on for people who are low- and middle-income, including small business owners. Our small businesses are a job pipeline integral for a healthy, diverse economy.

inclusive economy infographic

This infographic was circulated in a recent OED Race and Social Justice Initiative Report in my Committee to depict how the department is structured to create an inclusive economy.  “Small business support and technical assistance” is one of four organizing principles the department is using to address the challenges resulting from an economy that is booming, but leaving many behind.

As I heard in this briefing, this program has been deliberately crafted with racial equity in mind, and is targeting outreach towards:

  • “Microenterprises”, operated by low-income owners and have five or fewer employees; and
  • High-risk displacement areas

OED’s Small Business Advocate team are on-deck to provide support in completing the application for the funding and identifying other OED programs that could benefit the business, and a financial consultant will be matched with recipients to offer guidance in helping business stabilization. These are also strategies embedded in the Legacy Business Program.  I look forward to seeing how they play out!

If you’re a small business that has experienced a destabilizing event that you think could qualify you for this Fund, click here to apply.


DNDA Spotlight in the Seattle Times!

The Delridge Neighborhood Development Association (DNDA) was featured this week in the Seattle Times highlighting a $100,000 grant from the Washington Women’s Association and the phenomenal community programs the organization hosts.

I’ve had the pleasure to work closely with Executive Director David Bestock and DNDA for several years, most recently on a wetlands restoration project off Brandon and Delridge that will be an great asset for the neighborhood!


Bag Ban Report

This week in my Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts committee we had an update from Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) on our Plastic Bag Ban. In 2011 the Council passed Ordinance 123775 which banned retailers from using single-use plastic carry-out bags.  In 2016, I worked with SPU to update the ordinance to remove the sunset date for the 5 cent charge for paper bags to allow retailers to recoup the cost of paper bags customers use when they don’t bring their own reusable bag. We also changed the law to require that compostable bags be properly labeled and tinted either green or brown.  You can read about that update here. We suspected then that the 5 cent fee was not high enough to compensate smaller and independent retailers who do not purchase the same volume of paper bags in bulk as the larger chains, and therefore they pay a higher fee.

I promised then that I would continue to track compliance rates for these smaller retailers. With this new report and presentation from SPU this week, we learned that compliance continues to be a challenge for small grocery stores.

bag ban compliance by sector

Specifically, the report indicates that the top three barriers to compliance are:

  • Unaware of ordinance or ordinance specifics,
  • Language barriers, and
  • Added costs to operations.

I will continue to work with SPU to improve the City’s outreach to small and minority owned businesses to ensure accurate and culturally appropriate translation of documents. Further, to support smaller retailers in recovering the full cost of the paper bags, I intend to increase the pass through charge to 10 cents.

As outlined in the Central Staff memo, I am also considering several other measures: a. reduce our plastic use, b. reduce emissions associated with garbage collection, c. require compost and recycling access in multifamily buildings, and d. require deconstruction and salvage of buildings being demolished.. Our recycling rate has plateaued at 56.54% in 2018, yet the city has a goal of recycling 70% of our solid waste by 2022.  We are falling behind most in the areas of recycling in multifamily buildings and in construction waste.  The policies above can help move the needle so that we can realize this goal.

Stay tuned for my next committee meeting on August 13th where we’ll discuss the 2018 Waste Prevention & Recycling Report and next steps.

 

 

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SOCR 2018 Housing Discrimination Testing; Combat Arts Academy in Delridge—OED Small Business of the Month!; South Park Library Reopening Celebration; In-District Office Hours; Response to Court of Appeals Ruling on Municipal High Incomes Tax

July 19th, 2019

SOCR 2018 Housing Discrimination Testing

The Seattle Office of Civil Rights (SOCR) conducts testing every year to determine the prevalence of racism and bias in our housing and employment sectors. Also called “affirmative testing,” this strategy gives the City an opportunity to do outreach and education for people in violation of the law, intentionally or not.

