Councilmember Pedersen’s Blog is the Place To Be!

November 25th, 2020

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

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

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

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

with gratitude,




West Seattle Bridge Updates

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. 

# # # 

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.


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

September 6th, 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.

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.

Our Resolution 32064 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:

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.



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

# # #


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


Seattle Policy Changes Impacting Residential Tenants and Housing Providers (Landlords): 2020, 2021, 2022

June 10th, 2022

Introduction: During the past two years or so, the Seattle City Council has adopted several new policies and provided substantial funding to benefit many residential tenants. This has been in addition to the federal stimulus checks, temporary boosts to unemployment insurance, and ongoing rental assistance in various forms.

Some of the policy changes I supported and some I did not, depending on the specifics of each proposal. In general, if the proposal was targeted to serve those in financial need during the height of the COVID pandemic emergency and related economic recession, I supported it. If the bill was not vital during the pandemic, not targeted to those in need, not shown to be effective in other jurisdictions, and/or posed a significant legal risk to the City, I generally did NOT support it. For historical context, it’s important to note that previous City Councils prior to 2020 put in place many other protections for residential tenants and the State government has recently adopted new protections (and funding) for tenants.

This blog post provides details of the landlord-tenant policies and funding for Seattle during 2020, 2021, and 2022 (with the most recent events listed first). Note: The COVID-related eviction moratorium instituted in March 2020 ended February 28, 2022.

I agree that many tenants are still vulnerable to sharp rent increases from their landlords due to the State Law prohibiting rent control, but those negative impacts have been largely mitigated by many of the other protections put in place. In addition, I believe policymakers should continue to subsidize low-income housing for those in need (under 60% of area median income) and should support effective and sustainable solutions that prevent homelessness. For some additional details on affordable housing and homelessness, CLICK HERE. Thank you.



June 10, 2022: Mayor Harrell vetoes bill that would have collected data to help preserve and expand affordable housing; Councilmembers Pedersen and Morales express disappointment

Response from the bill’s sponsors: SEATTLE – Councilmembers Alex Pedersen (District 4, Northeast Seattle) and Tammy Morales (District 2, South Seattle and the Chinatown / International District) reacted to Mayor Bruce Harrell’s veto today of their legislation to collect data about rental rates in the City of Seattle.

“I am deeply disappointed our solution to collect housing data helpful for preventing displacement of economically vulnerable people was not signed into law. Similar laws to collect rental housing data are already in place throughout the nation, so the veto means Seattle is still behind the times,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen. “The amendments made to our legislation already addressed concerns about timing, budget, and implementation. Rejecting this law seems to be a victory for landlords unwilling to share data and a loss for those seeking data to make informed decisions on preserving and expanding affordable housing in our city.”  

“Councilmember Pedersen and I worked together on this bill because we understand that the City needs solid data to help us make smart policy decisions. The fact of the matter is that we have no reliable source of data on average rents, rent increases, vacancy rates, or year-over-year trends in these areas,” said Councilmember Tammy J. Morales. “Vetoing this bill means relying on a private for-profit firm like the now-shuttered Dupre + Scott. That option, which currently doesn’t even exist, would provide us with incomplete, voluntary data that would cost money every time we seek it. This veto sends the message that we should make decisions in a vacuum, rather than make data-driven decisions and frankly I find that troubling.”  

Mayor Harrell vetoed Council Bill 120325 adopted by the City Council on May 31, 2022. The legislation adds reporting requirements related to rent and rental housing information, like prices and square footage, to the existing Rental Registration Inspection Ordinance. The information would be submitted to a research university for analysis.  

If the Mayor had allowed the bill to become law, Seattle would have efficiently filled the longstanding gap in rental housing data needed for better-informed policymaking about affordable housing. Seattle’s Rental Housing Registration & Inspection Ordinance (RRIO) adopted several years ago already requires landlords to submit a list of their rental units and this bill would simply have property owners include that list along with rental rates and square footage of each unit to a research university to compile and analyze this important data. No personal information would be provided, the executive departments would determine when to start the process, and the requirement would have sunset in December 2025.  

