Councilmember Pedersen’s Blog is the Place To Be!

November 25th, 2020

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

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

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

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

with gratitude,




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.
  • 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.



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 March through May 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 of requiring sobriety (high-barrier shelter). Unfortunately, Tent City 3 provides no formal case management services for its residents and does not measure outcomes, such as how many people transition successfully into permanent housing. 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’s surprising proposal announced in October 2022 to rotate temporarily (during March through May 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 (and illegally) 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.



OCTOBER 26, 2022

I advised the Unitarian Church at 6556 35th Ave NE to work with Tent City 3 to find a more practical location with a church host closer to more robust public transit (such as light rail) and to services for people experiencing homelessness.

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 inadequate 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. [*Note: 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.

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 March through May 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 has 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.

The proposed Bryant/Wedgwood location for Tent City 3 might work, but it seems challenging, including its long distance to services and light rail, the church’s lack of experience with such a heart-felt but difficult endeavor, and questions about Tent City 3’s next location.

My City Council office is eager to hear how the Unitarian Church hopes to address the multiple concerns.”


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.


Budget is Coming

August 25th, 2022

Friends and Neighbors,

Let’s dive in. To round out your summer reading list, here’s our August newsletter:


DISTRICT 4

National Night Out Crime Prevention Block Parties

On August 2, 2022, I had fun attending 8 block parties from the U District to View Ridge. As you probably know, “Night Out” is 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.

Thanks to all neighborhood leaders who organized an event on their block so neighbors could get to know each other again. For other crime prevention needs, you can contact a Crime Prevention Coordinator by CLICKING HERE. I worked hard to secure funding for two Crime Prevention Coordinators in North Seattle: they are already hired and ready to meet with you to share crime prevention tips.

 

ADDENDUM: Wedgwood Community Picnic 

The Wedgwood Community Council invites everyone to join them at the 5th annual Wedgwood Community Picnic! The picnic will take place on Saturday, September 10th, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

 

View Ridge: Annual “Party in the Park” is Back!

The Great Wallingford Wurst Festival Returns!

(pre-COVID photo of the Great Wallingford Wurst Festival from their website)

The Great Wallingford Wurst Festival is a fun community event for families, including live music from 16 local musical acts, great food / beverages, bouncy houses, a “Fun Zone” filled with games and prizes for kids, a variety of crafts and vendors, a sweet shop, and an outdoor beer garden for those 21 and older.  Friday, September 16, 2022 from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Saturday, September 17, 2022 from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. at the St. Benedict Catholic School Grounds between N. 48th and N. 49th Streets on Wallingford Ave. For more info, visit the Great Wallingford Wurst Festival Facebook page.

Exploring Wallingford

The organization Historic Wallingford has put together a self-guided tour: CLICK HERE. In addition to tours like this, you can learn more about Wallingford from several community organizations including the Wallyhood news blog, the Wallingford Chamber of Commerce, Wallingford Community Council, and Welcoming Wallingford.

Burke Museum (U District) Summer of Learning Event

This Sunday, August 28, youth and their families who participated in the Seattle Public Library’s Summer of Learning program (also known as “Superhero Summer”) can enjoy a free day at the Burke Museum (4300 15th Ave NE on the northwest corner of UW’s main campus). Families will have the opportunity to learn more about dinosaurs, fossils, Northwest Native art, plant and animal collections, and cultural pieces from across the globe. Even if you didn’t participate this summer, the Burke Museum is always a fun and edifying place to visit. For more info, CLICK HERE.


PUBLIC SAFETY

Mayor Harrell’s Plan to Recruit and Restore Police Staffing: APPROVED!

Mayor Bruce Harrell signing a bill into law earlier this year at City Hall.

Mayor Harrell signed his police officer recruitment legislation (Council Bill 120389) into law August 18, 2022 — as soon as he received the Council-approved bill from the City Clerk.

The departures of police officers continued at a higher-than-expected pace as of the 2nd Quarter of this year. SPD saw a whopping 109 separations during just the first six months of 2022, which essentially means they have practically blown through the estimates for the entire 12-month period. While SPD doesn’t have the full details yet, it was probably due in part to what I had noted in my June newsletter: “I’m afraid this attrition of officers AND detectives will be much worse next month because of a new State law (SHB 1701). Unfortunately, that new State law financially incentivizes officers eligible for retirement to retire by July 1, 2022 before a special benefit expires.”

Foreseeing this challenge a year ago, I introduced on September 10th, 2021 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 then, there was a very clear election last November, coupled with more recent data showing unacceptable increases in 9-1-1 response times and unacceptable increases in crime. So I’m grateful that the new Mayor’s recruitment incentives passed this month.

A remarkable and positive point made in Mayor Harrell’s plan: “As of May 2022, the number of trained and deployable officers — just 954 — is the lowest in over 30 years…Mayor Bruce Harrell’s goal is to increase the number of Seattle police officers who are authorized, funded, fully trained, and deployable to 1,450…”

Here’s Mayor Harrell’s statement when the Council approved his recruitment legislation, 8/16/2022:

“This is a positive step in the right direction as we seek to make Seattle a safe place for every neighbor and rebuild and restore the Seattle Police Department in line with our highest values, priorities, and aspirations. This challenge created over years cannot be solved overnight, but this plan will help move us forward.

“Police are but one piece of our plan to ensure public safety; however, they are a crucial element. Our police staffing crisis limits our deployment of officers, deteriorates emergency response times, and impacts investigative work. Combining improved SPD staffing with community-based programs, economic development efforts, and activation and environmental design strategies, we can make long-term progress creating safe neighborhoods for all the people of Seattle.

“Similarly, hiring incentives are but one piece of our recruitment plan – they demonstrate our urgency and dedication to staying competitive with departments across our region. Further, we’re prioritizing a diverse candidate pool, simplifying the application process, hiring recruiters, and pursuing education and career advancement opportunities for future officers. We are also focused on retaining current officers through a competitive economic package and commitment to officer wellness and morale.

“Above all else, the key to recruiting and retaining officers is the need to change the narrative in our city. To make Seattle a place where officers feel welcome and supported, where they know we value and respect their good work, where they can believe in our mission for safety for everyone, and where we acknowledge a shared commitment to constitutional, unbiased, innovative policing.

“I’m grateful for the Council’s thoughtful legislative engagement to strengthen and pass this plan. My administration is committed to swiftly implementing our plan, hiring needed officers, and delivering effective public safety for all communities.”

Here’s my statement when originally voting for Mayor’s recruitment legislation at the Public Safety Committee, 8/9/2022:

“Seattle police staffing is dangerously low and crime is unacceptably high. Our new mayor has a plan, so let’s get it done.  Mayor Harrell announced his recruitment plan on July 13 and this legislation is needed to implement that plan, so I’m eager to pass the Council Bill today…

I receive emails from constituents every day expressing their concerns about public safety. We need to restore the detectives we lost so that we can solve crimes and we need to restore the community policing officers we lost so that we can prevent crimes.

As we continue to deepen accountability reforms and craft alternatives to respond to some behavioral health emergencies, I support the Mayor’s SPD recruitment plan and I look forward to supporting more efforts to RETAIN the highly qualified officers already here, continuing to serve our City admirably. We know it takes a long time to train and deploy new recruits.  Thank you.”

– Councilmember Alex Pedersen

  • For Mayor Harrell’s 8/16/2022 statement on City Council’s passage of the bill authorizing his police recruitment plan, CLICK HERE.
  • For Mayor Harrell’s Recruitment Plan, CLICK HERE and HERE.
  • For the video of the Mayor making his announcement and answering questions, CLICK HERE.
  • For the SPD staffing report from City Council’s Central Staff report from August 9, 2022, 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.

CITY BUDGET AND TAXES

The Fall Budget Season is Coming:

While some might imagine Councilmember Pedersen’s fiscal moderation as wielding an austere budget ax (or a sword made from Valyrian steel), he actually would like to see additional investments for several City priorities (and he would never wear fur)! Of course, fans of that TV drama will remember what happens to this character at the end of season 1.

In just one month, Mayor Harrell will propose his first budget as the City’s chief executive. Then your City Council 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.

You can always communicate your budget priorities to me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov, to the entire City Council at Council@seattle.gov, and to the Mayor (CLICK HERE for his contact form).

Based on the priorities I continue to hear consistently from constituents, I’m hoping the Mayor’s budget proposal (expected by September 27) allocates ample funding to increase public safety and reduce homelessness. In addition, I would expect to see more investments in transportation safety, including pedestrian safety (especially in South Seattle) and bridge safety. As you may recall, I joined many residents, construction workers, and businesses 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 to see a budget from the executive that makes a clear and bold investment in bridges, to demonstrate that infrastructure issue is being taken seriously. This is especially important in light of the disturbing 2020 audit of our bridges and in anticipation of City Hall officials trying to convince 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 see follow-through on the 2020 “Internet for All” digital equity action plan and to fund the basics of safety, access, and cleanliness at all City parks and community centers. (Note: the separate Parks District budget we’ve been talking a lot about lately is just 20% of the budget for Parks & Recreation). And, of course, I’ll be eager to make sure District 4 priorities are met.

Ideally, the budget would minimize the “Administration” costs (which have increased at a disturbing rate from 14% in 2015 to 21% in 2022 for all funds) and would minimize the “Utility Taxes” (which essentially require the people and businesses paying their utility bills for electricity, trash, and water to subsidize the City’s General Fund on top of paying the full cost of the utilities). Personnel costs comprise the bulk of General Fund expenses (including base salaries for the 12,000 city government employees that average $100,000, plus benefits and pensions), so it’s important that labor contracts are appropriately negotiated.

City analysts recently confirmed the assessment my office reported in my June 2022 newsletter, “There is no budget deficit in city government…A simple amendment to increase flexibility for how we use JumpStart [employer payroll] tax revenues would enable us to plug the General Fund gap and still provide ample dollars for JumpStart’s important goals.” That’s because that relatively new business payroll tax will be raking in $294 million — at least $71 million more than originally anticipated for 2023 and it’s likely to rake in at least $84 million more than originally anticipated for 2024.

I’m grateful to our City Budget Chair Councilmember Mosqueda for proactively proposing a path to put in place a solution to the shortage in the City’s General Fund by temporarily shifting some of the dollars from the payroll tax fund. Shifting the higher than anticipated portion of the payroll tax revenues to the General Fund will still enable more than $200 million a year on the original spending plan for that payroll tax, the bulk of which is for low-income housing.

For a Seattle Times article from August 23, 2022 about our Budget Chair’s flexibility on temporarily sharing the City revenues, CLICK HERE.

(Note: “Public Safety” includes the 911 Call Center, the Emergency Operations Center, Firefighters, the City Attorney’s Office, and Seattle Municipal Court, as well as police).

  • For the City budget adopted in 2022 and previous budgets, 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. For their rough draft of how we might temporarily shift the higher than anticipated amounts from the payroll tax to address the 2023 and 2024 gaps in our City’s flexible General Fund, CLICK HERE.

AFFORDABILITY

Far too many people struggle to afford Seattle. I believe City Hall should do more to prevent residents and small businesses from being displaced. For example, City Hall should minimize increases in utility bills – everyone pays those bills and they’re regressive (lower income households pay a greater portion of their income for these basic expenses). We should continue to make it easier for lower income households to use lower cost transit to get around town. Your city government should control its own spending, so that we minimize increases in regressive taxes – not only minimizing sales taxes, but also minimizing property taxes – which negatively impact seniors on fixed incomes and can be passed along to renters in apartments and small businesses renting storefronts. City Hall can also do more to create affordable housing for low-income residents, not only with monetary subsidies but also with zoning.

City planning process must encourage more low-income housing near transit.

Let’s consider increasing density along transit lines and make it 100% low-income housing — because that’s what Seattle needs.

Seattle’s Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) is currently determining the scope of the required Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan overhaul, a 20-year planning document which State law requires City policymakers to update in a major way every ten years to establish parameters for land use, housing, and related policies. I appreciated OPCD’s presentation to the City Council’s Land Use Committee on May 11, 2022 and OPCD extending the formal comment period to August 22, 2022. (I noted this process in my June 2022 newsletter.)  Here are OPCD’s initial 5 scoping alternatives for the new Comp Plan EIS:

After careful consideration, I have concluded that the five initial alternatives presented by OPCD are inadequate in the face of our city’s affordable housing and homelessness crises, because no alternative prevents the demolition of existing affordable housing and no alternative requires any production of low-income housing in exchange for giving away increased density benefits to the for-profit real estate development market.

I, therefore, propose adding to the “One Seattle Plan” EIS an alternative that directly meets the goals of preventing displacement and producing low-income housing:

Alternative L: “the Low-Income Housing Alternative”:

(1) On existing frequent transit arterial corridors in Neighborhood Residential zones, permit multifamily developments of up to 6-unit stacked flats (per each 5,000 square foot lot) requiring 100% low-income housing [defined as rental units affordable to households below 50% of area median income (AMI) or homeownership units affordable at 80% of AMI] and (2) to prevent displacement, projects demolishing existing, affordable single family rentals or affordable multifamily housing in any zone would need to adhere to existing zoning (i.e. not allowed to profit from density increased after 2022). The “L” stands for low-income housing, because that’s what we need.

(Per the City’s Office of Housing for 2022, 50% AMI = $45,000 for a household of one person and $64,000 for a family of four. 80% AMI = $66,000 for a household of one person and $95,000 for a family of four.)

One may try to argue this new Alternative L could fit into OPCD’s Alternative 4 (see below for OPCD’s initial alternatives). I disagree that my proposed Alternative L would fit into Alternative 4, because OPCD’s Alternative 4 does not require any low-income housing, it does not prevent demolitions of affordable housing, and — in a move that could encourage an increase in the use of polluting single occupancy vehicles — it gives free reign to developers “near” frequent transit rather than strategically on transit corridors.

Focus on Low-Income Housing Production:

If we want and need low-income housing to address our city’s affordability and homelessness crises, then let’s not beat around the bush — let’s require just that. The “housing of all types” slogan in the emerging “One Seattle Plan” or the catchphrase “Missing Middle” appears to give away all discretion to the private, for-profit market with no low-income housing requirements.  The private market would surely attempt to maximize profits from changes in City policy by demolishing existing affordable housing and then developing small units and/or townhomes that are less accessible to people with impaired mobility, including seniors who want to age in place and families needing larger units along transit corridors. When considering Alternative L, the focus must be not on the allowance for up to 6 units where 1 unit may currently exist on the frequent transit arterials (increased density), but rather on the requirement that all these new units be low-income housing (100% of the units at 50% AMI for rental and 80% AMI for ownership). In other words, no low-income housing, no new upzone. The Comp Plan should be about increasing low-income housing, not altering City policies in a way that enriches landowners.

Prevent Displacement by Preventing Demolitions:

The materials from OPCD about “displacement” seem to imply that preventing displacement means allowing demolitions of existing housing to build more market-rate units. After already approving more than 25 upzones just three years ago, why quickly change our existing zoning again in a way that could encourage more demolitions, if demolitions equal displacements? Where do those Seattle residents go after their buildings are demolished and housing that is more expensive is built over two years later in its place?

If we truly want to prevent displacement, I believe the scope of the “One Seattle Plan” EIS should explicitly include assessments of the displacement impacts as well as proven mitigation measures for ALL the alternatives. Ultimately, the “One Seattle Plan” itself should include policies requiring the implementation of prevention and mitigation measures (such as immediate one-for-one replacement of affordable housing units lost) before the City grants final approval to another upzone or a proposed development project likely to result in increased displacement (i.e., requiring prevention and mitigation before displacement occurs).