SOCR conducted two main tests:

  • A match-pair (a.k.a “secret-shopper”) test whereby two testers, one African American and one White, matched to control for essential differences, contact a property owner about a rental
  • Testers that voluntarily disclose a criminal background to illicit questions, statements, or preclusion from an application related to their disclosure

In 2018, SOCR tested for discrimination and/or differential treatment in the housing market based on 1) criminal background, and 2) race. 179 tests were conducted (some of which were multiple contacts to one housing provider), and 42 tests revealed violation of the Fair Chance Housing ordinance. This is legislation I championed in 2017 that makes it illegal for a landlord to request information about criminal history or deny someone housing based on a criminal background.

I sponsored this legislation because involvement with the criminal-legal system is a common proxy for housing discrimination. Conversely there is no rigorously tested evidence connecting bad tenant behavior with a criminal background and we know that barriers to stable housing can lead to increased recidivism. If you are someone concerned with increases in crime, this legislation addresses that by reducing recidivism by increasing access to housing.  Finally in efforts to undo the racist implications of the prison-industrial complex, Resolution 31637 adopted in 2015, put the City on track to worked to strengthen peoples’ reentry after incarceration. You can find the report and recommendations here.

The timing is right for these kind of affirmative testing efforts in our housing market, and these testing efforts affirmed that. Seattle is in an affordable housing and homelessness crisis; aside from what we can logically assume, what is less clear is how people of color are disproportionately impacted. This is particularly true for African American people; the latest “Count Us In” data for King County shows that African Americans make up 24% of people experiencing homelessness (1 percentage point up from 2018), while only 6% of the population. Seattle data from 2016 shows a similar disparity:

The match-pair test also revealed evidence of racism:

  • 32 out of 53, or 60%, of the “secret-shopper” tests showed differential/discriminatory treatment based upon race.
  • 38% of test cases showed better treatment for White people; 23% of test cases showed better treatment for African American people; 39% showed no difference in treatment

The goal of these tests is to support our Seattle Office for Civil Rights as an enforcement agency—it’s my belief that implicit and explicit bias are present in all levels of society, and policy intended to undo racism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, and economic oppression needs to focus on changing behavior by educating about how we are changing these norms in different institutions, and penalizing persistent violators. To that end, this testing gives the City an opportunity to identify a sample of violations and dig deeper to assess awareness and understanding of Fair Housing laws new and old, before applying a punitive response—this is the wholistic approach that SOCR uses in “enforcement” responses.

Of the 42 enforcement actions that were taken, 13 advisory letters were sent to encourage housing providers to contact SOCR to talk about the results of the test so that they could be offered technical assistance and training. A total of 21 housing providers were found in violation outside of the scope of the advisory letters; 12 diligently followed-up with SOCR’s request for copies of their application, screening criteria, and evidence that they have a Fair Housing poster to justify how they were in compliance; 13 were offered  training on rental laws in Seattle; and 8 were issued a penalty requisite to the cost of testing expense.

If you believe you’ve had your rights violated in housing, find out more and file a complaint here.

 

Combat Arts Academy in Delridge—OED Small Business of the Month!

The Seattle Office of Economic Development has highlighted the Combat Arts Academy on Delridge and Brandon for their July feature of the Small Business of the Month! As the chair of the committee that oversees economic development, I encourage and appreciate the department’s efforts to support and uplift small businesses like this, especially in my district!

Owner Sonia Sillan is recognized and interviewed, and it’s cool to see how this small business owner is making martial arts accessible for women and girls and expanding into Burien.

Check out the whole feature here.

 

South Park Library Reopening Celebration

In late June the South Park Library reopened after being closed two months for renovations. The Library wants to invite you to come celebrate the reopening this Sunday between 2pm and 5pm.

Everyone is welcome and actives are free! There will be brief remarks by myself and others at the start of the program followed by a resource fair, crafts and face painting, a two-story giant slide, a selfie booth, and a food truck with free lunch for the first 100 people!

