Public Safety & Human Services Committee Update / Housing Levy Sent to Voters in November / Racing Zone Proposal / Office of Sustainability and Environment Proposal for Building Emissions Performance Standards / Mayor’s Workgroup to Address Public Consumption of Illegal Drugs / Morgan Junction Park Addition Planning and Design Restarted / Flood Control District Testimony & South Park Drainage Partnership


Public Safety & Human Services Committee Update

Wage Equity for Human Services Workers:  Members of the Public Safety & Human Services (PSHS) committee approved a Resolution acknowledging Council’s responsibility to make a meaningful contribution to address the 37% pay penalty for nonprofit human services workers.  The Resolution recognizes recommendations by University of Washington researchers to do so, and says Council intends to consider a 7% wage increase by 2025 to the extent revenue is available.  The full Council will vote on this Resolution next week.

The final Resolution incorporates edits and feedback from Councilmembers Pedersen and Mosqueda, and from Deputy Mayor Tiffany Washington and Budget Director Julie Dingley.  Their suggestions made this Resolution stronger and clearer, and I thank them.

Our mission-critical nonprofit partners have been sounding the alarm about desperately low wages and unsustainable turnover for years.  We’ve heard troubling public testimony about classrooms, programs, and shelters unable to open because staff can’t be hired at such low wages; and workers testifying they can’t afford to live in the community they serve.

Community Police Commission (CPC) Proposed Amendments to Accountability Ordinance: Also, heard in this week’s PSHS committee, was the Community Police Commission (CPC) proposal for amendments to the 2017 police accountability ordinance 125315. The amendments concern the operations of the CPC. A draft, unintroduced bill was included on the agenda.

The CPC will discuss the draft bill in a forthcoming meeting on June 21. After that, the legislation will be formally introduced at the Council. It is planned for the next committee discussion in July, at which time there could be a vote. Here’s a summary document of the proposed changes; the presentation at committee; and the Draft Council Bill.

Heat and Smoke Preparedness Plan:  The Office of Emergency Management (OEM) presented to PSHS committee the draft of a new section to the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, outlining the city’s extreme heat and smoke preparedness plan. The Extreme Heat and Wildfire Smoke Incident Operations Plan describes OEM’s citywide response to these emergencies as they grow more common due to climate change.

In 2021 when OEM presented the 2021 Seattle All-Hazards Mitigation Plan update to the Public Safety Human Services Committee, I worked to successfully amend the plan by requiring that OEM:  “coordinate a citywide effort to identify approaches and projects which can mitigate the impacts of excessive heat on vulnerable populations in Seattle. The Office of Emergency Management should engage multiple City departments, community-based organizations, private sector partners, and other subject matter experts including Public Health Seattle & King County and the Office of Sustainability and Environment to scope realistic and implementable strategies and approaches and identify needed public and private funding for those strategies.”

This plan is vital as extreme heat and wildfire smoke negatively impact the health of Seattle residents and visitors.  Extreme heat also can damage critical infrastructure. Heat waves can cause road closures, power outages, and damage to natural resources and wildlife.

More than half of homes in Seattle do not have or cannot afford temperature control like air conditioning, and half of the homes in Seattle do not have air purification technology to remove pollutants like smoke.

In the event of extreme heat or wildfire smoke, OEM convenes departments across the City as well as our partners at King County and Seattle Schools to implement an emergency response. This includes converting spaces such as community centers, libraries, senior centers, and the Seattle Center Armory into cooling centers and clean air refuges, providing people with necessary respite from harsh weather conditions. The list of these spaces and their hours can change depending on the event, so please sign up for AlertSeattle to receive text messages with updates from OEM in the case of heat, smoke, and other emergencies in the city.

You can visit OEM’s website on heat safety for more information about what to do during a heat wave.

Housing Levy Sent to Voters in November

On Tuesday, I joined my colleagues to approve sending the amended housing levy to the November ballot. I appreciated the chance to work collaboratively with Chair Mosqueda to incorporate these additions:

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

Voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on the housing levy in November.

Racing Zone Proposal

For several years, as District 1 Councilmember, I have heard from West Seattle residents about dangerous car drag racing along Alki Avenue SW, Harbor Avenue SW, and West Marginal Way SW. The sounds of cars drag racing is regularly audible during evenings in Delridge, far up the hill from West Marginal Way.  See this YouTube video as an example:  Kent street races west marginal way seattle – YouTube

I’ve discussed drag racing regularly over the years with our SW Precinct Captains.  Drag racers move from place to place in the region, and don’t stay long, making it difficult for officers to safely enforce speeding laws.  Police high-speed chases of racing vehicles are regulated by SPD policy.

