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:

  • For Alex Pedersen’s bio, CLICK HERE.
  • For Alex Pedersen’s track record and highlights in the City Councilmember position, CLICK HERE.
  • 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,






So Much To Accomplish in 2023!

January 30th, 2023

Friends and Neighbors,

Our first newsletter of the new year is lengthy because there’s a lot City Hall needs to accomplish in 2023. Based on feedback from constituents, I believe local government must do much more to improve safety. With its existing $250 million budget, the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCHRA) needs to increase the pace of sheltering people suffering from substance use disorder in unsafe conditions outside. Because so many trained officers have departed our Seattle Police Department (SPD), we need to increase the pace of hiring more detectives and community policing officers. Our city’s executive leadership needs to finally deploy effective alternative responses to some 911 calls, as well as provide more technology and facilities to take the pressure off our understaffed first responders. SDOT needs to increase pedestrian safety with additional tools proven to work in other cities and to increase bridge safety by implementing the recommendations of our City Auditor.

Earlier this month, I announced I’m not running for reelection. Being liberated from campaigning will allow more time to focus on you and your community for the rest of 2023. (For that announcement, CLICK HERE.)

Please click on the links below to zip to the sections that interest you the most:

  • District 4: Engaging in Bryant, Eastlake, Magnuson Park, U District, View Ridge, Wallingford, and more.
  • Public Safety and Homelessness: Crime stats – better or worse? Violent tragedy at another encampment. Shortcomings of Regional Homelessness Authority’s 5-Year Plan. Update on Tent City 3.
  • Land Use Policies Impacting Seattle: Reasons to reject or amend statewide bill (HB 1110/SB 5190) so that we increase low-income housing and reduce giveaways to townhome developers. Opportunities to comment on our local comprehensive planning.
  • Property Tax Increases: More transparency needed on property tax increases. Advocates propose tripling the Seattle Housing Levy property tax.
  • Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities Committee: Prepared for flooding. Input for Seattle Transportation Plan. Shared Transit Stop Success. Levy Oversight Committee openings. Increasing digital equity with mapping.
  • Providing Input

For my previous newsletters, you can CLICK HERE to visit my website / blog. Thank you for caring enough to demand the best from City Hall.

Before we start the traditional newsletter, it’s important to acknowledge the horrible event that occurred in Memphis, Tennessee…

BRUTALITY IN MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE:

News reports confirmed 29-year old Tyre Nichols died in the hospital on January 10, 2023, in Memphis, Tennessee, after brutal assaults and beatings on January 7 by five police officers captured on horrific video in that southern city. The Memphis officers were quickly fired and now face murder charges. On January 26, 2023, President Joe Biden said, in part, “Jill and I extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of Tyre Nichols and the entire Memphis community. Tyre’s family deserves a swift, full, and transparent investigation into his death.” For President Biden’s full statement on the horrible death of Tyre, CLICK HERE.

In solidarity with other city officials, I stand with our Mayor Bruce Harrell, who said, “The appalling, egregious, heinous beating death of Tyre Nichols is devastating – for his family, for his community, and for all of us. Unconscionable violence has no role in policing and is in direct opposition to keeping people safe. This is the kind of event that compromises and erodes trust in law enforcement not just in Memphis, but in cities and communities across the country. While the officers responsible have been terminated and charged, additional investigations and actions must create further accountability. Proactive, preventative measures, like those we have pioneered in Seattle, must be at the forefront of reform, not an afterthought when tragedies like this occur. I am proud that our Seattle Police Officers have openly rejected this injustice and violence. We feel for Tyre’s family and for the people of Memphis, and we are committed to ensuring something like this does not happen in Seattle…”

  • For Mayor Harrell’s full statement from January 28, 2023, and for similar statements from our City Council President and other city leaders, CLICK HERE.
  • For news coverage of this unacceptable tragedy from the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.
  • For tips on how to talk with children about traumatic incidents, CLICK HERE.

DISTRICT 4

Magnuson Park Community Center: this is the year, finally!

When new Parks Superintendent AP Diaz graciously asked where in District 4 I wanted to meet him for the first time, my answer was immediate: the community center at Magnuson Park. At long last, the light renovations inside that community center are wrapping up after delays due to COVID and other derailments. I am grateful to Superintendent Diaz immediately for recognizing the importance of that community center situated adjacent to 850 low-income neighbors who reside at the housing provided by nonprofits Mercy Housing, Solid Ground, and (soon) the Low Income Housing Institute. Superintendent Diaz was also helpful in refining some plans within Magnuson Park to discourage drag racing instigated by people outside the area.

Councilmember Pedersen, grateful for new Parks Superintendent AP Diaz, closes his eyes to make a wish for the community center at Magnuson Park to open sooner. Check out that new community space in the background! Anyone else hoping for disco dance lessons there?

Redux photo with eyes open, thanks to caffeine from Starbucks near City Hall. I appreciate the care for Magnuson Park residents already demonstrated by our new Parks Superintendent AP Diaz.

Pedestrian Safety near Elementary Schools

Standing near View Ridge Elementary School, a delighted community council leader who encouraged neighbors and the PTA to push for additional safety signage near crosswalks for the young students.

Our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has been working hard to install crosswalks, flashing warning lights, stop signs, bulb-out curbs at intersections, and other pedestrian safety projects throughout our city. Safety around neighborhoods schools is vital, which is why I worked with colleagues to push for more speed zone enforcement cameras. In View Ridge (photo above), SDOT recently installed some warning lights for a hard-to-see crosswalk used heavily by school children. It helped to have vocal community leaders who studied the intersection themselves and advocated for years. It should not have to be so difficult or take so long.

I have asked SDOT to attend a meeting of our Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities Committee as soon as possible for an analysis of traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries and for ways to improve the Vision Zero safety program that is aimed at preventing such harm. Similar to previous years, in 2022, the traffic-related fatalities were 57% pedestrians, 29% drivers, 10% cyclists, and 4% scooters — with each of these 28 fatalities being a tragedy. I’m heartened that the new SDOT Director Greg Spotts has made safety a priority, with an emphasis in south Seattle where most collisions have occurred. A new $25 million  “Safe Streets” grant received on January 30 from the U.S. Department of Transportation will help!

For a Seattle Times article on this statewide problem of higher traffic-related deaths in Washington State, CLICK HERE.

 

An Uplifting Update from Historic U Heights Community Building

Update from U Heights Center in the heart of the U District (that big building next to the Saturday morning Farmers Market): “The construction crew has been building out the rough framing (the basic support and shape of a structure) for the hoist-way (the place where an elevator moves between floors), enclosing the elevator. Along with the structure for the vestibule, these features will be complete and ready for glass installation. The team has also finished all the concrete cutting in the basement, relocating the historical brick, and insulating the elevator shaft to keep it warm and up to code. You can still join us in elevating our community by donating to UHeights to help us reach our project goal…”

Get Tax Return Help at Northeast Library (Bryant / Wedgwood)

I know this month’s newsletter delves into property taxes, but we also need to get ready for the April 15 due date for income taxes 🙁. Our Seattle Public Libraries are excited to bring back free tax help at eight branches. United Way will provide tax services at the (downtown) Central Library Monday-Thursday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Sundays from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. AARP will provide tax help at several locations one or two days a week for four hours per day, including at our Northeast branch (on 35th Ave NE) on Saturdays starting February 4 from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For details, CLICK HERE.

 

Wallingford Community Council January 2023 Meeting

Earlier this month, I gratefully accepted the invitation to provide a City Hall update and answer questions at the Wallingford Community Council. The neighbors attending asked about public safety, homelessness, low-income housing, tree protections, and other priorities. We also received a detailed presentation from Seattle Public Utilities about the mega environmental protection project called the Ship Canal Water Quality Project which will capture polluted runoff underground – and disrupt a few streets during parts of the construction. (I covered that mega project in my previous newsletter and the neighborhood blog Wallyhood more recently reported on it.)


PUBLIC SAFETY and HOMELESSNESS

Is the Crime Decreasing in Seattle? Not So Fast.

Concerns raised from the “Trust and Safety Dashboard” for 2022, North Precinct, when asked, “What is the number one issue or problem on your block or in your neighborhood that you would like the police to deal with?”

During his recent confirmation hearings, our Chief of Police Adrian Diaz reported varying crime trends. Several of the comments sounded positive when certain types of crimes were compared over specific time periods. But the Seattle Police Department’s Crime Dashboard is still showing data through only 11/30/2022 as SPD finalizes its year-end analysis. SPD data analysts have encouraged policymakers to wait for their 2022 report, due in February 2023, to confirm concrete trends. I believe it’s important for such reports on crime trends to compare not only 2022 vs. 2021, but also 2022 vs 2019 (pre-pandemic). If Seattle has done better from 2021 to 2022, the cause may simply be our emergence from the pandemic, rather than more effective crime prevention.

Our office is hearing from communities in District 4 about what appears to have been an increase in property crimes in 4th quarter of 2022, including in Eastlake and Wallingford. Both residents and owners of small businesses expressed similar frustration with the backlog of SPD investigations despite residents and businesses providing videos of perpetrators breaking in and stealing multiple times. SPD continues to point to persistent understaffing.

Considering the sluggish pace of recruiting new officers to Seattle, City Hall’s attempts at outside-the-box solutions will need to accelerate and expand. We must finally deploy alternative responses to lower level calls (similar to programs already succeeding in Denver and Albuquerque), and have the flexibility to assign different professionals to direct traffic during sporting events. We must rely more on technology (such as security cameras) to assist with investigations — as well as facilities (such as the overdue 2nd precinct needed for efficient coverage throughout the largest geographic area of North Seattle), so that patrol cars can reach 9-1-1 callers faster. We also need outside help from Washington State Patrol to address drag racing on State Roads (such as Sand Point Way NE) and to address crimes occurring on WSDOT property within Seattle. We will provide the 2022 Crime Report in our next newsletter after it becomes available.

Deadly Shootings/Fires at Encampment under I-5 Bridge at NE 42nd Street Bring into Question Effectiveness of KCRHA/State Government Partnership 

View under I-5 Ship Canal Bridge on WSDOT property along 5th Ave NE (westside of I-5) at NE 42nd Street just one block from John Stanford Elementary School, January 28, 2023. Stamped on the columns throughout the encampment: “DO NOT ENTER. NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC FOR ANY PURPOSE. NO TRESPASSING.” This encampment has been the scene of multiple violent crimes and fires. (KCRHA has a multi-million dollar contract from the State Department of Commerce to address encampments with WSDOT on State properties.) 

It is with great sadness and frustration that emergency first responders reported a homicide during the  night of January 27, 2023 in the homeless encampment on State government property under the I-5 Ship Canal Bridge (near NE 42nd Street). This is already known to be a dangerous location that my office — and parents of the adjacent elementary school — have been urging the relevant agencies to address it for at least six months (since August 2022). This month’s deadly shooting occurred after several requests to restore and secure the site and after two shootings and a major fire in September 2022.

The repeated violent crimes and fires at that encampment under the I-5 Ship Canal Bridge are unacceptable and negatively impacting vulnerable people experiencing homelessness as well as the adjacent school, small businesses, and our understaffed emergency responders. For the past six months, my office has implored the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) and Washington State agencies (WSDOT, State Department of Commerce, and Washington State Patrol) to restore and secure that location using the resources and authority granted to them, so that safety can return to these problematic State government properties and to nearby neighborhoods. Moreover, I’m concerned KCRHA’s recently released 5-year plan (see related post) will not earn public trust for that regional agency’s strategies if visible progress cannot be achieved in reducing encampments like this on State property.

People interested in learning more from the accountable government agencies can contact the office of the CEO at KCRHA: marc@kcrha.org. (For information about the City government’s efforts to address encampments on non-State property, CLICK HERE for Seattle’s homelessness dashboard, including newly released 4th Quarter 2022 data.)

Regional Homelessness Authority Draft 5-Year Plan Invites Comments; Raises Questions 

Seattle and King County leaders declaring a homelessness emergency in November 2015.

Earlier this month, the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) published for public comment their draft plan for the next five years (2023-2028). On their website, KCRHA writes, “Our draft 5-Year Action Plan is our community’s path forward for measurable, accountable success in dramatically reducing homelessness. It is an evidence-based course of action for policymakers, a shared roadmap for advocates and service providers, a tool to hold our response system accountable, and a signal that progress is possible.”

KCRHA’s website includes a 5-page Executive Summary of their entire 133-page plan. For the most efficient way to provide feedback, you can use KCRHA’s online survey due February 8 by CLICKING HERE, or you can send an email to info@kcrha.org.

In addition to our City investments to address homeless encampments (not on State government property) and to subsidize the creation of low-income housing, the City of Seattle and King County contribute roughly $200 million to KCRHA each year ($100 million each). KCRHA receives an additional $50 million annually from other sources (federal, state, philanthropy) for a grand total of $250 million per year to KCRHA. We also eagerly await other cities in King County finally chipping in financially for this regional effort to solve this regional problem.

With general support (including from me) since its inception, KCRHA now faces a pivotal moment: can it show proof of concept that earns the trust to receive additional investments? KCRHA released for public comment its 5-year plan seeking billions of dollars more at a time when some residents, small businesses, and government officials (including me) are starting to question how effectively KCRHA spends the hundreds of millions of dollars it already receives. (See related article above about the increasingly deadly encampment under I-5).

Here is a summary of the goals in KCRHA’s 5-year plan:

Goal 1: Dramatically Reduce Unsheltered Homelessness (pages 22 through 47)

  • Strategy 1.1: Expand Shelter and Housing to Meet the Need
  • Strategy 1.2: Improve and Expand Temporary Housing and Wrap-Around Support for People with High Acuity Health Needs
  • Strategy 1.3: Scale “Partnership for Zero” to Achieve Functional Zero Countywide (which currently focuses on downtown Seattle)

Goal 2: Restructure the service system to improve capacity, supports, and efficiency

Goal 3: Ensure the availability of accessible, accountable, and responsive services

Goal 4: Reduce the Impact of Racism on People Experiencing Homelessness

Goal 5: No Family with Children Sleeps Outside

Goal 6: Every Youth and Young Adult (YYA) Has a Home

Goal 7: The Region Acts as One to Address Homelessness

One promising piece of the 5-year plan is KCRHA’s selection of Goal #1, which I believe is spot on: dramatically reduce un-sheltered homelessness (i.e., those living outside in tents). Goal 1 includes increasing five types of temporary shelter. KCRHA estimates a current stock of 3,890 of these types of temporary units (excluding the 439 tiny homes) and then estimates we need 18,260 more, as follows:

  1. Non-Congregate Shelter & Emergency Housing (see table below): estimate gap of 7,137 units.
  2. Recuperative Housing: gap of 3,831 units
  3. Recovery Housing: gap of 2,570 units
  4. Safe Parking: gap of 3,128 spaces
  5. RV Parking: gap of 1,594 spaces

The following table is an example of how KCRHA estimates one of these types of shelter:

TOTAL: To fill the gap of 18,260 units and spaces to be created over 5 years, KCRHA says they would need $3.3 billion (one-time costs) plus another $3.3 billion in operating costs during that time period for a total of $6.6 billion ($1.3 billion per year). But the ongoing operating costs once all these units are up and running (stabilized) are higher than the average costs of the 5 years. In the example above, the ongoing costs ramp up and then level off around $417 million each year just for the traditional, non-congregate shelter. The ongoing costs for all 5 types of temporary shelter would be approximately $1.3 billion a year. (Note: According to pages 38-39 of the plan, KCRHA would not be funding additional temporary, low-density micro shelters known as “tiny homes.” This absence is likely to raise questions considering the relatively low cost of that non-congregate shelter and the increasing desire among those living unsheltered to choose them as an option.)

INITIAL CONCERNS:

Caveat: My office is still reviewing the 133-page report, and so my comments in this monthly newsletter are preliminary. When I post an updated version of this on my blog, I’ll likely include clarifications, corrections, and answers to questions. After a high-level review, however, I share similar questions and concerns expressed by some other policymakers about the pace, cost, funding constraints, prioritization, and lackluster visible results from KCRHA, thus far, in some areas. For example, I concur with King County Executive Dow Constantine who, according to the Seattle Times, “suggested he may want to see a pared down version of the plan in the final version. ‘There is still a lot of work to be done as the plan moves forward, including identifying the fiscal scope and the balance of temporary and permanent housing.’”

TOO SLOW? From my perspective as a former policy analyst during the Clinton Administration at the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), a 5-year horizon starting in 2023 is much too long, especially considering the violence occurring in encampments today and the fact that local leaders declared a homelessness emergency more than seven years ago, with the KCRHA founded more than two years ago. While KCRHA provides shorter 24-month “action plans” for each of the strategies under its goal of reducing unsheltered homelessness, they are short on details AND we really need a concrete MONTHLY plan to accomplish as much as possible this year with existing resources.

TOO EXPENSIVE?  The sticker shock of the KCRHA plan exceeds the large price tag put forward by McKinsey & Company consultants in 2020 which had recommended “only” $450 million to $1 billion per year in public spending to meaningfully address homelessness in King County. (It’s possible this discrepancy exists because the McKinsey report seems to focus more on filling the cost gap for permanent housing at extremely low incomes under 30% AMI, whereas the KCRHA plan focuses on filling the cost gap for temporary shelter.) In assessing whether the costs are reasonable, it would be helpful for the finalized version of KCRHA”s plan to explain why its price tag is higher than other expert estimates, to include an average cost per unit, and to compare its proposed expenditures to those invested by cities already successful in reducing homelessness. The KCRHA Plan implies that it would need at least $1.3 billion per year, which is not only more than the McKinsey report, but also more than five times KCRHA’s current $250 million annual budget.

UNCLEAR COSTS? While my office is still reviewing the KCRHA’s draft plan, the document is unclear about what’s included and what’s excluded from the figures. The $8 billion figure reported in the media appears on page 15 of the KCRHA report, but that figure excludes operating costs, spans 5 years and, combines temporary housing (shelter) costs (handled by KCRHA) with permanent housing (subsidized by other agencies): “In total, the modeling projects a need for permanent housing for 48,000 households and temporary housing for as many as 36,000 households (fewer as permanent housing comes online), which could potentially require $8.4 billion in new one-time capital costs over five years and between $1.7 billion and $3.4 billion in additional annual operating costs, depending on the rate at which additional permanent housing is created” (page 15). Parsing out just the temporary housing (shelters) from KCRHA’s tables in the plan seems to indicate a total of $6.6 billion over the 5 years ($1.3 billion per year). That $6.6 billion represents the one-time costs, plus the commensurate ramping up of ongoing (operating) costs. Adding up KCRHA’s estimated ongoing (stabilized) operating costs once the gap of temporary housing is filled, results in coincidentally the same amount: roughly $1.3 billion each year – just for those additional 18,260 temporary shelter units (though it’s not clear whether that includes the existing stock of 3,890 units plus 439 tiny homes or any of the higher wages for social services workers discussed in Strategy 2.6).

TOO RELIANT ON SUPPORT FROM SEATTLE TAXPAYERS? The plan seems to assume that King County must directly house everyone who needs a home without a plan to reconnect at least a small portion of those experiencing homelessness to family or other supports, especially if they arrived in King County from another location. “Homeward Bound” programs used by several other cities provide travel and relocation assistance. Also, when are the suburban cities going to contribute meaningful dollars and housing units to this regional effort?

UNREALISTIC? In addition to showing what is needed for this regional entity to shelter everyone (aspirational), the plan needs to show what can be accomplished with various scenarios of funding, ranging from the substantial existing funds to incrementally higher amounts (realistic). The plan provides a narrative of the substantial sources of funds it already receives: “For context, it is important to consider the current investment in human services in our region. KCRHA’s 2023 budget is estimated to be $253 million, reflecting funding from Seattle, King County, the State, private foundations, and the federal government. The Sound Cities are expected to spend between $9 million and $15 million on homelessness services in 2023. King County’s Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy and Health through Housing Sales Tax will generate more than $100 million in 2023. Seattle will invest more than half a billion in affordable housing over the next two years and has proposed a new housing levy that will invest $840 million over seven years. Governor Inslee has proposed a $4 billion referendum to support housing development” (page 15). What can it accomplish with those funds? What if the funding is, let’s say, “just” doubled (instead of increasing it by 5 times as requested)?

TOO UNSTRUCTURED / LACKS PRIORITIZATION AND SEQUENCING? While Goal #1 is spot on (reduced visible unsheltered homelessness), the plan seems to lack prioritization: why not focus, for example, on bringing inside people currently suffering in tents under highways, on sidewalks, and in parks, rather than subsidizing more RVs in Seattle? For each new dollar received, how would KCRHA prioritize it or allocate it? Would KCRHA spread each new dollar proportionately across each category, or would KCRHA more strategically focus it on what can achieve the best results quickly?

TOO LITTLE PROGRESS TO JUSTIFY HUGE INCREASE IN DOLLARS?  I agree with many constituents who think visible results from KCRHA have been slow and inadequate to date. (See related post about the deadly encampment under the I-5 Ship Canal Bridge.)

WHERE’S THE PUBLIC SAFETY CONNECTION? I appreciate KCRHA’s research and acknowledgment of the severe substance use disorder (drug addiction) problems in encampments. The plan states, “…unsheltered homelessness is often the precursor to more substantial behavioral health issues, as the attendant trauma often activates or exacerbates underlying psychological disorders. Rates of significant mental health conditions (e.g., psychotic spectrum illnesses or severe substance use disorders) are statistically higher in the population experiencing unsheltered homelessness, and in particular, chronic unsheltered homelessness” (page 24). The plan also acknowledges that, “Allowing our neighbors to remain unhoused often creates significant strain on the surrounding community. Recent data indicate that encampments are often used by housed criminal elements to engage in human trafficking, distribution of stolen goods, and other forms of illegal enterprise. These activities are often tolerated by encampment residents who feel they do not have the power to remove these elements and may create substantial risk of serious harm to residents if they speak out” (page 25). If people are suffering harm in the encampments due to criminal elements, how is KCRHA working with Washington State Patrol, King County Sheriff’s Office, and the Seattle Police Department to apprehend those preying on vulnerable people in the homeless encampments?

There continue to be several dangerous encampments in our District 4, especially on land owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), and KCRHA has received money from the State to address these illegal encampments where people continue to suffer outside amid public health problems and harmful, illicit activities (see related post on the murder in the I-5 Ship Canal Bridge encampment). KCRHA has previously said there is not enough shelter or housing, yet there are at least 400 vacant units among the 14,000 units currently subsidized by our City’s Office of Housing (OH). Why not move housing-ready residents of tiny home villages into those OH units, thereby freeing up tiny home village spaces to shelter people currently living unsheltered under bridges and on greenbelts?

I am hopeful the Harrell Administration will continue to scrutinize our contributions to KCRHA to ensure KCRHA produces better, faster results than if the City simply invested those dollars ourselves.

For the initial coverage of the report in the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.

“Tent City 3” Update

As mentioned previously, many residents from the Bryant and Wedgwood communities have raised concerns and questions about an altruistic proposal by the University Unitarian Church located at 6556 35TH Ave NE to host from mid-March through mid-June 2023 the so-called “Tent City 3,” which is a homeless encampment that is currently authorized by city code and is typically hosted on church parking lots. There is also support for hosting Tent City 3.

Note: Tent City 3 is different from Rosie’s Tiny Home Village located in the U District, which has professional case management and strategies to exit residents to permanent affordable housing.

To learn more, I recently visited the residents of Tent City 3 at their current location southeast of Husky Stadium. I also met with the leaders of the U District church that has previously hosted Tent City 3 several times. Both meetings provided greater assurances about the benefits Tent City 3 provides to residents as well as the low impact of Tent City 3 on the surrounding neighborhood.

Questions about Tent City 3 should be directed to the Unitarian Church at the following email address: uuchomelessness@gmail.com

Even though questions should be directed to the Unitarian Church on 35th Ave NE, my office receives many questions, so I’ve created a blog post to answer some of the questions: CLICK HERE.


LAND USE POLICIES IMPACTING SEATTLE

Reasons to Amend or Reject House Bill 1110 (SB 5190): Another Short-Sighted Give-Away to Townhome Developers

The Washington State Legislature is back in session for the next four months (January-April) and so cities from Seattle to Spokane must be on high alert to prevent politicians in Olympia from pre-empting our local decision-making on issues as impactful as real estate development, land use, and zoning. Sometimes State laws are inherently problematic:  a one-size-fits-all, top-down statewide decree does not always work well in all towns and cities. For example, while many suburban cities and rural towns with undeveloped land could benefit from State laws discouraging more sprawling, car-centric development, Washington State’s most populous city (Seattle) is blessed with a robust transit system, relatively dense neighborhoods compared to the rest of the State, effective programs that build low-income housing (such as the Seattle Housing Levy), and a comprehensive planning process underway to deliver the most public benefits for Seattle.

Should Seattle still encourage the building of even more residential density, especially along transit lines? I would say Yes, but our policymaking should first have sufficient analytical rigor and financial analysis to calculate and obtain maximum public benefit (such as low-income housing) in exchange for granting density benefits craved by profit-driven townhome developers. If we don’t make this extra effort, Seattle could experience the downside of displacement and gentrification.

Unfortunately, it seems that profit-motivated organizations have been able to disguise their financial self-interests within House Bill 1110 and their talking points are being amplified by some interest groups and bloggers with limited real estate finance experience.

Here’s the core excerpt from HB 1110:

“(1) Any city with a population of 6,000 or more…must provide…authorization for the following:

(a) The development of at least four units per lot on all lots zoned for residential use;

(b) The development of six units per lot in all residential zones if two of the six units are affordable; and

(c) The development of at least six units per lot in all residential zones within one-half mile of a major transit stop.

(2) To qualify for the additional units allowed under subsection (1)(b) of this section, the applicant must commit to renting two of the six units at rents that are affordable to low-income households for a term of at least 50 years…”

If time permits, I encourage you to read the bill itself and reach your own conclusion. (CLICK HERE to review the bill).

Personally, I would favor increasing Seattle’s current allowance of three units (one home and two accessory dwelling units) on each lot to as many as six units, as long as policymakers provide such additional density (a) closer to frequent transit lines, (b) only if the upzones require more low-income housing in exchange for the higher land values the government would be granting to the private market, and (c) as part of our Seattle-driven comprehensive planning process rather than dictated by the State. (For discussion purposes and with similar goals in mind, I had previously put forward an inclusionary zoning model for low-income housing in Seattle, which could be easily refined during our local comprehensive planning process.)

As proposed, the State’s HB 1110 will undercut Seattle’s comprehensive planning process and the requirement to address disparate impacts under the Growth Management Act. HB 1110 fails to account for the substantially increased profits the government would be providing to the private market. Your elected officials would be short-changing the public by leaving money and low-income units on the table during our homelessness crisis.

In today’s toxic political environment, if someone simply asks questions, they are too often demonized with labels. In the case of HB 1110, it’s not simply a question of whether one supports more density; it’s a question of whether your elected leaders are rushing to give away development capacity – a public resource — for free without working a little harder to do the math on how we can truly help lower income households, including near frequent, affordable transit. It is time to put away the bumper sticker slogans and get out the calculators to maximize public benefits at this critical moment.

While House Bill 1110 (and its companion Senate Bill 5190) are only 15 pages long, much more ink has been spilled to “spin” that bill in a positive (and misleading) way. A campaign of opinion pieces supporting HB 1110 has been circulating for months, such as a piece from Sightline (CLICK HERE) and from the lead sponsor in the State House (CLICK HERE). It’s important for people to hear about the potential downsides of this bill supported by the lobbyists at the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties.