We are still trying to understand the impacts, including demolitions of affordable housing, displacement of residents, and market-rate development capacity of the upzones of more than 25 neighborhoods in 2019. After the upzones of the University District by a previous City Council, we have seen demolitions of naturally occurring affordable housing at a higher rate than promised and we have seen nearly all developers opting out of building affordable housing in that neighborhood where many struggle to pay rent. A similar pattern appears to be unfolding in many of the communities upzoned recently in conjunction with “Mandatory Housing Affordability” (MHA) policies. Instead of providing affordable housing onsite, these developers have written a check to pay an “in-lieu” fee that the City uses to fund different projects approximately three years later somewhere else, which is not ideal. Words and assurances and resolutions don’t prevent displacement (or build low-income housing integrated into a neighborhood). Preventing demolitions prevents displacement. To learn from Seattle’s experience, let’s not confer additional development benefits to projects that will demolish existing affordable housing.

Council Bill 120325, approved by a majority of City Council this year, would have engaged a research university to collect data on existing rents throughout the City, thereby providing the block-by-block analysis needed to know where density can be increased in a way that avoids the demolition of existing affordable housing.  The failure of the executive to adopt that legislation brings into question how City departments can accurately assess displacement risk and comply with the City’s displacement prevention policies. This lack of data on in-place rents for existing rental units further necessitates a clear alternative in the Comp Plan that more widely discourages demolitions of existing affordable housing (my Alternative L), as well as putting in place displacement mitigation requirements before upzones go into effect with any of the other alternatives.

More reasons to insist on encouraging only low-income housing and preventing demolitions:

One can argue that today’s allowable development capacity from the existing “2035 Comp Plan” adopted in 2016 can already accommodate the growth envisioned by the forthcoming 20-year Comp Plan dubbed the “One Seattle Plan”: a total of 112,000 new units is only 5,600 additional units per year. During the six year period from 2016 through 2021 (which includes two years of the pandemic), 47,514 new units were produced, which is an average of nearly 8,000 new units per year.  Because sufficient capacity for “housing of all types” already exists, any additional upzones should serve the public benefit of enabling production of more low-income housing and should certainly not incentivize the demolition of it. Unless MHA fees are increased, MHA will be inadequate. City officials claimed MHA would produce 6,000 low-income units through 2025, and it has produced just 3,300 low-income units through 2021, while losing unquantified numbers of naturally occurring affordable units due to demolitions.

Therefore, in the midst of a homelessness crisis, the new Comp Plan should not be a vague, scattershot call to build “housing of all types” or “missing middle” (i.e., whatever builders deem most profitable that may or may not trickle down eventually to benefit the public), but rather a call to action to quickly create the housing the City needs the most — for those most in need: 100% low-income housing. We should not squander this ten-year opportunity by giving away to the private market additional profits and land values without receiving the public benefits the City actually needs: 100% low-income housing. The “One Seattle Plan’s” land use and housing policies should achieve these public benefit goals, which I believe requires the inclusion of Alternative L to create 100% low-income housing and prevent additional displacement.

I will continue to discourage City Hall from implementing new land use policies that give away additional monetary value to those who intend to demolish affordable housing and who are not building housing actually affordable to low-income households in Seattle during the homelessness crisis.

I’ll look forward to OPCD’s updated alternatives for the Draft EIS in October 2022 (ideally including my Alternative L), the Draft EIS in April 2023, and the Final EIS and Mayor’s Recommended Plan in April 2024.


TRANSPORTATION & SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMITTEE

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

Vetting Mayor’s Nominee to Lead SDOT

Gregory Spotts, Mayor Bruce Harrell’s nominee to become the next Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), joined Councilmember Pedersen last month on the University Bridge to discuss the need to address the safety of Seattle’s aging infrastructure, including this multimodal bridge ranked “poor” by the 2020 audit of Seattle’s bridges. You can see the U District growing in the background. It appears they both received the “blue shirt + sunglasses” memo!

Mayor Harrell’s nomination 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. As Transportation Chair for the legislative branch of city government, I’m collaborating with my colleagues to conduct a thorough and transparent process for this important nomination. Together, we are following the methodical confirmation process outlined in Seattle Resolution 31868. I believe Seattle deserves a department director with a balanced and practical approach to urban transportation.  I am grateful the Mayor provided us with such a strong candidate for consideration to lead this department upon which all Seattle residents and businesses rely.

As part of the standard process, Councilmembers submitted several written questions to the nominee. In his answers, Greg Spotts said he plans to “infuse the department with the values of responsiveness, innovation, transparency and accountability” and to “bring to life the Transportation Equity Framework by embedding these concepts and techniques in the daily activities and functions of the department.”

He will discuss his answers during his second appearance at our committee on Tuesday, September 6 at 9:30 a.m. It’s likely the Committee will vote on his nomination later that morning.

Here’s a sample of Mr. Spotts’ written answers to two questions on safety: pedestrian safety and bridge safety:

PEDESTRIAN SAFETY: Following a national trend, Seattle has seen an unacceptably high number of traffic collisions this year. How will you advance Seattle’s Vision Zero goal of zero traffic fatalities by the year 2030?

“I have already heard loud and clear that the number one priority of Seattleites is safety, no matter what mode a person chooses to use. That is why I am committed, between now and the New Year, to conducting a top-to-bottom review of the City’s Vision Zero program. Seattle continues to see an increase in deaths and serious injuries in our streets. While this trend is being seen across our country, it doesn’t lessen the tragedy that each and every one of these incidents represent.

“I’m eager to start working with the SDOT team to conduct this review of Seattle’s Vision Zero efforts. This review will include rigorous analysis of collision data to learn more about where crashes are occurring, the factors that are contributing to these incidents, and the effectiveness of safety-related interventions that have been installed on Seattle’s streetscape. I intend to work with the team to review our Vision Zero engineering strategies and push the team to consider new, innovative approaches to safety-focused street design. I am committed to publishing a new Vision Zero Action Plan within the first six months of my tenure to set our course toward safer streets.

“I also want to see where there are opportunities in the first few months to take swift action to make our right-of-way safer for our most vulnerable users; I will be working with staff to implement those early actions. I’m excited to hear directly from you about what Vision Zero interventions are important to your constituents, and I want to hear from residents and businesses in all corners of the city about what is important to them and how Vision Zero improvements can help. I also know that we can’t solve this problem on our own and look forward to forging strong partnerships with the Washington State Department of Transportation, Sound Transit, the Port of Seattle, and King County Metro, as well as with community safety advocates.

“I’m confident that we can make progress toward Vision Zero and excited to lead SDOT as we chart the future for this priority program. I am certain of one thing: the path to reducing traffic related injuries and deaths begins with every one of SDOT’s more than 1,000 staff making safety a central focus of their daily work; we require a One Seattle approach to make the progress that Seattle needs.”

BRIDGES: Seattle is a city connected by bridges and the city has suffered from the closure of the West Seattle Bridge during the past two years. How will you apply in Seattle your experience upgrading or building bridges in Los Angeles, California?

“Before voters consider a renewal of the multi-year property tax levy called “Move Seattle” in 2024, how do you plan to expedite repairs to many of Seattle’s bridges, especially those ranking ‘poor’ by the audit conducted in 2020 and those originally promised for seismic upgrades from the 2015 levy?

“As I said in my remarks to the Transportation and Seattle Public Utilities Committee, one of my first areas of focus will be on bridges. I want to make sure that we are using best practices in asset management to maintain, repair, retrofit, and, when necessary, replace our bridge assets. I appreciated the opportunity to tour the University Bridge with Councilmember Pedersen on the day I was announced as Mayor Harrell’s nominee. I’ve already begun familiarizing myself with the work being done to improve Seattle’s bridges and I’ve been researching best practices across west coast cities.

“I think it is essential that we accelerate SDOT’s work on bridge repair, seismic reinforcement and maintenance of structural and mechanical systems. We need to build confidence among the residents of Seattle that SDOT is embarked on a strategic and sequenced plan that takes care of our bridge assets in a proactive manner, ensuring the safety of the traveling public and the resiliency of our transportation network for people and goods. I have seen the beginnings of that good work and am committed to analyze, systematize, and accelerate these efforts, including the completion of the bridge audit recommendations. I plan to communicate frequently to you and the public on this topic. On a case-by-case basis, I am willing to involve outside subject matter experts if I determine that such input is needed to further strengthen our people, systems and technology across the full spectrum of bridge activities.

“Regarding outside funding, I will be working with SDOT staff to strategically and aggressively pursue grant opportunities for bridges. I will also be ensuring that we are fully expending available budget for bridge maintenance, supporting the acceleration of work on grant funds recently received, and assessing the Move Seattle Levy bridge commitments to finish strong on the Levy.

  • For the video of Greg Spotts introducing himself at our Committee August 16, 2022, CLICK HERE.
  • For Mr. Spott’s appointment packet, CLICK HERE.
  • For video of the mayor’s announcement and Mr. Spotts’ remarks, CLICK HERE and for the Mayor’s press release, CLICK HERE.
  • For a link to biographical information about Gregory Spotts, the Mayor’s nominee for SDOT Director, CLICK HERE.

West Seattle Bridge Finally Opening Sunday, September 18, 2022

From SDOT’s website: “We are in the final stages of repairs and testing, and we are excited to reopen the [West Seattle high] bridge. We know the closure has created big challenges. Thank you for your patience and resilience. When the West Seattle Bridge reopens, we will lift all restrictions on the Spokane Street Swing Bridge (low bridge). It will take some time to remove restriction signs and markings, but beginning September 18, the low bridge will be open for all to use. After the reopening, we will also remove detour route signs and you should see neighborhood traffic return to normal levels in the following weeks.

Seattle Transit Measure: Buses for All

Riding the magic bus last month with Team Morales, SDOT, and Vision Zero champions. Councilmember Pedersen lost that round of musical chairs. (For an Op Ed in the Seattle Times regarding Vision Zero by Gordon Padelford, CLICK HERE.)

At our Transportation Committee on August 16, 2022, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) presented their annual report of the “Seattle Transit Measure” (also known as the Seattle Transportation Benefit District).  Calling it a “Year 1 Report” is a bit of a misnomer because it covers 18 months. As noted in the report, it “details programmatic activities and financial information for both the final six months of the 2014 Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1 (which expired at the end of 2020) and the first year of the 2020 Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1 (approved by voters in November 2020 to replace the expiring measure).”

Next Steps: A key takeaway for me is how transit ridership and other categories of this spending measure are in flux for several reasons:

(1) “Transit Service”: Due to many commuters working more days at home, bus ridership remains much lower than in 2019 though lower income workers continue to use transit at all hours;

(2) “Transit Access Program”: Due to a change in State law, King County will now provide free transit for riders 18 years of age and younger; and

(3) “Emerging Needs”: Due to the re-opening of the West Seattle Bridge on September 18, 2022, less spending is required for re-routing and supplementing workarounds.

Overall, the changes for just the free transit and re-opening of the bridge can free up approximately $8 million out of the $50 million sales tax portion of the spending package for 2023, while still fully providing what’s needed to supplement bus service. I believe these funds should be considered within the wider context of how to invest SDOT’s $700 million budget, the increasing need to care for Seattle’s aging transportation infrastructure that supports transit (such as multimodal bridges), and the need to fulfill promises made when voters approved the massive property tax measure in 2015 called “Move Seattle” that may need to be renewed in 2024.  And, of course, we need to be considering the input from the Transit Advisory Board due to their expertise and oversight role.

  • For SDOT’s full 24-page report, CLICK HERE. For the briefer presentation made to our Transportation Committee on August 16, 2022, CLICK HERE. For SDOT’s blog post on it, CLICK HERE.
  • For video of the transit presentation by SDOT at our Committee on August 16, 2022, CLICK HERE.

PUBLIC HEALTH and ENVIRONMENT

Phasing-Out Harmful Gasoline-Powered Leaf Blowers: CM Pedersen Legislation Vote Sept 6!

Email City Leaders to Adopt Reso 32064 to Rid Seattle of Fossil Fuel Leaf Blowers

I’d like to thank the more than 430 constituents who took my survey last month asking whether we should ban harmful gas-powered leaf blowers to rid Seattle of the air pollution and noise pollution those machines cause. A whopping 82% of respondents said, Yes to banning gasoline-fueled leaf blowers. Earlier this month, the environmental organization “350 Seattle” endorsed our concept to phase out gas-powered leaf blowers in Seattle. Last week, 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 last week we explained in more detail how D.C. did it already. We can do this, Seattle! The Committee vote was 4-0.

But we still need the full City Council to adopt the Resolution on Tuesday, September 6 at 2:00 p.m.

The main criticism of this proposal I’ve received thus far is essentially, Why are you working on banning gas-powered leaf blowers when Seattle is facing so many other problems such as public safety and homelessness? I agree! 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 the bandwidth to address this public health and environmental issue, too.

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 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.

Here are my remarks at the Sustainability Committee on 8/19/2022:

“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 Evan 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.”

– Councilmember Alex Pedersen

  • For a copy of Resolution 32064, CLICK HERE.
  • For a copy of the Summary / Fiscal Note, 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, 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.

Disturbing Data: Seattle Lost 255 Acres of Trees Since 2016.

On August 24, 2022, Seattle’s Urban Forestry Commission received the bad news that many have feared: 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), as reported by the Office of Sustainability & Environment (OSE) and the consultants hired to reassess Seattle’s tree canopy. The study was previously conducted in 2016 and this week’s disturbing results are still “preliminary.” While expressed as a deceivingly small percentage, the trend is going in the wrong direction, even as Seattle experiences more heat waves in the midst of climate change. Specifically, the tree canopy coverage was 28.6% (15,279 acres) in 2016 vs 28.1% coverage (15,024 acres) in 2021 — that’s 255 fewer acres of trees while City policy is to increase it to 30% coverage. Why not at least 33%?

As climate change worsens, I believe trees should be prioritized as vital urban infrastructure and considered an environmental justice issue. Seattle needs to make a lot of progress to earn its proud nickname of “The Emerald City” and to build our resilience in the midst of climate change. That includes implementing laws to protect more of our existing trees (the bigger, the better) and, ideally, planting at least one million trees over the next 20 years. For more about the ongoing saga to try to protect Seattle’s trees, CLICK HERE.

Saving Seattle’s Trees: Registration Website is Up for “Tree Service Providers”

Good news: A new City website is operational, enabling “Tree Service Providers” (tree cutters & arborists) to start registering with the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspection (SDCI) for work on private property. The “wild west” of tree cutting with impunity, whereby mysterious vehicles arrive on weekends or evenings to cut down trees that may or may not be permitted, is coming to an end in Seattle. That’s all thanks to the ordinance I passed with Councilmember Strauss back on March 29, 2022. (This is separate from the larger discussion on tree protections coming soon.) Although the final deadline to register is November 10, 2022, the website is available to start registering now with the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections. Beginning November 11, property owners and developers must hire a registered tree service provider from that website to complete most tree work on their property. For that website, CLICK HERE and use the SDCI links (not the SDOT links). For SDCI’s announcement, CLICK HERE.

Our office continues to hear disturbing reports of bad actors cutting down protected trees, such as those defined as “Exceptional.” Until the new registration law takes effect November 10, you can CLICK HERE to file a complaint if you suspect illegal tree cutting. Note: the more accurate the address you provide along with photos, the more able SDCI will be to investigate the matter. Feel free to cc my office if the incident occurs in District 4 (Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov).

For more about the ongoing saga to try to protect Seattle’s trees, CLICK HERE.

 

Beat the Heat: Cooling Centers:

  • For a current (July 2022) list of cooling centers from your City government including some libraries and community centers, CLICK HERE.
  • For a Seattle Times article, “How to stay cool,” CLICK HERE.
  • Here is some information from Seattle-King County Public Health, CLICK HERE.

