West Seattle Bridge Update November 2; Budget Update; Proposal to Redefine the Terms “duress” and “de minimis”; Increased Funds and an Agreement on Encampment Management; Cooper Legacy Award for Affordable Homeownership; Age Friendly Forums for LGBTQ+2S Seniors

West Seattle Bridge Update, November 2

The West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force met last Wednesday to make recommendations to the Mayor regarding the decision to repair or replace the West Seattle Bridge. The Mayor attended to hear the task force members’ comments.

Here are my comments:

“As the City Councilmember for District 1, I hear nearly every day from residents and businesses that are hurting.  The sooner we restore bridge access, the better. That’s a premium value for me. Once social distancing ends or decreases, traffic and access issues will only increase.  Two years for a repair is shorter than other alternatives. The capital cost is relatively affordable at $47 million compared to other options. The Council is poised to authorize $100 million in debt in the 2021 budget for items related to the West Seattle Bridge, the Reconnect West Seattle program, and lower bridge maintenance.

The Technical Advisory Panel’s confidence that a repair will last 40 years is compelling.  The Council’s independent consultant examined the longevity of a repair, and is in concurrence. See page 59 the Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA):

“..based on the work done to-date and the correlation of analytical modeling to measured behavior, the technical risk of the bridge not behaving as intended, thus limiting the service life of the rehabilitation, likely has a very low probability (less than 5 percent) of occurring.”

Under the CBA, the rating of repair alternative 2 has the highest value index–the ratio of performance to cost, which measures return on investment. It also has “the highest potential for an increase in value index as compared to other alternatives.”

Six years is too long; the impacts to residents and businesses will be too high. I don’t believe that any option that takes six years to construct is viable.

Risks for the rapid replacement option, proposed two weeks ago by the firm contracted to design a replacement for the West Seattle Bridge — should the replacement path be selected — have not been evaluated.  Those risks include permitting risks and funding risks.  In the proposed expedited timeline, a lot of things must go right. I believe that any consideration of the new rapid replacement option needs a risk analysis of the timelines and a clear articulation of the actions to be taken to meet those timelines.  Not all risks are solvable by political will; some elements would be out of the city’s control.

Equity is a highly rated attribute of the Cost Benefit Analysis. The higher equity attribute ratings, as shown by the map in the Cost Benefit Analysis, illustrates the location of disparate harmful impacts along detour routes through the southern portion of the peninsula and Duwamish communities as well as percentages of people of color by census tract. In the case of the West Seattle Bridge closure, equity is accomplished in the reduction of disparate harmful impact to communities historically disadvantaged through underinvestment.

Secondly, business and workforce impacts remain very important for West Seattle businesses, especially small businesses, but also for our regional economy due to reduced trips to and off the peninsula. Closure also impacts access to jobs and to supply chains.  Impacts to supply chains disproportionately impact smaller businesses with fewer resources to weather a closure.

I started my reflections here with a quote from the CBA; in closing, I offer another. The Cost Benefit Analysis states: “The additional duration required to design and construct a replacement structure, along with potential schedule slip risks, as compared to rehabilitating the bridge, would likely favor rehabilitating the bridge versus replacing the bridge, especially when considering the opportunity cost of time.”  I understand that the CBA is only one input to the important decision before you Mayor Durkan.  Considering the time and care that your West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force put into the development of the CBA, I respectfully request you consider the guidance it provides with the significant weight that I believe the guidance deserves.”

Next Steps

The decision to repair or replace the West Seattle Bridge is now with the Mayor.

The co-chairs of the Community Task Force, former Mayor Nickels and  Paulina Lopez, Executive Director of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition will compile recommendations from members and send them to the Mayor.

Here’s a link to  last week’s presentation of final Cost Benefit Analysis.

Upcoming community task force meetings are scheduled for November 18 and December 2; the agenda for this week’s meeting lists topics for those meetings as a bridge update; Reconnect West Seattle implementation update, and repair/replace pathways update.

Home Zone Program in Highland Park

As part of the Reconnect West Seattle program, SDOT is implementing the Home Zone Program in affected neighborhoods that are experiencing increased traffic with the West Seattle Bridge closure. The program goals are to:

  • Create safe and walkable neighborhoods for people of all ages and abilities.
  • Create holistic plans that address traffic calming and maintaining local access.
  • Improve resident’s quality of life and strengthen community.