In short, I conclude that State House Bill 1110 (as introduced) should be rejected because, at best, its over-reaching pre-emption of local decision-making will boost townhome developer profits while doing nothing to increase actual affordable housing in Seattle. At worst, HB 1110 will prevent Seattle from requiring low-income housing in most neighborhood residential zones, allow demolition of older affordable housing stock without replacement, imperil our dwindling tree canopy during the climate crisis, and raise property taxes on seniors and others struggling on fixed incomes. At the very least, the bill should be amended to exempt Seattle so that we can complete our locally driven (and State-mandated) comprehensive planning process.

One of the best ways to get rid of what some label as “exclusionary zoning” (allowing only three units with a home and two ADUs in neighborhood residential/single family zones) is with “inclusionary zoning” (requiring low-income housing in exchange for newly increased density). Policymakers in Olympia need to realize the trickle-down economics of HB 1110 primarily benefits townhome developers. To give away additional density that merely enables developers to build $800,000 townhomes while we’re in the middle of a homelessness emergency is like giving away free cocktails to tourists when many vulnerable residents are dying of thirst.

Here are 11 Reasons to Reject or Heavily Amend HB 1110 / SB 5190:

  1. UNDERCUTS SEATTLE’S ABILITY TO OBTAIN MORE LOW-INCOME HOUSING.
  2. PREVENTS SEATTLE FROM CHARGING FEES TO BUILD LOW-INCOME HOUSING.
  3. DOES NOTHING TO ADDRESS RACIAL DISPARITIES.
  4. RAISES PROPERTY TAXES OVER TIME CAUSING DISPLACEMENT.
  5. FUELS DEMOLITION OF OLDER, AFFORDABLE HOMES.
  6. GIVES ONLY “LIP SERVICE” TO PREVENTING DISPLACEMENT.
  7. APPEARS TO FAVOR THE INTERESTS OF THE MASTER BUILDERS ASSOCIATION AND LIKE-MINDED INTEREST GROUPS.
  8. IGNORES SEATTLE’S LOCAL COMPREHENSIVE PLANNING PROCESS.
  9. IGNORES REALITY — SEATTLE ALREADY HAS AMPLE DEVELOPMENT CAPACITY.
  10. THREATENS HARMFUL LOSS OF TREE CANOPY DURING CLIMATE CRISIS.
  11. DEFINITIONS ARE WRITTEN LOOSELY, WHICH CREATES LOOPHOLES FOR TOWNHOME DEVELOPERS:
  • AFFORDABLE UNITS RARELY APPLICABLE;
  • AFFORDABLE UNITS NOT RESTRICTED TO LOW-INCOME RESIDENTS;
  • “MAJOR TRANSIT STOP” IS NOT MAJOR;
  • THE NEW UNITS COULD BECOME AIRBNB TOURIST RENTALS FOR OUT-OF-TOWN INVESTORS.

 

  • UNDERCUTS SEATTLE’S ABILITY TO OBTAIN MORE LOW-INCOME HOUSING: People can split hairs debating the definition of “pre-emption,” but the reality is that the State bill undercuts Seattle’s decision-making and negotiating ability by unilaterally granting a minimum quantity of residential density. So instead of Seattle being in a strong position to negotiate with developers (we’ll let you build more units in exchange for setting aside most of them for low-income residents), the State is handing to the developers what they want even before local negotiations for public benefits begin. There would be zero affordability requirements for new projects with as many as four units per lot. There would be zero affordability requirements for any project within half a mile of a transit stop (nearly all of Seattle). The bill prohibits cities from requiring additional affordable units or lower income levels. The bill does nothing for people experiencing homelessness, despite the city and State leaders claiming they want to prioritize a reduction in homelessness.

 

  • PREVENTS SEATTLE FROM CHARGING FEES TO BUILD LOW-INCOME HOUSING: Some claim or hope that HB 1110 would enable Seattle to extend the existing Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) Fees to projects taking advantage of these new upzones. Unfortunately, HB 1110 is silent on this point. Seattle’s MHA Fees are already due for an upgrade (per the 2016 ordinance adopting the MHA framework). So, if Seattle wants the ability to charge MHA fees as part of these new upzones, that authorization must be explicitly inserted as an amendment. Also, the more we collect in MHA Fees the less City Hall would need to charge all of Seattle in property taxes when asking voters to renew the Housing Levy for low-income housing.  (Note: Cost is not Price. Adding costs to the developer does not automatically add to the price of a home or to the rent of an apartment. Developers already charge the maximum the marketplace will pay; if there is an added cost, it comes out of their profits or the returns of their investors. While it’s true that a cumulative impact of costs would make it challenging for some developers to proceed with some projects, they should in those cases allow policymakers to review their financial statements to confirm this rather than just accepting it at face value when a developer claims, “my deal no longer pencils” (i.e. a specific project is no longer financially feasible).

 

  • DOES NOTHING TO ADDRESS RACIAL DISPARITIES: While rhetoric in support of the bill dredges up the horrible history of redlining practiced prior to the 1968 Fair Housing Act, the 2023 bill itself does nothing to help people of color or low-income residents in Seattle. In fact, the bill would likely exacerbate the gentrification in such neighborhoods as the Central District as discussed earlier due to inadequate provisions to prevent displacement of existing residents. One of the best ways to get rid of what some label as “exclusionary zoning” (allowing only three units with a home and two ADUs) is with “inclusionary zoning” (requiring low-income housing in exchange for newly increased density).

 

  • RAISES PROPERTY TAXES OVER TIME CAUSING DISPLACEMENT: After a developer takes advantage of the higher density that HB 1110 gives away to demolish older, more affordable houses in a neighborhood and then sells their newly built three or four townhomes on each lot, the King County Tax Assessor is likely to raise the assessed land value (and property taxes) in the area, driving up the property tax bills of other homeowners struggling to stay. That’s because the King County Assessor determines the assessed value using a “sales comparison” approach to estimating a property’s value.  If you’re a senior on a fixed income and want to stay in your home, you’ll be struggling to pay that higher property tax bill. (See other section of this newsletter for how City policies contribute to your increasing property taxes.)

 

  • FUELS DEMOLITION OF OLDER, AFFORDABLE HOMES: If the State automatically allows for-profit developers to build whatever they want rather than requiring more low-income housing, developers will be financially incentivized by the State government policy to demolish the existing older homes on the lot and build what is most profitable for them: new townhomes that, in many cases, will be more expensive than the original homes. Moreover, in the meantime, the original occupants will have been displaced. Many single family homes are rented to families; the mandated upzones of HB 1110 would encourage landlords to sell to townhome developers displacing those renting the home.

 

  • GIVES ONLY “LIP SERVICE” TO PREVENTING DISPLACEMENT: While supporters of the bill say it contains “strong anti-displacement provisions,” where’s the beef? House Bill 1110 only reminds cities to produce plans already required by existing State laws. [Section 1 mentions chapter 254 of House Bill 1220 adopted in 2021, and Section 3 mentions RCW 36.70A.070(2)]. HB 1110 fails to require localities to put actual displacement prevention ordinances in place before giving away the additional density to the developers.  Actual displacement prevention measures could include limiting increases in property taxes within these State-forced upzone areas, prohibiting the demolition (or requiring the replacement) of affordable housing that is already less expensive than the new townhomes to be built, and providing displaced residents with temporary housing vouchers until they can return to one of the newly built units that must be made affordable for them (a strong version of “one-for-one replacement”).

 

  • APPEARS TO FAVOR THE INTERESTS OF THE MASTER BUILDERS ASSOCIATION AND LIKE-MINDED INTEREST GROUPS: While it might be an impressive case study when interest groups so effectively frame and push their interests, it’s disconcerting when public officials and bloggers parrot lobbyist talking points without question and it’s potentially harmful when they adopt their profit-driven requests without maximizing public benefits. In addition to recently upzoning 30 Seattle neighborhoods throughout Seattle, City Hall has already ended the designation of “single family” zoning (now called “Neighborhood Residential”) by allowing up to three units (a house and two accessory dwelling units) on most residential lots. The so-called “missing middle” push for more townhome development should be viewed not in a vacuum of that single issue, but rather as a holistic push by private interests to get City Hall — and now the State Legislature — to do their bidding: recent upzoning already in place, reducing public review and input, clear cutting trees on lots for development, and avoiding the payment of fees to address their impacts on Seattle’s infrastructure.  I believe it’s possible for policymakers to create more low-income housing, preserve our dwindling tree canopy, and right-size fees to help pay for our aging infrastructure.

 

  • IGNORES SEATTLE’S LOCAL COMPREHENSIVE PLANNING PROCESS: Whether or not you have complete faith in the comprehensive planning process being conducted by Seattle’s Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD), at least it’s driven by local elected officials and their appointees who are accountable to Seattle residents. HB 1110 would toss the “One Seattle” concept out the window and dictate a one-size fits all “One Washington State” instead. The bill demonstrates a complete lack of confidence in Seattle’s ability to get the most out of its own process. Why would City Hall want to undercut its own process and give up local decision-making that better achieves our local goal of requiring the additional low-income housing we need to address our homelessness crisis?  Instead, developers would use the additional development capacity from the State to ignore Seattle and build whatever is most profitable for them, as they have done since the recent MHA upzones.

 

  • IGNORES REALITY — SEATTLE ALREADY HAS AMPLE DEVELOPMENT CAPACITY: In 2021, King County’s Growth Management Planning Council adopted the growth targets for all cities in King County. These targets cover the period 2019-2044 and represent the amount of growth each jurisdiction must accommodate through its plans and zoning during that period. While Seattle has a minimum target of 112,000 additional housing units, we already have capacity TODAY for additional 172,000 units, which is 50,000 units (or 53%) MORE than the minimum. We already have more than the required development capacity even before any new upzones that might be imposed by the State or derived from our own Comp Plan process.  (Note: OPCD often refers to the minimum growth target of 80,000 units because it’s often referring to the 20-year Comp Plan period of 2024-2044; the 80,000 units are the remaining portion of the total 25-year target that will be left in 2024, accounting for the first 5 years of growth from 2019-2024.) Because no additional development capacity is actually required, Seattle should tailor any additional density to expand what we need most: low-income housing. HB 1110 would undercut that targeting.

 

  • THREATENS HARMFUL LOSS OF TREE CANOPY DURING CLIMATE CRISIS: We claim to be 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 should be treated as valuable infrastructure because they 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 seeing them removed more often. Saving and planting more trees will help to address the disparities of heat islands exacerbated by climate change.  While Seattle has a goal to increase its tree canopy, our Emerald City actually “lost” 255 acres of trees, essentially the size of Green Lake (the body of water) since 2016, as reported by the Office of Sustainability & Environment (OSE) and the consultants hired to update Seattle’s tree canopy assessment. We have waited several years for stronger tree protections. (For more info, see my blog posts on protecting and planting trees.)

 

  • DEFINITIONS ARE WRITTEN LOOSELY, WHICH CREATES LOOPHOLES FOR TOWNHOME DEVELOPERS:
    • AFFORDABLE UNITS RARELY APPLICABLE: The two affordable units are required ONLY if the developer chooses to build 6 units (which they are not likely to do because they can typically fit only 3 or 4 townhomes on a single lot) AND that “requirement” for two affordable units applies only if the project is far away from a transit stop (more than half a mile) – which is almost nowhere in Seattle. In other words, for practical purposes, the HB 1110’s “affordability” is not a requirement at all in Seattle. Also, don’t we want the lower income residents to have access to affordable transit? So why is affordability required only far away from transit?
    • AFFORDABLE UNITS NOT RESTRICTED TO LOW-INCOME RESIDENTS: Continuing down the rabbit hole of “affordability” even though the bill doesn’t seem to apply affordability to Seattle, the bill would not require the “affordable” units to be rented to a low-income household. In other words, the rents would be restricted for the two “extra” units built more than half a mile from a transit stop, but a wealthier person would be allowed to rent those units (a rent restriction for the unit without an income/occupancy restriction for the renter).
    • “MAJOR TRANSIT STOP” IS NOT MAJOR: A “major transit stop” is defined in HB 1110 loosely as a bus coming every 30 minutes during rush hour weekdays, but that’s not really frequent transit. A more acceptable definition would be every 15 minutes every day, all day, especially as many people need to work in the evenings and/or on the weekends.
    • THE NEW UNITS COULD BECOME AIRBNB TOURIST RENTALS FOR OUT-OF-TOWN INVESTORS: While House Bill 1110 aims to increase housing supply for “middle income” households, the new units built could easily be snatched up by investors who simply turn around and rent the properties as short-term rentals (Airbnbs) for their own profit.

If this bill does not die in the State Senate, I believe the least State legislators could do is exempt Seattle, because the bill gives away profitable density to developers, undercuts local comprehensive planning, fails to create meaningful low-income housing, fails to prevent displacement, and carries the many other problems listed above.

CALL TO ACTION on HB 1110 / SB 5190: Write to your State legislators in the 43rd and 46th Legislative Districts (which cover the same geography as Seattle City Council’s District 4) and to the leaders of committees reviewing these bills: currently the State House Committee on Housing and State Senate Committee on Housing:

For a recent Seattle Times editorial entitled “Serve the People, Not Developers,”  which expresses similar concerns with HB 1110 / SB 5190, CLICK HERE.

 

Honoring Our Local Decision-Making Process for Seattle:

Dozens of North Seattle residents gathered earlier this month to discuss the future land use, housing, tree protection, and transportation policies at a community input meeting organized by Seattle’s Office of Community Planning & Development. Photo by Councilmember Alex Pedersen

Seattle’s Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) has conducted several meetings to hear feedback from people on the update to the City’s Comprehensive Plan.  For OPCD’s Comp Plan website CLICK HERE.

Councilmember Pedersen recently attended the meeting held in North Seattle at Meadowbrook Community Center (see photo above) to hear directly from OPCD staff and the focus groups of residents.

OPCD is conducting one more public meeting on Monday, January 30 at 6:00 p.m., although it will be a virtual meeting, on line only. OPCD says, “We will present an update and what to look forward to in the near future, and an opportunity to participate in a question and answer session.” To log into that meeting CLICK HERE.


PROPERTY TAX INCREASES:
MORE TRANSPARENCY NEEDED

Have you been informed yet of the upcoming tsunami of property tax increases? Probably not, so let’s delve into it here. While increases in property taxes are generally for good causes, I believe local governments need to do a better job not only managing costs to reduce your cost burden but also increasing transparency so you can plan for EVERYTHING that’s coming.  That’s because the cumulative impact has been challenging not only for homeowners struggling on fixed incomes, but also for renters (both residential and small businesses) because landlords can pass along those higher expenses.

Fortunately, State law enables the King County Tax Assessor to provide reductions or deferrals of some property taxes for residents who are lower income (with annual household income under $58,000) AND either disabled or over 60 years old.  For more information or to apply for property tax relief, CLICK HERE.

Property taxes are already the largest tax for funding City government (see pie charts below). Property tax bills are already growing because tax assessments have been rising as the value of land and buildings rise. As you may be painfully aware, your property tax bill increases also when the government increases your tax rates. In Seattle, the local government share is already a larger portion (25%) of our tax bill than throughout King County as a whole (15%).  A majority of elected officials at City Hall tend to agree with interest group advocates who argue to double or triple what you pay. The cheerleading for tax increases starts early and there’s not much space made to ask tough questions and inform everyone with the facts. Rather than simplistically doubling or tripling, I would rather see our local government better manage its costs, leverage other revenue sources already available, and sensibly stabilize future requests to voters so that “renewals” of levies increase by a reasonable amount (such as the rate of inflation since voters approved the previous tax amount).

The following pie chart shows Property Tax as the largest source for our City government’s flexible General Fund. (Source: City of Seattle budget book).

The following pie chart includes ALL ‘governmental’ funds, not just the smaller General Fund.  (Even though it shows more of the city government, it excludes the utilities, internal service funds, and retirement funds as they are generally self-funded.)

When counting just three of the following property tax levies, an owner of a median valued home will be paying $528 more per year: the Parks Levy Increase ($176 more) + the Crisis Care Centers Levy ($132 more) + the Housing Levy ($220 more).  I have asked our City Council Central Staff to compile a fuller picture of these property tax levies so that we have more transparency about not only the good causes, but also the likely costs. Here is a list:

 

Pie chart below: For the average homeowner within the city of Seattle, their city property taxes are 25% of their tax bill, which is a much higher portion than for homeowners elsewhere in King County.

 

Pie chart below: For the average homeowner within all of King County, their city property taxes are only 15% of their tax bill.

 

PARKS DISTRICT INCREASED TO OVER $330 PER YEAR IN PROPERTY TAXES: As you may recall, the Mayor and City Council recently doubled the property tax you pay for the Seattle Parks District. (I was the only Councilmember to vote against that increase.) That would increase the annual property tax bill by roughly $176 from $154 to $330 for the median homeowner (and landlords can pass these costs onto renters):

 

CRISIS CARE CENTERS ADDING OVER $133 PER YEAR IN PROPERTY TAXES: King County is proposing an important “Crisis Care Centers Levy,” to address the region’s crisis with behavioral health (mental health and substance use disorder), which will help to address persistent homelessness.

 

HOUSING TAX LEVY COULD TRIPLE to OVER $340 PER YEAR IN PROPERTY TAXES:  Now there is a proposal to nearly triple the property tax for the Seattle Housing Levy, even though we are already collecting nearly triple the amount of money since 2017 (which will be more than a billion dollars over the next 7 years) to help produce low-income housing – and that’s in addition to a new $4 billion bond proposal from Governor Inslee.  The proposal to roughly triple the Seattle Housing Levy from $290 million over 7 years to at least $840 million over 7 years would increase the annual property tax payment by roughly $220 — from $120 to at least $340 per year for the median homeowner (and landlords can pass along these charges to renters), ironically making the overall cost of housing to existing residents in Seattle more expensive.

While I have remained a big supporter of the Seattle Housing Levy and I served on the Technical Advisory Committee seven years ago due to my experience financing low-income housing, I would have a lot of questions about this proposal:

  • Are we correctly accounting for the new, additional sources of revenue we have today? That now includes revenue from the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program AND money from the JumpStart payroll employer tax. See the bar graph below for the steep rise in tax and fee revenue available for this cause — with and without the Housing Levy property tax. Considering the other increases in property taxes AND the other revenue sources available for this good cause, does it make sense to triple that property tax? Could we instead increase the MHA fees paid by real estate developers which are overdue for an update anyway?
  • What are the detailed, line item reasons for such cost increases? I realize the cost of land and cost of construction materials have increased, but what else would drive such a sharp increase and how are the other revenue increases (MHA and JumpStart) not sufficient to more than cover it?

So that the Mayor’s Office can route your comments to the team working on their proposals to increase the Seattle Housing Levy, you can send your input by CLICKING HERE.

The bar graph above shows that in 2024, the revenue collected just from payroll taxes and MHA fees to produce low-income housing would already represent an increase of 66% over 2022 — even before the Housing Levy dollars are included in the 2024 total. By adding in just the Housing Levy property tax (plus several years of inflation), that total would represent a 127% increase over 2022. Advocates are calling for a TRIPLING. The proposal to roughly triple the Seattle Housing Levy would increase the annual property tax payment by roughly $220 — from $120 to at least $340 per year for the median homeowner (and landlords can pass along these charges to renters).


TRANSPORTATION & SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMITTEE

(This is the Committee currently chaired by Councilmember Pedersen, so we provide extra information on its issues.)

To distribute the workload of city government, each of the nine Councilmembers chairs a committee. The Committee I chair (Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities) meets on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall (and on Seattle Channel), except during the two-month budget review season in October and November. Meetings in February and/or March will include reports on how to prevent traffic fatalities (Vision Zero) and SDOT’s plans to keep bridges safe and open (including the Ballard Bridge, Fremont Bridge, Spokane Street Swing Bridge /West Seattle “low” bridge, and the University Bridge.

Better Preparation for Floods:

City government sandbags installed as protection in case of flooding by the Duwamish River.

I’d like to once again thank the City employees from Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and other departments for helping residents and small businesses along the Duwamish River, especially in South Park, which has been susceptible to damaging floods.  Earlier this month, SPU’s thorough preparation and use of the Incident Command organizational system was impressive, so that residents would be protected in case flooding recurred there.  My staff and I had the opportunity to visit the location of the original flooding and I look forward to continuing the collaboration with Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1) and City departments to prevent future flooding, which will require the City to quickly design infrastructure solutions, so that we can qualify for federal funding. For more information, CLICK HERE to review the blog posts by SPU.

Seattle Transportation Plan: Still Time to Weigh In

The forthcoming “Seattle Transportation Plan” (STP) will serve as an updated basis for the city government’s “commitment to building a transportation system that provides everyone with access to safe, efficient, and affordable options to reach places and opportunities,” according to our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). The Plan will finally connect and harmonize the separate, disjointed plans for transit, freight, bikes, and pedestrians. SDOT is leading this effort and needs your input! SDOT is developing the STP with 3 phases of community engagement and is currently in phase 2.  During the first phase of engagement, which ran from May to August 2022, SDOT asked about your vision for the future of our streets, sidewalks, and shared spaces in Seattle. Now SDOT needs your help to turn those ideas into actions. As of December 2022, there is a new interactive map on which you may comment. Please provide comments to SDOT by February 21, 2023.

Note: SDOT’s public engagement thus far has centered on how inpiduals prefer to travel around town, so it lacks emphasis on what we all need: freight.  We all need access to food and consumer products, i.e., what freight delivers to, from, and throughout a big city – especially an international city with a major seaport on which the entire State relies. Fortunately, SDOT’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) scoping process acknowledges freight and the basic need to transport cargo vital for sustenance and our economic sustainability.

Learn more about the STP and share your ideas in your preferred language: 

If you need translated materials, please call (206) 257-2114.

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Opening on the Move Seattle Levy Oversight Committee

While our newsletter discusses property tax increases that invest in important programs, here’s an opportunity to get involved directly in overseeing those investments: You’re invited to join the Levy Oversight Committee (LOC) for “Move Seattle” to help shape Seattle’s transportation system. Apply by February 9 by CLICKING HERE.

While the timeframe for this 9-year $930 million property tax is coming to an end in 2024, the next year will enable oversight committee members to consider all the results of the levy investments AND opine on whether the property tax should be renewed and, if so, whether it should be combined with other sources of funding (e.g., impact fees). Oversight Committee members will also opine on what they recommend for future investments (ideally considering the previous projects promised but not completed – including bridge safety — as well as the updated thinking/engagement from the Seattle Transportation Plan).

Shared Transit Stop Success

I’m pleased to report that, on January 24, 2023, our City Council adopted legislation (Council Bill 120493) to formalize a successful “Shared Transit Stop” pilot program.

Our Transportation Committee received a report back in September of last year about SDOT’s Shared Transit Stop pilot. SDOT had been studying the pilot for several years, it is supported by King County Metro, and the Harrell Administration was ready to solidify it through the legislation. As you may know, our Shared Transit Stop program works with large employers that use their own shuttle systems — including the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital. These shuttles encourage more commuters to leave their single occupancy vehicles at home. The pilot program has been a success and last week, our Committee advanced SDOT’s Council Bill 120493 to formalize the program. Council Bill 120493 expands the shared transit pilot program, designates appropriate locations for the shared transit stops throughout our city, and solidifies the initial fee revenue we would collect to fund the expanded program. The Harrell Administration concluded the shared transit program is good for employers, good for workers who need to get to their jobs, and good for the environment. I encouraged a Yes vote to support the Harrell Administration’s bill, without changes at this time, due to the great success of the pilot program, especially if we want to encourage more commuters to get out of their cars. Frankly, I wish we would pilot more new programs so thoroughly!

Even though it’s popular to critique a City Council, a State Legislature, or a Congress — especially in today’s toxic political environment – your City Council’s discussion of a proposed amendment to potentially sunset the program within three years was heartening for its thoughtfulness and cordiality. To view the discussion, CLICK HERE (Go to minute: 1:01:07, item 3 on the agenda). While I decided not to support the amendment, everyone seem to agree that it was a good suggestion for discussion. It originated with good intentions and without interest groups pushing for or against it. It was simply a good idea based on a legitimate concern that we had discussed. While the amendment did not pass, we all still voted in favor of the bill to formalize this program. While the program has been well tested to date, the Council will review additional data in two years and it still retains the right to alter or end the program if future data suggest making changes.

  • For Council Bill 120493 and supporting materials, CLICK HERE.
  • For the presentation at our Transportation Committee, CLICK HERE.
  • For the memo analyzing the legislation by our City Council Central Staff, CLICK HERE.

Internet Access Challenge Map from FCC

In a city that prides itself as a technology leader, Seattle still suffers from a digital pide that became painfully prominent during the pandemic. In response, the City Council adopted our “Internet for All” Resolution and Action Plan because we recognize that everyone having access to high-speed broadband internet is essential for jobs, education, medical care, and productive participation in civic life. While we have proactively pursued digital equity by boosting matching funds for community organizations, Wi-Fi hot spots, and professionals that provide technical assistance (“Digital Navigators”), our City government and private sector have much work to do to expand both access to and adoption of affordable internet services. Part of that work is confirming the precise locations of the gaps.

Recently, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published a draft National Broadband Map that tentatively displays internet service availability across the United States, as provided by internet service providers (ISPs). Double-checking the accuracy of this map is critical to determine whether high-speed broadband internet service is reaching underserved and disadvantaged communities and, if not, identifying gaps will be used to allocate funding for additional broadband. The public can help to improve the accuracy of the map by submitting “challenges” to the FCC through an online form if they think a location is missing or the information on internet availability for a specific location is wrong. The initial target date for challenge submissions was January 13th, but members of the public can still submit challenges for the FCC’s review.

Though the map is a good start for crowdsourced collaboration on addressing the digital pide, my office was disappointed with the limited information and functionality of the map:

  • Fails to provide prices of different plans offered by various ISPs for specific locations.
  • Fails to provide a map overlay to detail the true adoption rate of internet for certain ISP plans.
  • Does not highlight discount programs for eligible households, such as the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) that offers a $30/month discount on internet. That would have been helpful because, at least 64% of eligible households in District 4 are not enrolled in the ACP, according to the King County Information Technology ACP subscriber map.
  • Precludes challenges to the map if you currently don’t have access to the internet. (In other words, if the map shows you have access, but you don’t have access – how are you supposed to log into the system to inform the FCC the map is wrong?)

More Info:

  • To access the FCC Broadband Map, CLICK HERE.
  • To learn how to review the map and submit a challenge, CLICK HERE, and to view a YouTube video on how to submit a challenge, CLICK HERE.
  • To view the City of Seattle’s broadband coverage and availability, CLICK HERE.
  • To check your eligibility and enroll in the Affordable Connectivity Program, CLICK HERE.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU:
Ways to Provide Input

“Find It, Fix It” App: updated user interface from Seattle’s Customer Service Bureau

https://www.seattle.gov/customer-service-bureau/find-it-fix-it-mobile-app

Your city government has made it a bit easier for residents report an issue. New improvements launched in November 2022 to the City’s Find It, Fix It mobile app will make it easier to report an issue, track reports, and view your service requests on anything from a pothole to an abandoned vehicle.

 

City Council Meetings on the Internet

Viewing & Listening: You have a few options to view and hear Seattle City Council meetings. To view Council meetings live on Seattle Channel, CLICK HERE. You can also listen on your phone by calling 253-215-8782.  To view the recordings of City Council meetings that have already occurred, CLICK HERE.

NEW IN 2022:  Our City Council meetings moved to Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. Even after returning to in-person meetings, the public will still be able to call in their comments at City Council meetings – this is an important upgrade for public input. I would have supported moving our main Council meeting to the evenings to make it easier for people with day jobs to visit us, but the technological upgrades now enable anyone to call into the public comment periods. We also updated our City Council Rules and parliamentary procedures to improve the efficiency of the City Council by enabling Councilmembers to focus their work on city government business rather than on Resolutions on other issues such as international affairs.