A 2022 change to state law allows for local government to designate an area as a “racing zone” for purposes of automated camera enforcement. I am sponsoring CB 120600, which designates Alki, Harbor Avenue, and West Marginal as racing zones eligible for automated camera enforcement to detect speeding violations.

The bill provides SDOT with the authority to install speed cameras.  The bill does not enact that authority and includes several important limitations to the future enactment of that authority.

There are equity concerns about traffic enforcement and the use of cameras; it’s important to address them, so the bill requires an equity analysis.

You may recall last fall that the Council authorized additional school zone cameras and requested a response for how SDOT would expand the school zone camera program, including a schedule of school zone camera deployment by location; documentation of the race and social justice analysis used to inform the new school zone camera deployments.  The budget action required SDOT to report how they might use the new state authority, as well as the costs/benefits and a proposed schedule for deployment.

To be consistent with the prior Council budget action, this bill states an equity analysis must be completed before installing cameras, as well as a response to this budget request by August 1. The legislation includes an expectation that these concerns will be addressed by SDOT in their work with the Transportation Equity Workgroup:

the Council anticipates that SPD and SDOT will work with the Office of Civil Rights and SDOT’s Transportation Equity Workgroup in the development of camera enforcement implementation plans to address issues such as mitigating the disproportionate impacts of fines and focus on highest-risk behavior; creating an equitable citywide distribution of cameras; developing a policy to prioritize physical street safety improvements before implementing automated ticketing; and addressing privacy concerns by documenting, publicization and strengthening protections around the use of images and data collected by automated enforcement cameras.”

The bill also reiterates the Council’s budget action:

SLI-SDOT-304-A-001-2023 specifically requests: (1) a detailed implementation plan for the doubling of the School Zone Camera that includes a schedule of school zone camera deployment by location, documentation of the race and social justice analysis used to inform the new school zone camera deployments, the anticipated budget adjustments to program administration and school safety programs based on the deployment schedule, and any anticipated legislation necessary to implement the camera deployment; and (2), an evaluation of the costs and benefits for expanding other automated traffic safety camera programs, including red light cameras, block-the-box/transit-lane enforcement cameras, speed zone cameras, and other traffic camera authority provided under state law, including a recommendation and proposed schedule for deployment of additional automated traffic safety cameras and programs;

There will be a first presentation at the June 20 Transportation and SPU Committee.

Here are the specific areas proposed to be designated as racing zones:

  1. Alki Avenue SW between 63rd Ave SW and Harbor Avenue SW.
  2. Harbor Avenue SW between Alki Avenue SW and SW Spokane St.
  3. West Marginal Way SW between SW Spokane St and 2nd Ave SW.

It also includes areas in north Seattle. Councilmember Pedersen is a co-sponsor. A second briefing could take place in mid-July.

Office of Sustainability and Environment Proposal for Building Emissions Performance Standards

On June 8th Mayor Harrell and OSE Director Farrell announced a long-awaited proposed bill to implement a new Building Emissions Performance Standard (BEPS) proposal for existing buildings over 20,000 square feet.  I wrote about this developing proposal in April.

The proposed legislation would require nonresidential and multifamily buildings greater than 20,000 SF to meet greenhouse gas intensity targets starting in 2031 and to meet net-zero emissions (or alternative compliance) by 2041-2050 depending on building size and type.

For more information about the proposed BEPS policy, see the Office of Sustainability’s 4-page guide to the proposed policy and the full BEPS legislation on OSE’s Building Emissions Performance Standards page.

Additional background is available on OSE’s Building Emissions Performance Standards Policy Development page. OSE has held numerous meetings about this and has posted the presentations shared during the development of the policy in 2022 and 2023.

The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) has issued a Determination of Non-Significance (DNS) under the State Environmental Policy Act (no Environmental Impact Statement required) for the proposed BEPS legislation. If there is no SEPA challenge, OSE anticipates the legislation being before Council in August – September.

According to the 2020 Seattle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, 37% of emissions are from buildings.

According to OSE, “Seattle’s BEPS policy is projected to reduce building emissions 27% by 2050, making it the most impactful climate action Seattle can take now.”

I met with a group from the 34th District Democrats recently, while this policy was being developed.  They noted they are part of a coalition advocating for:

  • More ambitious timelines in order to meet the goals established in the 2019 Seattle Green New Deal resolution, which calls for a complete transition off fossil fuels by 2030. This would put Seattle in line with the 2030 deadline that global scientists agree is our best chance to keep global warming from exceeding 1.5°C. There are millions of dollars of “early adopter” federal subsidies from the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act on the table that may be lost if compliance deadlines are pushed out.
  • Penalties for non-complying buildings that are large enough and frequent enough to deter continued pollution (at least $10 per square feet per year, matching Washington D.C.) and increasing each subsequent year. Climate justice demands that loopholes and alternative payments for big commercial buildings must be eliminated.
  • The allocation of revenue from fines, penalties, and alternative compliance payments to the Clean Buildings Opportunity Account to support affordable, equitable decarbonization for highly impacted communities, affordable housing, and low- and moderate-income (LMI) tenants.