The week before last, I went on a walk with Highland Park residents and SDOT to discuss implementation of the Home Zone Program in Highland Park.

SDOT reported back to the Highland Park Action Coalition earlier last week, and will be bringing a work plan to the community, with a December target.

(photo: Michele Witzki)

SDOT staff have also done a similar walk with residents in South Park.

First Avenue South Bridge closure in January

WSDOT announced they will close two of the four southbound lanes of the 1st Avenue South Bridge for needed repairs in January, over a four week period. Northbound lanes will remain open.

As shown in the traffic data below, the average weekday volume for the 1st Avenue South Bridge for the week of October 16 was just under 103,000 vehicles, 7% higher than the February 2020 pre-COVID baseline.

The bridge is run by the state; I’ll pass on any updates I receive about schedule; exact dates haven’t yet been scheduled.

Here is the most recent traffic data:

Here are the most recent vehicle travel times:

West Seattle Bridge stabilization work

Last Monday SDOT announced their contractor is planning to finish installing the post-tensioning system; perform the Pier 18 release, and begin constructing a new bearing for Pier 18.

SDOT notes upcoming stabilization work:  “After the Pier 18 release and post-tensioning are complete, Kraemer North America will do other stabilization work including applying final layers of CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced polymer) to the girders and rebuilding the Pier 18 bearing. Once all stabilization work has been finished, we will lower the work platforms onto barges. This will likely be in late November or early December.

Budget Update

Last week the Budget Committee met to consider Council Budget Actions and Statements of Legislative Intent developed by Councilmembers. Below are the departments that were considered each day, with links to the agenda, that link to Councilmember proposals:

October 28: City Budget Office, Education and Early Learning, Neighborhoods, Finance and Administrative Services, City Attorney’s Office, Legislative Dept., Office for Civil Rights, Economic Development, Housing, Intergovernmental relations, Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, Planning and Community Development, Retirement System, Libraries, Public Utilities

October 29: Citywide, Finance General, Human Services, Sustainability & Environment, Construction and Inspections, Information Technology, Fire

October 30: Transportation, Homelessness, Police, Emergency Management, Parking Enforcement Officers

The Budget Committee will not meet next week. During that time, Budget Chair Mosqueda will consider the actions proposed by Councilmembers, and develop a balancing package. The balancing package will be presented on November 10th. After that, Councilmembers can propose changes by November 12th at 5 p.m.; any proposals must be self-balancing.

You can view or download the full Select Budget Committee meeting calendar here.  Sign up to receive Select Budget Committee agendas by email here.

Public comment will be taken at the start of each meeting at 9:30 a.m. You can register to give comment on this page. The signup form is available two hours before each session begins.

Proposal to Redefine the Terms “duress” and “de minimis”

There has been a lot of media attention last week on a proposed policy change still in development but discussed first in last week’s Budget Committee as well as written about in my weekly blog post last week.

During the budget process, after the Executive delivers their proposal Councilmembers submit rough ideas that are then presented during “Issue Identification.” These can be questions, high-level proposals, or more specific proposals. Next the Council moves to “Council Budget Actions” and Statements of Legislative Intent, these proposals were discussed last week.

I submitted a proposal as described below and here in our Central Staff’s presentation and memo.

The City currently spends approximately $20 million a year on incarceration, yet the progress on addressing the issues of behavioral health disorder or meeting basic human needs of those circling in and out of our carceral system continues to lag.  In order to better meet these needs and improve public safety outcomes  – we must continue to ramp up interventions to connect people before arrest and to do so by taking referrals directly from community members.

This proposal would not, as some have said, provide “blanket immunity from most misdemeanors,” nor would this proposal “provide an absolute defense.” Like any prosecution, the adjudication outcome lies with the Court.  This legislation would allow the judge and/or jurors to consider not just what may have happened but why it may have happened and whether the role of poverty and behavioral health struggles led to the alleged violation. The legislation reflects a confidence in the judges and residents of Seattle to determine, in the words of the Seattle Municipal Code, what conduct merits condemnation as criminal.

As we’ve seen in the massive national and international protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, it is past time that we reexamine our systems which often perpetuate homelessness and economic instability.

Incarceration is known to significantly increase the risk of housing instability and homelessness.  Thank you to Council President Gonzalez for sharing with me a report from The Prison Policy Initiative where it is noted that “formerly incarcerated people are almost 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public.” This legislation will provide an alternative path forward for judges seeking to assist individuals who’ve committed misdemeanors that can be clearly traced back to mental illness, substance abuse disorders, homelessness and poverty.

