This Week in the Budget; DEADLINE FRIDAY – New Renters’ Rights Public Comment; First-In-Time Ruling from State Supreme Court

This Week in the Budget

This week, Seattle City Council Budget Committee Chair Bagshaw proposed a Chair’s Revised 2020 Budget. This revised proposal incorporated additional requests by Councilmembers that were submitted the previous week.

The Budget Committee met on Tuesday, November 19th to vote on budget actions proposed by Councilmembers. The baseline for discussion was the Chair’s Revised Budget. Councilmembers could propose additional items for consideration, or substitutes for items listed on the agenda.

A number of items that I proposed were added to the Chair’s Revised Budget (in addition to items included as part of the Initial Budget Proposal released on November 6th); some of them are brand new, while others are revised versions of earlier proposals:

  • Request that SDOT and CBO report on the schedule and status of third party funding discussions regarding South Transit’s West Seattle and Ballard Link Extension project
  • Request that DON report on a strategy to develop a community-led place-based violence prevention initiative in Westwood and South Delridge
  • Proviso spending on the Delridge Way SW – RapidRide H Line (MC-TR-C042) CIP project
  • Request that SPD report on compliance with copper wire laws to discourage the theft of copper wire
  • Request that SPD develop a City-wide asset loss process for reporting and investigating when City assets (like copper wire) are stolen
  • Add $179,712 in SPU for a pilot program of mobile pump-out services to RVs to limit environmental damage to waterways
  • Added funding for a diaper distribution pilot program and funding for grants to community-based organizations such as WestSide Baby to provide diapers to families of diaper-aged children whom lack of access to diapers presents a barrier to using and accessing childcare services, or for families who access diapers via food banks, shelters, enhanced shelters, and tiny home villages.
  • Adding funding for renters’ rights outreach, education, and organizing
  • Impose a proviso on Navigation Team appropriations in HSD (this requires reporting to the Council; it does not limit funding for this work)
  • Impose a proviso on funding for the Creative Industry Policy Advisor position in OED to require engagement with the film industry in developing the responsibilities for this position

The Budget Committee is scheduled to hold its final meeting the morning of Monday, November 25th; the Council is scheduled to vote on the final 2020 budget package the afternoon of the 25th.

Here’s a link to the Budget Committee schedule.  Budget Committee meeting agendas and materials are available here. A description of the Council’s budget process is linked here.

DEADLINE FRIDAY New Renters’ Rights Notice Law:  SDCI Director’s Rule Public Comment

In September, the Council adopted Ordinance 119619, requiring information about how tenants can exercise their rights and access resources to be included on:

The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections is requesting public comment on proposed Director’s Rule 15-2019 regarding this legislation. Public comment is open through Friday, November 22nd.

If you are a renter, what information do YOU need if you receive one of these three notices from your landlord?  Let us know at this link to the proposed Director’s Rule. You can submit written comments on the proposed rule to Here’s a link to the notice of the proposed rule.

First-In-Time Ruling from State Supreme Court

Washington State Supreme Court unanimously upheld the City’s “First-in-Time” ordinance last week. The First-in-Time (“FIT”) Rule simply requires:

  1. a landlord to notify prospective tenants of the landlord’s screening criteria and
  2. offer tenancy to the first applicant meeting the

The Rule does not dictate the criteria, require quantifiable or objective criteria, or prevent a landlord from conducting an interview to satisfy a criterion, preclude negotiations over lease terms, or otherwise limit how a landlord may communicate with prospective tenants.

From last weeks’ press release:

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said, “My office’s mantra has been to correct mistaken case law and give our elected policy makers the tools they need to govern a modern American city. This ruling has been years in the making, and we prevailed thanks to smart lawyering and an eye toward addressing antiquated decisions of the past.

“This case was argued at the State Supreme Court by the head of our Land Use Section, Assistant City Attorney Roger Wynne, and I could not be prouder to have him represent the City in this endeavor. His arguments and briefs built on his scholarly work and helped lead the Court to provide much-needed clarity to two complex areas of state constitutional law: regulatory takings and substantive due process. As the Court said, these cases ‘will have consequences far beyond the particular claims at issue here.’  These cases restore the appropriate level of deference to our locally elected policy makers.”

The FIT rule was included in a 2016 law I sponsored that also a. banned source of income discrimination at the start of tenancy, b. obligated landlords to accept financial assistance in the form of vouchers to stop an eviction, and c. banned landlords from providing preferential treatment to tenants working for certain employers.

Our anti-discrimination laws can reveal overt discrimination, they don’t do enough to address implicit bias.

Implicit bias has no place in our rental markets. The Office for Civil Rights conducted housing discrimination testing using pairs of equally qualified applicants — one in a protected class, the other in no protected class — shows persistent evidence of differential treatment in over 60% of the tests.

The purpose of the first-in-time screening rule is to prevent housing providers from not fairly considering applicants who are qualified applicants under the screening requirements, but are also members of a protected class.

The Rental Housing Association and the Washington Multifamily Housing Association both say that First-in-Time screening practices are a best practice screening process. It is a best practice because it protects rental housing providers from a discrimination complaint by establishing an objective process for landlords to use when reviewing rental applications.  In doing so, rental property owners are less likely to use explicit and implicit (unintentional) bias against applicants who are members of a protected class.

Some people have expressed concern that this law might harm renters applying for housing who can’t respond quickly to a rental application or that this law might stop preferential treatment a landlord might otherwise show a renter who is vulnerable.  The FAQ here answers these questions and others.

Many times, people don’t know that the decisions they are making are based in biases and thus discriminatory.  What is exciting and potentially transformational about this work is:

  • When we slow down our biases and act based on an assessment of the situation we end up making individual decisions that more accurately reflect our values.
  • Over time, through practice, we can gradually unlearn the implicit associations that we have.

The City Auditor will work on an assessment of the effectiveness of this law after 18 months of implementation.

The City received amici curiae (friend of the court) support from the Tenants Union of Washington State, Futurewise, the Seattle Displacement Coalition, and the Washington State Association of Municipal Attorneys.

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