This Week in the Budget / Building Emissions Performance Standard Legislation / MOU to Expand Diversified Responses, Park Rangers, and Event Staffing / Sound Transit Survey for West Seattle Station Planning / Highland Park Way and Holden Traffic Improvements Public Art: Steller’s Jay Installation


This Week in the Budget

This week the City Council, acting as the Select Budget Committee, approved amendments to the 2024 City of Seattle budget. A final vote is scheduled at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, November 22nd.

The committee also hosted a public hearing on Monday evening, which ran just under four hours.

On Tuesday, the committee considered amendments to the 2024 budget. Amendments in the Group A Consent Package were all adopted. Amendments in Group B were considered individually; some passed, and some did not.

The Council’s budget amendment tool includes information about the votes, such as whether an amendment passed or failed and how each member voted.

On Wednesday the committee heard presentations about the Revenue Stabilization Work Group, Fiscal Transparency Bills, Provider Pay legislation, and Council Bills to repeal the Water Utility Tax, and a Capital Gains Excise Tax (Councilmember Pedersen has proposed repealing the water utility tax, and replacing it with a local 2% capital gains tax).

The Select Budget Committee will meet on November 30 to consider legislation that is not critical to balancing the 2024 budget.

One budget effort that the Select Budget Committee passed this week was my legislation creating a funding source for the Office of Labor Standards to enforce the PayUp laws.  The Council passed the legislation by a 7-2 vote.

Over the past three years, to protect a vulnerable and fast-growing sector of Seattle workers, City Council has passed protections that I have sponsored for app-based workers.  During discussions of the minimum compensation bill last year, I made a commitment to bring forward potential answers to the question of funding the enforcement of this and other app-based workers protections.  During discussion this year of the App-Based Worker Deactivation Rights Ordinance we discussed a fee-based approach to support enforcement.

As the Office of Labor Standards (OLS) noted in their September 11 Annual Certification on OLS Functions and Resources memo, the Office is responsible for enforcement of a wide web of worker protections that cover 54,000 employers and almost 600,000 employees with a team of 34 FTE. In that memo, they touch on Seattle’s leadership in building protections for app-based workers.

“Much of the policy team focus has been on advancing labor standards for non-standard workforces, especially gig workers, domestic workers, and independent contractors. This work is time-consuming as few jurisdictions have tackled such initiatives. Consequently, OLS must create the roadmap, rather than relying on the experiences of others.”

OLS exists to center the needs of our most vulnerable workers. Every law enforced by the Office of Labor Standards aims to address racial and economic disparities. Thoughtful administration of app-based worker protections is work that supports disability justice, gender parity, and racial equity.

The legislation creates a ten cents per delivery fee, if the app-based platforms choose to pass the fee on to customers, it will cost someone who gets a weekly delivery of mixed grocery and non-grocery orders a total of $5.20 a year. The legislation explicitly exempts grocery orders.

Janice Fine, the director of the Workplace Justice Lab at Rutgers, recently described OLS as “One of, if not the most, effective local agencies in the United States.”  With the limited staff and budget OLS currently has, they have already recovered nearly $14 million for app-based workers whose rights have been violated, including

  • More than $3.3 million for 10,000 gig workers who were underpaid by Uber Eats.
  • More than $1.6 million for over 600 workers after DoorDash violated PSST rules.
  • More than $1.5 million for over 4,000 workers after GrubHub violated gig worker protections.

OLS must have the funding it needs to uphold the law. Their work results in dollars in the pockets of workers.  Check out the OLS enforcement dashboard here.  Almost 77,000 workers have received financial penalties resulting from OLS’s work since 2014.  Impressive stuff!

Here is one recent Slate article entitled, “There’s Only One Kind of Extra Fee That DoorDash and Instacart Don’t Like,“ about the failed amendments intending to limit OLS’s contracts with worker and employer groups that help educate about workplace laws and to reach workers.  Here is another article from Geekwire.

Building Emissions Performance Standard Legislation

Addressing our climate crisis is one of the greatest challenges of our time. We need to act swiftly and take big swings. The Building Emissions Performance Standard legislation Mayor Harrell transmitted to the Council on Wednesday does just that, and the policy will significantly move the needle on reducing emissions in Seattle.

I thank the Mayor, Office of Sustainability and Environment, and advocates for working together. I appreciate the extensive outreach and stakeholder meetings that the Office of Sustainability and Environment carried out during the last two years – it serves as an example of how our community can move forward together on this critically important issue. I thank Council President Juarez for creating a special Select Committee on Climate Action committee to hear this legislation, a committee that I am honored to be chairing.

