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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Fireworks; Lunch & Learn: The AIDS Memorial Pathway Project; June Constituent Email Report

July 3rd, 2019

Fireworks

In Seattle, except for permitted fireworks displays, fireworks are illegal under the  Seattle Fire Code.

The Seattle Fire Blog and the SPD Blotter both published posts encouraging residents to leave the fireworks to professionals, and requesting that you call 911 only in the event of an emergency.

After hearing a number of constituent complaints in West Seattle and South Park, I sent a letter to the Mayor requesting that SPD take action on fireworks, a follow up to my letter from last year. In 2017 when I requested SPD enforce fireworks laws, they indicated they received too many complaints to respond to. So, I requested they emphasize warnings and confiscate fireworks.

My letter to the Mayor this year notes “my concerns are that with ever-escalating fireworks use, the current laissez-faire approach, will one day result in either someone getting hurt at the scene of an unlawful fireworks display and/or 911 response will suffer with human consequences.”

I requested that SPD “exercise a plan in 2019 that will emphasize warnings and confiscation of fireworks to impact behavioral change.”

I received a reply today that stated SPD and the Fire Department held a press conference noting that fireworks are illegal and dangerous, and that July 4th is a very busy day for the two departments, and that SPD does not have the capacity to respond to every non-emergency complaint regarding illegal fireworks.

To be clear, I never suggested that SPD should respond to every single fireworks complaint.  In fact, our data from previous years is an indicator that they respond to very few complaints at all.  For instance, in 2017, I found that of 132 fireworks complaints from resident in the Southwest Precinct only two reports were written.

Subsequent to my original letter of June 18, I followed up with a request to the Mayor and SPD to consider the innovative approach the Eastside city of Bellevue is taking, as noted in the Bellevue Reporter.

This approach is designed to reduce the number of 911 calls and generate a picture of where fireworks activity is concentrated for enforcement purposes.  If replicated, this approach would allow SPD to focus enforcement efforts where the greatest number of complaints and greatest danger from illegal fireworks use exists.

The post on the City of Bellevue’s website notes that on the evening of July 4th Bellevue’s service portal and phone app will include a “report fireworks” category. Seattle has a similar service portal  and the find-it-fix-it phone app.

According to the Bellevue Reporter article, “The inputted data will then be added to a heat map with “hot spots” pointing to areas with the most activity. Dedicated crews of police and fire officials will head out quickly to areas with the most reports, said Meeghan Black with the Bellevue Police Department.”

The post notes that “police officers and firefighters will conduct fireworks emphasis patrols throughout the city on July 4.”

The Bellevue Reporter article notes that the “hope is that the reporting tool will reduce the number of firework 911 calls that swamp phone lines during the holiday” so that 911 isn’t flooded with non-emergency calls that can make it more difficult for callers with true emergencies to get through.

Seattle could use our Find It Fix It App in a similar fashion.

This is a clear illustration of how the chain of command works: The law clearly says that unpermitted fireworks use is illegal.  Yet, Councilmembers are not part of the chain of command and cannot compel SPD to enforce (or not enforce) particular laws. This is a function wholly reserved to the executive branch of government. I was asked the other day what I would do to be more effective in ensuring that this existing law was enforced in the future.  Given that the decisions about whether and how to enforce the fireworks ban lies with the Mayor, regretfully, I can’t think of another approach to informing people with fireworks complaints to follow the advice included in the letter from the Mayor’s office: “if you or your constituents have any emergency concerns regarding fireworks, they should call 911. If the situation is not an emergency, we encourage you to contact the SPD non-emergency number at (206) 625-5011.”

If you don’t receive a satisfactory response, you might want to consider contacting the Mayor’s Office too.

Lunch & Learn: The AIDS Memorial Pathway Project

Join Committee Chairs Herbold and Juarez on Tuesday July 7/9 from noon- 1:30 pm for Lunch-at-Learn to hear about The AMP from the Office of Arts & Culture, commissioned artists, and community members.

RSVP here.

In 2020, the plaza over Seattle’s Capitol Hill Light Rail Station next to Cal Anderson Park will become home to The AMP: AIDS Memorial Pathway. The AMP will feature dynamic art installations and plaza space that will enshrine the historical and current efforts of advocates and activists fighting to end HIV/AIDS and discrimination.

