West Seattle Bridge Update, August 7; 2020 Budget Re-balancing Deliberations; New Free COVID-19 Testing Location; Mayor Extends Eviction Moratorium; Community Input for Police Response to George Floyd Protests

West Seattle Bridge Update, August 7

Reconnect West Seattle

Over 15,000 people filled out SDOT’s Reconnect West Seattle surveys in July. For the neighborhood prioritization ballots, Highland Park/Riverview/South Delridge/Roxhill had 1,072 responses; South Park 301; Georgetown 209, and SODO 69.

SDOT reports that most people expressed concerns, in the following order, about traffic and congestion; pedestrian safety and accessibility; speeding; and environmental impacts and pollution.

SDOT shared responses regarding how people travel; the COVID pandemic is a complicating factor in evaluating how people will travel once it recedes.

The survey shows the amount of people working from home has increased significantly, and it appears it may continue after social distancing resulting from COVID. The percentage of people considering the water taxi, vanpools, employer shuttles, and biking also appears higher. Buses register as lower than before social distancing, but significantly higher than current use:

Here’s a summary of responses regarding buses, the water taxi, bikes, and working from home, and what conditions would lead people to choose these options:

One area that did not have a project proposed in the neighborhood prioritization ballots was Sylvan Way, which has become a diversion route to access Holden to leave the peninsula. I heard concerns from residents about visibility, speeding and accidents, and relayed that to SDOT.

SDOT announced it has ordered four radar speed signs they will install in coming weeks, and will be trimming vegetation this weekend to improve sightlines between Delridge and Holly.

King County Metro Bridge Closure Action Plan

King County Metro has released a West Seattle Bridge Closure Transit Action Plan.

The plan notes Metros plan’s through September, and plans from September 2020 to September 2021. It also includes two network planning scenarios for diversion of buses if the lower bridge is closed.

The report notes lower capacity during the COVID epidemic:

Analysis of travel data shows strongest demand from West Seattle in the morning commute to other West Seattle locations, the Central Business District, and SODO, with notable demand to South Lake Union, SeaTac, and Southcenter. Several charts show trips during the morning peak by census tract:

The report includes two network planning scenarios. Scenario 1 is for when the lower bridge is open. This scenario represents current operations, and use of the lower bridge.

Scenario 2 is for if the lower bridge is closed, for either maintenance work, or due to instability or collapse of the West Seattle Bridge, resulting in an evacuation area;  it has two planning tiers, both of which would require reroutes.

Tier 1 of Scenario 2 is for when the lower bridge is closed for e.g. maintenance; Tier 2 of Scenario 2 would be for a closure of the lower bridge due to problems with the West Seattle Bridge (instability or collapse, resulting in an evacuation area). SDOT has indicated they do not believe the bridge is any imminent danger of collapse.

For Tier 1, trips to Downtown currently traveling on the lower bridge would access West Marginal from the Chelan 5-way intersection, then travel onto the 1st Avenue South Bridge, to either SR99 or 1st Avenue South, then continue with regular service.

Tier 2 would be more disruptive, with West Marginal not being accessible from the 5-way intersection. Page 24-25 shows the potential reroutes. A new shuttle would provide service to connect North Delridge to the water taxi at Seacrest dock.

The report also notes potential locations for park and ride locations, planned service changes in September 2020 and plans for water taxi, noting what requires additional budget. It further notes significant capital investment would be needed for either temporary or permanent dock space to add a third boat to the water taxi.

I appreciate King County Metro’s work in developing this plan.

Cost Benefit Analysis

Last week SDOT asked members of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force for input regarding the  Cost Benefit Analysis SDOT is conducting to inform the decision whether to repair or replace the West Seattle Bridge.

Here was my request that SDOT include an immersed tube tunnel among the six high-level options: “The lack of an immersed tube tunnel in for developing the cost-benefit criteria in the evaluation criteria could make is less likely to be seen a feasible future alternative.  Please include the immersed tube tunnel as one of the options for cost-benefit analysis.”

At the Community Task Force meeting, SDOT clarified its inclusion in the high-level options.