The Mayor’s press release states,

“The proposed Building Emissions Performance Standard Policy (BEPS) applies to existing nonresidential and multifamily buildings greater than 20,000 square feet. The reduction in climate emissions which will result from the passage of this legislation is the equivalent of taking 72,322 gasoline-powered cars off the road for a year. Key policy details include: 

  • BEPS sets carbon-emissions targets that buildings must meet over time to reach net-zero emissions (or alternative compliance) by 2041-2050 depending on building size and type.
  • Compliance starts with reporting requirements by 2027 that quantify building emissions and encourage owners to prepare for emissions reductions, followed by requirements to meet emissions targets in five-year intervals starting in 2031 that become progressively lower until reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • The BEPS policy has flexible compliance pathways to accommodate buildings of many uses, size, type, ownership, age, and systems, with low-income housing and human services given a longer lead time to prepare.”

According to the 2020 Seattle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, over 30% of emissions are from buildings.

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

The Mayor’s press release includes statements of support from numerous groups, showing the care and attention taken to the development of the policies reflected in this legislation.

This builds on legislation the City Council adopted in 2021 to update the Commercial Energy Code for new commercial buildings and multifamily condominiums and apartments. That legislation prohibited the use of fossil fuels or gas for space heating and water heating in newly built hotels and multifamily residences.

Of the emissions from buildings, three-quarters come from fossil fuels.

The OSE Building Emissions Performance Standards page has helpful links, including a guide to the policy: Seattle BEPS: Guide to the Proposed Policy (November 2023). This includes the timeline for the regulations, paths to compliance, and information about support and financial assistance (there’s also a  Financial Incentives for Decarbonization Factsheet. OSE also has a Seattle Clean Buildings Accelerator webpage offering no-cost assistance to building owners.

This proposal builds on previous work: a building performance standard was listed as a key climate action in the 2013 Climate Action Plan, 2018 Climate Action Strategy, 2020 Green New Deal Executive Order, 2021 Climate Executive Order, and the 2021 Green New Deal Climate Actions Report.

The policy is also well aligned with State of Washington policies to reduce carbon emissions, including the Washington Clean Buildings Performance Standard, Climate Commitment Act, Clean Energy Transformation Act, and Washington State Energy Strategy. The Clean Buildings Performance Standard includes compliance dates in 2026, 2027, and 2028 depending on building size.

The OSE website shows the impact this Building Performance Policy could have: previous city and state actions could result in 24% total decreases in GHG emissions; this policy could exceed that total, with a 27% decrease in building emissions in Seattle. Previous changes include residential heating oil conversions (8% decrease); Seattle commercial energy code (10% decrease); commercial building tune-ups (2% decrease); and state energy performance standards (4% decrease).

The release also notes that “The City is leading by example to decarbonize our buildings with the 62-story Seattle Municipal Tower now fully fossil fuel free – a milestone for our efforts to reduce emissions.” The November 14 update from Finance and Administrative Services notes the building was built in 1990 and serves as a worksite for more than 4,000 employees. According to the update, “In 2008, annual greenhouse gas emissions from SMT’s combined natural gas and electricity usage measured 559 metric tons of CO2– equivalent to the pollutants emitted by 120-plus gasoline-powered cars over a year.”

MOU to Expand Diversified Responses, Park Rangers, and Event Staffing

Late last week Mayor Harrell and five Councilmembers, including me, announced a proposed memorandum of agreement to expand diversified police responses, increase park ranger responsibilities, and improve police availability for event staffing. The agreement is with the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild (SPOG).

This agreement allows Seattle to start making commonsense improvements to our community safety network of response, specifically broadening civilian response where the SPOG contract did not previously allow it. This agreement allows the CARE dual dispatch response team more flexibility to respond to people in mental health crisis.  The language in the MOU that “officers can clear the scene as they determine to be appropriate means that they do not need to be physically present at the scene.”  This means that if the Community Crisis Responder gets there first then SPD does not need to be physically present at the scene to clear it.

The MOU also clears the way for citywide operation of the Park Rangers, which are currently limited, by the SPOG contract, it rescinds a prior contractual geographic limitation of Park Rangers only to Downtown parks. Under Mayor Harrell and the City Council’s Park District renewal, the park ranger program was significantly expanded, with the goal of hiring 26 park rangers this year, to provide safety, activation, and support for Seattle park-goers. This is something I’ve heard strong support for from District 1 constituents.