For the past four years our city government has lacked the level of detail needed to understand many details about Seattle’s housing inventory, including the extent of affordable housing that is not subsidized, but still has below market rents usually because that housing stock is older, what some refer to as “naturally occurring affordable housing.” This legislation follows through with Council’s Statement of Legislative Intent (OPCD-004-A-001) Council adopted in November 2020 and the intent to mitigate for displacement impacts expressed in Resolution 31870

The July 2019 report prepared for the City’s Office of Planning and Community Development by the Urban Displacement Project, University of California, titled “Heightened Displacement Risk Indicators for the City of Seattle’s Equitable Development Monitoring Program,” states that “a more granular and localized” data set is needed to “best meet the City’s racial equity goals. The Seattle Market Rate Housing Needs And Supply Analysis prepared for the City in 2021 states, “Displacement can result from economic pressures (such as rising rents or loss of income), demolition of rental housing for redevelopment, eviction, foreclosure, or loss of community anchors that tie residents to a place.” 

Timely rental rate and location data for Seattle’s existing supply of rental housing will be vital when updating the City’s Comprehensive Plan and making significant land use policy and zoning changes in the future. Without this legislation, it is unclear how the executive departments will obtain the detailed data needed for policymakers.

According to Article IV, Section 12 of the Seattle City Charter, the City Council is required to vote on whether to override or sustain the Mayor’s veto within 30 days. An override requires six votes. 

# # #


May 31, 2022: Council passes Pedersen’s bill (CB 120325) to require landlords to provide rental data to research university from October 2022 through December 2025 in hopes of preventing displacement

A majority of the full City Council adopted my legislation (Council Bill 120325) to require landlords to provide rental data to a research university from October 2022 through December 2025 in hopes of implementing policies to prevent additional displacement of existing residents as part of the City Council’s adoption of an updated Comprehensive Plan. While I did not support her amendments on May 31, I sincerely appreciate Councilmember Morales joining this legislation as a co-sponsor. I also appreciate the work on this legislation by Legislative Aide Toby Thaler.

It’s important to note that achieving the October 2022 start date will require the Harrell Administration to take action now to conduct a competitive Request for Proposals (RFP) (which will lower costs) and sign a contract with the winning research university. Unfortunately, the City departments that oversee private sector real estate matters (such as planning, zoning, and building code compliance) have thus far seemed resistant to efforts needed to obtain this detailed data on rental housing. It’s important to note, however, that the City has longstanding policies to prevent displacement (see the “Whereas” recitals of the adopted legislation), the budgets have grown for the City departments of OPCD and SDCI, and the payroll tax revenues are higher than expected for a “JumpStart” spending plan that would include programs designed to…”preserve naturally occurring, quality, affordable housing, and examine the role that smaller landlords may play in providing safe, affordable housing” (See Section 1(B)(2)(a) of Resolution 31957 which we adopted in 2020.)

The victory for this legislation reveals what could be considered a new displacement prevention majority on the Seattle City Council: Herbold, Lewis, Morales, Pedersen, Sawant (and hopefully additional Councilmembers). It’s a policy affinity that already existed, but has been overshadowed for two years by important debates on policing as well as on homelessness encampments.

Unfortunately, the past practice at City Hall seems to have favored granting to real estate developers blanket land use “upzones” wherever possible without maximizing rapid provision of low-income housing and with no meaningful measures in place to prevent the demolition of naturally occurring affordable housing. Instead, City Hall has used tax dollars to fund grant programs to select community groups for scatter-shot “post-mitigation” after the harm (displacement and demolition) has occurred from the land use policies. When data is needed to better understand the extent of housing demolitions, the details are not readily available. I believe it would be better to put in place the displacement prevention measures beforehand so that future upzones can provide optimal public benefits (e.g. low-income housing in all neighborhoods) without demolishing things we want to keep (such as affordable housing and affordable storefronts to support walkable neighborhoods).

I understand that rental housing providers are frustrated with having to absorb so many changes and requirements over the past few years — I have voted against some of those requirements and/or worked to exempt smaller landlords. Yet, to prevent future displacement of Seattle residents, time is running out to get this simple, yet vital rental housing data to a research university before City Hall updates the required Comprehensive Plan that will serve as the foundation for future housing and land use policies. While the analysis of the new rental data might not be available for the Harrell Administration to incorporate in their initial drafts of Comp Plan changes, the analysis of the data should be available before City Council makes any final decisions on the Comp Plan. (Please see below for the post from March 15 and 18, 2022 for more information.)