 

Monkeypox:

You may have heard about Monkeypox from the media. Here’s information from the Public Health agency of Seattle-King County: “Monkeypox is a disease caused by a virus. It is typically spread through close physical contact. The virus often causes a rash, which may look like bumps on your skin, blisters, or ulcers. Some people have a flu-like illness before they develop a rash. Infections with the strain of monkeypox virus identified in the U.S. outbreak are rarely fatal, and most people recover in 2-4 weeks…If you have symptoms of monkeypox you should contact your health care provider immediately for an evaluation…The medical and scientific community is still learning about monkeypox because the current outbreak is still very new. Information will be updated as we learn more.” As of 8/24/2022, King County is reporting 311 cases so far. For more public health information, CLICK HERE.

 

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

(This snapshot was as of August 24, 2022 for the city of Seattle.)

  • 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.

 

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

I continue to schedule virtual in-district office hours, so we can chat by telephone or via Webex. Please continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests. I hope to return to in-person office hours Friday afternoons before the end of the summer — at the Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center so that we are more centrally located and within walking distance of light rail and additional bus lines.  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


Safety and more in July

July 29th, 2022

Friends and Neighbors,

Safety has been a theme for July. The need for safety in our communities and safety in our parks. Safety for women seeking health care. Safety from the heat waves of climate change. Safety for Seattle’s aging bridges and safety for neighbors simply trying to cross the street.

Mayor Bruce Harrell on July 27, 2022 nominating Gregory Spotts to be the next Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). The safety of our streets, bridges, and sidewalks will need to be a major focus on the new director. The committee chaired by Councilmember Alex Pedersen will handle the confirmation process. You can see more info in the Transportation section of this newsletter…

In this month’s newsletter


DISTRICT 4

Fun Program for Low-Income Immigrant Children at Magnuson Park

(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.

During our budget deliberations in November 2021, I persuaded our Budget Committee to add a modest investment for a nonprofit that would serve an underserved population after school and then expand during the summer months at Magnuson Park. As you may know, 850 low-income neighbors reside at the apartments inside Magnuson Park, including 350 children. While there is an early childhood education center and some youth programming, there is not as much available for elementary school children – particularly those kids who reside at the low-income housing within Magnuson Park.

When evaluating programs for public investment, I typically prefer to expand or replicate proven existing programs rather than fund something new. But the persistent gap of services, the delayed renovation of their community center, and the uncertainty of COVID persuaded me to facilitate seed funding for a new nonprofit serving immigrant children. Our City Parks Department manages the contract with “Kids & Paper” and reports positive results thus far.

Earlier this month, I attended their first “anniversary” celebration with dozens of children from various backgrounds playing games and having fun together. This summer, 88% of the 60 children enrolled in the program reside in the low-income housing within Magnuson Park. The program is limited by how many staff they need to provide an appropriate ratio supervising the children. I’m hopeful the Harrell Administration will choose to continue the program in the budget proposal the executive branch submits to the City Council in September for the next calendar year.  For more information about the nonprofit Kids & Paper, CLICK HERE.

University District

Councilmember Pedersen and Don Blakeney, the Executive Director of the Business Improvement Area’s nonprofit program manager (U District Partnership), got their Sunday afternoon exercise exploring the changing streets throughout the heart of District 4, including the recent opening of NE 43rd Street to buses for better, direct connections to the light rail. Later in July, Councilmember Pedersen attended the board meeting of the U District Partnership to discuss public safety, homelessness, transportation, alley garbage problems, and the City budget.

Protecting Diverse Restaurants in D4 and throughout Seattle: Capping Delivery Fees

Our district is proud of its diverse restaurants serving delicious food from several neighborhood business districts including Eastlake, Ravenna, Roosevelt, Wallingford, Wedgwood, and, of course the U District.

To protect our struggling, local restaurants from a financial cliff, I co-sponsored legislation with Councilmember Dan Strauss to make permanent the 15% cap on fees that delivery corporations charge to Seattle restaurants. That cap on delivery fees has demonstrated its importance to local restaurants as part of a Civil Emergency Order for the past couple of years, but it will end as soon as the Mayor ends the Civil Emergency – unless we take action. We need your support – click on the button below to help.

I understand that this legislation has the local government inserting itself into the private marketplace and so this must be done carefully and to benefit the public. Here are some additional considerations: This key point of the legislation has already been tested – the 15% cap has been in place for over two years. Moreover, we added an “opt out” provision that provides additional flexibility for both parties. There are hundreds of local restaurants employing and serving thousands of our neighbors here in Seattle and there are just three large delivery corporations all headquartered out of state. For additional rationale, see the multiple findings articulated in the legislation (Council Bill 120379).

I’d like to thank citywide Councilmember Sara Nelson for making room at her Economic Development Committee this month to discuss and vote on the legislation. Good news: This small business legislation passed unanimously out of her committee on July 27.  I look forward to the entire City Council and Mayor enacting this legislation as soon as possible, so that Seattle’s diverse local restaurants can be free from the fear of fees to focus on fantastic food.

For my statement on the legislation, CLICK HERE.

CLICK to Urge “Yes” Vote for Seattle Restaurants

Wedgwood Arts Festival: It’s Back!

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.

Speaking of Wedgwood…

Redevelopment Plans for Wedgwood Shopping Center

As mentioned in the June 29, 2022 edition of the Daily Journal of Commerce and discussed recently at the Wedgwood Community Council, the Wedgwood shopping center on the southeast corner of 35th Ave NE and 85th Street (you know, home to the Broiler and Van Gough Coffee) is likely to be redeveloped. Normally, I would not comment on a potential purchase in the middle of its due diligence period, but it was already reported in the media — so here’s an excerpt from the article:

The 2-acre North Seattle property, owned by an area family, hasn’t traded in decades…Now, with architect Solomon Cordwell Buenz, prospective buyer Security Properties has filed an early redevelopment plan. The proposal hasn’t yet entered design review. It describes a midrise apartment building with 280 units over retail/commercial space. The latter would have 34,500 square feet for an unnamed grocer on the north corner, at North 85th Street. On the south corner, North 82nd Street, would be another 14,000 square feet of commercial space. Five stories seems likely for a site that’s zoned up to 55 feet. Security Properties has ample experience with similar midrise projects like the planned Magnolia Albertsons redo, and past Fremont PCC and apartments…Security Properties says it would like to retain current tenants in the new development.”

I have reached out to Security Properties to encourage them to conduct a robust community engagement process. Security Properties is a highly experienced developer/owner, based in Seattle, but with a national footprint owning an array of multifamily housing and mixed-use developments. They have already reached out to the existing commercial tenants there and want to bring back a grocery store if they proceed to redevelop that important site.

If you want to stay up to speed on this development and/or provide input, I recommend participating in the Wedgwood Community Council: https://www.wedgwoodcc.org/getinvolved/

Wallingford Farmers Market

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.

Restoring Historic Landmark in U District: Thank goodness it’s not another bank!

In her landmark critique of urban planning, “The Death and Life of American Cities,” Jane Jacobs explained in great detail the necessity of historic buildings for a vibrant city.  In her chapter entitled “The generators of diversity,” Jacobs writes, “The district must mingle buildings that vary in age and condition, including a good proportion of old ones…” (page 150). Then she devotes an entire chapter to this called “The need for aged buildings” in which she writes, “Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them” (page 187). One of the reasons is that older buildings typically have less debt to pay off and lower taxes and can charge lower rent than upzoned or brand-new buildings. That then enables small businesses who need cheaper rent to offer eclectic products and services (think Gargoyle Statuary on The Ave) without needing the economies of scale of chain stores, fast food, or banks. Jane Jacobs articulates it better: “Chain stores, chain restaurants and banks go into new construction…Perhaps more significant, hundreds of ordinary enterprises, necessary to the safety and public life of streets and neighborhoods, and appreciated for their convenience and personal quality, can make out successfully in old buildings, but are inexorably slain by the high overhead of new construction” (page 188).

Earlier this month, I joined the University District Partnership, University of Washington, and Historic Seattle to celebrate the completed historic renovation of the 110-year old iconic building on the corner of NE 45th Street and “The Ave” in the heart of the U District. This newly renovated interior space with its exterior façade beautifully restored for the next 100 years is going to be occupied by an additional location of the Seattle Bouldering Project. This small business with rock-climbing and fitness classes will bring lots of foot traffic and will energize that key corner of the U District that has been partially dormant during the pandemic. Making sure some historic buildings are intermingled with the new construction is important to generate the building diversity that creates vitality and sense of place in that Urban Center. Thank goodness, it’s not just another bank branch.

U Village Summer Concerts

Enjoy free music outdoors at U Village on August Wednesdays 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., August 3 (Nite Wave), August 10 (Kalimba: Spirit of Earth Wind Fire), and August 17 (Hit Explosion). For more information, CLICK HERE.

View Ridge Elementary Crossing Guard – 2nd Position Available

Thanks to advocacy from parents, school officials, and community leaders, View Ridge Elementary School is poised to get a 2nd crossing guard because we know neighborhood kids walk to school from multiple directions. The Seattle Public School system has to work hard to recruit and retain school crossing guards, so we’re spreading the news here: They’re hiring!


ADDRESSING HOMELESSNESS

New Low-Income Housing Near Light Rail in the Heart of District 4

Last week, our Committee discussed a petition from Sound Transit asking the City of Seattle to vacate a portion of an alley in the University District, which is in the heart of my Council District. As you may recall, we successfully arranged to have Sound Transit generously lease their land to the City for a couple of years to create a 35-unit Tiny Home Village, called Rosie’s Village, at the corner of NE 45th Street and Roosevelt Way NE. As has always been the ultimate goal for that site, we want to build lots of permanent low-income housing. My hope is that we will maximize the number of units at the deepest affordability levels. Ideally, all the future units will, on average, serve households earning less than 60% of area median income with at least 35 of the units set aside for extremely low income residents at risk of homelessness (at 0% to 30% AMI). My preliminary view is that I agree with Sound Transit that vacating a portion of that alley could enable a nonprofit housing developer to build more units of low-income housing there.

After the upzones of the University District by a previous City Council, we have seen demolitions of naturally occurring affordable housing and nearly all developers opting out of building affordable housing in the neighborhood. Demolitions directly displace our neighbors. Instead of providing the affordable housing onsite, they have written a check to pay an in-lieu fee that the City uses to fund different projects 3 years later somewhere else, which is not ideal. Here we have a parcel we can use to build low-income housing near the new light rail station, and we can build more of it by vacating part of our alley without impacting emergency vehicles. The presentation earlier this month was just a pre-view of Sound Transit’s petition; it would be at a later meeting when we would impose our public benefit requirements in exchange for allowing a partial vacating of the alley.

  • For the petition materials asking the City to vacate part of that alley, CLICK HERE.
  • For the presentation at our committee, CLICK HERE.
  • To see Mayor’s Harrell’s Homelessness Action Plan website, CLICK HERE.

PUBLIC SAFETY

Supporting Mayor Harrell’s Plan to Recruit and Restore Police Staffing

I support Mayor Harrell’s plan to recruit officers. 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 last year — 10 months ago – 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. So I’m hopeful the Mayor’s recruitment incentives will pass next month.

A remarkable and positive point made in the mayor’s plan: “As of May 2022, the number of trained and deployable officers — just 954 — is the lowest in over 30 years…Mayor Bruce Harrell’s goal is to increase the number of Seattle police officers who are authorized, funded, fully trained, and deployable to 1,450…”

More than 400 officers and detectives have left the department since January 2020 so, while I’m glad to see a boost for recruitment, I believe we also need to RETAIN the highly trained professionals ALREADY here in Seattle. I 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.

I look forward to deliberating with my colleagues on the Mayor’s new legislation to address the staffing crisis at SPD.

  • For Mayor Harrell’s Recruitment Plan, CLICK HERE and HERE.
  • For the video of the Mayor making his announcement and answering questions, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Response Time Report for 1st Quarter 2022, 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.

National Night Out

“Night Out” is a national event held on Tuesday evening, August 2, 2022, for neighbors to enjoy time together on side streets in their community and to connect and share food while heightening crime prevention awareness. To register your block for the event or to find an event near you for National Night Out, CLICK HERE.

Last year I visited several of these neighborhood block parties and I’ll be out there again Tuesday night. Thanks to all neighborhood leaders who are organizing an event on their block so neighbors can get to know each other again. This long-standing tradition is consistent with the fresh spirit of “One Seattle.”

For more immediate crime prevention needs, contact a Crime Prevention Coordinator by CLICKING HERE. I worked hard to secure funding for two Crime Prevention Coordinators in North Seattle: Sarah and Katelyn are already hired and ready to meet with you to share crime prevention tips.


TAKE THE SURVEY

Instructions:  Click below to answer the one-question survey!

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.
Take the Survey


CITY BUDGET AND TAXES

Parks: Some City Officials Want to Double The Portion of Your Property Tax That Supplements Parks

We are eagerly awaiting the mayor’s proposal for how much the executive branch of city government wants us to reinvest in Seattle’s parks. The current proposal from the Parks Department is to double the portion of your property taxes that goes toward the Parks District and I have concerns about such a steep increase. I believe we all want our parks to be safe, clean, and open, but I don’t think you should have to double what you pay to achieve what should be a baseline condition of your parks. I edited the bar graph above to visualize what a more modest increase might include.

Here are my comments at Parks District Committee on July 25, 2022:

“Thank you, President Lewis, for the opportunity to speak to these items to support our parks and community centers and for your leadership in moving this forward. And thanks to our City Council Central Staff for pulling together these various ideas that focus on the “Parks District” source of funding, which comprises approximately 20% of the budget for the Parks & Recreation Department.

As I’ve mentioned at previous meetings, I’m concerned about the proposal to double the Parks District portion of property tax bills across the City. Increases in property taxes, as we know, can be passed along to renters and we have several additional property tax levies coming including increases for affordable housing, transportation, and education.

So, for parks, I would support a reasonable “back-to-the-basics” proposal that includes 3 main investments: existing programs, new projects we’ve already committed to, and retrofitting some community centers with environmentally friendly heating & cooling pumps to address heat waves. Councilmember Herbold and I recently secured funding for similar building upgrades at a West Seattle library and a library in my District in Northeast Seattle and I support doing that for more community centers, as President Lewis spoke to earlier today.  Perhaps the renovating of community centers to serve as cooling centers during heat waves could be added to the bonding capacity of the pre-commitment projects.

My modest proposal would increase Parks District funding from today’s $56 million to approximately $70 million ($2 million for inflation + $10 million for pre-commitment + $2 million for heat/cooling pumps). That’s a generous 25% increase instead of the 100% increase proposed by the Parks Department.  [As I understand it, the Parks District comprises 20% of the Parks Department’s total budget.] So my hope would be to enhance existing investments for parks & community centers in a reasonable way that doesn’t break the bank for homeowners AND renters, especially residents on fixed incomes and struggling small businesses renting their storefronts on triple net leases because they pay for those tax increases, too.  Thank you.”

— Councilmember Alex Pedersen

  • For the agenda and presentations at the July 25, 2022 meeting, CLICK HERE.
  • For the main website of the Parks District, CLICK HERE.
  • For a recent Seattle Times editorial lamenting the unfulfilled promise to maintain our parks entitled “Seattle parks maintenance has gone down the toilet,” CLICK HERE.
  • [ADDENDUM from Sept 6, 2022: For Mayor Harrell’s transmittal and appendices for his Parks District tax-spend plan, CLICK HERE. As stated previously, the current Parks District amount is approximately $56 million. The Mayor is proposing $115 million per year for the Parks District, which is slightly more than the $108 million originally proposed by the Parks Department / Park District Commissioners. If adopted by the City Council, the Mayor’s proposal would essentially double that portion of your current property taxes.]