Commenting: You can submit comments to me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov or to all 9 Councilmembers at Council@seattle.gov. For the instructions on how to register and call in to a meeting, CLICK HERE. Sign up begins two hours prior to the meeting start time.

 

Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen: In Person Again!

In-person office hours on Friday afternoons are back to Magnuson Park’s Building 30 conference room at 6310 NE 74th Street, Seattle, WA 98115, just a couple of “blocks” into the park’s main entrance. You may 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
Phone: (206) 684-8804
Find It, Fix It


I’m Not Seeking Re-Election for 2024

January 4th, 2023

Dear Friends & Neighbors,

Striving to serve the public as a voice of reason during tumultuous times has been an honor, but I am not a career politician. While I appreciate the encouragement from several neighborhood leaders from Wallingford to Wedgwood, I have decided not to seek re-election in 2023 to another four-year term as the fulltime City Councilmember for District 4. After 2023, my family will need me more than City Hall, and they are looking forward to having me back.

Being free from campaigning for re-election during 2023 will enable my office to focus on serving our district’s 100,000 constituents in more than 15 neighborhoods and to help craft sensible public policy.

While I have heard that recent polling numbers reflect support for my efforts, just because an elected official could win again doesn’t mean they should. I’d be happy to hand the reins to another qualified and pragmatic public servant selected by voters this November who will continue to prioritize constituents over interest groups, watchdog the City’s $7 billion budget to deliver local government services, and produce substance instead of slogans on Twitter.

I appreciate the kind words my office has received from many constituents and the recent remarks from our Mayor: “Across his history of service from Legislative Aide to Councilmember, Alex Pedersen has championed issues critical to Seattle neighbors – from effective public safety to essential infrastructure projects. I am grateful for his sensible leadership and service to our community.”

While we have another year to achieve more, I’m proud of the progress my office has made on several initiatives since the day Ron Sims swore me into office:

HOMELESSNESS

  • Voted to create the Regional Homelessness Authority during a close vote in December 2019.
  • Supported Mayor’s Plan to reduce homelessness and encouraged Seattle’s Office of Housing to prioritize vacant units for people experiencing homelessness.
  • Found the location, secured the funding, passed the legislation, and negotiated the details to ensure early completion of Rosie’s Tiny Home Village with supportive services in the University District. (Also working to maximize future, permanent low-income housing for formerly homeless on the Rosie’s site.)

PUBLIC SAFETY

  • Voted against efforts to defund the police department, opposed deletion of police positions from City budget books, and supported flexible use of salary savings for overtime to help with severe staffing shortage.
  • Supported recruitment and retention plans for police officers and detectives to address disturbing increase in 911 response times and crime rates.
  • Brought increased public safety responses to District 4 with additional patrols in U District and Crime Prevention Coordinators throughout Seattle.

TRANSPORTATION

  • Led renewal of Seattle’s Transportation Benefit District, which was approved by 80% of voters.
  • Re-balanced Seattle’s transportation investments to finally care for our aging bridges, following the audit we ordered to assess this vital infrastructure. We also ensured the West Seattle Bridge was restored under budget.
  • Originated the effort to double the number of school zone speed enforcement cameras to keep more kids safe.
  • Shepherded the Resolution to guide Sound Transit decisions for new stations from West Seattle to Ballard and urged protection of the Chinatown-International District.
  • Ensured funding for sidewalks, crosswalks, and traffic calming throughout our District and encouraged more funding for South Seattle where the highest percentage of pedestrians are killed in traffic collisions.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

  • Led the appointment approval process for the new Directors of both the Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), two large agencies comprising more than $2 billion.
  • Led effort to update City Council’s legislative procedure to enable a focus on City government instead of national or international politics.
  • Prioritized cybersecurity for city government to protect both information and operational technology.
  • Reformed and renewed the Business Improvement Area in the University District to improve the neighborhood’s cleanliness and economic development, while preserving the historic “Ave.”
  • Provide responsive constituent services to the people, nonprofits, and small businesses in District 4.

EQUITY

  • Crafted and funded the Internet for All Resolution to advance digital equity that increases access to jobs, education, and health care.
  • Ensuring completion of community center renovations at Magnuson Park where 850 low-income residents call home.
  • Joined with other leaders to save the National Archives at Seattle, located in District 4, an important resource for indigenous peoples and local researchers throughout the Northwest.
  • Kept utility rate increases to a minimum because utility bills are regressive and reduced utility payments during the COVID pandemic.

INDEPENDENCE ON KEY VOTES

  • Voted against various efforts to “de-fund” our police, including the ill-advised pledge to defund by 50%.
  • Voted against the doubling of the property tax portion for the Parks District.
  • Voted against imposing a new payroll tax on Seattle’s employers during an economic recession.

ENVIRONMENT / CLIMATE CHANGE

  • Crafted and passed new “Climate Note” to require climate change and resiliency to be considered with all new legislation.
  • Originated idea to create cooling centers at the Northeast Seattle Library and Magnuson Park to strengthen our district’s resiliency to climate change.
  • Crafted and led effort to phase out harmful gas-powered leaf blowers to support public health, workers, and our environment.
  • Crafted bill to register tree-removal companies for transparency and accountability to end the “wild west” of tree cutting in Seattle, and conceived Seattle’s “Urban Forester” position to lead efforts to conserve and expand Seattle’s urban forest.

And one more year to go!

In the year ahead, my office plans to focus on safety, including community safety and transportation safety, as well as preventing economic, physical, and cultural displacement and ensuring fiscal responsibility so the people’s tax dollars are invested as effectively as possible.

I’m grateful there will be many ways to contribute to the community without serving full-time as a City Councilmember for back-to-back terms, and I’m fortunate to have skills and experience required to return to the private sector in 2024 after continuing the hard work for constituents during 2023.

Over the next year, I’ll look forward to continuing to work with the Harrell Administration, our City Council President, and others eager to more effectively address the public’s priorities, which must include reducing crime and homelessness.

Thank you.

More Info: 

With gratitude,

 

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

Email: Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov
Phone: (206) 684-8804
Find It, Fix It


“Puget Sounders Who Brighten Our Community”

December 23rd, 2022

The Seattle Times editorial board highlighted “Puget Sounders who brighten our community,” with a wonderful sketch by award-winning David Horsey.

Image from The Seattle Times

It was an honor to be included (in the center) and to receive their generous description:

Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen not only has demonstrated a commitment to constituents over special interests but has pushed for enhanced public safety and prudent transportation investments.”

The Seattle Times


Highlights from 2022

December 15th, 2022

Dear Friends & Neighbors,

We’re using this month’s newsletter to provide you with highlights from 2022.

After emerging from the COVID pandemic, Seattle residents, schools, and store owners have made it clear they expect their government to make progress reducing crime and homelessness. As the elected City Councilmember for Northeast Seattle, I strive to provide sensible solutions for challenges such as community safety and our aging infrastructure, while remaining accountable to neighborhoods with a wide range of viewpoints. I’m confident we can make progress in 2023 by focusing on the basic services and hard work of local government. I sincerely hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday season. Thank you!

For a better view of the 2022 Highlights graphic, CLICK HERE.


Photos and More from 2022:

January 2022: Councilmember Pedersen on a crime prevention tour to hear from small businesses owned by women and people of color.  Several said they want community policing officers to return once our Seattle Police Department hires more officers to replace the hundreds of officers who departed.

January 2022: After hearing the report from our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) about the challenges they faced filling thousands of new potholes after the winter storms, Councilmember Pedersen visited the Pothole Rangers in District 4.  Potholes can increase risks for all modes of transportation.  While it was initially more fun than sitting at a desk in City Hall, Councilmember Pedersen was grateful to return the machines to the experts and thanked them for serving the public where the rubber meets the road.

March 2022: Councilmember Pedersen and new Traffic Engineer Venu Nemani met with the principal and parents at View Ridge elementary school on March 25, 2022 to discuss installation of improved lighting to alert cars to the crosswalks on NE 70th Street. 

March 2022: Councilmember Pedersen joins other volunteers cleaning up Roosevelt sidewalks and greenways. 

March 2022: Councilmember Pedersen answers questions from constituents at the University House retirement community in Wallingford.

March 2022: The Sand Point Community Church in the View Ridge neighborhood organized a forum on homelessness in the region.  Councilmember Pedersen was honored to join the panelists to help answer the full crowd’s many questions about the ongoing crisis of homelessness in our region.  One key point was that most of the city and county government functions have been transferred to the new Regional Homelessness Authority and that new organization is already making sure other Puget Sound cities do more to address homelessness in the region.

April 2022: At the East Howe Steps with Eastlake Community Council leader Detra Segar on April 12, 2022, the same day we passed the legislation enabling a public plaza while saving a large conifer tree. Thanks to the collaboration with SDOT, Eastlake residents, and the property owner.  

April 2022: Councilmember Pedersen enjoyed joining over 20 other volunteers to clean up Wallingford’s business district in April, focusing on N. 45th Street between Stone Way and I-5. With the robust turnout, the proactive community organizer Colleen is inspired to make this a quarterly event!  I also appreciate our own Seattle Public Utilities providing the “Adopt a Street” trash bags, trash grabbers, gloves, and orange vests. To get Adopt-a-Street supplies for your community, CLICK HERE or call (206) 684-7647 or email adoptastreet@seattle.gov. 

May 2022: Councilmember Pedersen (center) cleaning up Cowen Park with dozens of eager volunteers, including fellow civic leaders Christa Valles and Gabe Galanda. In the background, Legislative Aide Gabby is wondering when they’re going to stop posing and get back to work. Mayor Harrell’s idea for the “One Seattle: Day of Service” was a big success, with a reported 4,000 Seattleites participating across our city.

May 2022: Councilmember Pedersen (in the shades) thanking Don Blakeney (in the blazer), his team at the nonprofit U District Partnership, and all the sponsors of the wildly successful U District Street Fair. Springing forth from the new light rail station were tens of thousands of visitors dazzled by the energy of Seattle’s best destination for funky fun: the University District adjacent to our world-class university. The variety and volume of the music, food, and arts were energizing and the smiles on the throngs of people were uplifting as we all celebrated the return of the Street Fair and each other to the neighborhood.

June 2022: At our City Council meeting on June 28, 2022, we unanimously confirmed Mayor Harrell’s nomination of Andrew Lee as the General Manager and CEO of the Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), a $1.3 billion enterprise that delivers clean water and takes away wastewater and solid waste. Mr. Lee has been ably serving as the interim head of SPU after the previous leader, Mami Hara, departed near the end of the Durkan Administration last Fall. Councilmember Pedersen has been achieving his goal of working with SPU to limit utility bill increases to a minimum. A key role of the City Council, under the “checks & balances” system of our City Charter, is to consider and confirm (or reject) a Mayor’s nominations to head the most important departments.

June 2022: Leaders from the nonprofit Commute Seattle join Councilmember Pedersen on his morning commute by bus and light rail from Northeast Seattle to City Hall downtown during “Ride Transit Month.”

June 2022: Councilmember Pedersen was honored to spend radio time with two living legends of Seattle City Council, Jean Godden and Sue Donaldson.

June 2022: Seattle Councilmember Alex Pedersen (left) accompanies a team from U.S. Senator Patty Murray’s office on a tour of the National Archives Building on Sand Point Way NE in our City Council District 4, June 17, 2022. Senator Murray secured $98 million in federal funds to keep these precious records in the Seattle area. (The buttons we received from the local archivists proclaim, “You don’t have to go to Washington D.C. to visit the National Archives” (photo courtesy of the City’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations).

June 2022: Mayor Bruce Harrell leads our city government team at the Seattle Pride Parade. Councilmember Pedersen marches along in solidarity, with his new shorts unofficially proclaiming the start of summer in Seattle.

July 2022: Councilmember Pedersen joined the South Seattle Councilmember, leaders from the Seattle Department of Transportation, and advocates for safe streets.  They visited several locations as examples of dangerous intersections and arterials: 4TH Ave South in SODO, the Lighthouse for the Blind, and the schools near Rainier Ave South & South Henderson Street.

July 2022: Matt Donahue, Seattle’s Director of Roadway Structures, discusses the University Bridge’s condition with Councilmember Pedersen and Gregory Spotts, Mayor Bruce Harrell’s nominee to become the next Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). This multimodal bridge ranked “poor” by the 2020 audit of Seattle’s bridges. My committee led the confirmation approval of Greg Spotts in September 2022.

July 2022: Councilmember Pedersen supported Mayor Harrell’s plan to recruit police officers and detectives to begin to restore the 400 who left Seattle. Everyone deserves to feel safe, and I appreciate that we need a holistic approach that includes not only sufficient staffing of frontline public safety workers, but also alternative emergency responses for mental health crises and a police contract that expands reforms.

On September 10th of 2021 — 10 months earlier – I introduced two budget amendments to fund between $1 million and $3 million dollars for SPD recruitment and retention but, unfortunately, only 3 of my colleagues supported it. Since that time, we’ve received more recent data showing unacceptable increases in 9-1-1 response times and unacceptable increases in crime.

Councilmember Pedersen recently attended several “roll calls” at the beginning of police patrol shifts to hear from many of the officers who keep North Seattle safe. I appreciate the good work that they do and know it takes a long time to train and deploy new recruits.

July 2022: Councilmember Pedersen visited the Wallingford Farmers Market this month, where he enjoyed a coveted strawberries & cream popsicle from Seattle Pops, which also has a storefront on N 45th Street at Interlake Ave N. The Councilmember is seen here demonstrating his acquired political skill of chewing and smiling at the same time. The Wallingford Farmers Market, held adjacent to the Meridian Playground, is open every Wednesday from 5-8 p.m. through September 28.

July 2022: The annual Wedgwood Arts Festival was back in its full glory this month and Councilmember Pedersen (sporting his vintage “Wedgwood” T-shirt) had fun attending the community event with one of his children. They arrived with the goal of buying a piece of art, but departed with other goodies from local artists including handmade jewelry, clothes, and a candle that smells like winter holiday spices.  To see what you might have missed and to get it early on your calendar for next summer, you can visit their website at wedgwoodfestival.com. Regrets: not buying a homemade ice cream sandwich.

July 2022: (from left to right in photo) Mayor Harrell’s Chief Equity Officer Adiam Emery, the Executive Director of “Kids & Paper” Azadeh Eslamy, Councilmember Alex Pedersen, and Parks & Rec coordinator Paul Davenport attend the first anniversary of the nonprofit serving elementary school age immigrant children at Magnuson Park.

August 2, 2022: Councilmember Pedersen had fun attending 8 block parties from the U District to View Ridge. As you probably know, “Night Out” is a national event on the first Tuesday of August for neighbors to enjoy time together on side streets in their community to connect and share food while heightening crime prevention awareness. Our D4 neighbor Dr. Jacqueline Helfgott (leftside of photo above) is a Professor of Criminal Justice at Seattle University. She conducts an annual public safety survey (CLICK HERE). Along with dozens of other community leaders across Seattle, she and her neighbors organize a major block party for National Night Out every year.

September 2022: You can see in the background the recently restored West Seattle High Bridge (and the workhorse “low” bridge). Of all the key public servants involved in restoring the West Seattle High Bridge, monitoring the low bridge, and creating alternative routes during this transportation crisis, we’d like to applaud Heather Marx (standing 3rd from the left in this photo from September 16, 2022). Since the sudden closure of the bridge for safety reasons in March 2020, Heather and her team served as the steady hands at SDOT to oversee all aspects of the emergency stabilization and substantial renovation needed to save and re-open the bridge that serves more than 100,000 Seattle residents. Thank you, Heather! As Transportation Chair, I also greatly appreciated the close working relationship with West Seattle’s Councilmember Lisa Herbold, whose district was most impacted. For more thank-you’s, CLICK HERE. Thankfully, SDOT completed the project UNDER budget, so we’ll have SDOT return to our Transportation Committee to reconcile the final numbers.

September 2022: Councilmember Pedersen fielding great questions from neighbors who attended an event at the Northeast branch of the Seattle Public Libraries where Bryant and Wedgwood meet. He was proud to stand with Chief Librarian Tom Fay (pictured on the right) and other library boosters. Neighbors asked several book smart questions about property taxes, public safety, and digital equity. Coming soon to our NE branch thanks to our budget amendment from November 2021: equipment to keep the building energy efficient and cool for greater resiliency in the midst of climate change.

September 2022: Councilmember Pedersen listening to the head of the View Ridge Community Council at the return of their annual “Party in the Park” on September 11, 2022. While most party goers were smiling and happy to reconnect as we emerge from the pandemic, I also shared the public safety concerns of several other parents upset by disturbing crimes nearby in what has historically been a relatively safe neighborhood. They want City Hall to prioritize increasing public safety and reducing homelessness

 

September 2022: Councilmember Pedersen enjoying the music and neighborhood spirit at the return of the Wedgwood “Community Picnic” on September 10, 2022. The annual event was organized, in large part, by the former head of the Wedgwood Community Council, John Finelli. Great to see the current head of the WCC, Per Johnson, who continues to chair the monthly meetings of the community council – for more info, CLICK HERE. Many thanks to the Seattle Firefighters who attended to discuss fire safety with the children. For those who have experienced frustrating and repeated power outages near 35th Ave NE, CLICK HERE for an update from Seattle City Light.

September and November 2022: Councilmember Pedersen appreciates his colleagues unanimously adopting his Resolution 32064 in September 2022 to rid Seattle of gasoline-fueled leaf blowers (by January 2025 in city government and by January 2027 everywhere else). Thanks to everyone who emailed and called to provide their supportive comments. We also appreciate the other feedback from those concerned about focusing on Seattle’s priorities and making sure small businesses are not negatively impacted. To encourage executive officials to implement the Resolution, we adopted a budget requirement (proviso) in November 2022 to prohibit the Parks Dept from buying any new gasoline-fueled leaf blowers. Therefore, we will speed up the process to improve public health, working conditions, and the environment through attrition of this harmful equipment. For more info, CLICK HERE.

November 2022: Councilmember Pedersen with Seattle’s new SDOT Director Greg Spotts, along with his top-notch team, experiencing firsthand the I-5 overpass connecting Wallingford to the U District this month. Councilmember Pedersen was grateful to City Council colleagues for voting in favor of his proposed $1.5 million for SDOT to complete the safety improvement project that will add fencing to protect pedestrians and bicyclists. The majority agreed that a proposed $10 increase in Vehicle License Fees (VLF) would be the source of funds for this overpass pedestrian project in 2023 — with future funds going 50/50 toward other Vision Zero pedestrian safety projects as well as to bridge maintenance (via Council Budget Action SDOT-505-B-002-2023). (This followed up on last year’s investment of $350,000 to study and design the overpass safety project: SDOT-104-B-001-2022.)

November 2022: We doubled the School Safety Zone Speed Enforcement Cameras! Currently only 19 out of 100 Seattle public schools benefit from this Vision Zero effort to protect young pedestrians. In other words, 80% of Seattle schools do not benefit from this traffic safety measure. Thanks to our proposal and support from the Budget Chair, we are adding $1 million in 2023 and more in 2024 to increase the number of enforcement cameras from 35 to 70 to cover 40 locations. An additional upside: this program earns money so that it can pay for itself AND reinvest net revenues into more pedestrian safety! For more info, click on these links: SDOT-103-B-001-2023 and SDOT-304-A-001-2023. For a KOMO TV News story about our efforts, CLICK HERE.

November 2022: The final vote on the City budget on November 28th — and my concerns about the policing elements as amended by a majority of the City Council — were a big deal this year. For more on that, CLICK HERE.

December 2022: A special thank you to the various community groups throughout our District 4 that invited me to speak during the past month (in alphabetical order): Inverness Community Council, North Precinct (Police) Advisory Council, Ravenna-Bryant Community Association, View Ridge Community Council, and the Wallingford Community Council. My team and I always appreciate the insightful questions and ideas we receive at your meetings. Everyone: joining your community council is a great way to get involved in local government. To invite me to your community council meeting, just write to Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov .

For a more detailed summary about 2022 and the previous years, CLICK HERE. You can also visit my blog by CLICKING HERE. Let’s make 2023 the best year yet! Thank you.

With gratitude,

 

 

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

Email: Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov
Phone: (206) 684-8804
Find It, Fix It


Standing Up for Public Safety in the City Budget

November 29th, 2022

Friends and Neighbors,

Our November newsletter focuses on the final decisions allocating Seattle’s $7.4 billion budget to address the issues that concern you the most. As I mentioned in my October newsletter, I realize that reducing homelessness and increasing safety remain the top concerns across Seattle and so my efforts during the budget review process generally supported Mayor Harrell’s original budget proposals on those two important challenges.

Please click on the links below to zip to the sections that interest you the most:

  • District 4: Engaging in Bryant, the U District, View Ridge, Wallingford, Wedgwood, and more.
  • Public Safety and Homelessness: Adding mental health supports; taking the Seattle University Survey; and 3RD quarter report on homelessness.
  • City Budget: A tough No vote on final City budget because it fails to optimize public safety policies and investments; Also, a summary of successful amendments on transportation (bridges!) and the environment.
  • Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities Committee: meeting next on December 6; finally requiring accountability for testing autonomous vehicles; and preparing for winter storms.
  • Other Issues: Low-Income Housing Property Taxes and Comprehensive Planning Participation.
  • Providing Input.

For my previous newsletters, you can CLICK HERE to visit my website/blog. Thank you for caring enough to demand the best from City Hall.


DISTRICT 4

Pedestrian Safety Connecting Wallingford and U District

With Seattle’s new SDOT Director and “Selfie Maestro” Greg Spotts, along with his top-notch team, experiencing firsthand the I-5 overpass connecting Wallingford to the U District this month. Initially advocated by community groups and pedestrian safety advocates, I have not given up on making sure we fund and build simple safety improvements to make it safer to cross over I-5 at NE 45TH Street for both pedestrians and cyclists. As discussed later in this newsletter, I’m grateful to City Council colleagues for joining me in adding $1.5 million to SDOT to complete the safety improvement project that will add fencing to protect pedestrians and bicyclists on the I-5 overpass on NE 45th Street (SDOT-104-B-001-2022). I’m grateful the majority of us agreed that a proposed $10 increase in Vehicle License Fees (VLF) would be the source of funds for this overpass pedestrian project in 2023 — with future funds going 50/50 toward other Vision Zero pedestrian safety projects as well as to bridge maintenance (via Council Budget Action SDOT-505-B-002-2023).

Community Councils Thank You

A special thank you to the various community groups throughout our District 4 that invited me to speak during the past month (in alphabetical order): Inverness Community Council, North Precinct (Police) Advisory Council, Ravenna-Bryant Community Association, View Ridge Community Council, and the Wallingford Community Council. My team and I always appreciate the insightful questions and ideas we receive at your meetings. Everyone: joining your community council is a great way to get involved in local government.  To invite me to your community council meeting, just write to Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov .

“Tent City 3” Concerns

Many residents from the Bryant and Wedgwood communities have raised concerns and questions about an altruistic proposal by the University Unitarian Church located at 6556 35TH Ave NE to host from March through May 2023 the so-called “Tent City 3,” which is a homeless encampment that is currently authorized by city code and is typically hosted on church parking lots. (In fact, Tent City 3 is currently in District 4 in the parking lot of a different church.) Questions about Tent City 3 should be directed to the Unitarian Church at the following email address: uuchomelessness@gmail.com

Even though questions should be directed to the Unitarian Church, my office receives many questions, so I’ve created a blog post to answer some of the questions: CLICK HERE.

Note: Tent City 3 is different from Rosie’s Tiny Home Village located in the U District, which has professional case management and tracks the number of people transitioning successfully to affordable housing.


PUBLIC SAFETY and HOMELESSNESS

Tragic Shooting Death of Student at Ingraham High School November 8

Dr. Brent Jones, head of Seattle Public Schools, addresses the media with Mayor Bruce Harrell on November 8, 2022. (photo from Seattle Channel)

On Tuesday, November 8, 2022 at 9:55 a.m., “…police received reports of a shooting at [Ingraham High] school, in the 1800 block of North 135th Street. Officers arrived and formed contact teams to immediately enter the school. Police found one person with a gunshot wound and provided aid until Seattle Fire Department medics transported the victim with life-threatening injuries,” according to SPD’s online report. By 11:10 a.m., officers apprehended the suspected shooter and a potential accomplice in North Seattle.

  • For SPD’s original announcement on their “Blotter,” CLICK HERE.
  • For Seattle Times coverage, CLICK HERE.

Here are excerpts from Mayor Harrell’s statement on November 8, 2022:

“Today, a tragedy occurred at Ingraham High School in North Seattle. My heart breaks for the student who lost their life and for their family, friends, and the entire Ingraham High School community impacted by this senseless act of violence. Schools must be safe havens for our youth to learn, grow, and thrive, and our students must trust that they will be safe in the classroom.

Gun violence has impacted too many families in our city, and we can never accept this as normal. The solution requires a holistic approach – law enforcement, community-based solutions, pathways for prevention and intervention, and the ability to set our own gun safety laws.

I want to thank the first responders from the Seattle Fire Department and Seattle Police Department who acted swiftly and bravely to respond to the incident. These teams deserve our heartfelt appreciation and gratitude. I am also grateful for the courage and compassion of the teachers and staff at Seattle Public Schools who helped immediately identify the suspect and worked to support our students at this trying time…”

Here are excerpts from our Public Safety Chair’s statement on November 8, 2022:

“This is devastating. My heart goes out to the victim, their loved ones, and the students, staff, families, and neighbors of Ingraham High School. No student should have to go to school worrying about the threat of gun violence. No parent should have to experience the heart-wrenching feeling of wondering if their child is safe at school. This is unacceptable…

Seattle has a gun problem. I sincerely thank all of the first responders and school faculty today. I want to specifically thank the Seattle Police Department for their work seizing 1,237 illegal firearms last year, an unheard of number, and we’re on track to meet or exceed that with over 1,000 seizures already this year. Whether it’s through gun violence prevention we do at the city and county level or gun control legislation passed at the state and national level, we must do more. Our kid’s lives depend on it.”

While the Seattle school district is a self-governing agency with its own resources from the federal and state governments and its own property tax levies for capital projects and operations, the city government of Seattle supports public schools through a separate Families and Education (K through 12), Preschool, and Promise (community college) property tax levy. That city government-driven levy funds the City’s Department of Education & Early Learning (DEEL).

Some question whether the city government has succumbed to expensive and distracting “mission-creep” with the DEEL levy, but I support it because schools are historically underfunded and education is so vital to our democracy and the wellbeing of our residents.  But, I digress. The point is that, for a city government, Seattle provides an unusually large number of resources to our public schools. So, when additional needs arise, it’s no surprise that student leaders might come to City Hall, in addition to the Seattle School District, to seek additional support. I stood with and heard the suggestions of the student leaders when they came to City Hall on November 14, 2022.  While the Mayor and our Budget Chair found additional resources, it’s really several high school student leaders who deserve the credit for coalescing around requests that included more dollars for mental health support.

Thanks mainly to the most recently voter-approved property tax increase for education (2018), the City government contributions through the DEEL budget exceed $125 million per year, including $40 million to support K through 12 public schools. This already includes funding for School-Based Health Centers managed through a contract with Seattle-King County Public Health.

