Thank you to SDOT, City and KC Metro staff; MHA Public Hearing; Sound Transit Scoping Period Open, February 27 Open House in West Seattle; SPU Sewer/Flooding Survey; South Park Safe Streets Projects open house February 19; Your Voice Your Choice + Neighborhood Street Fund online voting deadline February 22

Thank You to SDOT, City and KC Metro Staff 

Many thanks to everyone who helped out in some way during the snowstorm. Times like this are a real reminder of the importance of public service.

SDOT workers worked long shifts to clear the roads, after being very busy during the three week closure of SR99. Thank you for your hard work.

Thanks to emergency workers, to Police Officers, and Firefighters who kept on working to uphold public safety during difficult conditions. Thanks to the Navigation Team members for saving lives, and shelter providers for staying open, and City workers who staffed emergency shelters at community centers.  400 people living unsheltered came inside during the storms.  Now the City’s next challenge is to help those people access permanent housing and shelter options before those shelters close on February 18.  The Human Services Department is hosting a resource fair at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall for those people staying in severe weather shelters this weekend.

Thanks to our utility workers in Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle City Light, who helped keep things running in difficult conditions.

And thanks to King County Metro bus drivers; they too had a lot to do during the closure of SR99.

King County Metro, for the first time since it was created in 2008 in response to a severe storm, activated their Emergency Snow Network (ESN). Of course, with only 60 routes ESN (of 237 total regular King County routes), it was inevitable that some areas of Seattle were removed from an active ESN route.  For instance my neighborhood, Highland Park, lost it’s 131 service and had to walk down to 16th Avenue to catch a 128.  Similarly areas of Alki, Admiral, and Arbor Heights were isolated from service.

Nevertheless, the situation in South Park was unique.  Under the ESN they had no service in South Park, and are isolated from the rest of the City by the South Park bridge.  For that reason, I asked King County and SDOT if some service could be added, especially given South Park’s relatively flat topography.  Though South Park was without any service whatsoever for 4 days, they were able to add a South Park Shuttle. I am very appreciative of their doing so.  I will be asking that the ESN be permanently amended to include this service for South Park should (when) the ESN be activated again.

KC Metro General Manager Rob Gannon has posted an informative description of KC Metro’s efforts during the storm. He notes KC Metro is doing a comprehensive review of how the ESN can best serve residents, and invites comments.


MHA Public Hearing

The Public Hearing on the  Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program will be on Thursday, February 21, at 5:30pm in the Council Chambers. This is your opportunity, and I encourage you, to come share your thoughts about this proposal with the Council and to comment on amendments you are interested in. The committee intends on voting on the legislation on February 25 after Full Council.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to visit the committee webpage here, you can also sign up to receive committee agendas while you’re there.  And finally, you can also see the committee schedule which will be updated if there are changes.

For a quick primer: MHA requires developers to contribute to affordable housing either by paying a fee based upon the square footage of the building that they are building or by “performing,” which means devoting a percentage of housing units to be offered at lower rents.  In exchange for that contribution, the city must grant a small bit of additional development capacity.  I believe that, with the proposed zoning changes that are intrinsic to MHA, we are granting additional development capacity to developers, consequently, we should be getting the value of that additional development capacity as contributions to affordable housing. Some believe the current MHA program does require developers to contribute sufficiently to affordable housing. Others do not. Although I support the program, I am in the latter camp of those that say that the affordable housing contribution should be greater.

The city plans to develop 6,000 affordable units with the implementation of the MHA program.

The broad principles of the MHA program were approved by the City Council in the Fall of 2016 MHA framework legislation. This framework legislation laid out how all developers would newly be required to contribute to affordable housing in all developments in exchange for additional zoning capacity.  MHA requirements apply to development after a rezone is approved that increases the maximum height or floor area ratio (FAR) for the area. Most areas where MHA applies will have an (M), (M1), or (M2) suffix added to the zone name identifying the affordable housing requirements for that zone. Requirements vary based on housing costs in each area of the city and the scale of the zoning change.

I have been working with community members in each of the Urban Villages in District 1, specifically South Park, Admiral, West Seattle Junction, Westwood-Highland Park, and the Morgan Junction.  They have helped me to develop a number of amendments that will, if passed, make changes to the current proposal to reflect the goals held by the community organizations representing those communities, while still implementing MHA in all areas proposed from MHA implementation.