Technology Matching Funds Awarded, But Not The Full Amount Authorized by Council

On July 20, 2022, Seattle’s Information Technology Department announced winners for the City’s Technology Matching Fund.

As part of the budget proposal for 2023 that we’ll discuss and approve this Fall, I’m hoping City Hall doubles down on efforts to achieve digital equity. Due to their initial prediction of a deficit in our city government’s flexible “General Fund,” our City’s Budget Office chose not to fund $250,000 of the amount Council approved in November 2021 for spending in 2022. With the higher-than-expected revenues from other sources, I hope the executive branch decides to invest those funds later this year to increase access to and adoption of reliable, high-speed internet. (Your City Council has the authority to authorize funding, but the executive can choose not to spend it.)

In a city that prides itself in leading the world in technology, the COVID crisis laid bare the inequities and injustice of the digital divide. In our high-tech city, we should no longer allow limited internet access to prevent learning, to impede our workers, or to hinder our small businesses and nonprofits. As called for by our City’s bold “Internet for All” Action Plan, it’s time to ensure reliable and affordable access to the internet as part of our city’s vital infrastructure for social justice, for education, and for economic development. It’s time to put the plan into action — and that requires dollars from City Hall and accommodations from the private sector.

  • For the initial winners from 2022, CLICK HERE.
  • For Seattle ITs digital equity website, 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 Nominated for SDOT

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.

Earlier this week on the aging University Bridge, I met with Gregory Spotts, Mayor Harrell’s nominee to serve as the permanent Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). I urged him to focus on safety, primarily pedestrian safety and bridge safety. Here is the statement I included in the Mayor’s July 27, 2022 press release:

“The Mayor’s nomination 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,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4, Northeast Seattle). “As Transportation Chair for the legislative branch of city government, I will conduct a thorough and transparent process for this important nomination. Together, we will follow the methodical confirmation process outlined in Seattle Resolution 31868. 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 fixing our city’s aging bridges.  When I combine my confidence in the Mayor and his search committee with this nominee’s impressive credentials, I believe we can have a positive confirmation process to keep our city moving forward.”

Adding to that statement, I’d like Seattle’s new Director of Transportation to focus on safety and competence:  Safety for pedestrians and safety for our aging bridges that connect our communities. And competence — to deliver transportation projects on time and under budget, such as the bridge seismic upgrades promised to voters several years ago. Competence also includes a balanced approach to transportation systems, boosting transit that moves the most people in the most environmentally friendly way and facilitating freight that keeps our economy moving as we emerge from the pandemic. These issues will be harmonized in the upcoming Seattle Transportation Plan.

I anticipate my Transportation Committee will consider the nominee during our meetings of August 16 and September 6, which means the City Council could approve him as early as September 13. The process for all nominees is outlined in Resolution 31868.

  • For the mayor’s press release, CLICK HERE.
  • For video of the mayor’s announcement and Mr. Spotts’ remarks, CLICK HERE.
  • For a link to biographical information about Gregory Spotts, the Mayor’s nominee for SDOT Director, CLICK HERE.

Safety for Pedestrians and Bikes:  Tour of High-Risk Locations in South Seattle

Councilmember Pedersen joined South Seattle Councilmember Tammy Morales, 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.

Safety must be the priority for everyone using Seattle’s roads and, unfortunately, the first part of 2022 continues the disturbing national trend of unacceptably high numbers of traffic-related injuries and deaths, especially among pedestrians and people experiencing homelessness in South Seattle.

I wanted to thank Councilmember Morales and her team for organizing a visit earlier this month to South Seattle where, as Transportation Chair, I will continue to collaborate with her and our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to implement solutions that quickly prevent traffic collisions in high-risk areas where fatalities have occurred recently, especially among pedestrians. We visited several locations of recent and horrific collisions in South Seattle. As we heard in our Transportation Committee recently, the data demonstrate that South Seattle has suffered the brunt of traffic fatalities. I want to thank SDOT Director Kristen Simpson and the Mayor’s Office for joining us at these physical locations of recent traffic collisions – tragedies that have made it more challenging to reach the City’s goal of zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030.

Even though I represent Northeast Seattle, I serve as the chair of the Transportation Committee which views transportation systems citywide and, in some cases, regionally. Data shows that South Seattle suffers the most traffic-related fatalities and so I’d like to see more resources devoted there to increase safety.

While we have lowered speed limits and increased crosswalks, I believe we must also respond to the drop in police traffic enforcement by increasing use of speed cameras and fines based on each individual’s ability to pay. And we must reduce the traffic-related harms to people experiencing homelessness by having City departments re-double efforts to bring more people inside faster. While I’m hopeful the additional investments this City Council has directed to South Seattle for pedestrian safety will reduce injuries — once SDOT finishes those projects — initial 2022 data sounds the alarm. We are hoping the executive’s annual budget proposal, which the Council expects to see in 10 weeks, will include increased investments for pedestrian and bike safety in South Seattle and throughout our City. We cannot wait for a potential renewal of the $900 million Move Seattle property tax — voters might not even pass that measure, if they feel we have not kept the promises of the 2015 program and if their property taxes and rents are getting too high from the multitude of City government property tax increases. We need to address safety now within our existing budget – both pedestrian safety and bridge safety now — and we can do that by issuing bonds, if needed.

During the next week, SDOT attended the Seattle Freight Advisory Board to describe some potential safety improvements to one of these dangerous locations. For the Seattle Times article regarding improvements proposed for 4th Avenue S. near S. Massachusetts Street and S. Holgate Street in SODO, CLICK HERE.

  • For remarks from Councilmember Morales (South Seattle) and me, CLICK HERE.
  • For the June 21, 2022 Vision Zero presentation by SDOT, CLICK HERE.
  • For SDOT’s Vision Zero website, CLICK HERE.
  • For SDOT’s latest ad campaign to encourage drivers to slow down, CLICK HERE.

Ship Canal Water Quality Project update

Our committee received an update from Seattle Public Utilities on the Ship Canal Water Quality Project. As discussed earlier in our newsletters, this is a mega project that will improve our environment with a nearly 3-mile underground system to store polluted stormwater until it can be treated. So far, it’s on time and on budget, but the “confidence” in the budget estimate has dropped slightly due to inflationary pressures, the big boulder the drill ran into (but the drill won), and the proportion of construction contracts that still need to be finalized. Due to the size of the project, it’s already on the City Council’s “Watch List,” even though there are no substantive problems. In other words, we’re keeping a close eye on it.

  • For the presentation at our Committee, CLICK HERE.
  • For the project’s website and to sign up for special updates, CLICK HERE.

Seattle City Light: Why I Voted Against Increasing Your Bills Further

The Resolution from Seattle City Light that the City Council approved last year (Resolution 32007) planned the electricity rates to increase by 3.8% in 2023 and by another 3.8% in 2024. Unfortunately, City Light’s Resolution before us earlier this month (Resolution 32056) asked the Council to boost those rate increases more sharply: 4.5% in 2023 and by another 4.5% in 2024. While the average of increases Council has approved over a six-year period may appear steady, that’s only because future increases are typically estimates on the lower end (which brings down the average) — but when we actually get to those future years and you’re paying those bills, the actual rates in those years end up being higher.

While I appreciate all the hard work that City Light does and I appreciate the thoughtful rationale for that utility’s proposal, I voted No on that additional rate increase, which is consistent with my previous concerns regarding rate increases.

An increase from 3.8% to 4.5% for Seattle City Light calculates to about $10 million in additional annual revenue. While City Light is absorbing some of the inflationary costs, I believe a utility with a budget of over $1 billon could have absorbed the entire increase, rather than passing it onto ratepayers.  This is important because utility rates are regressive and a government agency’s challenges with inflation or labor costs should not automatically become the burden of city residents and small businesses who are dealing with their own inflationary pressures. In addition, Northeast Seattle has experienced several electrical outages over the past couple of years and it’s not clear to me what the Strategic Plan will do differently to reduce outages, especially in light of the higher than expected rate increases. The Resolution passed anyway by a vote of 8 to 1.

Going forward, and during our review of the proposed City budget this Fall, I’m hoping to see all City agencies enhancing efforts to manage their costs, so that regressive taxes or fees are not automatically passed along to you. Unfortunately, King County Wastewater Treatment Division has been planning to pass along increased costs to us, which will show up on the bills from our other City-owned utility, Seattle Public Utilities. I will continue to raise concerns to King County officials about those costs as well, so that we can minimize the financial impact to residents and businesses throughout the region.


PUBLIC HEALTH and EDUCATION

Beat the Heat: Cooling Centers and Trees

Earlier this week, the temperature in Seattle climbed above 90 degrees for several days, a hot reminder of climate change and our need to stay cool, especially for the most vulnerable in our city. At my office’s request, the City’s Parks Department and Office of Emergency Management made sure Building 406 at Magnuson Park (formerly known as “The Brig”) is available as a cooling center as we still await the reopening of community centers in the area. Last fall, I secured funding for a cooling center at the Northeast branch of the Seattle Library and so I look forward to the Harrell Administration, City Budget Office, and library leadership proceeding expeditiously to upgrade that facility before the next unbearable heat wave.

The heat waves reinforce the urgency of passing legislation to protect our City’s dwindling tree canopy because trees help to cool communities and homes. The legislation we crafted to register tree cutters / arborists was just a small, first step. To more systematically protect our urban forest, we need to overhaul the weak comprehensive bill introduced by the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspection (SDCI) written during the Durkan Administration. For more on protecting trees, CLICK HERE.

For a Seattle Times article, “How to stay cool,” CLICK HERE.

For a current (July 2022) list of cooling centers from your City government including some libraries and some community centers, CLICK HERE.

Here is some information from Seattle-King County Public Health:

Enrollment Open for Seattle Preschool Program (SPP)

Parents in Seattle with 3- or 4-year-olds can apply now for the Seattle Preschool Program (SPP) 2022-2023 school year. SPP helps prepare children, regardless of income, to enter kindergarten with the skills they need to succeed. Research shows that children with high-quality early learning experiences have better academic and life outcomes; they’re more likely to have better grades, graduate, attend college, get a job, have higher lifetime wages, and have better mental and physical health.

  • SPP is an investment in Seattle’s future, and we want as many families as possible to take advantage of the opportunity. Visit seattle.gov/applySPP for information on programs and to apply.
  • Families who need in-language support to assist with the application process can call DEEL at 206-386-1050 or email preschool@seattle.gov.
  • SPP provides full day programming (six hours), with extended-day care available at some sites.
  • Classrooms have nationally recognized curricula, and some sites have specialized programs, including dual-language programs and inclusive classrooms for children with disabilities.
  • Tuition is calculated on a sliding scale based on household income and family size; historically, most children qualify for free tuition.
  • SPP is offered in partnership with community-based programs, family child care hubs, and Seattle Public Schools. Program sites are located throughout the city.
  • SPP has received national recognition as one of the best public preschool programs in the United States by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for five years running!

In 2013-2014, I was proud to collaborate with so many professionals to develop this evidence-based program under the leadership of Tim Burgess, approved by voters as a pilot program in November 2014, and greatly expanded by voters in November 2018. Rigorously evaluating this early learning program every year for its adherence to evidence-based (proven to work) parameters is the key to making sure preschoolers receive the high-quality, early learning promised to voters — because only high-quality benefits the kids.

 

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

(This snapshot was as of July 26, 2022 for the city of Seattle.)

  • 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

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

NEW IN 2022:  Our City Council meetings moved to Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. Even after we return 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 to enable calling in will still enable more of the public to participate even with meetings remaining in the daytime.  We also updated our City Council Rules and parliamentary procedures in hopes of improving the efficiency of the City Council, including enabling Councilmembers to focus their work on city government business rather than international affairs.

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

 

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

I continue to schedule virtual in-district office hours, so we can chat by telephone or via Webex. Please continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests. I hope to return to in-person office hours Friday afternoons before the end of the summer, probably at the Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center so that we are more centrally located and within walking distance of light rail and additional bus lines.  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


Disappointing Decision by Kroger Company to Shut Down 2 Seattle QFC Stores; Future Plans for Key Wedgwood Site

July 28th, 2022

AUGUST 2, 2022 UPDATE: Council Ends Extra COVID-era Hazard Pay for Seattle Grocery Workers

While the grocery worker hazard pay requirement would have ended whenever the Mayor Harrell ends the Civil Emergency declared back in March 2020 at the outset of the COVID pandemic, I appreciated the mayor sending to the Council legislation (Council Bill 120372) to end the extra hazard pay. Seattle has been requiring mid-size and large grocers to pay $4/hour extra to its frontline workers since the first quarter of 2021. While I supported that original hazard pay, its past time to end it (see January 25, 2022 blog post for key reasons). Consistent with my votes in December 2021 and January 2022, I voted to end this unique hazard pay and, this time, I was joined by a majority of my colleagues. The hazard pay requirement will end 30 days after the Mayor signs his bill (i.e. in September of this year).


JULY 29, 2022 UPDATE: Redevelopment Plans for Wedgwood Shopping Center

As mentioned in the June 29, 2022 edition of the Daily Journal of Commerce and discussed recently at the Wedgwood Community Council, the Wedgwood shopping center on the southeast corner of 35th Ave NE and 85th Street (you know — home to the Broiler and Van Gough Coffee) is likely to be redeveloped. Normally, I would not comment on a potential purchase in the middle of its due diligence period, but it was already reported in the media — so here’s an excerpt from the article:

The 2-acre North Seattle property, owned by an area family, hasn’t traded in decades…Now, with architect Solomon Cordwell Buenz, prospective buyer Security Properties has filed an early redevelopment plan. The proposal hasn’t yet entered design review. It describes a midrise apartment building with 280 units over retail/commercial space. The latter would have 34,500 square feet for an unnamed grocer on the north corner, at North 85th Street. On the south corner, North 82nd Street, would be another 14,000 square feet of commercial space. Five stories seems likely for a site that’s zoned up to 55 feet. Security Properties has ample experience with similar midrise projects like the planned Magnolia Albertsons redo, and past Fremont PCC and apartments…Security Properties says it would like to retain current tenants in the new development.”

I reached out to Security Properties to encourage them to conduct a robust community engagement process. Security Properties is a highly experienced developer/owner, based in Seattle, but with a national footprint owning an array of multifamily housing and mixed-use developments. They have already reached out to the existing commercial tenants there and want to bring back a grocery store if they proceed to redevelop that important site.

If you want to stay up to speed on this development and/or provide input, I recommend participating in the Wedgwood Community Council: https://www.wedgwoodcc.org/getinvolved/


JANUARY 25, 2022 UPDATE: Voting to Overturn Mayor’s veto

The legislative journey of Seattle’s ordinance adopted a year ago (January 2021) to require owners of grocery stores in Seattle to pay their workers hazard pay of an additional $4 per hour continues:  just last month, the City Council voted 8 to 0 to sunset those additional payments, but former Mayor Durkan surprisingly vetoed Council’s reasonable sunset bill as she departed office. Then, this week, a majority of the Council reversed itself by voting to sustain (accept) her veto, citing various reasons such as the uncertain future of the coronavirus.  

While I voted for the original bill to support Seattle grocery workers with hazard pay AND I supported efforts to keep it in place for a full year due to the “delta” variant of the coronavirus, I was torn about whether to continue those payments into 2022.  Several of my colleagues made reasonable points to uphold Mayor Durkan’s decision.  Ultimately, however, I decided to be consistent with my December 2021 vote and so I voted to override Durkan’s veto so that the hazard pay requirements could sunset in 30 days. But only our newly elected Councilmember Sara Nelson and I voted to override, so the special hazard pay for just grocery workers will continue for an unknown amount of time – until Mayor Harrell ends the official civil emergency, unless another bill is introduced to sunset it sooner. (One of the problems with using the civil emergency date for an end date for relief measures is our budget officials may want us to keep the civil emergency orders in place even after the public health concerns have subsided so as to ensure maximum reimbursement from the federal government on virus-related programs.)  