In response to requests from several current student leaders after the shooting at Ingraham High, the Mayor and Budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda collaborated (with City Council support during her committee) to add at least $3 million for mental health services: $1.5 million for each of the next two years with two budget actions: DEEL-002-A-001-2023 and DEEL-603-A-001-2023. (This included a set aside for Ingraham High of at least $250,000 via DEEL-601-A-001-2023 sponsored by Council President Juarez whose district includes that school.) This would increase funding for School-Based Health Centers to $9.4 million in 2023 and $9.6 million in 2024, with a portion specifically allocated for expanded mental health services in schools.  For some of the existing mental health services at Seattle Public Schools, CLICK HERE.

For Tips for Parents and Teachers: Talking to Children About Violence from The National Association of School Psychologists, CLICK HERE. Here’s an excerpt: “High profile acts of violence, particularly in schools, can confuse and frighten children who may feel in danger or worry that their friends or loved-ones are at risk. They will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react. Parents and school personnel can help children feel safe by establishing a sense of normalcy and security and talking with them about their fears.”

Participating in the “Before the Badge” Training

An SPD Research Team will continue to facilitate community-police dialogues with new recruits from the Seattle Police Department’s “Before the Badge Program” through December 2022 on Monday nights 5:30-7:30 p.m.  They are inviting the public to participate in this special series of dialogues that will focus on community engagement with the new Seattle Police recruits.

The dialogues are part of the new “Before the Badge” 45-day training program that all new Seattle Police Department recruits complete PRIOR TO entering the Washington State Basic Law Enforcement Academy. The purpose of the dialogues is to give community members an opportunity to engage with new Seattle Police recruits to help them learn about Seattle community concerns at the precinct/neighborhood level as part of the Seattle Police Department’s Micro-Community Policing Plans (MCPP) .

This is an opportunity to be part of the SPD training process. You can sign up today. Feel free to share with all who live and/or work in Seattle.  Sign-up to participate in the new “Before the Badge” Community-Police Dialogues!

12/5/2022 5:30-7:30PM – North Precinct (includes Council District 4).
12/12/2022 5:30-7:30PM – South Precinct.
12/19/2022 5:30-7:30PM – Southwest Precinct.

Take the Public Safety Survey by Seattle University

The 8th annual public safety survey is led by Dr. Jacqueline B. Helfgott, professor of Criminal Justice and director of the Crime & Justice Research at the Seattle University Department of the Criminal Justice.
The Seattle Public Safety Survey is being administered Oct. 15 through Nov. 30, 2022 in 11 languages.

  • To take Seattle’s Public Safety Survey, CLICK HERE.
  • For the October 10, 2022 Op Ed in the Seattle Times highlighting the public safety survey and explaining elements of Seattle’s “Before the Badge” orientation program, CLICK HERE.
  • For a Seattle Times article about the public safety survey, CLICK HERE.

Homelessness: 3rd Quarter 2022 Results

Source: Mayor’s Homelessness Action Plan website.

While we have shifted primarily to a regional approach to reduce homelessness, the City provides substantial funding to that effort while still engaging with some illegal encampments on City government property and, of course, substantially subsidizing the production of low-income housing.

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell recently released third quarter 2022 updates for his Homelessness Action Plan. These new data sets came on the heels of Mayor Harrell’s transmittal of his 2023-24 budget proposal to the City Council, which included the City’s investments in City-managed homelessness response services, the City’s Unified Care Team, and the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA).

The information is for the 9-month period from January (when the Mayor took office) through September 2022, and the data is disturbing: 9,063 emergencies, 1,225 fires, and 101 shots fired. The Mayor’s office also compares the most recent quarter (3-month period) to the previous quarter. The snapshot for just the 3rd Quarter (July through September 2022) of unauthorized encampments includes 724 documented tents and 273 documented RVs located throughout the City—a measurable reduction in encampment site numbers since the end of June 2022.  Nearly 20% of all citywide shootings/shots fired through Q3 have a nexus to an unauthorized encampment or a person experiencing homelessness.

As of September 2022, the City has identified 1,912 new units of shelter and housing, 88 units away from the goal of 2,000 by the end of 2022.

For regional policies on addressing homelessness and for encampments on State government property (such as the dangerous encampment under I-5 near NE 42nd Street), constituents can contact the King County Regional Homelessness Authority through their CEO Marc.Dones@kcrha.org or use their contact page by CLICKING HERE.


CITY BUDGET AND TAXES

Explaining a Tough “No” Vote on the Budget Amended by City Council

[Note: the portion in bold below is what I said at the final Budget Committee on November 28, 2022.]

It’s often said that a government budget should reflect what is valued most. Public safety is the issue I hear most about from constituents. We also hear from leaders in other parts of Seattle, including Reverend Harriet Walden of Mothers for Police Accountability and Victoria Beach of the African American Community Advisory Council urging support for the Mayor’s original public safety budget. City leaders receive dozens of similar emails and phone calls from residents who want City Hall to do more to advance our public safety responsibilities under the City Charter.

A recent survey of Seattle residents confirmed 69% think our city is on the wrong track, and they cite crime and homelessness as the top concerns. The public’s concern about crime & public safety has increased sharply from just 28% citing it as a top concern last year to nearly half of the people citing it as a top concern today. Their experiences and concerns about crime are supported by the data: Emergency 911 response times and crime rates have, in fact, worsened.

On November 14, Councilmember Sara Nelson and I published our numerous concerns about changes being made to Mayor Harrell’s original budget proposal — changes that could hamper efforts to increase public safety. We listed seven public safety concerns to fix. Unfortunately, the Budget Committee on November 21 fixed only one of the seven public safety concerns.

I appreciate all the hard work of the Mayor’s Office, the City Budget Office, and the various departments to craft the budget as well as the long hours invested by our Budget Chair and legislative staff to amend the budget.  This budget provides many positive investments for our city’s infrastructure and our most vulnerable residents, which I supported during the lengthy amendment process. Regarding the overall final budget, I appreciate the rationale of the independently elected officials who have chosen to vote in favor of it. Having worked on dozens of budgets at various organizations in multiple cities, I realize most budgets are compromise documents unlikely to contain everything that everyone wants. I have sometimes celebrated budgets and sometimes held my nose to vote for budgets despite their shortcomings.

My team and I worked hard and in good faith throughout this budget process to get to a Yes. But it’s become clear to me there’s more at stake here in Seattle regarding public safety today, and I believe a City budget — after two months of discussions and amendments — should do MORE for public safety, not less.

Unfortunately, this budget as amended:

  1. Deletes (abrogates) 80 police officer positions from the books despite a severe staffing shortage and that sends a negative message to our officers and potential recruits, even though the maneuver doesn’t save money. (Note: the Mayor’s recruitment plan aims to restore us to 1,450 funded and deployable officers: https://harrell.seattle.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/23/2022/07/SPD-Recruitment-and-Retention-Plan.pdf, so “abrogating” positions clearly goes in wrong direction.)
  2. Prevents the Seattle Police Department from using salary savings to fund overtime needs during the severe staffing shortage and fails to fully support officer recruitment and retention efforts.
  3. Fails to fund a pilot program to treat methamphetamine addiction, a driver of violent crime and debilitating mental illness, as originally proposed by Councilmember Nelson.
  4. Fails to fund gunshot detection technology requested by Mayor Harrell.
  5. Fails to fund additional graffiti removal requested by Mayor Harrell.
  6. Fails to fully fund Mayor Harrell’s innovative approach to getting more people into housing with the City’s Unified Care Team, as we await quicker action from the new Regional Homelessness Authority.

While I appreciate all the hard work to fund infrastructure and human services programs to benefit Seattle and our district, I believe the City Council’s budget amendments went too far in weakening the Mayor’s original priority of public safety and could undermine efforts to recruit and retain police officers and detectives as Seattle struggles with 9-1-1 response times and crime rates.

It’s tempting at City Hall to “go along to get along” to avoid conflict with colleagues, but I ultimately believe each elected official should vote their conscience as they strive to synthesize the concerns and input from their constituents. While I join my colleagues in supporting several elements of this $7.4 billion budget, I cannot in good conscience endorse a final budget that I believe fails to learn from recent public safety policy mistakes and falls short on public safety for a third year in a row. So I will be voting No on this final budget.

I’ll look forward to working with the Mayor and Council colleagues next year to make sure the budget fully funds public safety. Thank you.

(For an alternative view on these issues, CLICK HERE.)

OTHER AMENDMENTS:

I continue to hear from constituents that the top two issues facing Seattle remain public safety and homelessness. In general, I supported the Mayor’s original budget proposals for those two big issues. (See comments above regarding the “No” vote.)  While the Budget Committee, unfortunately, deleted too many of Mayor Harrell’s public safety proposals, there were bright spots for several of the amendments I sponsored, especially regarding transportation and the environment. I appreciate the support of colleagues who voted in favor of these amendments, and I was pleased to support many of their amendments as well. For a visual overview of Council amendments, CLICK HERE.

Protecting Our Environment:

  • Creating a “City Urban Forester” (“Chief Arborist”) within the tree-friendly Office of Sustainability & Environment. This position will have jurisdiction across City departments to lead the conservation and planting of tree infrastructure to strengthen Seattle’s resiliency to climate change. This follows through on our efforts from last year. (OSE-005-B-001-2023) PASSED!
  • Accelerating Phase Out of Harmful Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers to support public health, workers, and our environment. While the Budget Committee Chair rejected our modest request to add $200,000 to pay for electric leaf blowers for the Seattle Parks Department so that we could implement Resolution 32064, my team got creative to solve the problem without money: we adopted a budget requirement (proviso) to prohibit the Parks Dept from buying any new gasoline-fueled leaf blowers. Therefore, we will speed up the process to improve public health, working conditions, and the environment through attrition of this harmful equipment.  I sincerely appreciate the can-do attitude of Mayor’ Harrell’s new Parks Superintendent AP Diaz who confirmed to me last week that he is onboard with getting rid of gas-powered leaf blowers. The Parks Department owns the most gas-powered leaf blowers and, unfortunately between 2014 and 2022 purchased 145 gas-powered leaf blowers, and now that department owns 270 of these polluting machines. These leaf-blowers last approximately five years, so this proviso creatively enables us to advance the goals of our Resolution by requiring replacement leaf blowers to be electric. (The Dept already has 30 electric leaf blowers.) Per the unanimously adopted Resolution 32064, the city government will lead by example and be the first in Seattle to ban gas-powered leaf blowers among its various departments by January 2025. We can then focus on working with the private sector on solutions to phase out the harmful machines completely by January 2027. (SPR-004-B-001-2023) CHANGED TO PROVISO AND PASSED!

Addressing Equity:

  • Attempting to require the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) to explain how it will prevent the displacement of existing residents. OPCD’s published materials seem to emphasize build, build, build new market-rate housing as their main tool to “prevent” displacement of existing residents, but it should be using other tools, such as minimizing demolitions of existing affordable housing and maximizing the amount of new housing dedicated to low-income residents (i.e. those most in need). The Budget Chair did not include our request, despite it having no cost. (OPCD-002-A-001-2023). REJECTED.
  • Bridging the Digital Divide in Seattle by making progress on the “Internet for All” Resolution 31956 That Resolution generated an Action Plan to expand access to affordable high-speed internet, so that less fortunate neighbors can access education, jobs, medical care, and other information vital for a strong democracy. Despite being a high-tech city, there is still a digital divide, so we must do more to close that gap. A recent study confirmed racial disparities in the quality of internet service in several cities — including Seattle. While the Budget Chair cut in half our original request, I appreciate her partially funding the additive dollars to digital equity: We are adding $225,000 to the Technology Matching Fund (TMF) and “Digital Navigators” (DNs) to help people connect to the internet in 2023 and another $225,000 in 2024 (specifically adding $135,000 to TMF and adding $90,000 to DNs each year). (Ip-001-B-001-2023). PASSED AT A LOWER AMOUNT.

 

Expanding Pedestrian Safety:

  • Making safe the treacherous NE 45th Street I-5 overpass that connects Wallingford to the new light rail station in the U District, a Vision Zero project promised by the Move Seattle Levy. Add $1.5 million to SDOT to complete the safety improvement project that will add fencing to protect pedestrians and bicyclists on the I-5 overpass on NE 45th Street (This follows through on the studies already funded and completed during the past two years.) (SDOT-104-B-001-2022). Note: I’m grateful we agreed that a proposed $10 increase in Vehicle License Fees (VLF) would be the source of funds for this overpass pedestrian project in 2023 — with future funds going 50/50 toward Vision Zero pedestrian safety projects and bridge maintenance via SDOT-505-B-002-2023. PASSED!
  • Doubling the School Safety Zone Speed Enforcement Cameras: Currently only 19 out of 100 Seattle public schools benefit from this Vision Zero effort to protect young pedestrians. Thanks to our amendment and support from the Budget Chair, we are adding $1 million in 2023 and more in 2024 to increase the number of enforcement cameras from 35 to 70 to cover 40 locations. An additional upside: this program earns money so that it can pay for itself AND reinvest net revenues into more pedestrian safety! SDOT-103-B-001-2023 and SDOT-304-A-001-2023. PASSED!
  • Saving the Neighborhood Street Fund “Vision Zero” safety projects! The Move Seattle Levy Oversight Committee reviewed and approved 17 projects. Because these community-driven pedestrian safety projects will cost $7.6 million and yet the levy had only $4 million, we proposed an amendment (SDOT-105-A-001-2023) to fund the remaining $3.6 million. The Budget Chair, unfortunately, rejected that request and so my team reduced the request to fund the Neighborhood Street Fund project that was transit-related and in the University District near 41st Street and Roosevelt Way (just north of the University Bridge)  SDOT-604-A-001-2023. MODIFIED AND PASSED!

Finally Boosting the Safety of Seattle’s Bridges:

  • A recent poll confirmed that “maintaining bridges and infrastructure” remains a top concern for Seattle residents. Our City Auditor recommends investing a range of $34 million to $102 million annually just to maintain Seattle’s aging bridges, but year after year, we have short-changed this vital infrastructure by funding much less than $34 million. There are several budget line items deemed by our City Auditor as “bridge maintenance.” Unfortunately, as proposed by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), the original budget failed to provide an overall increase in those bridge maintenance items. That was hugely disappointing and perplexing considering SDOT had earlier rejected the $100 million in bonds that we authorized for bridge safety. To make matters worse, an amendment advanced by the Budget Chair (SDOT-909-A-002-2023) moved the City in the wrong direction by cutting by $3.2 million from one of those bridge maintenance line items. With the 2 ½ year shupown of the West Seattle Bridge, other bridges getting stuck, and the disturbing audit I ordered in 2020 showing our bridges in bad condition, it’s clear we need to invest more now.
  • Therefore, I put forward several proposals that would add up to the minimum annual investment recommended by the Auditor — a sensible downpayment toward addressing this vital infrastructure need. In addition to using half of the funds generated in the future from the $10 increase in the Vehicle License Fee (VLF), the largest source for multimodal bridges (carrying buses) is the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD). Another amendment we passed will temporarily increase and tap the dollars authorized for the capital projects category as well as deploy unused reserves currently sitting dormant in the STBD account. The City’s capital projects category can be increased, in part, because other levels of government are paying now for the “free” youth fares. As transit ridership increases after 2023, the capital category dollars will be available for additional transit service hours. In the meantime, overdue bridge maintenance projects (including for our District’s aging University Bridge) can improve the safety, speed, and reliability of clean, public mass transit. When a bridge breaks or closes or malfunctions, the speed and reliability of transit relying on that bridge drops to zero. No bridge, no bus. I appreciate a majority of my colleagues recognizing this need and approving the resources to care for Seattle’s aging multimodal bridges. Residents, businesses, and workers expect City Hall to keep Seattle’s aging bridges open and safe to keep our communities connected and our economy moving. Now, once again, we need SDOT to follow-through and use those funds to fix our bridges.  (SDOT-502-C-001-2023 successfully replaced SDOT-502-B-001-2023) PASSED!  (Thanks also to the transfer of Parking Enforcement Officers (PEOs) back to SPD, which saves money to redeploy to other priorities — including nearly $1 million toward bridge maintenance.

(For an alternative view of my amendments to STBD in a thoughtful blog post that expresses concerns, CLICK HERE. In brief response, I would add that the authorization we provided to SDOT is temporary.)

MORE BUDGET INFO:

  • For Mayor Harrell’s original budget proposal for 2023 calendar year, CLICK HERE. For the Mayor’s September 27, 2022 press release, CLICK HERE. To read his speech as originally written, CLICK HERE. To watch his speech, CLICK HERE. For the lengthy budget documents, CLICK HERE.
  • To watch Councilmember Pedersen’s District 4 Budget Town Hall from October 19, 2022, CLICK HERE. Many thanks to all the constituents who took time from their evenings to join us!
  • For the agenda of the big meeting of Budget Committee amendments on November 21, 2022, CLICK HERE and to watch that video, CLICK HERE for Part 1 and CLICK HERE for Part 2 (For my comments against abrogating/deleting police positions, go to minute 2:37:34 of Part 2.) For a tool to see whether each Councilmember’s amendments passed, CLICK HERE.
  • For the final Budget Committee agenda for November 28, 2022, CLICK HERE. For the full City Council agenda for November 29, 2022 when the Council adopted the budget with a 6 to 3 vote, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Seattle Channel video of my remarks about voting NO at the final Budget Committee on November 28, 2022, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Budget Chair’s website for the Budget Committee, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Budget Chair’s press release after passing the budget 6-3, CLICK HERE.
  • For an interactive guide demystifying Council’s two-month review process, CLICK HERE. Pro Tip: Get the Mayor and his executive City departments to insert your budget request into their original proposal between April and September. Why? Because once the mayor submits his budget, he’s “used up” all the available revenue and so it’s difficult to (a) find additional funds AND (b) garner the support of the Budget Chair AND the rest of the Councilmembers to make changes.
  • For the existing City budget adopted November 2021 for calendar year 2022 and previous budgets, CLICK HERE.

TRANSPORTATION & SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMITTEE

(This is the Committee currently chaired by Councilmember Pedersen, so we provide extra information on its issues.)

Regular meetings of ALL Council Committees were paused during our two-month review of the City Budget in October and November. Our Committee meets again on Tuesday, December 6, 2022. We will also be hosting a special meeting on Monday, December 12, 2022.

Preparing for Winter Storms

Snowy view from View Ridge during a recent winter.

For tips on handling winter storms and help from your city government, CLICK HERE for my blog post and CLICK HERE for the latest winter storm info from the Harrell Administration.

Many thanks to the frontline City government workers in the field who strive to keep our streets open and to the transit operators who keep things moving during winter storms!

Autonomous Vehicle Testing:  Street Use Permits Required Now for Safety

We heard from Seattle residents concerned about the safety of our streets, crosswalks, and sidewalks as private corporations attempted to experiment with their autonomous vehicle technologies on our public roads. We heard the problem and implemented a solution. To balance our interest in the future benefits promised by autonomous vehicle technology with our immediate responsibility to keep everyone safe today, I worked with our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to require companies seeking to test autonomous vehicles on our public streets to comply with reasonable rules for safety, notification, reporting, indemnification, and insurance. Consistent with State law, the City of Seattle is requiring these companies to obtain Street Use Permits before testing on our public streets. This is a sensible step for basic safety, transparency, and accountability.

I appreciate SDOT’s collaboration and strategic thinking on this complex issue. I’m also grateful to local journalists for raising this concern from communities. For the October 2021 article from the Seattle Times, “Self-driving cars are coming to downtown Seattle; Safety advocates are not pleased,” CLICK HERE.

For SDOT’s new website for Street Use Permits, CLICK HERE.

 

Mega Project Update: the Ship Canal Water Quality Control (including East Fremont and Wallingford)

Overview: The Ship Canal Water Quality Project is a “mega project” planned over many years due to the state and federal governments requiring the city and county governments to prevent harmful stormwater and wastewater from polluting our local waterways. With a cost estimated of at least $570 million (shared with King County), this environmental protection project includes a new tunnel-boring machine starting its work in 2021. This ambitious 2.7-mile long, 19-foot diameter stormwater storage tunnel should be completed by 2025.

In some parts of Seattle, sewage and stormwater (rain) share a set of pipes underneath our city streets; this is called a “combined sewer.” During heavy rains, the untreated water often exceeds the pipes’ capacity (known as a combined sewer overflow or CSO), which then dumps portions of the untreated sewage and stormwater into our natural waterways. These polluted overflows can harm our environment, including fish and wildlife. This environmental protection project will enable us to store 29 million gallons of untreated sewage and stormwater during large storm events, until the treatment plant it ready to process it over time. Because every year has multiple storm surges with combined sewer overflows, the storage capacity translates into preventing approximately 75 million gallons of sewage laden waters annually from contaminating our precious waterways — from Salmon Bay to Lake Union.

Because this is one of the most expensive projects ever undertaken by the City of Seattle and it involves multiple layers of government, additional scrutiny is warranted to ensure the project is on time and on budget. Like most large capital projects, the Ship Canal Water Quality Control Project is on the City’s Capital Projects “Watch List” so that it receives extra attention.

Temporary Traffic Disruptions on Stone Way to Enable This Capital Project / Environmental Improvement:

Work in Stone Way between N 34th Street and N 35th Steet likely to begin January 2023 and last for approximately 1 year. Vehicles heading west on N. Northlake Way can still access N 34th Street.

As part of the Ship Canal Water Quality project, SPU needs to build new conveyance pipes (and very deep trenches for them) along Stone Way N and N 35th St to reroute flows to Wallingford’s existing combined sewer outfall pipe to the future storage tunnel. This work is anticipated to begin as early as January 2023 and will last through fall 2024. Work will take place in phases and entails road closures and parking restrictions on Stone Way N between N 35th St and N 34th St, and on N 35th St between Stone Way N and Woodlawn Ave N. The first phase of work will need to close Stone Way N for up to one year starting in early 2023. More specific details of the phased road closures have not been finalized so stay tuned for future updates. For more information about work taking place in Wallingford, check out SPU’s fact sheet.

As with so many capital improvement projects, there is an ongoing concern that this project might not be on time or on budget – remember the mega boulder! We plan to schedule a special meeting of our Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities committee on Monday, December 12, 2022 to receive from SPU an update on this mega project.

  • For the most recent community PowerPoint presentation from SPU, CLICK HERE and for my ongoing blog post, CLICK HERE.
  • For the official Seattle Public Utilities site on the project, CLICK HERE.
  • For the official website detailing activity in each neighborhood (Wallingford, Fremont, East Ballard, Ballard, and Queen Anne), CLICK HERE.

OTHER ISSUES:

Affordable Housing

In November, the City’s Office of Housing (OH) released their latest proposal to increase property taxes to fund several low-income housing projects: CLICK HERE. For example, the annual cost would TRIPLE from $114 per year to $342 per year the property tax for those who own a house assessed at the median home value. Note: landlords may pass along these charges to residential and commercial tenants and the actual amounts would vary based on the assessed values of those existing rental buildings. While I have historically been a strong supporter of the “Housing Levy” programs, I believe new proposals should be considered holistically with the latest information. One would want to consider not only the relatively new and large revenue sources now subsidizing low-income housing (the Mandatory Housing Affordability fees paid by for-profit real estate developers and the new “JumpStart” employer payroll tax), but also other property taxes that are increasing (such as the recent doubling of the Parks District property tax). Is a sharp increase in the property tax truly required to boost our commitment to low-income housing production? To provide your input, you can sign up HERE to give virtual public comment at the next “Technical Advisory Committee” meeting on December 16 from 1-3pm, or you can comment in-person at City Hall in the Bertha Knight Landes room.

Comprehensive Planning Input:

I serve on the Land Use Committee, which considers legislation about zoning and land use rules as well as oversees certain activities of the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) and the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD). Under the state Growth Management Act (HERE and HERE), the City of Seattle is required to update its “Comprehensive Plan” by 2024, which will replace its plan from 2016 (HERE). The planning process is led by OPCD, which has a website on this topic called the “One Seattle Plan” (HERE).

Pursuant to SEPA (“State Environmental Policy Act”), OPCD will be preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) for review and publication in 2023. OPCD’s SEPA “scoping” process has been completed, with a report issued this month (November 2022). I am concerned that OPCD might not consider sufficient alternatives to optimize the prevention of displacement, the prevention of affordable housing demolitions, or the production of low-income housing. I discussed some of my concerns in a letter to OPCD during the scoping process and published in a previous newsletter (HERE).

According to OPCD, there is currently no obligation to grant additional zoning capacity in Seattle for market-rate housing. I would be concerned if the city government further incentivizes market-rate development without first implementing legislation to prevent displacement and obtaining ample public benefits in return. Instead, I think we should focus our comprehensive planning efforts on increasing the production of low-income housing in more areas throughout Seattle, especially near transit.

According to OPCD, it has scheduled several community meetings in the coming weeks where residents can interact one-on-one with their planning staff and participate in small group community conversations about “housing and investments needed to create complete communities”:

  • Thursday, December 1: Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, 6:00-8:00 p.m. 104 17th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144
  • Thursday, December 8: South Seattle College, Brockey Center, 6:00-8:00 p.m. 6000 16th Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98106
  • Monday, December 12: Loyal Heights Community Center, 6:00-8:00 p.m. 2101 NW 77th St, Seattle, WA 98117
  • Tuesday, January 10: Meadowbrook Community Center, 6:00-8:00 p.m. 10517 35th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98125.

OPCD developed new engagement materials (HERE) to support the community meetings. All materials have been translated into several languages to support broader access in our community.


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU:
Ways to Provide Input

City Council Meetings on the Internet

Viewing & Listening: You have a few options to view and hear Seattle City Council meetings. To view Council meetings live on Seattle Channel, CLICK HERE. You can also listen on your phone by calling 253-215-8782.  To view the recordings of City Council meetings that have already occurred, CLICK HERE.

NEW IN 2022:  Our City Council meetings moved to Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. Even after returning to in-person meetings, the public will still be able to call in their comments at City Council meetings – this is an important upgrade for public input. I would have supported moving our main Council meeting to the evenings to make it easier for people with day jobs to visit us, but the technological upgrades now enable anyone to call into the public comment periods. We also updated our City Council Rules and parliamentary procedures to improve the efficiency of the City Council by enabling Councilmembers to focus their work on city government business rather than on Resolutions on other issues such as international affairs.

Commenting: You can submit comments to me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov or to all 9 Councilmembers at Council@seattle.gov. For the instructions on how to register and call in to a meeting, CLICK HERE. Sign up begins two hours prior to the meeting start time.

Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen: In Person Again!

Hurray! I’ve restarted in-person office hours on Friday afternoons and, as anticipated, we moved them to the Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center (6535 Ravenna Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98105) to be more centrally located and within walking distance of light rail.  Note: On some Friday afternoons, the community center needs that space and so, on those days, I’ll continue to schedule virtual in-district office hours to connect with constituents via phone or Webex. Either way, 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
Phone: (206) 684-8804
Find It, Fix It


Increasing Safety and Reducing Homelessness with City’s Budget

October 27th, 2022

Friends and Neighbors,

Our October newsletter focuses on City Hall discussions on allocating Seattle’s $7.4 billion budget to address the issues that concern you the most. Reducing homelessness and increasing safety remain the top concerns across Seattle and so I’m likely to support Mayor Harrell’s budget proposals on those two important challenges.

Please click on the links below to zip to the sections that interest you the most:

  • District 4: Engaging in the U District, View Ridge, Wallingford, Wedgwood, and more.
  • Public Safety: Seattle University survey, policing policies 2020 vs 2022, and more.
  • City Budget: investments to increase public safety and reduce homelessness, ways to engage, possible amendments, and calls to action.
  • Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities Committee:  Working on bridges, increasing pedestrian safety, Pete Buttigieg in Seattle, and more.
  • Public Health and Environment: Call to Action to phase out gasoline-fueled leaf blowers, revealing emissions data, celebrating “Seattle Forest Week,” getting the lead out of aviation fuel, and ending the COVID-related State of Emergency.
  • Providing Input: Poll results for Seattle and in-person office hours.