Mayor’s Workgroup to Address Public Consumption of Illegal Drugs

Since last week, following the Council’s opposition to CB 120586, there has been a key update on Senate Bill 5536, which made possession and public use of illegal drugs a gross misdemeanor.

On Monday, Mayor Harrell followed up on one of the elements of his April Executive Order 2023-04: Addressing the Opioid and Synthetic Drug Crisis in Seattle by announcing the convening of a workgroup including the Mayor’s Office, Councilmembers, Municipal Court, the City Attorney, and leaders in law enforcement, diversion programs, and service provision “to advance effective and sustainable solutions addressing illegal drug use in public spaces.” I’ll be serving as one member of the workgroup; the release and list of members are here.

As I stated in the release, I do very sincerely appreciate the Mayor including my participation in the workgroup announced in Executive Order: Addressing the Opioid and Synthetic Drug Crisis in Seattle.  I hope that, like this letter from more than a hundred doctors calls for, we can focus our efforts on ‘smart, data-proven policy that will achieve our intended goals, not naive, reactive, and harmful policy that repeats the mistakes of the past’.

Some of Senate Bill 5536 goes into effect on July 1; some portions go into effect on August 15. That bill repealed RCW 10.31.115, which requires two referrals to treatment for possession prior to referral for prosecution. The repeal of that element of SB 5536 doesn’t go into effect until August 15th.

I hope to be able to also soon report the status of other elements of Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order, in particular:

  • The Seattle Fire Department expansion, working with Local 27, of its Health One program to include an overdose response unit.
  • Expanded access to naloxone, buprenorphine, and methadone in high-overdose areas.
  • A new non-clinic-based contingency management pilot program has been launched to reduce participants’ consumption of synthetic opioids, stimulants, and alcohol.

Morgan Junction Park Addition Planning and Design Restarted

Join us at Morgan Junction Festival!
Sunday, June 18 from 1 – 4 p.m.
At Morgan Junction Park, 6413 California Ave SW, 98136

The project team has been coordinating with the community to do an outreach event at the park during the Morgan Junction Festival on June 18th. More info here.

Flood Control District Testimony/South Park Drainage Partnership

I testified before the King County Flood Control District Board, which consists of King County Councilmembers, in support of a proposal to provide funds to address short-term and longer-term flood preparedness in South Park. The proposal is sponsored by King County Councilmember McDermott; it’s possible the Board could act as soon as next month.

My comments are below:

“Chair Dunn and Board of Supervisors, thank you for your time today.

I know the Board is considering its mid-year budget vision and amendments today.

Councilmember McDermott will be proposing amendments to a major Duwamish River flooding event last year.

On December 27, 2022, Seattle and King County’s South Park community were hit with a devasting flood when the Duwamish overtopped its banks, flooding 50 homes and businesses, 25 with significant damage. Approximately 30 people were displaced without food or shelter, and without the means to provide it for themselves and their families.

Some are still in temporary housing.

The clean-up cost alone is over $2 million, including for 80,000 lbs of debris. This has had a traumatic impact on people and businesses, in a low-income community with high environmental justice impacts, as well as to businesses with important industrial jobs.

The amendments include interim flood protection measures and seed money for the long-term infrastructure planning, as we seek more permanent solution, which will take years to plan and build. The interim protection includes funding for a 12-city block temporary barrier from river flooding of a sandbag or other physical barrier and pumping, community capacity, and focused outreach. The District has been funding a similar near-term and long-term strategy on the White River in the town of Pacific.

The total request is about $2 million.

I am asking you to support all these amendments to help fund protection of this community. We cannot let them flood like this again.

The Flood Control District was created with a broad purpose to protect communities county-wide from flooding. The Flood District recognizes the challenges of low-income communities with health and environmental disparities. It is imperative that all communities be supported through Flood District funding.

Seattle appreciates past District support for our stormwater control work in South Park. We now need your commitment to support river over-topping that will only become worse and more frequent with climate change and sea-level rise.”

On a related note, at the most recent Move Levy Oversight Committee meeting, SDOT presented their work of the South Park Drainage Partnership, a collaboration between SPU, SDOT, and King County to address longstanding flooding issues not related to river-topping.

SDOT’s presentation shows the road improvements. Seattle Public Utilities is addressing the drainage elements of the project. Below are a couple of examples of the difference in road conditions:

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