For Seattle Times coverage of my Council colleagues voting to sustain (keep) former Mayor Durkan’s veto, CLICK HERE.

I want to acknowledge that grocery workers — and workers in numerous industries that bravely serve Seattle every day — should ideally be paid more and be able to work the quantity of hours they need. A key question for me is, when is it a city government’s role to intervene and require business owners to pay above their current compensation? The pandemic has spurred the creation and expansion of many relief programs funded by several different sources (the best from the federal government which does not need to balance its budget) — and I have supported nearly all these interventions because a pandemic is an extraordinary crisis warranting extraordinary responses.  

Several constituents voiced concern with my original vote in January 2021 to support grocery workers after the Cincinnati-based Kroger company announced the closing of its beloved QFC grocery store in Wedgwood. That was a difficult vote, but I stand by the decision. Tellingly, as soon as the Council sunset the hazard pay in December 2021, QFC declined to reopen that store, emphasizing their claim that the hazard pay merely accelerated their decision to close an underperforming store.  I expressed my disappointment with Kroger, both when they closed the store and when they refused to reopen. Then Mayor Durkan, without consulting the City Council, ended up vetoing the sunset bill at the last minute, thereby keeping hazard pay in place.   

Reasons to Phase Out Hazard Pay for Grocery Workers:

  • Seattle has already imposed this special hazard pay for a year. 
  • The supplemental pay would end not immediately, but rather after a 30-day notice period. 
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said this past Sunday, things “look like they’re going in the right direction right now.” https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/fauci-says-u-s-omicron-outbreak-going-in-the-right-direction/  This week, BOTH the University of Washington and Seattle University announced a return to in-person classes. For the current trends of COVID cases and hospitalizations, as reported by King County Public Health, CLICK HERE.  
  • Beyond the government-imposed minimum wage and sick leave policies, workers and their employers should typically negotiate compensation and benefits without a local government dictating what it must be. The local union United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW, Local 21) is effective throughout Washington State in advocating for the grocery workers they represent, in organizing workers who may want to form a union, and in influencing many elected officials.  
  • Temporary hazard pay for grocery workers already ended months ago in all 35 California jurisdictions that originally required it and it has also ended in about half of the Washington State jurisdictions that required it: Bainbridge Island, Federal Way and the unincorporated areas of King County and Snohomish County. (Bellingham, Burien, Edmonds, and Olympia still require it.) 
  • Ending the hazard pay in Seattle could make it more financially feasible for other stores to move into the Wedgwood location and to open new stores throughout Seattle. 
  • As we strive to emerge from the COVID pandemic, I believe it may be time to transition away from the emergency measures we put into place over the past two years, unless such measures are required by public health authorities or funded by the federal government.   
  • Let’s continue to encourage requirements for vaccinations, boosters, the wearing of masks, and other preventative measures strongly recommended by public health authorities. 

Even though the outgoing Mayor kept this intervention in place, her veto was over a month ago and her veto letter left open the opportunity to sunset it soon.  Unless the public health conditions decline substantially, I hope the new Mayor will support phasing out this and other extraordinary interventions that we all supported during the past two years of the pandemic, unless the measures are required by public health authorities or the funding is provided by the federal government.   


DECEMBER 22, 2021 UPDATE:

For Seattle Times article “Mayor Jenny Durkan will use veto to keep hazard pay in place for Seattle grocery workers,” CLICK HERE.


DECEMBER 17, 2021 UPDATE:

For Seattle Times article “QFC has no plans to reopen Wedgwood store, despite repeal of city law that prompted closure,” CLICK HERE.


DECEMBER 13, 2021 UPDATE:

Today the Seattle City Council passed Council Bill 120119 with an 8 to 0 vote to repeal grocery worker hazard pay. As is standard with our legislation, this will go into effect 30 days after the Mayor signs it and she’s expected to sign it within the next 10 days. To read the actual bill that we adopted, CLICK HERE. In addition to encouraging other grocery store companies to consider that location over the past few months, today I reached out again to both QFC and to the owner of the shopping center.


JULY 26, AUGUST 9, SEPTEMBER 13, 2021 UPDATE: Legislation to Repeal Hazard Pay Held Due to Delta Variant

While the Seattle City Council’s Finance Committee on July 9, 2021 recommended the repeal of the temporary grocery hazard pay, the recent surge of the “Delta variant” of the coronavirus persuaded all Councilmembers to hold the legislation until more information could be obtained. For the legislative history, CLICK HERE.


JUNE 24, UPDATE:

City Council will Reconsider Grocery Worker Hazard Pay in July

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

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

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

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


APRIL 22, 2021 UPDATE:

photo courtesy of community leader Gabe Galanda

I was invited by the event organizers to participate in a Thank You and Farewell for the workers, and here are my prepared remarks:

  • I want to thank the grocery workers for serving the community for so many years — and especially during this hazardous time during the COVID pandemic.
  • I want to thank the community leaders who organized this thoughtful funding campaign for the workers in addition to the ongoing support from their union.
  • Today’s event is another reminder of how much the community cares about its neighborhood businesses.
  • As we emerge from the COVID pandemic, we need to make sure every neighborhood has businesses that not only thrive, but also care about the community, too. 
  • Thank you, everyone, for being here today.

I think we can agree we were all disappointed by the Kroger company’s decision to shut down the wonderful grocery store. But that out-of-state company made their decision. Blaming their decision on a temporary City Hall law that benefits workers during COVID doesn’t hold water because that corporation is sitting on $2 billion in cash – and that’s on top of the substantial profits they earned in 2020.

On a positive note, I spoke to QFC earlier this week and they confirmed that there are no layoffs — all the workers who wanted to stay with QFC have a transfer already lined up with no loss in benefits.

I think Kroger’s made a bad business decision to leave this amazing community with its generous customer base and I look forward to welcoming a new store with open arms.

I personally contacted several different grocery store owners to pitch the neighborhood to them.  I’m also in contact with the owner of this entire shopping center so he knows that I’m available to help to attract a new anchor tenant here.  Wedgwood is wonderful and it’s open for business! Also check out the other fantastic small businesses near this location: The Wedgwood BroilerVan Gogh Coffeehouse, Wedgwood Hair Studio, Tropical Berry, Blue Poppy Floral, and Wedgwood Ale House.  

For Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.


APRIL 9, 2021 UPDATE: As reported by KUOW News:

“Bare shelves have appeared at two Seattle grocery stores slated for closure on April 24. QFC said it is closing the stores in part because of Seattle’s $4-an-hour “hazard pay” ordinance.

“Hey, hey QFC! Share your profits, stop the greed!” members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union shouted Thursday as they waved signs outside one of the closing stores, located in the Wedgwood neighborhood of northeast Seattle…

QFC spokesperson Tiffany Sanders said in a statement that the company is now “meeting with each associate at the two affected stores to help them transition into a new position at one of our other locations if possible.”

Cook said she doesn’t know where she’s going yet. But even with this stress, she said getting hazard pay during the pandemic has still been “a major win” and she has no regrets.

“It was the one time ever when I’ve worked in a retail job where I felt like we were important for society,” she said, adding that the extra pay allowed people to take more time off to reduce their risk of getting Covid.

Most grocers granted $2-an-hour hazard pay last April and May. Then this past February, Seattle mandated $4-an-hour hazard pay for frontline grocery workers for the duration of the pandemic.

QFC said Seattle’s ordinance increased operating costs at stores by an average of 22%, which was “financially unsustainable” at the two locations. QFC’s parent company Kroger is closing stores where hazard pay was enacted in California as well.

Sanders said QFC is hosting vaccination clinics for staff, and awarding $100 to every employee who receives it. She said, “We continue to believe that vaccinations — not extra pay — are the surest way to keep our stores safe for all who work and visit.”

For a link to the KUOW article, CLICK HERE.


MARCH 25, 2021 UPDATE (from our newsletter):

A federal judge tossed out the lawsuit by the grocery industry, which attempted to block Seattle’s COVID-era requirement to pay $4 an hour in hazard pay to frontline grocery workers. (Council Bill 119990 is now Ordinance 126274 and it went into effect February 3, 2021.) For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE. (Note: King County followed Seattle and passed a nearly identical law for unincorporated areas.) While Seattle’s win in court confirms the legal authorization for the city government’s relief requirements for low-wage grocery workers, it does not help to keep open the beloved QFC that Kroger company has cynically vowed to shutter on April 24. My focus continues in two areas:  (1) do whatever I can as the District City Councilmember to help secure a good grocery or similar store in that location (on the border of District 4 and District 5) and (2) make sure City Hall honors its promise “to consider modifying or eliminating hazard pay requirements after four [sic] months of implementation and review of the current health, safety, and economic risks of frontline work during the COVID-19 emergency,” as stated by the temporary, new law (which I voted for). We need to make sure the sponsors of the legislation keep their word to conduct that review and we need to speed vaccines to all front-line workers, including grocery workers — who the Governor recently prioritized.  If City Hall does not eventually phase out or sunset new taxes or regulatory changes pitched to
the public as “necessary due to COVID,” then I believe what credibility exists between City Hall and the public will erode.

The QFC will remain open at least through April 24 and, while not a permanent substitute for those shopping in person, nearby grocery stores include Safeway on 35th Avenue NE at NE 75th Street, the larger University Village QFC store, the PCC Market on 40th Avenue NE and NE 65th Street, and the Metropolitan Market at 5250 40th Avenue NE. The Traders Joe’s in the University District (5555 Roosevelt Way NE) is probably too far away for most Wedgwood residents, though fans of that store will often go the extra mile.

In addition to support from the grocery workers labor union (UFCW, Local 21), I’d like to thank the community for creating a “Go Fund Me” effort with 100% to benefit the grocery workers, especially those who are not able to be transferred to other QFC stores in the area.  At the same time, I would hope that Kroger company updates its plans and decides to stay for at least the rest of its long-term lease at the current site.

Speaking of Wedgwood, the Wedgwood Community Council has been back in business for the past few months. My office attended their most recently monthly meeting on March 2 (they meet on the first Tuesday of each month). For the WCC’s website and new blog posts, CLICK HERE.


MARCH 9, 2021 UPDATE:

The King County Council followed Seattle’s lead and passed a nearly identical hazard pay increase of $4 an hour for frontline grocery workers within the unincorporated areas of the county. For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.

According to the Seattle Times, County Councilmember Rod Dembowski, who represents the entire Wedgwood neighborhood, sponsored the legislation to acknowledge that grocery workers are “essential to the public function of getting food into people’s hands and homes,” he said at the bill’s introduction last month. Hazard pay was given to grocery store employees at the beginning of the pandemic but was inexplicably cut off, Dembowski said: “The pay went away, but the pandemic didn’t and the risk didn’t.” “I think that it’s the right thing to do for people who are going above and beyond the regular call of duty,” Dembowski said.


FEBRUARY 16, 2021 (original post):

I was very disappointed by the decision of the Cincinnati-based Kroger Company to shut down on April 24 two of their 15 QFC stores in Seattle, including the beloved QFC in Wedgwood.

As soon as I learned of this (February 16), I called Corporate Affairs for Kroger/QFC to ask if they would reconsider. They confirmed that both stores had been already underperforming financially. While Kroger’s November 2020 financial statements show the company sitting on over $2 billion in cash and larger chain stores typically have the “economies of scale” to handle temporary financial fluctuations, Kroger seeks to have each store stand on its own profits, which is difficult because grocers typically operate with thin margins. Despite the “cause and effect” framing by some local media outlets, the City Council’s recent decision to require temporary hazard pay to frontline grocery workers during the rest of the COVID pandemic was not the cause of the closures, but rather solidified and potentially sped up the inevitable.

Kroger/QFC appreciated my reaching out and they are well aware of my ongoing efforts to provide a positive business environment for long-term employers in our city, including my votes against new payroll tax proposals during this recession and my recent economic strategy for an inclusive recovery. We discussed the extraordinary stress and uncertainty caused by the COVID pandemic, which makes our legislative votes as well as decisions by business owners more difficult and complex.

I offered to do whatever I could to help to retain the store and/or to have it reconstituted in some form.  I also connected with the store manager to offer any assistance that we can provide and to the union leaders representing the workers at both stores to ensure any transition to new workplaces within the Kroger family of companies happens as smoothly as possible. (I had already connected with the business community – as well as with labor leaders — prior to my vote on this temporary measure).

I realize this detailed and nuanced explanation from an elected official makes no difference if a beloved store closes in our neighborhood (I often shop at that QFC, too!) and so let me say, I will do whatever I can as the District City Councilmember to help secure a good grocery store there. (The store is located in District 4 at the border of District 5.)

The QFC will remain open at least through April 24 and, while not a permanent substitute for those shopping in person, nearby grocery stores include Safeway on 35th Avenue NE at NE 75th Street (and next to University Village), the larger University Village QFC store, the PCC Market on 40th Avenue NE and NE 65th Street, and the Metropolitan Market at 5250 40th Avenue NE. The Traders Joe’s in the University District (5555 Roosevelt Way NE) is probably too far away for most Wedgwood residents, though fans of that store will often go the extra mile.

While this particular bill felt overly rushed, the pandemic has thrust us into a fluid and extraordinary emergency situation and I was able to get answers to the following key questions as I considered how to vote on the proposal:

  • Is it a temporary measure? YES. (The bill calls for a review within 4 months. We need to make sure the bill sponsors keep their word to conduct that review and we need to speed vaccines to all front-line workers, including grocery workers.)
  • Is it providing relief to frontline workers during COVID? YES
  • Do my constituents generally support temporary measures providing relief to frontline workers during COVID? YES.
  • Does it exempt struggling small businesses? YES.
  • Would it impact primarily those businesses headquartered outside of Seattle? YES, though PCC and other locals are impacted.
  • Have I consulted stakeholders (in this case, the business community and the labor union)? YES, though I wish I had more time to have deeper conversations.
  • Did it pass review by our City Council’s Central Staff Analysts? YES.
  • Did Mayor Durkan signal early support for the bill? YES.
  • Does the final bill contain a provision that requires review of the impact after a few months? YES.

For additional context, here are the remarks made last month when this temporary COVID relief measure passed:

Councilmember Pedersen remarks, January 25, 2021 when the bill passed unanimously after the Mayor confirmed she supported it and would sign it: “After rapidly reviewing and researching this proposed ordinance to have larger grocery stores boost the pay of their frontline workers during the pandemic, I have decided to support it.  I consulted with both labor and employers.  I personally want to acknowledge that I think this legislation moved very fast. To hear the legislation at a Friday Committee and then adopt it on Monday can make it difficult for everyone to review it thoroughly. At the same time, I recognize we are in the midst of an public health and economic emergency and, therefore, would not want to further delay the temporary pay boost these workers should be receiving for the hazards they are facing until both shots of the vaccine are administered to everyone.  I will be voting Yes today. Thank you.”

Mayor Jenny Durkan remarks, January 29, 2021: “A disproportionate number of people of color are essential workers, and Seattle must continue to lead the way to provide relief and respect to those that have served our community throughout this pandemic. Grocery store workers have continued to work every day of this challenging time and I am glad we are finally able to recognize and compensate the effort that has kept stores open and communities fed over the past year.”