DISTRICT 4

Restoring Storefronts and Fixing Broken Windows in U District and Throughout Seattle

Mayor Harrell and citywide Councilmember Sara Nelson announce a Storefront Restoration (Broken Windows) Grant Fund for Small Businesses. Standing between Councilmembers Pedersen and Nelson is Moe Kahn, the owner of Cedars Restaurant on NE 50th Street and Brooklyn Ave NE. Proud that the nonprofit University District Partnership successfully piloted this economic revitalization program here in District 4 before City Hall launched it citywide. Even though Councilmember Pedersen (left side of photo) has “Resting Skeptic Face,” he is actually happy about this program! To apply to this program from our City’s Office of Economic Development, small business owners can CLICK HERE.

Mayor Engaging in Wallingford

Mayor Harrell met with small business leaders at Ivar’s Salmon House at the southeastern corner of Wallingford.  Many celebrated the removal of criminal activity associated with some of the illegally parked RVs from Northlake Way; now we need to make sure the City departments sustain that progress.

 

“The recent surge in gun violence to unacceptable levels in the University District with multiple shooting victims requires a boost in crime prevention efforts from multiple agencies, so that we can increase public safety here and throughout Seattle.

“With the opening of the regional light rail station in the heart of the neighborhood, the return of tens of thousands of students to our world class campus, and new construction projects increasing vitality, the U District is at a pivotal moment to solidify a renaissance that can benefit all of Seattle. I’ve visited each crime scene, communicated with public safety officials, and I look forward to continuing collaboration with local law enforcement and other agencies and nonprofits to increase gun safety measures, to bring people experiencing homelessness inside faster, and to increase police patrols for faster response times.

To the parents of UW students, please know that I care deeply about this neighborhood – this is where I’m raising my kids, too.”

– Councilmember Alex Pedersen

Below is more information about those recent incidents:

  • 10/6/2022: Seattle police to add extra patrols in University District, as reported by the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.
  • 10/3/2022: Seattle and UW leaders working on solutions, as reported by King 5 News, CLICK HERE.
  • 10/2/2022: the incident on The Ave (University Way NE) at 43rd St as reported by the Seattle Police Dept, CLICK HERE.
  • 10/1/2022: the incident on Brooklyn Ave at NE 42nd Street, as reported by the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.
  • 9/30/2022: incident under the Ship Canal Bridge at NE 42nd Street, as reported by MyNorthwest, CLICK HERE.

U District Art: The Magical Realm of Gargoyles Statuary

Explore Gargoyles Statuary, if you dare! Gargoyle Statuary is a much-loved small business in the heart of the U District open all year, but especially enticing — and haunting — during Halloween.

U District Street Festival $4 Food Walk

Councilmember Pedersen at the October 2022 $4 Food Walk enjoying an ice cream flavor from Bulldog News on the historic “Ave” that sounds too good to be true: “Coffee-Oreo” — Yummy! Visit Bulldog News to sample that flavor yourself, after perusing their voluminous reading materials. Speaking of the U District and small businesses, Councilmember Pedersen is very grateful to the civic engagement of the U District Rotary Club and their invitation to speak at their October meeting.

 

View Ridge’s Annual Community Council

 

 

Invited to the annual meeting of the View Ridge Community Council, Councilmember Pedersen responds to their concerns about public safety and pedestrian safety. Residents are eager to see SDOT do more to calm traffic on NE 70th Street, especially near the elementary school.

Wedgwood Businesses’ Halloween Trick or Treat Returns

After a two-year hiatus due to COVID, the Wedgwood business district will once again host Halloween Trick-or-Treat on October 31, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The Wedgwood Community Council is coordinating this event. They are also looking for volunteers to serve as crossing guards for the ghosts and ghouls haunting the neighborhood. If you are interested, email them at: info@wedgwoodcc.org. Goblins and their families should look for the poster above in the window of participating businesses. As announced by Neighborhoods for Smart Streets, Gabe Galanda promises his law firm will be giving out full-size candy bars!

If you’re on the other side of our district in Wallingford, check out the “Haunted Alley” on October 30 or 31 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. — entrance on 52nd Street between Kirkwood Pl and Kensington. For more on that spooky location, check out the neighborhood blog Wallyhood: CLICK HERE.

Use the Find It, Fix It App or Call the City’s Customer Service Bureau

If you see trash, graffiti, or other problems with City government operations, safely take a photo and upload it to the Find It, Fix It app on your smart phone or call the City’s Customer Service Bureau at 206-684-CITY (2489). Neighbors and small businesses will sometimes notice a problem before the relevant government frontline worker. By using the app or calling your city government, you can pinpoint the problem faster for cleaning or fixing. As the Mayor often cheers: “One Seattle!” For more info, CLICK HERE. Thank you!


PUBLIC SAFETY

Take the Public Safety Survey by Seattle University

The annual public safety survey is conducted by Dr. Jacqueline B. Helfgott (pictured above), professor of Criminal Justice and director of the Crime & Justice Research at the Seattle University Department of the Criminal Justice. The Seattle Public Safety Survey is being administered Oct. 15 through Nov. 30, 2022 in 11 languages.

  • To take Seattle’s Public Safety Survey, CLICK HERE.
  • For the October 10, 2022 Op Ed in the Seattle Times highlighting the public safety survey and explaining elements of Seattle’s “Before the Badge” orientation program, CLICK HERE.
  • For a Seattle Times article about the public safety survey, CLICK HERE.

 

“Defunding” Debate in 2020 and 2022

The Seattle Times recently compared positions on “defunding the police” between 2020 and 2022. Here’s an excerpt:  “…Councilmember Alex Pedersen and now-Council President Juarez have consistently rejected the idea of defunding SPD since 2020.  ‘I was upfront and clear that I opposed the 50% cut because that percentage was arbitrary and because dramatically defunding does not ensure justice, or improve safety,’ Pedersen said this summer.”

For the full Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.

While I consistently opposed arbitrary defunding, our District 4 has had diverse representation on that public safety issue because the District has been represented by two citywide Councilmembers as well. That’s a benefit of our city’s hybrid system of legislative branch representation: 7 geographic districts and 2 at-large (citywide) Councilmembers. To the extent that opinions diverge on complex issues such as police staffing, the residents of each district (including our District 4) have a variety of outlets not only to have their voices heard but also to amplify them.

2020 was a tumultuous time and several police accountability reforms were adopted by the State of Washington in 2021 and then refined in 2022. There is still much work to do, including the deployment of alternative responses to some 9-1-1 calls and a better labor contract with the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) — a contract that technically expired on December 31, 2020. (Note: when a City labor contract “expires,” the terms of that contract – including discipline processes and compensation levels — typically continue until a new contract is executed by the employee union and City “management” — as authorized by the Mayor, Police Chief, and City Council). As policymakers know, federal and State labor laws and employee union contracts supersede many other legal and budgetary frameworks. This means that one of the most meaningful ways to expand and deepen reforms is to update the labor contracts, rather than moving money around. I hope to see that contract updated and finalized next year for the good of the City and the officers.


CITY BUDGET AND TAXES

Many thanks to all the constituents who took time from their evening to join me and my talented team for a recorded Town Hall focused on the City Budget. I’m grateful to City Budget Office Director Julie Dingley for her informative presentation to our constituents. And thanks to the Council’s communications team for making sure the tech ran smoothly and for creating this recording for other constituents to view. To view the Town Hall, CLICK HERE.

 

A month ago, Mayor Harrell unveiled his first proposed budget as the City’s chief executive.  The City Council has until December to review, amend, and adopt a balanced budget.

POTENTIAL AMENDMENTS:

I look forward to hearing from YOU. While we are far along in the budget process and getting support for amendments at this point can be challenging, you are welcome to send budget ideas to me and my team at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov. Here’s what I’ve heard consistently from constituents: the top challenges for Seattle remain public safety and homelessness. In general, I support the Mayor’s proposals for those two big issues.  Here are some potential amendments and, if you support them, please email Council@seattle.gov or click the button below.

Call to Action for a Sensible Seattle Budget

Increasing Public Safety:

  • I plan to support Mayor Harrell’s public safety budget proposals.

Reducing Homelessness:

  • I plan to support Mayor Harrell’s budget proposals to reduce homelessness, including his budget proposals for the “Unified Care Team.”
  • I’m also open to expanding effective shelter and voucher programs to bring more people inside faster by the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA). I’d also like to see the City’s Office of Housing implore nonprofits to provide their hundreds of vacant, available apartment units to more people experiencing homelessness.

Expanding Pedestrian Safety:

  • Support more “Vision Zero” pedestrian safety projects where the most pedestrian fatalities have historically occurred, such as in South Seattle.
  • Make safe the treacherous NE 45th Street I-5 overpass that connects Wallingford to the new light rail station in the U District, a Vision Zero project promised by the Move Seattle Levy. Add $1.5 million to SDOT to follow-through on the studies completed last year (SDOT-106-A-001-2023). Note: a proposed $10 increase in Vehicle License Fees (VLF) could be a source of funds for this overpass pedestrian project in 2023 — with future funds going 50/50 toward Vision Zero pedestrian safety projects and bridge maintenance via SDOT-505-A-001-2023).
  • Double the School Safety Zone Speed Enforcement Cameras: Currently only 19 out of 100 Seattle public schools benefit from this Vision Zero effort to protect young pedestrians. Add $1 million in 2023 and more in 2024 to increase the number of enforcement cameras from 35 to 70 to cover 40 locations (SDOT-103-A-001-2023). The upside: this program actually earns net revenue that can be reinvested in more pedestrian safety!
  • Save the Neighborhood Street Fund Vision Zero projects! The Move Seattle Levy Oversight Committee is reviewing 17 potential projects. These community-driven pedestrian safety projects need $3.5 million more because the projects will cost $7.6 million, but the levy has only $4 million available (SDOT-105-A-001-2023).

Protecting Our Environment:

  • Create a citywide “Urban Forestry Manager” or “Chief Arborist” in the Office of Sustainability & Environment with jurisdiction across City departments to lead the conservation and planting of tree infrastructure to strengthen Seattle’s resiliency to climate change (OSE-005-A-001-2023). This follows through on our efforts from last year.
  • Accelerate Phase Out of Harmful Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers to support public health, workers, and our environment. Add $200,000 to Seattle Parks Department to transition from gasoline-fueled machines to electric blowers – and to reduce where they use any leaf blowers to implement Resolution 32064. (SPR 004-B-001-2023 and related Statement of Legislative Intent).

Addressing Low-Income Housing, Equity, and Prevention of Displacement:

  • Sustain the opportunities for low-income children to thrive: Add $193,000 to Parks Department to continue an after-school program for resettled and immigrant children who are predominantly low-income and residing at Magnuson Park (SPR-002-A-001-2023).
  • Require the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) to explore options to prevent the displacement of existing residents, minimize the demolition of existing affordable housing, and maximize the amount of new housing dedicated to low-income residents (i.e. those most in need) (OPCD-002-A-001-2023).
  • Bridge the Digital Divide in Seattle by finally implementing the “Internet for All” Resolution 31956 to expand access to affordable high-speed internet, so that less fortunate neighbors can access education, jobs, medical care, and other information vital for a strong democracy. Despite being a high-tech city, there is still a digital divide, so let’s do more to close that gap. A recent study confirmed racial disparities in the quality of internet service in several cities — including Seattle. Add $300,000 to the Technology Matching Fund and add $250,000 for “Digital Navigators” to help people connect to the internet (ITD-001-A-001-2023).

Boost Transit Capital Projects:

  • For the next two years, let’s boost the allocation for transit-related capital projects by another $3.5 million. The Seattle Transit Measure (STBD) has ample reserves, carry-forward dollars, and approximately $3.5 million in savings from the State picking up the tab for “free” youth fares. While the mayor’s budget adds $3 million to capital projects, that’s from higher-than-expected revenues for 2023. Therefore, we should do more for transit-related capital projects to meet the demand across Seattle. Such projects improve the safety, speed, and reliability of clean, public mass transit. As transit ridership increases in 2024 and 2025, these funds will be available for additional transit service hours (SDOT-502-B-001-2023).

Boost Bridge Safety: A recent poll shows that “maintaining bridges and infrastructure” continues as a top concern for Seattle residents. Unfortunately, the budget as currently proposed fails to increase investments in bridges. With the 2 ½ year shutdown of the West Seattle Bridge, other bridges getting stuck, and the disturbing audit I ordered in 2020 showing our bridges in bad condition, we need to invest more now. Earlier this year, SDOT rejected the $100 million in bonds that we authorized for bridge safety. Therefore, I plan to request a sensible downpayment toward addressing this infrastructure need:

  • A $9.7 million annual increase in bridge maintenance. There are several items deemed by our City Auditor as “bridge maintenance,” and this would bring those up to the bare minimum of $34 million for maintenance overall. The City Auditor recommends investing between $34 million to $102 million each year on bridge maintenance. That would be in addition to promised seismic upgrades to bridges and the replacement of dangerous bridges, which are still unfunded. (SDOT-104-A-001-2023).

Ask City Council to Support Pedersen’s Amendments

Other Amendments: I’ll also be supporting (“co-sponsoring”) amendments from some of my Council colleagues, especially to increase public safety and to reduce homelessness. I also want to hear more from my constituents!

HAVE YOUR VOICE HEARD AS COUNCIL AMENDS AND ADOPTS THE CITY BUDGET:

MORE BUDGET INFO:

For an overview of the budget process AFTER the Council receives the Mayor’s budget, CLICK HERE.

Pro Tip: Get the Mayor and his executive City departments to insert your budget request into their original proposal between April and September. Why? Because once the mayor submits his budget, he’s “used up” all the available revenue and so it’s difficult to (a) find additional funds AND (b) garner the support of the Budget Chair AND the rest of the Councilmembers to make changes.

  • For Mayor Harrell’s budget proposal for calendar year 2023, CLICK HERE. For the Mayor’s September 27, 2022 press release, CLICK HERE. To read his speech as originally written, CLICK HERE. To watch his speech (the mayor speaks from the heart and often ad-libs :), CLICK HERE. For the lengthy budget documents, CLICK HERE.
  • For the City Council Budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda’s September 27, 2022 press release directly after receiving the mayor’s budget proposal, CLICK HERE.
  • For the existing City budget adopted November 2021 for calendar year 2022 and previous budgets, CLICK HERE.

TRANSPORTATION & SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMITTEE

(This is the Committee currently chaired by Councilmember Pedersen, so we provide extra information on its issues.)

Strengthening the Lower Spokane Swing Bridge

After re-opening the West Seattle “high” bridge on September 17, 2022, work accelerated on improving the West Seattle “low” bridge (the Spokane Street Swing Bridge). Other moveable bridges that need upgrades: the Ballard Bridge, the Fremont Bridge, and the University Bridge. The State government already upgraded the Montlake Bridge, which they own. I’m proposing an amendment to the budget to boost bridge maintenance. In a recent poll, 83% of Seattle residents surveyed said that maintenance for bridges and other infrastructure would help to improve the quality of life.

Vision Zero Progress: 20% decrease in traffic fatalities this year, but still too many

I support the top-to-bottom review initiated by the new SDOT Director Greg Spotts to ensure we are making the most targeted and practical investments that actually reduce traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries, so that we finally fulfill the City’s “Vision Zero” policy.

Here is the most recent traffic fatality data from SDOT:

For 2022, the data above is through the 3rd quarter (Sept 30, 2022), so it does not include, for example, the pedestrian killed by a hit-and-run driver on Aurora Avenue North on October 10, 2022 or the pedestrian killed on Rainier Avenue South on October 21, 2022, two especially dangerous arterials.

Another important part of the data: the percentage of people experiencing homelessness who have been killed by vehicles. I believe this reinforces the need to bring people inside faster:

Meeting Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg at City Hall

Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, visited Seattle to discuss the need to build up the workforce to work on transportation infrastructure projects — both back-to-basics infrastructure as well as a methodical increase in the use of cleaner technologies. Yes, Secretary Buttigieg is as charming in person as he is on TV. Boosting our workforce for infrastructure, including iron workers, carpenters, electricians, and laborers will enable more people growing up in Seattle to afford to live in Seattle. During that meeting, I appreciated Mayor Harrell highlighting the need to invest more in Seattle’s bridges.


PUBLIC HEALTH and ENVIRONMENT

Emissions Reduced Due to Less Mobility During COVID Pandemic; Actions Needed to Make Sustainable Progress

Seattle’s 2020 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) inventory found a remarkable decrease in greenhouse gas emissions since the prior 2018 report, but most of the reductions are likely temporary and attributed to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the study, there was a 24% decrease in emissions, a 5% decrease in building emissions, and a 12% decrease in waste-related emissions. But, again, these reductions are likely temporary.  In addition to boosting transit ridership, I believe that electrifying our transportation systems, including our fleet of local government vehicles, is vital for reducing emissions in a sustainable, permanent way. For more strategies, review the report.

  • For the press release about 2020 emissions here in Seattle, CLICK HERE.
  • For additional confirmation about the benefits of electric vehicles, CLICK HERE. For an article on the need for the State of Washington to subsidize electric vehicles, CLICK HERE.

Urge City Council to Fund Phase Out of Gasoline-Powered Leaf Blowers

More than 100 cities are banning harmful, gas-powered leaf blowers. Similar to City Hall’s efforts to protect our city’s tree canopy (which lost 255 acres of trees since 2018), phasing out gas-powered leaf blowers is another environmental issue in which Seattle has been falling behind. We can do better. The least we could do is make sure our City budget makes actual progress on phasing out these harmful machines faster and to take seriously our unanimous adoption of Resolution 32064. Why would our City departments not quickly implement this pro-worker, pro-environment, low-cost measure to remove the excessive noise and toxic fumes in the face of this climate crisis?  Unfortunately, we did not see mention of phasing out gas-powered leaf blowers in the Executive’s City budget proposal unveiled on September 27, 2022. I have proposed a modest investment to accelerate efforts to rid city government of these harmful machines: Just $200,000 in 2023 and $200,000 in 2024.

I have also proposed a sensible “Statement of Legislative Intent” (SLI) asking the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department (SPR) to report next year on its usage of gas-powered leaf blowers, as called for by Resolution 32064. SPR is the single largest user of leaf blowers, and this report would further inform SPR’s and the Council’s efforts to eliminate the use of gas-powered machines as soon as possible.

The budget proposal (SPR-004-A-001-2023) and the SLI (SPR-300-A-001-2023) are both available by CLICKING HERE.

Thank you to everyone who has already sent emails to the City Council or Mayor!

Urge City Council to Support Pedersen’s Budget Amendments to Phase Out Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers

  • For the excuses we’ve heard in the past and our rebuttals, so we can finally speed up the removal of these harmful machines, CLICK HERE for my blog posts.
  • For the adopted Resolution 32064, CLICK HERE.
  • For our press release when Council unanimously adopted the Resolution on September 6, 2022, CLICK HERE.
  • For video of the committee meeting, including the testimony from Washington, D.C., CLICK HERE.
  • For testimony from the group “Quiet Clean Seattle,” CLICK HERE.
  • For our Central Staff’s memo, CLICK HERE and for their PowerPoint, CLICK HERE.
  • For additional information sources used in our research, including the scientific evidence, CLICK HERE.

My office is very grateful to 2nd year graduate students earning their master’s in public administration from the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance who assisted in the research of this important topic.

Celebrating “Forest Week” in Seattle

“Seattle Forest Week” lasts through Saturday, October 29. For the full schedule on the Green Seattle Partnership website, CLICK HERE.

Harmful Leaded Gasoline Still Used by Small Planes Flying Over Seattle

As many of you might remember, harmful lead-based gasoline was phased out decades ago. What you might not know is that many small aircraft still use lead-based fuel, including small planes flying low over Seattle, including take off and landing adjacent to our Council District. I’m grateful to Seattle School Board Director Lisa Rivera-Smith for lifting up this issue of concern. As Chair of Seattle’s Transportation Committee, my office researched this concern to see who had jurisdiction and we landed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation).  I wrote to the EPA in May and September, asking them to take action. Thankfully, the EPA was already working on it.

On October 7, 2022, the EPA announced the proposed determination that emissions from aircraft operating on leaded fuel cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health and welfare.

This action will undergo public notice and comment and, after consideration of comments, the EPA plans to issue any final endangerment determination in 2023.

If the EPA makes a final determination that aircraft engine emissions of lead cause or contribute to lead air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare, the EPA would subsequently propose regulatory standards for lead emissions from aircraft engines. Such a final determination would also trigger the FAA’s statutory mandate to prescribe standards for the composition or chemical or physical properties of an aircraft fuel or fuel additive to control or eliminate aircraft lead emissions.

The FAA has two integrated initiatives focused on safely transitioning the fleet of piston-engine aircraft to an unleaded future: the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI) and the FAA-industry partnership to Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions (EAGLE). For information about these initiatives, go to https://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/avgas. In addition, the FAA has approved the safe use of an unleaded fuel that can be used in a large number of piston-engine aircraft, along with other unleaded fuels for specific aircraft.

  • For Councilmember Pedersen’s May and September 2022 letters urging action from the EPA, CLICK HERE.
  • For more information about leaded aviation gasoline from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), CLICK HERE.
  • For more information about leaded aviation gasoline from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), CLICK HERE.

 

Mayor and Governor Ending “Civil Emergency” for COVID October 31

On October 11, 2022, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced that the City of Seattle is preparing for the next chapter in the COVID-19 pandemic and plans to officially end its Civil Emergency Proclamation after October 31, 2022. This change aligns Governor Jay Inslee’s decision to end the statewide state of emergency on the same date.

  • For the latest official COVID data from King County Public Health, CLICK HERE or use this website: https://kingcounty.gov/depts/health/covid-19/data/daily-summary.aspx
  • 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 combating COVID from King County Public Health, CLICK HERE.
  • 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.
  • For the latest COVID pandemic coverage from the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU:

Ways to Provide Input

New Citywide Poll Shows People Want Faster Results on Public Safety and Homelessness

In a rare and welcome move, an organization conducting a statistically valid poll of Seattle residents has published all their findings online for the public to see. While the poll is generously funded by the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, representing large employers in the Puget Sound region, it is conducted by a highly reputable surveying firm: EMC Research. The results validate what I heard when many of you answered your door for me back in 2019: homelessness and safety remain the top concerns. Not surprisingly, this poll also shows an overall impatience, frustration, and lack of trust regarding City Hall’s efforts to address those top concerns so far.

Typically, you can find what you want to hear or believe in any poll if you look hard enough and/or you can pick apart the methodology of a poll. But after reviewing this poll (“The Index”) three times over the past 18 months or so, I believe it has earned credibility in how it strives to be fair in obtaining and presenting this statistically significant data.

Overall, the survey confirms strong support for hiring more police officers, including relatively strong support among those who identify as people of color as well as residents of South Seattle.

  • For the topline results of the Seattle poll, CLICK HERE.
  • For the “crosstabs” to compare topline results based on demographics, CLICK HERE.
  • For an explanation of the poll and its recent history, CLICK HERE.

 

City Council Meetings on the Internet

Viewing & Listening: You have a few options to view and hear Seattle City Council meetings. To view Council meetings live on Seattle Channel, CLICK HERE. You can also listen on your phone by calling 253-215-8782.  To view the recordings of City Council meetings that have already occurred, CLICK HERE.

NEW IN 2022:  Our City Council meetings moved to Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. Even after returning to in-person meetings, the public will still be able to call in their comments at City Council meetings – this is an important upgrade for public input. I would have supported moving our main Council meeting to the evenings to make it easier for people with day jobs to visit us, but the technological upgrades now enable anyone to call into the public comment periods. We also updated our City Council Rules and parliamentary procedures to improve the efficiency of the City Council by enabling Councilmembers to focus their work on city government business rather than on Resolutions on other issues such as international affairs.

Commenting: You can submit comments to me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov or to all 9 Councilmembers at Council@seattle.gov. For the instructions on how to register and call in to a meeting, CLICK HERE. Sign up begins two hours prior to the meeting start time.

Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen: In Person Again!

Hurray! I’ve restarted in-person office hours on Friday afternoons and, as anticipated, we moved them to the Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center (6535 Ravenna Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98105) to be more centrally located and within walking distance of light rail.  Note: On some Friday afternoons, the community center needs that space and so, on those days, I’ll continue to schedule virtual in-district office hours to connect with constituents via phone or Webex. Either way, 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

Phone: (206) 684-8804

Find It, Fix It


Plan to Phase-Out Harmful Gasoline-Fueled Leaf Blowers in Seattle

October 26th, 2022

After conducting research and conferring with constituents, I have concluded that gasoline-fueled leaf blowers should be phased out in Seattle because they harm public health and the environment. Leaf blowers powered by clean electricity and batteries have become more powerful and effective. Our city government should lead by example in converting to cleaner, less noisy alternatives before everyone else is required to phase out the harmful gasoline-fueled leaf blowers. While public safety and homelessness must continue as priority issues, City Hall has the bandwidth to address this public health and environmental issue, too.

I’m grateful that the City Council unanimously adopted my Resolution 32064 on September 6, 2022. That Resolution commits to the goal and provides a clear path for phasing out these harmful machines. While it calls for a phase-out rather than an immediate ban, the Resolution also says, “Nothing in this resolution should be construed to preclude or impede the City’s ability to more quickly phase out gas-powered leaf blowers.” If you’d like to see our Resolution implemented or faster action, you can contact the executive officials with the power to get it done:

Phasing out these harmful gasoline-fueled machines may require a multi-year process, but we must start now because we’re already behind several other cities. We will get the best results when engaging with local groups along the way, such as environmental organizations, Laborers (Local 242) for parks maintenance, the Latino Chamber of Commerce (which includes landscaping companies as members), and other solution-oriented stakeholders.

This blog post documents local efforts to phase out gasoline-fueled leaf blowers within Seattle city limits. Note: The entries below appear in reverse chronological order, with the most recent events listed first.



November 29, 2022: Budget Proviso Prohibits Parks Dept from Buying New Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers

Our successful budget proviso will accelerate the phase out of harmful gas-powered leaf blowers to support public health, workers, and our environment. While the Budget Committee Chair decided not to include our modest request to add $200,000 to pay for electric leaf blowers for the Seattle Parks Department so that we could implement Resolution 32064, my team got creative to solve the problem without money: we got the City Council to adopt a budget requirement (proviso) to prohibit the Parks Dept from buying any new gasoline-fueled leaf blowers. Therefore, we will speed up the process to improve public health, working conditions, and the environment through attrition of this harmful equipment.  I sincerely appreciate the can-do attitude of Mayor’ Harrell’s new Parks Superintendent AP Diaz who confirmed to me last week that he is onboard with getting rid of gas-powered leaf blowers. The Parks Department owns the most gas-powered leaf blowers and, unfortunately between 2014 and 2022 purchased 145 gas-powered leaf blowers, and now that department owns 270 of these polluting machines. These leaf-blowers last approximately five years, so this proviso creatively enables us to advance the goals of our Resolution by requiring replacement leaf blowers to be electric. (The Dept already has 30 electric leaf blowers.) Per the unanimously adopted Resolution 32064, the city government will lead by example and be the first in Seattle to ban gas-powered leaf blowers among its various departments by January 2025. We can then focus on working with the private sector on solutions to phase out the harmful machines completely by January 2027. (SPR-004-B-001-2023CHANGED TO PROVISO AND PASSED!