Specifically, I am proposing five amendments with the Junction urban village that would upzone those five areas currently zoned as Single Family to Residential Small Lot (RSL), as opposed to the Executive’s proposal for Low Rise 1, 2, and 3 zoning. The reasoning for this is that the Junction has been identified as the location of a future light rail station; however, the specific alignment and location of the station have not yet been determined. Once that is determined, it will become more clear which properties Sound Transit will need to acquire. This is important because increasing development capacity in these locations may increase the value of the land, and Sound Transit is required to pay for the highest and best use of the land. Sound Transit is already needing third party funding for the development of these lines, and I do not want to see that problem exacerbated. The Community has expressed a desire for additional zoning capacity, but in accordance with the light rail station. To that end, the Office of Planning and Community has committed to beginning a neighborhood planning process in 2019 and 2020.

Additionally, three other amendments I have proposed, one in the Morgan Junction and two in the Westwood-Highland Park urban village, would provide better stair-stepping and avoid harsh transitions from one zone to the next.

At the last meeting of the Council’s Select Committee on Mandatory Housing Affordability, I presented these amendments and some of my colleagues expressed concern.  I am proud of District 1, for the most part, embracing the conversion of Single Family Zoning in Urban Villages to RSL.  This is significant progress from a year ago when there was fierce opposition in some corners to any changes to Single Family Zoning in Urban Villages.  I believe it’s my responsibility, in governing to collaborate with my constituents, and in that spirit, I will continue to champion these amendments.  I encourage you to come to the public hearing on Thursday the 21, to share your thoughts about these amendments, because I could use your help.

In addition, and critically important, I have a separate bill to address those instances when existing affordable units in areas identified as having a higher risk of displacement and low access to opportunity by the MHA Final Environmental Impact Statement are proposed to be demolished as part of new residential development.  This ordinance would use authority granted under the State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) to create a requirement to mitigate the impacts resulting from the loss of affordable housing in those areas of the city that, if we didn’t do so, the result would be a failure to fulfill our obligation to “affirmatively promote fair housing” — in other words, in areas where disproportionate displacement of communities of color and other protected classes is likely to occur.   See upper left-hand corner below.

The MHA Framework legislation, passed in 2016, stated:   “The Council intends to consider whether to include higher performance and payment amounts, subject to statutory limits, for those areas where the increase in development capacity would be likely to increase displacement risk…the Council will consider whether to implement additional or alternate MHA program measures to increase affordable units sufficient to offset the affordable units at risk of demolition as a result of the increase in development capacity due to MHA.” – MHA-R Framework Ordinance (Ordinance 125108, Section 2.A.2.a).  I have, over the years, expressed my great concern that the City describes MHA as “housing displacement mitigation tool,” but has badly analyzed how development removes more affordable housing than the resources from MHA are sufficient to replace.

For example, in the case of the University District MHA upzone in 2017, the City estimated that only 40-275 units of existing affordable units of housing would be demolished over 20 years.   The EIS estimated likely demolition by identifying specific redevelopable parcels and quantifying their existing housing (zero, for parking lots and commercial buildings).  The “full buildout” scenario wherein construction occurs on all redevelopable parcels to the full capacity of the proposed rezone was estimated to result in the demolition of 275 homes over 20 years.  In just 2 years, based upon a Council Central Staff analysis of new development projects that are currently in some stage of having their Master Use Permit issued or Early Design Guidance reviewed and that are subject to the new zoning put in place in 2017, 96 units of affordable units are already planned for demolition.  An analysis by an advocacy organization, the Displacement Coalition, places the estimate at 168 units planned for demolition. Contrast either of these numbers to the 2017 estimate. that 40-275 units of existing affordable units of housing would be demolished over 20 years.

Using the same approach used in the University District in 2017, the City estimates that over 20 years only 574 units of housing will be demolished in the MHA rezone areas.  Considering how far afield the University District estimate was, you may understand my concerns about displacement today.

Finally, there is also a companion resolution that will identify many of the future planning priorities for each of the Districts.  I will share that when it’s available.