MORE INFO:

  • For the February 16, 2021 Seattle Times article about Kroger’s announcement to close by April 24 the two QFC stores (Capitol Hill and Wedgwood), CLICK HERE.
  • For statements from the bill’s sponsors in reaction to Kroger’s announcement on February 16, 2021, CLICK HERE and HERE.
  • For Mayor Durkan’s January 29, 2021 press release celebrating the passage of Council’s bill which would go into effect February 3, 2021, CLICK HERE.
  • For a link to Council Bill 119990, the “Grocery Employee Hazard Pay Ordinance,” which the Council adopted January 25, 2021 CLICK HERE.
  • For some historical perspective, check out this 2012 piece called “Groceries and Growth in Wedgwood” by the blog called Wedgwood in Seattle History: CLICK HERE.


June busting out with pride and no budget deficit

June 30th, 2022

Friends and Neighbors,

Pride was overflowing in Seattle this past weekend as thousands were reminded of how fantastic our city can be. People were happy to be outside in the sunshine during the Seattle Pride Parade, once again enjoying the heart of their city — from City Hall to the Space Needle. Even as a District Councilmember representing Northeast Seattle, I recognize our downtown as a vital provider of jobs, generator of tax revenue, and center stage for citywide activities that welcome and benefit the entire city. It was a beautiful day to celebrate Seattle’s LGBTQ+ community. In the wake of devastating U.S. Supreme Court decisions from the other Washington, the Seattle Pride Parade helped to reaffirm how we are better as a society when we work together to solve problems and protect each other’s rights and safety.

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

In this month’s newsletter


DISTRICT 4

Seeking Funds to Save Archives

Seattle Councilmember Alex Pedersen (left) accompanies Shayna and Ben from the team of U.S. Senator Patty Murray on a tour of the National Archives Building on Sand Point Way NE in our City Council District 4, June 17, 2022. Senator Murray is seeking $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).

It was a team effort among local journalists, research advocates, tribal government leaders as well as City of Seattle, State of Washington, and U.S. congressional leaders to save the precious national archives facility in Northeast Seattle from a sudden sale by federal agencies. That’s providing time to develop a plan to keep these irreplaceable historical records in the Puget Sound region.

Many have asked, what’s next? I’m happy to report that U.S. Senator Patty Murray has answered that question in a big, positive way by recently requesting up to $98 million through the “congressional directed spending process” (i.e. the newly reformed process of “earmarking” federal tax dollars directly to a project in an elected official’s jurisdiction, rather than requiring a federal agency to conduct a competitive application process). Senator Murray’s request is entitled, “NARA Sand Point Facility: To construct a new NARA facility in Seattle, Washington.” (NARA stands for National Archives & Records Administration.) There are no details yet, presumably to provide the Senator with flexibility on options. Moreover, the request needs to survive the political appropriations process that occurs in Washington, D.C. This appears to be Senator Murray’s largest ask from among her more than 150 earmark requests. This demonstrates not only the immense expense of such a capital construction / reconstruction project but also Senator Murray’s commitment to the local preservation effort, considering the persity of stakeholders that came together to “save” the archives.

Earlier this month, I accompanied key staff of Senator Patty Murray’s Seattle and D.C. offices and our City’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations (OIR) for an extensive tour of the National Archives building, which is located in District 4 on Sand Point Way NE. The tour of the warehouse areas with countless boxes piled to the ceiling reinforced the extent and value of these historical records as well as the deteriorating physical condition of the existing facility that we rely on to protect these documents. The funds sought by Senator Murray could be used to rebuild on the existing site or to build on another site in the Seattle area. Either way, the records would be preserved locally rather than making Northwest tribal governments, researchers, and others travel thousands of extra miles to view the historical records, which also include irreplaceable information about treaties, land ownership rights, and personal records. (Note: digitizing these files would take over a decade and would not include important contextual information that archivists place alongside the documents for greater understanding of their significance.)

  • For a link to the funding “earmarks” requested by U.S. Senator Patty Murray, CLICK HERE.
  • For details on our ongoing efforts to keep the archives in the Seattle area, CLICK HERE.

 

Funds Elevate Historic University Heights Building

Earlier this month, I joined State Representatives Gerry Pollet and Frank Chopp as well as our City’s Budget Chair Councilmember Mosqueda in the heart of the University District to celebrate improved equity and access that will be possible with the upcoming installation of a new elevator at the historic University Heights building. The building symbolizes community and offers childcare, artistic performances, educational opportunities, services for people experiencing homelessness, and more. The nonprofit that manages the building is finalizing its fundraising efforts which already includes money from the City Hall.  In addition to their efforts to raise money for the forthcoming ADA-compliant elevator, my office secured funding to upgrade their fire alarm system to make sure the childcare facility qualifies for its State license. The uplifting event featured toddlers dancing and teenagers singing and an impressive announcement that Congresswoman Jayapal is pursuing $4.1 million in additional funding for physical improvements to the building.  U Heights houses 11 organizations that serve the local community. Capital upgrades will help facilitate more than 215,000 annual visits, continue critical human services, and arts and culture programs.

 

15th Avenue Northeast Repaving Finally Done!

(photo by Alex Pedersen, 6/28/2022)

The repairing, repaving, and restriping of 15th Avenue NE from Lake City Way to the U District is finally done – nine months late.  Thanks to so many District 4 residents for putting up with the bumps and detours and interruptions (including the concrete strike). The good news is that the positive vision is implemented: to share the road and connect more modes of travel to the light rail stations and Roosevelt High School (“safe routes to school”), while preserving some street parking at key spots. And, yes, I support these bike lanes. (Before the pandemic, I went door-to-door to ask 15th Ave NE residents their views on the proposed bike lanes there and a majority were fine with them.) This project was wisely preceded by a seismic upgrade to the aging Cowen Park Bridge. Ideally, SDOT would take this same approach by first completing a seismic upgrade of the 100-year old University Bridge when expanding the heavy use of that aging multimodal bridge with the planned boosting of bus lines down Roosevelt Way to Eastlake Ave.

 

101.1 FM: Radio Show “The Bridge,” with former CMs Jean Godden and Sue Donaldson

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

Last week, I visited the recording studio for 101.1 FM Radio, which is located at the entrance of Magnuson Park in District 4. Former Councilmembers Jean Godden and Sue Donaldson interviewed me for their radio show which has a great title – it’s called “The Bridge.”  I answered questions about the City budget, public safety, and, of course, bridges. 101.1 FM radio has a fun variety of music and information – broadcast widely from its home in Magnuson Park, so be sure to tune in.

  • Links to “The Bridge” radio show, CLICK HERE.
  • Links to 101.1 FM, CLICK HERE.
  • More about S.P.A.C.E. programs, with an emphasis on local art, CLICK HERE.

 

Community Gardens in District 4: What does that P stand for in “P-Patch”?

Councilmember Pedersen at the celebration for the growing “P-Patch” community garden at Magnuson Park, June 24, 2022.

Did you know that Seattle’s first official community garden grew here in District 4? That community garden (or “P-Patch” as we refer to it in Seattle), still thrives adjacent to University Prep School and Temple Beth Am on 25th Avenue NE at NE 80th Street.

Do you know what the “P” stands for in P-Patch? It turns out, it’s not peas, pumpkins, or pomegranates, but rather Picardo — for the small Picardo Family Farm that once flourished here between the Ravenna and Wedgwood neighborhoods. Community gardens, which started in Seattle in the 1970’s, span the globe and have been ideal to reclaim open green space in often neglected areas to grow fresh fruit and vegetables for those in need.  But the volunteer gardeners, like the green thumbs at the 3-acre Magnuson Park P-Patch I visited for their celebration last week, will tell you it’s the community connections that grow the deepest roots among these garden plots. Each winter, my parents made me turn over the dirt to prep their small garden which rewarded us later with strawberries and corn in the summertime.

At the P-Patch celebration in Magnuson Park (on your left when heading to the dog park), I was joined by Greg Wong, the new Director of the Department of Neighborhoods (DON). (The P-Patch program is administered by DON). The dedicated gardeners and community organizers spoke about the initial resistance to the garden, the challenges of getting funds, the importance of visionaries and City leaders who got it all started here and the countless hours or removing rocks and broken glass from the former Naval Station land to restore the soil for the garden. A 4-year old who attends the Denise Louie high-quality child care center in Magnuson Park offered to escort us to her garden plot so she could proudly show off her lavender, pink flowers, and worms. This P-Patch supplies fresh produce to food banks throughout North Seattle, such as the food pantry at Magnuson Park for the 850 low-income residents there and for the food banks in the U District and Lake City.

  • To sign up for a small garden plot, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Department of Neighborhoods website with a map of the nearly 90 P-Patches in Seattle, CLICK HERE.

 

Roosevelt High School Ultimate Frisbee Team: 2022 State Champs!

With the end of the school year, students and parents could reflect on how so many people re-started their participation in sports, drama, music, and so many other activities. With so many accomplishments from the schools in Northeast Seattle, here is just one of the noteworthy sporting events to celebrate: Roosevelt High’s 2022 State Champs for Ultimate Frisbee. (photo from DiscNW).


ADDRESSING HOMELESSNESS

Mayor’s “Homelessness Action Plan” with Dashboards

PLAN: Just four weeks ago, Mayor Harrell put forward his plan to reduce homelessness, which relies heavily on more active engagement with illegal encampments and supporting the King County Regional Homelessness Authority.

DASHBOARDS: The dashboards are helpful summaries that will increase transparency and accountability, although the map entitled “Verified Tent and RV Encampments” does not appear to reflect the reality on the ground. That’s another reason to report encampments using the Customer Service Bureau app rather than emailing because this dashboard does not track the number of emails. The Customer Service Bureau form has options such as “Unauthorized Encampments” and “Abandoned Vehicle” (CLICK HERE).  (The Customer Service Bureau database and the “Find It, Fix It” app/database are linked.)

BUDGET: Later that week, the King County Regional Homelessness Authority announced it is seeking up to $90 million ABOVE their existing budget.  Of that $90 million, approximately half of that ($50 million) is a high priority for KCRHA. If the city government were to share that priority cost with King County government (as it does with KCRHA’s baseline budget), then presumably, our City would need to provide another $25 million. As with many recent news articles, it’s reported that the City has a “deficit.”  Claiming there is a City budget deficit is not entirely accurate because that “deficit” is referring to only the City’s most well-known and flexible fund, the “General Fund.” But large portions of the new payroll tax revenue (JumpStart) — which has $43 million more than anticipated this year (2022) and is projected to have another $62 million more than the $233 million baseline for that revenue source in 2023 — can also be used to support people experiencing homelessness.

I look forward to seeing a detailed plan as to how KCRHA plans to enact their proposals. For example, one of their biggest requests is $5 million for “RV Safe Lots.” Like many constituents, I’ve felt some initial hesitation when remembering the City’s previous unsuccessful attempts to create RV Safe Lots. That said, I’m encouraged by KCRHA’s leadership and expertise. As we have seen from decades of attempts, reducing homelessness has no simple solution, which is why I’m encouraged by the creation of KCRHA and the work they do, because this regional problem requires a regional approach to help inpiduals meet their needs throughout King County, rather than concentrating all services within the City of Seattle.

  • To see Mayor’s Harrell’s Homelessness Action Plan website, CLICK HERE.
  • For the May 31, 2022 announcement of Mayor Harrell’s Homelessness Action Plan, CLICK HERE.

 

Addressing Derelict RVs: I appreciate the Harrell Administration’s recent efforts to intensify outreach to offer housing/services to occupants of illegally parked RVs, while also eventually enforcing parking laws. RV encampments have been prone to fire hazards and, in some cases, illicit activity. Moreover, the housing and service options offered provide great opportunity to help our neighbors get back on their feet.

 

Permanent Low-Income Housing:
District 4 is home to several low-income housing projects including Gossett Place and the Marion West projects built by LIHI, Abora Court built by Bellwether Housing, Mercy Magnuson built by Mercy Housing, the Solid Ground Housing at Magnuson Park, and Cedar Crossing built by both Bellwether and Mercy Housing (250 affordable apartment units opening on top of the new Roosevelt light rail station). In addition to these projects subsidized by the City of Seattle’s Office of Housing, there are projects operated by the Seattle Housing Authority. District 4 also has had substantial non-subsidized “naturally occurring affordable housing,” although much of that housing has, unfortunately, been demolished by real estate developers in areas that the City previously upzoned.

(A key purpose of Council Bill 120325, which I sponsored with Councilmember Tammy Morales, was to inventory the rents and affordability levels of all rental housing in Seattle so that we could avoid future demolitions of affordable housing. While the bill was unfortunately vetoed, you can write to Council@seattle.gov to encourage Councilmembers to override it July 5.)

The 30-unit Tiny Home Village I worked with LIHI and Sound Transit to site, fund, and build will eventually give way within the next couple of years to a permanent housing tower. To enable that to happen, the City will eventually need to approve a partial “vacation” of the alley that currently pides the parcel into two.  To enable that large low-income project to move forward to create dozens of new units, I may need to introduce a special Resolution next month.


PUBLIC SAFETY

# of Officers Decrease, Police Response Times Increase

In my newsletters in April and May, I detailed the alarming reduction of officers and detectives at SPD – losing nearly 1/3 of our frontline officers and detectives, even as our city’s population has gone in the opposite direction:  growing by 25% in the past 10 years — from 600,000 people in 2010 to nearly 750,000 people today.  Meanwhile, we still don’t see sufficient emergency response alternatives in place yet. So it should be no surprise that it’s taken police longer to respond to violent crimes in progress (Priority 1 calls) and they are frequently unable to show up for the lowest priority calls.

I appreciated the compromise Resolution and Council Bill that Council adopted by a 6 to 3 vote on May 24, 2022 — and we need to do more.

Here are the remarks I had prepared for the Public Safety & Human Services Committee on June 14, 2022:

“Many City leaders say they want to craft policies and budgets based on the data and yet, once again, we have this disturbing data in front of our eyes: the number of police officers is dangerously down and the response times are dangerously up and this confirms what we hear from our constituents.  I recently attended six different roll calls (at the start of their patrol shifts) and heard directly from public safety officers about their plummeting morale and lack of trust for several reasons: King County Jail often refuses to book the suspects SPD officers risk their lives to bring to justice and services, and City leaders aren’t doing enough to retain officers while other jurisdictions offer bonuses and simple gestures, such as allowing officers to take home their patrol cars and providing technology to keep them safe.  I opposed the 50% defunding push as misguided and I introduced legislation 9 months ago to retain police officers, but several colleagues rejected it. Recruiting new officers to replace the hundreds of officers departing Seattle is vital, but that takes a long time and ignores the experience of our existing officers, so I am hopeful Mayor Harrell’s public safety plan coming soon also includes immediate and robust retention actions to prevent Seattle from losing more officers.”

— City Councilmember Alex Pedersen

  • For the Response Time Report for 1st Quarter 2022, CLICK HERE.
  • To apply to be a Seattle police officer, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Seattle Times May 20 editorial entitled, Mayor Harrell, stem the blue drain with Seattle Police Department hiring incentives,” CLICK HERE.

Inquest into the Police Killing of Charleena Lyles
The overdue inquest received an identification number from King County (517IQ9301), but she was a person, a mom, a District 4 resident, and much more: Charleena Lyles, who was killed by two Seattle Police officers in her Magnuson Park apartment 2017. I supported the more robust inquest process put in place by King County Executive Dow Constantine, which he reformed for additional transparency in researching presenting the facts of fatal police shootings. For some of the news coverage of the inquest, you can see the Seattle Times coverage HERE (June 21), HERE (June 22), HERE (June 28) and HERE (June 29).  This is a tragic example of why Seattle needs to launch alternative emergency responses for some behavioral health situations, which we urged at our Public Safety & Human Services Committee on June 28 (CLICK HERE for that Committee video).