October 26, 2022: Council Considers Budget Amendment to Fund Resolution 32064

More than 100 cities are banning harmful, gas-powered leaf blowers. Similar to City Hall’s efforts to protect our city’s tree canopy (which lost 255 acres of trees since 2018), phasing out gas-powered leaf blowers is another environmental issue in which Seattle has been falling behind. We can do better. The least we could do is make sure our City budget makes actual progress on phasing out these harmful machines faster and to take seriously our unanimous adoption of Resolution 32064. Why would our City departments not quickly implement this pro-worker, pro-environment, low-cost measure to remove the excessive noise and toxic fumes in the face of this climate crisis?  Unfortunately, we did not see mention of phasing out gas-powered leaf blowers in the Executive’s City budget proposal unveiled on September 27, 2022. I have proposed a modest investment to accelerate efforts to rid city government of these harmful machines: Just $200,000 in 2023 and $200,000 in 2024.

I have also proposed a sensible “Statement of Legislative Intent” (SLI) asking the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department (SPR) to report next year on its usage of gas-powered leaf blowers, as called for by Resolution 32064. SPR is the single largest user of leaf blowers, and this report would further inform SPR’s and the Council’s efforts to eliminate the use of gas-powered machines as soon as possible.

The proposed budget amendment (SPR-004-A-001-2023) and the SLI (SPR-300-A-001-2023) are both available by CLICKING HERE. Initial co-sponsors include a wide range of support with Council President Juarez, Councilmember Sawant, and Councilmember Lewis.

Thank you to everyone who already sent emails to the City Council or Mayor!

Urge City Council to Support Pedersen’s Budget Amendments to Phase Out Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers

  • To view the October 26, 2022 discussion at the Budget Committee, CLICK HERE.
  • For the adopted Resolution 32064, CLICK HERE.
  • For additional information sources used in our research, including the scientific evidence, CLICK HERE.

September 29, 2022: Urge City Leader to Implement Resolution 32064!

Our victory at the City Council with the unanimous adoption of Resolution 32064 to rid Seattle of harmful, gasoline-fueled leaf blowers could be short-lived. Why? Because it’s unclear whether City departments are going to implement it.

Urge City Departments to Phase Out Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers Now

Why would our City departments not quickly implement this pro-worker, pro-environment, low-cost measure to remove the excessive noise and toxic fumes in the face of this climate crisis?  Unfortunately, we did not see mention of phasing out gas-powered leaf blowers in the Executive’s City budget proposal unveiled on September 27, 2022. Here are some possible excuses — and we offer several can-do rebuttals:

Potential Excuse #1: We need more time to figure it out and get it done.

RebuttalTen months ago (in November 2021), the Council unanimously adopted an official budget request “that the Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE), Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR), and other departments as needed, develop a plan to phase out the use of all gas-powered leaf blowers in Seattle within two years. Following implementation of the two-year plan, the goal would be for the City to ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.” When the City departments reported back on September 2, 2022, their 5-page response acknowledged, “Gas-powered leaf blowers (GPLBs)…can contribute to several significant public health and nuisance issues: toxic emissions, greenhouse gases (GHGs), particulate matter, noise, and vibration. The localized air pollution and noise can impact the health of the operator as well as bystanders, during operation.” Their response goes on to state, “City departments recognize the transition away from GPLBs is good for people and the environment.”  The City departments acknowledge the problem and have had many months to think about it, well before the Council reinforced the request with Resolution 32064.

Potential Excuse #2: We’re not sure how to do it. We don’t know how to more quickly transition to electric leaf blowers or other means of addressing falling leaves — and what about those heavy, wet leaves?
Rebuttal: More than 100 other cities are banning gas-powered leaf blowers and cities thrived before those nasty machines were invented. Our City Council committee recently had an expert from the nation’s capital walk us through how their city got it done. Moreover, the Resolution asks the departments to “Evaluate their current practices related to the use of leaf blowers and explore options to reduce reliance on leaf blowers, both gas-powered and electric, either by allowing leaves to naturally decompose or clearing them using non-motorized methods.” It’s not rocket science; let’s learn from the other cities that are more progressive on this public health and environmental issue. 

Potential Excuse #3: It will cost too much to transition to greener electricity.
Rebuttal: There was much fanfare made recently about Seattle’s “Green New Deal” investments and, while removing toxic leaf blowers was not included in that batch of investments, the good news is that the cost is very low and well worth it!  In response to the Council, the City departments said their “goal is to have 50% of our blowers be electric by 2026. Currently battery-powered blowers account for about 10% of our inventory. This transition is estimated to cost about $30,000 per year over the next four years.”  The Parks Department currently owns and operates about 65% of the City’s 418 gas-powered leaf blowers. Using this information, we can extrapolate the cost to convert all (100%) of the City government’s 418 from gas to electric within only two years (by January 2025, per the unanimous Resolution). (This assumes City departments do not upgrade their protocols to need fewer leaf blowers.) Extrapolating their estimate results in a grand total cost of approximately $400,000, which would be only $200,000 in 2023 and $200,000 in 2024. Even that seems excessive ($1,000 per leaf blower) because high-powered electric leaf blowers should not cost more than $500 each and the City would by them in bulk; therefore, the Parks estimate must also include charging stations, extra batteries, etc.Because the City’s Executive is the first to craft the City budget, ideally they would have included this modest cost to get it done in their budget proposal (in conjunction with updating their policies to reduce when/where they truly need to remove leaves rather than just composting leaves in place and/or raking). The entire City Budget is over $7,000,000,000 (that’s 7 Billion dollars), so I think we can find $120,000 (which is only .0017%) under the City Hall’s budget couch cushions if we want to reduce harm to workers and the environment.

Potential Excuse #4: We have bigger problems to focus on such as public safety and homelessness
Rebuttal: I agree that public safety and homelessness should be a priority for top officials AND our city government has more than 10,000 employees and departments that can implement the resolution. That’s one of the reasons the proposal is in the form of a Resolution stating the City’s policy:  it asks the executive branch to leverage its personnel power and expertise to finalize the ordinances and implement them because the executive branch has more than 10,000 employees, including a special Office of Sustainability & Environment (OSE), a Parks Department, and Financial & Administrative Services (FAS) Department — all with hard-working employees, whereas the Legislative Department has just 90 or so employees serving all 750,000 residents of Seattle. While public safety and homelessness must continue as priority issues, City Hall has sufficient bandwidth to address this public health and environmental issue, too.

Potential Excuse #5: What’s the rush? The Resolution seems to allow plenty of time, stating “By January 2025, or later if necessary, the City and its contractors will phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers; and By January 2027, or later if necessary, institutions located in Seattle, businesses operating in Seattle, and Seattle residents will phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.”
Rebuttal: But the Resolution also states, “Nothing in this resolution should be construed to preclude or impede the City’s ability to more quickly phase out gas-powered leaf blowers.” The City has acknowledged the problem for both workers and the environment, and other cities are leap-frogging (leaffrogging?) Seattle, so why wait? Phasing out these harmful gasoline-fueled machines may require a multi-year process, but we must start now because we’re already behind several other cities. We will get the best results when engaging with local groups along the way, such as environmental organizations, Laborers (Local 242) for parks maintenance, the Latino Chamber of Commerce (which includes landscaping companies as members), and other solution-oriented stakeholders. The Resolution asks the City departments to explore incentives, such as a buyback program or rebates on replacement purchases for landscaping businesses that might need support to transition from gas-powered to electric-powered leaf blowers. But nothing is stopping your City government from leading by example and getting rid of its stockpile of these harmful machines.  

Let’s get it done, Seattle!

  • For the adopted Resolution 32064, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Summary / Fiscal Note, CLICK HERE.
  • For our press release when Council unanimously adopted the Resolution on September 6, 2022, CLICK HERE.
  • For my blog posts documenting the recent history of this effort and an extensive list of information sources, CLICK HERE.
  • For video of the committee meeting, including the testimony from Washington, D.C., CLICK HERE.
  • For testimony from the group “Quiet Clean Seattle,” CLICK HERE.
  • For our Central Staff’s memo, CLICK HERE and for their Powerpoint, CLICK HERE.
  • For additional information sources used in our research, including the scientific evidence, CLICK HERE.

My office is very grateful to 2nd year graduate students earning their master’s in public administration from the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance who assisted in the research of this important topic.


September 6, 2022: Our Resolution Passes Unanimously Today!

I appreciate my colleagues unanimously adopting Resolution 32064 to rid Seattle of gasoline-fueled leaf blowers (by January 2025 in city government and by January 2027 everywhere else). Thanks to everyone who emailed and called to provide their supportive comments. I also appreciate the other feedback from those concerned about focusing on Seattle’s priorities and making sure small businesses are not negatively impacted.

Now it’s up the the executive officials to implement the Resolution and you can send emails to them to let them know if you support implementing Resolution 32064 as soon as possible:

Bruce.Harrell@seattle.gov, Adiam.Emery@seattle.gov, Jessyn.Farrell@seattle.gov, Christopher.Williams@seattle.gov

(That’s the Mayor, his Executive General Manager, the Director of the Office of Sustainability & Environment, and the Superintendent of Parks.)

Here are the remarks I made before today’s successful vote:

Thank you, Council President. I’m grateful to the Sustainability Committee for unanimously recommending this Resolution to rid Seattle of harmful, gasoline-fueled leaf blowers. While increasing community safety and reducing homelessness will continue as priority issues in Seattle, I’m confident City Hall has the bandwidth to address this public health and environmental issue, too.

(1) The science is clear: these fossil-fuel machines — with their toxic fumes and lung damaging debris — harm the workers who operate them and the communities that endure them. As part of our research, we compiled an extensive list of information sources that are now part of the legislative record, and I want to thank the graduate students from the University of Washington’s Evan School for skillfully supplementing our research and for the City Council of Washington, D.C. showing us how they got it done in the other Washington.

(2) The public opinion is clear. In just the past 48 hours, dozens of residents took time on their Labor Day weekend to send emails in favor of this Resolution, which added to the dozens of emails we received last month. An informal survey of my constituents last month showed an overwhelming majority want to outright BAN gas-powered leaf blowers. The Resolution has raked in a wide array support from organizations, including the environmental justice nonprofit 350 Seattle, the 46th Legislative District Democrats, and the Seattle Times editorial board.

(3) The trend across the nation is clear: More than 100 jurisdictions have banned or are phasing out gasoline-fueled leaf blowers. While Seattle prides itself on being a leader on many issues, we are too far behind on addressing the harms of leaf blowers. Burlington, Vermont; Washington, D.C. and ALL of California have left us in the dust.

I’m confident that our Seattle government departments that care about reducing pollution, that care about protecting workers — AND that have the power to stop using gas-powered leaf blowers — will be inspired to act expeditiously to implement this Resolution — to make real progress on this environmental and public health concern.

As we make the city government lead by example, there will be plenty of time for the private market to follow — whether that’s switching to electric and battery powered leaf blowers, using a rake, or just letting the leaves decompose naturally. I look forward to working with Mayor’s Office and City departments who are the first to craft the City budget proposals, so that we can get faster results in 2023 and 2024 on this important public health and environmental imperative. This Resolution is consistent with past policy statements from the City Council, but our Resolution amplifies them — hopefully louder than the noise from leaf blowers. This Resolution also updates and expands this effort to finally spur action. Fall is Coming. The season of falling leaves is coming and with it — the harmful sound, the toxic fumes, and the filthy debris of these terrible machines. Colleagues, this issue was delayed far too long by the pandemic, our Resolution is consistent with past policy statements, and it’s needed to make progress to to finally rid our City of these deafening and dirty fossil-fuel machines. Please join me in voting Yes today. Thank you.

For the press release we issued when the Resolution passed, CLICK HERE.

To learn more about the organization “Quiet Clean Seattle,” CLICK HERE.


September 6, 2022: Raking in Support for Ridding Seattle of Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers

In addition to dozens of additional emails received at City Hall this past week from residents throughout Seattle, our Resolution to rid Seattle of gas-powered leaf blowers earned more support:

  • The Seattle Times published a positive editorial on September 6, 2022: “Phasing out gas leaf blowers is the right move for Seattle“, CLICK HERE. It wrote, “The Seattle City Council is right to get rid of them — the sooner the better for any city department…”
  • The 46th Legislative District Democrats endorsed the Resolution at their Aug 31, 2022 meeting.

September 2, 2022: Executive Provides Response to November 2021 Request (SLI-003-B-001)

As anticipated, the executive departments responded to the Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI-003-B-001) with only their pre-existing, slower path for addressing the harms of gasoline-fueled leaf blowers. The response does not seem to take into account the fact that more than 100 other cities have already implemented outright bans or phase-out plans. The bottom line: the Council’s Resolution is needed now more than ever.

THE PROBLEM: I appreciate the executive departments acknowledging the harms of these fossil fuel machines used by City workers as well as in the private sector and for completing their response on time. The executive’s 5-page response, dated Sept 2, 2022, acknowledges, “Gas-powered leaf blowers (GPLBs)…can contribute to several significant public health and nuisance issues: toxic emissions, greenhouse gases (GHGs), particulate matter, noise, and vibration. The localized air pollution and noise can impact the health of the operator as well as bystanders, during operation.” Their response goes on to state, “City departments recognize the transition away from GPLBs is good for people and the environment.

SCHEDULE: Unfortunately, the executive’s response to the Council’s SLI sidesteps Council’s goal for a faster timeline. Council’s SLI from November 2021 had asked the executive to “develop a plan to phase out the use of all gas-powered leaf blowers in Seattle within two years,” but the executive’s response to the SLI simply reiterates the City departments’ older, slower plans: “Our goal is to have 50% of our blowers be electric by 2026. Currently battery-powered blowers account for about 10% of our inventory.”

Regarding the cost to transition City government away from gas-powered leaf blowers faster, the executive’s response states, “If Council is committed to accelerating a citywide and communitywide transition away from GPLBs, budget action must accompany the policy signal.”  I agree! The Executive goes first with the City’s budget proposal and their response to the SLI acknowledges the harm that gas-powered leaf blowers inflict onto workers and the environment. Therefore, the executive should be incorporating the funds they think they need into their budget request for 2023 and 2024 to implement the faster phase in called for in both the SLI and the Council’s Resolution. After all, the executive has had our request for a plan for the past 8 months via the SLI. 

COST: The cost appears to be minimal. Their 5-page SLI response conclude with, “Our goal is to have 50% of our blowers be electric by 2026. Currently battery-powered blowers account for about 10% of our inventory. This transition is estimated to cost about $30,000 per year over the next four years, which is about double the typical cost of GPLB replacements. We will seek to reduce costs by purchasing in bulk for our entire system each year.”  If Council’s goal (via the Resolution) is 100% for City government by January 2025 (2.5 years from now), then I believe they could extrapolate the cost to accelerate per the Resolution. OSE/SPR’s costs is $30,000 per year over the next four years to reach 50%, so to reach 100% in 2 years, it seems it could cost only $240,000. (That’s 30,000 x 4 years  = $120,000 = 50% goal. So that means times two ($240,000) for 100% and then divide that by 2 years = $120,000 in 2023 plus $120,000 in 2024.) I was pleased to see the executive acknowledging gasoline-fueled leaf blowers as a problem and, because they craft the budget proposals first, they should simply ask the Council for the budget reasonably needed to get it done (after updating their policies to reduce when/where they truly need to remove leaves rather than just composting leaves in place and/or raking). 

For the executive’s Sept 2, 2022 response to the Council’s Statement of Legislative Intent, CLICK HERE.

For the Council’s Statement of Legislative Intent adopted November 2021, CLICK HERE.


August 19, 2022: Sustainability Committee Recommends Pedersen Resolution to End Leaf Blowers

Today, the City Council’s Sustainability Committee unanimously recommended my Resolution 32064 to improve the environment and public health by phasing out gasoline-fueled leaf blowers in Seattle. The traditional presentation from our City Council’s Central Staff was bolstered by testimony from the office of the Washington, D.C. Councilmember who instituted the ban in our nation’s capital. When certain City departments in Seattle greet bold changes with skepticism, it’s helpful to show them how other cities get it done. Over 100 cities have banned leaf blowers and today we explained in more detail how D.C. did it already. We can do this, Seattle! The Committee vote was 4-0.

  • For video of the committee meeting, including the testimony from Washington, D.C., CLICK HERE.
  • For testimony from the group “Quiet Clean Seattle,” CLICK HERE.
  • For our Central Staff’s memo, CLICK HERE and for their Powerpoint, CLICK HERE.
  • For additional information sources used in our research, CLICK HERE.

Here are the remarks I made at the Committee meeting prior to the vote:

“I’d like to thank the Committee Chair for enabling us to discuss and hopefully vote TODAY on this Resolution to phase out gasoline-fueled leaf blowers in Seattle. While increasing community safety and reducing homelessness will continue as priority issues in Seattle, I’m confident City Hall has the bandwidth to address this public health and environmental issue, too.

(1) The science is clear: these fossil-fuel machines — with their toxic fumes and dirty debris — harm the workers who operate them and the communities that endure them. We have an extensive list of information sources attached to today’s agenda and I want to thank the University of Washington Evans School graduate students for enthusiastically and skillfully supplementing our research.

(2) The public opinion is clear. In just the past 48 hours, over 100 residents took time from their busy days to send emails and make public comment in favor it this Resolution. An informal survey of my constituents last month showed that 82% of those who responded want to outright BAN gas-powered leaf blowers. And local environmental justice organizations support our Resolution.

(3) The trend across the nation is clear: Over 100 jurisdictions have banned or are phasing out gasoline-fueled leaf blowers. While Seattle prides itself on being a leader on many issues, we are way behind on addressing the harms of leaf blowers. Burlington, Vermont; Washington, D.C.; Portland, Oregon; and ALL of California have left us in the dust. We will hear from one of those jurisdictions today on how they got it done.

I’m confident that our Seattle government departments that care about reducing pollution, that care about protecting workers —  AND have the power to stop using gas-powered leaf blowers — will be inspired to act expeditiously on this Resolution — to make real progress on this environmental and public health concern. As we make the city government lead by example, there will be plenty of time for the private market to follow — whether that’s switching to electric and battery powered leaf blowers or just using a rake. To be clear, the Resolution calls for ENDING  the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in city government by January 2025 and ENDING the use of gas-powered leaf blowers elsewhere in the city by January 2027.

This Resolution is consistent with past policy statements from the City Council, but our Resolution amplifies them — hopefully louder than noise of the leaf blowers. This Resolution also updates and expands this effort to finally spur action.  Fall is Coming. The season of falling leaves is coming and with it — the harmful sound, the toxic fumes, and the filthy debris of these terrible machines.  Colleagues, this issue was delayed far too long by the pandemic, our Resolution is consistent with past policy statements, and it’s needed to make progress to work out the details to finally rid our City of these deafening and dirty fossil-fuel machines. Please vote today and Vote Yes.  Thank you.”


August 9 and 19, 2022: Recent Media Coverage:


August 8 and 9, 2022: Resolution Officially Introduced

Here are excerpts from the press release we issued when our Resolution 32064 appeared on the City Council’s Introduction & Referral calendar this week:

Today’s Resolution introduced by Councilmember Pedersen states, “The City recognizes that the use of gas-powered leaf blowers causes significant adverse environmental and health impacts, including noise and air pollution” and asks City departments to “develop a proposal that would phase out and ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers within Seattle.”

Regarding the timeframe, the Resolution states, “By January 2025…the City and its contractors will phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. By January 2027…institutions located in Seattle, businesses operating in Seattle, and Seattle residents will phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.” The Resolution seeks to explore whether the City should offer incentives, such as a buyback program or rebates on replacement purchases, to landscaping businesses that operate in Seattle and to low-income Seattle residents that need support to transition from gas-powered to electric-powered leaf blowers.

Nicole Grant, Executive Director of 350 Seattle, a grass roots environmental and climate justice organization said, “Gas powered leaf blowers are contrary to our values — they use fossil fuels and are unwelcoming with their excessive noise and toxic emissions. We are pleased that Councilmember Pedersen is proposing a sound process for the City to transition away from these unnecessary machines.

Peri Hartman, co-founder of the group Quiet Clean Seattle said, “Our co-founders have been working to eliminate use of gas powered lead blowers in Seattle for several years. We are very pleased to see Councilmember Pedersen’s proposal move to the Council, an exciting step so desired by our members.

Seattle Councilmember Alex Pedersen said, “Nearly everyone hates obnoxious, loud, gas-belching leaf blowers, so why do we allow them to continue damaging eardrums, spraying debris into faces, and polluting our city? Other cities are banning or phasing out leaf blowers and it’s time to blow them out of Seattle, too. While public safety and homelessness must continue as priority issues, City Hall has the bandwidth to address this public health and environmental issue, too. While it was reasonable for Seattle to pause this issue during the pandemic, other places across the nation have recently been leap-frogging Seattle by banning these harmful devices, including Washington, D.C.; Burlington, Vermont; the entire state of California; and 100 other jurisdictions.”

D.C. Councilmember Mary M. Cheh, Chair of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment with the Council of the District of Columbia said, “In 2018, the District passed legislation I introduced that banned the sale and use of gas-powered leaf blowers as of January 1, 2022. Since that legislation was implemented earlier this year, it’s greatly improved the quality of life in the District, not only reducing the harmful noise produced by these devices, but also improving air quality. Given these benefits, I am in support of efforts in the largest city in ‘the other Washington’ to pass similar legislation, and hope that the District’s law can be a model for Seattle and jurisdictions across the country.”

For a copy of Resolution 32064 as introduced, CLICK HERE.

For a copy of the Summary / Fiscal Note as introduced, CLICK HERE.

To learn more about the organization “Quiet Clean Seattle,” CLICK HERE.


August 1, 2022: Survey Results from Seattle’s District 4

The survey results were overwhelming: 82% think Seattle should ban gas-powered leaf blowers. Of course, this is not a scientific survey because it was sent just to subscribers of my e-newsletter and respondents chose on their own whether to take the survey rather than being selected at random. Nevertheless, the survey is another data point when combined with numerous anecdotal complaints about leaf blowers from Seattle residents as well as the science documenting the harms of these gasoline-fueled machines (see the sources as the end of this blog post). The survey was not shared on social media during the four days it was open (noon July 29 through noon August 1, 2022), so it was not “highjacked” by any particular side of the issue. If the survey had been random, 400 respondents is actually a sufficient number for the results to be statistically significant for our district of more than 100,000 residents.


July 29, 2022 Newsletter to Constituents (excerpt):

I want your feedback on leaf blowers — and I want to be transparent about my preliminary view.  A couple of years ago, I indicated a strong interest in exploring ways to phase out harmful, gas-powered leaf blowers. Addressing the harms of gas-powered leaf blowers has been supported by environmental organizations, including 350 Seattle. The pandemic and other priorities interrupted those plans, but the problems persist. Loud and dirty gas-powered leaf blowers cause air pollution and noise pollution that can harm the workers who use them as well as the people and animals nearby. Recently, my office has thoroughly researched this issue. While public safety and homelessness must continue as priority issues, I believe City Hall also has the bandwidth to address this public health and environmental issue and city government should lead by example. While it was reasonable to push this issue to the back burner during the pandemic, other cities have recently been leap-frogging Seattle by banning these harmful devices, including Washington D.C., California, and 100 other jurisdictions. Electric leaf blowers are much stronger than they used to be and there should be opportunities at City parks to reduce when and where we use leaf blowers because leaves can also decompose naturally. I’m interested in introducing a City Council Resolution to address this topic and I’m pleased to report that the environmental organization 350 Seattle officially endorsed this effort. Stay tuned.


June 2022: Research Presented by UW Evans School of Public Policy and Governance

A team of 2nd year graduate students earning their master’s in public administration from the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance assisted in the research of this topic for Councilmember Pedersen’s office.

For the report from the graduate students, CLICK HERE.


June 4, 2022: Burlington, Vermont Ban of Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers Adopted April 2021 Goes Into Effect

The City Council passed this ordinance last year to help decrease noise pollution, carbon emissions and to eliminate nuisances caused by leaf blowers.”

For the news report by WCAX News, CLICK HERE.


March 1, 2022: City Council Keeps Leaf Blowers on its Annual “Work Program”

In the annual work program adopted by the City Council, the Committee on Sustainability & Renters Rights including the following body of work to tackle: “GAS-POWERED LEAF BLOWERS: Review required reports regarding/related to SLI OSE-003-B-001, which requested that OSE and Seattle Parks and Recreation develop a plan to phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers” (page 47). For the City Council’s 2022 Work Program, CLICK HERE.


January 1, 2022: Washington, D.C. Ban of Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers Adopted 2018 Goes Into Effect

On January 1, 2022, the Leaf Blower Regulation Amendment Act of 2018 adopted by the Washington, D.C. City Council, finally took effect in our nation’s capital. The Act prohibits the use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers in the District of Columbia, both by the city government and by the private sector. Source: https://dcra.dc.gov/leafblower


December 9, 2021: California Approves Statewide Phase Out, Following Dozens of California Cities

“California regulators sign off on phaseout of new gas-powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers.” For the Los Angeles Times article, CLICK HERE.


November 2021: City Council Requests a Plan to Phase Out Leaf Blowers

During our fall budget review process in 2021, I sponsored a “Statement of Legislative Intent” (SLI) to encourage the executive departments to craft a plan to phase out leaf blowers. Specifically, SLI OSE-003-B-001 requested “that the Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE), Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR), and other departments as needed, develop a plan to phase out the use of all gas-powered leaf blowers in Seattle within two years. Following implementation of the two-year plan, the goal would be for the City to ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. While gas powered leaf blowers do not contribute substantially to Seattle’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, they can cause localized air pollution and the low-frequency sounds they produce are particularly disturbing to the human ear, negatively impacting people within the proximity of someone using a gas-powered leaf blower. The plan should build off of the response in 2014 to SLI 70-1-A-1 (Department of Planning and Development Leaf Blower Recommendations) and consider the approach other jurisdictions have taken to prohibit the sale and use of gas-powered leaf blowers, such as California.” The due date was September 2, 2022.

Unfortunately, these “SLIs” adopted by the City Council are among the weaker options for getting results. In mid-2022, we learned that the executive departments were unlikely to produce the plan required by the Council’s SLI. Hence the need for a more formal Council Resolution, especially as other cities have been leap-frogging Seattle in implementing bans of gas-powered leaf blowers.


October 24, 2021: Huntington, New York Restricts Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers

For the November 10, 2021 CBS News report, CLICK HERE, and for the CBS News video, CLICK HERE.


2020 through 2021 and beyond: Pandemic Interruption and Delay

The COVID pandemic and associated economic challenges — along with other priorities in Seattle such as safety and homelessness — put efforts to reduce gas-powered leaf blowers onto the “back burner.”


November 2019: Promises, Promises

My 2019 campaign website said Seattle should do the following:

Phase out gasoline-powered (two stroke) leaf blowers with a buy-back program:

(quoted excerpts from the Roosevelt neighborhood newsletter, The Roosie): ‘According to the California Air Resources Board, 5 lbs of particulate matter per leaf blower per hour are swept into the air and it takes hours to settle.’ ‘California’s statewide Environmental Protection Agency estimates that an hour of leaf blower equals 1,000 miles driven in a 2015 Camry car.’ ‘An air quality report from L.A. states by 2020, ozone producing emissions will be higher from lawn care equipment than from all cars in L.A.’ ‘Gas leaf blowers are identified as a source of harmful noise by the U.S. CDC, U.S. EPA, and the national landscape industry.

“To address this City Hall should explore a buy-back program to transition users away from gas-powered leaf blowers to electricity-powered leaf-blowers.”