The AMP is coming together through the passionate leadership of volunteers and community leaders, including people living with HIV, people of color, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. In the spring of 2018 The AMP partnered with the City’s Office of Arts & Culture to commission artist Horatio Hung-Yan Law to write a master art plan guided by months of outreach and conversation with communities affected by HIV/AIDS, especially people of color, transgender individuals, and other historically under-represented communities.

Agency and private partners that have also played a role will be featured in this conversation: Former Councilmember Tom Rasmussen; artist Christopher Paul Jordan; Office of Arts & Culture Director Randy Engstrom; Rosette Royale, The AMP story-gathering consultant; Royal Alley-Barnes, MAT, civic thought leader; The AMP Project Manager Jason Plourde;  Michele Hasson, The AMP Chair; Kristen Ramirez The AMP Project Manager; and Office of Arts & Culture Communications Director Erika Lindsay.

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

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Administrative & Funding Plan for City’s Investments in Affordable Housing; Junction Reuse and Recycle with Shredding June 29th; Arts in Nature Festival June 29th/30th; Lunch & Learn: The AIDS Memorial Pathway Project

June 28th, 2019

Administrative & Funding Plan for City’s Investments in Affordable Housing

On Monday, the Full Council approved the Administrative & Funding Plan for how the Office of Housing (OH) awards and distributes funding for affordable housing in the City. Seattle has a large network of nonprofit affordable housing developers and providers who are experts in building housing to serve the diverse needs and experiences of housing instability and homelessness.

I sponsored several amendments that were incorporated into the final Plan:

  • A “Housing First” definition, so that providers applying for funding understand the City’s expectations of Housing First principles
  • Requiring written Mutual Termination Agreement policies and their evaluation to prevent misuse in accordance with recommendations of the Losing Home Report
  • Require providers’ policies to align with City law in screening tenant applications
  • Requiring that Seattle Housing Authority projects receiving $5 million or more in City funding include a goal that 1 out of 5 apprentices hired for the project come from a pre-apprenticeship program
  • Increasing the maximum funding available for homeownership projects that are three bedrooms
  • Allowing loan funding to build rent restricted detached – and attached accessory dwelling units

Councilmember Mosqueda led this effort. I was proud to partner with her to include an amendment requesting OH and the Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) department to advance labor equity outcomes in affordable housing construction projects such as apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship utilization, and hiring workers from targeted zip codes, components of tracking our workforce that we already require for public works projects under the City’s Priority Hire program. The City’s role as a funder for affordable housing development can help ensure your housing levy tax dollars are—in addition to building affordable housing—promoting wealth and career pathways for communities historically marginalized or excluded from construction trades, specifically people of color and women.

Turning to the nature of our affordable housing and homelessness crisis in Seattle and the County; the McKinsey Report shows that rising homelessness has tracked with rent increases in our region. The report states that since 2011, the available supply of units for households at 80 percent of the Average Median Income (or almost $80,000 for a household of 3) has more than doubled, and “…those affordable to households earning 50 percent or less of the AMI have almost halved.” This situation prices people out of our housing market and drives people with lowest incomes out of the City or into homelessness.

It’s the Office of Housing’s mission to fund affordable housing projects for people with the severest housing need.  As mentioned earlier, our partners who build affordable housing are ready to build more. OH’s 2019 Intent to Apply generated interest for housing providers to develop over 2,300 units across the City projected to cost over $190 million. OH has indicated that despite providers being ready to build $190 million in housing in 2019, the City only has about $50 million to spend.

To put this spending into perspective, the McKinsey report also projects that King County would need to invest between $360- 410 million annually to adequately fund interventions like rapid rehousing and Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) for people with the severest housing need. To do our part in meeting this regional need, I propose that the City—as one King County jurisdiction—double its annual housing investments in each of the remaining years of the levy so that we meet this threshold. In 2017 I championed legislation to allow the City to issue limited tax general obligation bonds for infrastructure projects, and I am excited by new bonding authority granted by the state that could allow Seattle to retain a portion of the sales tax that would otherwise go the State to enhance our bonding capacity for affordable housing.

This state law requires a restructure of the sales tax starting with a resolution stating the intent to use the new bonding authority within 6 months of the July 2019 date that the law goes into effect—I will keep you updated on my efforts to do so!