Reforms Deepened Through New Police Contract with Lieutenants and Captains
The City Council and Mayor approved a new employment contract between the City of Seattle and the Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA) which represents the lieutenants and captains of the Seattle Police Department (SPD).  The contract creates a better system to address disciplinary appeals and takes other critical steps to strengthen accountability processes and improve public safety.  While it covers only the 80 lieutenants and captains of SPD, this contract historically serves as a model for the much bigger contract with the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG), which represents frontline officers and sergeants.

I continue to believe that the key to deeper and sustainable reforms is to embed them into these employment contracts which govern police misconduct appeals and other related issues. Simply taking money away from the police department does not make it more accountable and in fact stresses the day-to-day operations (see Longer Response Times discussion above) and stresses the officers as human beings, exhausted from working approximately double the number of overtime hours.

As the Central Staff memo confirms, “The proposed CBA would make changes to existing police accountability provisions, including the addition of a new Discipline Review system that would significantly overhaul appeals that are currently settled through arbitration.”

As our Public Safety Chair, Lisa Herbold said, “This contract addresses key flaws in prior police contracts. In particular, this contract will help fix Seattle’s broken disciplinary appeals system. Right now, nearly 100 cases of police misconduct, some dating back to 2016, are being appealed – a backlog that continues to delay and deny justice. This new contract takes a crucial step toward ending that backlog while ensuring police officers who commit misconduct are held accountable.”

As noted in the press release, the contract creates a new process to govern prospective disciplinary appeals through a model that is fair and reliable – leading with transparency, providing due process for employees, and putting in place key measures to ensure discipline is actionable and upheld as warranted. Provisions of this enhanced system include:

  • Applying a consistent standard for misconduct findings and appeals (not more onerous than a “preponderance of evidence”)
  • Giving significant deference to the findings and disciplinary decisions issued by the Chief of Police
  • Preventing new evidence not previously disclosed from being introduced on appeal
  • Increasing the independence and neutrality of those who hear appeals
  • Making disciplinary appeals hearings more transparent and accessible to the public

For the joint press release from Mayor Harrell and Public Safety Chair Herbold, CLICK HERE.
For Council Bill 120332 that authorized the contract CLICK HERE and for the Central Staff memo analyzing it, CLICK HERE.
To read the entire 76-page labor contract (“collective bargaining agreement”) with SPMA, CLICK HERE.

Visits to Police Roll Calls
It was one year ago on June 13th, 2021 when our City government lost a co-worker — SPD Officer Lexi Harris was struck and killed by a vehicle on I-5 while trying to help others involved in an earlier collision.  Some of Lexi’s family still reside in the Wallingford neighborhood. I know so many people miss Lexi’s “Wonder Woman” strength and spirit as well as her compassionate commitment to the wellness of her fellow officers and to the safety of everyone in our city.

Earlier this month, I attended six roll calls of the Seattle Police Department’s North Precinct, including the ones starting at 3:00 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. (as I did in August 2021 as well).  I let the officers know that I appreciate the good work these frontline City employees do for our residents and neighborhood businesses, and I encouraged them to stay with Seattle. As I have mentioned repeatedly, I am very concerned about the policing staffing crisis after having lost more than 300 officers and detectives over the past 2 ½ years. No other City department has lost more than 1/3 of its frontline workers and, for a department needed for a holistic approach to public safety, I believe this warrants special attention.  Based on what I heard firsthand at these rollcalls, a lot of work needs to be done to rebuild trust.  I’m afraid this attrition of officers AND detectives will be much worse next month because of a new State law (SHB 1701). Unfortunately, that new State law financially incentivizes officers eligible for retirement to retire by July 1, 2022 before a special benefit expires.

I look forward to Mayor Harrell’s forthcoming safety plan, which hopefully includes a compelling strategy for not only recruiting but also retaining our experienced officers. We need to refocus our efforts on retention – we need to retain highly trained officers because recruiting takes such a long time and we are losing many more officers than we are recruiting.

National Night Out

“Night Out” is a national event on Tuesday evening, August 2, 2022 for neighbors to enjoy time together on side streets in their community to connect and share food while heightening crime prevention awareness. To register your block for the event or to find an even near you for National Night Out, CLICK HERE. For more immediate crime prevention needs, contact a Crime Prevention Coordinator by CLICKING HERE. I worked hard to secure funding for two Crime Prevention Coordinators in North Seattle: Sarah and Katelyn are already hired and ready to meet with you to share crime prevention tips.

Seattle Police Department Facebook page

Being a police officer is a tough job and, rightfully, receives a lot of scrutiny and critique. Our Seattle Police Department also occasionally shares good news, which is found mainly on its Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/SeattlePolice


ECONOMIC DISPLACEMENT AND LAND USE/ZONING

Call to Action!

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Additional Reasons to Override Mayor’s Veto of Council Bill 120325 on July 5

In last month’s newsletter, I discussed how the inexcusable and stubborn lack of data about Seattle’s changing housing inventory as well as careless increases in property taxes can fuel the displacement of vulnerable residents, including low-income renters and seniors on fixed incomes.

On May 31, 2022, a majority of the City Council approved Council Bill 120325 to collect basic rental data City Hall has been lacking for years – data we need urgently now, on the eve of considering massive land use / zoning changes through a required “Comprehensive Plan.”

As one of the sponsors of the bill, I outlined several reasons to support the bill and you can read about them on my blog by CLICKING HERE. Here are those initial reasons in favor:

  • WE NEED THIS DATA TO PREVENT DISPLACEMENT
  • THIS DATA IS VITAL BEFORE COUNCIL MAKES CHANGES TO THE COMP PLAN
  • CURRENT CENSUS TRACT DATA AND RENTAL SURVEYS ON VACANT UNITS LACK VITAL DETAILS
  • WE HAVE ALREADY CONSIDERED ALTERNATIVES
  • DATA CAN VALIDATE AFFORDABLE BENEFITS OF SMALLER “MOM & POP” LANDLORDS

In deference to landlords who expressed concerns about the concept, the bill included important accommodations:

  • THIRD PARTY: A RESEARCH UNIVERSITY WOULD RECEIVE THE RAW RENTAL DATA INSTEAD OF THE CITY GOVERNMENT.
  • TEMPORARY: THE REQUIREMENT WOULD SUNSET IN 3 YEARS.

Opponents of this bill to collect and analyze data also raised concerns of control and cost. So we amended the bill further:

  • THE CITY’S EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS WOULD BE IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT: Nothing happens until the Executive executes a contract with the research university after the competitive Request for Proposals (RFP) and the RFP can manage the costs. Specifically, the bill adopted by Council now states, “effective three months from the date the contract described in subsection 22.214.055.C is executed, the information described in Section 22.214.055 shall be submitted by the owner at least twice annually…”

Between the Mayor’s Veto and Council’s reconsideration, I offer these additional supports for the bill and urge at least one of the four Councilmembers who voted against it to join the majority so the bill becomes law:

  • RENT REGISTRIES ARE INCREASINGLY COMMON IN THE U.S. (Seattle is way behind; we are NOT progressive): Long-standing laws requiring rent rolls already exist in older cities, such as New York City. Moreover, many California cities have implemented programs over the past few years (and a bill is pending in the California State Legislature to require them state-wide). A 2019 report examined 8 rental housing registry programs, including 3 that already require the rent amount to be provided. A more recent February 2022 news article highlighted 16 different cities in California which are not waiting for their State legislature to act. Notably, Oakland states that a purpose of their program is to “provide data that can be used to inform future housing policies.”
  • COSTS ARE DRAMATICALLY LOWER THAN SEATTLE OPPONENTS CLAIMED. Based on (1) the actual experiences of these other cities, (2) the fact that we are adding onto an existing housing registry (Seattle’s Rental Registration & Inspection Ordinance) that already enforces the collection of data, and (3) we would be using a competitive Request for Proposals, the cost to add the collection and research components of CB 120325 would be between $125,000 and $425,000 in 2023 with a grand total of only $375,000 to $675,000 over the 3 years of the program. Basically $125,000 per year for university researchers and approximately $300,000 for startup software /tech support — if the university did not already have such software.  Moreover, the two departments that should want this data (OPCD and SDCI) received a budget increase last year and the Executive departments should be doing this work as they prepare for the Comprehensive Plan anyway. The university – chosen via a competitive RFP – would be doing the data entry, sorting, mapping, and analysis. The best university would not need to buy a new database system, but would already have the technological capabilities which, frankly, is not rocket science.
  • The high $2 million estimate from the Executive was for the entire 3-year period (actually, only $667,000 per year). This amount was in the 2nd and final version of the Fiscal Note and relied on the executive/UW, rather than actual data from other cities: “OPCD discussions with the University of Washington estimated costs for a contract for this project to be a minimum of $2 million, including $600,000 for database setup, $430,000 a year for staffing ($1.29 million over three years), workspace rental, and overhead.”  Relying on the cost estimates from an organization that wants to be paid for the work rather than seeing how the work is already done in other cities is inadequate.
  • The highly questionable $5 million estimate should be disregarded. It originated from an un-authored document provided by Central Staff to Committee members May 19, 2022 entitled “SDCI, OPCD, and OH Comments on Council Bill 120325”. That doc said, “We anticipate it will be costly for a research university to set up and administer the program. It will be somewhat comparable to the RRIO registration system, the startup costs for which were approximately five million dollars.” The City Council’s Central Staff prudently did NOT include that exaggerated figure in Fiscal Note, but it nevertheless made it into the remarks of some opponents.  The figure makes no sense because CB 120325 was an efficient add-on to the existing RRIO unit registry system. To claim that adding a few bits of data would cost as much as setting up the original system is illogical.

 Alternatives on Funding:

Seattle department(s) responsible for this work (SDCI and OPCD) recently received budget increases and should be able to absorb these costs. Again, due to amendments adopted May 31, the Executive can control how much is provided to a research university selected via a competitive RFP. But, if the Executive found that the existing budget cannot handle the data requirements needed to analyze displacement risks as already required by City policies (listed in the Whereas recitals of CB 120325), there are additional options:
_ Increase Fees (not Council’s recommendation):  the City could simply increase the RRIO fee paid by landlords already, per SMC 22.900H. Hypothetically, for the City’s 150,000 units registered with RRIO a per unit incremental increase of just $4, on average, would generate approximately $600,000 – essentially the landlord paying the cost of a latte for each unit. (Note: the landlord RRIO fee is paid every two years.) This was not Council’s recommendation, but it gives the Executive yet another option with additional flexibility. (See existing RRIO website for current fees.)

_ Consider JumpStart Tax eligibility (not Council’s recommendation):  In adopting what is known as the JumpStart payroll tax spending plan, Section 1(B)(2)(a) of Resolution 31957 which we adopted in 2020, the Council explicitly requested that a portion of the JumpStart money be allocated to “programs designed to… preserve naturally occurring, quality, affordable housing, and examine the role that smaller landlords may play in providing safe, affordable housing.” What City Council adopted with CB 120325 can be considered just such a program, intended to develop exactly the data and analysis need by the Council to develop effective policies that meet the objectives of the JumpStart resolution. As we know from the most recent revenue forecast, the revenue from JumpStart is coming in much higher than anticipated. Reading from the April 8, 2022 press release, “JumpStart Seattle is now projected to bring in more than $277 million in 2022, which is $43.6 million beyond what was expected last November.” Again, this was not Council’s recommendation, but it’s important to point out that the City is technically not lacking funds for such a low-cost data collection and analysis operation necessary to understand how and where to prevent displacement as already required by City policies.

The bottom line is that there are plenty of reasons to support Council Bill 120325 as the majority already did and the reasons against it are not based on solid information.

CALL TO ACTION: To urge Councilmembers to override the Mayor’s veto, click the button below:

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How to Participate in Comprehensive Plan Update;
Scoping Comments Due July 25

In response to the inevitability of growth and change, most cities now plan for their future. What will we need in terms of housing, transportation, jobs? Will we have enough water, electricity, parks and open space, fire protection, wastewater treatment infrastructure, and other services? These issues and more are now required to be addressed in long range “comprehensive plans” by cities and counties in Washington State under the Growth Management Act (GMA). First adopted in 1990, the GMA has been amended numerous times to add new issues to consider, such as low income “affordable” housing and recently climate change (CLICK HERE). The Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) has a summary of GMA requirements HERE.

Comprehensive planning affects the daily lives of everyone who lives, works, or visits our city. Plans determine where new housing is likely to be built, where transit service is to be increased, and where new community centers, fire stations, and utilities will be built. Over time, the plan will help determine the look and feel of the city. How the city plans for growth can even determine if inpiduals, families, and communities will be able to stay in the city; physical and economic displacement is an increasingly important concern and focus of city planning.

Seattle’s current comprehensive plan—“Seattle 2035”—was initially adopted in 2016, and policymakers update it with amendments annually. All of the current plan documents are HERE. Increasing inequity of wealth and income in Seattle (and the U.S.) has resulted in displacement being a vital component of our comprehensive planning. Extensive City resources have been committed to addressing displacement through an Equitable Development Initiative (EDI) adopted as part of the 2016 plan. The EDI has its own resource page, HERE. The City uses the EDI to address displacement by allocating funds toward the construction of more affordable housing.  An inherent shortcoming of the EDI is that it typically tries to offset displacement after the damage is done. Ideally, the City would also utilize land use policies to protect existing affordable housing from demolition / redevelopment to prevent displacement, or to require direct and immediate mitigation for the loss of existing affordable housing.

One of the most important prerequisites to good planning is good data. Regarding the critical issues of affordable housing and displacement, I advocated for City collection of more information on the cost of housing, including how much rent people pay in different kinds of housing and different parts of the City. These questions came to a head recently in the Council’s passage of Council Bill 120325 that would require gathering of rent roll data city wide. CB 120325 passed the Council but was vetoed by the mayor. You can read more about this issue HERE.

Every few years the City is required to update its Comprehensive Plan; the City is required to prepare and adopt its next new plan by 2024. Since it takes about two years to prepare a new comprehensive plan and accompanying environmental review of this scope, the City has already started to prepare its new “One Seattle Plan.” The responsible City Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) has set up a new page for this work, HERE. An important early part of the development of the plan—called “scoping”—is now open from June 23 through July 25, 2022. The formal “Scoping Notice” is HERE.

Scoping is an early part of the environmental review required under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). OPCD has already determined—appropriately—that a full environmental impact statement (EIS) will be prepared, including evaluation of alternatives for dealing with the City’s likely future growth and change. OPCD’s description of “One Seattle Plan” SEPA scoping—called “Shaping the Plan”—is to enable Seattle’s residents and others to “help determine what we should study—which topics are important to you and your community, and how you want Seattle to shape its growth.” OPCD has also already framed “draft alternatives” it plans to explore in the EIS for the One Seattle Plan, HERE.

To watch OPCD’s short video about the Comprehensive Plan process, CLICK HERE.  

An understanding of the scope of OPCD’s planning and the assumptions going into the comprehensive planning process will help you determine what you tell the City should be included in the plan, or which City assumptions you think are not accurate. The May 11, 2022 presentation to the Council’s Land Use Committee and series of “Issue Briefs” at the top of the “Documents Page” HERE are informative.

If you want to influence how OPCD assesses the impacts of the alternatives it has chosen, or even challenge the underlying assumptions driving those choices, now is your chance. For example, their Displacement” section states, “Preventing displacement is a major goal of the Comprehensive Plan Update.” That’s good, but then it does not provide any anti-demolition policies or immediate mitigation (such as 1 for 1 replacement of demolished low-income units).

OPCD has a page dedicated to scoping input HERE. You may also send your scoping comments to: brennon.staley@seattle.gov. In addition to the scoping comment period ending on July 25, OPCD has created other ways to participate, with the main “Get Involved” page HERE. On that page you will find notices of meetings, including one on Tuesday evening, July 14 about scoping before the comment deadline (CLICK HERE).


BUDGETS and TAXES

No Budget Deficit

Here’s the bottom line: There is no budget deficit in city government.

