Councilmember Pedersen’s Blog is the Place To Be!

November 25th, 2020

Thank you for clicking onto my blog where I post information about Seattle city government. I focus on the geographic area I was elected in November 2019 to represent: District 4. Our wonderful district is home to over 100,000 people in 20 different neighborhoods from Eastlake to Wallingford to Magnuson Park.

Pro Tip: Use the “Search” box on the right side of this post to search for the topics that interest you the most. Just type the key words into that box, such as “public safety” or “budget” or “homelessness,” and click that Search button. Or you can just keep scrolling down and find the most recent content near the top.

More Info: You can also subscribe to my e-newsletter to have key posts emailed directly to you at least once a month by CLICKING HERE. Or just save this link as a favorite on your browser and check it anytime for updates: https://pedersen.seattle.gov/

Ron Sims swearing in new Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen, January 6, 2020.

with gratitude,


West Seattle Bridge Updates

November 29th, 2021

The sudden safety closure of the West Seattle “High-Rise” Bridge in March 2020 has been a major challenge for Seattle and Washington State. Even though the West Seattle Bridge is not in Seattle’s District 4, Councilmember Alex Pedersen provides periodic updates on the closure, stabilization, repairs, and other issues impacting the bridge because he was appointed to Chair the City Council’s Transportation & Utilities Committee in January 2020. The West Seattle Bridge is an infrastructure asset vital not only to the 100,000 people of West Seattle but also to the entire region, especially as it impacts the economic engine that is the Port of Seattle. After successfully stabilizing the bridge in 2020, the ultimate goal is to complete substantial repairs (“rehab”) in time to restore access to the West Seattle “high bridge” mid-2022. The Spokane Street Swing Bridge (West Seattle “low bridge”) has very limited access. Alternate routes can be found on the website of our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

For SDOT’s website about the West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE and, for specifics about the bridge repair, CLICK HERE.

For more information on the urgent need for City Hall to do a better job keeping our bridge infrastructure safe, CLICK HERE. For more about the West Seattle Bridge, please read on…

phase 2 stabilization graphic

November 29, 2021: “Notice to Proceed” for General Contractor

As announced by Mayor Durkan and SDOT today, SDOT and its selected construction contractor Kraemer North America agreed on a construction schedule that will complete repairs by mid-2022 (pending any unforeseen issues due to extreme weather events, supply chain problems, worker shortages, or other unexpected conditions).

The final phase of repairs includes:

  • Injecting epoxy into the cracks to seal them and prevent corrosion.
  • Wrapping parts of the structure with carbon fiber-reinforced polymer for durability to strengthen the bridge, similar to putting a cast on a broken bone.
  • Installing more tight steel cables called post-tensioning strands through the entire bridge. These strands reinforce the concrete, much like the bridge’s skeleton.

For 20 months, District 1 residents and businesses have been suffering, with longer commutes to work, medical appointments, school and activities, less time spent with loved ones, and difficulty accessing necessary business supplies,” said Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold. “For residents in the southern neighborhoods, including South Park, they’ve had increased traffic safety impacts. Starting the repair process is a huge step for District 1; completing the repair by the scheduled date of mid-2022 is critical. I will be in close coordination with SDOT as this work moves toward successful, on-time completion of the repair.”

The emergency stabilization of the West Seattle Bridge that’s already occurred gives these full repairs a head start and we all look forward to their completion next summer to restore this vital transportation link for tens of thousands of Seattle residents,” said Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen, Chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee. “I’ll continue to be a champion for investing in our infrastructure and strengthening Seattle’s bridges and I am pleased the final phase of these repairs are underway so everyone can use the West Seattle Bridge again as soon as possible.”

“Our teams have been preparing for months to come back to the high bridge to complete this work to get vehicles back on the bridge. Our crews are familiar with the bridge from our work on stabilization and excited to get going,” said Kraemer North America Project Manager Adam Dour. “We’ll also be working to strengthen the Spokane St Swing Bridge as part of this contract, and we’ve worked closely with SDOT to ensure that our schedule prioritizes the reopening of the bridge as quickly as possible.”

For SDOT’s blog post update, CLICK HERE.


July 14, 2021 Update: Community Update

For the presentation to the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force on July 14, 2021, CLICK HERE. There is a broader community meeting online on July 21, 2021; for info, CLICK HERE. According to SDOT’s main website for the bridge, “The West Seattle High-Rise Bridge (high bridge) is on track to reopen in mid-2022.”

Public meeting graphic

June 28, 2021 Update: Federal Grant Awarded

As reported in the Seattle Times, there is good news for Seattle from our federal government with the United States Department of Transportation awarding a grant to help our efforts to restore the West Seattle Bridge. While the dollar amount was less than our request, it is remarkable to have received any of these competitive federal funds. We are grateful to U.S. DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg and to our congressional delegation including Representatives Jayapal and Smith and Senators Cantwell and Murray. I’d also like thank our own Seattle Department of Transportation for seizing this and all opportunities to cobble together money to restore the West Seattle High Bridge and to strengthen the lower bridge that has been carrying much of the burden. SDOT submitted an award-winning application which included a letter of support signed by this City Council. I’m hopeful SDOT will put this $11 million to good use for the $175 million restoration project, which includes funding from the City, the Puget Sound Regional Council, and other sources.  For SDOT’s blog post on this award of funding, CLICK HERE.


March 15, 2021 Update:

I asked the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to participate in my Committee on March 17, 2021 to provide another presentation on the West Seattle Bridge. The purpose is to update the public and my Council colleagues on SDOT’s progress to restore the West Seattle High Bridge — and to strengthen the “low-level” bridge (Spokane Street Swing Bridge) which has had to carry a bigger burden during this infrastructure emergency. This update is timely due to SDOT completing 30% of the design for the restoration, a milestone which enables them to firm up total costs and seek competitive bids from general contactors to complete the work by the 3rd quarter of 2022. While the revised total cost estimate is $175 million, much of that total includes the costs of the initial emergency stabilization efforts (which helps with the ultimate restoration work) and the costs of establishing/improving alternative routes (“Reconnect West Seattle”). The actual construction costs for restoration of the West Seattle High Bridge is estimated to be $60 million (out of the $175 million). To cover the total cost, we have set-aside up to $100 million of city government resources, but it would be ideal to secure funds from other sources — which we have been pursuing aggressively: regional (approx $15 million from Puget Sound Regional Council), State (ideally $25 million from the 2021 legislative sessions), and Federal sources (a $20 million “INFRA” grant). Moreover, a portion of the renewed and revamped Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) will assist during at least the next year.

For SDOT’s presentation to my Committee, CLICK HERE. For a Seattle Times article on their 30% design milestone, CLICK HERE. For SDOT’s blog posts with ongoing updates, CLICK HERE. While I’m the Chair of the Transportation & Utilities Committee, the Councilmember who represents the 100,000 residents of West Seattle, (Lisa Herbold), provides detailed updates for her constituents, which you can review by CLICKING HERE.


January 1, 2021 Update:

To protect the physical integrity of the still-open lower bridge (underneath the closed West Seattle high bridge) and “to keep the Low Bridge clear for emergency vehicles – as well as transit and heavy freight – we’re saying, ‘don’t go low.’ Instead, please use alternate routes for those traveling to and from West Seattle by car to avoid a $75 citation.” For the SDOT Blog post, CLICK HERE. For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.


November 19, 2020 Update:

Today Mayor Durkan announced her decision to REPAIR the West Seattle Bridge, which I support after careful consideration. Here is my statement:

After consulting technical experts, Seattle residents, local businesses, and the Port of Seattle, I want to thank our Mayor for her careful and thorough consideration of how best to move forward safely and effectively so we can quickly restore this vital infrastructure,” said Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen, appointed earlier this year to chair the Council’s Transportation Committee.  

After studying the various choices, I agree with Mayor Jenny Durkan that immediate repair of the bridge is the best choice so we can quickly and safely restore mobility to our region’s bridge network. Repairing the bridge now still keeps open the long-term solution to plan and fund a methodical replacement in the future and to coordinate with increased transit options. I believe the cracking and closure of the West Seattle Bridge must be a wake-up call to take better care of all our aging bridges with more investment in maintenance to keep transit and freight moving throughout a city defined by its waterways and ravines. After being appointed to Chair our City’s Transportation Committee earlier this year, I remain committed to work with Mayor Durkan, our Seattle Department of Transportation, our Port of Seattle, the rest of the City Council, and Seattle residents to make sure we honor this commitment to our bridge infrastructure and get this done.”  

  • For Mayor Durkan’s decision (press release of November 19, 2020) to immediately repair (rather than replace) the West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE.
  • For the November 19, 2020 press release from Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle), CLICK HERE.
  • For the initial Seattle Times article on the decision, CLICK HERE.
  • For more about Councilmember Pedersen’s efforts to increase funding to maintain the safety of all Seattle bridges, CLICK HERE.
Councilmember Pedersen with engineers during inspection underneath (and inside) West Seattle high bridge November 17, 2020
Councilmember Pedersen at one of the post-tensioning stabilization locations inside the West Seattle high bridge, November 17, 2020. The stabilization work is necessary for safe repair anyway; therefore, no time is being lost as we move forward to restore the bridge.

November 9, 2020 Update:

Councilmembers Alex Pedersen (as Chair for the Transportation Committee) and Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle) asked the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to provide the City Council and the public with a formal update on the West Seattle Bridge at a “Council Briefing” today.

  • For SDOT’s November 9, 2020 presentation, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) of various options for repair and replacement, CLICK HERE.

Now that the West Seattle high bridge is stabilized, the key question is whether to repair or replace it and we have developed several good options for moving forward to restore that vital infrastructure for Seattle residents and our regional economy. I know the Mayor is prudently consulting engineers, stakeholders, and funders so that she can make a strategic decision that prioritizes safety and reliability for our city and our region. I believe this crisis should be a wake up call to our city that we need to do much more to fund the maintenance of our aging bridges, a challenge further demonstrated by the recent audit of Seattle’s bridges.


September 16, 2020 Update:

After the sudden closure of the West Seattle Bridge in March 2020, Councilmember Pedersen asked the City Auditor to provide an independent assessment of all Seattle Bridges. That report confirmed that Seattle has been under-investing in its bridges and made several recommendations for improvement.

  • For the Auditor’s report and presentation to the Transportation & Utilities Committee, CLICK HERE.

August 19, 2020 Update:

As Chair of the City Council’s Transportation & Utilities Committee, Councilmember Pedersen asked SDOT to update his colleagues and the public on the status of the West Seattle Bridge. For SDOT’s presentation, CLICK HERE.


July 16, 2020 Update:

Mayor Durkan issues emergency proclamation and order on West Seattle Bridge, which will encourage federal and state financial assistance for repairing/rebuilding this vital regional asset that connects 100,000 people and freight to the rest of the state. Councilmembers Herbold and Pedersen issue joint statement in support; CLICK HERE.


April 22, 2020 Update:

Councilmember Pedersen joined Councilmember Lisa Herbold to co-host a Town Hall with SDOT on the West Seattle Bridge. For SDOT’s Powerpoint presentation, CLICK HERE.


April 15, 2020 Update:

Councilmembers Herbold and Pedersen Respond to West Seattle Bridge Remaining Closed through 2021

4/15/2020 STATEMENT: SEATTLE – Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1 – West Seattle/South Park) and Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4 – Northeast Seattle and Chair of Transportation & Utilities Committee) issued the following statement regarding the ongoing and extended closure of the West Seattle Bridge:

“Today we learned from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) that, while the rate of cracking of concrete under the West Seattle Bridge has slowed, new cracking continues even with no vehicles.  Unfortunately, SDOT now estimates the bridge cannot be made safe for traffic for at least the next 21 months (through the end of 2021). Safety will continue to be the top priority during this infrastructure emergency. SDOT is developing plans to shore up the bridge in advance of the likely extensive repairs. SDOT believes, however, that repairs would extend the life of the bridge for only 10 years.

“The impact of this long-term closure on West Seattle cannot be overstated. We will need additional work to manage traffic and mobility for residents. Ensuring access to emergency services and transit will be critical as well. What we are doing now to provide alternate routes will not be sufficient once traffic resumes normal levels.

“We look forward to working with our State and federal governments to identify the funding for both the repairs and the eventual replacement of the bridge, including an expected stimulus package for infrastructure from Congress. This situation also reinforces the importance of renewing the Seattle Transportation Benefit District to provide additional bus service.

“It’s good that SDOT is creating a technical advisory panel to leverage engineering expertise.  The City Council’s Transportation & Utilities Committee will require timely updates from both SDOT and the technical advisory panel.  We will also pursue Legislative Department participation on the technical advisory panel to increase oversight of the complex solutions.”

Presentation: For SDOT’s April 15, 2020 presentation to update the media on the condition of — and plans for — the West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE.


March 30, 2020:

For our City Council Resolution immediately adding the sudden major repairs of the West Seattle Bridge to the Watch List for Capital Projects, CLICK HERE. Sponsored by Councilmember Lisa Herbold (representing West Seattle) and me (Councilmember Pedersen), the City Council passed it unanimously.

For SDOT’s March 30 presentation to City Council CLICK HERE.


March 23, 2020 (ORIGINAL POST):

West Seattle Bridge closed by Mayor Durkan (March 23) due to structural issues; safety actions supported by Council leaders

March 23, 2020:

PRESS RELEASE EXCERPT: “Out of an abundance of caution, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) announced today that it will close the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge effective 7:00 PM tonight (March 23, 2020) to all traffic due to accelerated concrete cracking that was observed during a regular bridge inspection. A comprehensive assessment has already begun with a team of experts to determine the extent of the cracking and put together a plan for a near-term repair. The bridge closure will begin at 7 PM tonight will remain closed until further notice.” (source: Seattle Department of Transportation)

ALTERNATE ROUTES: https://sdotblog.seattle.gov/2020/03/24/alternate-routes-for-west-seattle-high-rise-bridge-closure/

March 23, 2020: STATEMENT FROM COUNCILMEMBER PEDERSEN:

“When I learned about this issue today, I immediately supported the Mayor’s decision to temporarily close the West Seattle Bridge because safety should be our top priority,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen who chairs the City Council’s Transportation Committee.  “As we provide safe travel alternatives for residents, first responders, and public transit, I look forward to hearing not only an analysis from structural engineers but also next steps, including a realistic timeline for solutions from our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).”

“As Chair of the Transportation Committee, I’d like to schedule a public briefing in the future so we can all hear the latest structural reports on all Seattle bridges and the plans for repairs and upgrades.  Strategic infrastructure projects that increase safety, move freight, and get thousands of people to their jobs will be vital as we eventually lift ourselves out of the public health and economic crisis.”  

March 23, 2020FULL PRESS RELEASE (from SDOT):

Following Accelerated Growth of Concrete Cracks in West Seattle High Rise Bridge, SDOT to Close Structure This Evening for Assessment

Spokane Street “Low Bridge” to Remain Open Only to Transit, Freight, and Emergency Vehicles

Seattle – Out of an abundance of caution, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) announced today that it will close the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge effective 7:00 PM tonight (March 23, 2020) to all traffic due to accelerated concrete cracking that was observed during a regular bridge inspection. A comprehensive assessment has already begun with a team of experts to determine the extent of the cracking and put together a plan for a near-term repair. The bridge closure will begin at 7 PM tonight will remain closed until further notice.

Buses, freight and emergency vehicles will be moved to Spokane Street Bridge, which is also called the “low bridge,” and motorists should use the First Ave or South Park bridges.

“Even in the midst of a pandemic, the Seattle Department of Transportation has been closely monitoring our critical infrastructure. Last night, our engineers identified safety risks in our West Seattle high rise bridge and are now taking swift action to protect the public by removing traffic from the bridge while next steps are assessed,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “Transit, freight and first responders will continue to have access to the Spokane Street bridge to ensure access to and from West Seattle. To the residents and businesses of West Seattle: I want to thank everyone for their flexibility and patience during this challenging time in Seattle’s history. It is a top priority to ensure safety and access to goods and transit, and we will be working as quickly as we can resolve this.”

“We’ve kept a watchful eye on the West Seattle Bridge for years. Recently, a series of closely monitored cracks have grown faster than our team of experts had anticipated. Our engineers saw this acceleration as a clear warning sign that closer inspection is necessary, and complete closure is required to maintain safety as our top priority. As we close the bridge today, we will scale and accelerate a process already underway to determine next steps. Above all else, as the Mayor has made clear, we will make sure our first responders have quick and safe access to and from West Seattle,” SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe said.

“As a West Seattle resident and a citywide public official representing all Seattleites, I believe this is the right decision for the safety of West Seattle bridge users, and the long range transportation demands of my constituents,” said Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez (Pos. 9 – Citywide).  “I stand ready to work with Mayor Durkan, Director Zimbabwe, Councilmember Herbold and Chair Pedersen, to address the short-term and long-term impact of this bridge closure.  Keeping people safe is critically important and this closure prioritized the health and safety of the over 100,000 people who use the West Seattle Bridge every day.”

“I support the Mayor’s decision to temporarily close the West Seattle Bridge because safety should be our top priority,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen who chairs the City Council’s Transportation Committee.  “As we provide safe travel alternatives for residents and public transit, I look forward to hearing not only an analysis from structural engineers but also next steps, including a realistic timeline for solutions from our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).”

At 7PM, all public and private vehicles will be prohibited from crossing the high-rise span of the bridge between I-5 and Fauntleroy Way SW. SDOT is putting signs in place to guide people through the new route. Prohibiting people and vehicles from the structure reduces the load weight and is necessary for public safety.

While the problems have accelerated at a rapid and unanticipated rate, this challenge did not appear out of the blue. The West Settle Bridge was originally designed for three lanes of travel in each direction. As Seattle grew, the bridge grew to three westbound lanes and four eastbound. This added traffic, combined with the significant increase in size and weight of commercial vehicles (including buses), has only compounded the long-term maintenance challenges posed by the West Seattle Bridge. Further, 80 percent of the bridge load is dead load, meaning deterioration is possible even when all traffic is removed. 

In 2019, however, the Federal load rating for this type of bridge changed and the Seattle Department of Transportation assembled a team of engineers and experts from the public and private sectors to begin actively assessing the extent and growth of bridge cracking, create safety recommendations, and a short-term repair plan.  As a component of that review, SDOT has been regularly inspecting concrete cracks in the West Seattle Bridge. During the latest inspection, an SDOT engineer found known cracks in the concrete had worsened at a rate SDOT and the outside specialists found unacceptable.

The City is working with King County Metro and regional transportation, life-safety, and maritime partners today to jointly develop a comprehensive traffic control plan to keep people and goods moving. This plan will include bus reroutes, general traffic detours to alternative streets and bridges, and a street-by-street approach to increase the capacity of detour routes to better carry the traffic using the high-rise bridge today.

The Seattle Police Department, Seattle Fire Department, and medical first responders are aware of the closure and planning detours. SDOT’s traffic control plan will use streets that accommodate the emergency response network to connect communities to hospitals as they are today.

King County Metro bus routes that typically travel the West Seattle Bridge include RapidRide C Line, 21 and 21X, 37, 50, 55, 56, 57, 116X, 118X, 119X, 120 and 125. Routes 37 and 125 are not operating during Metro’s temporary reduced schedule, which started March 23. Metro is working to finalize bus reroutes using the Spokane Street lower bridge and surface streets in SODO, and identify whether any bus stops might not be served as a result of the reroutes. Metro customer information staff plan to post service advisories online later Monday.

# # #

MORE INFO ON SEATTLE BRIDGES:

All Bridges:

  • For the audit of ALL Seattle bridges obtained by Councilmember Alex Pedersen in 2020 after the sudden closure of the West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE.
  • For more information about ALL of Seattle’s bridges, CLICK HERE.

District 4 Bridge work:

  • COWEN PARK: For progress on the seismic upgrades being made to the Cowen Park Bridge (15th Avenue NE between NE 62nd Street and NE Ravenna Blvd) in our District 4, CLICK HERE.
  • FAIRVIEW AVE: For progress on the rebuild of the Fairview Avenue bridge from Eastlake to South Lake Union, CLICK HERE.

West Seattle Bridge:

  • SDOT: For more information on the West Seattle Bridge, please see SDOT’s website by CLICKING HERE.
  • West Seattle Blog: For updates from the detailed West Seattle blog, CLICK HERE.
  • Councilmember Pedersen: For his original March 23, 2020 blog post on closure of West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE.


Budget Results and Happy Thanksgiving

November 24th, 2021

November 24, 2021

Friends and Neighbors,

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and hope you can reconnect with loved ones during the holidays.

I know most of City Hall is thankful for adopting another annual budget to keep your city government operating in 2022 — to deliver clean water and electricity, upgrade Seattle’s infrastructure, create more affordable housing and effective outreach for those experiencing homelessness, and improve community safety. I know this sounds like I’m trying to “put a positive spin” on our City budget. I truly believe, however, that the final, amended budget contains positive things for our district and all of Seattle. At the same time — as with all budgets — it has significant shortcomings. This week’s Seattle Times article summed up the budget well: “unenthusiastic consensus.” Considering today’s tumultuous political climate — on top of the ever-present mix of opinions and ideas that is our shared challenge amid the complex context of self-government — I believe this week’s “unenthusiastic consensus” is a win.  To decide for yourself, please continue reading about the City budget, District 4, and more.


DISTRICT 4

New Low-Income Housing on Top of New Transit: Moving Seattle Forward

District 4 City Councilmember Alex Pedersen  (left) and graduate school intern Gabby Lacson (2nd on left) on the roof after a tour of the new low-income housing project (Cedar Crossing) built on top of the new Roosevelt Light Rail Station. Thanks to the leaders of the nonprofit developers/operators Bellwether Housing (Susan Boyd, middle) and Mercy Housing (Joseph Thompson, right) for partnering on this transit-oriented development. Check out those solar panels!

This month I toured the new “transit-oriented development” for low-income residents called Cedar Crossing in our District 4. This welcoming new low-income housing project follows in the footsteps of Gossett Place and the Marion West projects built by LIHI, Abora Court built by Bellwether Housing, Mercy Magnuson built by Mercy Housing, and other low-income housing projects in District 4.  Cedar Crossing, which is nearly complete thanks to partnership between nonprofits Bellwether and Mercy Housing, will offer 253 affordable apartment units on top of the new Roosevelt light rail station.  ALL of the units will serve low-income, very low income, and extremely low-income residents.  It will have high quality childcare on the ground floor as well as space for nonprofits and retail (such as a restaurant). My favorite part of the tour was the roof with several solar panels that will power part of the building. It is everything we could hope for in a transit-oriented development. The nonprofits hope to begin pre-leasing the residential units early next year and open next summer.

Fixing the University Bridge

Standing by the aging University Bridge on November 17, Councilmember Pedersen speaks to King 5 News about City Council finally accepting his proposal to boldly boost funding for bridges – up to $100 million in bonds that can be deployed by the incoming Harrell Administration and leveraged with federal and/or state dollars.

Here are my remarks about Seattle’s bridges during final passage of the City Budget:  

“In keeping our City moving forward, I’m very grateful for the adoption today of Council Bill 120224 which is the companion legislation for my Council Budget Action SDOT-505-A-002 to build back better with a boost of bridge bonds. Bonds will enable us to finally address the growing backlog of vital bridge safety projects in the wake of the closure of the West Seattle Bridge and the subsequent audit of Seattle’s bridges that confirmed many key bridges are in poor condition. We were reminded of the vulnerability of our aging bridges again with the recent malfunctioning and temporary closure of the University Bridge, a multimodal bridge that may someday be the key to installing a new bus rapid ride line.  Bonds will enable us to fulfill more promises of the Move Seattle Levy by restoring some of the seismic upgrade projects cancelled by SDOT. Bonds can increase safety on multiple bridges on the project list we requested and received from SDOT. Bonds can also boost the capital-heavy line items identified by the City Auditor as being historically underfunded. Authorizing these bonds will enable the incoming Administration to seize the window of opportunity when interest rates are at historic lows.

“Today this Council delivers the authority for bridge bonds and, early next year, we expect the new Administration to use that authority to keep our infrastructure safe, to keep our economy moving, and to keep our communities connected.”

— Councilmember Alex Pedersen, November 22, 2021.

Our aging University Bridge was stuck in the upright position Nov 12 and 13, 2021. SDOT reported electrical problems. Another reason to do more for our bridges now. (photo by Councilmember Pedersen)

Speaking of bridges, here is my statement on the malfunctioning and temporary closure of the multimodal University Bridge that connects the U District, Roosevelt, and other D4 neighborhoods to Eastlake and beyond (November 13, 2021):

After the devastating closure of the West Seattle Bridge and the citywide audit of bridges I ordered last year, City Hall should not need additional evidence to do more for bridge safety, but I’m hopeful the sudden two-day closure of the University Bridge – blocking buses, freight, commuters, bikes,  pedestrians, and emergency vehicles — finally propels our Seattle Department of Transportation to expedite how it addresses our aging bridge infrastructure. After a year of debate and delay to prioritize Seattle’s bridge network, I’m eager to have a majority of City Council finally approve my long-standing proposal to authorize a boost of funds needed to fix our aging bridges. I want to thank the workers who have been struggling to repair and reopen another broken bridge and to urge all City leaders to give them the help they need to do their jobs to keep all Seattle bridges safe and secure.”

For SDOT’s explanation of the University Bridge incident, CLICK HERE.

For Seattle Times coverage, CLICK HERE and HERE and HERE.

For the Seattle Channel video “Drawbridges of the Ship Canal,” CLICK HERE.

For my amendment to boost bridge funding that finally passed, CLICK HERE and, for its companion legislation, CLICK HERE.

Volunteering to Help Neighbors Experiencing Homelessness During the Holidays

Councilmember Pedersen (left) delivering and serving pies to residents of LIHI’s Rosie’s Village for Thanksgiving week. Apple pie won over pumpkin pie as the favorite.  Pizza can count as a pie, too, and, in that case, pepperoni won. Keep reading for how you can volunteer at Rosie’s in District 4 and other places helping those experiencing homelessness.

You can help neighbors experiencing homelessness this holiday season by volunteering at Seattle’s many Tiny House Villages. As you probably know, “Tiny Home Villages” provide shelter, safety, and community for inpiduals and families experiencing homelessness with case managers onsite who work quickly to transition residents into permanent housing. I was proud to support the opening last month of Rosie’s Village at NE 45th Street and Roosevelt Way, operated by the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), to serve many of our unsheltered neighbors in and around District 4.

If interested in volunteering, please email volunteer.program@lihi.org or visit https://lihi.org/get-involved/. With winter approaching, you can also spread some holiday cheer by donating meals, hygiene items, or clean socks, coats, hats, gloves, scarves, and more. Please contact community.outreach@lihi.org to donate. For to help those experiencing homelessness in Seattle, here is a list of other nonprofit volunteer opportunities from the Seattle Times: CLICK HERE.

Thank you and happy holidays!

Magnuson Park Murals:  Painting Seattle’s History of Flight

The next time you’re at Magnuson Park, check out their new History of Flight murals! This month I attended the unveiling of these brightly colored murals created by young artists, including several residents of Magnuson Park, under the guidance of local artist Sandy Bricel Miller. The paintings brighten the sides of the Old Gas Station (Building 41), which is located a couple of blocks inside the main entrance of Magnuson Park on NE 74th Street. For more information from our Parks Department, CLICK HERE.  For the Friends of Magnuson Park website, CLICK HERE.


BUDGET RECAP

Here are my remarks during final passage of the City Budget:

“Colleagues, as we know, the crafting of Seattle’s budget occurs during most of the calendar year, starting with proposals from each City department.  So I’d like to thank our Mayor, her department heads and their teams, and our City Budget Office under the leadership of Ben Noble. And, here in the legislative branch, many thanks also to our City Council Central Staff, our Information Technology Team, the City Clerks, the LA team in my office, and many others for their hard work under the deadlines of our rigorous Fall budget review process.  I’m especially grateful to our Budget Chair’s leadership and her grace in giving us the space to offer amendments and differences of opinion.

“As with all budgets that are crafted and amended by multiple teams with various perspectives and approaches, there are items that we and our constituents like (especially programs for those most in need in our Council districts) and there are items that we might NOT like (especially as we debate how best to fund public safety, increase accountability, and deploy some effective alternatives to our traditional emergency response systems). Regardless, we NEED a City budget approved and in place to keep our city government moving forward…Today I’ll be voting Yes.”

– Councilmember Alex Pedersen, November 22, 2021.

As should be expected with any budget, some of my amendments passed and some did not. Keep reading for a summary of my efforts for District 4 and Seattle. (Note: I also co-sponsored several amendments from my colleagues but, for brevity, I don’t list the co-sponsorships here.)

Community Health and Safety Amendments:

[*Note: the SPD figures moved around a bit as Budget Chair Mosqueda, thankfully, restored approximately $900,000 of the $1,300,000 expansion of the Community Service Officer program.]

Additional Thoughts on Police Budget:

Summary of table above: reductions since 2020 Adopted Budget for SPD: -$53,576,500 (-13%)

Fortunately, an effort to abrogate (delete) 101 vacant SPD positions failed last week. There were strong arguments made from both the proponents and opponents of that amendment. While it would have taken only 5 votes to delete those positions, it’s important to note that it would have taken 6 votes to restore them (or 7 votes if restored outside our normal Fall budget). We receive a staffing plan every 3 months from SPD and, with a new mayoral administration starting soon, it’s hard to predict how many officers we will have. So I believe deleting vacant positions would have been premature and might have conveyed the wrong message as a new Administration starts and we seek a permanent Police Chief.

Unfortunately, the budget adopted for SPD still lacked hiring incentives or additional retention incentives for our officers and detectives, which I believe are vital when over 300 officers and detectives have departed Seattle and 9-1-1 response times have increased.  (For more on this issue from a recent Seattle Times editorial, CLICK HERE.)