The legislation is, as I write above, in development.   This proposal came out with all other proposals in the “issue identification” step of the budget process.  In “issue identification,” Central Staff and Councilmembers – in addition to making proposals to cut or add funds – flag the need for relevant pieces of budget legislation that could or should be adopted. That we’ve generated significant public awareness on this issue and have not yet introduced a bill will serve the Council and the public in our ongoing efforts to develop the bill.  I appreciate hearing the supportive statements in Budget Committee from the Councilmembers who serve on my Public Safety and Human Services Committee as well as the supportive letter from City Attorney Pete Holmes.

Increased Funds and an Agreement on Encampment Management

On Monday October 26, my colleagues and I approved legislation that provides an additional $2,074,000 for contracted outreach to people experiencing homelessness in 2020, while keeping a core team of City employees in the Human Services Department in order to coordinate efforts around encampments across City departments, and provide strategy and direction to contracted outreach providers who work directly with people living unsheltered.  The new funds can be used for behavioral health services, flexible financial assistance, case management, housing navigation services, and to support the technology needed and other administrative needs of the contracted outreach providers. 

This legislation is the result of several weeks’ worth of negotiations among myself; Councilmembers Lewis and Morales; the Mayor’s office; and outreach providers such as REACH and LEAD; to come to an agreement on a new approach to encampment management and outreach that will lead to fewer encampment removals, more voluntary compliance and good neighbor activities to address hazards and concerns, and improved health and safety for people living in encampments, their housed neighbors, and people who work nearby.  The resulting framework of shared principles is an important first step toward that vision.

This framework marks a shift toward a problem-solving model, so that in the future, when an outreach team is sent, the initial purpose isn’t assumed to be removing the encampment.  There is more work to be done to operationalize the framework over the next several weeks, and to ensure that the new approach truly serves the needs of people living unsheltered, of groups of people in encampments, and of their housed neighbors and neighboring businesses. Crucially, Council, the Executive, and outreach providers themselves will be working to build this new problem-solving approach together.

Cooper Legacy Award for Affordable Homeownership

I was honored to accept, along with Councilmember Mosqueda, the Cooper Legacy Award from Homestead Community Land Trust earlier last week, awarded for furthering the values of social justice, equity, inclusion, and community engagement.  The award recognized the importance of funding for affordable homeownership included in CM Mosqueda’s Jump Start progressive revenue tax.  I sponsored a successful amendment that will provide $6 million annually for affordable homeownership for people living at or below 80% of Area Median Income.

As I said in my acceptance: “Home ownership is key to building intergenerational wealth, and a key driver of the racial wealth gap.  We must bridge that gap with a focus on BIPOC families at risk of displacement from their communities, or who have faced barriers to homeownership due to past discriminatory policies and practices such as redlining and restrictive racial covenants.”

Homestead Community Land Trust preserves and advances access to permanently affordable homeownership as a means to create thriving, equitable and inclusive communities.  I was honored to be one of its founding board members.  A community land trust (CLT) is a private, nonprofit organization created to acquire and hold land for the benefit of a community and provide secure affordable access to land and housing for community residents. In particular, CLTs work to meet the needs of residents not served by the housing market. CLTs prohibit speculation and absentee ownership of land and housing, promote ecologically sound land-use practices, and preserve the long-term affordability of housing.

Age Friendly Forums for LGBTQ+2S Seniors

On Friday, October 30th from 2:00 – 3:30pm, Age Friendly Seattle panel presentation was held on LGBTQ+2S & BIPOC: Vaccinations, Vaccine Trials and YOU.

The panelists included:

  • Russell Campbell, deputy director of the Office of HIV/AIDS (HANC) Network Coordination at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
  • Esther Lucero, CEO of the Seattle Indian Health Board, and a member of the Diné Nation
  • Peter Mann-King, co-chair of the Gay City—Seattle LGBTQ Center board of directors and a program manager with the LGBTQI+ Initiative at Swedish Health Services
  • Karina Walters, director of the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute, UW School of Social Work, and a member of the Choctaw Nation

The panel discussed BIPOC experience and concerns and support enrollment among those disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and other health conditions.

See LGBTQ+2S forums here.

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