Other comments I submitted about the criteria included:

  • The need to account for short-term and long term impacts to residents and businesses
  • That equity criteria for air quality impacts, traffic impacts also account for both short-term and long-term impacts.
  • The need for criteria considering how available funding will affect the size of the structure i.e. how many lanes are included, and for which users, e.g. cars, freight, public transit.
  • The need for criteria quantifying how an option could have impacts on different communities. If, for example, a replacement option has a smaller number of lanes than the West Seattle Bridge, and thus reduced capacity, it could result in permanent diversion of traffic to the southern portion of the West Seattle to exit the peninsula,  and diversion of traffic on to the South Park Bridge
  • The need for criteria to measure how seismic standards influence decisions about constructability and funding feasibility, and the number of lanes a structure could provide, and for which users?

The cost-benefit analysis will inform the decision to repair or replace the bridge. The graphic below shows how analyzing alternatives for a replacement will work:

Council Consultant Hired

Last month the Council hired an engineering consultant to support the Council on key West Seattle Bridge issues such as review of the stabilization proposal; review of a repair proposal and/or review of replacement proposal. The consultant will focus on the Technical Advisory Panel memos as the key points to engage SDOT and the Council.

The consultant advised the Councilmembers on the Community Task Force re: the cost-benefit criteria proposed by SDOT described in the section above.

Budget Actions

The Budget Committee took action on two Council bills relevant to the bridge, as part of its revisions to the 2020 adopted budget. The Full Council is scheduled to vote on Monday, August 10th.

I’m sponsoring the first bill, which will create a West Seattle Bridge Immediate Response item in the SDOT Capital Program Budget.

The second bill revises city financial policies to specify that Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) revenues can be used to pay off bonds for work  to repair or replace the West Seattle Bridge.

SDOT has provided two relevant updates as well. First of all, SDOT has begun its search for a firm to conduct a Traffic and Revenue Study to study tolling. SDOT notes no decision on funding has been made, though this type of study is a requirement to pursue other federal funding options, such as Transportation Infrastructure Finance Loans.

The study will examine transportation demand over the next several decades, and will include an analysis of equity, and how travel patterns could change with tolls. This could result in additional use of transit, but could also result in permanent diversion of traffic to southern access points to the peninsula and the South Park Bridge, a relevant equity issue.

Secondly, SDOT provided additional information on its blog about the interfund loan legislation it has sent to the Council.

The $70 million interfund loan will provide funds to cover expenses in 2020 and the first quarter of 2021; SDOT will be working to secure other funding. The Capital Improvement Program (CIP) item includes funding estimates for the first two years of work, which SDOT estimates to be between $160 million and $225 million over 2020-2021, while noting a great deal of uncertainty.

The  CIP goes through 2021, and doesn’t include all potential costs related to repair or replacement. SDOT notes, “The $70 million interfund loan would be borrowed from the City’s cash pool and repaid with a $100 million bond sale in 2021.  Any needed spending above $100 million through 2021 will be supported by a separate interfund loan, to be established, if necessary, sometime in early 2021.”

Lower Bridge Use/Access Update

SDOT has extended use of the lower bridge with 13 permits for the West Seattle Chamber and the West Seattle Junction Association, and for additional vanpools for essential workers:

Traffic Update

Below are the most recent traffic volumes. Traffic remains high on West Marginal and Highland Park Way, and above pre-COVID levels on the South Park Bridge and SW Roxbury:

Below are the most recent travel times:

2020 Budget Re-balancing Deliberations

Wednesday’s Budget Committee meeting was a busy one, with Councilmembers voting on a slew of amendments related to the Seattle Police Department’s budget.  Along with Council President González, and Councilmembers Mosqueda and Morales, I introduced a package of narrowly-defined and careful cuts and budget provisos that includes:

  • 38 FTE reductions, starting in November, suggested from specific units, including Mounted Patrol, School Resource Officers, Navigation Team, Harbor Patrol, and Public Affairs, SWAT
  • 30 FTE from expected attrition through officers voluntarily leaving or retiring from SPD
  • 32 FTE suggested general reduction in sworn officers.

It’s important to understand that ultimately, Chief Best holds the authority to make decisions about how and where these reductions may occur.   While Council may determine the overall appropriate size of the police force, and suggest units (such as Mounted Patrol) where layoffs may be made, it’s the Chief of Police who will make the determinations as to where layoffs occur.

In addition, all the reductions take a very specific format, in order to set the City up for the most positive labor bargaining outcomes.  Instead of making cuts of positions, the amendments put a proviso on two months’ worth of salary for each position that is targeted for reduction.  We have received expert advice that it may take between two to four months for each reduction to be bargained.  If it takes longer than that, Council may need to vote to lift the provisos, so that the officers can be paid as the bargaining finishes up.  But the proviso format means that the City will have those dollars on hand, just in case they are needed.