2014: City of Seattle explores, then shelves idea to ban gas-powered leaf blowers

In 2014, the City’s Department of Planning and Development (now the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections) considered strategies to reduce or eliminate the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in their response to City Council’s Statement of Legislative Intent SLI 70-1-A-1. At that time, the city’s executive departments recommended no new regulations or changes to City practices due to the lack of equivalent electric alternatives and other considerations at that time. In the years following 2014, however, new data have revealed more of the environmental and public health impacts of gas-powered leaf blowers; electric leaf blowers technology has improved; and other jurisdictions have moved to eliminate the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.



Sources of Information about Harmful Gasoline-Fueled Leaf Blowers (partial and ongoing):

Acquisition Safety. (2016). Fact Sheet: Occupation Exposure to Hand-Arm Vibration (HAV). US Navy: Safety Center Afloat Safety Programs Office.
https://www.gsa.gov/cdnstatic/Hand-Arm_Vibration_Syndrome_01-06-2016.pdf

Associated Press. (2021, April 17) “What? What? City bans use of loud, gas-powered leaf blowers” The Seattle Times
https://www.seattletimes.com/business/what-what-city-bans-use-of-loud-gas-powered-leaf-blowers/

Banks, Jamie, and Robert McConnel. (2015). National Emissions From Lawn And Garden Equipment. US Environmental Protection Agency.
https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2015-09/documents/banks.pdf

Baldauf, R. W., Fortune, C., Weinstein, J. P., Wheeler, M., Blanchard, F. (2006, July 1). Air Contaminant Exposure During the Operation of Lawn and Garden Equipment. EPA Science Inventory. https://cfpub.epa.gov/si/si_public_record_report.cfm?Lab=NERL&dirEntryId=155364

Board of County Commissioners for Multnomah County. (2021, December 16). Resolution No.
2021-094 (enacted).
https://www.multco.us/file/113089/download

Boykoff, J. (2011, August 18). The Leaf Blower, Capitalism, and the Atomization of Everyday Life. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 22(3), 95-113.
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10455752.2011.593896?journalCode=rcns20

Bullard., R. D., Mohai, P., Saha, R., Wright, B. (2007). Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty 1987 – 2007 (A Report Prepared for the United Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministries). United Church of Christ.
https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/toxic-wastes-and-race-at-twenty-1987-2007.pdf

California Air Resources Board. (2000). Mobile Source Control Division, A Report to the California Legislature on the Potential Health and Environmental Impacts of Leaf Blowers.
California Air Resources Board.
https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/sites/default/files/2018-11/Health%20and%20Environmental%20Impacts%20of%20Leaf%20Blowers.pdf

California Air Resources Board. (n.d. a) SORE: Small Engines Fact Sheet. California Air Resources Board.
https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/resources/fact-sheets/sore-small-engine-fact-sheet

California Legislature (2020). Bill text: AB-1346 Air pollution: small off-road engines. California
Legislative Information. (n.d.).
https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220AB1346

Council of the District of Columbia. (2018). B22-234. Leaf Blower Regulation Amendment Act of 2018.
http://chairmanmendelson.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/B22-234-Leaf-Blower-Regulation-Amendment-Act-of-2018-CIRCULATION-PACKET.pdf

Costa-Gomez, I., Banon, D., Moreno-Grau, S., Revuelta, R., Elvira-Rendueles, B., Moreno, J. (2020). Using a low-cost monitor to assess the impact of leaf blowers on particle pollution during street cleaning. Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, 13, 15-23.
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11869-019-00768-8

Fallows, J. (2019). Get Off My Lawn. The Atlantic.
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/04/james-fallows-leaf-blowerban/583210/.

Gabasa, S. A., Md Razali, K. A., As’arry, A., & Abdul Jalil, N. A. (2019). Vibration transmitted to the hand by backpack blowers. International Journal of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering, 16(2), 6697–6705.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/334361296_Vibration_Transmitted_to_the_Hand_by_Backpack_Blowers

Gonzalez, C. (2021, December 16). Multnomah County adopts plan to phase out gas-powered leaf blowers. Oregon Public Broadcasting.
https://www.opb.org/article/2021/12/16/multnomah-county-adopts-plan-to-phase-out-gas-powered-leaf-blowers/

Green Livable Environment for Everyone. (2016, May). Leaf blowers in DC – a fact sheet. The
Atlantic.
https://cdn.theatlantic.com/assets/media/files/leaf_blowers_in_dc_fact_sheet_(05_16).pdf

HD Supply. (2022). Leaf Blower Regulations. HD Supply. Retrieved from
https://hdsupplysolutions.com/s/leaf_blower_noise_regulation

Health Science Associates. (2017). Industrial Hygiene Survey. Occupational Safety and Health
Administration.

Henricks, S. (2017). RE: City of Los Altos gas-powered leaf blower ordinance. Management
Analyst, City of Los Altos, CA. Retrieved from https://www.losaltosca.gov/sites/default/files/fileattachments/environmental_commission/meeting/34141/item_4._attachment_a_leafblowermemo_final.pdf

Jones, Fischer, and Eric Boles. (2017). Gas Vs Battery Powered Maintenance Tools On The
University Of Arkansas Campus. University Of Arkansas Office Of Sustainability. Retrieved from, https://sustainability.uark.edu/_resources/publication-series/project-reports/reports-electric_power_tools_ua-2017-ofs.pdf

Kavanagh, J. (2011, December 5). Emissions test: Car vs. Truck vs. Leaf Blower. Edmunds.
Retrieved from https://www.edmunds.com/car-reviews/features/emissions-test-car-vs-truckvs-leaf-blower.html

Milman, Oliver (2022, January 5) “Tree-mendous news: noisy gas-powered leaf blowers banned in Washington DC” The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jan/05/gas-leaf-blowers-banned-washington-dc

Mudede, Charles. (2021, November 29) “The City of Seattle Must Ban Leaf Blowers” The Stranger
https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2019/11/29/42133770/the-city-of-seattle-must-ban-leaf-blowers

National Association of Landscape Professionals. (2021). 2021 Workforce Demographic Study. National Association of Landscape Professionals.
https://www.landscapeprofessionals.org/LP/About/LP/Foundation/Workforce_Demographic_Study.aspx

Pedersen, A. (2021). SLI OSE-003-B-001: 2022 Seattle City Council Statement of Legislative Intent.
http://seattle.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9969083&GUID=15848989-6281-4BE2-B9C3-F9AAF6EFAF1C

Porcello, Michael. (2022, July 27). Phone Interview with Legislative Aide to Washington D.C. City Councilmember Mary Cheh. 202.724.8062
https://dccouncil.us/council/michael-porcello/

Pollock, C. (2018). Bill No. B22.234, the Leaf Blower Regulation Amendment Act of 2017-Written Statement by Arup.
https://quietcommunities.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Arup_Bill-No-B22-234-the-Leaf-Blower-Regulation-Amendment-of-2017.pdf

Radke, Bill. (2014, October 31) “Radke Rant: Leaf Blowers Are Lazy, Selfish And Stupid” KUOW
https://www.kuow.org/stories/radke-rant-leaf-blowers-are-lazy-selfish-and-stupid

Smith, Cam WCAX News (2022, June 4) “New Ordinance in Burlington bans gas-powered leaf blowers” Retrieved from https://www.wcax.com/2022/06/04/new-ordinance-burlington-bans-gas-powered-leaf-blowers/

US Environmental Protection Agency, (2021a, May 5). Ground-level Ozone Basics. EPA.gov.
https://www.epa.gov/ground-level-ozone-pollution/ground-level-ozone-basics

US Environmental Protection Agency, (2021b, May 5). Health Effects of Ozone Pollution. EPA.gov.
https://www.epa.gov/ground-level-ozone-pollution/health-effects-ozone-pollution

University of Washington Evans School of Public Policy and Governance graduate student team, (2022, June). “Leaf Blowers: Addressing the Impacts of Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers in Seattle, WA” https://pedersen.seattle.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Leaf-Blower-Report-Final-Draft-June-2022.pdf

Walker E. & Banks, JL. (2017). Characteristics of Lawn and Garden Equipment Sound: A Community Pilot Study. J Environ Toxicol Stu 1(1).
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31448365/

Washington D.C. Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs. (2022, January 1) “Leaf Blower Regulations” Retrieved from https://dcra.dc.gov/leafblower

Willon, P. (2021, December 9). California regulators sign off on phaseout of new gas-powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers. Los Angeles Times.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-12-09/california-regulators-phaseout-new-gas-powered-lawnmowers-and-leaf-blowers

# # #


Tent City 3 in Northeast Seattle: Questions & Answers

October 26th, 2022
Photo of “Tent City 3” in Seattle’s University District on a church parking lot at NE 45th Street and 15th Ave NE in October 2022. The Unitarian church in Bryant/Wedgwood (on 35th Ave NE) is planning to host Tent City 3 mid-March through mid-June 2023. (Note: While organizations in our Council District have hosted Tent City 3 multiple times, this is different than the Tiny Home Village with case management for which I secured the site and funding in the heart of the U District.)

Context: For the City government’s ongoing and increasing efforts to reduce homelessness, please see Mayor Bruce Harrell’s Homelessness Action Plan (CLICK HERE) and the website of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (CLICK HERE). This blog post about a single entity and site (Tent City 3) should be considered within the broader context of the large-scale local, regional, state, and federal efforts to reduce homelessness. Thank you.


Introduction: Welcome to this ongoing informational post about “Tent City 3.” As you may know, Tent City 3 comprises a few dozen people experiencing homelessness and living in this authorized, roving, self-managed encampment that has a stated policy (Code of Conduct) requiring sobriety (high-barrier shelter). Tent City 3 has, for many years, rotated among different church parking lots (including in Seattle’s University District), as authorized by City ordinances. Tent City 3 is affiliated with the nonprofit S.H.A.R.E., which stands for Seattle Housing and Resources Effort. Tent City 3’s proposal announced in October 2022 to rotate temporarily (mid-March through mid-June 2023) to a different church location near Bryant/Wedgwood inspired this ongoing blog post to provide information to the many people raising concerns and asking questions. The faith-based organization planning to host the Tent City 3 encampment is the “University” Unitarian Church located at 6556 35th Avenue NE, diagonally across from the Northeast branch of the Seattle Public Library. While everyone should contact the Unitarian Church for information, my office receives many questions; hence this blog post to provide key information in a convenient place for constituents.

Clarification: Tent City 3 is NOT a “tiny home village.” For information about the “Rosie’s” Tiny Home Village with its professional case management in the U District, CLICK HERE. While Tent City 3 has, as a last resort, temporarily set up its tents on public right-of-way (2019 and 2014) when they are stranded between the end date and start date of the churches hosting them, Tent City 3 is NOT a random, unorganized, illegal encampment that you might see in parks, on sidewalks, or along I-5.



DECEMBER 19, 2022, afternoon.

Many thanks to the residents of Tent City 3 for welcoming me to their “new” location in Parking Lot #E21 behind UW’s Husky Stadium. Tent City 3 will stay there until March 2023 when they plan to relocate to the Unitarian Church at 6556 35th Ave NE in Bryant/Wedgwood. The residents discussed the importance of this shelter operation for their wellbeing and outlined their Code of Conduct.


DECEMBER 19, 2022, morning.

I met with three leaders of the University Congregational United Church of Christ (UCUCC), located at the corner of NE 45th Street and 16th Ave NE, just north of the Burke Museum. Their church hosts many endeavors, including child care. They most recently hosted Tent City 3 for three months through December 17, 2022. (Tent City 3 is, for the next 3 months, at Parking Lot #E21 behind UW’s Husky Stadium.) The UCUCC has been providing their expert advice to the Unitarian Church members who are preparing to host Tent City 3 for the first time in their parking lot at 6556 35th Avenue NE from mid-March through mid-June 2023. The UCUCC has hosted Tent City 3 five times since 2016 and they confirmed no material problems. At the community meeting on October 25, 2022, another church in a different part of Seattle offered a similar report of their experiences as a host of Tent City 3.


OCTOBER 26, 2022

I originally advised the Unitarian Church at 6556 35th Ave NE to work with Tent City 3 to find a better location and, if they still decide to host Tent City 3, to conduct broader outreach.

I am not taking a formal position on the Unitarian Church’s persistent efforts to temporarily host this encampment, in large part, because the 2020 land use law expanded by the Seattle City Council by a vote by 8 to 1 (I was the one vote against it), does not provide Councilmembers with authority to prohibit or redirect such operations.

Please know that I repeatedly shared with the University Unitarian Church leaders the concerns from constituents (including complaints about the church’s minimal initial outreach), and I alerted surrounding community groups to the church’s proposal because the church had not informed them. 

I learned about the church’s plans in October 2022* and I attended the public meeting the church had on October 25. [*Update: this post originally said “toward the end of October,” but we double-checked that our office received at least an email notification from a church member during the first week of October. Apologies if that difference of a couple of weeks created any confusion.]

When it became clear to me that the church had not alerted nearby community groups, I alerted them:  Ravenna Bryant Community Association, the Wedgwood Community Council, the View Ridge Community Council, and the Hawthorne Hills Community Council. I advised the church that they should do more community outreach before making a final decision (Tent City 3 would not arrive until March 2023.) While the church is altruistically welcoming the encampment, the church employees and the church members should acknowledged that they will not be present at that site during the evening hours, whereas the existing neighbors around the site will be present. [Update: When the church employees are not on site, Tent City 3 leaders will still have access to a church employee if any issues arise. Per, the U District church that recently hosted Tent City 3, the most common snafu is the power in the parking lot going out because of a flipped circuit breaker.]

For updates, ask the Unitarian Church to put you on their email list (uuchomelessness@gmail.com) and/or consider subscribing to my monthly e-newsletter by CLICKING HERE. Here’s what I sent to community groups toward the end of October 2022:

“Just a heads up that my office was recently informed that the Unitarian Church on 35th Ave NE (between NE 65th and 68th Streets) is seeking to host in their parking lot a homeless encampment (Tent City 3): https://www.uuchurch.org/proposal-to-host-tent-city-3/

The church and Tent City 3 are having a community meeting to hear input Tuesday, Oct 25, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. at the Unitarian Church: 6556 35th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98115.

My office connected with Reverend Jon Luopa to ask several questions about the wisdom and feasibility of this altruistic effort, which their church has never before undertaken.

Questions? Contact Reverend Jon Luopa at jon.luopa@uuchurch.org and cc: uuchomelessness@gmail.com. Main line: 206-525-8400. Among the church members leading the charge on this are Cynthia Salzman and Dave Mentz.

Here’s what we know so far…

·         Timing: While there is a community input meeting Tuesday, October 25, 2022, the Unitarian Church is planning to host Tent City 3 mid-March through mid-June 2023 (approximately 90 days). A key question would then be, does Tent City 3 have a commitment for a site AFTER the Unitarian Church? (We had a self-managed encampment that came to Wallingford for 1 year and it’s been there for 3 years.)

·         The encampment organization: Tent City 3 uses a “self-management” model, operates outside of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (though KCRHA provides money to pay for utilities), and does not publish any results as to whether it successfully transitions people from tents to housing. According to UW (a periodic host), Tent City 3 typically comprises 60 to 100 people in the parking lot with about half as many tents. Per the Unitarian Church website, “The size of the camp varies, from 30 to 60, or more. It varies because some move into more stable housing, while others apply to join the camp as space opens. Currently, at University Congregational Church, there are about 55 residents.

·         The Unitarian Church: While they are called “University Unitarian Church,” they are not located in the U District, but rather miles northeast of that in Bryant/Wedgwood on 35th Avenue NE north of NE 65th Street (6556 35th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98115). We asked the church to connect with KCRHA to get advice.

·         Authority under current law: As you may know, Seattle’s land use policies have enabled faith-based organizations to host / sponsor encampments under Seattle’s Municipal Code. In 2020, the City Council adopted an ordinance (Council Bill 119656) expanding that authority (allowing encampments to abut single family neighborhoods), which I voted against because it was marketed as being for “tiny homes” while the actual legislation was written for tents (no structure required; no case management/results required). Nevertheless, District 4 has actively hosted this mobile encampment several times (both officially and unofficially). Currently, Tent City 3 is in the parking lot of a different church in the U District (15th Ave NE and NE 45th Street near the U District light rail station) and then UW is scheduled to host Tent City 3 January through mid-March 2023 on the southside of Husky Stadium light rail station.  (We’ve also put in place a high quality tiny home village in the U District and fortunately that village has durable, heated structures and professional case management.) According to the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI), “Encampments located on property owned or controlled by a religious organization do not require a permit per SMC 23.42.054.B.7. [However] They do need to submit to us a site plan and we do an inspection…


MORE INFORMATION:

  • For the Unitarian Church’s website about this issue, CLICK HERE.
  • To contact the Unitarian Church about this, send an email to: uuchomelessness@gmail.com
  • For the Unitarian Church’s “Questions & Answers” document, as of November 9, 2022, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Tent City 3 website, CLICK HERE.
  • Because the University of Washington has hosted Tent City 3 previously, here’s UW’s recent “fact sheet”: CLICK HERE.
  • For a relatively recent (March 8, 2022) TV news story about Tent City 3, CLICK HERE.


$7 billion City budget under review — and more

September 29th, 2022

Friends and Neighbors,

September is back to school for our kids and back to budget for our policymakers.

In this newsletter, we celebrate our District 4, I discuss why I voted against doubling the property tax for parks, I provide initial thoughts on the Mayor’s proposal to spend $7.4 billion for the City budget, and more. Click on the links below to zip to the sections that interest you the most:


DISTRICT 4

Cedar Crossing Opens:  More Low-Income Housing in District 4!

Susan Boyd, Executive Director of Bellwether Housing, speaks about opening the new low-income housing and childcare on top of the Roosevelt light rail station. Also speaking were State Rep Frank Chopp, Roosevelt Neighborhood Association land use expert Jay Lazerwitz, and several others.

Northeast Branch of Seattle Public Library

Councilmember Pedersen fielding great questions from neighbors who attended an event at the Northeast branch of the Seattle Public Libraries where Bryant and Wedgwood meet. I was proud to stand with Chief Librarian Tom Fay (pictured on the right) and other library boosters. Neighbors asked several book smart questions about property taxes, public safety, and digital equity. Coming soon to our NE branch: equipment to keep the building energy efficient and cool for greater resiliency in the midst of climate change.

U District/Wallingford:  “The Greatest Of All Time Fire Hazard Chompers”

photo from Rent-A-Ruminant, based in the Puget Sound region

I’ve seen a lot of solutions to urban challenges while working in several places including HUD headquarters in D.C. during the Clinton Administration as well as Baltimore, Oakland, Philadelphia and, of course, Seattle. You can see from this photo one of the most unconventional, yet greatest of all time: goats! When our transportation departments or fire departments need to clear troublesome weeds from treacherous terrain under our vital bridges, goats get the job done efficiently and effectively — all while enjoying a crunchy meal. 

  • For the recent article in the Seattle Times with photos of goats chomping away the weeds under the Ship Canal Bridge in District 4, CLICK HERE.
  • For a piece about the G.O.A.T.S. in Wallingford’s official blog, Wallyhood, CLICK HERE.
  • For video of the goats in action in District 4 this month, go to: https://www.facebook.com/RentaRuminant

View Ridge “Party in the Park”

Councilmember Pedersen listening to the head of the View Ridge Community Council Robert Johnson at the return of their annual “Party in the Park” on September 11, 2022. While most party goers were smiling and happy to reconnect as we emerge from the pandemic, I also shared the public safety concerns of several other parents upset by disturbing crimes nearby in what has historically been a relatively safe neighborhood. They want City Hall to prioritize increasing public safety and reducing homelessness.

Wedgwood Community Picnic

Councilmember Pedersen enjoying the music and neighborhood spirit at the return of the Wedgwood “Community Picnic” on September 10, 2022. The annual event was organized, in large part, by the former head of the Wedgwood Community Council, John Finelli. Great to see the current head of the WCC, Per Johnson, who continues to chair the monthly meetings of the community council – for more info, CLICK HERE. Many thanks to the Seattle Firefighters who attended to discuss fire safety with the children. For those who have experienced frustrating and repeated power outages near 35th Ave NE, CLICK HERE for an update from Seattle City Light.

University Heights: Art Gallery Opening

Enjoy the art gallery opening inside the University Heights building on “The Ave” in the heart of the U District on Saturday, October 15 at 7:00 p.m. This free public event celebrates the latest works from the U Heights Artist Collective with free refreshments and libations for purchase. Come see the art, meet the artists, view a live performance piece, and enjoy drinks and light refreshments.

  • To RSVP or learn more about the free art exhibition, CLICK HERE.
  • For other upcoming events at U Heights, CLICK HERE.

PUBLIC SAFETY

Mayor Harrell Nominates Adrian Diaz From Among 3 Finalists for Police Chief:

Adrian Diaz (pictured left) was selected by Mayor Harrell from among the top 3 candidates that included SPD’s Assistant Chief Eric Greening and Tucson, Arizona’s Kevin Hall.

  • For Mayor Harrell’s September 20, 2022 press release nominating Chief Diaz, CLICK HERE.
  • For Mayor Harrell’s September 8, 2022 press release on the 3 finalists, CLICK HERE.
  • To apply to be a Seattle police officer, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Seattle Times July 22 editorial entitled, “It’s OK to say we’re funding the police,” CLICK HERE.

Office of Police Accountability: New Director Approved!

The City Council recently confirmed the appointment of Gino Betts, Jr. As director of the Office of Police Accountability (OPA). The OPA is a vital cornerstone of accountability put in place in 2017 along with two other foundational reform institutions for Seattle in the wake of the 2012 federal consent decree (OIG and CPC, see below). These reform institutions are IN ADDITION TO City Hall’s efforts to implement alternative emergency responses to some less dangerous 9-1-1 calls and to update police officer labor contracts required to operationalize reforms beyond those already put in place since 2012.

As described on OPA’s website, “The Office of Police Accountability (OPA) has authority over allegations of misconduct involving Seattle Police Department (SPD) employees relating to SPD policy and federal, state, and local law. OPA investigates complaints and recommends findings to the Chief of Police. OPA is led by a civilian director and supervisors, while its investigations are carried out by a mix of SPD sergeants and civilian investigators.

Because OPA still has a link to SPD, primarily to have complete and immediate access to police reports for its investigations, Seattle established a fully independent Office of Inspector General for Public Safety (OIG). As described on OIG’s website, “The City of Seattle Office of Inspector General (OIG) was established to “help ensure the fairness and integrity of the police system as a whole in its delivery of law enforcement services by providing civilian auditing of the management, practices, and policies of the [Seattle Police Department (SPD) and Office of Police Accountability (OPA)] and oversee ongoing fidelity to organizational reforms implemented pursuant to the goals of the 2012 federal Consent Decree.”

Furthermore, community leaders have a vital role as well with the Community Policing Commission (CPC). As described on CPC’s website, “We envision our communities and Seattle’s police aligned in shared goals of safety, respect, and accountability…The Community Police Commission listens to, amplifies, and builds common ground among communities affected by policing in Seattle. We champion policing practices centered in justice and equity.”

For the Mayor’s July 19, 2022 press release introducing Gino Betts as his nominee, CLICK HERE.


CITY BUDGET AND TAXES

Fiscal Responsibility:

When your local governments craft tax increases to address various issues, the full picture of the cumulative burden on residents (homeowners, renters, and small businesses that pay property taxes through triple net leases) is often NOT made clear in the moment. See the list above that displays the full range of what comprises your Seattle property taxes. (Landlords can pass these onto renters.) You can find out more at the Tax Assessor website by CLICKING HERE

Because we need to charge taxes and fees for safety, streets, utilities, parks, libraries, affordable housing, and other services and programs, I believe government leaders have a fiscal responsibility to manage their costs and produce the best outcomes in the most efficient manner. Policymakers also need to balance the various needs, rather than simply doubling each tax each year for each issue. Moreover, when our economy experiences higher than average inflation, the government should not automatically foist those additional costs onto the backs of the people of Seattle because the people are already suffering from that same inflation. The people of Seattle should not be an ATM machine for City Hall. This sentiment is something I heard a lot from constituents on their doorsteps in 2019. It’s important to point out that most of the operating costs of local government are not in direct services to those most in need in our communities, but rather in the compensation of local government employees. We need many hard-working, dedicated public servants in local government to administer important programs fairly and with accountability, though policymakers need to do a better job managing how much we allocate to administration costs. It’s not “austerity budgeting” when city government desk jobs pay, on average, more than $100,000 a year with guaranteed annual pay increases, comprehensive medical benefits, a generous allotment of paid vacation days, and lifelong pensions. City budgetmakers should minimize their “Administration” costs, which have increased at a disturbing rate from 14% in 2015 to 21% in 2022 for all funds. I believe a fair question is not, “What program do you want to cut?” but rather, “How much do we really need to pay to administer the services needed to help those most in need in our city?” When we deliver a program more efficiently, we can help more people.

How I view fiscal responsibility for my constituents explains, in large part, why I voted No this month on two cost increases transferred from City Hall to you and your neighbors: (1) I voted No on increasing your electricity bills beyond what Seattle City Light had promised just last year and (2) I voted No to double the amount you pay in property taxes for parks. Unfortunately, both increases passed.

Why I Voted Against Doubling the Property Tax for Parks

We all want our parks to be safe and clean again and so I supported many elements of the proposal to increase investments in our Parks District, including the proposal to hire more than 25 park rangers even though some activists criticized that modest alternative response for public safety in our parks.  I also supported major upgrades to community centers in Green Lake and Lake City, which can be enjoyed by many District 4 residents as well as plans to convert many other community centers into cooling centers to build up our resiliency as we battle climate change. A more modest 50% increase of this property tax might have been reasonable, especially if the investments could truly make our parks safe and accessible. But a whopping 100% increase was unnecessary (in my opinion) and breaks the bank for many residents, especially with more property tax increases on the way for other important issues.

How did we get here? A process that starts by asking passionate advocates how much we should spend on their favorite issue (in this case Parks) typically results in requests for major increases in spending on that issue. This process produces a “wish list” that lacks a comprehensive and balanced consideration of the City’s other needs (such as transportation, affordable housing, education, libraries, and now mental health).

Related to the sticker shock of the inflated price tag, the Seattle Times editorial board recently made an excellent point on how to improve the good governance process: “The Seattle City Council…should put the brakes on a massive spending increase until it has the full picture of parks priorities and future operations…It’s important that the parks department uses its money efficiently and effectively. As it stands, the City Council is trying to figure out how to spend about 30% of the estimated total on parks without a clear plan for the other 70%. There is a better way. Wait for all the information and make informed decisions about taxes and park operations that are in the best interest of parkgoers as well as residents picking up the tab.”

Unfortunately, the original wish list delivered by the Parks Dept and the volunteer Parks Commissioners to the Mayor and City Council was a pricey package, exceeding the financial breaking point for many constituents, especially those struggling on fixed incomes. I believe it’s up to City government officials to focus and right-size those recommendations based on the totality of Seattle’s priorities, being mindful of those other needs. By the time the package came to the City Council, with even more additions proposed, I concluded the only way to address the situation was to vote No — hoping that the entire package could be re-examined and right-sized. On September 27, 2022, a majority of the City Council doubled that tax, despite my single vote. 

While many of the tax and spend increases endorsed by the Mayor and my colleagues are valid and I appreciate their rationale, I have not forgotten the many people I met doorbelling every block of our district. When people generously opened their doors to me to tell me their opinion of City government, a top request from residents (just behind safety/homelessness) was to better manage property tax increases, because they are struggling to stay in Seattle on their fixed incomes.  When I attended an event earlier this month at the Northeast branch of Seattle Public Libraries, constituents also noted that assessed values have also increased substantially – so they could be hit with higher tax bills from both the higher assessed value of their property AND the higher tax rates from their local government.