Junction Reuse and Recycle with Shredding June 29th

Have an old appliance, clothing, electronics or other hard to get rid of household goods? The annual Reuse, Recycle, and Shredding event is coming up on June 29 where you can recycle and reuse many difficult to dispose-of items for free!

Where: West Seattle Junction Parking Lot located on the corner of SW Oregon and 42nd Ave SW.

When: Saturday, June 29, 9am – 1pm

NOT ACCEPTED ITEMS INCLUDE:

  • Automotive waste
  • Broken furniture
  • Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)
  • Construction waste
  • Garbage
  • Hazardous waste
  • Car seats
  • Household batteries
  • Non-recyclable or non-reusable items

Staff reserves the right to refuse items that are not listed, contaminated, or too large.

For more information on where to dispose of items not accepted visit: seattle.gov/Util/MyServices/WhereDoesItGo/

Arts in Nature Festival June 29th/30th

The Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association is hosting the Arts in Nature Festival this weekend on Saturday and Sunday at Camp Long. The festival integrates art, nature and neighborhood.

Activities include film, music, dance, poetry, comedy, theater and other performances. Here’s a link to the activity schedule.

Lunch & Learn: The AIDS Memorial Pathway Project

Join Committee Chairs Herbold and Juarez on Tuesday July 7/9 from noon- 1:30 pm for Lunch-at-Learn to hear about The AMP from the Office of Arts & Culture, commissioned artists, and community members.

In 2020, the plaza over Seattle’s Capitol Hill Light Rail Station next to Cal Anderson Park will become home to The AMP: AIDS Memorial Pathway. The AMP will feature dynamic art installations and plaza space that will enshrine the historical and current efforts of advocates and activists fighting to end HIV/AIDS and discrimination.

The AMP is coming together through the passionate leadership of volunteers and community leaders, including people living with HIV, people of color, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. In the spring of 2018 The AMP partnered with the City’s Office of Arts & Culture to commission artist Horatio Hung-Yan Law to write a master art plan guided by months of outreach and conversation with communities affected by HIV/AIDS, especially people of color, transgender individuals, and other historically under-represented communities.

Agency and private partners that have also played a role will be featured in this conversation: Sound Transit, Seattle Parks Department, Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), Office of Arts & Culture, Berger Partnership, Schemata Workshop, and Gerding Edlen, the developer of the Transit Oriented Development (TOD).

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ADU Legislation; Update SPD staffing report; DROF Applications and Trainings; South Park Library Reopened; Recycling Update; In-District Office Hours; Delridge Way SW—Rapid Ride H Line survey

June 21st, 2019

ADU Legislation Update

The Sustainability and Transportation committee voted on Tuesday to advance the Accessory Dwelling Unit legislation. There were several amendments that were discussed, including two of mine.  I support the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) which can provide more housing options in our city, as well as potentially provide an income source for homeowners struggling to keep up with a high mortgage and increasing property taxes.  But my hope is that this legislation will lead, not only to more housing options, but more *affordable,* long-term housing options.

The first amendment I proposed (amendment #4) would prohibit short-term rental use in any ADUs permitted after the effective date of the ordinance. The second amendment (#5) would have required ownership of the property for one year prior to permitting a second ADU.

The purpose of these two amendments are to 1. provide as much long-term affordable housing options as possible while 2. mitigating the likelihood of speculative development in single-family zones by preventing purchase of single-family properties where tenants live, their eviction, and then immediate redevelopment of the property with a new home and two ADUs. 22% of single-family zoned housing is occupied by renters.

When we were discussing the need for regulations limiting the conversion of rental housing to Short Term rentals in 2016, Puget Sound Sage issued a study that showed:

“Areas of Seattle where households are at high risk of displacement have high or steady growth in STR whole unit listings on Airbnb. Whole unit listing growth these high displacement areas include: the Rainier Valley (32% growth), Beacon Hill (36% growth), Bitter Lake/Greenwood (60% growth), Northgate (31% growth), and Delridge (31% growth).”                                                                                                 

We passed good short-term rental legislation to help stem the loss of rental housing, but new units built under these new ADU regulations should be available as long-term rentals for those that are being pushed out of our city. I do not support prioritizing the desire of some homeowners to receive short-term rental income in new ADUs they might build, over the need of renters for long-term affordable housing.