 

In-District Office Hours

On July 26, I will be at the Southwest Customer Service Center (2801 SW Thistle St) between 12pm and 5pm. The final meeting of the day will begin at 4:30 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, 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

 

Response to Court of Appeals Ruling on Municipal High Incomes Tax</>

A State Court of Appeals issued a ruling earlier this week regarding the municipal tax on high incomes. In response to the ruling, I issued a statement, copied below:

Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle – South Park) issued the following statement today in response to the State Court of Appeals ruling on a municipal income tax on the affluent.

“Two years ago my colleagues and I unanimously passed legislation to tax people with high incomes. In doing so we created an opportunity to right a decades-old law that was wrongly decided in the first place.

“Our challenges over time have been two-fold; both statutory and constitutional. The Court of Appeals found the City had the statutory authority to impose an income tax. The court further ruled that a law prohibiting cities from enacting net income taxes is unconstitutional.  Having resolved the underlying statutory law, the courts have also cleared the way for a constitutional reconsideration. As such, our state Supreme Court is the last hurdle in this race, thereby moving us one step closer towards reversing Washington’s outdated, regressive and unfair tax structure, which is largely recognized as the most regressive tax structure in the nation. 

“The state Supreme Court has an opportunity to put fairness, transparency, adequacy, stability, and economic vitality at the top of their list of values and reverse the narrow 5-4 decision they made in the 1930s, that ruled a city income tax as unconstitutional.

“The ordinance enacting Seattle’s tax identified many pressing priorities, including the homelessness crisis, affordable housing, education, and transit, mental and public health services, and creating green jobs and meeting carbon reduction goals.  These are important needs, but as I promised in 2016, if we win this case, my highest priority will be to use some of the revenue to lower the property tax burden and the impact of other regressive taxes, including the business and occupation tax rate for small businesses.”

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LGBTQ Inclusive Services in Homelessness Services & Ingersoll Report; Council Passes ADU Legislation; Wildfire/smoke preparation; DNDA Funding for Delridge Way SW Improvements; In-District Office Hours

July 15th, 2019

LGBTQ Inclusive Services in Homelessness Services & Ingersoll Report

Last year I sponsored a Statement of Legislative Intent that requested Seattle’s Human Service Department  (HSD) to submit guidelines to make sure that the providers with whom the City contracts are offering services and have policies that are inclusive of LGBTQ recipients of those services.  The experience of homelessness is incredibly exposing.  Given the persistence of heterosexism, transphobia, and cis-sexism in our society, as well as the disproportionate representation of people in the LGBTQ community experiencing homelessness, my goal was to ensure that our shelters and social services are accessible, safe, and responsive to LGBTQ community members needing these services.  I was inspired to spearhead this issue by the advocacy of Gunner Scott, at that time with the Pride Foundation.

HSD partnered with Ingersoll Gender Center to develop recommendations to improve shelter conditions for transgender and gender diverse communities in particular. National homeless data shows that transgender and gender non-conforming adults are more likely to experience unsheltered homelessness than cisgender people. Other sources point to as many as 20% of transgender people experience homelessness at one point in their lives.

Ingersoll is an organization that provides local expertise in advocating for transgender and gender diverse communities. Ingersoll’s “Improving Conditions for Transgender and Gender Diverse Communities within Seattle Shelter Systems” report notes:

“Transphobia, like other types of gender based oppression, is rooted in sexism and white supremacy that has deeply impacted any sense of trust between our communities and systems of government. That deep distrust paired with the specific challenges of the current homelessness response system in Seattle results in a not uncommon decision for many in our communities to sleep outside rather than face the violence they experience when accessing shelter and services.”

The major recommendations of Ingersoll’s report responded to the primary goals highlighted in my SLI:

  • ensure the right to self-identify during intakes at a shelter and provide the correct gender and name that may be different than what is provided on an ID isn’t a barrier to receiving services;
  • allow intake assessments to include conversations about sleeping arrangements and bathroom options that offer private options and accurately reflect someone’s gender identity;
  • proposing a system to track the direction and number of referrals to different services and agencies based on gender identity before exiting homelessness or the shelter system; and
  • reflecting a National Center for Transgender Equality (NTCE) 2015 study that shows that one in four Black transgender people “avoided staying in a shelter because they feared being mistreated”, requesting improved data tracking of multiple identities, like gender and race, to learn how our shelters are producing inequitable outcomes for Black transgender people.

