West Seattle Bridge Update, June 11; Covid Updates; $30M Available to Fight Displacement; Non-Armed Response to Crisis Calls; Criminal Legal System Strategic Plan; Federal Funding Relief Update; Rental Assistance for Small Landlords; All-Hazards Mitigation Plan

West Seattle Bridge Update, June 11

Construction schedule update

The West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force met on June 10th.

The first key update is that work to complete rehabilitation of the West Seattle Bridge is on track for mid-June, 2022. After that, the bridge will need to be tested before it can be open to traffic.

SDOT has selected Kraemer North America to carry out the rehabilitation of the bridge, and will issue a  Notice to Proceed on pre-construction services will be issued on June 28. The next schedule and design update (60% design) will be in July, working toward beginning construction in November.

Community Workforce Agreement/Priority, Local Hire

The USDOT announced May 19 that it would reinstate and expand a pilot program to allow local hiring provisions in federally-funded projects, which the City of Seattle supports through its Priority Hire and Community Workforce Agreement programs implemented in project contracts. The federal local hire rule is currently in a 30-day public comment period.

This federal program, if established, could allow SDOT to require its bridge contractor to hire construction workers from local, economically distressed ZIP codes in the Seattle region such as those covering the Delridge, Highland Park, South Park, and Georgetown communities, which have also borne the highest impacts of diverted traffic from the bridge closure. The program also prioritizes women, people of color, and registered apprentices. SDOT and the Department of Finance and Administrative Services will be submitting an application to be included in this pilot program.  This application to USDOT to allow local hire does not, in any manner, delay construction of the rehabilitation project.

Low bridge access updates

SDOT has received over 900 applications for authorized uses by restaurant and retail businesses; maritime/industrial businesses; longshoremen, life-saving medical access, and on-call medical providers. Since June 1, they have granted access to

  • 105 lifesaving medical treatment applicants
  • 201 on-call medical workers
  • 116 West Seattle-based restaurant and retail businesses

Applicants must meet criteria, apply, provide a license plate, and receive approval from SDOT before using the low bridge. Applications for July access are due on June 15. You can apply for access at the Spokane Street Swing Bridge (Low Bridge) Access website.

Around 900 daily round trips are being authorized for these users. SDOT estimates that access may need to be restricted or removed beginning in January 2022, when Terminal 5 reopens, and additional freight traffic will resume:

Here’s the approach SDOT will be taking to guide the decision, using data analysis and input from users including number of trips, and specific times of day that are most helpful:

Here’s the schedule for this decision:

Traffic Levels and COVID reopening

Last month Governor Inslee announced that the state is working toward a statewide June 30 reopening. On Wednesday Mayor Durkan announced Seattle became the first major US city to fully vaccinate 70% of residents 12 and older. We’ve been able to accomplish this, working together. It’s an achievement we can be proud of.

With this move toward reopening, however, traffic congestion is increasing. During April and May, traffic volumes were well above last year, during the early months of the pandemic.

In May, citywide traffic volumes were 27% below pre-COVID levels. By comparison, in May 2020, traffic volumes were 57% below pre-COVID levels.

This has clear implications for West Seattle and nearby communities. With the closure of the West Seattle Bridge on March 23, and restrictions on the low bridge, we went from having 21 lanes to cross the Duwamish to having only 12 lanes during daytime hours. The impact of this was lessened by sharply reduced travel levels due to the COVID pandemic that arrived to the Seattle area just a few weeks before the closure of the bridge.

The chart below compares travel times now and a year ago on West Marginal and access to the 1st Avenue South Bridge, and to East Marginal via the lower bridge. The May 2020 numbers in the top chart show some increases compared to the pre-COVID baseline, but generally below 25%.

The May 24-28 2021 chart on the bottom shows a lot more increases over 50% travel time (the red dots) during rush hour, with some well above that:

The return of a third boat on the Fauntleroy ferry routes will likely add to this; I raised this during the meeting, and SDOT staff indicated they are planning additional data collection, and adding  traffic calming measures in areas to the south of the terminal.

Below is the mode share goals SDOT developed last September for rush hour traffic between 6-9 a.m. and 3-7 p.m. and what they see as needed to manage the bridge closure:

In practice, telecommuting has been higher than predicted. While public transit ridership is increasing, the increase is lagging behind increases in car traffic. Those of us who use public transit at least part of the time will each have to assess our comfort level about returning to the use of public transit for commuting as re-opening proceeds, and for many it won’t be an easy choice. I also want to note that many people don’t have alternatives to using their car to commute (child care is but one example).   Paulina Lopez, one of the Chairs of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force, reminded us yesterday that the impacts of the bridge closure do not only include frustration with travel times, but impacts to people living in detour route neighborhoods, like South Park, Highland Park, and Georgetown, where access to fast transit options are limited.   People living in these neighborhoods have fewer transit options and many are low wage workers who cannot telework or alter their work schedules.  Folks who live in transit-rich neighborhoods can help detour route neighborhoods by taking transit when they can, or commute at different times when possible, or continue to telework if permitted to do so.