  • For the Seattle Times editorial “Seattle City Council needs full picture before doubling park taxes,” published September 22, 2022, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Seattle Times September 29, 2022 article on the final vote taken September 27, 2022, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Central Staff presentation on the Parks District from September 19, 2022, CLICK HERE.
  • For the spreadsheet comparing the Mayor’s proposal to Councilmember Lewis’s Proposal, CLICK HERE. Both proposals essentially double that portion of the property tax for Seattle’s Parks District, with CM Lewis’s slightly higher.
  • For the original Parks District approved by 53% of Seattle voters in August 2014, CLICK HERE (page 89).

Mayor Harrell’s $7.4 Billion Budget Proposal:

Mayor Bruce Harrell delivering his budget remarks, on September 27, 2022, at a key city government facility for vehicle maintenance. Photo courtesy of Mayor’s Office.

Just two days ago, Mayor Harrell unveiled his first budget as the City’s chief executive. The actual numbers within the budget are what matters most, but I appreciated the important symbolism of the Mayor delivering his speech at the Vehicle Maintenance Facility to emphasize his focus on the essentials of city government. Here is an excerpt from his speech:

After two very long pandemic years, today we stand at a pivotal moment in our city’s history. It’s at this intersection of change and challenge where we know the investments we make in this One Seattle budget proposal can chart Seattle’s course for years to come. Our guiding principle is how best to meet the urgent needs of our communities and empower our employees to deliver essential services. I’m proud to say that we’re able to propose a budget that sustains the high-quality City services our residents expect, protects critical staffing, and makes smart funding decisions to address community priorities including safety, homelessness, access to opportunity, and more...” 

— Mayor Bruce Harrell, delivering his first budget proposal as chief executive, September 27, 2022

To review Mayor Harrell’s full remarks with links to the actual budget documents, CLICK HERE.

It’s too early to say whether I fully support the Mayor’s $7 billion proposals for 2023 because I still need to read the budget and get input from constituents.

  • To Zoom into our District 4 Budget Virtual Town Hall scheduled for the evening of Wednesday, Oct 19, CLICK HERE to RSVP. For a map of District 4 (Northeast Seattle, Eastlake, Wallingford), CLICK HERE.

The City Council has an obligation to thoroughly review the 1,451-page budget proposal (744 pages for the main operating budget book and 707 pages for the Capital Improvement Program). My colleagues and I will spend October and November reviewing, amending, and adopting the budget documents and related legislation. Typically, City Councils alter less than 10% of a mayor’s proposal, but that 10% ends up being very important to projects receiving – or NOT receiving – support, as the money is shifted around. A revised revenue forecast in October sometimes produces additional funds to make that part easier, but not always.

Based on the priorities I continue to hear consistently from constituents, I want a City budget that allocates ample funding to increase public safety and reduce homelessness. As the Councilmember representing District 4, I want to make sure our district gets what it needs, even as we balance priorities across Seattle. In addition, I would expect to see more investments in transportation safety, including bridge safety and pedestrian safety (especially in South Seattle where the highest percentage of fatal collisions occur). As you may recall, I joined many people who were disappointed when the executive branch turned down the $100 million in bridge safety bonds provided by City Council. Therefore, it will be important for the budget to demonstrate that City Hall takes seriously its infrastructure — especially in the wake of the West Seattle bridge repairs, the disturbing 2020 audit of our bridges, and hopes from some City Hall officials to ask Seattleites to renew a property tax for transportation that’s, thus far, failing to deliver on several promises for bridges.  It’s also important to follow-through on the 2020 “Internet for All” digital equity action plan. Ideally, the budget would minimize overhead costs (“Administration”) and would minimize regressive “Utility Taxes.” (To subsidize our Seattle’s General Fund budget, the city government taxes our publicly owned utilities which, in turn, puts pressure on the utility bills paid by Seattle residents and businesses.)

(Note: “Public Safety” includes the 9-1-1 Call Center, the Emergency Operations Center, Firefighters, the City Attorney’s Office, and Seattle Municipal Court, as well as police).

HAVE YOUR VOICE HEARD AS COUNCIL AMENDS AND ADOPTS THE CITY BUDGET:

  • To Zoom into our District 4 Budget Virtual Town Hall scheduled for the evening of Wednesday, Oct 19, CLICK HERE to RSVP. For a map of District 4 (Northeast Seattle, Eastlake, Wallingford), CLICK HERE. (Next year, we hope to do a budget town hall in person!)
  • To call into the City Council’s public budget hearings on October 11 (5:00 p.m.), November 8 (9:30 a.m.), and November 15 (5:00 p.m.), go to: https://www.seattle.gov/council/committees/public-comment. You can sign up two hours in advance of the meeting start time. There is also a public comment period at each meeting of the Budget Committee.
  • Write anytime to all 9 City Councilmembers using this email address: Council@seattle.gov. Or you can write just to me at Pedersen@seattle.gov. Our Budget Committee Chair is also one of your citywide Councilmembers Teresa.Mosqueda@seattle.gov. (Your other citywide CM is Sara.Nelson@seattle.gov.)

MORE BUDGET INFO:

  • For Mayor Harrell’s budget proposal for calendar year 2023, CLICK HERE. For the Mayor’s September 27, 2022 press release, CLICK HERE. To read his speech as originally written, CLICK HERE. To watch his speech (the mayor speaks from the heart and often ad-libs :), CLICK HERE. For the lengthy budget documents, CLICK HERE.
  • For the City Council Budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda’s September 27, 2022 press release directly after receiving the Mayor’s budget proposal, CLICK HERE.
  • For the City Budget Office’s September 28, 2022 overview, CLICK HERE. Note that CBO’s pie chart for the $1.6 billion General Fund on page 4 of the Powerpoint doesn’t match the pie chart on page 43 of the CBO’s online Budget Book; I have asked our Central Staff to reconcile this important discrepancy.
  • For the existing City budget adopted November 2021 for calendar year 2022 and previous budgets, CLICK HERE. The Powerpoint says “Administration” costs are 20% ($310 million) whereas the Budget Books says they are “only” 15% ($232 million.)
  • For a Seattle Times editorial September 27, 2022 asking local governments to better manage their administrative costs and property tax revenue, CLICK HERE.
  • For a Seattle Times article from August 23, 2022 about our Budget Chair’s flexibility on temporarily sharing the City revenues, CLICK HERE.
  • Regarding our current budget situation, our City Council Central Staff provided an exhaustive analysis for our 8/17/2022 Finance Committee. For a video of their presentation, CLICK HERE. For their PowerPoint summary, CLICK HERE. For their detailed memo, CLICK HERE.

Internet for All: Closing the Digital Divide with Digital Equity

With the pandemic reminding Seattle of its unacceptable digital pide two years ago, Seattle City Council unanimously approved Resolution 31956 to establish the path for ALL Seattle residents to access and adopt broadband internet service that is both reliable and affordable: “Internet for All Seattle.” Everyone needs access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet for education, jobs, housing opportunities, and even medical care. As required by our resolution, Seattle’s Information Technology Department (Ip) unveiled a citywide Internet for All Action Plan. As part of Phase 1 (actions for immediate implementation), Ip proposed Action 7.1: “the development of an online dashboard, along with GIS mapping, to show progress towards universal internet adoption” (page 48 of the plan). This is consistent with the adage, “What gets measured, gets done.”  After two years, Ip finally soft launched these GIS dashboards on Seattle IT’s website.

Under the Internet for All Seattle Dashboards link, there are five topics that the City is prioritizing:

  • Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP): The ACP is a federal broadband affordability program that provides a discount of $30 per month for eligible households;
  • Internet Connectivity: Prioritizing ways to connect residents to free or affordable internet to supplement the federal ACP efforts;
  • Devices: expanding efforts to distribute devices for Seattle‘s goal of distributing 20,000 devices;
  • Digital Skills & Technical Support: strengthening community partnerships to deliver digital skills training and technical support with culturally relevant, in-language support; and
  • Outreach & Assistance: sharing vital digital literacy resources for low-income inpiduals, older adults, and BIPOC residents furthest from digital equity.

Each of these topics includes a brief metric summary of the City’s efforts to expand broadband accessibility and affordability, as well as a link to the corresponding dashboard at the bottom of each description.  Understandably, year-to-date 2022 numbers appear much lower than the full year 2021 numbers because 2022 is currently through just July 2022. We expect to see the full year 2022 numbers improve over 2021. Dashboard results will be updated quarterly.



While the dashboards show metrics for inpidual years, the Internet for All Seattle: Before and After paints a more holistic picture of the City’s efforts to achieve progress on bridging the digital pide thus far. These indicators imply that internet access and adoption have increased after Ip implemented elements of the Action Plan, but we won’t know for certain until Seattle IT conducts a 2023 Technology Access and Adoption study (typically done every 5 years to update community data). The 2018 Technology Access and Adoption Study’s findings have been used to help the City understand how to address the gaps and barriers to access and adoption of internet technology.  My office continues to advocate for the universal adoption of internet access to all residents in the City. We will be dissecting the Mayor’s budget to find ways to bridge the digital pide which could include expanding the  Seattle’s Technology Matching Fund (TMF). Only 14 organizations out of 53 applicants were recently awarded TMF funds (up to $25,000 each).

  • For Internet for All Seattle Dashboards, CLICK HERE.
  • For Internet for All Seattle Dashboard Definitions, CLICK HERE.
  • For Internet for All Seattle: Before and After, CLICK HERE.
  • To learn more about the ACP and apply, CLICK HERE.
  • To learn more about Seattle Public Library hotspot devices and place a hold, CLICK HERE.
  • To explore the City of Seattle’s low-cost home internet options, CLICK HERE.

TRANSPORTATION & SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMITTEE

(This is the Committee currently chaired by Councilmember Pedersen, so we provide extra information on its issues.)

New Director of Seattle Department of Transportation: Approved!

The Transportation Committee that I chair and the entire City Council recently approved Greg Spotts, Mayor Bruce Harrell’s nominee, to become the next Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). In light of the two-year closure of the West Seattle bridge and the disturbing audit of all Seattle bridges, I am anxious to see Director Spotts rapidly rebalance Seattle’s transportation focus on maintenance and upgrades to our City’s aging bridges.

With a new mayoral administration starting 9 months ago, this has been a big year for vetting new department leaders, as required by City law. Earlier this year, my committee reviewed and approved the new CEO and General Manager of Seattle Public Utilities: Andrew Lee. Then we took up the mayor’s nomination to head the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT): Greg Spotts. Together, those two departments comprise nearly 30% of the entire City budget ($2 billion out of $7 billion).

Here are my remarks at the City Council meeting when we officially confirmed Mr. Spotts as the new Director of SDOT:

“Thank you, Council President. Colleagues, in a moment we will finally vote on final confirmation of the Mayor’s nomination of Greg Spotts to become the new director for the Seattle Department of Transportation.

The Mayor’s nominee to lead and manage the Seattle Department of Transportation, its $700 million budget, and its 1,000 employees will dramatically shape how people and freight travel throughout our city safely and efficiently as we battle climate change.  Seattle deserves a department director with a balanced and practical approach to urban transportation as well as a focus on safety and mobility that includes improving our city’s aging bridges.  I am grateful to the Mayor, his team, and his search committee for putting forward a nominee with impressive credentials who can keep Seattle moving forward.
 
For the benefit of the viewing public, here’s some quick history on this nomination: As with all recent nominees from the mayor, the City Council has been following the vetting process outlined in Resolution 31868.

On July 27th, Mayor Harrell announced Greg Spotts as his nominee to be the new director of SDOT.

On August 4th, my office circulated the mayor’s August 3rd confirmation packet to all Councilmembers.

On August 16, we had Mr. Spotts and his nomination packet before our committee for an initial introduction.

We gathered more than 30 written questions from Councilmembers for the nominee to answer and, on August 23, my office circulated Mr. Spotts’ responses to all Councilmembers. We also posted those questions and answers on our Legistar website as part of his appointment packet, which is Appointment 02333.

My office checked in with some of his former colleagues on the Los Angeles City Council, all of whom provided very positive feedback about him.

On September 6, Mr. Spotts came back to our committee for a Q&A session and then our committee unanimously recommended that the Council confirm his appointment.

I have personally been very impressed with Mr. Spotts throughout this vetting process. I know many of us appreciated his thoughtful answers to our questions on Vision Zero safety, on bridge safety, on collaborating with transit agencies, and on the transportation needs within our Council districts. I think it’s fitting that, as our new SDOT Director, one of Greg Spott’s first official acts will be reopening the West Seattle bridge this weekend.”
 
I hope you will join me in voting Yes for Mr. Spotts TODAY. Thank you.”

West Seattle Bridge Finally Reopens!

In this photo, you can see in the background the recently restored West Seattle High Bridge (and the workhorse “low” bridge). Of all the key public servants involved in restoring the West Seattle High Bridge, monitoring the low bridge, and creating alternative routes during this transportation crisis, we’d like to applaud Heather Marx (standing 3rd from the left in this photo from September 16, 2022). Since the sudden closure of the bridge for safety reasons in March 2020, Heather and her team served as the steady hands at SDOT to oversee all aspects of the emergency stabilization and substantial renovation needed to save and re-open the bridge that serves more than 100,000 Seattle residents. Thank you, Heather! As Transportation Chair, I also greatly appreciated the close working relationship with West Seattle’s Councilmember Lisa Herbold, whose district was most impacted. For more thank-you’s, CLICK HERE. Thankfully, SDOT completed the project UNDER budget, so we’ll have SDOT return to our Transportation Committee in December to reconcile the final numbers.

I share the relief of 100,000 neighbors that we are finally reopening this vital regional bridge that connects all of us. This long-awaited re-opening is less of a celebration and more of an expression of gratitude to the engineers and construction workers who carefully repaired this vital regional bridge to make it strong and safe again. While we are all grateful to see the bridge repaired and re-opened after two and a half years of repairs, I believe this must serve as a wake-up call to reprioritize and reinvest in all Seattle bridges.  In a growing city carved by waterways, forged by the harsh experience of the West Seattle Bridge closure, and armed with the audit we obtained to assess our aging infrastructure, I look forward to new SDOT leadership prioritizing proactive improvements to Seattle’s aging bridges, because the people and businesses of Seattle cannot afford another bridge closure.”   

— Councilmember Alex Pedersen, Chair of Seattle’s Transportation Committee.

For a link to the pre-opening event on September 16, 2022, CLICK HERE.

For my September 16, 2022 press release with West Seattle Councilmember Lisa Herbold, CLICK HERE.

Free Transit For Seattle Youth (18 years and younger)!

Our Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD), funded by a Seattle sales tax, had been at the forefront of providing free ORCA cards to students at public high schools, but our State legislature recently expanded this with their own funding statewide for ALL youth 18 and under. This includes all buses and light rail. To learn more, CLICK HERE

Autonomous Vehicle Testing: Reasonable Rules Needed for Seattle Safety

A “Zoox” autonomous vehicle test car seen in downtown Seattle on August 22, 2022 near a busy pedestrian intersection.

I believe we need to make sure pedestrians, cyclists, and everyone using our streets and sidewalks are safe whenever private companies want to test their emerging technologies for autonomous vehicles. To balance our interest in the future benefits promised by autonomous vehicle technology with our immediate responsibility to keep everyone safe today, it would be sensible for Seattle to require companies seeking to test autonomous vehicles on our public streets to comply with reasonable rules for safety, notification, reporting, indemnification, and insurance. For example, requiring companies to obtain Street Use Permits before testing their emerging autonomous vehicle technology on our public streets would be a positive step toward basic transparency and accountability. Stay tuned for more on this emerging issue.

I’m grateful to local journalists for raising this issue. For an article from the Seattle Times, “Amazon’s self-driving cars are coming to downtown Seattle; Safety advocates are not pleased,” CLICK HERE

Help Students Stay Safe:  Become a Seattle Crossing Guard

Seattle needs more crossing guards! Our City Council Transportation Committee recently heard the 2021 annual report from the volunteer School Traffic Safety Committee and a major point was the continuing shortage of crossing guards. According to the Seattle Public Schools website, crossing guards are needed at 30 elementary schools throughout Seattle including these schools from our own District 4: Bryant Elementary, the John Stanford International School, and Thornton Creek Elementary School. Our beloved crossing guards work approximately 2 hours each school day and are “safety superheroes” to the next generation. To apply, CLICK HERE, call 206-252-0900, or email transdept@seattleschools.org


PUBLIC HEALTH and ENVIRONMENT

Urge City Departments to Phase Out Gasoline-Powered Leaf Blowers

Our victory at the City Council with the unanimous adoption of Resolution 32064 to rid Seattle of harmful, gasoline-fueled leaf blowers could be short-lived. Why? Because it’s unclear whether City departments are going to implement it.

Why would our City departments not quickly implement this pro-worker, pro-environment, low-cost measure to remove the excessive noise and toxic fumes in the face of this climate crisis?  Unfortunately, we did not see mention of phasing out gas-powered leaf blowers in the Executive’s City budget proposal unveiled on September 27, 2022. Here are some possible excuses — and we offer several can-do rebuttals: 

Potential Reason #1: We need more time to figure it out and get it done.

Rebuttal: Ten months ago (in November 2021), the Council unanimously adopted an official budget requestthat the Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE), Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR), and other departments as needed, develop a plan to phase out the use of all gas-powered leaf blowers in Seattle within two years. Following implementation of the two-year plan, the goal would be for the City to ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.” When the City departments reported back on September 2, 2022, their 5-page response acknowledged, “Gas-powered leaf blowers (GPLBs)…can contribute to several significant public health and nuisance issues: toxic emissions, greenhouse gases (GHGs), particulate matter, noise, and vibration. The localized air pollution and noise can impact the health of the operator as well as bystanders, during operation.” Their response goes on to state, “City departments recognize the transition away from GPLBs is good for people and the environment.”  The City departments acknowledge the problem and have had many months to think about it, well before the Council reinforced the request with Resolution 32064.

Potential Reason #2: We’re not sure how to do it. We don’t know how to more quickly transition to electric leaf blowers or other means of addressing falling leaves — and what about those heavy, wet leaves?

Rebuttal: More than 100 other cities are banning gas-powered leaf blowers and cities thrived before those nasty machines were invented. Our City Council committee recently had an expert from the nation’s capital walk us through how their city got it done. Moreover, the Resolution asks the departments to “Evaluate their current practices related to the use of leaf blowers and explore options to reduce reliance on leaf blowers, both gas-powered and electric, either by allowing leaves to naturally decompose or clearing them using non-motorized methods.” It’s not rocket science; let’s learn from the other cities that are more progressive on this public health and environmental issue.

Potential Reason #3: It will cost too much to transition to greener electricity.

Rebuttal: There was much fanfare made recently about Seattle’s “Green New Deal” investments and, while removing toxic leaf blowers was not included in that batch of investments, the good news is that the cost is very low and well worth it!  In response to the Council, the City departments said their “goal is to have 50% of our blowers be electric by 2026. Currently battery-powered blowers account for about 10% of our inventory. This transition is estimated to cost about $30,000 per year over the next four years.”  The Parks Department currently owns and operates about 65% of the City’s 418 gas-powered leaf blowers. Using this information, we can extrapolate the cost to convert all (100%) of the City government’s 418 from gas to electric within only two years (by January 2025, per the unanimous Resolution). (This assumes City departments do not upgrade their protocols to need fewer leaf blowers.) Extrapolating their estimate results in a grand total cost of approximately $400,000, which would be only $200,000 in 2023 and $200,000 in 2024. Even that seems excessive ($1,000 per leaf blower) because high-powered electric leaf blowers should not cost more than $500 each and the City would by them in bulk; therefore, the Parks estimate must also include charging stations, extra batteries, etc.

Because the City’s Executive is the first to craft the City budget, ideally they would have included this modest cost to get it done in their budget proposal (in conjunction with updating their policies to reduce when/where they truly need to remove leaves rather than just composting leaves in place and/or raking). The entire City Budget is over $7,000,000,000 (that’s 7 Billion dollars), so I think we can find $120,000 (which is only .0017%) under the City Hall’s budget couch cushions if we want to reduce harm to workers and the environment.

Potential Reason #4: We have bigger problems to focus on such as public safety and homelessness

Rebuttal: I agree that public safety and homelessness should be a priority for top officials AND our city government has more than 10,000 employees and departments that can implement the resolution. That’s one of the reasons the proposal is in the form of a Resolution stating the City’s policy:  it asks the executive branch to leverage its personnel power and expertise to finalize the ordinances and implement them because the executive branch has more than 10,000 employees, including a special Office of Sustainability & Environment (OSE), a Parks Department, and Financial & Administrative Services (FAS) Department — all with hard-working employees, whereas the Legislative Department has just 90 or so employees serving all 750,000 residents of Seattle. While public safety and homelessness must continue as priority issues, City Hall has sufficient bandwidth to address this public health and environmental issue, too.

Potential Reason #5: What’s the rush? The Resolution seems to allow plenty of time, stating “By January 2025, or later if necessary, the City and its contractors will phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers; and By January 2027, or later if necessary, institutions located in Seattle, businesses operating in Seattle, and Seattle residents will phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.”

Rebuttal: But the Resolution also states, “Nothing in this resolution should be construed to preclude or impede the City’s ability to more quickly phase out gas-powered leaf blowers.” The City has acknowledged the problem for both workers and the environment, and other cities are leap-frogging (leaffrogging?) Seattle, so why wait? Phasing out these harmful gasoline-fueled machines may require a multi-year process, but we must start now because we’re already behind several other cities. We will get the best results when engaging with local groups along the way, such as environmental organizations, Laborers (Local 242) for parks maintenance, the Latino Chamber of Commerce (which includes landscaping companies as members), and other solution-oriented stakeholders. The Resolution asks the City departments to explore incentives, such as a buyback program or rebates on replacement purchases for landscaping businesses that might need support to transition from gas-powered to electric-powered leaf blowers. But nothing is stopping your City government from leading by example and getting rid of its stockpile of these harmful machines.  Let’s get it done, Seattle!

  • For the adopted Resolution 32064, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Summary / Fiscal Note, CLICK HERE.
  • For our press release when Council unanimously adopted the Resolution on September 6, 2022, CLICK HERE.
  • For my blog posts documenting the recent history of this effort and an extensive list of information sources, CLICK HERE.
  • For video of the committee meeting, including the testimony from Washington, D.C., CLICK HERE.
  • For testimony from the group “Quiet Clean Seattle,” CLICK HERE.
  • For our Central Staff’s memo, CLICK HERE and for their Powerpoint, CLICK HERE.
  • For additional information sources used in our research, including the scientific evidence, CLICK HERE.

My office is very grateful to 2nd year graduate students earning their master’s in public administration from the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance who assisted in the research of this important topic.


COVID Case Update

For the latest official data from King County Public Health, CLICK HERE or use this website: https://kingcounty.gov/depts/health/covid-19/data/daily-summary.aspx




  • 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 combating COVID from King County Public Health, CLICK HERE.
  • 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.
  • For the latest COVID pandemic coverage from the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU:
Ways to Provide Input

City Council Meetings on the Internet

Viewing & Listening: You have a few options to view and hear Seattle City Council meetings. To view Council meetings live on Seattle Channel, CLICK HERE. You can also listen on your phone by calling 253-215-8782.  To view the recordings of City Council meetings that have already occurred, CLICK HERE.

NEW IN 2022:  Our City Council meetings moved to Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. Even after returning to in-person meetings, the public will still be able to call in their comments at City Council meetings – this is an important upgrade for public input. I would have supported moving our main Council meeting to the evenings to make it easier for people with day jobs to visit us, but the technological upgrades now enable anyone to call into the public comment periods. We also updated our City Council Rules and parliamentary procedures to improve the efficiency of the City Council by enabling Councilmembers to focus their work on city government business rather than on Resolutions on other issues such as international affairs.

Commenting: You can submit comments to me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov or to all 9 Councilmembers at Council@seattle.gov. For the instructions on how to register and call in to a meeting, CLICK HERE. Sign up begins two hours prior to the meeting start time.

Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen: In Person Again!

Hurray! I’ve restarted in-person office hours on Friday afternoons and, as anticipated, we moved them to the Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center (6535 Ravenna Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98105) to be more centrally located and within walking distance of light rail.  Note: On some Friday afternoons, the community center needs that space and so, on those days, I’ll continue to schedule virtual in-district office hours to connect with constituents via phone or Webex. Either way, 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
Phone: (206) 684-8804
Find It, Fix It


West Seattle Bridge Updates

September 13th, 2022

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 was to complete substantial repairs (“rehab”) in time to restore access to the West Seattle “high bridge” mid-2022 (which became September 18, 2022). When the high bridge was closed for repairs, the Spokane Street Swing Bridge (West Seattle “low bridge”) became the “workhorse” bridge that provided limited access, and we have scheduled upgrades for that bridge, too. Alternate routes made available 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


September 16, 2022 update: West Seattle Bridge Ready to Open September 18, 2022!

“I share the relief of 100,000 neighbors that we are finally reopening this vital regional bridge that connects all of us,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen, Chair of Seattle’s Transportation Committee. “This long-awaited re-opening is less of a celebration and more of an expression of gratitude to the engineers and construction workers who carefully repaired this vital regional bridge to make it strong and safe again.

“While we are all grateful to see the bridge repaired and re-opened after two and a half years of repairs, I believe this must serve as a wake-up call to reprioritize and reinvest in all of Seattle’s aging bridges.  In a growing city carved by waterways, forged by the harsh experience of the West Seattle Bridge closure, and armed with the audit we obtained to assess our aging infrastructure, I look forward to new SDOT leadership prioritizing proactive improvements to Seattle’s bridges, because the people and businesses of Seattle cannot afford another bridge closure.” 


June 9, 2022 update:

Councilmembers Herbold, Pedersen React to the Announced Reopening of the West Seattle Bridge in September

SEATTLE – Councilmembers Alex Pedersen (District 4, Northeast Seattle) and Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle & South Park) reacted to the announcement from SDOT today that the West Seattle Bridge is scheduled to reopen in three months, as soon as the week of September 12, 2022. 

“We know that all of West Seattle, South Park, and Georgetown have had the bridge reopening top of mind since it closed. I am still holding out hope for a summer re-opening, but I appreciate SDOT’s announcement today; it lets us know that we’re close – just three months away,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold

“I’m relieved we finally have a safe and certain reopening date, and I know it’s disappointing to many that the concrete strike delays could not be overcome. I urge the project managers to consider extra shifts so the bridge re-opens before schools re-open,” said Councilmember Alex PedersenChair of the Transportation and Seattle Public Utilities Committee. “While I look forward to re-opening this vital regional bridge after more than two years of repairs, this must also be a wake-up call to reprioritize and reinvest in all our aging bridges.  In a growing city carved by waterways, forged by the harsh experience of the West Seattle Bridge closure, and armed with the audit of our aging bridges that I obtained for SDOT, all leaders should prioritize the proactive fixing of Seattle’s bridges and so we’ll look to the Executive’s budget proposal this Fall, because the people and businesses of Seattle cannot afford another bridge closure.” 

The West Seattle Bridge was promptly and unexpectedly closed in 2020 due to safety concerns, as inspectors saw cracks growing rapidly in the 40-year-old bridge. Since then, the City of Seattle has been working to remediate the closure, and ultimately decided to repair the bridge in lieu of replacing it. Repair work has been underway for two years but was delayed due to the recent, regional concrete strike. 

As part of their announcement today, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) released a tentative schedule for the remaining work, while simultaneously cautioning that large-scale projects like the repair of the West Seattle Bridge are complex and additional delays are still possible. Regardless, SDOT has pledged to continue transparently sharing information about the project schedule going forward. 

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For that press release, CLICK HERE.


February 10, 2022 update:


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.

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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.


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