After Thursday’s public hearing, the Select Committee on Citywide MHA will meet in February 25 after Full Council to vote on the package. It will then be held until the March 18 Full Council meeting for consideration.


Sound Transit Scoping Period Open, February 27 Open House in West Seattle

Today Sound Transit began the Environmental Impact Statement process for ST3 light rail from West Seattle to Ballard. The first step is the formal public comment “scoping” period, that runs through March 18th.  It will inform what Sound Transit studies during the EIS process.

Sound Transit will host a public open house in West Seattle on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 6 – 8:30 p.m. at Alki Masonic Center. As a partial response to a request made by myself and King County Councilmember (and Sound Transit Board Member) Joe McDermott, on behalf of Delridge residents, Sound Transit is also holding a community workshop in Delridge on March 12th, at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

After the EIS Scoping period closes, the Stakeholder Advisory Committee will make recommendations of what to study in the EIS; the Elected Leadership Group will make recommendations in April. The Sound Transit Board is scheduled to decide on May 23rd.

Information about the light rail alternatives is available at Sound Transit’s West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions website. You can compare alternatives by neighborhood or end-to-end at the Alternatives page. Some of the key documents available at the website include the detailed Alternatives Development Report and the Scoping Report. Additional background documents are linked here.

You can submit your comments at the public meetings, or comment online here; by e-mail at; by voicemail at 833-972-2666, or by postal mail at West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions, c/o Lauren Swift, Sound Transit, 401 S. Jackson St., Seattle, WA 98104.

Translation options are available on the upper right corner of the website.

The draft EIS will be published in late 2020. After a public comment period, Sound Transit will publish a Final EIS in 2022. The Sound Transit Board will then adopt an alignment; the environmental process will conclude when the FTA issues a Record of Decision.

The EIS is required as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for projects applying for federal funding. The Federal Transit Administration published Sound Transit’s Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the West Seattle/Ballard light rail earlier this week.

Here’s a complete list of the other public meetings:


SPU Sewer/Flooding Survey

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is studying their drainage and wastewater system, and they are asking you to participate in this survey so that they can learn more about flooding problems you’ve had at your home, workplace, or anywhere in your neighborhood.

You can also use this site to drop a pin on a map for any flooding locations.  You can add comments and photos as well. Helping identify locations of flooding and standing water will help SPU better plan for future solutions.


South Park Safe Streets Projects Open House February 19

On February 19 Duwamish Valley Safe Streets, Seattle Neighborhood Group, Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), and the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (DON) will host an open-house about pedestrian and bike safety projects being planned in South Park. It’s at the South Park Community Center, from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

SDOT representatives and community members will talk about their work at:

  • 5th and Cloverdale
  • SR-99 underpass
  • 8th and Cloverdale crosswalk improvements
  • 8th Ave sidewalk improvements
  • Potential solutions to dangerous freight traffic through the neighborhood.

You can ask questions and share your ideas with SDOT.

City staff will have 3 minutes each to give an overview of their projects. After that, each project will have a display table with more detailed information for people to take a deeper dive into issues they care most about. The Department of Neighborhoods will provide interpreters and food.

Seattle Neighborhood Group’s event page is here. Here’s an update on these and other projects in December.


Your Voice Your Choice + Neighborhood Street Fund Online Voting Deadline February 22

The Your Voice Your Choice and the Neighborhood Street Fund grant programs have upcoming deadline for Friday, February 22nd.

The Your Voice Your Choice Parks & Streets program is collecting proposals from community members through the 22nd.
You can send in a proposal here by clicking on the “Submit your ideas button. You can also submit ideas in-person at Seattle Public Library branches. Projects much benefit the public, and cost $90,000 or less. Here are examples of eligible projects. All you need to do is list the project idea, location, why it’s needed, and who the project benefits. You can list contact information, but it’s not required. The website has more information about timeline and next steps.

The Neighborhood Street Fund is collecting comment on projects proposed by the community. You can comment on the importance of proposed Neighborhood Street Fund projects here. You can click on individual projects on the map for a project summary (District 1 is toward the middle of the page); the full project proposals are available here; District 1 projects are listed at the start of the page.

Neighborhood Street Fund awards are given by district. The next step will be additional review by SDOT, and a public vote on the top projects.

© 1995-2018 City of Seattle