With 39 days left until the new administration begins, I look forward to collaborating with Mayor-elect Harrell and his team in reimagining policing and community safety in Seattle, which includes the most appropriate and effective responses to emergencies as well as proven “upstream” prevention programs.  As I have shared with you before, I believe the best path forward is to revamp the police union contract rather than cutting before alternatives are in place. The police union contract governs financial issues such as premium pay and the definition of overtime and crafting a better contract can also substantially strengthen accountability.

Bridge and Infrastructure Safety Amendments

  • Boldly boost investments in bridge safety to respond to City audit: bridge bonds to build back better! APPROVED.  A special thanks to Budget Chair Mosqueda for her collaboration and flexibility to get this done, knowing it has been a key priority of mine for over a year.
  1. SDOT-505-A-002-2022 is the Council Budget Action (CBA).
  2. Council Bill 120224 is the companion bill.

Good Government and Fiscal Responsibility Amendments

  • Optimize cybersecurity for our information technology and operational technology: MODIFIED.
  • Boost Legislative Department budget to enable increased oversight (co-sponsored): ACCEPTED
  • Add to City Auditor team to increase accountability & results with taxpayer investments (co-sponsor): REJECTED.

Equity and Environment Amendments

More For District 4

District 4 also won 4 Department of Neighborhood grants (from this year’s 2021 budget):

The Eli’s Park Project Teen Advisory Team stands in front of a mural they painted at the park (photo from Dept of Neighborhoods website).

Last week, the City of Seattle awarded $891,000 to support 21 community-initiated projects through Seattle Department of Neighborhoods’ Neighborhood Matching Fund (NMF). Here are the winners from District 4:

$50,000 to The Eli’s Park Project for Phase 4 of Burke Gilman Park Renovation.

$50,000 to Friends of Troll’s Knoll (shared with District 6) for Phase 2 of Troll’s Knoll Art and Design.

$38,000 to University Heights Center for Elevator Installation

$50,000 to Historic Seattle Preservation Foundation for Phase 1B of the Good Shepherd Center Seismic Retrofit

For the announcement of all the grants in Seattle, CLICK HERE.

Key Budget Links:

  • For a link to the Mayor’s proposed budget for 2022, CLICK HERE. For a helpful Powerpoint summary from her Budget Director, CLICK HERE. For a link to our recent Budget Town Hall video for District 4, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Budget Committee agenda from November 18, 2021 which contains most of the amendments to the Mayor’s proposed budget for 2022, CLICK HERE. For the final Budget Committee agenda from November 22, 2021 that included technical corrections, CLICK HERE. For the final budget agenda voted on by the full City Council on November 22, 2021, CLICK HERE.
  • For the press release issued by several of my Council colleagues, CLICK HERE.
  • For a Seattle Times summary of the final budget action by new City Hall beat reporter Sarah Grace Taylor, CLICK HERE.
  • For an interactive tool on the Council’s amendments to the Mayor’s proposal displaying which Councilmembers sponsored which amendments, CLICK HERE.

TRANSPORTATION AND UTILITIES COMMITTEE

Our next Committee meetings are Wednesday, December 1 and December 15 at 9:30 a.m.. For future agendas of all Council committees, CLICK HERE.

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims

November 21st was the “World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.” This solemn event and call to action were recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and throughout the nation. Here in Seattle, there were 26 traffic fatalities in 2019, 25 traffic fatalities in 2020, already 31 traffic fatalities in 2021.  By far, the largest percentage of traffic fatalities are not those who are driving, but rather those who are walking. In 2020, 14 of the 25 fatalities were pedestrians and, in 2021, 20 of the 31 fatalities were pedestrians.  Our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) points out that, in 2021, nearly 30% of people killed in a traffic crash were likely to be experiencing homelessness, which is a sharp increase as compared to only 12% in 2019 and 8% in 2020.  In Seattle, we continue to pursue the goal of Vision Zero which is to end traffic deaths and serious injuries on city streets by the Year 2030.  Despite increased efforts on a number of fronts by SDOT to increase safety infrastructure and other safety measures, the statistics here are grim and each fatality is a tragedy. The budget we approved for 2022 will add to the safety infrastructure for all modes of travel, with a focus on pedestrians who are most at risk.

Sound Transit seeks additional input on transit-oriented development near U District station

Earlier this year, Sound Transit asked for public comments on the future development of approximately 18,000 square feet of land near U District Station. Now, Sound Transit would like to share that initial feedback AND gather additional feedback to refine project goals. The site is currently leased to the City of Seattle at no cost for use as a temporary tiny house village (Rosie’s Village) while the property is prepared for permanent development.

The survey is available now through Nov 28. To learn more and complete the survey, CLICK HERE or visit bit.ly/UdistrictTOD. The survey is available in multiple languages.

Sound Transit recently opened new stations at U District, Roosevelt and Northgate. In 2022, Tacoma Link will expand to the Hilltop neighborhood. In 2023 trains will reach Mercer Island, Bellevue and the Overlake area. In 2024 Link light rail will expand to Federal Way, Lynnwood and Downtown Redmond.

Sound Transit is likely to seek a “vacation” (giving up) of the alley between the two parcels. For safety, I would want to make sure the Fire Department has no concerns about access for its emergency vehicles.I also believe the public benefit in exchange for vacating the alley should include maximizing the amount of “very low-income housing” (apartments serving households earning not more than 50% of area median income) and extremely low-income housing for formerly homeless inpiduals.

More information on Sound Transit’s transit-oriented development program is available at www.soundtransit.org/TOD.
Partner with the City to develop the Seattle Transportation Plan and Comprehensive Plan

The City of Seattle’s Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) want to partner with community-based organizations and small businesses to develop the Seattle transportation plan and the Seattle Comprehensive Plan Major Update.

To register for the upcoming sessions, CLICK HERE.

  • December 2, 6-7 PM: Information session 2
  • December 20, 2021, 4 PM: Proposals are due
  • January 2022 – Notice of award. 
  • January 2022- January 2023: Community engagement and plan development

For more information, CLICK HERE.

Help the Environment and Reduce Flooding — Adopt-a-Drain!

If you want to help keep a storm drain clear near your home or business, you can “Adopt a Drain.”  To learn how, CLICK HERE.


PUBLIC SAFETY

Take the Survey!

Seattle University is administering the 7th annual citywide Seattle Public Safety Survey, which is accessible at https://publicsafetysurvey.org/ from October 15th through November 30th and is available in Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, English, Korean, Oromo, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, Tigrinya, and Vietnamese. The purpose of the survey is to solicit feedback on public safety and security concerns from those who live and/or work in Seattle. A report on the survey results will be provided to the Seattle Police Department to help them better understand your neighborhood’s safety and security concerns. More information on the Seattle Public Safety Survey can be found at http://www.seattle.gov/police/information-and-data/mcpp-about.

Preparing for Winter Weather

Winter brings dangerous conditions, so let’s get prepared. Snow, ice, heavy winds, and cold temperatures make traveling difficult for buses, emergency vehicles, and you. Winter weather puts people experiencing health problems and homelessness at greater risk. Plus, cold temperatures can cause pipes to freeze and burst.

For tips, view our City of Seattle Winter Weather web page, which brings together important information from multiple departments.

If power goes out in your area, you can report the outage by calling (206) 684-3000. You can also view the status with our outage map.  For flooding and ponding issues, sewer backups, sewer overflows or blocked culvert or creeks, call the Seattle Public Utilities Operations Response Center 24/7 at (206) 386-1800.  Stay away from downed power lines and report them by calling 9-1-1.

Sign up for AlertSeattle. If you’re not registered to receive alerts, signing up is quick and easy! Simply visit Alert.Seattle.gov and click Sign Up to Receive Emergency Alerts, or text the word SEATTLE to 67283 to instantly receive text message alerts from AlertSeattle.


COMBATING COVID

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recently approved vaccine boosters for everyone over 18 years of age. For more info, CLICK HERE.

  • To register to receive the vaccine or booster in Seattle, CLICK HERE. Information is also available in Amharic, Chinese, Korean, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
  • For the most recent information on combatting COVID from King County Public Health, CLICK HERE.

More details below:

Free Vaccinations & Boosters

Free COVID-19 vaccinations are currently available regardless of insurance, citizenship, or immigration status. Booster doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for some people. Learn who is eligible to get a booster shot at kingcounty.gov/covid/vaccine.

The City of Seattle and partners are offering free and accessible first, second, and/or booster doses at hubs across Seattle. Learn more at seattle.gov/vaccine. Visit Public Health – Seattle & King County for additional vaccination locations or consult with your primary care provider, if you have one.

Vaccination Verification

King County requires vaccination verification for everyone 12 years of age and older. You must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, a negative PCR COVID-19 test in the last 72 hours, or a negative rapid test result conducted on site in order to attend outdoor events of 500 or more people, indoor recreational events, or establishments, restaurants, and bars.

The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has put together a Vaccine Verification Toolkit that provides businesses with resources to comply with King County’s new vaccine verification order.

Mask requirements

In Washington state, everyone 5 years of age and older, regardless of vaccination status, is  required to wear a mask in public indoor spaces, at outdoor events with 500 or more people, and in outdoor public places when six feet of distance is not possible.

Testing

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, get a free test, with or without an appointment, regardless of immigration or insurance status.

Need help?

If you need language interpretation, help finding a vaccination or testing site, or ADA accommodation, call the King County COVID-19 Call Center at (206) 477-3977, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Updates

The Small Business Administration announced the following major enhancements to the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.

  • Increasing the COVID EIDL Cap. The SBA will lift the COVID EIDL cap from $500,000 to $2 million. Loan funds can be used for any normal operating expenses and working capital, including payroll, purchasing equipment, and paying debt.
  • Implementation of a Deferred Payment Period. The SBA will ensure small business owners will not have to begin COVID EIDL repayment until two years after loan origination so that they can get through the pandemic without having to worry about making ends meet.
  • Establishment of a 30-Day Exclusivity Window. To ensure main street businesses have additional time to access these funds, the SBA will implement a 30-day exclusivity window of approving and disbursing funds for loans of $500,000 or less. Approval and disbursement of loans over $500,000 will begin after the 30-day period.
  • Expansion of Eligible Use of Funds. COVID EIDL funds will now be eligible to prepay commercial debt and make payments on federal business debt.
  • Simplification of affiliation requirements. To ease the COVID EIDL application process for small businesses, the SBA has established more simplified affiliation requirements to model those of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

EIDL applications will close Dec. 31, 2021. Don’t wait, apply while funds are still available!

Need help applying or ADA/language accommodations? OED provides free technical assistance to businesses applying for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, please email OED@seattle.gov or call (206) 684-8090.

Shop to the Beat: musicians and small biz unite for the holidays

Are you a small retail business interested in having a free performance at your location? Shop to the Beat is a new recovery program created to support small businesses, local musicians and neighborhood business areas throughout the city. This program will match musicians and small retail businesses to provide in-store performances during peak hours, help increase foot traffic and sales for retailers, and provide competitive pay for musicians who were significantly impacted by the pandemic.

  • Small retail businesses interested in hosting a free performance can submit a short Shop to the Beat Application to share their contact information and music preferences by 12/17.
  • Local musicians interested in participating this holiday season can register with our partner at Gigs4U website by 12/17. Please enter the following referral code: S2B.

Visit the Shop to the Beat website for more information and to apply by 12/17!


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

Listening: Even though City Council is not currently holding meetings in person in order to follow public health guidelines, you can still follow along by listening on your computer or phone by CLICKING HERE. You can also listen on your phone by calling 253-215-8782.

Commenting: You can also submit public comment by sending an e-mail to me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov or to all 9 Councilmembers at council@seattle.gov. Please remember to add “For City Council Meeting” in the comments. Now you can also phone into the meeting to speak directly to the Council live. For the instructions on how to register and call in, CLICK HERE. Sign up begins two hours prior to the meeting start time.

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

I continue to schedule virtual in-district office hours, so we can chat by telephone or via Webex. Please continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests. You can also just send an e-mail to alex.pedersen@seattle.gov

For previous e-newsletters, visit my blog by CLICKING HERE.

We are getting through this together, Seattle!

With gratitude,

 

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

Email: Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov
Find It, Fix It

 


New Funding Option to Increase Protection of Seattle’s Aging Bridges

November 13th, 2021
The University Bridge that connects the U District and Eastlake in District 4 was among the bridges ranked in “poor” condition along with the Magnolia Bridge, 2nd Avenue South extension, and the Fairview Avenue Bridge (which is being reconstructed).
Photo: by SounderBruce on Wikipedia

November 13, 2021 Update:

Our aging University Bridge remained stuck in an upright position November 12 and 13, 2021. The Seattle Department of Transportation reported electrical problems with the drawbridge. (photo by Councilmember Pedersen)

Statement by Seattle Councilmember Alex Pedersen on the Malfunctioning and Closure of the Multimodal University Bridge:

 “After the devastating closure of the West Seattle Bridge and the citywide audit of bridges I ordered last year, City Hall should not need additional evidence to do more for bridge safety,  but I’m hopeful the sudden two-day closure of the University Bridge – blocking  buses, freight, commuters, bikes, pedestrians, and emergency vehicles — finally propels our Seattle Department of Transportation to expedite how it addresses our aging bridge infrastructure. After a year of debate and delay to prioritize Seattle’s bridge network, I’m eager to have a majority of City Council finally approve later this month my long-standing proposal to authorize a boost of funds needed to fix our aging bridges. I want to thank the workers who have been struggling to repair and reopen another broken bridge and to urge all City leaders to give them the help they need to do their jobs to keep all Seattle bridges safe and secure.” 

For the Council Budget Action for the $100 million in bonds (SDOT-505-A-001), CLICK HERE. For the companion legislation (Council Bill 120224), CLICK HERE.

For SDOT’s explanation of the recent malfunctioning of the University Bridge, CLICK HERE.

For Seattle Times coverage, CLICK HERE and HERE, and HERE.

For my November 16, 2021 interview with King 5 News on the University Bridge, CLICK HERE.


November 2, 2021 Update:

Labor Leaders Join Growing Majority of City Council to Bolster Bridge Safety and Boost Jobs

Councilmembers Pedersen, Herbold, Lewis, Strauss Sponsor Budget Amendment to Authorize Bonds for Faster Investments to Strengthen Infrastructure Connecting Communities and Keeping our Economy Moving 

SEATTLE, WA – To bolster bridge safety and boost jobs as Seattle builds back better from the COVID pandemic’s economic slump, labor leaders have voiced their support for new efforts by Councilmembers Alex PedersenLisa HerboldDebora JuarezAndrew J. Lewis, and Dan Strauss to generate $100 million in bonds to help fix Seattle’s aging bridges. 

Councilmembers signed on to co-sponsor the amendment during a public Budget Committee meeting October 28, which resulted in majority support. Over the weekend, labor leaders, who have encouraged similar investments during the past year, affirmed their support for this renewed effort to expedite investments in bridge infrastructure safety: 

Billy Hetherington, Political Director for Laborers Local 242, added, “We know that in this world of COVID-19, the movement of goods and services have been essential to our daily lives as we try our best to work from home and social distance from our fellow citizens. We have seen the impacts a shutdown of a major bridge can have on the lives of Seattle’s residents. The Auditor’s report calls for $34 million to $100 million to adequately fund the preservation of SDOT’s bridge infrastructure, so this amendment is needed to address the backlog faster. Fixing our roads and bridges, throughout the region, has been overlooked for decades so I am happy to see Councilmembers making a stand to show this is a priority now.” 

Heather Kurtenbach, Political Director for Ironworkers Local 86, said, “Seattle’s bridges are in need of extra care and attention. Leveraging budget funds into bonds will allow the city to make a bigger and bolder investment in our bridges without delay.” 

Pedro Espinoza of Pacific NW Regional Council of Carpenters said, “May 23, 2013, was a perfect example of how bridge closures can impact our lives: a span of the bridge carrying Interstate 5 over the Skagit River collapsed, severely impacting the movement of Washington State goods and services. We need more funding to fix our bridges in order to avoid events like this in the future.” 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen, Chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee said, “In a city carved by waterways and ravines, we rely on bridges to support all modes of transportation that connect us and keep our economy moving. After the West Seattle bridge closure, our bridge audit confirmed many other Seattle bridges in poor condition due to age and underinvestment. To build back better after the COVID crisis, we should accelerate the fixing of our city’s aging bridges not only to improve safety but also to encourage additional living wage jobs. Issuing bonds enables us to generate the maximum resources needed to tackle a backlog of safety repairs and create construction job opportunities. Kicking the can down the road risks missing the opportunity to lock in today’s historically low interest rates and could end up costing more in the long run. With the entire City budget in our hands now, we have the flexibility to leverage a modest investment to go big on bridges for safety and jobs now.” 

Councilmember Dan Strauss, as Chair of the City’s Land Use Committee and Vice Chair of the Transportation Committee said, “Our backlog in bridge repair, maintenance, and replacement will require hundreds of millions of dollars and issuing bonds will give us the immediate financial capacity to make our bridges safer and more resilient. It is imperative we invest in our infrastructure to avoid preventable emergencies that could impact the safety and health of our residents and the movement of people and goods. For this to be successful we need to identify an appropriate revenue source for the bonds, and to have a shovel-ready project list in-hand for us to get to work on. We need projects to be shovel ready, so we don’t pay interest on bonds for work that isn’t ready to begin, and we need to take advantage of historically low interest rates – so let’s get going!”

Despite support from construction labor unions and bridge safety advocates, the Council became divided over previous efforts to bond for bridges as it tried to synthesize a variety of input on how best to invest just $7 million in new revenue it created from Vehicle License Fees. Some Councilmembers said they wanted to wait until the comprehensive Fall budget process, which is occurring now. The fiscal landscape has, in fact, widened because Council has before it the entire $7 billion budget proposal from the mayor, which includes $1.6 billion in flexible General Fund dollars. The proposed 2022 budget for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is $718 million, an increase from last year, which includes both operating and capital spending.  In addition to the varied sources of funds available to leverage the bonds, the Council could also raise the Commercial Parking Tax and/or take advantage of a forthcoming revenue forecast update which is likely to show an increase in funds available.  

Here is the current title of the proposed budget amendment:  “Amend and pass as amended CB 120198 to issue an additional approximate $100 million of LTGO bonds in 2022; add $100 million of LTGO bond proceeds to SDOT bridge-related CIP projects; and add $3.1 million of Transportation Fund to SDOT for debt service” 

This budget amendment for bridge bonds, if incorporated by the Budget Chair into her rebalancing package or added by a majority of Councilmembers on November 12 per the budget calendar, would piggyback onto Council Bill 120198. That budget bill would authorize the Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) to issue 2022 limited tax general obligation (LTGO) bonds for several projects already.  

This budget amendment for bridge bonds would revise Exhibit A (Description of 2022 Projects) to CB 120198 to add approximately $103 million. While the exact list of bridges targeted for this investment is still being finalized, bridge safety improvements could include: 

(1) add Bridge Seismic – Phase III: $61,000,000 

(2) add Bridge Rehabilitation and Replacement – Phase II and other line item: $29,500,000 

(3) add Structures Major Maintenance: $9,500,000 

(1) $61 million for Bridge Seismic – Phase III (MC-TR-C008). While still relying on State and federal contributions for safety improvements and future planning, this funding could support seismic upgrades or other improvements to the Ballard Bridge ($32 million) and the Fremont Bridge ($29 million) that are no longer being funded through the Move Seattle Levy.   

(2) $23.5 million for Bridge Rehabilitation and Replacement – Phase II (MC-TR-C039).  This funding could support rehabilitation of the Fauntleroy Expressway ($6.7 million), Spokane Street Swing Bridge Hydraulic Overhaul ($5.1 million), Magnolia Bridge Structural Rehabilitation ($5.5 million), and University Bridge Rehabilitation ($6.2 million).  These projects were identified in SDOT’s response to Section 4 of ORD 126327, which requested that SDOT provide a list of projects eligible for bond financing. In addition, $6 million for Magnolia Bridge Replacement Project (MC-TR-C083) to support a type, size, and location study for the Magnolia Bridge, the eventual replacement of which would need to be funded by other means.  

(3) $9.5 million for Structures Major Maintenance (MC-TR-C112).  The Council created this project in the 2021 Adopted Budget in response to the City Auditor’s 2020 report on SDOT bridge maintenance. The mayor’s proposed budget would allocate approximately $17 million for bridge maintenance, so this would boost the amount so that it’s closer to the minimum recommendation of the City Auditor.  

The goal would be to tackle long-delayed projects, including bridge projects promised to voters who approved the Move Seattle Levy in 2015. In addition, Seattle would want investments to supplement, rather than replace funds, to maximize the leveraging of State and Federal dollars.  

Interest rates on the most recently issued bonds were under 2.0% but, out of an abundance of caution and to be consistent with other estimates, City Council Central Staff is using an interest rate of 4.0% as a placeholder for the 20-year bonds. This bridge bond amendment would authorize up to $3.1 million of Transportation Funds to SDOT for interest-only debt service in 2022, assuming nine months of interest accruing in the issuing year. If issued at a 4.0 percent interest rate, and with repayment of principal beginning in 2023, the City would be obligated to fund approximately $7.6 million of debt service annually in future budgets for the duration of the 20-year term. Using a 2% rate, the City would be pay approximately $25 million of total interest over the life of the bonds or, with a 4% rate, the City would pay approximately $50 million of total interest over the life of the bonds.  

While there is a cost of interest when issuing bonds (just as there is an interest cost when taking out a mortgage to buy a house), thanks to the time value of money, the $100 million received today to address Seattle’s immediate infrastructure needs could be worth more than $100 million trickling out over 20 years because relatively low interest rates would be locked in place for a period of 20 years. Delaying the issuance of the bonds could end up costing more if future interest rates rise. Moreover, bonding provides a large sum upfront to obtain more of what we need for our city’s infrastructure when we need it – now.  

As the Seattle Times editorial board noted last week, “City Hall has a history of kicking the can down the road…The Seattle City Council ought to end this practice, and get to work on appropriately funding vital infrastructure once and for all.”    

# # # 


May 10, 2021 Update:

The full City Council adopted Council Bill 120042 as we had amended it in my Transportation Committee. The Seattle Times requested a statement from me and here is what I provided:

The legislation we adopted today is a strong step toward stronger bridges and can boost the aging infrastructure that connects our communities and keeps our economy moving. The sudden closure of the West Seattle Bridge and the audit of all bridges I ordered last year should be a wake-up call for everyone who cares about mobility for all modes of transportation. Our bridges are not going to fix themselves – we need to stop kicking the can down the road and instead think bigger and bolder to build back better with bonds as we emerge from the COVID pandemic. I look forward to our Seattle Department of Transportation stepping up to produce the information my colleagues and I unanimously requested so that we have concrete options to issue bonds to produce the tens of millions of dollars for our city’s bridges and other aging infrastructure important to buses, freight, and other modes of transportation.”


May 5, 2021 Update:

Our Transportation Committee unanimously passed Council Bill 120042 which invests the new dollars from the additional $20 in vehicle license fees (VLF) for 2021 (annualized amount would be approximately $7 million). But first we amended our original amendment on potentially issuing bonds to generate $100 million to accelerate the fixing of our City’s aging infrastructure, including our multi-modal bridge network. The final amendment not only increased flexibility by removing some of the more rigid language from the original amendment, but also requires additional info on the timing of projects from SDOT when they deliver their $100 million list of capital projects to the Council in September. For the final amendment that passed, CLICK HERE. For a Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE, though please note that the Council is actually making final decisions as part of our 2021 Fall budget process (which will impact 2022). This enables a more holistic approach so that both SDOT and the City Council can consider the recent feedback from stakeholders within the context of SDOT’s entire $600-$700 million annual budget (including potential bonds) rather than just isolating the small $7 million from the VLF.

Here are my prepared remarks from the Committee discussion: “Thank you for bringing forward this amendment, which I consider as friendly toward our overall efforts to punctuate the priority of Seattle’s aging infrastructure. I am pleased to have a collaborative legislative process among Councilmembers whenever possible so we ultimately build out transportation priorities we all can support. Incorporating ANY amendment to SDOT’s plan that prioritizes Seattle’s aging infrastructure and considers how to leverage more money faster is a strong step toward stronger bridges, so that we can address the alarming audit of our bridges. I think this revised amendment still successfully intensifies our commitment toward the safety and sustainability of multimodal bridges that connect our communities and keep our economy moving. I look forward to making sure SDOT follows through on the recommendations from our City Auditor and gets bridge projects ready faster, so we can take advantage of federal dollars and finally address the dangerous backlog for our bridges that we rely on to connect our communities and keep our economy moving.”


April 21 and 26, 2021 Update:

Our Transportation Committee heard SDOT’s proposal (CB 120042) for how to spend $7 million a year of the newly approved Vehicle License Fees, while several Councilmembers supporting a bolder leveraging of those dollars to generate $100 million to boost our infrastructure had an opportunity to present our amendment. During the Committee meeting, Councilmember Debora Juarez announced her support for our bonding amendment and joined us as a co-sponsor.

The Seattle Times editorial board recently endorsed our infrastructure amendment! CLICK HERE.

Nicole Grant, the head of the MLK Labor Council, announced her support for the $100 million in bonds at our Transportation Committee, adding her strong voice to the many labor unions who joined us in the original press release.

Nicole Grant, the head of MLK Labor told our Transportation Committee April 21, “I want to weigh in in favor of the bonding to fund our bridges here in the city of Seattle. I know it’s expensive; it’s among the prices we pay for having a beautiful city full of hills and waterways. It’s not something we can ignore. We are lucky also to have the best Targeted Local Hire policy in the country to make sure that the employment to repair / to replace this infrastructure gives back to the community and hires people that could really use a strong career advantage — including formerly incarcerated workers — and to make sure that everybody has health insurance for their family and apprenticeship to learn a skill that’s going to last their whole life. So support it, I think it’s a good decision, a good use of the money. Thank you.” 


April 19, 2021 Update:

PRESS RELEASE:

Councilmembers Pedersen, Herbold, Lewis, Mosqueda Propose $100 Million in Bonds for Multimodal Bridges and Other Transportation Infrastructure Needs to Create Jobs Sooner by Leveraging the New $20 Vehicle License Fee

SEATTLE, WA – To boost jobs as Seattle emerges from the COVID pandemic’s economic recession, Councilmembers Alex Pedersen, Lisa Herbold, Andrew J. Lewis, and Teresa Mosqueda are proposing $100 million in bonds to fix our aging multimodal bridges and modernize transportation infrastructure in 2022, after implementing the Seattle Department of Transportation’s spending plan for the additional $20 Vehicle License Fees for 2021.

The Councilmembers issued this joint statement: “We appreciate the Seattle Department of Transportation convening community partners to offer ways to invest the expected funds from the $20 vehicle license fee authorized by the City Council. They have crafted a thoughtful 2021 spending plan that we should implement immediately. At this critical juncture, when we seek to build back better after the Covid-19 crisis, we must also think bigger and bolder with this opportunity. We should supercharge the VLF dollars by financing $100 million in bonds in 2022 and take on the too-long-delayed task of fixing our city’s aging multimodal bridges and modernizing Seattle’s transportation infrastructure while creating good, living wage jobs. Our bridge audit showed so many bridges in poor condition and illustrated the economic benefits of frontloading government resources. By leveraging these dollars we can finally commit to a strategy of significant timely investments rather than piecemeal fixes. In a city carved by waterways and ravines, we rely on bridges to support all modes of transportation that connect us and keep our economy moving. We have a duty to stop kicking the can down the road, and now we have an opportunity to go bigger and bolder to build back better.”

The Councilmembers are introducing an important amendment to SDOT’s bill (Council Bill 120042) to fund the stakeholder plan for 2021 and then to generate $100 million in 2022, with at least 75% of the bonds going to fix multimodal bridges. The rest of the funds can be used to leverage other federal or state dollars for other transportation infrastructure such as those proposed in SDOT’s spending plan.

A coalition of construction labor unions support the amendment.

Billy Hetherington, Political Director for Laborers Local 242, added, “We know that in this world of COVID-19, the movement of goods and services have been essential to our daily lives as we try our best to work from home and social distance from our fellow citizens. We have seen the impacts a shutdown of a major bridge can have on the lives of Seattle’s residents. The West Seattle bridge is nowhere near the oldest in the city nor was it considered in “Poor” condition at the time of its shutdown. The Auditor’s reports calls for $34 million to $100 million to adequately fund the preservation of SDOT’s bridge infrastructure, so this amendment is needed to address the backlog faster. Fixing our roads and bridges, throughout the region, has been overlooked for decades so I am happy to see Councilmembers making a stand to show this is a priority now.”

Pedro Espinoza of Pacific NW Regional Council of Carpenters said, “May 23, 2013, was a perfect example of how bridge closures can impact our lives: a span of the bridge carrying Interstate 5 over the Skagit River collapsed, severely impacting the movement of Washington State goods and services. We need more funding to fix our bridges in order to avoid events like this in the future.”

Heather Kurtenbach, Political Director for Ironworkers Local 86, said, “Seattle’s bridges are in need of extra care and attention. Leveraging the funds from Vehicle Licensing Fees will allow the city to make a bigger and bolder investment in our bridges without delay.”

Local business leaders also support the amendment. Executive Director Erin Goodman of the SODO Business Improvement Area said, “SODO is the industrial heart of Seattle, and during COVID-19 we have seen how many essential businesses are located here including food and supply distribution, PPE manufacturing, and more vital activities. Increased funding to fix our bridges now is necessary to support these essential businesses and their operations throughout our region.

Most drivers were previously paying $80 for their annual VLF, but that decreased briefly to $20 until City Council adopted this new $20 for a total of $40. The additional $20 (which drivers will start paying this July) is expected to generate $3.6 million in 2021 and $7.2 million in 2022 and each year thereafter.  A City Council spending plan was delayed until after more stakeholder engagement.  Bonding has several advantages over SDOT’s current plan. Rather than allocating the funds in several small pieces each year over several years, bonding will provide a large sum upfront to obtain more of what we need for our city’s infrastructure when we need it – now. Bonding should also protect the VLF from future attempts to cancel the fee, because those future dollars will be encumbered upfront.