Some of my Colleagues argue that the “right place” to address this issue is by re-opening the Short-Term Rental regulation and amend it in order to regulate ADUs.  I disagree.  The Short-Term Rental regulation was designed to stem the tide of existing rental housing being converted to short-term rentals.  That is a different purpose than the need before us today, to ensure that new ADUs are built and used for long-term housing. We have a housing affordability crisis, and we must be focused on addressing that need and using every tool in the toolbox to address it.

Last week Puget Sound Sage wrote:

“As our research showed in 2017, households of color benefit less than white households from renting out their homes, simply because homeownership rates are not equivalent across race.  For example, 28% of households in Seattle are comprised of people of color (Latinx, Black, API, Native American, and other races).  Yet only 21% of homes in Seattle are owned by households of color.  Most starkly, black home ownership is at an all-time low since the 1970s.

“It’s not clear to us whether homeowners or developers will build ADUs for use as STRs, or at what scale.  But we urge an abundance of caution to ensure that STRs do not become a finance vehicle for yet more disparate home ownership patterns between white and POC households.”

If we, as a City are worried about displacement, we should make sure that our polices are not adding to it.

The Full Council may vote on this issue at the July 1st meeting.

 

SPD staffing report

As part of the 2019 budget, the Council required SPD to report to the Council on staffing. The Council recently received the first quarter 2019 report. It includes several updates.

First of all, the hiring bonuses of up to $15,000 went into effect on April 17, and will be in effect for the next round of tests given for entry-level officers  in July.

Secondly, SPD has expanded testing outside of Seattle, something that historically they haven’t done. Tests were held in Honolulu, Atlanta, and Houston.

In addition, language preference points are now included in the positions description for police officer positions, where it notes, “Applicants who are bilingual may request to be tested for proficiency in another language (after passing the written and video exams).   Candidates who successfully pass the language proficiency test will have language preference points added to their exam score.”

SPD also noted that, to “reach populations that reflect Seattle’s diverse communities” they advertised in publications including The Medium, International Examiner, NW Vietnamese News, NW Asian Weekly/Chinese Post, Salon Ethiopia, and Saludos/The Cause. SPD has also held four hiring workshops, which played a role in the high pass rate during the most recent entry level exam. SPD also appeared at 14 career fairs, and other community events.

During 2018, 36% of SPD’s new officer hires were people of color, an increase over historic standards, and slightly above Seattle’s overall population. This continues an increasing trend, from 14% in 2013, to 22% in 2014, 29% in 2015 and 2016, and 35% in 2017.

The 1st quarter update also notes the work group convened by the Mayor about hiring, recruitment, and retention of officers will be working on updated strategies with SPD and other departments.

SPD’s target is to hire 104 new officers in 2019, or 26 per quarter; 26 were hired in the first quarter of 2019, meeting the target.

 

DROF Applications and Trainings

The Department of Neighborhoods is seeking proposals for the Duwamish River Opportunity Fund (DROF) to help fund community-based projects that increase the sustainability of these neighborhoods. The total amount of funding is $250,000.

Proposals should address topics such as economic development, access to healthy food, affordable housing, environmental restoration, or job training. To learn more and apply for funds please go here, the deadline for applications is August 12 by 5pm.

Applicants are encouraged to attend a workshop before applying. At the workshop you will review the application process and discuss the requirements for a good proposal. The workshop will be held:

For questions, call 206-256-5947 or email DROF@seattle.gov.

 

South Park Library Reopened

Last Monday the South Park Library officially reopened. As I wrote about in April, the library closed for:

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

In April I had also asked a few questions of the Chief Librarian, one of those requests was to add additional Bookmobile days during the library closure so that residents of South Park did not have to unnecessarily travel to the Southwest branch for services. The library was able to provide two additional days of service for the Bookmobile during the closure.

There will be a public celebration of the reopening in the afternoon on Sunday, July 21 which will include refreshments and entertainment.  More information TBD.

 

Recycling Update

As I’ve written about before, and you may have heard about in the news, China’s new recycling policy has resulted in increased pressure on our recycling market. On May 31, I asked Seattle Public Utilities and Zero Waste Washington to update us on the state of recycling.  Zero Waste Washington is an advocacy group that works to protect our environment by fighting for better designed products and for those products to be continually recycled and reused.