Columnist Danny Westneat captures this accurately in his column (CLICK HERE). He writes correctly, “Seattle is still dealing with general fund deficits, from both the pandemic and new spending programs. But Seattle’s deficit isn’t really a full-on deficit, as it doesn’t include the JumpStart revenues. Those are in a separate fund, earmarked for specific programs. That fund is raking in surplus revenues, far beyond what was expected. If you count that surplus, Seattle is in the black. (This is how Seattle could fix its immediate budget problems – just tap the JumpStart fund).”

In essence, a simple amendment to increase flexibility for how we use JumpStart tax revenues would enable us to plug the General Fund gap and still provide ample dollars for JumpStart’s important goals.

Here are some of the sources of information:

From the April 20, 2022 presentation by the City Budget Office, page 9:

 

City Officials Want to Double Your Property Tax for City Parks: Is the Increase Justified?

Seattle loves its parks and recreation centers and yet many of us were unable to enjoy them during the first two years of the pandemic, due to closures and due to the homelessness crisis. The original six-year plan that funds and guides part of our Parks and Rec system is ready for an update this year.

Last week all nine of your City Councilmembers assembled as members of the Parks District Board for the City of Seattle.  What I consider to be the headline of the long presentation was buried on slide 25 of the one of the two presentations: The Parks Department and the volunteer Parks commissioners are pushing a proposal to double the portion of the property tax you pay to supplement 20% of our city’s parks and recreation facilities and programs.

I appreciated the questioning from our new head of the Board (Councilmember Andrew Lewis) regarding what appears to be a proposal to increase your property taxes by $10 million through the Parks measure and pert that funding to our City’s General Fund. It’s labeled as “COVID-19 / Economic Recovery.” As already established above, there is no City budget deficit when we look at all the City’s funds and we are finally emerging from the COVID pandemic. So raising your future property taxes from the Parks measure and then diverting your tax dollars is not fiscally responsible – it’s neither necessary, nor fair to you. Continuing the existing funding, raising by an inflation factor, and funding the “pre-commitment” items make sense to me. Diverting money to the General Fund and some of the new program should be carefully scrutinized.  This is vital not just within the context of fiscal prudence for Parks but also because multiple property tax levy increases are coming your way: affordable housing, transportation, and education (taxes for libraries were already increased in 2019). These are all worthy causes deserving close examination, so that we prioritize what the City truly needs. At the same time, policymakers must be mindful of the cumulative impact to your property tax bill, especially for seniors struggling on fixed incomes and because landlords can pass these costs onto renters.

CLICK HERE to watch the video and hear my comments at the June 24, 2022 Parks District Board meeting HERE and HERE. You’ll see I’m questioning the cost and taxes.

  • For the agenda and presentations at the June 24, 2022 meeting, CLICK HERE.
  • For the presentation by the City Council’s Central Staff, CLICK HERE.
  • For the main website of the Parks District, CLICK HERE.
  • For a recent Seattle Times editorial lamenting the unfulfilled promise to main our parks entitled “Seattle parks maintenance has gone down the toilet,” CLICK HERE.

TRANSPORTATION & SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMITTEE

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

Vision Zero: Traffic Safety

Seattle’s official policy on traffic-related safety is “Vision Zero,” which strives for zero traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. I asked the Vision Zero team of our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to return to our Transportation Committee earlier this month to discuss their strategies for reducing fatalities and injuries on Seattle’s streets.  In 2021, there were 30 traffic-related fatalities: 19 pedestrians were killed, 7 people in vehicles or motorcycles, and 4 bicyclists. Since 2016, an average of 13% of the victims were experiencing homelessness, but in 2021 (and for the first quarter of 2022) that percentage doubled to 26% on average. Another urgent reason to bring more people inside, faster. While there have been 11 traffic-related fatalities as of June 21, 2022, each life is precious and the summer months often yield a higher number of collisions, so the overall trend is deeply troubling.

While seven of the nine City Councilmembers represent a geographic district (1/7 of the City), we each chair a Committee with citywide responsibilities. I represent Northeast Seattle AND I chair the Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities Committee (which actually has a regional footprint). I mention this because recent data on traffic fatalities confirms a disproportionate percentage of them occurring in South Seattle. So I joined with Councilmember Tammy Morales (District 2) to call for more transportation safety investments in her district in South Seattle, which includes many wide arterials with industrial uses.

“Safety must be the priority for everyone using Seattle’s roads and, unfortunately, the first part of 2022 continues the disturbing national trend of unacceptably high numbers of traffic-related injuries and deaths, especially among pedestrians and people experiencing homelessness in South Seattle.

While we have lowered speed limits, expanded access to mass transit, and increased crosswalks, we must also respond to the drop in police enforcement by increasing use of speed cameras and fines based on ability to pay, and we must reduce the traffic-related harms to people experiencing homelessness by having City departments redouble efforts to bring more people inside faster.

While I’m hopeful the City Council’s additional investments for pedestrian safety in South Seattle will reduce injuries once SDOT finishes those projects, today’s initial 2022 data sounds the alarm that the Mayor’s upcoming budget proposal must continue to increase our investments in South Seattle and other underinvested areas, so that our transportation infrastructure is quickly made safer.”

— Alex Pedersen, Chair of the Transportation Committee

For me, the theme is safety:  increasing safety investments for pedestrians (by far the most at-risk mode of getting around town) is aligned with increasing the safety of our aging multimodal bridges which we rely upon for the mass transit of our bus system and even for pedestrians, as we see on our University Bridge connecting Roosevelt to Eastlake/downtown as well as on NE 45th Street I-5 overpass connecting Wallingford with the U District.

It’s a Date! West Seattle Bridge Scheduled to Re-Open Week of September 12, 2022

Our Seattle Department of Transportation announced the promising news, but with frustrating, yet understandable caveats: “The West Seattle Bridge is scheduled to reopen as soon as the week of September 12, 2022, though a project of this scale might encounter unforeseen challenges. This schedule update comes after a series of successful milestones, including the final structural concrete pour inside the bridge in late May.

June was “Ride Transit Month,” but Keep it Going

Kirk, Sarah, and Priyadharshini 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.”

In District 4 earlier this month, I enjoyed commuting to work with advocates from the organization Commute Seattle, including their new Executive Director. As we know, June was “Ride Transit Month” and they joined me for my commute from my neighborhood down to City Hall by bus, light rail, and steps — lots of steps. After navigating the temporarily relocated bus stops and the broken escalators and elevators at Pioneer Square station, we still had fun, saved money, and avoided the rush hour traffic on I-5. Commute Seattle works with employers – both large and small businesses as well as nonprofits –  to show them the financial, environmental, and other benefits of commuting to work in ways other than single occupancy vehicles.

  • For King County Metro bus trip planner, CLICK HERE.
  • For Sound Transit light rail routes, CLICK HERE.
  • For a recommend public transit app called “One Bus Away,” CLICK HERE.
  • For Commute Seattle, CLICK HERE.

Sound Transit Expansion: Suggestions from Seattle:

There are lots of decisions for the 18-member Sound Transit board to make over the next two months on how best to expand light rail system, including the 9 segments of the West-Seattle Ballard Link Extension (WSBLE). From the options in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), they will decide their “preferred alternatives” to study for the final EIS. Rather than sitting back and letting more than a dozen policymakers from outside of our City decide what’s best for us, the executive departments and City Council are working together on a joint Resolution 32055 to strongly voice our Seattle consensus while also supporting the regional approach of Mayor Harrell and Council President Juarez who serve on the Sound Transit board.

Seattle is arguably the biggest supporter of Sound Transit and the crucial linchpin for the entire regional system. Doing right by Seattle will speed implementation (construction permitting, etc.) that will help the entire regional transportation system come online faster.

Schedule for our Seattle Resolution for Sound Transit Decisions:

  • Feb 15: Sound Transit presents at Committee draft options on routes and stations from DEIS.
  • April 19: Sound Transit and City’s executive team present at Committee with more details on options.
  • May 31: Mayor’s draft of Reso for Council’s Introduction & Referral Calendar.
  • June 7: 1st discussion of Reso at Committee.
  • July 5 (scheduled): 2nd discussion, amendments, and vote on Reso at Committee.
  • July 12, 19, 26, or other date t.b.d. by City Council President: adoption of Reso by Council.
  • July 14: Sound Transit Expansion Committee.
  • July 28 (subject to change): Sound Transit 18-member Board of Directors meeting.

For Sound Transit expansion info, CLICK HERE.

 

Sound Transit Repairs “Future Ready”:

Sound Transit updated their announcement June 21 on their repair schedule for this summer and fall:

“Preparations continue for significant Link light rail maintenance activities beginning July 11, with periods when passengers will need to allow more time for trips as Sound Transit gets ready to open major light rail expansions. Completing these “Future Ready” projects before the Link system more than doubles in length from 26 to 58 miles within the next few years will prevent impacts to far greater numbers of passengers…In preparation for the upcoming work, passengers should sign up for Rider Alerts to make sure they receive further information as it becomes available…On July 11, one side of the tracks through Seattle’s Rainier Valley will close for two weeks to enable platform work at Columbia City Station. The work involves removing platform tiles and mortar and rebuilding a concrete base to ensure new tiles offer good durability, eliminating tripping hazards and safety risks from cracking tiles…The 20-minute train frequencies that were previously announced to be systemwide during work will now only apply between [downtown/SODO] Stadium and Angle Lake stations. Sound Transit will instead strive to maintain 10-minute frequencies between [downtown/SODO] Stadium and Northgate stations. “

To be immediately “Future Ready,” Sound Transit also knows it needs to fix all its broken escalators and to keep its stairwells clean and inviting!

 

Seattle Transit Measure (aka Seattle Transportation Benefit District)

Thanks to the generosity of Seattle voters (with a whopping 80% approval in November 2020) and everyone paying sales tax, Seattle continues to boost bus service through its ”Seattle Transit Measure“ (also known as the Seattle Transportation Benefit District or STBD). The annual report covering the middle of 2020 through December 2021 is available by CLICKING HERE. The bottom line is that bus ridership plummeted during the pandemic (see line graph above), but King County Metro kept many key bus lines running because many people have no choice but to ride transit, and the buses humming along served as a beacon of hope/activity/reliability during a bleak, uncertain time. We are appreciative of the bus drivers for keeping things moving and we are confident many more riders will continue to return to this environmentally friendly form of getting around the region.

For SDOT’s website on the Seattle Transit Measure, CLICK HERE.

For CM Pedersen’s website detailing his Committee’s 2020 renewal of this bus transit measure, CLICK HERE.

 

“Seattle Transportation Plan” Wants to Hear from You!

We are creating a holistic “Seattle Transportation Plan” (STP) to reconcile all modes of transportation that have been recently handled in fragmented, competing silos. Per SDOT, “The STP is our commitment to building a transportation system that provides everyone with access to safe, efficient, and affordable options to reach places and opportunities. The STP will guide local transportation investments for the next 20 years – so we want to hear from you!  Our transportation system is more than just roads. It includes sidewalks, bridges, stairways, transit, paths and trails, bike lanes, crosswalks, public spaces like street cafes and benches, and much more.

To provide your input on the new Seattle Transportation Plan, CLICK HERE.

 

Head of Seattle Public Utilities Confirmed

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.  I look forward to a continued focus on trying to keep utility bill increases to a minimum and on finishing the mega project for Ship Canal Water Quality Control on time and within budget.

A key role of 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.  The Mayor is currently conducting a national search for a new director for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), which will also go through our committee. The nomination and approval process should follow Resolution 31868.

 

Utility Bill Scams: Warning (again) 

As Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle City Light and work to inform customers about resources available to help with utility bills, there has been an increase in scam reports of people posing as representatives of the City.

Please know that Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities will NOT call customers to demand immediate payment or personal financial information. If someone calls demanding payment, rather than working with you to establish a payment plan, that is a scam. Customers who believe they’ve been contacted by a scammer should call (206) 684-3000 to verify their account.

If you or someone you know is behind on utility bills, please know that resources are available. Learn more about short- and long-term payment plans available to all customers. Income-eligible residential customers may also qualify for bill assistance programs.

For more info from Seattle Public Utilities, CLICK HERE.


PUBLIC HEALTH

Devastating Decision by U.S. Supreme Court Overturns 50-Year Roe v. Wade Precedent

Source of U.S. map: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/24/abortion-laws-by-state-map-clinics

Because the U.S. Supreme Court decision last week relegated policies on abortion to the States, the views of your Washington State government officials will be paramount. For statements from Governor Jay Inslee, CLICK HERE and HERE. Along with your Seattle Mayor and all nine City Councilmembers, the four State Representatives and two State Senators who represent the 43rd and 46th Legislative Districts (LDs) that overlap with our City Council District 4 are all pro-choice. Laws are already in place protecting reproductive freedom of choice in Washington State. But laws can change, so maintaining a majority of legislators who support existing rights in Washington State will become vital.  For my statement and the statements of other City Councilmembers, CLICK HERE and for Mayor Harrell’s statement, CLICK HERE.

 

Beat the Heat: Cooling Centers and Trees

Earlier this week, the temperature in Seattle reached 90 degrees, a hot reminder that our city government needs to circulate updated locations for its cooling centers.

Last fall, I secured funding for a cooling center at the Northeast branch of the Seattle Library and so I look forward to the Harrell Administration, City Budget Office, and library leadership proceeding expeditiously to upgrade that facility before the next unbearable heat wave.

I have also asked the City’s Parks Department and Office of Emergency Management to make sure Building 406 at Magnuson Park (formerly known as “The Brig”) is available as a cooling center as we still await the reopening of community centers in the area.

The heat waves reinforce the urgency of passing legislation to protect our City’s dwindling tree canopy because trees help to cool communities and homes. The legislation we crafted to register tree cutters / arborists was just a small, first step. To more systematically protect our urban forest, we need to overhaul the weak comprehensive bill introduced by the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspection (SDCI) written during the Durkan Administration. For more on protecting trees, CLICK HERE.

For a Seattle Times article, “How to stay cool during Seattle’s first heat wave of the year,” CLICK HERE.

 

Food Security for the Summer

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), also known as the Summer Meals Program, strives to provide our young neighbors in need with nutritious meals during the summer months when school is not in session. For more about the Children and Youth Summer Food Service Program, CLICK HERE.

Also, our City Council District 4 has several food banks including the U District Food Bank (adjacent to the U District Library), a weekly food pantry at the Mercy Magnuson low-income housing project at Magnuson Park, and the Family Works food bank adjacent to the Wallingford Library.

 

COVID Cases Higher in June than March/April, but on Decline; and Fewer Hospital Beds Used

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

Thanks, in large part, to our relatively high vaccination rate, COVID cases and hospitalizations in Seattle continue to remain manageable. (This snapshot was as of last week for the city of Seattle.)

For the latest COVID pandemic coverage from the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.

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

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU:
Ways to Provide Input

City Council Meetings back in person (and still on the internet)!

Now you can listen, view, and comment at City Council meetings both in person or online. Our City Council meetings are Tuesdays starting at 2:00 p.m.

Listening and Viewing: To view and listen to the meeting on your computer, CLICK HERE for Seattle Channel.

Commenting:  If you want to participate in person, arrive early to sign up at the City Council chambers on the 2nd floor of City Hall downtown. You can also submit public comment by sending an e-mail to me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov or to all 9 Councilmembers at council@seattle.gov. Please remember to add “For City Council Meeting” in the comments. For the instructions on how to register and call in, CLICK HERE. Sign up begins two hours prior to the meeting start time.

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

I continue to schedule virtual in-district office hours, so we can chat by telephone or via Webex. Please continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests. I hope to return to in-person office hours Friday afternoons before the end of the summer.  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


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