For a Seattle Times article on this topic, CLICK HERE.


May 24, 2022: Council strengthens two ordinances after judge’s ruling (CB 120330 provides landlords ability to verify tenant assertions of financial hardship from CB 119784 and CB 120077).

A judge ruled that Council Bill 119784 (Ordinance 126075 / SMC 22.205.090) adopted in May 2020 was faulty because it allowed tenants to certify on their own that they are suffering from financial hardship, but did not provide the landlord “due process” to rebut such certification. There was a similar self-attestation allowed for tenants in Council Bill 120077 (Ordinance 126368 / SMC22.205.100). In an attempt to cure this, Councilmember Kshama Sawant proposed Council Bill 120330 to remove the self-attestation altogether from both ordinances. But removing it altogether could have created other legal risks. To address this, Councilmember Sara Nelson amended the new bill so that it would give landlords the ability to rebut the tenant’s assertion of financial hardship. That amended bill passed today (9 to 0).


March 15 and 18, 2022: Proposal to Provide Rental Data via Rental Registration & Inspection Ordinance (CB 120284 which became CB 120325):

On March 15, 2022, I introduced Council Bill 120284 (which became CB 120325). If adopted by the City Council and signed by the Mayor, this legislation would require landlords to provide to a research university their existing rental rates, unit sizes, and occupancy status for their units twice a year, as part of the requirements under Seattle’s Rental Housing Registration & Inspection Ordinance (RRIO). The bill had its first hearing at the City Council’s Sustainability & Renters Rights Committee meeting on Friday, March 18, 2022 at 9:30 a.m. [NOTE: We are adding more time to the legislative process for this bill so that we hear amendments at the Sustainability & Renters Rights Committee on Friday, May 6, rather than on April 1.]

The City needs — but does not have — complete and granular data for Seattle’s rental housing inventory to make important public policy decisions.

The Rental Housing Registration & Inspection Ordinance (RRIO), codified in our Seattle Municipal Code, already requires a list of units. Moreover, landlords already produce for their own bookkeeping a “rent roll” (typically monthly) with their list of units, rents, occupancy status, bedroom type etc. This proposal would simply have them send that list (minus the tenant names) to the research university designated by the City.

That said, I have heard many concerns about Council Bill 120284 this past week. Please rest assured that we are not voting on the bill this week.  We wanted to put the bill into the public realm to get robust input and we’re getting it!

Here are just a few of the reasons for why I believe the City of Seattle needs this detailed data: 

_ NEED DATA TO PREVENT DISPLACEMENT: The City’s official policy is to prevent displacement of existing residents, yet we’ve been seeing anecdotally a large and disappointing loss of older affordable housing throughout Seattle, including in up-zoned areas such as the University District. We need better data to confirm and prevent displacement.

_ VITAL DATA FOR COMP PLAN CHANGES: The City is gearing up for our required Comprehensive Planning process that requires detailed housing and displacement data. For example, it appears that the last detailed report on Seattle’s inventory of un-subsidized, below-market rental housing (also known as naturally occurring affordable housing) was published in 2016.

_ CENSUS TRACT DATA LACKS VITAL DETAILS: The self-selecting, incomplete nature of voluntary participation is not likely to provide the comprehensive coverage as well as the granular detail needed — unless the research university followed up aggressively with landlords who have no incentive to provide the detail. (There are currently 30,000 properties registered with RRIO; those properties contain about 150,000 units, according to OPCD as of September 2021.) Census tract information currently used by city government to gauge displacement risk is too high level; the City needs the data at least block by block.

_ WE HAVE ALREADY CONSIDERED ALTERNATIVES: We have been unsuccessful in having the city government departments get/provide this detailed information. The Council asked executive departments to explore this back in November 2020 via a “Statement of Legislative Intent” (OPCD-004-A-001) and received a response in September 2021 that stated there is not a handy, ideal solution to the data gap and that, to use RRIO to collect this data, RRIO would need to be amended. Hence this new proposal of Council Bill 120284. It’s unfortunate the rental survey firm Dupre & Scott closed in December 2017, but even that firm seemed to have gaps in information, especially for smaller buildings. I believe the closure of that firm and the ongoing gaps in data are some reasons why a growing city like ours cannot rely on a private survey firm for rental housing data. Moreover, the often used survey firm Co-Star does not include buildings with 1 to 4 rental units.