In addition to the dollars needed to restore the West Seattle High Bridge, Seattle’s aging bridges have the following immediate needs:

  •   $20 million to $88 million more annually for bridge maintenance. (Annual maintenance needed is $34 million to $102 million, per the City Auditor’s report on bridges. Mayor Durkan’s proposed budget for 2021 provided only $10 million among four line items and Council increased it to $14 million.) Bridges ranked poor by the audit include the 2nd Avenue South extension bridge.
  •  $8 million for our City’s older bridges that have aging moveable parts (such as the University, Ballard, Fremont, and Spokane bridges). When draw bridges / bascule bridges / swing bridges get stuck, they prevent all modes of transportation — including buses and bikes — which could impede Seattle’s fragile economic recovery.
  • Millions to start the seismic retrofits of 16 Seattle bridges, including $32 million for Ballard, $29 million for Fremont, and millions to seismically upgrade the 100-year old University Bridge.
  •  Millions to replace the 90-year-old Magnolia Bridge, which is part of the Ballard-Interbay Regional Transportation (BIRT) corridor.

The Seattle City Council approved the $20 vehicle license fee as part of its fall budget process. At the time, Councilmembers Pedersen, Herbold and Lewis proposed legislation (supported by Councilmember Juarez) to use Vehicle Licensing Fees to boost maintenance of multimodal bridges throughout Seattle. An amendment narrowly adopted by other Councilmembers in November 2020 directed SDOT to establish a stakeholder process to recommend ideas for spending the funds. Since that time, there have additional reports of immediate needs for bridges and confirmation that issuing bonds would be possible to create jobs.

Assuming an interest rate of 3.5% fully amortized over 20 years, the approximately $7 million in VLF annually will support the issuance of bonds totaling at least $100 million.

The Seattle City Council will consider and ultimately pass a spending plan over the coming weeks, with legislation going through its Transportation and Utilities Committee. The first briefing on the spending plan is planned for April 21, 2021. 

Media coverage:

# # #


December 21, 2020 Update:

Today’s Seattle Times article on the costs to make earthquake-resistant improvements to Seattle’s bridges is additional evidence that the 4 Councilmembers (Pedersen, Herbold, Juarez, Lewis) who voted to immediately designate these additional dollars for bridge maintenance were correct: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/seattle-scales-back-earthquake-work-on-city-bridges-as-costs-soar/

From the article: “After promising Seattle voters [in 2015] that the city would reinforce 16 bridges to better withstand earthquakes, the Seattle Department of Transportation now says that work would cost hundreds of millions of dollars more than once expected. Instead of 16 bridges, the city plans to complete seismic retrofits on 11, leaving notable and costly locations like the Ballard and Fremont bridges off the list. Costs for some bridges increased by several million dollars, like a span along 15th Avenue in Ballard now set to cost about $5 million instead of $1 million. Other estimates rose by far more...”

Councilmembers who voted against designating the funds immediately for bridges were Gonzalez, Morales, Mosqueda, Sawant, and Strauss. As the 5-person majority, they unfortunately prevailed to delay that decision.


November 19, 2020 Update:

The reasonable decision this week by our Mayor to repair and maintain the existing West Seattle bridge underscores the need for more steady funding for bridge maintenance throughout Seattle to honor our recent audit of bridges. We could have secured an immediate and dedicated source for bridge maintenance if a majority of the Council had supported this week the decisive proposal that Councilmembers Herbold, Lewis, and I advanced with the support of Councilmember Juarez. Despite the disappointing 5 to 4 vote to delay a decision on funding more bridge maintenance, I am hopeful the additional process will lead to a robust increase in funding for bridge safety from several sources, which would benefit all modes of travel and keep our economy moving.

  • For the Seattle Times coverage of the City Council vote, CLICK HERE.
  • For a Seattle Times editorial criticizing my colleagues’ disappointing decision to delay my proposal for immediate bridge maintenance funding, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Council Bill 119951, CLICK HERE. Please note that the Council’s Legistar system is limited in that it does NOT display all amendment votes; therefore, the unfortunate (yet pivotal) 5 to 4 vote to reject investing the funds directly into bridges (Council Budget Action BLG-042-A-001) and to delay the decision on how to spend the money (Council Budget Action BLG-042-B-001) after consulting advocacy groups can be found only by watching the November 18, 2020 Budget Committee meeting on Seattle Channel (start at 1:18).

November 13 and November 17, 2020:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We have an important opportunity during the remaining week of our annual budget process to support our city’s bridge infrastructure. Our Budget Committee is meeting again November 18 and 19.

In a city defined by its many waterways and ravines, our bridges connect us and we must ensure they are maintained to stay safe and strong. Vital for all modes of travel and our regional economy, bridges require ample maintenance not only to ensure they remain safe but also to avoid costly and disruptive shutdowns and replacements.

The recent independent audit of Seattle’s bridges proves city government must do a better job investing in this basic infrastructure, including bridges that serve public transit. The audit concluded that our city government has been substantially under-investing in the maintenance of our bridges. The result of underfunding our bridge infrastructure increases the risk of harm and disruption — failing to invest at adequate levels today means taxpayers might have to bear even larger replacement costs later. Pay now or pay more later. The sudden closure of the West Seattle Bridge should be a wake up call that we must take care of our city’s infrastructure to keep our residents and our local economy moving.

During our budget deliberations in November, City Council received broad input from residents, business leaders, and labor unions (including Laborers, Carpenters, and Ironworkers) calling for more maintenance of our vital bridges.

While the Mayor’s budget team worked hard to preserve the amount of spending for bridge maintenance despite budget deficits, we should do more as additional funding options become available.

For both 2020 and the Mayor’s proposed 2021 budget, the bridge maintenance items identified by the City Auditor total approximately $12 million, though approximately $2 million is for reimbursable work on other projects resulting in a current net investment of only $10 million.

To achieve the increased spending levels for bridge maintenance recommended by the City Auditor’s 2020 report, Councilmembers Pedersen, Herbold, and Lewis proposed adding $24 million to the 2021 budget (“Form B”: Council Budget Action SDOT-008-A-001) which gained initial support from Councilmembers Juarez, Sawant, and Strauss on October 30, 2020.

The $24 million increase for bridge maintenance would have achieved a total of $34 million for 2021, which is still on the low-end of the City Auditor’s recommendation of $34 million to $102 million annually (equivalent to 1% to 3% of total replacement costs).

While the Budget Chair’s balancing package was able to restore or fund several transportation projects including those for transit, pedestrians, and bikes, it added only $4 million from the $24 million request for bridge maintenance.

More funding options are needed now to address the bridge maintenance gap with the urgency it deserves.

Vehicle License Fees (VLF) (a.k.a. car tabs)

Thanks to the Supreme Court overturning the harmful Initiative 976, the City Council now has the flexibility to adjust the Vehicle License Fee (VLF) to $40 as authorized by RCW 36.73.065 and RCW 82.80.140. While residents currently pay $80 which would otherwise drop to $20 in 2021, the RCW permits the Council to “increase” it by another $20 (for a total of $40) in 2021. 

Councilmembers Alex Pedersen (Chair Council’s Transportation Committee), Lisa Herbold (West Seattle) and Andrew Lewis (downtown, Queen Anne, Magnolia) have introduced Council Bill 119951 to adjust the vehicle license fee to $40. (Residents currently pay $80 for the city portion each year, but it is scheduled to drop to $20.)

or at least 2021, the additional vehicle license proceeds can be focused on the maintenance of Seattle bridges that support high-capacity transit or multiple modes of travel with a focus on our Frequent Transit Network.

Underfunding our bridge infrastructure increases the risk of harm and ends up costing taxpayers more later, so let’s listen to the independent audit and increase bridge maintenance now to keep our people and economy moving,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen, Chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee.

The impending decision whether to repair or replace the West Seattle Bridge highlights the importance of ongoing investment in maintenance of Seattle’s bridges,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold (West Seattle). “Bridges are critical not only to residents and local businesses, but also to our regional economy.”

District 7 is stitched together by bridges we depend on for reliable bus service and freight mobility for our working waterfront,” said Councilmember Andrew Lewis (downtown, Queen Anne, Magnolia). We need to step up our commitment to this critical infrastructure.”

To read their press release from Nov 13, 2020, CLICK HERE.

The adjustment of the underlying vehicle license fee (VLF) to $40, if adopted by the City Council, is anticipated to raise an additional $3.6 million in 2021, and an additional $7.2 million in subsequent years. (The difference in amounts is explained by the fact that it will take the Washington State Department of Licenses six months to update the new fee in 2021.) Therefore, the additional $20 VLF ($3.6 million in 2021) could nearly double the Council’s additive investment to $8 million for 2021, with more dollars available in later years. That would bring the grand total for 2021 bridge maintenance to nearly $18 million for 2021.

Seattle will need additional sources of revenue to support our network of aging bridges, but dedicating a portion of additional Vehicle License Fees is an immediate downpayment that responds to the time-sensitive concerns raised by the recent bridge audit.

To support our environment and address climate change, it is also critical to continue to prioritize transit and related projects that ensure the reliability of transit:

  • We are thankful to Seattle voters for approving Seattle Proposition 1 in November 2020 to authorize a six-year 0.15% sales tax for the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD), which focuses on supplementing the bus service from King County Metro as well as providing free transit passes for those most in need.
  • IN ADDITION TO that new 6-year STBD measure (approximately $30 million in 2021 increasing to $41 million in 2022), the City Council Budget Chair was able to work with colleagues to restore funding for several transit/bike/ped projects for 2021.
  • IN ADDITION, there are still over $23 million in reserves remaining for transit from the 2014 STBD measure, all of which will benefit from input from the Transit Advisory Board.
  • IN ADDITION, our proposal for the VLF for bridge maintenance will focus on bridges serving our Frequent Transit Network.

Billy Hetherington, Political Director for Laborers Local 242, said “We know that in this world of COVID-19, the movement of goods and services have been essential to our daily lives as we try our best to work from home and social distance from our fellow citizens. We have seen the impacts a shutdown of a major bridge can have on the lives of Seattle’s residents. The West Seattle bridge is nowhere near the oldest in the city nor was it considered in “Poor” condition at the time of its shutdown. The Auditor’s reports calls for $34 to $100 million to adequately fund the preservation of SDOT’s bridge infrastructure, so this measure represents the bare minimum. Preservation and maintenance of our roads and bridges, throughout the state, has been overlooked for decades so I am happy to see Councilmembers making a stand to show this is a priority moving forward.”

Heather Kurtenbach, Political Director for Ironworkers Local 86, said, “Seattle’s bridges are in need of extra care and attention. Using funds from Vehicle Licensing Fees will allow the city to begin reinvesting in the maintenance of our bridges.”

Pedro Espinoza of Pacific NW Regional Council of Carpenters said, “May 23, 2013, was a perfect example of how bridge closures can impact our lives. A span of the bridge carrying Interstate 5 over the Skagit River collapsed, severely impacting the movement of Washington State goods and services. We need more funding for bridge maintenance in order to avoid events like this in the future.”

Erin Goodman Executive Director of the SODO Business Improvement Area said, “SODO is the industrial heart of Seattle, and during COVID-19 we have seen how many essential businesses are located here including food and supply distribution, PPE manufacturing, and more vital activities. Increased funding for bridge maintenance is necessary to support these essential businesses and their operations throughout our region.”

Background: 

  • The specific budget line items identified by the City Auditor as “bridge maintenance” include Bridge Load Rating (capital), Bridge Painting (capital), Bridge Structures Engineering (operating), and Bridget Structure Maintenance (operating). It may make sense to add a new line item for Structures (for capital improvements).
  • Chapter 36.73 RCW provides for the establishment of Transportation Benefit Districts (TBD) by cities and counties and to levy and impose various taxes and fees to generate revenues to support transportation improvements within the TBD. In 2010, the City Council passed Ordinance 123397 which established the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (“District”). The District imposed an initial vehicle license fee of $20 pursuant to RCW 36.73.065 by adopting Seattle Transportation Benefit District Resolution 1.
  • In 2014, Seattle voters approved Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1, which imposed an additional $60 vehicle license fee pursuant to RCW 36.73.065 and resulted in a combined vehicle license fee of $80. In 2016, the City Council passed Ordinance 125070 which absorbed the Seattle Transportation Benefit District, and vested the City Council with the District’s duties and authority, including the authority to collect a $20 vehicle license fee and the voter-approved $60 vehicle license fee. The voter-approved $60 vehicle license fee expires on December 31, 2020.
  • The needs for improvement, maintenance, and protection of public ways within the boundaries of Seattle’s Transportation Benefit District have grown, as evidenced by the Seattle Department of Transportation’s shut down of the West Seattle Bridge in March 2020 for public safety and the City Auditor’s 2020 report on bridge maintenance.
  • For 2021, the additional vehicle license proceeds could be used for maintenance activities on Seattle bridges that support high-capacity transit or multiple modes of travel, specifically bridges serving our Frequent Transit Network (see map below). Bridges support all modes of travel. For those who are concerned that bridges are “car-centric,” all the more reason that car drivers should help to pay for added maintenance through the car tabs (vehicle license fees).

More about the Bridge Audit Results:

The Ballard Bridge needs work.
Magnolia Bridge, another bridge ranked by the 2020 Audit as “poor.”
West Seattle “High” Bridge: The sudden closure of the West Seattle “High” Bridge in March 2020 has been a major challenge. This is infrastructure is vital not only to the 100,000 people of West Seattle but also to the entire region, especially as it impacts the economic engine that is the Port of Seattle.
The University Bridge that connects the U District and Eastlake in District 4 was among the bridges ranked in “poor” condition along with the Magnolia Bridge, 2nd Avenue South extension, and the Fairview Avenue Bridge (which is being reconstructed). Photo: by SounderBruce on Wikipedia

In a city defined by its many waterways, our bridges connect us and this audit report proves city government must do a better job investing in this basic infrastructure,” said Transportation Chair Pedersen who requested the citywide bridge audit. “Vital for transit, freight and our regional economy, bridges require relatively large investments to build and maintain to ensure they remain safe for generations. I requested this audit of our bridges because the rapid deterioration of the West Seattle Bridge underscored the need for City officials and the general public to have a clear, thorough, and independent understanding of the condition of major bridges throughout Seattle, including the adequacy of the City’s preventative maintenance investments and practices.”

After an extensive document review and numerous exchanges by the auditor’s office with the Seattle Department of Transportation’s engineers and managers, the audit report was completed on schedule. The auditor’s report was presented to the City Council at its Transportation Committee chaired by Councilmember Pedersen Wednesday, September 16.

Pedersen initiated the audit with an April 23 letter to the City Auditor asking his office “to assess the physical conditions and maintenance investments for the major bridges owned by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).” Pedersen’s letter requested a report from the Auditor by mid-September to inform the City Council’s fall budget process.

The audit concluded the city government’s annual spending is far below what is needed to maintain its bridges and SDOT confirmed this: “SDOT estimates its annual spending is tens of millions of dollars less than what is needed to maintain its bridges.”

The audit report makes 10 recommendations for improving the City’s bridge maintenance and investment policies. According to the report, SDOT generally concurs with the report’s recommendations and plans to implement them. However, it will take action from the Mayor and City Council to fill the gap in funding. “I am hopeful City Hall will pay close attention to this audit report and respond appropriately during the 2021 budget discussions to ensure that critical infrastructure does not continue to deteriorate with potentially disastrous consequences,” said Councilmember Pedersen.

City Auditor David G. Jones added, “Our report shows that there is a large gap between what is budgeted for bridge maintenance and what is needed to keep them in good condition. Our recommendations are for activities that SDOT should do now to better inform where investments are made, and more effectively use the resources they currently have.”


Additional Resources (on both VLF and Bridges): 

  • Council Bill 119951 to adjust the car tab fee to $40.
  • Council Budget Action to dedicate the funds to bridges (supported by Pedersen, Herbold, Juarez Lewis, but failed 4 to 5), CLICK HERE.
  • Replacement Council Budget Action 042-B-001 to delay decision on the $3.6 million for 2021 and impose a “stakeholder engagement process” (supported by Gonzalez, Morales, Mosqueda, Sawant, Strauss; passed 5 to 4), CLICK HERE.
  • Press release (Nov 13, 2020) from Herbold, Lewis, Pedersen to focus additional $20 VLF on bridge maintenance, CLICK HERE.
  • The bridge audit report, from the City Auditor, CLICK HERE.
  • Transportation & Utilities Committee website, CLICK HERE.
  • Media reports on focusing additional $20 VLF on bridge maintenance:
  • Media reports on the citywide bridge audit:

From the Seattle Times editorial: “New City Councilmember Alex Pedersen deserves kudos for requesting the audit after the West Seattle Bridge closure. It gives the council facts and improvements to consider, and has already prompted change at the Department of Transportation. Yet the situation demands more, including a new mindset at City Hall and an authentic effort, starting with the next budget.”

# # #


Budget Amendments Unleashed

October 29th, 2021

October 2021 newsletter

Friends and Neighbors,

City Hall is knee-deep in our process of analyzing Seattle’s budget proposals for 2022. We received Mayor Durkan’s balanced budget proposal on September 27 and, after feedback from constituents and careful review, my team and I put forward several initial amendments to address priorities. Read on for my work so far on the budget and watch our recent District 4 Town Hall. I look forward to more of your feedback.

Even during this busy budget season, our other work continues. This month we opened the tiny home village in the University District to address homelessness, introduced a bill to improve accountability of tree cutters, and made progress on transportation projects in District 4.

Happy Halloween and please vote by November 2!


DISTRICT 4

Did you catch our Budget Town Hall?

On October 14, 2021, I enjoyed hosting a Budget Town Hall for District 4 constituents. In addition to a presentation from Seattle’s Budget Director Ben Noble, I invited the new CEO of the new King County Regional Homelessness Authority (RHA) Marc Dones. I know homelessness remains a top concern for constituents and CEO Dones was able to convey the vital mission of the new agency. Homelessness is a regional problem that requires regional solutions using proven best practices. This new RHA is in the best position to implement the smartest solutions learned from across the nation.

For more about the RHA, CLICK HERE. To view the Budget Director’s presentation, CLICK HERE. To view the Town Hall, CLICK HERE.

Rosie’s Village Opens!

The Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), Sound Transit, Seattle’s Human Services Department, the University District business community, neighbors, and I recently celebrated the Open House of “Rosie’s” Tiny House Village, which will provide safe and supported living spaces for unsheltered neighbors.

We are proud that these 35 units on NE 45th Street constitute the first village on Sound Transit property. Named for the adjacent street of Roosevelt Way, Rosie’s Village case managers will help residents obtain permanent housing, employment, health care, food security, and other services. Each tiny house has electricity, overhead light, and a heater and the village has kitchen and restroom facilities, onsite showers and laundry, 24/7 security, and a counseling office.

During the City’s budget process last year, I secured this additional funding for capital and operating costs to reduce homelessness here. I engaged with Sound Transit to ask if this publicly owned land could be used to site a tiny house village to bring more unhoused neighbors inside – and they said, Yes! My office worked with Sound Transit and LIHI to prepare the site, including passing emergency legislation to allow the project to move forward with urgency during the double crisis of homelessness and COVID.

This new tiny home village is an inspiring example of partnerships among governments, nonprofits, and community to address our most pressing crisis— homelessness. By working together and leveraging publicly-owned land, we’re creating a place, forging a path, and instilling hope for dozens of unsheltered people to come off the streets, stabilize their lives, and transition to permanent housing. I’m very grateful to both Sound Transit and the Low Income Housing Institute for enabling us to finally finish this life-saving project.

— Councilmember Alex Pedersen,
September 28, 2021.

For a link to the press release, CLICK HERE. For a link to the video of the open house remarks, CLICK HERE.

The Arts at S.P.A.C.E. Magnuson Park

The Magnuson Park Gallery and friends are pleased to mark its 7th Anniversary with several events: (1) an art exhibition by two indigenous artists, Harmony Hoss and Janice Jainga Lonergan through November 12; (2) an art pumpkin fundraiser through October 29 (CLICK HERE); and (3) the return of “The Bridge” radio show Thursdays at 3:00 pm on SPACE 101.1 FM where hosts Sue Donaldson and Jean Godden interview fascinating guests and celebrate everything that sustains the proverbial bridges among our communities.

Progress on Transportation Projects Impacting District 4

“Pardon our Progress!”

  • SDOT expects to complete the Sand Point Way NE sidewalks and crosswalks project in the next couple of weeks, except for the signal work near NE 74th Street and Sand Point Way (the main entrance to Magnuson park) which should be done in November. (See image above.)
  • SDOT is currently focusing on preparing the road for final paving for the 15th Ave NE paving project, which is scheduled for the first week of November. Once paving is complete, SDOT will focus on curb ramp work at 4 intersections: NE 55th, 56th, 80th Streets and Cowen PL NE. The project team will also add temporary striping to the new road surface. The project should be complete January 2022.
  • While closures to repair the Montlake Bridge have been reduced to just a few more weekends when Husky Football is out of town, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will continue work on the western section of State Route 520 near the Montlake Bridge through 2023! For info on the weekend bridge closures, CLCK HERE.  For WSDOT info on 520, CLICK HERE. Here are some upcoming closures, subject to change: (1) Tonight, tomorrow, and October 31 through November 5, the northbound lanes of the Montlake Bridge will be closed overnight. (2) The Montlake Bridge, Westbound SR 520 off-ramps to Montlake and Lake Washington Blvds, and Lake Washington Blvd between Montlake Blvd and E Foster Island Rd will be closed between 10:00 pm on October 29 and 5:00 am on November 1.

I know this construction is disruptive and, at the same time, we appreciate WSDOT and SDOT completing the repairs and improvements.


SEATTLE’S 2022 CITY BUDGET

I am grateful to all the city budget officials who worked hard to craft the Mayor’s balanced budget proposal and for the steady hand of our City Council Budget Chair. Regarding the current numbers at this midpoint in our review process, I believe this budget might unfortunately fall short on community safety and bridge safety. I am hopeful key amendments could be adopted to make the budget acceptable. Please see below for my initial list of amendments that our office put forward. I also co-sponsored several smart amendments crafted by my Council colleagues. I hope a majority of my Council colleagues will approve my amendments and that the final amendments other Councilmembers sponsor put the budget on stronger footing, rather than create additional challenges.

Community Health and Safety

Bridge and Infrastructure Safety

  • Boldly boost investments in bridge safety to respond to city audit: bridge bonds build back better! (For a recent Seattle Times editorial supporting my amendment, CLICK HERE.)
  • Redirect Center City Connector funds to transportation safety priorities
  • Increase understanding of wear and tear on Seattle’s streets
  • Implement pedestrian/bike safety Improvements on I-5 overpass connecting Wallingford and U District light rail

More For District 4

Good Government and Fiscal Responsibility

  • Optimize cybersecurity for our information technology and operational technology
  • Consider cost savings in budget to redeploy to other priorities
  • Add to City Auditor team to increase accountability & results with taxpayer investments (co-sponsor)

Equity and Environment

For a link to the Mayor’s proposed budget, CLICK HERE. For a helpful Powerpoint summary from her Budget Director, CLICK HERE. For the budget amendments we got approved during last year’s process, CLICK HERE and HERE. For my assessment of last year’s budget CLICK HERE. For a link to our recent Budget Town Hall video for District 4, CLICK HERE.


TRANSPORTATION AND UTILITIES COMMITTEE

(the Council committee I chair)

Councilmember Pedersen addresses the crowd excited about the new light rail station at the University District on Brooklyn Ave NE and 43rd Street NE.  Would be great to see buses on Brooklyn in the future, too!
(photo by Alabastro Photography, October 2, 2021)

U District and Roosevelt Rail Ready to Ride!
Saturday, October 2 was a fun and exciting day in District 4 as we celebrated the opening of the new light rail stations. If you haven’t yet experienced these new options to get to Northgate, Downtown, and beyond, I hope you try them out soon! For Sound Transit route info, CLICK HERE. For my blog on bus route changes, CLICK HERE.

Here’s an excerpt of my remarks at the grand openings:

“Today is a game-changer for how we travel around our city and how we protect our planet…Today we can finally celebrate the opening of 3 new light rail stations in North Seattle, including these impressive new stations here in the heart of the University District and Roosevelt neighborhoods. 

Welcome to the future of fast, frequent, and pollution-free transit!

…After thanking the voters and the taxpayers of three counties and 50 cities who made Sound Transit 2 possible, let’s lift up the heroes of the new stations and the miles of tunnels connecting them with our growing regional transit system – the heroes are the workers who built it.”

Councilmember Alex Pedersen, Chair of Seattle’s Transportation Committee and elected representative of District 4

October is Halloween AND Cybersecurity Awareness Month 

Get ready to re-boo your computer because October is not only Halloween, but also Cybersecurity Awareness Month. It’s good idea to recognize this issue the same month as Halloween because cyberattacks can be scary when we’re not aware and protected.  We need to be vigilant against internet and email scams at home and at work where cybercriminals can infect computers or try to extract sensitive information.  Businesses, all levels of government, and their vendors must invest sufficiently in cybersecurity to protect our personal information as well as vital services and operations. For low-income residents who worry about accessing affordable reliable internet, cybersecurity is another layer of concern. That’s why our City budget must include not only cybersecurity for city government departments but also for vulnerable residents. As part of our Internet for All Action Plan, we want to increase the Technology Matching Fund AND add “Digital Navigators” who can help people new to computers not only gain access to the internet but also learn how to protect themselves online. Cybersecurity awareness helps us all ensure our internet access is about positive connections to jobs, education, health care, and vital services.

Surviving Power Outages

In District 4 and throughout our city and region, this past week’s severe windstorms brought down power lines and interrupted electricity for many hours. Approximately 44,000 customers within our city lost power and over 100,000 customers throughout the Puget Sound region lost power. I’d like to thank the frontline crews of Seattle City Light for working through the nights to retore power to thousands of customers. I’d also like to thank our Fire Department for rapidly addressing any electrical fires. If you experience a new power outage, you can call (206) 684-3000 and press 1, then 1 again. To see where there are power outages and whether City Light is already aware of your outage, CLICK HERE for their outage map. For downed power lines, call 9-1-1 and stay far away from downed lines because they could still be electrified and/or a fire hazard.

We know those without power suffer and that’s why our City Light crews will always work as quickly as they can to restore service safely. The storm and our response to it is another reminder of the vital basics of city government, such as electrical power, clean water, clear roadways – and the need to maintain our basic infrastructure to keep us safe and our economy moving.

For a Seattle Times piece on surviving a power outage, CLICK HERE.


PROTECTING SEATTLE’S TREE INFRASTRUCTURE

A mature tulip tree before it was cut down. (photo with tree advocate by Seattle Times, republished in Crosscut; other photos from Investigate West)

Have you ever been jolted by the roar of a chainsaw in the neighborhood, witnessed a mature tree being chopped down, and wondered whether the company removing the tree is even authorized?  On October 18, I was proud to introduce, with Councilmember Dan Strauss as co-sponsor, a bill that will finally require tree service providers/tree cutters/arborists to register with the City government and have their business contact information available to the public online. If the public can see who is authorized to cut down trees, it would help to increase accountability and transparency and ideally protect more trees. Large trees provide numerous environmental and health benefits which cannot be replaced by the saplings planted by developers after they clear-cut a site. In our August newsletter, we asked constituents whether we should require tree cutters to register with the city government. In addition to the positive anecdotal feedback, we also saw statistically significant feedback from a recent poll indicating 75% of voters support a tree cutter registration program.

To review Council Bill 120207 as introduced on October 18, CLICK HERE.  We will consider this bill after our Fall budget season when we also expect to receive the comprehensive tree protection ordinance, which was due from the Durkan Administration last year. For more about trees on my blog, CLICK HERE. For current info on how to report illegal tree cutting, CLICK HERE.


VOTE!

Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange, President of Seattle Central College, showing us how it’s done at one of the ballot drop boxes, though a regular mailbox works, too. (photo from Seattle Central News)

As you can see from this map, if you want to use a reliable, last-minute Drop Box instead of a regular postal service mailbox, King County has placed them throughout the area including in District 4: Magnuson Park, the University District, and near Gas Works Park in Wallingford. There’s also one on the east side of Green Lake.

Help King County achieve historically high voter turnout this year! Ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday November 2 or returned to a drop box by 8:00 pm that day. For the King County Elections website with more information and ballot box addresses, CLICK HERE.


COMBATING COVID

King County Vaccine Verification Launched October 25

The COVID-19 Delta variant is spreading fast. As of October 25 in King County, proof of vaccination (or a negative test result) will be required for everyone ages 12+ at outdoor events of 500 or more people, indoor recreational events or establishments, restaurants, and bars. As of September 13 in Washington state, masks are required for everyone ages 5+ at outdoor events with 500 or more people, and continue to be required in public indoor spaces. For more information, please see our Current COVID-19 guidance page.

This requirement will help to protect customers and workers, protect our health care system (read a statement of support from the healthcare community), and prevent business closures as the Delta variant continues to spread in King County. You can read this Public Health Insider blog post for more information, and view the Local Health Order.

For a Seattle Times article on the vaccination requirements, CLICK HERE.

City Employees Vaccinated!

Leading by example, your city government employees achieved incredibly high vaccination rates: over 94% vaccinated with 99% submitting required paperwork. For the press release from the Mayor, CLICK HERE. For the related Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.

King County Eviction Prevention and Rent Assistance Program Accelerated

King County has simplified and improved its Eviction Prevention and Rent Assistance Program in recent weeks, increasing payments that will keep King County residents safe in their homes and prevent homelessness. The number of households receiving rent payments increased for the fourth week in a row, paying $7.7 million last week and reaching a total of $46.3 million in payments in 2021. Last week’s $7.7 million in payments is the largest amount processed in one week so far.