Through the West Seattle Bridge Employer Resource Group, SDOT is encouraging large employers to allow their West Seattle employees to continue to work from home until the High Bridge reopens or take other modes than a personal vehicle; they have hired a Travel Options Program consultant to assist with these efforts and will partner with King County Metro to launch a mobility and travel options app in August.

Commute Seattle Puget Sound Area Return to Work Survey

At the Community Task Force Meeting, Commute Seattle shared a survey of employers on anticipated return to work, and travel patterns. They note it is skewed toward white-collar companies.

The survey shows for most companies at least some jobs can be performed remotely (for 20%, all jobs can be performed remotely; for 71%, some jobs can be;  for 9% all jobs must be performed on site).

The survey shows increasing on-site work is expected between June and December, though a majority say they don’t expect to have 100% of workers back on site until 2022:

A PSRC survey of workers, at least 80% want to work remotely at least part of the time.

Employers anticipate lower transit use; more biking and driving alone, and more remote work:

Reconnect West Seattle

SDOT crews have completed repaving SW Alaska Street.  Next steps are curb ramps upgrades and added red bus lanes in the westbound direction.

SDOT crews replaced concrete panels at 32nd and Barton that were in need of repair because they were failing structurally. They are looking into a King County Metro partnership to repair additional concrete panels in the bus layover zones along SW Barton St.

Covid Updates: Get Vaxed Saturday at the South Delridge Farmers Market, In-Language Assistance, D1 Vaccine Providers

First City to Reach 70% Vaccination: Seattle continues to lead the nation in vaccinations. As of June 10, we are the most vaccinated major American city, with nearly 80 percent of Seattle residents having begun the vaccination process, and more than 70 percent fully vaccinated.  But we aren’t done yet!

That’s why the Seattle Fire Department is partnering with African Community Housing & Development to host a pop-up vaccination clinic this Saturday at the South Delridge Farmers Market. Seattle Fire will offer the Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer vaccines, and the first 50 people vaccinated will get a $10 coupon to the market!

Find Your Shot:  If you can’t make it to the farmers’ market, here are some other places to find vaccination.

  • Enter your zip code to find convenient vaccine shots at Vaccinate WA.
  • Get a shot from one of the City’s vaccination sites – start at Seattle.Gov/Vaccine.
  • Try this map to discover District 1 vaccine providers.

In-Language Assistance:  If you need assistance in a language other than English to find a vaccine, www.Seattle.Gov/Vaccine has information in seven languages.  Or, try calling one of the in-language Vaccine Community Helplines.

Benefits of Vaccination:  There are so many benefits to getting vaccinated.  And getting vaccinated protects our most vulnerable family members, like our elders & those who are pregnant. COVID vaccines are FREE & you don’t need an appointment.

$30M Available to Fight Displacement

The City’s Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) is now accepting proposals for $30 million for land and property acquisition to respond to the disproportionate displacement of BIPOC communities. SIF awards will help groups buy land and buildings for affordable housing, affordable space for business, community centers, cultural spaces, childcare, and open space. More info about SIF and eligibility requirements here: http://bit.ly/OPCD-SIF

Non-Armed Response to Crisis Calls

At Tuesday’s meeting of Council’s Public Safety & Human Services committee, I facilitated a roundtable discussion of the City’s crisis response continuum – with a focus on non-armed responses to low-level crimes and behavioral health crisis.  The roundtable included representatives from LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion), Crisis Connections, REACH, Downtown Emergency Services Center (DESC), Health One, and the Crisis Response Unit.  The fascinating discussion illuminated the many responses already at work in Seattle every day, as well as the gaps in scale and coordination that must be bridged.  You can watch the roundtable here, starting at 32 minutes in.

The police in cities all over the US have become responsible for more than law enforcement.  Over the years, local government has turned the job of police officer into one that is expected to fix a wide variety of problems, from resolving community disputes, addressing substance abuse disorders, working in schools, de-escalating behavioral health crises, to responding to complaints about outdoor encampments and vehicles where people without homes live.

As covered in the October 2020 article in the Center for American Progress blog on the Community Responder Model:

“These calls to the police can result in unnecessary uses of force, justice system involvement, and other adverse outcomes for civilians, as well as put a strain on public safety resources. The harmful effects from these interactions have not been felt equally by all: Communities of color have disproportionately experienced heavy police presence, high rates of arrest, and harsh enforcement. The growth of policing has also negatively affected people with behavioral health disorders and disabilities, whose medical conditions are too often treated like a crime. According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, “the mere presence of a law enforcement vehicle, an officer in uniform, and/or a weapon … has the potential to escalate a situation” when a person is in crisis.