_ DATA CAN VALIDATE AFFORDABLE BENEFITS OF SMALLER “MOM & POP” LANDLORDS: We would need more than anecdotal information to demonstrate that small landlords provide naturally occurring affordable housing that is an important asset to our city’s residents – confirming this hypothesis about mom & pop landlords can be a positive for small landlords.

NEXT STEPS: AMENDMENTS. Prior to introducing the bill, I informally consulted with leaders of small landlords and incorporated initial input from them: to have a research university be the entity to receive the rental rate information rather than the city government. Since then I have received a lot more input and concerns from landlords and I understand they’ll continue to gather and communicate concerns and advocate for potential amendments.  

I’m very open to reasonable amendments and need to go through the process this week of hearing it for the first time at the Council Committee. For example, I’d like to explore how to adjust the accountability for this new requirement of submitting the additional info – this could include requiring the City to issue a notice or notice(s) before any penalties and allowing landlords to continue to enforce their leases during that process of trying to get the rental data.  I realize this does not address all of the concerns by housing providers thus far, yet I wanted to cite an initial example.

I understand this proposal is coming on the heels of many other new landlord-tenant policies and that it has been relatively challenging for housing providers in Seattle. As you may know, I have worked to try to exempt small landlords from several of those changes (sometime successful, many times not). At the same time, the City has an urgent public policy need to fill this disappointing gap in rental housing data.

  • For the initial City Council Staff memo, CLICK HERE.
  • For a news article by MyNorthwest about the March 18, 2022 Committee meeting, CLICK HERE.
  • For local housing statistics, CLICK HERE. Also, please consider the hyperlinks embedded throughout this blog post.

February 18-22, 2022: Councilmember Kshama Sawant introduced Resolution 32044 in an attempt to overturn Mayor Harrell’s decision to end the 2-year eviction moratorium on February 28, 2022. Councilmember Sawant’s Resolution would have instead continued the eviction moratorium until the “civil emergency” of the COVID pandemic officially ends, even though that date is unknown and we have put in place several other tenant protections (including the winter ban on evictions). I supported Mayor Harrell’s decision to end this particular moratorium after nearly 2 years based, in larger part on the rationale he already articulated (CLICK HERE), including the multiple supports and protections already in place. The Council kept in place Mayor Harrell’s policy by voting against Councilmember Sawant’s Resolution 5 to 3. Council President Debora Juarez also voted against the Resolution and delivered comprehensive remarks with which I concurred. For the benefit of my constituents, however, here are the remarks I crafted to explain my vote, even though I did not deliver them at the February 22, 2022 Council meeting:

Seattle’s City Hall has been incredibly proactive and compassionate with its recent policies and financial assistance to those struggling during the COVID pandemic.  I believe that the rise of a global pandemic (before we achieved high vaccination rates here in Seattle) constituted a sufficient emergency for the Chief Executives of all levels of government to impose temporary moratoria on evictions, as well as temporary bans of foreclosures on mortgages.  Yet deciding to continue our city government’s interference with the fully executed contracts already agreed to by housing providers and their tenants could, I believe, increasingly subject our city to substantial legal risk and potentially undermine additional tenant protections already in place.

For the past two years, I have supported the Executive’s decision to use their emergency powers to impose and continually extend this moratorium on rental evictions. It’s important to note that the ban on bank foreclosures on certain mortgages, however, ended back in July of 2021.  In addition, Governors and Mayors across the nation have already ended their moratoria on rental evictions.  Our own Governor ended his statewide moratorium nearly 4 months ago. I agreed with our Governor when he said back in October of 2021, “We have to have some end to the moratorium. You can’t have an economy ultimately where just nobody pays rent.” 

I have confidence in our new Mayor Bruce Harrell — recently chosen by Seattle voters with a large winning margin — and I have confidence in his team of seasoned and thoughtful strategic advisors. After their own extensions of this same moratorium, they decided this moratorium would end February 28. Their rationale basis for ending the moratorium after nearly two years is sound and includes several reasons, such as the fact that we are emerging from the pandemic with some of the highest vaccination rates in the nation and we have already put in place multiple new tenant protections: a 6-month legal defense, free attorneys, rental assistance programs, repayment plans, a ban on evictions during the winter months, and several other older protections, such as Seattle’s Just Cause Eviction ordinance. (Moreover, when other jurisdictions have lifted their moratoria, they have not experienced an unusual percentage of evictions.) Even some nonprofit housing providers are eager to see this Executive Order on evictions expire.