In their presentation, Zero Waste Washington lays out the issues of plastic use and contamination of other recyclables, consumer confusion about recycling, obstacles in recycling operations and markets, and the work they’ve done at the state level.

In the graph below you can see a massive increase in production of plastics, and specifically in the area of packaging, where we continue to see new types of plastic packaging.

 

In addition to the influx of plastic, there is consumer confusion about what is recyclable and what isn’t. Zero Waste Washington calls it the “three second shrug.”

This  means that when we approach the three cans (compost, recycling, and garbage) if it’s not clear within three seconds which bin the item goes in, it’s likely to end up in the trash or possibly in the wrong bin.

This unfortunately contributes to our contamination rate of 11-20%. China’s new standard only allows a contamination rate of 0.05%, which effectively bans much of North America’s recycling. In response to this, recyclers are working to improve the quality of our recycling through reduced sorting speeds, increased staffing, and new sorting technologies. In 2018, Republic spent $1.5 million in upgrades to their facility on 3rd and Lander.

You can see from this chart which recyclables are exported or locally recycled. Luckily, we have local recyclers for both metal and glass. Since China instituted their new rules our export of paper, cardboard, and plastics has dropped dramatically. While China continues to remain the largest buyer downstream, they are not receiving nearly as much recyclable materially initially.

SPU, King County, and other city governments and solid waste contractors participated in a Responsible Recycling Task Force which provided a report and recommendations after engaging in a 10-month review of the issues. In addition to this, SPU and King County hosted a public-private Plastics Summit to help identify challenges and solutions.

The State is also working on addressing our recycling issues through bills:

  • SB 5323 would ban single-use plastic bags at retail stores, and while this bill didn’t pass, the issue will be brought back up again next year
  • SB 5397 tasks the Department of Ecology with evaluating, reporting, and making recommendations on plastic packaging regulations
  • HB 1569 requires better labeling of compostable packaging
  • HB 1114 sets a goal to cut in half our food waste by 2030 and requires the Department of Agriculture and Department of Health to deliver a report with recommendations on how to achieve this goal by October 2020.

Finally, I also want to update you on legislation that I’m working on which would improve solid waste access in multifamily residents. Multifamily buildings are not currently required to provide on-floor access to garbage, recycling, and compost. This is unfortunate given that buildings with on-floor access have approximately 57% success rate for recycling, as compared to buildings without on-floor access with approximately 10% recycling and composting success.

Seattle has a goal to divert 70% of garbage by 2022; however, multifamily properties only composted or recycled 37% of their waste in 2017 which is substantially less than SPU’s multifamily sector target of 54% by 2022. In order to increase participation in recycling and composting in multifamily buildings we must do a better job of making it easier for residents. If you live in a single-family home, ask yourself, do you have to go to 3 different places to dispose of your recycling, garbage, and compost?  I am developing legislation to require builders to include equal access to all streams of solid waste on every floor in multifamily buildings. SPU updated my committee this week, about the stakeholder engagement process which began last November and they’ve heard positive feedback from the developer community where 33% of new large multifamily buildings already provide on-floor access. SPU expects to finish their stakeholder engagement process by July and propose recommendations in late summer.

 

In-District Office Hours

On June 28, I will be at the Senior Center of West Seattle (4217 SW Oregon St) 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, 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

 

Delridge Way SW—Rapid Ride H Line survey

SDOT is holding an online survey about the Delridge Multimodal Corridor/Rapid Ride H Line project.

The Delridge Multimodal Corridor includes improvement to Delridge Avenue SW designed to increase transit speed and access, in coordination with King County’s planned transition to convert Bus 120 into the RapidRide H line in 2021.

The survey includes visuals of proposed intersection designs, details on changes, and the opportunity to provide comment.

You can take the survey here; it is also available in Spanish and Vietnamese.

Additional information is available at the SDOT project webpage, which includes information on the 30% design, and what public feedback was incorporated into the design, and what wasn’t.

I have sponsored spending restrictions to require Council approval for spending beyond identified limits. The final design is expected to come along with the proposed 2020 budget later this year.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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
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