The actions, if approved by the Council and bargained as described above, will result in a reduction of SPD’s police force by 100 officers (from the current level of about 1,400 officers), and result in savings of about $2.9 million in 2020.

The package also includes modest cuts to the SPD’s travel, training, and recruitment budgets, which seemed appropriate given current travel restrictions and the Mayor’s hiring freeze.  These cuts total less than $1M.

Finally, the budget actions also include and intention to create a civilian-led Department of Community Safety & Violence Prevention; and remove certain functions from the Seattle Police Department including:

  • Move 9-1-1 communication functions and funding from SPD to a civilian-led department
  • Move the Office of Emergency Management from SPD to a different City department
  • Move some Harbor Patrol functions from SPD to the Seattle Fire Department
  • Move parking enforcement functions from SPD to the Seattle Department of Transportation

The Budget Committee meets again on Monday and will consider legislation to make investments in community safety, as well as legislation I am sponsoring that re-establish budget spending levels for each of the 5 police precincts. Up until last year, the City Budget included budget control levels for each of the 5 precincts.  With the 2020 budget, the 5 precincts were combined into a single budget level, Patrol Operations, at $147.8 million.  With this amendment, the Council will be able to approve appropriation levels in each of Seattle’s police precincts.  With wild speculation that any cuts to the SPD budget may result in the closure of the Southwest Precinct, this legislation will give Council the ability to ensure this precinct will remain funded.

On Thursday, I participated in a press conference along with Council President González and Councilmember Morales to share the vision behind this package.  Here are my remarks:

Mayor Durkan keeps saying we should be “realistic” and that we’ve been irresponsible for committing to a goal before we had the details.

I have never, in my 22 years in government or 8 years prior as an activist – inside or outside government- seen a single hard thing, shaking up the status quo and responding to a historical moment, accomplished by limiting action to what seems “realistic.” In this instance, re-imagining policing, means imagining what may not at first seem realistic.

By signing onto a stretch goal, Council began a partnership with community that has brought us to the place we are now, a unified Council position on the 2020 SPD budget and a pathway AND A PLAN for how to leverage the decisions we are making now to reduce the size of the police Department in 2021. We have shared information about the very real barriers to our goals in real time with community as we were understanding those barriers ourselves. In doing so I hope we have built trust and made an investment in the leadership infrastructure of the people who are critical to this important movement. The activists, the advocates, the people who have experienced harm at the hands of our criminal injustice system and the allies who have never had these experiences first hand but know that the promise of justice will never be delivered if they remain complicit and silent to injustice that they see every day.

The Executive and Council clearly have a different approach to meeting the demands of the movement for true community safety. From what they have shared so far, it doesn’t seem to involve meaningful, structural change or partnering effectively with and empowering community members with lived experiences.

The Mayor says the Council and community have the right ideas, but this is the wrong time. She tells us that she’s working with the Chief to bring a package that “reimagines the police.” The problem with this is that it ignores exactly what the community has been saying – they’re not at the table and want to be. The community is here now pushing Council and working with us to do what she says we should do later.

The Mayor and Chief seem to be using the structural barriers in our government institutions to say what they CAN’T DO instead of trying to find a way for us to work together to try and accomplish what we all say we want to accomplish, reduce the footprint of armed police response for each and every social problem regardless of whether it’s the RIGHT response. Remember 56% of 911 calls are non-criminal and only 3% result in arrest. We are asking police officers to do too much and in doing so we make our communities less safe – whether in sending a police officer to a situation that doesn’t require an armed response or in reducing police capacity to address real crime.

There’s a lot of interest in the ability of the Chief to do out of order layoffs; this is one of the institutional structural, barriers I mentioned earlier. The bottom line is that the rule exists and thus it can be used. Our challenge is – the Executive and Council together should figure out how to use it to meet our shared objectives; not start from the supposition that a rule that clearly exists to be used can’t be used.

On Monday Daniel Beekman of the Seattle Times asked whether the Chief will submit an out of order lay off request with the Public Safety Civil Service Commission. The Chief answered that the decision lies with the Public Safety Civil Service Commission Director. We all understand that – the community understands that. Our request is whether she’ll work with us in developing a request to the PSCSC that has the best chance to preserve the diversity of the SPD in a way that is constitutional and legal according to labor law, does not choose law offs by race as some have claimed we are asking but instead does so in a way that preserves the efficient functioning of the department as the rule requires.