The Executive Order originates with the executive and we, as the Council, already exercised our right to modify it nearly two years ago. To modify it again today would be to directly overturn the Executive’s decision.  We all know it’s the personal choice of each Councilmember to vote against our new Mayor and FOR Councilmember Sawant’s Resolution.  For me, it boils down to this:  I have confidence in Mayor Harrell and his team and so I will be voting today to support Mayor Harrell and his team and their decision to end the two-year eviction ban, instead of this Resolution from Councilmember Sawant. I will be voting No on Councilmember Sawant’s Resolution. Thank you.


February 11, 2022 UPDATE: Mayor Harrell announced he is ending Seattle’s eviction moratorium February 28, 2022.

After several extensions and following the Governor Inslee’s end to the statewide eviction moratorium in October 2021, Mayor Harrell announced he will end Seattle’s eviction moratorium February 28, 2022. For Mayor Harrell’s announcement, CLICK HERE.

The City Council adopted several protections for residential tenants over the past two years. In addition, Mayor Harrell set up an Eviction Assistance web page as part of the City’s broader Renting in Seattle online resource.  The Eviction Assistance page offers renters and landlords key information they should know about the end of the moratorium on February 28, 2022 and post-moratorium tenant protections.  It also provides links to resources and more detailed information.  We will be adding translated information as it becomes available.  The Assistance website is www.seattle.gov/EvictionAssistance and it lists resources available to tenants once the moratorium ends, including:

*free legal assistance from the Housing Justice Project

*assistance for rent and utility payments due to COVID hardships

*rules limiting eviction of tenants with delinquent rent accrued between March 3, 2020 and up to 6 months after the end of the moratorium

*rules limiting eviction from September to June based on Seattle Public Schools calendar for households with students (childcare—under 18), educators and employees of schools.


October 31, 2021: Governor Inslee ends State-level moratorium on rental evictions.

Governor Inslee acknowledged on October 29, 2021, “We have to have some end to the moratorium. You can’t have an economy ultimately where just nobody pays rent.” For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.


September 21 and 27, 2021 UPDATE: (CM Sawant advances two more bills for tenants; Mayor extends eviction moratorium to January 15, 2022 via Executive Order 2021-07).

Councilmember Sawant passed two of her bills out of her Renters Rights Committee on September 21, 2021: Council Bill 119985 extends the notification for ANY rent increase from 60 days to 180 days and Council Bill 120173 requires landlords to pay substantially higher relocation amounts for tenants who decide to move out after receiving a rent increase of 10% or more. The payments from the landlord to assist tenants with relocation (if there is a rent increase of 10% or more AND the tenant decides to move) is separate from the existing Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance (TRAO).

I proposed an amendment to improve (in my opinion) each bill.

For the additional notification bill, I proposed to exempt small “mom & pop” landlords that own fewer than 5 units in Seattle (so they would be required to provide the existing 60 days of notice instead of the newly proposed 180 days). My proposed amendment was consistent with my attempts on previous pieces of legislation to exempt smaller landlords because there is a growing concern that Seattle’s flood of cumulative regulatory changes are encouraging small landlords to remove their housing from the rental market by selling their properties. Unfortunately, my amendment to exempt small landlords from the longer notification period failed 3 to 2. With my amendment failing, I abstained at the committee vote to provide myself with more time to think about it. By the time the full Council meeting arrived on September 27, 2021, nothing substantive had changed and I heard concerns from additional small (“mom & pop”) housing providers. So, while I support corporate landlords providing additional notice of rent increases, I believe it’s important to exempt small landlords, so I voted No. The bill passed anyway, 7 to 1.