A total of 4,656 tenants have had their rent paid, and more than 14,172 tenants have applications being processed. King County has also launched a new program designed to intervene in eviction proceedings. This year’s payments are in addition to the more than $37 million distributed in 2020.

King County is committed to supporting tenants and local property owners alike to get through the financial hardships of this lingering pandemic,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “We moved with urgency to implement new federal rules and reassigned dozens of staff to process a flood of applications. Today, our community partnerships are strong, our data system is working well, and our team is getting millions of dollars out weekly to stabilize both landlords and tenants across the county.

Small Business Stabilization Fund

The Office of Economic Development is investing an additional $4 million to stabilize micro and small businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19 by providing cash grants through the Small Business Stabilization Fund. The Stabilization Fund will provide $5,000, $10,000 and $20,000 grants to be used on operational expenses such as rent, wages, equipment and more.

For this new round, the Small Business Stabilization Fund will support small businesses with up to 50 full-time equivalent employees and accept applications from those who received a Stabilization Fund grant in past rounds. The deadline for applications is November 9, 2021.

For more information on eligibility and required documentation, and to apply for a grant, visit seattle.gov/SmallBusinessStabilizationFund.

The Office of Economic Development is available to provide technical assistance, language access services, disability accommodations, materials in alternate formats and accessibility information to support eligible applicants in completing this application. Businesses can access support by calling 206-684-8090 or emailing oed@seattle.gov.


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

Listening: Even though City Council is not currently holding meetings in person in order to follow public health guidelines, you can still follow along by listening on your computer or phone by CLICKING HERE. You can also listen on your phone by calling 253-215-8782.

Commenting: You can also submit public comment by sending an e-mail to me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov or to all 9 Councilmembers at council@seattle.gov. Please remember to add “For City Council Meeting” in the comments. Now you can also phone into the meeting to speak directly to the Council live. For the instructions on how to register and call in, CLICK HERE. Sign up begins two hours prior to the meeting start time.

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

I continue to schedule virtual in-district office hours, so we can chat by telephone or via Webex. Please continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests. You can also just send an e-mail to alex.pedersen@seattle.gov

For previous e-newsletters, visit my blog by CLICKING HERE.

We are getting through this together, Seattle!

With gratitude,

 

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

Email: Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov
Find It, Fix It


Strengthening Seattle’s Tree Ordinance

October 28th, 2021
Let’s not allow efforts to update Seattle’s Tree ordinance delay into a never-ending story!

INTRODUCTION:

We call ourselves the “Emerald City” within the “Evergreen State” and yet our City laws have many loopholes that enable the removal of scores of trees each year, including healthy, large conifer trees that city law defines as “Exceptional.”  Trees provide numerous benefits including carbon sequestration, absorption of rainwater to reduce harmful runoff into Puget Sound and Lake Washington, shade for cooling during the warmer months, and proven health benefits. The bigger the tree, the better. As we take a long overdue, serious look at racial injustice issues, we know some communities of color have fewer large trees and are having them removed more often. As far back as 2009, our City Auditor determined that fractionalized management of trees and urban forestry issues was a major problem for the City of Seattle and recommended consolidation. Instead, the City for eleven years has continued to try to make a multi-departmental approach to tree management work. As it has boomed with development, Seattle has struggled to prevent continued loss of significant numbers of large trees and reduced tree canopy area. Our city government’s oversight to protect trees is not only fractured, but also weak. 

We are still waiting for the Durkan Administration’s Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) to deliver an updated tree ordinance to the City Council as required by Resolution 31902. Meanwhile, many constituents have been contacting my office with legitimate concerns about numerous “exceptional trees” being ripped out across our District 4 and our city. My staff and I will be carefully monitoring our City government’s efforts on these important environmental and equity issues – and may take legislative action sooner if we continue to see excuses instead of progress. We will update this ongoing blog post to provide new information as it becomes available in what seems to be a never-ending story.

To view a preliminary version of the bill to register tree cutters for better transparency and accountability, CLICK HERE. If adopted by my City Council colleagues, this will be an important small step forward while we wait for the comprehensive tree protection bill from the Durkan Administration. Councilmember Dan Strauss, who chairs the relevant Land Use & Neighborhoods Committee, has indicated initial support for this concept of registering “tree service providers” – his support is appreciated and will be vital to secure Council approval.



October 28, 2021 UPDATE: Introduced Budget “Proviso” to Hold Back of Funds Until Executive branch delivers tree protection ordinance and asked for position of “Chief Arborist” outside of real estate development department (SDCI).

• BUDGET PROVISO TO REQUIRE DELIVERY OF NEW TREE ORDINANCE: Councilmember Pedersen introduced a budget “proviso” to withhold a portion of its funds from the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI) if an updated tree ordinance council bill is not delivered to the Council by early 2022. While we are expecting the comprehensive tree protection ordinance from the Durkan Administration before the end of this calendar year (2021), we want to ensure the next Mayor delivers it IF the Durkan Administration falls short. CLICK HERE to read the proposed budget action which is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Herbold and Strauss.

• REQUEST TO CREATE “CHIEF ARBORIST” TO ADVOCATE FOR TREES: Councilmember Pedersen formally requested the addition of a new City tree advocate who would be independent of the department that reviews and permit new real estate developments (SDCI). The new position, which is found in other cities, is tentatively called “Chief Arborist” and would independently monitor our City’s tree resources. The Chief Arborist’s authority could include final say over applications to remove exceptional trees (as long as it does not delay the permitting process). CLICK HERE to read the proposed budget action, which is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Sawant and Strauss.


October 18, 2021 UPDATE: Tree Cutter Registration Bill Introduced!

Have you ever been jolted by the roar of a chain saw in the neighborhood, witnessed a mature tree being chopped down, and wondered whether the company removing the tree is even authorized?  On October 18, I was proud to introduce, with Councilmember Dan Strauss as co-sponsor, a bill that will finally require tree service providers/tree cutters/arborists to register with the City government and have their business information available to the public online. If the public can see who is authorized to cut down trees, it would help to increase accountability and transparency and ideally protect more trees. Large trees provide numerous environmental and health benefits which cannot be replaced by the saplings planted by developers after they clear-cut a site. In our August newsletter, we asked constituents whether we should require tree cutters to register with the city government. In addition to the positive anecdotal feedback, we also saw statistically significant feedback from a recent poll indicating 75% of voters support a tree cutter registration program.  To review Council Bill 120207 as introduced on October 18, CLICK HERE.  We will consider this bill after our Fall budget season when we also expect to receive the comprehensive tree protection ordinance due from the Durkan Administration last year. For current info on how to report illegal tree cutting, CLICK HERE.  


September 24, 2021 (quarterly update from Durkan Administration):

Another quarter and another round of excuses from the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI) regarding the Durkan Administration’s increasing delays in providing a tree protection ordinance. This slide from SDCI’s presentation shows how the executive departments continue to move the “goal posts” farther away:

See the timeline getting pushed back with each quarterly update:

March 2021 Update: “Q3/Q4: Share public draft of legislation and issue SEPA decision.” Note how the legislation was promised in Q3/Q4, but then in July 2021 there is no mention of legislation — while the SEPA work is clearly pushed into the next quarter.

July 2021 Update: “We anticipate that we will complete public outreach in August/September, with the goal to make a draft proposal available for environmental (SEPA) review by the end of Q4 2021.” Similarly, the executive’s Powerpoint this week said, “Q4: Goal to issue SEPA decision by end of year.”

September 2021 Update: “September/October: conclude public outreach.” “November/December: Target to issue SEPA Decision before end of year.


September 23, 2021 (Update from our newsletter):

Tree Protection Legislation


Photo by Amy Radil, KUOW. “Maria Batayola chairs the Beacon Hill Council. She said she hopes a poll showing strong voter support for new tree regulations spurs the Seattle mayor and city council to act.”

Poll Demonstrates Strong Support for Trees: Last week, environmentalists held a press conference in our district to release poll results indicating very strong support for various tree protections they would like to see implemented by City Hall. I was chairing my City Council Committee at the time of their press conference, but KUOW News contacted me afterward and I was happy to provide this statement of support for the news article.“I agree with the environmentalists who spoke out today that City Hall should not need [to see] such strong polling results to do the right thing and save Seattle’s trees. The Durkan Administration should immediately deliver the tree protection ordinance that was required over a year ago by City Council Resolution…In the next couple of weeks, I plan to work with colleagues to produce an ordinance requiring registration of tree cutters to increase transparency, accountability, and the proven environmental justice benefits of a flourishing urban forest.”

New Legislation to Register Tree Cutters: As we await the comprehensive tree protection ordinance from the Durkan Administration, some environmentalists floated an idea to impose a moratorium to prevent the removal of larger exceptional trees. Upon further consideration, the consensus seems to be that a moratorium could have the perverse impact of developers “rushing to cut” trees while they waited for the City Council to approve the moratorium (and it was not clear that a majority of the Council would vote to enact the moratorium anyway).

An additional idea that has surfaced is to require tree service providers/tree cutters/arborists to qualify and register online. If the public can see who is authorized to cut down trees, it would help to increase accountability and transparency and ideally protect more trees. Large trees provide numerous environmental and health benefits which cannot be replaced by the saplings planted by developers after they clear-cut a site. In our newsletter last month, we asked constituents whether we should, in the meantime, at least require tree cutters to register with the city government — and we received a lot of positive feedback. Thanks to everyone who wrote to us! Separately, the poll mentioned above shows that a tree cutter registration program is supported by a whopping 75% of the Seattle voters surveyed. Working with our Central Staff and City Attorney’s Office, we crafted legislation for discussion. 

To view a preliminary version of the bill to register tree cutters for better transparency and accountability, CLICK HERE. While the City Council is about to enter into its 2-month budget deliberations, we thought it would be a good idea to provide the bill to the public for informal input now. Councilmember Dan Strauss, who chairs the relevant Land Use & Neighborhoods Committee, has indicated initial support for this concept– his support is appreciated and will be vital to secure Council approval.

Tree-Friendly Oversight: I am still considering proposing a consolidation of all tree protections under the Office of Sustainability & Environment (OSE). Presently, Seattle’s tree ordinance delegates most tree regulation implementation to a department largely funded by real estate developers through permit fees—the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI). When we asked the Executive a year ago for proposals to unify tree protections under a more environmentally sensitive city agency, we received what seem to be excuses. (For our request, CLICK HERE. For their response to our request, CLICK HERE.) During last year’s budget, we had considered a “proviso” to hold back part of SDCI’s funding until they delivered the tree protection ordinance. It might make sense to revisit this leverage. Here’s another idea: rather than spending money on consultants to debate organizational chart charges, we could simply create the position of “Chief Arborist” within OSE who would need to approve the removal of any exceptional trees (which are typically larger trees that provide the most environmental and health benefits).

Executive Action Needed: Many have asked, why can’t City Council craft its own comprehensive tree protection ordinance as the legislative body of our city government? Here’s a key reason: because implementation of tree “protection” rules is scattered across various Executive branch agencies and our City Council Central Staff has just one person available to work on this complex issue, it was decided the Executive branch would be the best originator of the proposed bill. Hence the 2019 Resolution from City Council directing the Executive to deliver the ordinance in 2020. The comprehensive tree protection ordinance is long overdue and we will continue to press the Durkan Administration to produce the required tree protection ordinance asap– and you can help us:

To call into the Land Use Committee to voice your views on the Durkan Administration’s quarterly tree update report and presentation this Friday, September 24 at 2:00 p.m., CLICK HERE to register for public comment.

For a recent KUOW story about tree protection, CLICK HERE.


August 23, 2021 (Update from our newsletter):

Supporting Trees at Yesler Terrace

The City Council adopted my amendment to the large-scale, mixed-income Yesler Terrace redevelopment project to make sure tree replacements benefit low-income areas that typically have less tree canopy. To read my amendment, CLICK HERE. I am pleased to report that this provision establishes a policy of prioritizing tree conservation and replacement in communities most in need of more trees. The amendment was negotiated with the Seattle Housing Authority along with expertise from our City Council’s Central Staff and the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI). I appreciate the collaboration as well as the result.

Time to End the “Wild West” of Tree Cutting by Licensing and Registering Arborists?

illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt

Many constituents complain that it seems like the “Wild West” of chainsaws in our Emerald City. One of the reasons is that SDCI does not have even basic licensing or registration for tree cutters or arborists.  The public doesn’t know who the tree cutters are (without registration) or their qualifications (without licensing) and yet they are paid by developers to decrease our tree canopy for projects approved by your city government. Meanwhile we wait and wait for the Durkan Administration to produce a stronger tree protection ordinance.

Despite the environmental and health benefits of trees in the midst of a climate crisis, the loss of trees—especially large native conifers—has been an increasing problem in Seattle with disproportionate negative impacts for communities of color. Some of these tree losses could be prevented by the basic licensing and registration of arborists. Even a recent $100,000 penalty by the City for removing a large cedar tree doesn’t seem to be sufficient to stop profit-motivated real estate developers and tree cutters from continuing to violate our already weak tree ordinance.

Our City’s Urban Forestry Commission and many tree advocates believe the licensing and registration of arborists could help to maintain a sustainable urban forest that produces health and environmental benefits. While my office continues to encourage the Durkan Administration to produce a stronger tree protection ordinance by this September, we recognize the separate common-sense need for the licensing and registration of tree cutters and arborists.

We appreciate hearing from constituents about possible violations of our City’s existing weak tree ordinance to help us to craft specific policies to protect Seattle’s declining tree canopy. If you become aware of impending removal of large trees—or while it’s happening—please send photos and the location to my office at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov.


July 14, 2021 (Update): Delays Continue to Prevent New Ordinance to Protect Trees (Quarterly Report from Durkan Administration)

Today the Durkan Administration, once again, tried to explain the ongoing delay in delivering the promised tree protection ordinance. Following years of delay, the heads of the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI) and the Office of Environment & Sustainability (OSE) wrote in a memo to the City Council’s Land Use Committee, “We anticipate that we will complete public outreach in August/September, with the goal to make a draft proposal available for environmental (SEPA) review by the end of Q4 2021.” Similarly, their Powerpoint this week said, “Q4: Goal to issue SEPA decision by end of year.” Yet, their previous quarterly report from March 2021 said, “Q3/Q4: Share public draft of legislation and issue SEPA decision.” Note how the legislation was promised in Q3/Q4, but now there is no mention of legislation — while the SEPA work is clearly pushed into the next quarter. If this were not on the heels of years of delay and the Durkan Administration were not coming to a close, this would seem like a minor delay. But now it appears that they are trying to run out the clock and kick the can into the next Administration while large trees continue to get cut down in the midst of heat waves.

Considering how many complex laws and programs SDCI have advocated for and implemented during the past two years, using the excuse of the COVID pandemic no longer holds water. Outreach could have been conducted years ago and during the past year with social distancing at community meetings, phone interviews, and electronic surveys. When those same departments spoke to our committee in December 2019, they said they were already conducting community outreach and would have recommendations soon — before the pandemic hit. Moreover, the departments should, in a transparent manner, be providing a draft bill now to the public (and to the Council), so that the public knows the specifics on what they are providing input and feedback. An actual piece of legislation is also useful for the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) process. In the wake of the record-breaking heat wave and continued loss of our urban forest, it was frustrating to hear the departments say they will not produce an actual piece of legislation before the Mayor delivers her city budget proposal on September 27, 2021.

Many public commenters this week called for a different approach: institute a moratorium on the removal of Exceptional Trees. A temporary (6-month) moratorium — as long as there are exceptions for hazardous trees and the construction of low income housing — would stop the harm of many tree removals and give SDCI the additional time they say they need. For the Durkan administration’s Powerpoint, CLICK HERE and, for their memo, CLICK HERE.


July 11, 2021 (Update): Extreme Heatwave Reinforces Need to Preserve Trees for our Environment and Equity

The record-breaking heat wave recently scorching Seattle was accompanied by renewed evidence of the environmental benefits of a healthy tree canopy – and it exposed the inequitable disparities of lower income households suffering more due to lack of trees. 

Even if you’re not a “tree hugger,” it’s easy to embrace the multiple benefits of trees. Trees capture harmful carbon and provide cooling shade as temperatures rise with climate change. During the rainy season, Seattle’s trees absorb polluted runoff to protect Puget Sound and Lake Washington. Trees deliver public health benefits, including improved mental health. The bigger the tree, the better. The small sticks planted next to new real estate developments cannot provide the many benefits already provided by a decades-old conifer tree.  The benefits of large trees and the harms of overheated neighborhoods were recently confirmed in the Seattle Times, the New York Times, National Geographic, the Nature Conservancy, Inside Climate News, and scholarly journals. This underscores the importance of protecting the large trees we still have.  Once they are gone, we cannot regain that loss for decades. Yet, for years, we have waited for Seattle’s city government departments to produce stronger rules to protect Seattle’s trees.  As we wait, large trees continue to be ripped out.

Recent evidence about the importance of trees:

  • Environmental Justice

KUOW, (June 23, 2021) “Heat wave could hit Seattle area neighborhoods differently – possible 20 degrees difference”

Seattle Times, (July 5, 2021) “Communities of color are the ‘first and worst’ hurt by climate change; urgent action needed to change course”

New York Times, (Opinion, June 30, 2021) “Since When Have Trees Existed Only for Rich Americans?”

National Geographic, (June 17, 2021) “Los Angeles confronts its shady divide”

National Geographic, (July 2021) “How L.A.’s urban tree canopy reveals hidden inequities”

Hoffman (January 2020): “The Effects of Historical Housing Policies on Resident Exposure to Intra-Urban Heat: A Study of 108 US Urban Areas”

Wolfe, et al. (2020) “Urban Trees and Human Health: A Scoping Review” and Powerpoint presentation summary

  • Climate Mitigation

Inside Climate News (August 2, 2021 as published by Seattle Times) “A triple whammy has left many U.S. city neighborhoods highly vulnerable to soaring temperatures”: “Urban cores can be 10 degrees or more warmer than the surrounding countryside, because of the way cities have been built, with so much pavement, so many buildings and not enough trees. And decades of disinvestment in neighborhoods where people of color live have left them especially vulnerable to heat.

Seattle Times (July 11, 2021) “Newly discovered fungus spores spurred by heat and drought are killing Seattle street trees”

New York Times, (July 2, 2021) “What Technology Could Reduce Heat Deaths? Trees.”

National Geographic, (June 22, 2021) “Why ‘tiny forests’ are popping up in big cities”

Seattle Times, (July 2, 2021) “Trees save lives in heat, so why aren’t we saving trees?”

NPR piece (2019): “Trees Are Key To Fighting Urban Heat — But Cities Keep Losing Them”)

EPA page: “Using Trees and Vegetation to Reduce Heat Islands”

Policy Analysis (Boston, 2020): “A tree-planting decision support tool for urban heat mitigation”

Rottle Presentation (UW, 2015): “Urban Green Infrastructure For A Changing Climate”


April 27, 2021 (from our newsletter):

Earth Day in District 4: A Reminder That a New Tree Protection Ordinance is Long Overdue.

We call ourselves the Emerald City within the Evergreen State and yet our current laws have many loopholes that enable the removal of scores of trees each year, including healthy, large conifer trees that city law defines as “Exceptional.”  Trees provide numerous benefits including carbon sequestration, absorption of rainwater to reduce harmful runoff into Puget Sound and Lake Washington, shade for cooling during the warmer months, and proven health benefits. The bigger the tree, the better. As we take a long overdue, serious look at racial injustice issues, we know some communities of color have fewer large trees and are having them removed more often. As far back as 2009, our City Auditor determined that fractionalized management of trees and urban forestry issues was a major problem for the City of Seattle and recommended consolidation. Instead, the City for eleven years has continued to try to make a multi-departmental approach to tree management work. As it has boomed with development, Seattle has struggled to prevent continued loss of significant numbers of large trees and reduced tree canopy area. Our city government’s oversight to protect trees is not only fractured, but also weak.  Last fall, I proposed a budget “proviso” to withhold funds from the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) if it didn’t deliver an updated tree ordinance to the City Council by mid-2021 as required by Resolution 31902. Unfortunately, not enough of my colleagues supported the proviso and the process for delivering the tree protection ordinance has slowed.

My staff and I will be carefully monitoring the City’s actions on these important environmental and equity issues – and may take legislative action sooner if we continue to see excuses instead of progress.


March 24, 2021 (Land Use Committee):

This required update presented to our Land Use Committee highlighted additional delays and excuses from our Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI), with no new tree ordinance in sight. The new ordinance has been delayed for over a year. While the Durkan Administration has cited the COVID pandemic as a key excuse, that doesn’t hold water because SDCI and other City departments — as well as Councilmembers — have obtained public input as well as crafted and adopted dozens of complex bills during the past 18 months.

For the Durkan Administration’s report to the Committee, CLICK HERE and, for their Powerpoint presentation, CLICK HERE.

While there is a new draft Director’s Rule to replace the current Director’s Rule published in October 2018, the proposed draft is merely “to clarify the definition of ‘exceptional tree’ pursuant to Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) Chapter 25.11, Tree Protection.” Therefore, it does not officially strengthen existing code. Moreover, even that proposed Director’s Rule remains in draft form — even though comments were due August 17, 2020, according to SDCI’s website of Director’s Rules. [update: At the Land Use Committee on July 14, 2021, SDCI Director Torgelson said the Director’s Rule will require “SEPA review,” which further delays that Rule.]

To watch the video of the Land Use Committee, CLICK HERE.


December 18, 2020 (from our newsletter):

Prodded bureaucracy to speed protections of trees.

Source: Seattle’s Urban Forestry Commission

Washington is the “Evergreen State” and Seattle is the “Emerald City.” Trees provide numerous benefits including carbon sequestration, absorption of rainwater to reduce harmful runoff into Puget Sound and Lake Washington, shade for cooling during the warmer months, and proven health benefits. The bigger the tree, the better. As we take a long overdue, serious look at racial injustice issues, we know some communities of color have fewer large trees and are having them removed more often. As far back as 2009, our City Auditor determined that fractionalized management of trees and urban forestry issues was a major problem for the City of Seattle and recommended consolidation. Instead, the City for eleven years has continued to try to make a multi-departmental approach to tree management work. As it has boomed with development, Seattle has struggled to prevent continued loss of significant numbers of large trees and reduced tree canopy area. It’s oversight to protect trees is not only fractured, but weak.  I proposed two budget provisions to improve Seattle’s management of its urban forest resources: A budget proviso to withhold funds from the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) if it didn’t deliver an updated tree ordinance to the City Council by mid-2021 under Resolution 31902, and a request for an important analysis (HERE): “the Executive, Urban Forestry Commission (UFC), and Urban Forestry Interdepartmental Team [shall] evaluate models for consolidating the City’s urban forest management functions and, based on this evaluation, make recommendations on how changes could be implemented.” Unfortunately, not enough of my colleagues supported my tough proviso, but the Executive is aware that the public and councilmembers are impatient and will be demanding action in 2021. Fortunately, the requirement for strategies to better manage our urban forest passed and will delivered to Council by September 15, 2021. My staff and I will be carefully monitoring the City’s implementation of these important quality of life and equity items.


November 23, 2020 (from our newsletter):

Spurring protection of Seattle’s Trees. Washington is the “Evergreen State” and Seattle is the “Emerald City.” Trees provide numerous benefits including carbon sequestration, absorption of rainwater to reduce harmful runoff into Puget Sound and Lake Washington, shade for cooling during the warmer months, and proven health benefits. The bigger the tree, the better. As we take a long overdue, serious look at racial injustice issues, we know some communities of color have fewer large trees and are having them removed more often. As far back as 2009, our City Auditor determined that fractionalized management of trees and urban forestry issues was a major problem for Seattle and recommended consolidation. Instead, the City for eleven years has continued to try to make a multi-departmental approach to tree management work. During that time, I’m concerned we are seeing a declining tree canopy and loss of numerous large trees. Decentralization urban forestry management had its chance, but it does not work. Our budget action, approved by my colleagues, will have the Executive produce a plan for Council consideration that could rationalize and consolidate protections of Seattle’s trees, with a preference for an agency focused on the environment. To read the official budget action, CLICK HERE.


December 20, 2019 (original post and newsletter):

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is trees.jpg
Briefing on overdue Tree Protection Ordinance, December 18, 2019 Planning, Land Use, and Zoning (PLUZ) Committee

In the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning (PLUZ) Committee on December 18, 2019, I convened neighbors, environmentalists, scientists, and urban forestry experts to discuss the need to implement Resolution 31902 to finalize a stronger ordinance that protects and increases trees in our Emerald City.

I appreciate all the residents from across Seattle who took the time out of their day to attend this briefing on making Seattle’s tree protection ordinance stronger and enforceable — with the goal of expanding the health and environmental benefits of larger trees in our Emerald City. It was informative to hear from a wide array of tree experts. Thanks also to Councilmember-elect Dan Strauss for joining me at the table and for all his work already on this important environmental and social justice issue. I look forward to working with him, my other City Council colleagues, our executive departments, and other stakeholders to enact a tree ordinance in 2020.

Over the past year (2019), I heard from hundreds of concerned citizens who want City Hall to implement stronger protections for our tree canopy in addition to planting more trees throughout our city. In addition to improving the livability and enjoyment of our communities and critical habitat for birds, a robust tree canopy fosters a healthy city by decreasing pollution, sequestering modest amounts of carbon, and cooling homes and buildings – all vitally important for our environment. In fact, the “Green New Deal” Resolution that garnered a lot of attention earlier this year specifically calls out trees:  “Encouraging preservation and planting of trees citywide to increase the city’s tree canopy cover, prioritizing historically low-canopy and low-income neighborhoods.” To hold City Hall accountable on this issue, we need a stronger tree ordinance that is enforced. I heard you, and I am proud to keep the ball rolling on increasing environmental protections across our city. As we eagerly await their next update on the ordinance, you can visit the city’s website on trees by CLICKING HERE.

To read the KUOW news article titled “Seattle tree rules are too lax, critics say. New city council members want to change that,” CLICK HERE.

Excerpt from Dec 18, 2019 KUOW article: “Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen and Councilmember-elect Dan Strauss said they’re committed to passing new legislation in 2020. ‘We’ve heard them in the community that they care about the environmental and health benefits of our tree canopy, and we want to make it stronger with a new ordinance that’s coming next year,’ Pedersen said. ‘The executive department’s very engaged, and we’re very excited about that,’ Strauss said. He said city agencies are engaged in community outreach and will come back with recommendations at the end of January.”

To view my Committee meeting, including the experts on the benefits of trees as well as public comment from those supporting a stronger tree protection ordinance, CLICK HERE for the video. For the materials presented at that Committee meeting, CLICK HERE for the agenda and HERE for the Powerpoint from UW’s College of the Environment.


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 49347663268_ca05ce73f2_k-cropped-1024x754.jpg
I was honored to have the living legend Ron Sims swear me into office to start my 4-year term January 2020. Because I was elected to a seat the previously elected Councilmember left early, I actually started the job at the end of November 2019. This enabled me to chair the previous Land Use Committee in December 2019, with a focus on protecting our Emerald City’s trees. Since January 2020, however, that Committee has been chaired by Councilmember Dan Strauss and I serve as a member (I chair the Transportation, Utilities, Technology Committee instead). While Ron Sims is perhaps known best for serving as our King County Executive and Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development under President Obama, Sims has also been a passionate advocate for the positive health outcomes and other environmental benefits of preserving large existing trees in the Seattle area, especially in low-income areas of our city.

June 3, 2019 (Here’s a KUOW article on trees published before Alex Pedersen was sworn in as a Councilmember, but it provides important background on the long-delayed tree ordinance and Councilmember Pedersen’s rationale for protecting trees:)

They’re treasures’: Advocates want more protections for Seattle’s big trees,” by Amy Radil of KUOW

Efforts to update Seattle’s tree regulations fizzled last year. Now a new effort to protect the city’s trees is under way.

New legislation is expected to be unveiled in coming weeks by the City Council. Advocates say the most important thing Seattle can do now is retain the trees it currently has, especially in more environmentally stressed neighborhoods.

The group Plant Amnesty is encouraging the public to photograph and help map Seattle’s remaining big trees: any tree that is 30 inches wide or more – basically the width of a front door. They believe there are roughly 6,000 left that fit this description in the city.

Dominic Barrera is Plant Amnesty’s Executive Director. He said living near South Park, he’s grateful for trees that provide a buffer from warehouses and Boeing Field.

“Looking at that juxtaposition of the industrial district and then a few trees that protect us from it just really shows how important these trees are for everybody,” he said. “Especially those of us living in those environmentally tarnished areas.”

The City Council proposed a new tree ordinance last year, but tree advocates were disappointed that it appeared to weaken protections for “exceptional” trees – the big trees that help most with cooling, carbon emissions and stormwater. Ultimately nothing passed. Councilmember Sally Bagshaw plans to introduce a new version of tree legislation this summer, with input from the city’s Urban Forestry Commission.

caption: Maria Batayola at El Centro de la Raza says Beacon Hill residents need more trees to help counter air and noise pollution.
Maria Batayola at El Centro de la Raza says Beacon Hill residents need more trees to help counter air and noise pollution. Photo by Amy Radil, KUOW.

Maria Batayola wants Beacon Hill residents to be represented in this effort. She is the Environmental Justice Coordinator for El Centro de la Raza. The Beacon Hill neighborhood is bounded by interstates and airfields. It’s got air and noise pollution and faces additional pressures from upzoning.

Batayola has heard the argument that increased density in cities helps address climate change – but she said people in Beacon Hill need trees and green space for their own health.

“If you really are dealing with and understand environmental justice, then you have to look at the impact on people of low income and people of color,” she said. “I think there is a balance that we’re looking for. And in Beacon Hill, our first responsibility is to the residents.”

