Vacant Buildings; Development at Madison Middle School; West Seattle Light Rail; Transportation for Seniors and People with Disabilities; Office Hours

Vacant Building Monitoring Program Report

You may recall last August the Council passed legislation to make it easier for the City to demolish vacant buildings; I wrote about this legislation at the time. This legislation was one step towards addressing the significant increase in complaints about vacant buildings; between 2013 and 2016 the City saw an increase of 58%. Specifically, District 1 has the second highest number of complaints (189 between 2013 and 2016). Further, new information indicates that District 1 saw 95 complaint cases in 2017 alone, the highest of any District.

I proposed, and the Council passed, an amendment to the legislation that was passed in August.   This amendment required the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) to report back to Council with recommendations on an enhanced Vacant Building Monitoring Program. Cities with more proactive monitoring programs, wholly funded with and supported by fees paid by owners of vacant buildings, are better able to monitor vacant properties more aggressively and, as a result, fewer buildings fall into such disrepair as we see many vacant buildings in Seattle. The below image demonstrates what can happen in a single year to a vacant property that is not well monitored for constant compliance with the city’s vacant building standards.

During budget, in order to ensure this work would be completed, my colleagues and I worked to fund a position at SDCI. And finally, following up after budget, I sent a letter early this year to SDCI to ensure someone had been hired, and to inform them again of my preference for what’s known as a “hybrid-model” for the Vacant Building Monitoring Program. This model requires that for non-foreclosure related building vacancies owners are required to register properties after a certain length of vacancy; and for foreclosure related vacancies, owners are required to register properties at the time a notice of default is issued or intent to foreclose is filed.

SDCI has now delivered their report and recommendations to Council. Here’s some additional background that’s important to understand.  Currently, although there are hundreds of vacant buildings in the city, again 95 complaints from District 1 alone – and there are likely many vacant buildings that are not in the complaint database, there are only 43 properties in the entire city enrolled in the existing Vacant Building Monitoring Program.

According to SDCI, the way properties get in the current SDCI Vacant Building Monitoring Program is after a complaint an SDCI inspector visits the vacant building and when they find that “it does not meet the minimum maintenance standards, the inspector issues the property owner(s) a “notice of violation” (NOV), which requires the owner to correct the issue. If the problem is relatively minor and quickly corrected after the notice, the SDCI inspector usually will not place the property in the vacant building monitoring program. Other times, properties have more significant violations that are not corrected right away, or quickly return after being addressed. Such properties are typically enrolled in the program and visited quarterly (and billed accordingly) until they are no longer vacant, or until all violations are corrected and they have not had any additional violations for three consecutive quarters. About half of the properties currently in the monitoring program have been in the program for several years due to ongoing lower-level violations, as owners are unable or unwilling to make the necessary repairs to bring them into compliance.”

From my perspective, this approach is clearly not working. In their report, SDCI recommends some limited changes to their existing program.  But rather than requiring all owners to register buildings when they become vacant, SDCI only proposes to make changes for owners of buildings that they already know about because they are in the redevelopment process and only if they are in violation of the minimum maintenance standards for vacant buildings.  However, I’m concerned that this is not enough of a change in SDCI Vacant Building Monitoring Program.  As mentioned above, District 1 in particular is seeing an increasing amount of vacant building complaints and a hybrid Vacant Building Monitoring Program would do more to address those issues than simply relying on enhanced current practices. I will continue working with SDCI and my colleagues in order to implement an enhanced Vacant Building Monitoring Program to ensure that the City is doing more to ensure that abandoned buildings are maintained in accordance with the vacant building law.

Public Meeting: Zoning Modification for Development at Madison Middle School

A public meeting has been scheduled to discuss a zoning modification for potential development at Madison Middle School.

  • When: Wednesday, May 30 at 6 p.m.
  • Where: Madison Middle School (3429 45th Ave SW)

The School District is requesting a modification known as a “departure” from a City zoning regulation for reduced on-site parking in order to provide portables. The District will present the modifications to the Madison Middle School Development Standards Departure Advisory Committee (a group of neighbors, and District and City representatives). After the presentation the public is encouraged to provide public comment.

If you cannot attend the meeting, written comments can be submitted by Tuesday, May 29 to:

  • Maureen Sheehan
  • E-mail:
  • Mailing Address:  Seattle Department of Neighborhoods
  • P.O. Box 94649
  • Seattle, WA 98124-4649

For additional information or to request an interpreter (by May 28) for the meeting, contact Maureen Sheehan, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, at 206-684-0302.

After public comment the Departure Advisory Committee will deliberate and consider the request.

Elected Leadership Group: West Seattle Light Rail Recommendations

Yesterday the Elected Leadership Group (ELG), of which I am a member, made recommendations for which light rail alternatives should move forward for more detailed study and development of cost estimates. These recommendations will be presented next week at a meeting of the Sound Transit governing board. The ELG moved forward options recommended by the Stakeholder Advisory Committee on April 24, which include tunnel and elevated options (the purple and yellow alternatives, with the yellow as both elevated and tunnel).

Key District 1 priorities I spoke to include:

  • The need for seamless bus transfers for stations and multimodal integration, as the stations will be used by people from all over West Seattle;
  • Designing stations to allow for future expansion of light rail;
  • Minimizing impacts on residences and businesses, and noting that options reducing the need for properties could help with the budget;
  • Mixing and matching potential options where appropriate, as recommended by the Seattle Planning Commission;
  • Examining the walksheds and ridership of stations; and
  • Speaking to the need for visualizations of elevated options: this is the first time elevated light rail has been proposed through the heart of a Urban Village; the Seattle Design Commission strongly supports this as well, and noted:

“Visualization of the alternative stations, guideways, and bridges is extremely important for all parties (the public, electeds, stakeholders, etc.) to understand the physical impacts and implications of Sound Transit’s (ST’s) proposals. While we understand the sensitivity in creating visual depictions at such an early stage, we believe results of the narrowing down process will not be robust without this information.”

I also requested further examination of the light blue option, to see if impacts can be addressed re: park property usage and federal law (e.g. via a tunnel). Sound Transit is including the baseline “representative” alignment throughout the process (it’s the red one).

Here’s a link to the West Seattle options Sound Transit analyzed in Round 1.  Here’s background information about how Sound Transit is developing options.

Forum on Transportation Alternatives for Seniors and People with Disabilities

On Saturday the West Seattle Transportation Coalition will host a public form on transportation alternatives for seniors and people with disabilities. Participants include former Mayor Nickels, Transportation Choices Coalition, and Sound Generations.

The forum is on Saturday, May 19th from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Senior Center of West Seattle at 4217 SW Oregon Street.  Here’s a link to the flyer.

In-District Office Hours

On May 25, I will be at the Senior Center of West Seattle (4217 SW Oregon St) from 2:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Please be sure to arrive no later than 6:30 p.m., 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 (

Additionally, here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours. These are subject to change.

Friday, June 15, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

Friday, July 27, 2018
Southwest Neighborhood Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St

Friday, August 17, 2018
Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St

Friday, September 21, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

Friday, October 26, 2018
Southwest Neighborhood Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St

Friday, December 14, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S 

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