It also adds flexibility, not otherwise permitted by the SPOG contract, to use civilians for special events when a sworn officer is not required, easing the burden on sworn officers.  With a $225 flat premium per shift while allowing any unfilled positions to be staffed by employees who are not police officers such as parking enforcement officers.

While the next Council will have much more work to do to meet our community’s demand for a diversified system of policing alternatives, this agreement serves as a solid foundation for them to build on.

The agreement is limited to these items.  It’s not the overall agreement with SPOG–that remains in the collective bargaining process.  Judge Robart, who oversees the Consent Decree, has required the City to send him “an analysis of the Tentative Agreement’s effect, if any, on SPD’s accountability and review systems and the implementation of the City’s Accountability Ordinance”:

Judge Robart’s September 7 order on the Consent Decree states,

“The court understands that collective bargaining between the City and the police unions is outside of the scope of its supervision of the Consent Decree. Nevertheless, in order to evaluate whether the City has achieved sustained compliance with those areas of the Consent Decree that remain open, it is critical for the court to understand whether and how the outcome of the collective bargaining process affects SPD’s accountability and review systems. (See 5/21/19 Order (Dkt. # 562) (finding the City partially out of compliance with the Consent Decree after the Seattle City Council’s approval of the previous version of the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between the City and the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (“SPOG”)).) Accordingly, within 30 days of reaching a Tentative Agreement with SPOG regarding the 2021 renewal of the SPOG CBA, the City shall file with the court an analysis of the Tentative Agreement’s effect, if any, on SPD’s accountability and review systems and the implementation of the City’s Accountability Ordinance.”

Sound Transit Survey for West Seattle Station Planning

In case you couldn’t attend the in-person planning forum on October 25th, Sound Transit has an online survey open through December 20 on station planning. Meeting materials are also available online in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese, and include

Here are pages for the three West Seattle stations: Delridge Station; Avalon Station; and Alaska Junction Station.

Sound Transit’s West Seattle Link Extension page says, about what station planning includes, “Each station area would be designed to make it easy to get to the station and move through the station area while walking, rolling, or biking. This can be accomplished by locating station entrances, so they are easy to see and by providing safe biking, rolling, and walking routes to connect the station to the neighborhood. Design elements include enhancements to sidewalks, crosswalks, wayfinding, and storage for bikes and scooters.”

Sound Transit will continue to study all the station locations analyzed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement as part of the Final EIS, which is expected to be published in mid-2024. The Sound Transit Board will make the final decision on the project to be built after the Final EIS is published.

Highland Park Way and Holden Traffic Improvements Public Art: Steller’s Jay Installation

Photo credit: Tim Durkan

Late last week SDOT completed the installation of public art on Highland Park Way SW, just south of SW Holden Street. The Steller’s jay sculpture, by artist Matthew Mazzotta, is the public art portion of the Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden St Safety Improvements Project. The sculpture is titled Where’s the Party: Elevating Nature and Resilience. The title comes from the fact that a group of Steller’s jays has many collective nouns, including a “band,” a “cast,” and a “party” of jays. It was chosen by a community selection panel and administered by the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture.

An art piece of this magnitude wasn’t always going to be a part of this project. In fact, there were more modest proposals considered, and at one point it looked like our budget might be splintered to meet some other arts priorities. But with a little tenacity and some focused effort from community members, we were able to preserve the full 1% art funding for this iconic gateway sculpture for the Highland Park community.

The Highland Park Community tenaciously advocated for safety improvements at the Highland Park Way and SW Holden intersection for years. I’m grateful to my fellow advocates who help to ensure investments like these are made in our community. I am proud to have played my part in making this project a reality. The new traffic signal, wider sidewalks, upgraded ADA-compliant curb ramps, and new crosswalks will make it safer and easier for us all to get around.

SDOT provided the following updates about the intersection improvements:

“This fall, we finished pouring concrete and asphalt, seeded grass in the planting strips, and painted new road markings. There are now new sidewalks, curb bulbs, and ADA accessible ramps along Highland Park Way SW between SW Holden St and SW Portland St, making this intersection safer and more accessible for people living, working, and traveling through the area.

In December or January, we will install permanent metal traffic signals and poles at the Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden St intersection. You may notice there are orange barrels at the four corners of the intersection. These are protecting the exposed anchor bolts for the future poles.”

After the closure of the West Seattle Bridge, SDOT installed a temporary traffic signal at the intersection of Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden Street.

Before that, however, work had begun on permanent improvements to the intersection. Funding for early planning and design was first obtained in 2017; during the 2020 budget, the Council adopted funding for a permanent signal, or a roundabout, and SDOT proceeded with a temporary signal shortly thereafter, when the bridge was closed.

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