El Centro de la Raza recently sent a letter asking Councilmember Bagshaw to support the recommendations of the city’s Urban Forestry Commission “and that for any environmentally challenged neighborhoods and communities such as Beacon Hill, that there be a higher tree canopy goal” to bring them more in line with the rest of the city, Batayola said. The neighborhood scored a victory recently with the preservation of the orchard around the historic Garden House.

caption: Joshua Morris with Seattle Audubon says Seattle's big trees are vital and there is currently no penalty for removing them.
Joshua Morris with Seattle Audubon says Seattle’s big trees are vital and there is currently no penalty for removing them. Photo by Amy Radil, KUOW

In Northeast Seattle, the century-old Douglas Firs around the Seattle Audubon office make visitors feel like they’re deep in the woods. Joshua Morris is the urban conservation manager with Seattle Audubon and serves on the city’s Urban Forestry Commission. He said he’ll be watching for more tracking and protections for existing trees.

“We’ll never see the size of these trees again. So where we do have them, they’re treasures, and hopefully we can convince Seattleites of that, and write something into the tree protection ordinance.”

A 2016 assessment found Seattle had 28 percent canopy cover, short of its 30 percent goal. Morris said current city regulations don’t do enough to protect mature or “exceptional” trees. “There’s a lot of loopholes in it,” he said. “Basically you can just cut down a tree and grind the stump down to the earth and if nobody notices, there’s no penalty whatsoever.”

While these advocates say city protections fall short of what’s needed, Seattle does require permits to remove trees from public rights of way. On developed land, approval from the Department of Construction and Inspections is required to remove an exceptional tree, trees in environmentally critical areas (ECA), or more than three trees six-inches or greater.

“If you are developing your property,” SDCI states, “you have more flexibility to remove trees if they prevent you from using your property.” But it says developers can receive more credit toward tree retention requirements if they retain mature, healthy trees.

Morris said even those existing trees are facing more stress now.

“Our climate is changing. Insect invasions are going to become common. Droughts are going to become extended,” he said. “So where we wouldn’t have had to water trees in August, we will have to start watering.”

But he said the new regulations have to strike the right balance so property owners will adhere to them. “There’s difficulty insuring compliance, getting private property owners to actually comply with a tree ordinance, not making it onerous or too high a permit fee,” he said.

caption: Volunteer Jim Davis demonstrates how to find "majestic trees" for Plant Amnesty: they are 30 in. diamater "at breast height."
Volunteer Jim Davis demonstrates how to find “majestic trees” for Plant Amnesty: they are 30 in. diamater “at breast height.” Photo by Amy Radil, KUOW

Developers will be paying attention to whether new regulations increase the costs of building projects, or restrict what can be built. Pat Foley is a developer with the firm Lake Union Partners.

“As we’re trying to build housing in this city for the demand that’s out there — and especially affordable housing which is in great shortage — any potential ordinance could affect our ability to move these projects forward,” he said.

Foley’s firm is building the Midtown: Public Square project at 23rd and Union in Seattle, which includes affordable housing and a central plaza where the plan is to install a large, mature tree. He said the tree proposal was not welcomed by everyone on the city’s Design Review Board.

“There were a number of people on the board that didn’t like the idea of a tree in there because they thought it would be providing too much shade” or block visibility, he said. “We were sort of perplexed by that given that it was a significant expense” to include it. The tree was ultimately approved.

The City Council’s previous legislative proposal included fees a developer could pay if they do remove a tree, with the money going to plant trees elsewhere. Foley says he’d rather install the trees himself. “I would like to just see us plant more mature trees as part of a new development on a property,” he said. “So Day One they look like they’ve been there a long time.”

He said there’s no requirement now for developers to plant larger or more mature trees, but adding those trees could help Seattle meet its goal to increase canopy.

The suburb of Lake Forest Park requires permits for removing trees. They’ve seen their tree canopy increase in the last few years from 46 percent to nearly 50 percent.

Lake Forest Park City Council member John Resha said, “Our regulations are focused on the end state of maintaining and growing canopy rather than restricting removal.” But he said, “There is one place where we say no.” That’s the removal of trees that qualify as ‘exceptional.’ “These quiet giants are part of the fabric of our city,” Resha said. He said they’ve successfully grown their canopy by creating a city code “that resonates with its community.”

Editor’s Note : This story has been modified to clarify Seattle’s current restrictions on tree removals. 6/4/2019.

# # #

Additional Resources:

  • Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) “Tree Protection Code” website, CLICK HERE.
  • While there is a new draft Director’s Rule to replace the current Director’s Rule published in October 2018, the proposed draft is merely “to clarify the definition of ‘exceptional tree’ pursuant to Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) Chapter 25.11, Tree Protection.” Therefore, it does not officially strengthen existing code.
  • Auditor’s 2009 report on tree management.
  • Auditor’s 2011 report on tree management. P. 29 covers consolidated management issue.
  • Urban Forestry Commission Draft Memo from July 2021 regarding Council’s Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) MO-001-A-002 drafted by Councilmember Pedersen and adopted in November 2020: “Request that the Executive recommend strategies for consolidating urban forestry functions.”


Opening Light Rail Stations, Tiny Homes, Tree Legislation, and City Budgets

September 24th, 2021

Friends and Neighbors,

Next week our new light rail stations open in Roosevelt and the U District! Whether or not you’re preparing to wake up at 4 AM on Saturday, October 2 to ride one of the first trains at the new stations, I hope you will check them out soon and help our region meet its goals to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion.

This newsletter also contains updates about the city budget and community events as well as my ongoing efforts to improve public safety, address homelessness, protect Seattle’s trees, and more in District 4.


DISTRICT 4

Ready to Ride? New Light Rail Stations Open Saturday, October 2

Roosevelt:

 On Saturday, October 2nd as Sound Transit begins expanded light rail service, the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association presents the “RNA Stage” from 10 AM till 4 PM at Roosevelt Station at 12th Avenue NE and NE 66th Street.  Join neighbors and friends as we celebrate exciting new developments in the Roosevelt community.  Live music, food, and fun for all! And many thanks to Roosevelt leader Jim O’Halloran for the tangible progress on the community-driven vision he helped to organize over a decade ago!

University District:

Organized by The U District Partnership, Graduate Hotels presents the U District Station Opening Festival and $3 Food Walk on Saturday, October 2.  As hungry participants ascend from the new U District Station, they will be greeted by an outdoor festival featuring over 40 U District restaurants serving $3 menu items across the neighborhood. Visitors can pick up a $3 Food Walk Menu and entry form at any participating restaurant (see udistrictseattle.com) or the U District Partnership tent at NE 43rd Street and Brooklyn Avenue. Big Time Brewery is serving up a beer garden for the festival outside of their location on the Ave between NE 41st and 42nd. Come grab a pint and some $3 bites!

The nearby Xfinity Main Stage will feature hours of home-grown talent from north Seattle and beyond, including the nationally acclaimed Roosevelt High School Jazz Band. Other outdoor performances will include the Husky Marching Band, a lion dance by Seattle’s Mak Fai Kung Fu Club, and Taiko Kai, a student-organized Taiko drumming group from the University of Washington.

UW welcomes students and employees back to campus this same week, and Sound Transit projects this new station will be one of the busiest with nearly 12,000 people using it each day.

My office will continue to encourage both our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to do more to connect Wallingford to the U District, especially with more pedestrian-friendly connections — including the 45th Street / I-5 overpass.

King County Changing Northeast Seattle Bus Routes  October 2:

We have heard concerns from parents of Roosevelt and Lincoln High Schools and other transit riders about the East-West bus route and have forwarded that feedback to King County Metro. Fortunately, King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski is very attentive and shares our concerns. Metro’s Service Planning and Scheduling teams are aware of the overcrowding and are making adjustments for supplemental service to be assigned on the trips that run during school-bell times. King County Metro will continue to monitor the ridership levels on those trips and will make further adjustments, if necessary.

In addition to the supplemental service, beginning October 2, 2021, all southbound trips on Route 62 will begin at Magnuson Park. On weekdays, in the morning peak-time direction, the Route 62 will operate every 8 to 15 minutes. The new Route 79 – see Metro’s Get Ready Page – will provide new east-west service between Magnuson Park, View Ridge, Wedgwood and Roosevelt Station along NE 75th Street. This should also help to alleviate overcrowding events on Route 62 with the service change starting October 2.

Here more tools and resources to help adjust to the changes:

  • This Metro Matters blog post has information regarding new routes, timing, links to more information, and more and can help riders understand the new changes.
  • Metro’s service change page covers all route changes and restorations in English, Spanish and Chinese, as well as a video that briefly describes what’s happening.
  • Metro’s “Quick Start” website focuses on North King County and Link connections changes.
  • Metro’s Customer Information Office comment form is available online, and specialists are available at 206-553-3000 if a rider has any questions about the service change.  Metro’s Twitter account, @kcmetrobus, is also staffed by Customer Service staff who can often assist customers in real time.
  • The new service is designed to align with the three new light rail stations opening – Roosevelt, U-District, and Northgate. Riders who will travel using both buses and trains can avoid paying two fares if they transfer using an ORCA card and should review the available ORCA card options.

Overall, these changes will bring Metro’s service to about 90% of pre-pandemic levels and deliver nearly 11,400 bus trips each weekday. Bus ridership has gradually increased throughout the summer, with a recent September peak of ~183,000 daily boardings. In the coming year, King County Metro plans to restore further routes and trips.

Join us for a D4 Budget Town Hall October 14

Mayor Durkan will transmit her $6.5 billion budget proposal on Monday, September 27. Then, as required by State law, your City Council has approximately two months to review, amend, and adopt a balanced budget.

To help to explain the Mayor’s budget proposal for Seattle and the budgeting processas well as to provide one of many opportunities for feedback, I will host a budget Town Hall for our District 4.  We’ll be joined by our City Budget Director, Dr. Ben Noble.  I know that homelessness continues as a top concern in our District and so I’ve invited Marc Dones, the head the of new Regional Homelessness Authority to describe the mission and plans of this important new regional organization. I voted for the creation of the RHA because I believe homelessness is a regional problem that requires regional solutions. (Hearing from the RHA supplements our Town Hall earlier this year, which featured our City’s Human Services Department’s evolving role in addressing homelessness.)

To RSVP to the online/virtual Budget Town Hall, CLICK HERE to receive the Zoom call-in link and submit questions about the city budget. See you on October 14 for the virtual Budget Town Hall for our District 4 !

Keep reading this newsletter for more on the City budget process!

Headaches and Headway Repaving 15th Ave NE near Roosevelt High School

While I’m excited about all the infrastructure improvements in our district, I wanted to make everyone aware of this unfortunate timing from SDOT regarding the 15th Ave NE and NE 65th Street intersection that will be under construction Oct 1 through Oct 3 (and closed to east-west traffic), as we celebrate of the Roosevelt light rail station Saturday, Oct 2.

Here is SDOT’s rationale for doing the work that weekend (Oct 1 to Oct 4) at that intersection:

  • SDOT wants to do it on a weekend because weekday bottlenecks would be worse.
  • The overall project has been delayed already due to delays in concrete delivery and other reasons. SDOT has received assurances that the concrete WILL be available this weekend – once a crew starts concrete pouring, they need to finish it.
  • There are at-home Husky football games on the Saturdays of Sept 18, Sept 25, and Oct 16 and doing it then would create bigger traffic jams.

After becoming concerned about the 15th Ave NE project missing its deadline of Sept 1 when Roosevelt High School re-started, I personally went to the site to meet with SDOT officials to walk the area and ask tough questions about the delays. Before I visited, the project was going to be extended even longer. By assessing the bottlenecks, we were able to spur it forward.  SDOT’s has general phone number for the project: (206) 775-8718. For SDOT’s website on the 15th Ave NE repaving project, CLICK HERE.

See the Homes of our New Tiny Home Village!

To provide relief and hope for some people experiencing homelessness in our District, we are glad to see the recent activity at the future Tiny House Village. You may have noticed the first tiny houses have arrived onsite at Rosie’s Village in the U District. Set up has begun with the village scheduled to open mid-October. Next week we are planning a “Grand Opening” event. The site at 1000 NE 45th Street will have approximately 35 tiny houses. The land is being leased for free from Sound Transit by the City of Seattle with annual renewals through May 31, 2024. For more information, contact the nonprofit LIHI.

College Inn Pub Reopens

The College Inn Pub reopened its doors this summer after being closed for more than a year. Many are excited to see this old school “watering hole” open for business again. With a strategy of retaining the heritage and original feel of the pub, as described in this Eater Seattle article, the new owners took great pains to restore the physical space and systems while maintaining the historic character of the pub. Fun fact: The College Inn Pub is located in the basement of a Tudor Revival-style building erected for the 1909 Alaskan Yukon Pacific Exhibition that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Cheers!

 

One More Chance to Enjoy the U District Summer Outdoor Music Series

I enjoyed the first outdoor concert on Sept 9 and you can enjoy the last street concert on Wednesday, September 30 at 6:30 pm on The Ave (University Way NE) between NE 42nd and 43rd Streets in the heart of our U District near the new light rail station. As the organizers pitched the event, they said, “Come for an exuberant sonic journey and dance in the street to the Brazilian rhythms of En Canto.” You can complete this survey from the organizers.

I also visited a couple of businesses on this block who wanted to share their concerns about the partial street closure because their customers tend to drive. Learn more about events at this link: https://outdoors.udistrict.org/

Enjoying 45th Street in Wallingford

Councilmember Pedersen outside The Octopus in Wallingford this month after enjoying their “Ruby Mainsail.”

This week the neighborhood blog Wallyhood reminded us of the joys of visiting 45th Street stores and restaurants in Wallingford. I quickly took their advice and visited the Octopus Bar which has both indoor and outdoor seating. (Proof of vaccination required.) For their extensive menu, CLICK HERE. For other Wallingford places to enjoy, CLICK HERE.

Help Keep Kids Safe: Become a Crossing Guard

When meeting with the School Traffic Safety Committee to hear their annual report, I obtained the most recent figures on vacant positions for school crossing guards: they need everyone’s help fill nearly 50 positions! According to the Seattle Public Schools website, crossing guards are needed at Bryant Elementary, the John Stanford International School, Thornton Creek Elementary School, and 30 other schools. Our beloved crossing guards work approximately 2 hours each school day and are “safety super heroes” to the next generation. To apply, CLICK HERE. For the annual report that discusses both successes and challenges with keeping kids safe as they journey to and from our public schools, CLICK HERE.

CRAFTING OUR CITY BUDGET FOR 2022

Mayor Durkan will transmit her $6.5 billion budget proposal on Monday, September 27. Then, as required by State law, your City Council has approximately two months to review, amend, and adopt a balanced budget.

In some ways, the budget is simple: it’s supposed to reflect our values / priorities as a City and the expenses cannot exceed the revenues. In other ways, the budget is complicated. Our 1,575 page City budget includes an 825-page operating budget (focusing on the flexible $1.6 billion “General Fund”) as well as several capital projects including for transportation and utilities (incorporated into a 750-page Capital Improvement Program). Various requirements from voter-approved tax levies must be maintained for affordable housing, education, libraries, parks, and transportation as well as the requirements tied to grants from federal, state, and regional government sources. As with many organizations, most of the costs of city government are personnel expenses: the compensation, employment benefits, and pension payments for the 12,000 city government employees who implement the programs and policies adopted the City Council and Mayor. These costs are often already baked because they’re tied to 30 different, multi-year labor contracts negotiated by 5 of the 9 City Councilmembers and Mayor’s team that serve on the Labor Relations Policy Committee (LRPC) and meet behind closed doors as permitted by federal labor laws.

Despite all the drama during the annual “Fall” budget process, typically the City Council makes adjustments amounting to less than 10% of the overall budget proposal carefully crafted by the Mayor and her 40 departments. Yet these relatively small fiscal changes often highlight key policy areas such as public safety and homelessness. For example, a majority of the City Council unfortunately used the budget process last year to eliminate the important Navigation Team that previously engaged with unauthorized homelessness encampments.

To review the budget we adopted last Fall for this calendar year of 2021, CLICK HERE. For my editorial regarding the positives and negatives of that 2021 budget, CLICK HERE. To participate in our Budget town hall on October 14 (please see the D4 section of this newsletter), CLICK HERE.


TREE PROTECTION LEGISLATION

Photo by Amy Radil, KUOW. “Maria Batayola chairs the Beacon Hill Council. She said she hopes a poll showing strong voter support for new tree regulations spurs the Seattle mayor and city council to act.”

Poll Demonstrates Strong Support for Trees

Last week, environmentalists held a press conference in our district to release poll results indicating very strong support for various tree protections they would like to see implemented by City Hall. I was chairing my City Council Committee at the time of their press conference, but KUOW News contacted me afterward and I was happy to provide this statement of support for the news article.

I agree with the environmentalists who spoke out today that City Hall should not need [to see] such strong polling results to do the right thing and save Seattle’s trees. The Durkan Administration should immediately deliver the tree protection ordinance that was required over a year ago by City Council Resolution…In the next couple of weeks, I plan to work with colleagues to produce an ordinance requiring registration of tree cutters to increase transparency, accountability, and the proven environmental justice benefits of a flourishing urban forest.”

New Legislation to Register Tree Cutters

As we await the comprehensive tree protection ordinance from the Durkan Administration, some environmentalists floated an idea to impose a moratorium to prevent the removal of larger exceptional trees. Upon further consideration, the consensus seems to be that a moratorium could have the perverse impact of developers “rushing to cut” trees while they waited for the City Council to approve the moratorium (and it was not clear that a majority of the Council would vote to enact the moratorium anyway).

An additional idea that has surfaced is to require tree service providers/tree cutters/arborists to qualify and register online. If the public can see who is authorized to cut down trees, it would help to increase accountability and transparency and ideally protect more trees. Large trees provide numerous environmental and health benefits which cannot be replaced by the saplings planted by developers after they clear-cut a site. In our newsletter last month, we asked constituents whether we should, in the meantime, at least require tree cutters to register with the city government — and we received a lot of positive feedback. Thanks to everyone who wrote to us! Separately, the poll mentioned above shows that a tree cutter registration program is supported by a whopping 75% of the Seattle voters surveyed.

Working with our Central Staff and City Attorney’s Office, we crafted legislation for discussion. To view a preliminary version of the bill to register tree cutters for better transparency and accountability, CLICK HERE. While the City Council is about to enter into its 2-month budget deliberations, we thought it would be a good idea to provide the bill to the public for informal input now.

Councilmember Dan Strauss, who chairs the relevant Land Use & Neighborhoods Committee, has indicated initial support for this concept– his support is appreciated and will be vital to secure Council approval.

Tree-Friendly Oversight

I am still considering proposing a consolidation of all tree protections under the Office of Sustainability & Environment (OSE). Presently, Seattle’s tree ordinance delegates most tree regulation implementation to a department largely funded by real estate developers through permit fees—the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI). When we asked the Executive a year ago for proposals to unify tree protections under a more environmentally sensitive city agency, we received what seem to be excuses. (For our request, CLICK HERE. For their response to our request, CLICK HERE.) During last year’s budget, we had considered a “proviso” to hold back part of SDCI’s funding until they delivered the tree protection ordinance. It might make sense to revisit this leverage. Here’s another idea: rather than spending money on consultants to debate organizational chart charges, we could simply create the position of “Chief Arborist” within OSE who would need to approve the removal of any exceptional trees (which are typically larger trees that provide the most environmental and health benefits).

Executive Action Needed

Many have asked, why can’t City Council craft its own comprehensive tree protection ordinance as the legislative body of our city government? Here’s a key reason: because implementation of tree “protection” rules is scattered across various Executive branch agencies and our City Council Central Staff has just one person available to work on this complex issue, it was decided the Executive branch would be the best originator of the proposed bill. Hence the 2019 Resolution from City Council directing the Executive to deliver the ordinance in 2020. The comprehensive tree protection ordinance is long overdue and we will continue to press the Durkan Administration to produce the required tree protection ordinance asap– and you can help us:

To call into the Land Use Committee to voice your views on the Durkan Administration’s quarterly tree update report and presentation this Friday, September 24 at 2:00 p.m., CLICK HERE to register for public comment.

For a recent KUOW story about tree protection, CLICK HERE. For my blog that tracks the ongoing saga of striving to save Seattle’s trees, CLICK HERE.


TRANSPORTATION AND UTILITIES COMMITTEE

During the past 20 months, I have been assigned to chair a beefy City Council Committee monitoring departments comprising half of the City’s $6.5 billion budget: Transportation, Seattle City Light, Seattle Public Utilities, and Technology. For our Committee agendas CLICK HERE. This keeps me and my team busy and makes it difficult to spend as much time as I would like on additional issues important to our district such as homelessness and public safety. The good news is that, for City Council’s “budget season” when we have October and November to review, amend, and adopt the City’s budget for the next calendar year (2022), we all take a break from regular committee business so all Councilmembers can focus on the budget.

Discount Internet for Students

School is back in session and I’m sharing news about affordable internet for students. The City of Seattle’s Information Technology department, utilizing the Internet for All plan and Resolution, which I sponsored and the Council passed, emphasized affordability as a major component when it comes to closing the Digital Divide.  Through Internet Essentials from Comcast, some students can get home Internet with 2 months without cost, thanks to the Emergency Broadband Benefit which I’ve written about previously.  The offer ends June 30, 2022. The Emergency Broadband Benefit is an FCC program to help families and households struggling to afford internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic. This new benefit will connect eligible households to jobs, critical healthcare services, virtual classrooms, and so much more.


PUBLIC SAFETY

Initial Efforts to Address Police Staffing Crisis

On Monday, September 13, 2021, I offered two amendments to our mid-year budget to address the record-breaking departure of officers and detectives (attrition) from our Seattle Police Department and the disturbing increase in response times for 9-1-1 emergencies.

“We need to take swift action after losing hundreds of emergency responders, including community policing officers needed to prevent crimes and detectives needed to solve crimes. In addition to our continued investments in human services programs, I am hopeful a majority of City Councilmembers have recognized the slowing of 9-1-1 response times and the benefits of community policing require us to keep this modest funding to retain and hire officers and detectives.”  — Councilmember Alex Pedersen, before the vote.

Unfortunately, my modest proposal to boost efforts for retaining and recruiting officers did not get a majority of support from my colleagues on the City Council.  I appreciated some Councilmembers supporting my $1.1 million amendment (Option B) to invest the un-allocated dollars from SPD’s budget toward increased recruitment and retention efforts. But at City Hall we need 5 votes among the 9 Councilmembers to pass most legislation. Although we missed the opportunity to get results quickly, I am hopeful that a majority of Councilmembers will follow-through on their words to provide additional resources to recruit and retain officers so we can address the staffing crisis and officer wellness this November when adopting a City budget for 2022.

For my earlier press release explaining my public safety amendments, CLICK HERE. For a clip from KIRO News, CLICK HERE.

Adding a Crime Prevention Coordinator for North Seattle

I want to thank the Councilmembers who serve on the Finance Committee for approving my midyear budget amendment to add a Crime Prevention Coordinator to our North Precinct. Unlike my amendment to boost recruitment and retention of officers and detectives, this amendment passed.  North Seattle has been without a Crime Prevention Coordinator for over a year so, in addition to urging the Durkan Administration to fill the position (which should happen soon), I wanted to address the backlog in requests.  Moreover, the NORTH Precinct is, by far, the largest precinct in the city and, therefore, warrants a second position. As stated on SPD’s website, “Crime Prevention Coordinators (CPCs) are experts in crime prevention techniques. You can contact your CPC to inquire about general crime prevention tips, get involved or start a Block Watch group, request their presence at an upcoming community meeting and to discuss ongoing crime concerns in your neighborhood.”  Until the two positions are filled, you can request a CPC, by emailing their supervisor Sgt Welte at martin.welte@seattle.gov

Public Safety Panel in District 4

Last week I joined an impressive panel in our Council District at Sand Point Community Church to discuss public safety with State Rep Javier Valdez, State Senator Manka Dhingra, DeVitta Briscoe of Not This Time, Paul Benz of the Faith Action Network, and Monica Alexander of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. (For DeVitta Briscoe’s Op Ed describing her family tragedies and courageous efforts for police reform, CLICK HEREA lesson from my losses: We cannot afford to completely dismantle the police.”)  I want to thank my Legislative Aide Malik Davis for his work in preparing for the panel. We focused on the implementation of the various new State laws on police reform and the hopes for more effective public safety and crime prevention. I emphasized the need for sufficient staffing to implement the reforms required by the federal consent decree and for City Hall’s labor negotiators to  roll up their sleeves to tackle the substantive work of revamping the police contract that expired over 9 months ago. Many in the audience expressed their desire to have Seattle leaders do more to retain and recruit community police officers and detectives as we scale up effective alternatives to some emergency calls.


BATTLING COVID RESURGENCE

Forthcoming requirements for proof of vaccination

Regarding vaccinations, here is an important message from the Mayor’s Office issued recently:

“As we continue to be one of the most vaccinated cities in American with the lowest cases, hospitalizations and deaths, we are seeing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge across our region and country driven primarily by unvaccinated individuals in the region and state.

It’s clear that we must act now – and act boldly – to change the trajectory of the virus and keep our communities safe. That’s why King County is issuing a Local Health Order to implement a vaccination verification policy across our region to keep our residents and businesses open and safe.

Beginning October 25, 2021, across King County, customers will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, or negative test within 72 hours, to enter:

  • Outdoor events with 500 people or more (such as professional and collegiate sports and entertainment events)
  • Indoor recreational events or establishments regardless of size (such as professional and collegiate sports, performing arts and live music venues, movie theaters, museums, gyms, and conventions)
  • Restaurants and bars. This does not apply to outdoor dining, take-out customers, and places that aren’t primarily used for indoor dining such as grocery stores. Small restaurants and bars, defined as those with seating capacity for less than 12 people, will phase in on December 6, 2021.

We know that vaccination requirements are an effective tool to decrease COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. An analysis from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found that the vaccine verification policy at restaurants, bars and gyms/fitness centers alone could have a significant positive impact, preventing between 17,900 and 75,900 infections, 421 and 1,760 hospitalizations and 63 and 257 deaths locally over six months with the order in place. You can find more information on this new King County policy at www.kingcounty.gov/verify.

The City of Seattle is proud to implement a vaccination verification policy, both for our residents, and as an employer. Vaccination verification is the right thing to do for our workers, our customers, our economy, and the health and vitality of our city.  As a City, we innovated and brought nation-leading testing and vaccination sites to our residents. Every step of way we have followed the advice of public health officials and scientists.”

For the Mayor’s September 20, 2021 statement on vaccination verification, CLICK HERE. For the Washington State Department of Health’s latest mask requirements, CLICK HERE.


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

Listening: Even though City Council is not currently holding meetings in person in order to follow public health guidelines, you can still follow along by listening on your computer or phone by CLICKING HERE. You can also listen on your phone by calling 253-215-8782.

Commenting: You can also submit public comment by sending an e-mail to me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov or to all 9 Councilmembers at council@seattle.gov. Please remember to add “For City Council Meeting” in the comments. Now you can also phone into the meeting to speak directly to the Council live. For the instructions on how to register and call in, CLICK HERE. Sign up begins two hours prior to the meeting start time.

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

I continue to schedule virtual in-district office hours, so we can chat by telephone or via Webex. Please continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests. You can also just send an e-mail to alex.pedersen@seattle.gov

For previous e-newsletters, visit my blog by CLICKING HERE.

We are getting through this together, Seattle!

With gratitude,

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

Email: Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov
Find It, Fix It


New Tiny Home Village to Help People Experiencing Homelessness in our District 4

September 23rd, 2021
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is f9c85020-e070-452b-a277-937b23f3d865.png
early aerial view sketch from Low Income Housing Institute

Here are updates on the new Tiny Home Village to help people experiencing homelessness in our District 4. Located at NE 45th Street and Roosevelt Way NE, thanks to the City of Seattle, Sound Transit, and the Low Income Housing Institute, the Tiny Home Village will have up to 36 tiny homes and be in place for 2 1/2 years. These blog posts include updates from various sources including our City Council office’s e-newsletter.

“I share the concerns of my constituents that unsheltered homelessness in our streets, greenways, and parks has increased during the COVID pandemic and we need action to help those in need and restore our public spaces for everyone,” said Alex Pedersen, Seattle Councilmember for District 4.  “With social distancing requiring alternate shelter solutions until vaccines are available to all, I believe that well-organized Tiny House Villages can be a cost-effective intervention when coupled with professional case management and performance-based contracts to ensure positive results.  Rather than just talking about it, we did the legwork to find a suitable short-term location and funding for a Tiny House Village and I’m pleased we are able to stand it up quickly thanks to Sound Transit, our City’s Human Services Department, and caring neighbors and small businesses.”

Source: February 23, 2021 press release.

There are many people to thank for the success of this tiny home village in the University District and I want to make sure to highlight the hard work on this project by my Legislative Aide Cara Vallier.


SEPTEMBER 28, 2021 UPDATE: Open House!

Here is our press release for the Open House:

Councilmember Pedersen, Sound Transit, Low Income Housing Institute, and District 4 Supporters Celebrate Tiny House Village Opening 

Tiny House Village creates much needed shelter spaces in University District  

SEATTLE, WA – Today Councilmember Alex Pedersen, the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), Sound Transit, Seattle’s Human Services Department (HSD), the University District business community, and neighbors celebrated the Open House for “Rosie’s” Tiny House Village, which will provide safe and supported living spaces for unsheltered neighbors.  

The 36-unit village, which will open on unutilized property at NE 45th Street in the University District,  is the first village on Sound Transit property. Named for the adjacent street, Roosevelt Way Northeast, Rosie’s Village case managers will help residents obtain permanent housing, employment, health care, food security, and other services. Each tiny house has electricity, overhead light, and a heater and the village has kitchen and restroom facilities, onsite showers and laundry, 24/7 security, and a counseling office. 

During the City’s budget process last year, Councilmember Pedersen secured funding for capital and operating costs for a village. Councilmember Pedersen engaged with Sound Transit to ask if this publicly owned land could be used to site a tiny house village in order to increase Seattle’s shelter spaces to bring more unhoused neighbors inside.  