For the additional relocation program, I proposed to tailor it for tenants in need, specifically defined as “low income.” The low-income definition (per our State government) is 80% of the area median income (AMI), which is adjusted based on the number of people in the household. (Examples: $92,000 per year for a family of four or $65,000 for a single person household). As proposed, the tenant would already need to submit information to the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI), so they would simply add a self-certification for their annual income. [The existing Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance (TRAO) also has an income qualification requirement.] Fortunately, this amendment of mine passed 3 to 2 at the committee and was, therefore, incorporated into the bill advancing to the full City Council. Councilmember Sawant still tried to delete my amendment at the full Council meeting on September 27, but my amendment stayed in place with a vote of 5 to 3. If my amendment had been deleted, I would have voted against the final bill. But my amendment remained, so I voted in favor of the final bill. Small landlords are not likely to try to raise rents above 10% in any given year, so this bill should not adversely impact small landlords. This new law is likely to be viewed as a major milestone for renter rights in Seattle.

Separately today, Mayor Durkan extended the eviction moratorium to January 15, 2022 via Executive Order 2021.07. This is the 6th extension since the COVID-19 civil emergency. This extension will also include prohibiting utility shutoffs. I’m concerned about the sluggish pace at which our local governments are getting federal rental assistance dollars to tenants and landlords. With faster distribution of rental relief dollars, another extension might not be needed, especially considering all the new protections put in place by the Seattle City Council. I would have preferred re-examining the need for the new extensions of the moratorium each month, rather than dictating an arbitrary 4-month extension. For the Mayor’s press release, CLICK HERE.


July 31, 2021 UPDATE: Federal foreclosure moratorium ends

On July 31, 2021, the federal government ended its COVID-era moratorium that had prevented bank foreclosures on certain mortgages. For a Washington Post article, CLICK HERE and for an C-NBC article, CLICK HERE. This is important because landlords often owe money to banks for the mortgages that funded their rental properties and the landlords rely on rent from their tenants to pay the debt service on those mortgages. Unlike other states, Washington State did not continue its own program beyond July 31, 2021, but the Washington State Attorney General published information about housing counseling services for property owners (CLICK HERE).


June 21, 2021 UPDATE:

Indicating her overall opposition to Council Bills 120046, 120077, 120090, Mayor Durkan returned them all un-signed (which is consistent with my No vote on those 3 bills). Unlike our U.S. Constitution which requires the chief executive (the President) to sign bills coming from the legislature (the Congress), our City Charter does not require the chief executive (the Mayor) to sign bills from the legislature (the City Council) for them to become law. You may have heard the term “pocket veto” whereby the President does NOT sign a law and it fails to become law. In Seattle, we have what I call “pocket passage” whereby the Mayor does NOT sign a law, but it becomes law anyway. Nevertheless, this decision requires the Mayor to explain her rationale for not signing and express her general opposition, even if she does not exercise her veto authority. For her letter explaining her opposition to CB 120046, 120077, and 120090, CLICK HERE. (Note: to overturn a mayoral veto, the Council needs only 6 votes. Therefore, if a bill received 6 votes during its initial passage, sometimes a mayor would not go through the exercise of vetoing it, because it is likely to be overridden anyway.)


June 7, 2021 UPDATE:

Today the Seattle City Council passed one Resolution and three Ordinances to favor residential tenants. Notably, all three ordinances are permanent, new laws that extend beyond the COVID pandemic.

Resolution 31998: Passed 7 to 0; I voted Yes.

In response to the economic recession caused by COVID, all levels of government have approved additional financial assistance for those struggling to pay for rent, which includes additional unemployment insurance, direct rental assistance, and other funding. We have confirmation from mainstream media reports, however, that it is taking longer than hoped to get the additional dollars for rental assistance out of the door and into the hands of struggling tenants and housing providers. While, ideally, we would not need another 6 months, this Resolution is non-binding, so I will be supporting it. I believe making housing providers whole with the money owed to them is the best path, rather than making permanent regulatory changes. Extending the eviction ban would provide more time as we emerge from the pandemic.

Council Bill 120046: Passed 6 to 1; I voted No.