We’re re-imagining and so are local governments all over the country- how are they going to tackle these same issues? Let’s ask these questions and learn, and above all together, TRY.

And if we are unsuccessful then the council, using the proviso has voluntarily put ourselves in a position to be accountable and we will have to consider lifting the provisos. But if the Executive doesn’t try then they will be the ones being held accountable and the question to that branch of government will be, did you really want to re-imagine policing in our city?

New Free COVID-19 Testing Location

On Friday, July 31 the City announced a third location for free testing. Located at Rainier Beach High School in south Seattle it is a walk-up location that is open: Mon, Weds, Thurs, Fri, Sat, 9:30am-5:30pm.

If you want to get tested, please visit the City’s website here and select the most convenient location to see available times. You will also need:

  • A photo ID with your date of birth. Testing is available regardless of your citizenship/immigration status.
  • Insurance card, if you have insurance. If you have insurance, Medicare or Medicaid you must provide this information and UW Medicine will bill them. You will not be charged for the test.  You do not need to have insurance or a doctor’s note to schedule a test.

If you’re unsure if you need testing, COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • fever or chills
  • cough
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • fatigue
  • muscle or body aches
  • headache
  • new loss of taste or smell
  • sore throat
  • congestion or runny nose
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea

Mayor Extends Eviction Moratorium

On Friday, July 31 the Mayor extended the current Seattle eviction moratorium which says that your landlord “shall not initiate an unlawful detainer action, issue a notice of termination, or otherwise act on any termination notice, including any action or notice related to a rental agreement that has expired or will expire during the effective date of this Emergency Order, unless the tenant’s actions constitute an imminent threat to the health or safety of neighbors, the landlord, or the tenant’s or landlord’s household members.  Further, no late fees or other charges due to late payment of rent shall accrue during the moratorium.”

Further, the Mayor extended the moratorium on evictions on small businesses and non-profits. Both of these moratoriums are extended through December 31, 2020.

Community Input for Inspector General Event Review of Police Response to George Floyd Protests: August 13

Office of Inspector General (OIG) was established to “help ensure the fairness and integrity of the police system as a whole in its delivery of law enforcement services by providing civilian auditing of the management, practices, and policies of the [Seattle Police Department (SPD) and Office of Police Accountability (OPA)] and oversee ongoing fidelity to organizational reforms implemented pursuant to the goals of the 2012 federal Consent Decree.”

The death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis is a tragic reminder of the long history of deep individual and structural racial injustice in our nation’s policing system. During this critical time, the Office of Inspector General (OIG), in partnership with community and other agencies, is undertaking a sentinel event review of the Seattle Police Department response to recent protests against racial injustice in Seattle.

The OIG notes goal of a sentinel event review is to identify underlying causes of negative outcomes, like a large-scale use of force against protestors, to prevent the same bad outcome from happening again. This process identifies gaps and flaws in the system that contributed to the harmful event, so they can be addressed. Creating an innovative process, with community participation, to assess system flaws can be a way to challenge longstanding assumptions about policing practices and start building a different way of providing public safety that is responsive to concerns being expressed by community

Through this process, OIG seeks to improve the systems that guide law enforcement, in particular SPD’s response to protests, in a manner that is grounded in community priorities and perspective.

The complexity of this review and the thoroughness that is necessary will require that the work happens in phases. You can learn more about ongoing work at seattle.gov/oig/community. OIG is partnering with CPC and other community stakeholders to gather perspectives, input, and questions from community concerning SPD response to recent protests. The OIG will use information gathered from public hearings, news, social media, and speaking with community, to focus on areas of community concern in the formal review of SPD protest response, with community voices at the table.

The will be hosting virtual community listening forums for those who want to share their perspectives  on Thursday, August 13, 2020, from 9:30 am – 11:00 a.m.

There are three ways to join:

  1. Join online by clicking this WebEx link:
    Meeting number (access code): 146 760 6561
    Meeting password: ZXw3GPStE53
  2. Join by phone:
    +1-206-207-1700 United States Toll (Seattle)
    +1-408-418-9388 United States Toll
  3. Join using Microsoft Lync or Microsoft Skype for Business:
    From within the app, dial seattle@lync.webex.com
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