These recommendations provide a “targeted universalist” approach which is a philosophy that focuses solutions on communities that are impacted by compounding levels of discrimination. By responding to specific barriers faced by the trans- and gender nonconforming communities, I believe these recommendations can produce beneficial outcomes for the entire homelessness community.

I applaud this report for taking a systems-based analysis on the City’s shelter services. Through the engagement Ingersoll did with both community members accessing services and HSD staff, it is clear that our systems need to develop a more sophisticated analysis on gender-based discrimination.  An additional recommendation from Ingersoll, not included in the Executive response, is third-party mediation for people who have filed a grievance in a shelter setting. I will be assessing Ingersoll’s recommendations further as we work to make our shelter system more responsive to and accessible for the trans and gender nonconforming community.

 

Council Passes ADU Legislation

On July 1st the Council passed new legislation regarding the Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).

I support the construction of ADUs to provide more housing options in our city, as well as potentially provide homeowners an option to have family members – both aging parents and adult children – live in units on their property as well as create an income source for those struggling to keep up with a high mortgage and increasing property taxes.  The numbers of people who attended the Council’s ADU public hearing to say that they had been waiting for years for the legislation to be passed so that they could build an ADU for their parents and/or adult children – who otherwise could not afford to live in Seattle – was a compelling story of property owners who want to share their asset to create affordable living for people about whom they care.

My hope is that this legislation will lead to, not only more housing options, but more *affordable* long-term housing options. However, I believe that the likely outcomes of this legislation need to be put in perspective.  It will neither significantly address our affordable housing needs nor “destroy single-family neighborhoods.”

First of all, I think it’s really important to recognize that the areas that we refer to as Single-Family Zoned areas are not truly exclusively areas for “single families.”  Individuals and roommates can live in a house together without being a family and ADUs have been legal in these neighborhoods since 2010.  Even before passage of this new law, if you live in a Single-Family Zoned neighborhood, you could build a detached unit and rent a room (or more) in your own home.

Secondly, the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) predicts 4,430 new ADUs will be constructed over the next 10 years. On a per year basis that works out to only 443 ADUs built each year. The total number of acres of single-family zoned land where ADUs can be built under this legislation, totals 35,107 acres across the entire city.  If only 443 ADUs are built each year, that’s approximately one ADU per 79 acres, across the city.  Put another way, under the projection in the EIS, only one ADU per about approximately 12 city square blocks will be built each year. This EIS analysis suggests that this legislation will not dramatically change our neighborhoods.

Councilmember O’Brien brought forth an amendment stating that, in the future, Council intends to impose additional restrictions on short-term rentals in ADUs should significant numbers of ADUs be used exclusively for short-term rentals. I believe it would have been more prudent to limit the number of short-term rentals allowed in ADUs within the legislation.  I proposed an amendment to do so.  I voted in favor of the legislation in spite of this amendment not passing because a report from Puget Sound Sage in 2016 indicated that there were 2,817 whole unit listings on AirBnB. If you compare that to the roughly 357,000 housing units in the city, it works out to be 0.79 percent of housing units being used as short-term rentals.  If this trend is replicated in the ADU development market and considering the EIS projections of numbers of ADUs to be built over the next ten years, that would suggest that only about 35 of the 4,430 units built over 10 years will be built as short-term rentals.  While that number seems to be unrealistically low, I am willing to wait to see what the report says about short-term rental production in ADUs.