My remarks: “Colleagues, I offered several amendments at the Renters Rights Committee which I believed would have made this legislation better. I saw it as my role to offer those amendments for consideration at the Committee on which I serve and rather than to retry or rehash them at full Council…

• I agree with the sponsor of the legislation that evictions present hardships for children and families, and no one wants to have this disruption that leads to learning loss and instability for children.
• I have voted in favor of numerous tenant protections during the past year, including the winter ban on evictions for low- and moderate-income residents, free legal counsel for those in need and facing eviction, and the payment plans for those impacted negatively by the COVID pandemic. Today I supported the Resolution to encourage another extension to the eviction moratorium to provide more time to have more rental assistance money flow from the federal and State governments to both housing providers and tenants. Before joining the City Council, I help to build and preserve tens of thousands of units of affordable housing and I worked at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development helping to allocate billions of dollars to address homelessness throughout the country.
• However, I believe the more targeted, direct, and efficient solution is to fund tenant and landlord assistance for those in need rather piling on yet another regulation that could be legally challenged because it leaves one party — the providers of the housing, bearing the brunt of the cost. Regulating rather than funding the solutions is more likely to have a substantial negative impact — not on so-called “corporate landlords” he can absorb these costs imposed by City Council, but on the smallest landlords in our city. For all of the ordinances before us today, my amendments would have exempted small landlords (owning 4 or fewer units in Seattle).
• Regarding this Council Bill 120046, the permanent bill that would single out “educators” for special rental protections,
o one of my amendments would have targeted the bill to assist teachers and substitute teachers (and curriculum specialists) rather than every single employee at the school who might not be involved in the direct education of children. Moreover, my amendment would still have kept the special new protection for the school children and their families.
o Another amendment would have made the bill more like the law from San Francisco which limits the eviction protections to when it is no fault of a tenant who is an Educator. But my amendment would have been broader than San Francisco’s banning those evictions for school children and their families.
o Another amendment would have changed this permanent alteration of landlord-tenant relations to an 18-month pilot program to determine whether it is effective. It’s important for the general public to know that this bill is different from recent COVID relief bills because it would be permanent.

[These amendments, unfortunately, did not pass.]

I believe we should focus on getting the targeted funding to those in need, rather than permanently altering the contractual relationships to put the burden entirely on the housing provider. To be consistent with my votes at Committee, I will be voting No today. Thank you.”

Council Bill 120077: Passed 5-2; I voted No.

My remarks: “For this Council Bill 120077, I offered two amendments at the Renters Rights Committee on May 26: the first amendment would have exempted small landlords; the second would have allowed this regulatory change for 18 months so that it corresponds to the potential lingering effects of the COVID recession. I think we need to be mindful of the financial challenges faced by smaller housing providers who lack the economies of scale to absorb these city-imposed costs. I also do not think it is appropriate to make such regulatory legislation permanent.

Neither of my amendments passed, so I voted NO at Committee and, since nothing material has changed since that time, I will be voting No today. While this legislation says it’s related to the COVID civil emergency, it would be a permanent law.

Rather than making wholesale and permanent regulatory changes to existing contractual relationships that put the entire burden onto the housing provider regardless of their hardship, I believe we should instead get the funding into the hands of the housing providers to make them whole for the tenants who truly need that help.”

Council Bill 120090: Passed 5 to 2; I voted No.

My remarks: “I think I would have been able to support this legislation Council Bill 120090 if a similar State law had not passed. But a similar State Law House Bill 1236 recently passed.

Council Bill 120090 is, in my opinion, pre-empted by State law which includes, but is not limited to the newly State law House Bill 1236.

As I understand it, local laws are generally pre-empted by State laws that conflict on the same subject matter, even if the State law does not expressly include a pre-emption clause.

So, it’s not clear to me why this City Council is proceeding to adopt a City law that could burden the City with substantial legal risk.

Consistent with my vote at the Committee level, I will be voting No on Council Bill 120090 because of the concerns with pre-emption by the State government.”

More Info: For a Seattle Times article on the legislation, CLICK HERE. For an SCC Insight article, CLICK HERE.


March 29, 2021 UPDATE: (excerpt from newsletter)

Mayor Durkan and Governor Inslee Extend COVID-19 Eviction Moratoriums to June 30, 2021

Following last week’s announcement of $23 million of additional rental assistance and the prospect of new rental assistance available to Seattle and King County through the new American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Mayor Durkan extended COVID-19 relief measures, including the eviction moratoriums to protect residential, nonprofit, and small business tenants in the City of Seattle through June 30, 2021. Other COVID-19 relief measures include extending the Utility Discount Program’s Self Certification Pilot Program until June 30, 2021, which can lower Seattle City Light bills by 60 percent and Seattle Public Utility bills by 50 percent for people who meet the eligibility requirements.