The ever-expanding role of the police has had a negative impact on officers themselves, many of whom have attested to having too much on their plate. “Every time 911 receives a call, it’s currently the job of police to respond,” explains retired Maj. Neill Franklin, who served as head of training for the Baltimore Police Department. ‘But many calls don’t involve a crime. And when they do, many of those crimes are minor and related to quality-of-life issues such as homelessness, mental health disorders, or substance misuse. We need to stop expecting police to do social work and start sending the right trained professionals to address low-level crimes and noncriminal calls for service.’

Relying on police to handle low-level calls for service has other long-term consequences. Aggressive enforcement of low-level offenses and unnecessary negative police interactions not only affect residents’ health and well-being but also erode public trust in police. Loss of trust can have serious ramifications for public safety, including a significant reduction in the likelihood that residents will report crime to law enforcement, making it harder for officers to prevent and solve serious crimes.  To build true community safety, we must prioritize police response for life-threatening emergencies, and invest in alternatives for the almost half of 911 calls that don’t require an armed response.”

The Vera Institute of Justice conducted an in-depth analysis of 911 data from five cites—including Seattle – and found that nonemergency incidents were the most frequent type of call for service. The share of low-priority, nonurgent calls was 45% in Seattle. Top-priority, life-threatening emergencies made up the smallest portion of 911 calls, only 18% in Seattle.  The chart below shows the percentage of calls estimated that could be diverted away from 911 to Community Responders and administrative alternatives to 911 response.

Criminal Legal System Strategic Plan

My Public Safety & Human Services committee on Tuesday also heard a presentation on criminal legal system realignment.  As part of the 2019 budget, Council funded a term-limited position in the Legislative Department to write a strategic plan; and a position at the Office of Civil Rights to coordinate stakeholder engagement around realigning the criminal legal system.

The strategic plan, Realigning Seattle’s Criminal Legal System through a Public Health Approach: The intersection between Community wisdom and evidence-based practices, was presented by Council Central Staff member and author Carlos Lugo.  The plan relied on previous rounds of stakeholder engagement to identify “Community Guiding Principles” which served as a foundation for research into theories on the causes of crime as well as best practices and expert recommendations on creating effective alternatives to the traditional CLS that were in line with the Guiding Principles.  You can view the presentation here.

Next, we expect a report containing recommendations from the Community Task Force for Criminal Legal System Realignment, a workgroup comprised of 9 community members who have been impacted by the City’s criminal legal system.  Over the past year, they have met regularly, convened by Central Staff and the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, to provide recommendations for criminal legal system realignment.  I understand the Task Force is in the process of finalizing their report and hope to finish it over the next month or so before presenting it to Council.

Federal Funding Relief Update

Council continued its consideration of two bills (Council Bill 120094 and Council Bill 120093) to appropriate $128 million in federal Covid relief from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).  Last week, Councilmembers received a briefing on the legislation; you can see the presentation and watch the discussion here, starting at the 1:09’ mark.

The current legislation includes critical investments for trauma-informed well-being services that will help Seattle residents struggling to survive the “shadow pandemic,” with restricted movement, social isolation, and economic insecurity increasing our vulnerability to violence and self-harm.

On Tuesday, June 15th, I’ll join fellow members of the Finance & Housing Committee to consider amendments to strengthen the legislation.  You can sign up to receive the agenda here, and sign up for public comment here starting at 7:30am on June 15th.

Rental Assistance for Small Landlords

When Council approved funding for expansion of the rent assistance program I included in the legislation an expectation that landlords should be able to apply too.  Since that time, I have been actively working to ensure that landlords with four or fewer tenants in arrears could initiate an application through King County on behalf of their tenants.  I recently learned that there were technical reasons for why it was still challenging to apply as a landlord. On my request, in order to ensure access for small landlords, the City’s Office of Housing worked with the United Way of King County (UWKC) to set up an alternative access point to specifically support small landlords in Seattle.

As of Monday of this week, small landlords can request assistance here.  UWKC will act as an intermediary to help encourage tenants to complete the application process.

This program is a partnership between the City of Seattle and King County to provide rent and utility relief to households most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds for this program were received through the Federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA). Eligible families can receive up to 12 months of help (9 months in back rent and 3 months forward).

All-Hazards Mitigation Plan

On Tuesday, in my Public Safety and Human Services Committee, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) presented the 2021 Seattle All-Hazards Mitigation Plan update, you can see the draft plan here and their presentation here.

The All-Hazards Mitigation Plan is the City’s guiding document for hazard mitigation and a comprehensive strategy for minimizing potential loses and maximizing community resiliency.

Last November OEM released a community survey to gauge community perceptions of hazards and priorities  for the All-Hazards Mitigation Plan:

The All-Hazards Mitigation Plan is updated every five years and includes evolving information on community led investments, adjustments to reflect values, cooperation with other major citywide plans, and additional departmental engagement.

Once the draft plan is approved by the Mayor the Council will take action which will allow for final review by the Washington State Emergency Management Division and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). I expect the Council will consider this plan later this year.

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