Councilmember Pedersen’s office worked with Sound Transit and LIHI to prepare the site, including passing emergency legislation to allow the project to move forward with urgency during this crisis of homelessness amidst the COVID pandemic.  

This new tiny home village is an inspiring example of partnerships among governments, nonprofits, and community to address our most pressing crisis— homelessness. By working together and leveraging publicly-owned land, we’re creating a place, forging a path, and instilling hope for dozens of unsheltered people to come off the streets, stabilize their lives, and transition to permanent housing. I’m very grateful to both Sound Transit and the Low Income Housing Institute for enabling us to finally finish this life-saving project,” Pedersen said. 

“Building permanent affordable housing is the key to ending homelessness, but tiny house villages help people living unsheltered now,” said Sharon Lee, Executive Director of LIHI. LIHI has developed 2500 units of permanent affordable housing and 13 tiny house villages in Puget Sound. “Almost everybody living outside would choose to move to a tiny house village tomorrow if they could. Tiny houses provide a door that locks, warmth, privacy, and safety from COVID-19. Villages offer wraparound services and the data shows they are the City’s most effective program helping people transition to permanent housing.” 

Tiny houses offer tremendous benefits over tents—they are safe, weatherproof, and lockable—and the communities allow residents to reclaim their dignity and get on path to housing in a supportive village environment. 

“Addressing the challenges for people experiencing homelessness is one of the most urgent issues facing our region,” said Kimberly Farley, Sound Transit’s Chief System Officer. “Sound Transit is pleased to partner with city leaders and the Low Income Housing Institute on this innovative project to help tackle the most critical need burdening our region.” 

“Throughout the immense challenges of COVID-19, our dedicated HSD employees have been working tirelessly to ensure our neighbors experiencing homelessness can access safer places during the pandemic. This year alone, HSD anticipates the opening of over 700 new 24/7 enhanced and tiny house shelter spaces, which include brand new programs such as Rosie’s,” said Tess Colby, Interim Deputy Director of HSD. “These efforts are not done in a vacuum, and I would like to thank Mayor Durkan, Councilmember Pedersen, the Low Income Housing Institute, Sound Transit, Finance and Administrative Services, and all those who worked on this project in partnership to make it a reality.” 

“While we can’t lose track of building permanent affordable housing, utilizing surplus lands to build temporary housing like Rosie’s Village is an important and tangible way we can also act with urgency to address the homelessness crisis we are facing here in Seattle today,” said Don Blakeney, Executive Director of the U District Partnership. 

LIHI will form a Community Advisory Committee of neighborhood stakeholders to oversee progress of Rosie’s Village, provide feedback and advisory input to village staff, and to address questions, concerns, or offers of support from the community. These will be public meetings that all are welcome to attend, and often include nearby residential neighbors, local businesses, faith and community organizations, schools, and providers. If you wish to apply or are interested in learning more, please contact LIHI Community Engagement Director Josh Castle at josh.castle@lihi.org

 To find out about opportunities to donate items or volunteer, contact tinyhouses@lihi.org or Volunteer Programs Coordinator Alaa Hasan at alaa.hasan@lihi.org

The lease between Sound Transit and the City of Seattle can be extended until May 2024. After the Tiny House Village, Sound Transit is likely to pursue the construction of a mixed use development that includes permanent affordable housing.

Photos from today’s press conference can be found on the Council’s Flickr page. A recording of the press conference will be made available by Seattle Channel on their website.   


For the video of the press conference, CLICK HERE. Thank you, Seattle Channel!

Here are Councilmember Pedersen’s remarks from the Open House:

  • Many of us here today don’t need to ask the tough question, Where will you lay your head to sleep tonight? But — for our neighbors sleeping under tents, cardboard, and bushes — this is a question of life and death EVERY night.
  • We are here today to help answer that question for dozens of our neighbors experiencing homelessness.  
  • My name is Alex Pedersen, the City Councilmember for this district, and today we answer with MORE than a message of hope. Today we answer with solid structures — that people can count on — to shelter them from the rain and from the despair — in the face of homelessness.
  • Today is NOT a day for hand-wringing or finger-pointing. Today is a day for results.  More than 30 new houses.  These houses may be tiny, but their impact is huge.  Houses built strong, with wood and shingles — and love. Welcoming places for unsheltered neighbors to reset and renew.
  • Welcome to Rosie’s Village!
  • Thank you, Sound Transit, the Low Income Housing Institute, City Hall, and the many University District small businesses and neighbors who made it possible to open Rosie’s Tiny House Village.
  • Named for the adjacent street, Roosevelt Way Northeast, Rosie’s Village will provide its residents with professional case management, 24/7 security, electricity, and hygiene and kitchen facilities. Rosie’s Village will empower its residents to obtain employment, health care, food security, and, ultimately, permanent housing — for a brighter life.
  • Like all of us here today, I have seen the urgent need to do more to respond to the crisis of homelessness during the crisis of COVID. The University District, like many neighborhoods across Seattle, has seen a disturbing increase in visible homelessness.
  • As soon as I noticed this site becoming available here in our district, I engaged with Sound Transit to ask them, would they be willing to lease this land to the City for a tiny house village.  Let’s work together to bring more unhoused neighbors inside. Sound Transit said YES.
  • So, last year, during the City’s budget process, I secured the funding for construction and operations.
  • When the project ran into a barrier of bureaucratic hurdles, I helped everyone to jump over those hurdles and, with Councilmember Lewis, we expedited the legislation at City Hall to get it done.
  • While one tiny home village will not solve the problem of homelessness, by opening Rosie’s Village today, we are — like Teddy Roosevelt’s niece Eleanor Roosevelt — lighting a candle rather, than cursing the darkness.  Let’s us lift up this one small, but bright spot…to shine as a beacon for other efforts across the region…to get BIGGER results…so that, together, we bring EVERYONE inside for a brighter future.
  • Thank you.

SEPTEMBER 23, 2021 UPDATE: Tiny Moves Moving Onto the Site!

See the Homes of our New Tiny Home Village!

To provide relief and hope for some people experiencing homelessness in our District, we are glad to see the recent activity at the future Tiny House Village. You may have noticed the first tiny houses have arrived onsite at Rosie’s Village in the U District. Set up has begun with the village scheduled to open mid-October. Next week we are planning a “Grand Opening” event. The site at 1000 NE 45th Street will have approximately 35 tiny houses. The land is being leased for free from Sound Transit by the City of Seattle with annual renewals through May 31, 2024. For more information, contact the nonprofit LIHI.


AUGUST 18, 2021 UPDATE: Breaking Ground for Tiny Home Village in U District!

Here we are finally breaking ground August 18 to start installing the new Tiny Home Village called ”Rosie’s” at NE 45th Street and Roosevelt Way NE with the nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), Councilmember Pedersen with his Legislative Aide Cara Kadoshima Vallier, and Sound Transit — with support from the business improvement area (University District Partnership), community leaders, and volunteers. Thank you to the construction workers for getting started so the 36 tiny homes (coming soon) will have clean water and electricity!

Addressing the homelessness crisis with the urgency it deserves, I personally intervened to help resolve the outstanding issues so the City could finalize a first-of-its-kind lease with Sound Transit to use one of their sites in the University District for a new Tiny Home Village called “Rosie’s.” Councilmember Lewis and I then expedited the legislation through the City Council, with the Mayor agreeing to sign it immediately on August 9.

Addressing the homelessness crisis with the urgency it deserves, I personally intervened to help resolve the outstanding issues so the City could finalize a first-of-its-kind lease with Sound Transit to use one of their sites in the University District for a new Tiny Home Village called “Rosie’s.” Councilmember Lewis and I then expedited the legislation through the City Council, with the Mayor agreeing to sign it immediately on August 9.

The Council already authorized the funds for this tiny house village during our budget approvals last November. The nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute (known as “LIHI”) and their volunteers have completed building these tiny homes for the University District, which I was able to visit in their factory recently. So the last step was to get everyone to approve this first-of-its-kind lease, so we can get more people off the streets, into their own space — and onto a positive future.

The site is approximately 18,000 square feet and can fit approximately 36 tiny house structures. The lease would be for approximately 2 ½ years. After hosting the Tiny Home Village, the construction of new permanent affordable housing will occur on this site in our University District.

With the lease finalized, LIHI was able to hire their contractor for the trenching needed to provide fresh water, sewage removal, and electricity to the site – which can take 6 to 8 weeks to complete.

One of the reasons the lease was carefully crafted is because it will serve as a template for future partnerships, not only in Seattle, but also the region to accelerate our response to homelessness. I want to thank Sound Transit for making this land located near robust transit available to us to address homelessness in our area.

For the August 10 press release from Sound Transit, CLICK HERE.

For details and updates on this Tiny Home Village, CLICK HERE.


AUGUST 9, 2021 UPDATE:

Tiny Home Village Council Bill 120151 unanimously approves lease with Sound Transit!

Remarks during City Council meeting August 9, 2021:

  • During our Committee on Homelessness Strategies and Investments two weeks ago, many of us expressed our eagerness to stand up Tiny Home Villages as part of our emergency response to homelessness.  With professional case management, we know Tiny Home Villages are one of the non-congregate interventions that can help those experiencing homelessness get back on their feet and transition to permanent housing.
  • I’m pleased to report we had a break-through two weeks ago in lease negotiations between the City and Sound Transit on what will be Sound Transit’s first Tiny Home Village location. I’d like to thank Sound Transit for their willingness to make this property available to us.
  • Colleagues, in the spirit of engaging the homelessness crisis with the urgency it deserves, Councilmember Lewis and I walked onto last week’s Introduction & Referral Calendar Council Bill 120151, which is Item 1 on today’s full Council agenda. This expedited bill would authorize the City to enter into this lease with Sound Transit for use of the site for the tiny home village. 
  • I’d like to thank our Central Staff, especially Jeff Simms, for quickly finalizing this legislation so we did not have to wait any longer. Thank you, Councilmember Lewis, for enabling us to go straight to the Council rather than through your Committee.
  • The Council already authorized the funds for this tiny house village during our budget approvals last November. The nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute (known as “LIHI”) and their volunteers have completed building these tiny homes for the University District, which I was able to visit in their factory recently.  So the last step is approval of this lease, so we can get people off the streets and into their own space and onto a positive future.
  • The site is approximately 18,000 square feet and can fit approximately 36 tiny house structures. The lease would be for approximately 2 ½ years. After hosting the Tiny Home Village, the construction of new permanent affordable housing will occur on this site in our University District.
  • To further expedite this project, I have asked Sound Transit to sign the lease today, contingent upon our adoption. They have agreed.  I have also asked the Mayor to sign the legislation within the next 24 hours and she has agreed. And, finally, our Financial and Administrative Services Director is standing by ready to sign the lease on behalf of the City government. And I know the nonprofit LIHI is eager to get started on the site, so let’s finally get this done and get more people experiencing homelessness inside.   
  • Ideally, this lease can be used as a template for future partnerships not only in Seattle but also the region to accelerate our response to homelessness. For a copy of the lease, CLICK HERE.

Additional thoughts:

Accountability: I acknowledge that this Tiny Home Village has taken too long to stand up. I believe the slow outcome was caused by a combination of factors, including: (1) as a legislator focused on finding the site and approving the funds, I did not recognize soon enough the need to jump in with a hands-on approach to break log-jams with the subsequent lease negotiations; (2) accommodating a tiny home village is not part of Sound Transit’s traditional transportation mission and they were consumed with their own budget challenges during the pandemic — so it was natural for them to be thorough when negotiating a unique land lease (and we certainly appreciate the actions they took to get it done); (3) our City Attorney’s Office seemed to treat this as a traditional property transaction requiring a “belt and suspenders” abundance of caution against potential liability, rather than creatively problem-solving with the urgency of the City-declared homelessness emergency. In the end, it required a proverbial “act of Congress” (an ordinance adopted by the City Council) to get it done. That is not sustainable and we all hope this hard-forged land lease can be used by others as a template to stand up other tiny home villages with professional case management so we can bring more people inside throughout the region.

Councilmember Lewis and I believe this experience (and his experience working on other tiny home villages) confirms the need to create a temporary position in our Legislative Department focused on tracking the progress of these homelessness interventions on a daily basis to identify specific hurdles and suggest solutions to overcome them (solving practical transactional problems rather than issuing policy critique memos), so we not only treat the homelessness emergency with the urgency it deserves but also deliver faster results. Let’s hope that simple solution doesn’t run into bureaucratic, myopic roadblocks, too!


APRIL 2021 UPDATE (Community Online Meeting April 15):

Thanks to everyone who participated in the community outreach meeting and for the many people who have emailed with questions as well as support. For the Powerpoint presentation from the community outreach meeting, CLICK HERE.


From: Homelessness <Homelessness@seattle.gov>
Date: April 7, 2021 at 5:28:08 PM PDT
To: Homelessness <Homelessness@seattle.gov>
Subject: University District Tiny Home Village

Dear Community,

The City of Seattle is excited to announce a new tiny home village in the University District expected to begin construction in May. This new shelter resource is part of more than 350 enhanced shelter and tiny home shelter spaces coming online this year.

The new village will be located at (1000 NE 45th St, Seattle, WA 98105) and operated by the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), providing 40 new units of shelter capacity. The program will provide 24/7 staffing, on-site case managers and security. The property is being leased from Sound Transit by the City.

The program will receive referrals from the City’s HOPE Team, based on recommendations from outreach service providers, to ensure appropriate service match.    

The attached flyer includes more information on this program and contact information if you have questions. There is a virtual community meeting scheduled for April 15 from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM with representatives from LIHI, City of Seattle’s Human Services Department, and Sound Transit. Click Here to register 

Please feel free to share the meeting information and flyer with your tenants, colleagues, friends, and family.   

Thank you for your understanding and partnership as we work together to address the difficult challenges  facing our unhoused neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic.    

Sincerely,  

Diana Salazar, Director, Homeless Strategy & Investment Division, City of Seattle, Human Services Department 

[Note: LIHI is calling this Tiny Home Village “Rosie” to reference nearby Roosevelt Way NE.]


FEBRUARY 2021 NEWSLETTER EXCERPT:

A Tiny Home Village. (photo from Seattle Human Services Department)

Tiny Home Villages:  Chair of the Homelessness Strategies Committee (Councilmember Andrew Lewis) is proposing several new Tiny Home Villages in addition to the one I am shepherding in the University District. This will hopefully alleviate some of the suffering in the parks and near I-5.


DECEMBER 2020 NEWSLETTER EXCERPT:

Photo from nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute

Addressing Homelessness

Set up Regional Homelessness Authority. A year ago, I cast a key vote to support the Regional Homelessness Authority between King County and the City of Seattle. It is clear the status quo has not worked, and a regional response to this regional crisis is needed.  In taking this groundbreaking step, we are honoring the research and advice of experts to end the fragmented approach we currently have. It is my hope that we will now unify in a holistic and aligned manner to achieve better results. Although the selection of a CEO to stand up the organization has been delayed by COVID, we look forward to action in 2021. In addition to establishing the RHA last year, the City budget we recently approved finally sets aside the funds to fulfill the City’s financial commitment to this new regional effort. CLICK HERE for a link to the legislation, CLICK HERE to see King County’s statement on this issue, and CLICK HERE for the website of the new Regional Homelessness Authority.

Funded a Tiny Home Village in the University District. Given the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing homelessness crisis, I agree that well-organized tiny house villages can be a cost-effective intervention in conjunction with case management and a performance-based contract with our City’s Human Services Department.  We have seen a sharp rise in encampments in D4, done the legwork of finding a suitable short-term location for a Tiny House Village, and wish to move expeditiously to address this urgent concern of finding shelter and housing compliant with CDC guidelines. This new Tiny Home Village at NE 45th Street and Roosevelt Way NE will provide shelter (30 to 40 tiny homes) and case management for those experiencing homelessness there. The village will be temporary (1 to 2 years) until the COVID pandemic is completely behind us and the site is developed, most likely with affordable housing.

FYI: For 90 of the coldest days, the University of Washington will once again host “Tent City 3,” which will have shelter for between 40 and 70 people experiencing homelessness.  The location is the southern edge of campus behind the Wallace Building at NE Pacific Street & Brooklyn Ave in parking lot W35. For more info from UW, visit their “Addressing Homelessness” website by CLICKING HERE.

Improved accountability for homelessness response. At a time when homelessness appears to be growing, a majority of my Council colleagues unfortunately used the budget to dismantle our city’s interdepartmental Navigation Team that engaged with unauthorized homeless encampments. Instead, I believe we should have allocated more resources to our Human Services Department to track and evaluate the effectiveness of such changes. By a vote of 6 to 3, my colleagues accepted my proposal to require at least some tracking of results of their new model of outreach to homeless encampments. I firmly believe that we should always measure outcomes to make sure we are truly helping people.


NOVEMBER 2020 NEWSLETTER EXCERPT:

  • Funding for a Tiny Home Village in the University District and more dollars to the Regional Homelessness Authority. Given the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing homelessness crisis, I agree that well-organized tiny house villages can be a cost-effective intervention in conjunction with case management and a performance-based contract with the Human Services Department (HSD).  We have seen a sharp rise in encampments in D4, done the legwork of finding a suitable short-term location for a Tiny House Village, and wish to move expeditiously to address this urgent concern of finding shelter and housing compliant with CDC guidelines. In addition, this budget finally transfers substantial sums away from city government operations to the new Regional Homelessness Authority. Regional problems require regional solutions and, considering the City of Seattle’s spotty track record in responding to homelessness, the forthcoming regional operation is a welcome change.
  • Clean Cities Initiative. CLICK HERE to read an overview of this proposal to surge the clean-up of litter and illegal dumping. Since the beginning of the pandemic, through a combination of increases in trash at parks, reduced staffing due to COVID-19 safety, and a lack of volunteer opportunities for residents, the City faced significant challenges addressing litter and illegal dumping remediation. Data from Seattle Public Utilities’ (SPU) Illegal Dumping program shows a 195% increase in the volume of material collected from Q2 to Q3 2020. Departments, including SDOT, Parks & Recreation, Office of Economic Development, and SPU, will create a comprehensive plan to address the increase of waste challenges across the City which would stand up a rapid response team within Seattle Parks and Recreation to address trash in parks, and make infrastructure improvements in key parks to improve overall cleanliness. The proposal increases the purple bag program, the number of needle disposal boxes in the city and would expand the graffiti ranger program. Funding would also be directed to business districts throughout the city to increase contracted cleaning in their neighborhoods such as the University District. In addition, SPU would more than double the number of trash pickup routes which provide twice weekly collection of trash and bulky items in public rights of way which should greatly benefit District 4.

OCTOBER 2020 NEWSLETTER EXCERPT:

HOMELESSNESS INTERVENTION IN DISTRICT 4: WHAT DO YOU THINK?

aerial view sketch from Low Income Housing Institute

Many constituents have contacted me with concerns that the number of unauthorized encampments around District 4 has grown and, as I travel through the district each day, I see the suffering with my own eyes. The public health social distancing requirements of the COVID pandemic have required homeless shelters to “de-intensify,” thereby reducing their capacity by approximately half. Fortunately, the Durkan Administration has created additional shelter opportunities and has a plan for surging temporary housing as part of their 2021 budget. Unfortunately, a majority of my colleagues on the City Council still plan to defund and dismantle the team of city government employees that had been responding to homelessness (the Navigation Team).

To help to respond to what appears to be an increase of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness, I have worked with a local nonprofit and submitted an amendment to the budget to set aside funds necessary for a temporary new Tiny Home Village in our University District, which would have good access to transit. Used by Sound Transit for field offices during the construction of the Brooklyn Avenue light rail station (which opens next year), this small, centrally located site is scheduled for permanent affordable housing in a year or two. Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and homelessness crisis, I’m hopeful that a well-organized “village” of 30-40 “tiny homes” can be a cost-effective intervention as long as it is operated by a nonprofit experienced in exiting people to permanent housing in conjunction with case management and a performance-based contract with our Human Services Department. Our district has been home to various iterations of temporary and approved encampments and has generally been welcoming if the location makes sense and there is a plan.

We have seen a sharp rise in homelessness in our district and I’m hopeful this will help to address it until shelters throughout our region can restore their capacity, until the new Regional Homelessness Authority is fully addressing this regional problem– all while our Seattle Office of Housing continues to fund the construction of permanent affordable housing as fast as it can. Results instead of rhetoric. If you have comments or concerns about this partial solution, please contact my office at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov


FEBRUARY 2020 NEWSLETTER EXCERPT:

Transitional Encampments (Council Bill 119656):

On February 18, 2020, the City Council voted 6-1 to approve Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s bill to expand the number of city-sanctioned “transitional encampments” – which includes tents, cars and RVs – from three to 40.  While Councilmembers Sawant, Herbold, Juarez, Lewis, Morales, and Strauss voted in favor of this encampment bill, I opposed it for several reasons.  In my opinion, this bill was falsely advertised as “tiny home villages” when, in fact, it dramatically expands an ineffective tent encampment model that fails to sufficiently reduce homelessness. My amendments to modestly expand the actual Tiny Home Village model did not pass.

As someone who served the Clinton Administration at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, I know that homelessness is a regional crisis that requires regional solutions.  I’m proud that one of my first votes on the Council was to join Mayor Durkan, the previous City Council, and King County officials to create the Regional Homelessness Authority.  Aggressively expanding tent encampments—just within our city limits — seems to ignore the strategy our region is crafting to address this regional crisis.  For more on my decision to vote ‘no,’ please visit my blog.


FEBRUARY 18, 2020 POST:

Kshama Sawant’s bill to create 40 tent encampments in Seattle passed, but without sensible amendments

Today the City Council approved Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s bill to expand the number of tent encampments authorized by our city government from three to 40. The final vote was 6 to 1 and I was the lone No vote (which I explain below).

Hoping to make her encampment legislation stronger, I offered amendments to preserve, expand, and extend the successful version of the “Tiny Home Village” model that lifts up those experiencing homelessness by effectively transitioning them to permanent housing. Unfortunately, my amendments to honor our new regional approach and focus on what works by modestly expanding the actual Tiny Home Village model did not pass. In my opinion, this bill was falsely advertised as “tiny home villages” when, in fact, it dramatically expands an ineffective tent encampment model that fails to sufficiently reduce homelessness.

When I served the Clinton Administration at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), I was literally working in the office that reviews funding requests from cities across the country seeking to reduce homelessness. My career outside the federal government included years financing the preservation and construction of affordable housing for low income individuals and families across the nation. With that experience, I know it’s vital that we invest in programs that truly work.

After a shaky start in some locations, several Tiny Home Villages became a success story — but only when built and managed effectively to achieve the positive result of actually exiting residents to permanent housing.

I’m grateful to those Council colleagues who voted with me today to require case management, which is one of the essential elements to help those experiencing homelessness get the permanent housing and services they need to thrive. One of my other amendments would have required the actual physical structures of what we know of as “Tiny Homes” — a roof, four walls, and a door. Without requiring the physical structures, the bill that passed today is really just a massive expansion of tent encampments.

Homelessness is a regional crisis that requires regional solutions. I’m proud that one of my first votes was to join Mayor Durkan, the previous City Council, and King County officials to create the Regional Homelessness Authority (RHA). This regional body will have experts from the region including those with lived experience of homelessness who will create a Five Year Plan with proven solutions to reduce homelessness. One of my amendments was to sunset the encampment law in 2023, at which time we would “consider future extensions based on policy guidance to be established by the King County Regional Homelessness Authority.” Without my amendment, the sponsor’s proposal to expand tent encampments from three to 40 — within just our city limits — seems to ignore the strategy our region is crafting to address our regional crisis. Unfortunately, my amendment to sunset this new policy did NOT pass.

Homelessness was, by far, the top concern I heard from residents in every neighborhood of my district over the past year and my district has repeatedly welcomed both tiny home villages and temporary tent encampments on the property of faith-based organizations. When investing tax dollars or changing land use policies, I believe our compassion for those experiencing homelessness requires that we get results with solutions proven to work.

I believe my amendments would have been a good compromise to preserve, extend, and modestly expand a successful model but, because those amendments did not pass, I felt it was important to vote No on this poorly structured bill from Councilmember Sawant. Regardless, the bill passed, so I look forward to monitoring the program to be administered by the Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) and Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI). After we collect data on results and after the RHA issues its regional Five Year Plan crafted by experts (including those experiencing homelessness), I look forward to making appropriate adjustments to achieve the goal we all seek: dramatically reduce homelessness so that it is rare, one-time, and brief.

# # #


Rebuilding Bridges, Appreciating Officers, and More in D4

August 23rd, 2021

August 2021

Friends and Neighbors,

As we approach the end of summer and look forward to the fall season, we’ll strive to beat back the COVID resurgence, help children return to school, diplomatically debate our city’s $6.5 billion annual budget, and recommit ourselves to solving the Seattle challenges intensified by the pandemic. While the City Council is officially on a two-week “recess” (which just means no meetings of the Council), I’ll still be working hard for the 20 neighborhoods of our dynamic District 4. Our next City Council meeting is September 13. I hope you find this newsletter from our office informative and helpful. Thank you.

See whether we answered your questions on Seattle Channel

Last month, reporter Brian Callanan interviewed Councilmember Debora Juarez and me for his show on the award-winning Seattle Channel. Check out the video by CLICKING HERE. (photo by Team Juarez).


IN DISTRICT 4

Rebuilding Bridges and Reopening Fairview Avenue Bridge

Everyone seemed happy about the re-opening of the Fairview Avenue bridge connecting Eastlake and beyond to our downtown job centers! We are eager to see more attention to our City’s bridges. In the photo, standing 2nd from the left (and wise to wear a hat in the blazing sun) is fellow District 4 leader Kathryn Gardow whose work includes the Washington State Public Works Board, which generously funded a large portion of this bridge project.  (photo by Eastlake community leader Jules James)

 

The beauty of our city is shaped by its many waterways and ravines. Seattle’s tremendous topography means we rely on bridges to connect us, to support all modes of travel, and to keep our entire economy moving.

This month I was able to stand with community leaders and construction workers on a rebuilt bridge we can all celebrate!

Thank you to Sam Zimbabwe, our talented leader of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). I would also like to thank the neighbors and businesses who have endured nearly two years of detours during the re-construction of this bridge.  We also appreciate the multiple organizations providing the money needed to replace the bridge, including the Washington State Public Works Board which generously funded a large portion of this bridge project.

The Fairview Avenue Bridge is a vital North-South arterial connecting Eastlake (and several other neighborhoods in our Council District) to thousands of jobs provided by employers anchored in our downtown. Maintaining basic infrastructure like this bridge is required for restarting the engine of our economy.

Seattle has over 100 bridges and many are 50 to 100 years old. I’ve been calling on City Hall to prioritize our aging bridges, so they stay safe AND stay open. This followed the independent audit I ordered for all City-owned bridges last year. That audit shows we have a lot more work to do to prioritize and fix our fragile bridges. The audit identified the old Fairview Bridge as a high priority for replacement. The bridge was over 70 years old and rated in poor condition. The wooden posts holding up the western half of the old bridge were decaying, and the concrete under the eastern half of the bridge was cracked. The new bridge, however, is built to modern earthquake standards. It is safe and sturdy to carry freight, transit, cars, bikes – everyone.

As you read this, the Mayor’s Office is crafting next year’s budget proposal which she will deliver to this City Council in just a few weeks (Sept 24). After the emergency closure of the West Seattle Bridge followed by the audit I ordered for the rest of our aging bridges, everyone who relies on these vital connections is counting on her budget proposal to hear that wake-up call and dedicate additional funding for Seattle’s bridge infrastructure.

CLICK HERE to read more about the Fairview Avenue Bridge on SDOT’s website.

MONTLAKE BRIDGE: On the northern entrance to Eastlake, we know our aging University Bridge is bearing the brunt of the traffic detoured from the Montlake Bridge as our State government dutifully repairs their aging bridge. While the increased traffic congestion will be with us though August, I commend the Washington State DOT for prioritizing safety and asset management and would like to see a similarly strong dedication of resources to repair bridges owned by the City. For more on the Montlake Bridge repair, CLICK HERE.

Seattle City Light Pledges Fix for Power Outages in Wedgwood

The Wedgwood neighborhood has repeatedly experienced power outages along the 35th Avenue NE corridor. As the District Councilmember (south of NE 85th Street) and Chair of the City’s Transportation & Utilities Committee, I was able to amplify the voices of those in the neighborhood and to encourage Seattle City Light to prioritize a sustainable solution. I very much appreciate the City Light workers who have been repairing each outage and we thank them in advance for this upcoming, longer term fix. While fixing the problem will, ironically, require temporary outages to replace the aging equipment, this effort should fix this recurring problem with a reliable and sustainable solution to avoid future outages. Construction is starting this month and will last approximately two months. [UPDATE from November 22, 2021: Seattle City Light reports that completion of this project could, unfortunately, be delayed to January 2022.]  Please visit Seattle City Light’s website for more information.

Scarecrow Video in the University District: Like No Other Place in the World

Key leader of the nonprofit Scarecrow Video on Roosevelt Way NE across from the U District Food bank near NE 50th Street (photo by Seattle Times)

This past week, I visited our firefighters to thank them at the U District fire station, which is located on the same block as the legendary Scarecrow Video. This reminded me that this special treasure trove of movies was featured earlier this month in the Seattle Times in an article titled, “How Seattle’s Scarecrow Video plans to share its vast library nationwide.” For the article and how you can help Scarecrow to thrive, CLICK HERE. As the article says, Scarecrow Video is like no other place in the world – and we’re proud their home is District 4.

West Green Lake Way North Will Open to Car Traffic

My office and the office of Councilmember Strauss (whose Council District 6 includes all of Green Lake) received many complaints about the Durkan Administration’s temporary closure of that portion of West Green Lake Way N. Fortunately, SDOT recently announced they will reopen it for 2-way vehicle traffic and provide a 2-way bike lane connection this Fall. For the July 29 article in the Seattle PI with a helpful overview and links to SDOT’s official recent statement, CLICK HERE. In the meantime, alternate routes include N 50th Street.