I also proposed an amendment that before property owners could receive a permit to build a second ADU they would have to own the property for one year, only impacting new owners of property.  20% of single-family properties are currently occupied by renters. These are the properties most vulnerable to the speculative market. The EIS shows that there is, under the new law, more profit to be made by selling ones’ property, rather than the possible profit from building 2 ADUs.  About 88 renter households each year (according to the EIS) will be displaced if the owners of those 88 properties sell to a developer who will evict the tenants, tear down the existing rental property, and build 3 high cost units on each of the approximately 88 properties.  My amendment would have limited the likelihood of that occurring.  In opposing my amendment my colleagues voted in favor of the interests of a person (or LLC) newly purchasing a property and wishing to develop it, over the interests of the tenants occupying the property in an increasingly speculative single-family market. I don’t believe that 88 renter households displaced each year is minimal, as my colleagues seem to believe.

Speculation and concentration of global investment in real estate are a real issues, and as outlined in this UN Human Rights Commission report, something that is occurring not just in Seattle, but around the world. There are also several articles about the rise of speculation after the housing market collapses which you can read here, here, or here. The purpose of the amendment was to curb this speculative development; as I said during the vote: “while we cannot prohibit speculative development, this amendment would create a ‘speed bump’… creating a more cautious approach.” Ultimately the amendment failed.

As I stated in an earlier paragraph, my hope is that this legislation will lead to, not only more housing options, but more *affordable* long-term housing options. Although amendments I care about failed, the promise of ADUs hold to provide more affordable housing options, while not guaranteed, can still be realized.  Elements of work yet to be done are described in the Mayor’s Executive Order which among other things, calls for:

  1. The submission of ADU designs to streamline and lower the costs and permitting process by making pre-approved plans available at low or no cost to homeowners.
  2. That the Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) support innovative prefab and modular construction methods, and to issue construction notices within 30 days for homeowners using a pre-approved plan.
  3. SDCI will hire a staff member, otherwise known as a navigator, to help through the permitting process.
  4. The pilot Home Repair Program outlined in the Affordability and Finance plan, passed by the City Council last month, will allow for low-interest financing through the Office of Housing to help low-income homeowners create ADUs which will be affordable at 80% area medium income.

Many of you wrote me about this legislation – whether in support or in opposition – I want to thank you for writing me.

 

Wildfire/smoke preparation

Wildfire smoke has been an increasing presence during late Seattle summers over the last few years, due to forest fires in the western US and British Columbia. We had 24 days of poor air quality from wildfire smoke in 2018, and 9 days were considered unhealthy.

To prepare for any wildfire smoke this summer, the Mayor has created a Smoke Ready Seattle webpage. It has links to air quality maps, where to sign up for Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) wildfire smoke alerts, and PSCAA guidelines on safe activity levels based on current conditions.  It also has links about air filters, protecting pets, and how to fit masks.

The Mayor also announced facilities will be open with enhanced indoor air quality.

PSCAA has a wildfire smoke preparation page, including links to cooling center locations, with a number of locations listed in District 1.

 

DNDA Funding for Delridge Way SW Improvements

On Monday the Council accepted funding from the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association for enhanced plantings in medians and curb bulbs for the Delridge Way SW/RapidRide H Line project.

The Delridge Neighborhood Development Association is doing great work to enhance business nodes along Delridge Way SW, in coordination with the Office of Economic Development.

The locations for these enhanced plantings are Andover, Youngstown, Brandon and Orchard, and correspond to four neighborhood areas identified in the North Delridge Action Plan, so it’s good to see that SDOT is keeping this neighborhood plan in mind and working with DNDA.

These neighborhoods are identified in the North Delridge Action Plan as the Andover Junction, Delridge Community Campus, Brandon Junction and Sylvan Junction.

Construction is planned to begin in 2020, with Bus 120 converting to the Rapid Ride H Line in 2021.

 

In-District Office Hours

On July 26, I will be at the Southwest Customer Service Center (2801 SW Thistle St) between 12pm and 5pm. The final meeting of the day will begin at 4:30 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, August 16, 2019
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, September 27, 2019
    Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St
  • Friday, October 25, 2019
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, November 29, 2019
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, December 20, 2019
    Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St

 

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