National Night Out: Preventing Crime as a Community

As part of the annual “National Night Out,“ I attended several crime prevention block parties in North Seattle, including this one visited by our Police Chief Adrian Diaz in the Maple Leaf neighborhood.

I enjoyed visiting with hundreds of constituents at more than 10 locations across District 4 during “National Night Out” on Tuesday, August 3, including Bryant, Ravenna, Wedgwood, the U District, and Maple Leaf. While these annual events were cancelled last year due to the COVID pandemic, they bounced back strong this year, with hundreds of blocks signing up across Seattle. Many thanks to the neighbors for organizing their block parties.  Our police department is so short staffed, they were not able to visit most of the locations as they normally do, but the block parties I attended showed a lot of support for officers and the difficult jobs they have. National Night Out strengthens neighborhood connections to create safer communities.

15th Avenue NE Paving Project Continues

Thank you for your patience as SDOT works on completing the 15th Avenue Northeast repaving project which includes upgrading utilities and installing bike lanes near the new Roosevelt light rail station opening this Fall.  Unfortunately, SDOT believes they will still be working on 15th Ave NE after the first day of school at Roosevelt High. However, they will have completed the work on all three of the other roads surrounding the school. Also, they will have completed all other major work such as drainage, lights, crosswalks and sidewalks, parking, and signage by the first day of school to reduce impacts. In the end, we believe it will improve travel connections and safety.

Seattle Parks and Recreation Plans to Begin Phased Reopening in Early September

Our Seattle Parks and Recreation Department has announced plans to reopen more community centers which had been closed due to the pandemic.

The Parks Department will be ramping up public services and programming at recreation facilities across Seattle beginning September 7, 2021. This ramp-up will include reopening most public pools (for lap swim, independent aquatic fitness and limited aquatic exercise classes), community center programs (lifelong recreation, specialized programs, etc.), and teen programs that support academic success and enrichment. These programs are in addition to the preschool and childcare programs already operating in community centers.

To see the full ramp-up schedule of pools and teen programs CLICK HERE. Please note that all facilities will continue to follow any current COVID-19 restrictions through the state, city or King County Public Health. The current guidance requires all staff and visitors to mask up upon entry regardless of vaccination status.

Art at Magnuson Park

The Magnuson Park Gallery is open and in-person (with masks) and now features a vibrant exhibit of art from the Kang-O’Higgins studio of the Gage Academy of Art. Enjoy diverse artwork from their current students, alumni, and teacher assistants. Gallery Hours (through August 27th): Thursdays & Fridays, 3pm-7pm and Saturdays & Sundays,11am-4pm. Location: Magnuson Park’s Building 30 West, 7448 63rd Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98115 (note: the NE 74th Street entrance is closed due to construction).


TRANSPORTATION AND UTILITIES COMMITTEE

Apply to the Seattle Transit Board or Seattle Bike Board!

As Transportation Chair, I help to approve appointees to transportation-related boards. Your city government is committed to promoting diversity in boards and commissions, and we encourage Black, Indigenous, and other people of color; people with disabilities; bicultural and bilingual people; seniors; and LGBTQ people to apply. We have an ongoing process of appointments as terms end and vacancies occur, so that we create opportunities for others interested in participating.

The Bike Advisory Board has 12 volunteer members who serve two-year terms and they are currently recruiting three new members. CLICK HERE to learn more and apply by August 27.

The Transit Advisory Board also has 12 volunteer members with openings for three new members.  CLICK HERE to learn more and apply by August 27.

I believe we should manage our transportation systems to efficiently move the most people and goods in the most environmentally friendly ways possible. To encourage more collaboration (rather than competition for attention and resources among individual modes of travel), I am hopeful we can increase coordination among the array of advisory boards and am thankful Seattle has dedicated volunteers striving to achieve our region’s transportation goals.


HOMELESSNESS AND HOUSING 

New Tiny Home Village Finally Breaks Ground

Breaking ground August 18 to start installing the new Tiny Home Village called ”Rosie’s” at NE 45th Street and Roosevelt Way NE with the nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), Councilmember Pedersen with his Legislative Aide Cara Kadoshima Vallier, and Sound Transit — with support from the business improvement area (University District Partnership), community leaders, and volunteers. Thank you to the construction workers for getting started so the 36 tiny homes (coming soon) will have clean water and electricity!

Addressing the homelessness crisis with the urgency it deserves, I personally intervened to help resolve the outstanding issues so the City could finalize a first-of-its-kind lease with Sound Transit to use one of their sites in the University District for a new Tiny Home Village called “Rosie’s.” Councilmember Lewis and I then expedited the legislation through the City Council, with the Mayor agreeing to sign it immediately on August 9.

Addressing the homelessness crisis with the urgency it deserves, I personally intervened to help resolve the outstanding issues so the City could finalize a first-of-its-kind lease with Sound Transit to use one of their sites in the University District for a new Tiny Home Village called “Rosie’s.” Councilmember Lewis and I then expedited the legislation through the City Council, with the Mayor agreeing to sign it immediately on August 9.

The Council already authorized the funds for this tiny house village during our budget approvals last November. The nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute (known as “LIHI”) and their volunteers have completed building these tiny homes for the University District, which I was able to visit in their factory recently. So the last step was to get everyone to approve this first-of-its-kind lease, so we can get more people off the streets, into their own space — and onto a positive future.

The site is approximately 18,000 square feet and can fit approximately 36 tiny house structures. The lease would be for approximately 2 ½ years. After hosting the Tiny Home Village, the construction of new permanent affordable housing will occur on this site in our University District.

With the lease finalized, LIHI was able to hire their contractor for the trenching needed to provide fresh water, sewage removal, and electricity to the site – which can take 6 to 8 weeks to complete.

One of the reasons the lease was carefully crafted is because it will serve as a template for future partnerships, not only in Seattle, but also the region to accelerate our response to homelessness. I want to thank Sound Transit for making this land located near robust transit available to us to address homelessness in our area.

For the August 10 press release from Sound Transit, CLICK HERE.

For details and updates on this Tiny Home Village, CLICK HERE.

 

Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA): A Grand Bargain Mainly for For-Profit Developers

I am thankful for the recent Seattle Times’ article on Seattle’s Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program because the reporter objectively assessed the data and interviewed a broad range of stakeholders, not just supporters of the “grand bargain.” Based on the 2020 figures from the City, the MHA program appears to be a grand bargain mainly for developers who get the ability to build more while skirting the full cost of providing the affordable housing originally promised. The first iteration of MHA has been a disappointment with the vast majority of developers choosing to write a check to avoid building any affordable housing on site in the neighborhoods that need them.

The failure of MHA to result in inclusionary low-income housing is not the fault of developers whose profit motive will maximize whatever opportunities are allowed. The shortcoming is on City government policymakers, especially if improvements to the MHA program are avoided by City Hall.

One of the easiest ways to improve the MHA program is by increasing the fees so that developers are incentivized to produce more low-income housing on site, serving households earning no more than 60% of the area median income. Rather than an indirect tinkering with land use code definitions and acquiescing to for-profit developer requests for additional blanket upzone giveaways, let’s do what’s actually needed: increase the fees so that growth pays for growth and we produce more low-income housing faster.

It’s also important to consider measures to prevent (or at least mitigate) the demolition of existing affordable housing. Too often the city government approves large-scale changes without first putting in place protection measures to prevent displacement of existing residents and small businesses.

For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.

Supporting Trees at Yesler Terrace

The City Council adopted my amendment to the large-scale, mixed-income Yesler Terrace redevelopment project to make sure tree replacements benefit low-income areas that typically have less tree canopy. To read my amendment, CLICK HERE. I am pleased to report that this provision establishes a policy of prioritizing tree conservation and replacement in communities most in need of more trees. The amendment was negotiated with the Seattle Housing Authority along with expertise from our City Council’s Central Staff and the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI). I appreciate the collaboration as well as the result.

Time to End the “Wild West” of Tree Cutting by Licensing and Registering Arborists?

illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt

Many constituents complain that it seems like the “Wild West” of chainsaws in our Emerald City. One of the reasons is that SDCI does not have even basic licensing or registration for tree cutters or arborists.  The public doesn’t know who the tree cutters are (without registration) or their qualifications (without licensing) and yet they are paid by developers to decrease our tree canopy for projects approved by your city government. Meanwhile we wait and wait for the Durkan Administration to produce a stronger tree protection ordinance.

Despite the environmental and health benefits of trees in the midst of a climate crisis, the loss of trees—especially large native conifers—has been an increasing problem in Seattle with disproportionate negative impacts for communities of color. Some of these tree losses could be prevented by the basic licensing and registration of arborists. Even a recent $100,000 penalty by the City for removing a large cedar tree doesn’t seem to be sufficient to stop profit-motivated real estate developers and tree cutters from continuing to violate our already weak tree ordinance.

Our City’s Urban Forestry Commission and many tree advocates believe the licensing and registration of arborists could help to maintain a sustainable urban forest that produces health and environmental benefits. While my office continues to encourage the Durkan Administration to produce a stronger tree protection ordinance by this September, we recognize the separate common-sense need for the licensing and registration of tree cutters and arborists.

We appreciate hearing from constituents about possible violations of our City’s existing weak tree ordinance to help us to craft specific policies to protect Seattle’s declining tree canopy. If you become aware of impending removal of large trees—or while it’s happening—please send photos and the location to my office at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov.

Email Council to support greater oversight of tree cutters

 


PUBLIC SAFETY

Need to Approve Mayor Durkan’s Efforts to Stop Alarming Drain of Police Officers

In response to the alarming attrition of officers, the Mayor sent at the end of July a bill and memo to the City Council to deploy $15 million in “salary savings” from our Seattle Police Department to cover a variety of SPD costs , including overtime pay needed due to the record-breaking departure of officers during the past year as well as those projected to leave this year.

I immediately endorsed the proposal from the Mayor and SPD on how to invest those dollars, issuing this statement to the media:

“I commend our Mayor and Police Chief for responding to the surge in gun violence and the alarming loss of police officers by transmitting this sensible safety legislation to the City Council,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen. “I urge my colleagues on the City Council to embrace these initial public safety solutions by acting swiftly on this legislation ….”

Unfortunately, our City Council Finance Committee chose not to authorize additional recruitment or retention funding at this time. When the bill arrives at the full City Council on September 13, I am hoping there will be consensus on the need to increase efforts for both recruiting new officers and retaining the highly trained ones we already have.

I visited the roll calls of the first, second, and third watches of our North Precinct this past month. I have attended police roll calls and participated in ride-alongs in the past, but these displayed the lowest morale I have ever experienced. This signals to me that the current attrition could be just the tip of the iceberg, unless we do more to retain existing officers.

I appreciated the frank feedback from these frontline workers who put themselves in harm’s way every day for our residents and small businesses. In addition, the exit interviews of departing officers made it painfully clear why so many of them are leaving: the apparent lack of support from many City leaders. Even though I never called for a 50% defunding of the organization, I acknowledge my own part and accountability in contributing to the low morale by not speaking up sooner to support the good and difficult work these professionals do as fellow city government employees working in difficult conditions under the frequently updated laws and protocols approved by government leaders. In short, I encouraged them to stay with Seattle.

I want to acknowledge those constituents who disagree with this approach and have urged me (and all Councilmembers) to reinvest that $15 million to other non-SPD solutions. I probably won’t convince anyone to change their minds here, but I want to try to explain my position. The vast majority of city government’s $6.5 billion budget goes toward helping our residents, especially those who are most vulnerable. Within the $1.6 billion discretionary general fund, about 25% goes toward the police (a higher percentage is often cited, but that higher percentage includes the Fire Department and other offices). The $15 million suddenly available mid-year should not be called “savings” because we need to replenish the lost officers to fulfill our duty under the City Charter Article VI, Section 1 which states, “There shall be maintained adequate police protection in each district of the City.”

For both safety and for our obligations under our City Charter, I believe the record-breaking attrition has become a crisis.  Even though I opposed the 50% defund effort that 7 of my colleagues originally pledged in 2020, I have to hold myself accountable for not quickly and assertively articulating the downsides of adopting such slogans that they would have consequences for community safety AND for not sooner encouraging those serving on the Labor Relations Policy Committee to hurry up and work out a police contract that values good officers and boosts employee wellness while ensuring we don’t pay extra for body cameras or allow an arbitration system that could protect misconduct. Protestors have every right to use slogans to crystalize their message, but policymakers have an extra responsibility to synthesize the variety of views and experiences and to consider the practical implementation implications of our statements and votes on legislation.

In his Seattle Times column entitled, “How the City Council left Seattle in a no man’s land on crime,” Danny Westneat concluded, “Seattle plainly needs both: Enough cops to respond to rising violent crime, and more counselors to try to prevent it. This is why ‘re-imagining’ or “defunding” the police was always going to cost more money, not less. It was governing malpractice that the City Council jumped into this brandishing a protest slogan, and Seattle now is paying a price.”

If he could have expanded on his column, I would have pointed out that SPD’s sworn community policing officers help to prevent crime AND that counselors can be used in place of some 9-1-1 responses. It’s complex. All the more reason that policymakers should avoid slogans in the first place.

The federal judge overseeing the police reform consent decree said recently, “The city, the mayor and other elected officials from the City Council need to be constructive, not destructive, to progress. I have seen too much of knee-jerk reaction and not enough forethought. We have to be religious in continuing to reduce bias and disparity, at the same time we need to recognize … there is an essential requirement for public safety.”

The new monitor, Dr. Antonio Oftelie of Harvard, told the court that the department has lost more than 300 officers since 2019, and has been able to replace fewer than 100 of them. The personnel shortage has, for now, essentially ended community policing in the city and sent response times “skyrocketing.” “Much of the training, technology, and review systems implemented under the consent decree cannot be sustained without necessary budget and personnel,” he said, describing SPD as being at an “inflection point.” He continued: “The actions and investments of the city will either tip the department into a deepening crisis, or will lead the department into a future in which it can sustain compliance and build trust in constitutional policing.”

Source: SPD memo to City Council Central Staff, July 23, 2021

 

Crime Report Statistics

Here are the latest crime report stats from SPD’s official dashboard for the North Precinct (40% of the city, which is north of the ship canal and includes three of the nine Council Districts, including our District 4). These are offense reports taken by a sworn officer or approved by an officer after receiving it online or by phone.

Crime Dashboard from SPD: https://www.seattle.gov/police/information-and-data/crime-dashboard (Note: 2021 in the dashboard includes just the first 7 months of this year. For a rough projection of the entire year of 2021, one could divide the 2021 figures by 7 months and then multiply them by 12.)

Here’s a table that compares crimes reported during the first two quarters of each of the past 3 years:

New Crime Prevention Coordinator approved by Finance Committee

I’m pleased to report that the City Council Finance Committee approved my proposal to add another Crime Prevention Coordinator position to the North Precinct. There were many reasons why my team and I pushed for this additional position: (1) I wanted to be responsive to the many residents and small businesses who suffered the absence of the crime prevention position while it sat vacant for months creating a backlog; (2) at 40% of the City’s geographic area,  the North Precinct is more than double the size of any of the other 4 police precincts in the city and is home to 3 Councilmembers; (3) that position shows residents and small businesses practical ways to prevent crime; and (4) they can alert SPD about emerging crime trends that might not be immediately apparent from other data.

Councilmembers Gonzalez, Herbold, and Lewis voted yes while Chair Mosqueda (preferring to consider it during the regular Fall budget process instead), voted No.

Over $70 Million of the $100 Million Commitment to BIPOC Communities Proceeding

Protests demanding racial justice and community-led solutions, especially in Black communities, spread across the United States and internationally after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020.

Mayor Durkan committed to investing $100 million focused on Black, Indigenous, and communities of color to address the systemic harms caused by racist policies and generations of disinvestment and to produce more positive outcomes with programs that prevent harm. The Council allocated additional funding toward various efforts.

The City is providing more than build capacity for 33 organizations working toward community-led solutions to end violence and increase safety in (BIPOC) communities. These investments will support organizations providing an array of programs, services, and upstream investments meant to improve outcomes and contribute to overall community safety and wellbeing.

Last year, the Human Services Department moved quickly to award $4 million to the Seattle Community Safety Initiative, which is building community safety hubs and wraparound services in three Seattle neighborhoods under the leadership of Community Passageways.

The City provided $30 million to a “Equitable Communities Initiative Task Force.

We also await the remaining $30 million through a community-led participatory budgeting process for 2022.

Addressing Gun Violence: $2 Million More for Regional Peacekeepers Collective

Building on recent investments to improve community-led safety and Citywide efforts to reimagine public safety, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan recently announced the City of Seattle will invest $2 million in the King County Regional Peacekeepers Collective pilot program to address the steep rise in gun violence using a public health approach. The City’s investment builds capacity with increased staff and comprehensive support systems for young people at risk of gun violence and their families.

“We know that violence is the result of many failed systems and societal disparities. And because, in many instances, the government for decades shirked responsibility, we are called on at this moment to invest in resources to right the wrongs created by those failed systems,” said Mayor Durkan. “There is no magic wand that will erase violence from the community; however, we know we need a range of solutions as with most complex regional issues. That’s why this investment in the Regional Peacekeepers Collective is so important.”

By investing $2 million over two years, the Regional Peacekeepers Collective will have the necessary funding to add restorative services such as family support specialists, youth and family support services, comprehensive training, and technical assistance. These critical supports will allow the Regional Peacekeepers Collective to deliver the wraparound case management and family-centered engagement that can help disrupt the cycle of gun violence and put them on a path to health and wellbeing.  Approximately 200 young people and their families are expected to be supported over the next two years.

“The City of Seattle’s investments in community-led safety efforts to help address the rise in gun violence is critically important,” said Fred Rivara, MD, professor of Pediatrics in the UW School of Medicine. Dr. Rivera is also director of the Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, a cutting-edge program I helped to fund when I was a Legislative Aide to former Council President Tim Burgess.

“Even with diminished resources, SPD officers have been exhaustively working each and every incident of gun violence,” said Chief Adrian Diaz of the Seattle Police Department. “We have been conducting investigations during which we recovered over 50 guns in 19 different search warrants just a few weeks ago. We are on pace to recover another 1,000 guns this year alone. We need to make sure these guns aren’t in the hands of people who want to harm our community. It’s true, we need to work together to fight this violence. We cannot accept this as a norm for Seattle.”

Triage Response to Provide Alternative to Police Response for Non-Emergencies

Building from the City’s work to reimagine policing and community safety, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced a proposal to create a new specialized triage response that will provide an alternative model for some non-criminal 9-1-1 calls and reduce the need for a sworn officer response for some calls. The specialized responses will include professionals that are experts in outreach, behavioral health, and have tangible connections to the communities that they will serve. When at full capacity, this specialized response could respond to the potentially 8,000 – 14,000 non-emergency wellness checks currently handled by sworn officers from our Seattle Police Department.

“Seattle residents expect and deserve a timely 9-1-1 response, and part of reimagining community safety means providing meaningful and effective alternatives to a sworn officer. Building off of the success of the Seattle Fire Department’s Health One model, the new specialized triage response will provide an alternative response to some 9-1-1 calls,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan.


COVID

As Mayor Durkan put it last week, our work to save lives doesn’t happen by accident – it happens by the choices we make. The choices we are making are saving lives. Seattle has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country with approximately 82.5% of residents 12+ who have at least one dose.
We are watching cautiously however as the Delta variant is one of the most dangerous mutations yet, and there are so many in our City and community under the age of 12 who cannot be vaccinated.

We know what works to protect ourselves against this virus: vaccines, masks, testing, and distancing. Vaccines are widely available across Seattle and King County. You can visit visit one of our rapid, accessible, and free testing sites, which are still crucial for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.


MORE for District 4

Seattle Preschool Program Open for Applications

overwhelmingly approved by Seattle voters in 2014. It is heartening to know that thousands of children are receiving the lifelong benefits that high-quality preschool can deliver. There is a lot of talk about the need for equitable, upstream programs proven to benefit young people so they have positive life outcomes — SPP has been one of the shining examples for years.

Seattle Reads “The Vanishing Half”

On August 9 the Council received a ‘Seattle Reads’ program for 2021. This year, Seattle Public Libraries are featuring a work of fiction entitled “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett.

As many of you know, “Seattle Reads” is our city-wide book group, where people are encouraged to read and discuss the same book as a way of building connections across communities.  This year I was especially impressed with SPL’s community partnerships to engage  artists, writers, and partners such as Black Heritage Society.

I encourage readers to check out these incredible organizations and attend one of the interesting events the Seattle Public Library has planned associated with this book.

The Seattle Public Library has reopened 23 of 27 libraries. Open hours are currently limited; however, thanks to financial support from the federal government, the Library is restoring staffing systemwide for more open hours this fall.

The branches in District 4 currently open are:

  • Fremont Branch (731 N. 35th St.), Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays
  • Northeast Branch (6801 35th Ave. NE), Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays; noon to 6 p.m. Sundays
  • University Branch (5009 Roosevelt Way NE), Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays; noon to 6 p.m. Sundays

The Wallingford branch will reopen this fall. This link is the best one for accessing open branches (with days/hours):  https://www.spl.org/hours-and-locations.


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

Listening: Even though City Council is not currently holding meetings in person in order to follow public health guidelines, you can still follow along by listening on your computer or phone by CLICKING HERE. You can also listen on your phone by calling 253-215-8782.

Commenting: You can also submit public comment by sending an e-mail to me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov or to all 9 Councilmembers at council@seattle.gov.

council@seattle.gov.

Please remember to add “For City Council Meeting” in the comments. Now you can also phone into the meeting to speak directly to the Council live. For the instructions on how to register and call in, CLICK HERE. Sign up begins two hours prior to the meeting start time.

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

alex.pedersen@seattle.gov

CLICKING HERE.

We are getting through this together, Seattle!

With gratitude,

 

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

Email: Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov
Find It, Fix It


Bridges, Tree Infrastructure, Tiny Homes, Murals and More in D4

July 22nd, 2021

July 2021

Friends and Neighbors,

As the summer advances, we continue to emerge from the pandemic together. Despite all the struggles, it’s great to see some smiles again. Please read on for bridges, tree infrastructure, tiny homes, murals and more in District 4!  Thank you.

IN DISTRICT 4

Future of U District Brightens

Councilmember Pedersen joined volunteers earlier this month to paint festive murals on buildings along The Ave in the heart of our University District. Thank you, University District Partnership, for brightening the neighborhood.

Tiny Homes for Rosie’s Village Almost Done!

Councilmember Pedersen recently visited one of the factories where the tiny homes for the forthcoming U District Tiny Home Village (Rosie’s) are being constructed. While the site at Roosevelt Way NE and NE 45th Street is disturbingly bare, that’s because the tiny homes are built more quickly off site. In fact, they are almost all done!

In the photo above, Councilmember Pedersen stands with Barb, the professional and inspirational leader of the dedicated volunteers who have increased their pace of tiny home construction. Now the bottleneck is finding the land to site new Tiny Homes. This makes the creation of the Regional Homelessness Authority even more important as they work with cities throughout the region to consider how best to do their fair share to house people experiencing homelessness as we emerge from the pandemic.

The roadblocks facing my office to finalize just this one Tiny Home Village and the hurdles faced by the Chair of our Homelessness Committee (Andrew Lewis) to stand up several more villages inspired us to push for a new position to achieve faster implementation. Often a project is stuck because two different government agencies are arguing about esoteric minutiae — while people are struggling unsheltered on the streets. This position would use their oversight role to improve communications and break logjams. As stated in our proposal to the City Council’s Finance Committee, the new “Homelessness Response Project Analyst” would track and oversee the progress of local and regional government agencies as well as contracted nonprofit partners in standing up City‐funded emergency shelter assets. The new staff member would report directly to the Chair of the Select Committee on Homelessness Strategies and Investments and make their analysis available to all members of said committee. Responsibilities include maintaining up‐to‐date progress reports on all City‐funded emergency shelter assets, mapping hurdles and solutions to project completion, and fostering intergovernmental relations for completing and operating projects in an effective manner.

If you agree we need this extra push, write to the City Council at Council@seattle.gov and tell the Finance & Housing Committee: Please fund the Homelessness Response Project Analyst so we can house people faster. Support the amendment by Councilmembers Lewis and Pedersen.

In the meantime, we are thankful to Sound Transit for granting the City access to this site in the U District for at least the next couple of years. And many thanks to Lowe’s Home Improvement for supporting the Tiny Home “factory” in SODO and to the nonprofit Low-Income Housing Institute for leading the effort to pull everything together, which will include professional case management to empower the residents to transition eventually to permanent housing.

Email City Council

 

Traffic Revisions and Pedestrian Places on The Ave

Photo from U District Partnership

Visit University Way (“The Ave”) between NE 42nd and 43rd Streets for some wonderful summer outdoor dining! This stretch of The Ave will be open to pedestrians and diners, but temporarily closed to northbound vehicles until September. You’ll also notice changes on NE 43rd to accommodate buses, bikes, and pedestrians as a gateway to The Ave and to UW from the new light rail station (opening Oct 2) at Brooklyn Avenue.

 

Your D4 Team “Finding and Fixing” in the neighborhoods

Look at your District 4 team showing how much they care about our district by being out in the neighborhoods fixing problems with the Find It, Fix it App!  But they can’t be in all 20 District 4 neighborhoods at once — and the power is already in your hands with your smart phone. If you see anything that needs fixing, take a photo on your phone and send it to your city government using the app today. The app routes the problem to the right department and puts it in line to get it fixed. Graffiti, broken street signs, trash, potholes; you name it, the app can get it fixed.

For the free app, CLICK HERE. If a problem is not fixed soon enough, email it to us at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov Montlake Bridge Repairs, Closures, and Detours in August

It’s time for our Washington State Department of Transportation to repair the deck of the Montlake Bridge. I’m thankful that our State government is focused on repairing State-owned bridges and I have been urging for over a year our own Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to do more to care for our City-owned bridges that are aging and suffering from neglect, as noted by the bridge audit I obtained last year.  Repair, though, often means temporary closures and, in the case of the Montlake Bridge, WSDOT needs to close the bridge for a full month, from around August 9 to September 3. Pedestrians will still be able to cross the bridge, and boat traffic will be able to pass through. Transit has come roaring back as we emerge from the pandemic. Our District, of course, already benefits from the light rail station at Husky Stadium. Buses will have alternate routes; please use King County Metro’s trip planner (CLICK HERE) and service advisory webpage (CLICK HERE). For more on the State bridge repair project, including maps of vehicle detours, CLICK HERE.

 

TRANSPORTATION AND UTILITIES COMMITTEE

Still Pushing to Protect our Infrastructure

In extreme heat, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) uses water to cool off our steel bridges. Here is a flusher truck performing the job in Summer 2020. (Photo from SDOT.)

As you know, I’ve been calling on City Hall to prioritize bridge safety, after I ordered an independent audit of all City-owned bridges early last year. Due to the continuing deterioration of our bridges while some City government leaders prioritize other projects, I will be unable to support our next City budget (to be adopted this Fall for 2022) — unless it increases funding for the safety and sustainability of our aging bridges. With our city’s geography defined by waterways and ravines, bridges connect us and are vital for all modes of travel and for our economic recovery. Right now the Mayor’s Office is crafting their budget proposal which she will deliver on September 24. I am hopeful her budget proposal will have additional funding for bridges, so we can avoid any more emergency bridge closures.

 

Fairview Avenue Bridge Reopening!

Rendering of the Belvedere viewpoint. (Source: SDOT.)

Here’s a bridge project we can all celebrate! This weekend we will finally re-open the Fairview Ave N Bridge! The rebuilt bridge will finally re-open to vehicles on Sunday, July 25 and SDOT is inviting folks to celebrate by walking or biking across the bridge on Saturday, July 24. The Fairview Ave Bridge is a vital North-South arterial connecting Eastlake (and neighborhoods north) to thousands of jobs provided by many Seattle-based employers in South Lake Union and our downtown core. CLICK HERE to read information from SDOT about this project, and CLICK HERE for a Seattle Times article.

 

Join the Seattle Freight Advisory Board!

Photo source: Port of Seattle

Recruitment for the Seattle Freight Board is underway. They are seeking new members interested in the efficient movement of goods to help make decisions on topics such as competing demands for streets and curb space, freight capacity, and air pollution. Consider applying if you represent a business, organization, or agency that is involved in the transport of goods or depends on efficient movement of goods in Seattle. The Freight Board is looking for representatives of various modes, types of freight, and areas of the city. They encourage Black, Indigenous, and other people of color; people with disabilities; bicultural and bilingual candidates; youth and seniors, and LGBTQ candidates to apply. You can read more on the SDOT blog (CLICK HERE) and CLICK HERE to apply!

For optimal results, I believe we need better coordination and integration when planning and funding the various modes of mobility so that, together, we consider transportation solutions holistically rather than divided into separate competing silos such as bikes, freight, cars, pedestrians, and transit. A holistic approach is especially important as Seattle considers the results of the Move Seattle property tax levy for transportation projects and what is needed to earn the confidence to renew that source of funding when it expires in 2024.

If you are interested in joining a transportation advisory board, but are not interested in working on freight movement, stay tuned for opportunities for other transportation-focused advisory boards.

 

Interested in serving on Seattle’s Community Surveillance Working Group?

The seven-member Surveillance Working Group advises the Seattle City Council and Executive on matters of surveillance technology from a community perspective. There is currently an opening for a Community representative, a City Council approved position for a three-year term. Per the Seattle’s Surveillance Ordinance, at least five members of the Working Group shall represent equity-focused organizations serving or protecting the rights of communities and groups historically subject to disproportionate surveillance, including Seattle’s diverse communities of color, immigrant communities, religious minorities, and groups concerned with privacy and protest.

If you are interested in serving on the Surveillance Working Group, please submit your application and a copy of your latest resume online. Under “Which Boards would you like to apply for?” select Community Surveillance Working Group. Thank you for your interest in this position!

 

Success Taming Utility Bills

When I ran for office, I pledged to focus on a back-to-basics, fiscal responsibility issue that few in the political arena focused on because it lacked razzle dazzle: utilities. But as we focus on “affordability,” we know utility bills are a big portion of our family budgets and business expenses.  Utility bills are also regressive, because lower income households pay a much higher percentage of their income on utilities than do higher income households. A key focus as I chair our Transportation & Utilities Committee is to ensure our large, city-owned utilities are managing their budgets to provide relief to everyone’s utility bills. Thanks in large part to the hard work of the General Managers of Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle City Light, we are succeeding.

This past week Seattle Public Utilities announced more good news: SPU is again LOWERING their  rate increases for the next few years. Under the previous strategic plan, SPU estimated that customers would see an average annual rate increase of 5.2%. With our persistent focus on affordability, however, SPU was able to lower that to 4.2% with a new strategic plan.  Now we are able to soften rates further to an average annual increase of only 3.9% — much closer to the rate of inflation. For the Seattle Public Utilities presentation at our committee with these and many more details, CLICK HERE.

Similarly, Seattle City Light average annual electric bill increases proposed for the next few years have been reduced from 4.5% to 3.5%. For the City Light presentation at our Committee, CLICK HERE. From City Light’s presentation, here is a comparison of prior and current strategic plans’ rate increases.

 

Safer Walks: Winning a Pedestrian Safety Grant for Aurora Ave

Photo source: SDOT.

Washington State has awarded SDOT a $1.5 million grant to conduct a planning and design study for the Aurora Ave N corridor! SDOT has already dedicated $500,000 to study this corridor and design safety upgrades. Planning work will begin in 2022 and will align with the Aurora Reimagined Coalitions community-driven visioning process.

We know we have much more work to do to meet Seattle’s Vision Zero safety goals. While crashes in 2020 decreased compared to 2019, the reduction in fatalities was disturbingly minimal, considering the decrease in vehicles on the road and SDOT’s ongoing work to improve traffic safety. Thank you to SDOT Director Zimbabwe and his team for joining us earlier this month to share more about this effort. Data show we should focus on making Aurora Ave N (State Route 99) and Rainier Ave S safer. CLICK HERE to review the presentation.

 

Take SDOT’s Street Cafes Survey

Due to the COVID pandemic, outdoor seating for restaurants and bars was provided special consideration, including reduced fees and allowance to occupy more right-of-way space. More than 200 businesses used the program and they and many customers liked the results so much they asked the Council to extend the program. The Council did so, extending it through May 2022.

Now the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is conducting a survey “to find out how the Safe Start permits worked for them and gather ideas as we consider how we might improve our programs for the future.” SDOT will use the results to update its guidance for businesses. If you want to take the survey, CLICK HERE; the survey is open until August 15, 2021. For more background and information from SDOT CLICK HERE.

 

Internet for All and Winning a Trailblazer Award!

The City of Seattle’s Information Technology department, utilizing the Internet for All plan and Resolution, which I sponsored and the Council passed, earned a Digital Inclusion Trailblazer designation from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA).

While our high-tech city needs to do much more to address the digital divide, this Digital Inclusion Trailblazer designation recognizes our important recent efforts — including our Internet for All action plan. Our Internet for All initiative launched last summer spurred additional short-term and long-term efforts to connect low-income residents to affordable and reliable internet so they have access to jobs, education, medical services, and other vital needs. This national recognition confirms Seattle is on the right track and encourages us to achieve greater results from our digital equity network.

To read more click on the following link: City of Seattle named Digital Inclusion Trailblazer – Tech Talk

 

ADAPTING TO CLIMATE CHANGE

Wildfire Smoke: The recent extreme heat wave reinforced the need for “cooling centers.” We had our Parks Department open a cooling center in Magnuson Park (Building 406) because the community center is getting ready for a renovation. Wildfire smoke from Canada requires similar preparations.

For an article on how to prepare, CLICK HERE.  For an article on how to protect pets, CLICK HERE.

 

Preserving Trees:

The record-breaking heat wave that scorched Seattle not only reinforced the health and environmental benefits of our urban tree canopies, but also laid bare the climate change disparities that lower income households suffer when our city government continues to approve the removal of more trees.

Even if you’re not a “tree hugger,”  the extensive benefits of trees are compelling. Trees capture harmful carbon and provide cooling shade as temperatures rise with climate change. During the rainy season, Seattle’s trees absorb polluted runoff to protect Puget Sound and Lake Washington. Trees deliver public health and mental health benefits.

The bigger the tree, the better. The saplings planted at new real estate developments don’t provide the same benefits as decades-old conifer trees.  Recent articles in the Seattle Times, New York Times, National Geographic, Nature Conservancy, and scholarly journals confirmed large trees can mitigate harm in overheated neighborhoods, underscoring the need to urgently protect Seattle’s large trees while we still have them.

For years, we have waited for city government departments to establish stronger laws to protect Seattle’s large trees. While we wait, city government continues to allow real estate developers to dismantle the environmental infrastructure of our urban forest. If we want to equitably retain the health and environmental benefits of trees and keep calling ourselves “The Emerald City” within the “Evergreen State,” we must quickly perform three tasks.

First, we need our Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (a City department under the direction of the Mayor) to stop approving the removal of exceptional trees until the Durkan Administration finishes the overdue stronger tree ordinance for the Council to consider. Many have called for a brief moratorium on the removal of Seattle’s exceptional trees to spur the finalization of a stronger Director’s Rule and tree protection ordinance.

Second, we need to make sure the new law passed by Council actually protects trees without loopholes. The last time an ordinance was proposed, it would have made things worse by accelerating the loss of tree canopy.

And third, we need a more appropriate local agency to protect Seattle’s trees. It’s too difficult for SDCI because that department is funded by fees from real estate developers, many who believe they can make more money by removing trees — even though trees can actually increase property values and reduce cooling expenses.

The scientific evidence is strong: the more trees, the more resilient we are to climate change, including extreme heat. Trees are vital environmental infrastructure, not just amenities. After years of delay, City Hall must quickly implement stronger tree protection laws to retain our disappearing urban forest, to support the health of our residents, and protect our low income and frontline communities. Let’s save Seattle’s trees before it’s too late.

If you agree City Hall needs to do more to protect our exceptional trees, let the Mayor and the head of SDCI know:

Jenny.Durkan@seattle.gov

Nathan.Torgelson@seattle.gov

For more on the need for tree protections, CLICK HERE.

Email the Mayor

 

PUBLIC SAFETY

National Night Out, Tuesday, August 3

Learn more about crime prevention and register your block for the annual “National Night Out” neighborhood connections by  CLICKING HERE.  If you’re hosting one in District 4 and would like our office to visit, please email us at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov

 

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

Listening: Even though City Council is not currently holding meetings in person in order to follow public health guidelines, you can still follow along by listening on your computer or phone by CLICKING HERE. You can also listen on your phone by calling 253-215-8782.

Commenting: You can also submit public comment by sending an e-mail to me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov or to all 9 Councilmembers at council@seattle.gov. Please remember to add “For City Council Meeting” in the comments. Now you can also phone into the meeting to speak directly to the Council live. For the instructions on how to register and call in, CLICK HERE. Sign up begins two hours prior to the meeting start time.

 

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

I continue to schedule virtual in-district office hours, so we can chat by telephone or via Skype. Please continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests. You can also just send an e-mail to alex.pedersen@seattle.gov

For previous e-newsletters, visit my blog by CLICKING HERE.

We are getting through this together, Seattle!

With gratitude,

   

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4
Email: Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov Find It, Fix It 


Conquering COVID, Financial Relief, and District 4 updates

June 24th, 2021

June 2021

Friends and Neighbors,

Happy Pride Month and Happy Juneteenth!

This month’s newsletter features a Seattle milestone to conquer COVID; financial relief for those who need it the most; updates on public safety; news from my Committee on Transportation, Utilities, and Technology; the re-opening of libraries, farmers markets, and small businesses in District 4; and more!

Hot temperatures are expected this weekend. For ways to stay cool, CLICK HERE and HERE for advice from the City and Public Health and CLICK HERE for advice from the Seattle Times.

Before diving into our June newsletter, here’s some background on last week’s Juneteenth holiday. With a bill recently signed into law by President Joe Biden, June 19 is finally enshrined as a national day to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. For photos of last week’s local events that carried on the Juneteenth tradition here in Seattle, CLICK HERE. To get a head start on next year’s celebrations, check out the extensive activities featured by the South Seattle Emerald (CLICK HERE). For Christine Emba’s thought-provoking Op Ed with context for the holiday, CLICK HERE. On June 19, I visited the Northwest African American Museum / Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District and heard inspirational stories from several owners of microbusinesses including Kayla and Mawande, creators of K+M Homemade Skincare.


DISTRICT 4

We Did It!  Seattle #1 in Nation for Conquering COVID With Over 70% Fully Vaccinated

Seattle Firefighters show me their vaccine pop-up clinic on June 2 at Santos Place in Magnuson Park. In addition to coordinating with King County Public Health to provide vaccinations to vulnerable residents at retirement homes and other housing for seniors, our city government, led by our Firefighters/emergency medical technicians, has sponsored pop-up clinics in several neighborhoods such as Magnuson Park, the University District, and Wallingford. (Please see our COVID section of this newsletter for more info.)

Now hiring for summer jobs at Seattle Parks and Recreation

Our District 4 is blessed with many parks including Gas Works Park, Maple Leaf Reservoir Park, Magnuson Park, and Ravenna Park. As Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) gears up for summer, we’re planning to open some outdoor programs at beaches, sprayparks, wading pools, and day camps. One of the biggest barriers to opening sites, however, is insufficient staffing. SPR needs lifeguards, camp counselors, recreation attendants, parks maintenance laborers, and more. People interested in summer employment are encouraged to apply for available positions, and to pass this information on to family and friends too.

To see all current available SPR jobs, CLICK HERE.

Access to parks and open spaces is essential for our physical and mental health and so parks are going to be very busy this summer. Read more abut SPR’s reopening activities by CLICKING HERE.

 

University District Library Reopened June 24

Our public library in the University District on Roosevelt Way NE and NE 50th Street has re-opened!  While the partial reopening for in-building use is just for Thursdays and Sundays, call the University Branch for the latest details at 206-684-4063. Additional library branches will reopen after June 30. Due to state restrictions, Seattle Public Libraries (SPL) will operate at 50 percent capacity, and services will be limited to holds pick‐up, browsing parts of the collection, basic information service, seating, and technology access (personal computers, Wi‐Fi, rapid charging, and printing/copying/scanning).  For the curbside pick-up times at the Northeast Branch on 35th Ave NE (currently Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday), call 206-684-7539.  To learn more about SPL’s reopening, CLICK HERE. For the locations and hours of all library branches, CLICK HERE.

 

Congratulations to Roosevelt High School’s Jazz Band for earning 7 awards at this year’s 26th annual Essentially Ellington Jazz Festival

The Essentially Ellington Festival celebrates the music of Duke Ellington and other classic jazz composers and has been open to bands west of the Mississippi for decades. Roosevelt High’s Jazz Band has made the finals 21 out of the last 23 years and has won the competition four times! You can hear the award-winning Roosevelt High Jazz Band at THIS LINK or you can see the band live this coming December for their annual Jazz Nutcracker performances. For more info, CLICK HERE.

Wallingford Farmers Market Reopened June 9

Councilmember Pedersen showing up to the first Wallingford Farmers Market of 2021. Meridian Playground behind the historic Good Shepherd Center was popping with passels of people and fantastic fresh foods. To be fair to the other flavors, he can neither confirm nor deny his endorsement of the “Zesty Lime” popsicle.

The Wallingford Farmers Market re-opened June 9, 2021 with a flood of energized neighbors and will stay open every Wednesday evening from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. through the end of September. This is in addition to the University District Farmers Market which is year-round (every Saturday morning). CLICK HERE to read more on Wallyhood and HERE to sign up for the Wallyhood newsletter. They recently asked me some questions about affordable housing and homelessness and you can read my answers HERE.

Tiny Home Village Still Coming Soon in U District/Sound Transit Survey for Future

We still plan to open a new Tiny Home Village called “Rosie’s” in the University District this summer at Roosevelt Way NE and NE 45th Street. Originally, we had hoped the Sound Transit agency, our city government departments, and the nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) could quickly open the new Tiny Home Village in early July, but the opening date is moved to August. We think it was prudent to set an ambitious schedule for opening it with the knowledge it might hit some delays, rather than setting a far-away deadline. My office will continue to work with all parties to provide this vital non-congregate shelter and case management as soon as we can.  To join the effort, contact LIHI at tinyhouses@lihi.org to: (1) donate tiny house building materials, (2) donate supplies or meals to a village, (3) volunteer with your specific skillset and interests.

After the Tiny Home Village, Sound Transit will develop the site (18,000 square feet) and they want to hear from YOU and your ideas! You can take their 10-question survey by CLICKING HERE.  Then scroll down and click on “Please take our survey by July 5th.” The survey is available in several languages. (Sound Transit is also mailing a postcard to neighbors in the area to seek feedback about the future of this site.) Note: Sound Transit is simply looking ahead and asking for input on what kinds of “transit-oriented development” to construct at this site around the Year 2024; in other words the Tiny Home Village will be at this location first.

15th Avenue NE Construction Updates

Work on the 15th Ave NE paving project continues and there will be a few upcoming traffic impacts:

  • June 25-28 and July 9-12, eastbound and westbound traffic at 15th Ave NE and NE 75th and 80th Streets will be restricted. Detours will be in place for people walking, biking, rolling, and driving.
  • Temporary detours will be in place in the coming weeks around 15th Ave NE and NE Ravenna Blvd.
  • Detours will be in place in the coming weeks on the west side of 15th Ave NE between NE 62nd and 63rd

SDOT is hosting monthly virtual office hours on the fourth Thursday of each month between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. For more information, CLICK HERE.

 

ICYMI: Watch the Recording of our District 4 Town Hall

In case you missed our District 4 Town Hall on May 11, you may view it by CLICKING HERE. Professional staff from our Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) generously joined the conversation to share how the City addresses encampments and homelessness outreach.  Thank you, HSD, for working hard on the constantly shifting direction and policy you are receiving from City Hall and the transition of many elements to the new Regional Homelessness Authority so we can finally apply regional solutions to this regional problem. I also answered several questions from constituents regarding transportation, public safety, and land use issues.


TRANSPORTATION AND UTILITIES COMMITTEE

Internet Access Financial Help

One of the benefits of chairing a Committee that contains the departments focusing on infrastructure is the opportunity to cross-pollinate positive programs. For example, Seattle City Light generously agreed to include this informational insert to all SCL ratepayers about a federal program that helps our Seattle IT Department implement Internet for All: the Emergency Broadband Benefit.

Scam Alert: Beware Scammers Posing as Seattle City Light Seeking Financial Info

Be aware of scams by those posing as Seattle City Light.  Please know that City Light will never call you to pay your bill “immediately” over the phone, by email, or in person at your door. There have been some calls like this, so please do not give your personal or financial information to phone callers. For information on the recent spate of scam calls, you can CLICK HERE.

 

Seattle Department of Transportation Presentation on Vision Zero

Councilmember Pedersen visiting a Seattle Department of Transportation crew installing pedestrian safety improvements earlier in June as part of citywide goals to reduce fatalities and major injuries from traffic collisions.

We know we have much more work to do to meet Seattle’s “Vision Zero” safety goals. While crashes in 2020 decreased compared to 2019, the reduction in fatalities was disturbingly minimal, considering the decrease in vehicles on the road and SDOT’s ongoing work to improve traffic safety. Thank you to SDOT Director Zimbabwe and his team for joining us earlier this month to share more about this effort. In particular, the data show we should focus on making Aurora Ave N (State Route 99) and Rainier Ave S safer. CLICK HERE to review the presentation.

 

Sound Transit Attends Our Committee to Discuss Upcoming Light Rail Stations

The CEO of Sound Transit and his team generously presented to our Committee on  what they call their re-alignment” process for their new transit projects. The Sound Transit Board has 18 members and, while only two are from our city government, our Mayor and Councilmember Debora Juarez are strong and tireless advocates for Seattle and the region.

I share the stance of many in Seattle that the Sound Transit Board should delay any drastic decisions on realignment until the rapidly changing revenues and costs become more clear. Our City Council and its residents and businesses are big supporters of transit, as evidenced most recently by our renewal of the Seattle Transportation Benefit District last year despite the economic recession. We are also excited about the opening this October of three new light rail stations in Northeast Seattle funded by the Sound Transit 2 measure approved by voters in 2008. The ambitious next step is implementation of the Sound Transit 3 expansion, approved by the region’s voters in 2016. Seattle voters were instrumental in making possible the funding for Sound Transit 3 and so we want to make sure it delivers on its promises for Seattle. This includes light rail stations to West Seattle which will impact the Port of Seattle, stations to Ballard which will impact South Lake Union and Seattle Center, additional stations for South Seattle (S Graham Street) and Northeast Seattle (NE 130th Street), and connections important to the entire region in the International District.

I plan to invite Sound Transit to return to our committee later this year to update us on the complex Environmental Impact Statement process.  The EIS is an appropriate platform to raise other issues important to us such as the need for thoughtful input from neighbors and other stakeholders to ensure excellent access to stations and integration in our communities. Let’s deliver a positive experience for transit riders as we encourage more people to move from gasoline-fueled cars to carbon-friendly transit as much as possible to meet our ambitious goals to address the crisis of climate change.

To see Sound Transit’s June 16 presentation, CLICK HERE.

Northgate Pedestrian/Bike Bridge Installed

This gleaming new pedestrian/bike bridge connects the neighborhoods of North Seattle College to the vital Northgate Transit Station on the eastern side of I-5. The new light rail station opens here (and in Roosevelt and in the U District) October 2.  This new bridge is in District 5, represented by Debora Juárez, who worked with many bridge supporters to help secure the funding for this vital connection. Councilmember Juárez has expressed enthusiasm for naming the new bridge after national civil rights leader and longtime member of Congress John Lewis who recently passed away. A defining moment of the legendary “Conscience of Congress” is Lewis’s historic crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965 when State troopers violently attacked Lewis and other marchers. John Lewis’s 2017 book “Across that Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America” is an inspiration to a new generation of leaders. To listen to a clip, CLICK HERE.

Ship Canal Water Quality Project: Making Progress on Time and on Budget

Both Wallyhood and my Committee provided an update on this massive public works environmental endeavor: the Ship Canal Water Quality Project stretching from Wallingford to Ballard. For the link to the June 11, 2021 Wallyhood article, CLICK HERE. For the June 16, 2021 presentation to my Transportation & Utilities Committee, CLICK HERE. For details about this mega project on my blog, CLICK HERE.

Two New Light Rail Stations and Bus Service Changes, October 2021

We previously announced the changes King County Metro will be making to bus routes in Northeast Seattle October 2021 with the opening of the two light rail stations (University District on Brooklyn Ave and Roosevelt on NE 65th Street). To assist other transit riders in Northeast Seattle, we have upgraded our blog post with user-friendly information for transit riders including easier access to info on each bus route:  CLICK HERE.


PUBLIC SAFETY

Honoring Our City Government Colleague Lexi Harris

On June 13, 2021, our fellow city government colleague Officer Alexandra B Harris was driving home after finishing her shift when she came upon a multi-vehicle collision on Interstate 5, near South Forest Street.

Committed to the City of Seattle’s values of community caretaking, Officer Harris pulled over to check on the people involved in the collision. While outside her vehicle, another passing motorist struck and killed her.

Officer Harris—known as Lexi by her friends and colleagues— grew up in North Seattle and came from a family dedicated to public service in Washington State.  Lexi leaves behind a tight-knit family, including her fiancé and his daughters.

“Officer Harris embodied everything the Seattle Police Department is working to become,” said Chief Adrian Diaz. “Her dedication to the people of this city is an example to every member of our department, and all those who will come after her.”

 

Hiring a Crime Prevention Coordinator for our North Precinct – Finally!

After continually advocating for this crime prevention position to be filled again, SPD finally posted the job announcement!  If you are interested or know someone who might be interested in serving our North Precinct as a Crime Prevention Coordinator, CLICK HERE.

The North Precinct is the largest of all 5 police precincts in Seattle and needs at least this one position to assist residents and small business with crime prevention and personal safety tips. According to the job posting, the position “closes” for applicants June 29, so that SPD can get someone into the job as soon as possible.  I attended the presentation by the Crime Prevention Coordinator at the Eastlake Community Council June 16 and it was very informative. (Eastlake is part of the “West Precinct” which includes downtown Seattle.)

CB 119981 Did Not Pass

I had previously shared my concerns with Council Bill 119981 and, thankfully, it failed by a vote of 3 to 6. I appreciate the hard work of the sponsors in trying to craft a compromise, but I believe it was not appropriate to cut more from our first responders at this time (as I explain below). Councilmembers who voted against the bill had various reasons for voting NO, as explained in an article by SCC Insight: CLICK HERE. Here are my reasons:

Councilmember Alex Pedersen’s Statement on City Council Rejecting Council Bill 119981 on June 1, 2021:

“I’ve worked hard to be clear and consistent for my constituents: at this time, I cannot support additional cuts to public safety until effective alternatives are in place. This Council Bill is complex but, at the end of the day, it continues to reduce resources from our police department at a time when we are seeing record-breaking attrition of officers, so I will be voting No. I believe it’s premature to label the loss of police officers through attrition as budgetary “savings” that can be immediately scooped away and spent elsewhere. The record-breaking attrition of officers is alarming and response times to priority 911 calls are too long. By the end of the year, I want to be sure the department has the funds it needs to hire more crime prevention officers, to retain good officers, to ramp up recruitment of diverse and progressive officers, to implement the federal consent decree and heed the warnings of the federal judge and his monitor, to increase training, and to return experienced officers to their community policing work instead of working overtime on patrol. Yes, let’s lift the budget provisos to free up some of the dollars, but not by cutting more with the other hand.

“While I believe the intentions of the sponsors of the bill were positive, this bill has become a distraction since its conception six months ago. Despite the hard work of the Committee Chair to craft a compromise and the well-intentioned amendments, I believe this bill not only sends an unproductive and negative message to the remaining city government workers in the public safety field who are already stretched thin, but also steals time and attention away from the most impactful task at hand for justice and reform — and that’s revamping the inflexible and expensive contract with the Seattle Police Officers Guild.

Let’s get back to supporting the work of our Labor Relations Policy Committee (LPRC), so they can revise the police contract in a way that is positive for the community, for the officers, for the budget, and for sustainable and systemic justice. Thank you.”


CONQUERING COVID AND
BUILDING BACK BETTER

The “Seattle Rescue Plan” Includes Investments for Addressing Homelessness, Small Business Recovery, and Internet for All

On Monday, I was happy to vote in favor of our “Seattle Rescue Plan” to invest another batch of relief and recovery funds from our federal government — in this case, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). I want to thank our Mayor Jenny Durkan, Council President Gonzalez, and Budget Chair Mosqueda for collaborating on this package so that we can get the money out the door quickly.

  • Homelessness: The largest investment in the plan is for the priorities of homelessness and affordable housing– almost $50 million.
  • Recovery: Our plan dedicates over $23 million to assisting small businesses and community organizations, which have been some of the hardest-hit by the pandemic’s economic impacts.
  • Internet for All: The pandemic reinforced the need to prioritize bridging the gaps in digital equity for Seattleites, and our plan modestly boosts investments in our Internet for All Action Plan — though we need to do much more for technology in our Fall budget process for 2022.

This “Seattle Rescue Plan” is for the rest of 2021. City Council will be undertaking our usual process for the $1.6 billion General Fund budget 2022 this fall. In addition, we will be receiving another $120 million from the federal government’s ARPA package to appropriate for 2022.

I want to thank Councilmember Morales for inviting a national expert from the Brookings Institution as well as local stakeholders  to her Community Economic Development Committee. For their presentations, CLICK HERE. A theme from Brookings was for the city to have a more focused and strategic economic development strategy.  Specifically, we need to connect current Seattle residents to the well-paying jobs already here and to concentrate our economic development efforts not on just any business but on those employers and industries with the best potential  to grow the number of well-paying jobs. This not only helps those promising local employers by reducing their recruitment costs, but also provides more and better job opportunities to the people who already call Seattle home so they are not displaced.

For my Op Ed on an Inclusive Economic Recovery as published in the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.

 

Moratorium on Evictions Extended Again

Announced by the Mayor’s Office June 18, 2021: “As state and county funds for rental assistance are distributed in the coming weeks, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced today that she is extending the residential and commercial eviction moratoria [from June 30] through September 30, 2021, through Executive Order 2021-06. The order will also modify additional COVID-related relief measures related to utility assistance. This marks the fifth extension of the eviction moratoria as part of the COVID-19 civil emergency since March 14, 2020.“

“…Throughout the pandemic, city-funded rental and housing assistance total approximately $75 million for tenants, landlords, and city-funded affordable housing providers, in addition to State and County resources.”

As the Mayor stated, “While we continue to be in a state of emergency, this three-month extension will ensure we can provide the cash rental assistance and housing support that is critical to stabilizing the community as we reopen.”

For the Mayor’s full announcement, CLICK HERE.

For my votes on recent residential landlord-tenant regulations, CLICK HERE.

 

Seattle First City in U.S. to Achieve 70% Vaccination Goal!

From Mayor’s June 9, 2021 press release:

Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today announced that Seattle is the first major American city to fully vaccinate 70 percent of its residents 12 years-old and older. Seattle has surpassed the City of San Francisco which had been leading the country in vaccinations and the State of Vermont which is leading all states in vaccination rates. Seattle also exceeded Governor Inslee’s goal in vaccinating 70 percent of 16 and older residents and President Biden’s goal in vaccinating 70 percent of adults who are 18 or older….

“When we launched our vaccination effort earlier this year, I said that I wanted to Seattle to become the first major American city to fully vaccinate 70 percent of its residents. Today, I am incredibly proud that we have reached that goal,” said Mayor Durkan….

City and countywide, COVID-19 case rates and COVID-related deaths are falling. Seattle continues to have the lowest cases, hospitalizations, and deaths of every major city. Countywide, an estimated 95 percent of all new cases are in individuals who have not started their vaccine series….

Now that Seattle has reached a level of community protection needed to keep the majority of our residents safe from COVID-19, the City and its partners will begin to launch new efforts to throughout the summer to support Seattle’s reopening and recovery. ..Residents who have not yet completed the vaccination process can still get vaccinated at the Lumen Field Event Center (closes end of day June 12), Rainier Beach Vaccination Hub (closes end of day June 23), and the SODO Testing and Vaccination Site, which will remain in operation well into summer. In addition, the Seattle Fire Department (SFD) Mobile Vaccination Teams will continue to host pop-up vaccination clinics in neighborhoods throughout Seattle. Residents can also visit https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/ to find a provider near them.

For more information, including how to get vaccinated today, visit the City’s vaccination website at www.seattle.gov/vaccine. The site contains vaccination information in seven languages, and in-language assistance is also available over the phone.

Please continue to follow all public health guidance, including indoor masking for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, and visit this website from Public Health – Seattle & King County for more information.

City Council will Reconsider Grocery Worker Hazard Pay in July

When City Council passed temporary hazard pay for grocery store workers of an additional $4/hour in January, there were tentative plans for reconsidering the ordinance based on public health indicators in a few months. The original Council Bill stated, “City Council intends to consider modifying or eliminating hazard pay requirements after four or months of implementation and review of the current health, safety, and economic risks of frontline work during the COVID-19 emergency.”  I’m pleased to report that the Finance Committee, chaired by Councilmember Mosqueda, followed through and hosted a panel to revisit the ordinance earlier this month.

Based primarily on safety data and the experiences of grocery workers, the committee determined that it is time to consider ending hazard pay. I want to thank the ordinance’s sponsor Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, representatives of the employers (grocery store owners), and the grocery workers union UFCW Local 21 for taking the time to have an in-depth discussion. CLICK HERE to take a look at the presentation from Seattle-King County Public Health.

Councilmember Mosqueda plans to have legislation to sunset hazard pay in the Finance Committee on July 9, 2021.

Regarding the beloved QFC store that the Cincinnati-based Kroger Company decided to close in the Wedgwood neighborhood at 35th Ave NE and NE 85th Street, I continue to encourage grocers to expand to that location.

Unemployment Relief Requirements Return

State officials announced that Washingtonians collecting unemployment benefits will again be required to actively search for work to keep those benefits, starting July 4.

Gov. Jay Inslee had temporarily suspended the job-search requirement last spring.

“With the economy recovering, the job search requirement is going back into effect,” the Employment Security Department (ESD) noted on its unemployment website. “This means you will be required to look for work and document at least three approved job search activities each week in order to remain eligible for unemployment benefits.’”

For ESD’s website, CLICK HERE. For the City of Seattle’s COVID relief programs, CLICK HERE.


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

Listening: Even though City Council is not currently holding meetings in person in order to follow public health guidelines, you can still follow along by listening on your computer or phone by CLICKING HERE. You can also listen on your phone by calling 253-215-8782.

Commenting: You can also submit public comment by sending an e-mail to me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov or to all 9 Councilmembers at council@seattle.gov. Please remember to add “For City Council Meeting” in the comments. Now you can also phone into the meeting to speak directly to the Council live. For the instructions on how to register and call in, CLICK HERE. Sign up begins two hours prior to the meeting start time.

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

I continue to schedule virtual in-district office hours, so we can chat by telephone or via Skype. Please continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests. You can also just send an e-mail to alex.pedersen@seattle.gov.  We plan to restart in-person office hours Friday afternoons in September.

For previous e-newsletters, visit my blog by CLICKING HERE.

We are getting through this together, Seattle!

With gratitude,

 

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

Email: Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov
Find It, Fix It


© 1995-2016 City of Seattle