Residential tenants who receive an eviction notice during the moratorium should contact the Renting in Seattle hotline at 206‐684‐5700 or go online to submit a complaint. On top of the current proposal for $23 million for rental assistance, the City of Seattle has committed $18 million to rental assistance  in addition to state and King County resources for landlords and tenants. If you’re a small business, see the Office of Economic Development’s COVID-19 Lease Amendment Tool Kit.

The City continues to maintain a comprehensive resource page for residents and small businesses impacted by COVID-19.


March 29, 2021 and March 4, 2021 UPDATE (excerpt from newsletter):

Councilmember Sawant’s Bill for Tenants (“Right to Counsel” Council Bill 120007): My No Vote at Committee and Yes at Full City Council

Consistent with the additional $1.9 Trillion in additional federal relief (for a total of $5 Trillion) and our Governor and Mayor extending the eviction moratorium several more months, I agree we must continually prevent evictions whenever possible. This is why I joined the rest of City Hall leaders and…

  • Increased funding for tenant supports, including funds for legal assistance to prevent evictions.
  • Supported reforms at the State legislature to provide tenants with more protections.
  • Banned evictions during the coldest winter months.
  • Prevented evictions throughout the COVID pandemic (and the eviction moratorium is being extended).
  • Adopted the Council President’s legislation to allow for installments of back rent following COVID.

However, Councilmember Sawant’s new legislation (Council Bill 120007) to have city taxpayers foot the bills for free attorneys for anyone being evicted is concerning on a number of fronts, so I voted against it at her Committee on March 4. I will continue to support effective, targeted — and funded — eviction prevention measures, but Sawant’s original bill is seriously flawed, in my opinion, and the analysis put forward in support of it was inadequate.

All of us want to prevent homelessness and we continue to increase those positive efforts; therefore, it’s disappointing and misleading whenever Councilmember Sawant mischaracterizes legitimate concerns with her unfunded bill as somehow destined to contribute to homelessness.

I believe this type of government assistance and intervention to pay lawyers for any residential tenant — regardless of their income or the reason for the eviction proceedings — should be budgeted, rather than dictated or mandated permanently. In fact, we added money for these legal services already in our most recent annual budget process just a few months ago. Even as new federal relief dollars flow, we must continue to monitor the eviction situation for the actual need and then respond accordingly — as we will with all other budget priorities facing our city. Singling out this issue over other needs of our city and its residents is fiscally irresponsible and creates false promises.

I would have been able to vote Yes for this bill if it had been focused and funded. When promising to provide city tax dollars to private individuals, I believe we should:

  • subsidize those who are truly in need (such as low income residents only),
  • target help only to those tenants who cannot afford to pay their rent due to extraordinary circumstances (non-payment of rent rather than other violations of the lease),
  • support fiscal responsibility: instead of creating an unfunded mandate, let’s acknowledge that it can be funded only to the extent our city budget can afford it as we also strive to fund childcare, public safety, supports for those experiencing homelessness, transit subsidies, utility discounts, and the list goes on and on.

But, unfortunately, the current version of Sawant’s bill is un-targeted and un-funded legislation that ties the city taxpayers to unknown (unquantified) financial requirements to pay for lawyers for anyone of any income level — for all time.

Note: Sawant’s bill was scheduled for a vote at the full City Council on March 15, 2021, but six Councilmembers (including me) voted to delay it for two weeks for a variety of reasons, including the Mayor’s extension of the eviction moratorium and a desire by some Councilmembers to amend the bill (something that should have happened when it was in Councilmember Sawant’s Committee). While I have supported and will continue to support eviction prevention and low-income tenant supports, Councilmember Sawant’s bill would need to amended substantially for me to change my vote.  In the meantime, the eviction moratorium remains in place and substantial new dollars will be flowing from the $1.9 Trillion relief package signed recently by President Biden.

Update to this post on March 29, 2021: Later at the meeting of the full City Council, this bill was substantially amended with Amendments 1, 2, 3, 4 and so I was able to vote for the final, amended version. Here are the remarks I made at the full City Council meeting: “To enact laws strong enough to survive scrutiny — so that we can actually help our most vulnerable neighbors — policymakers need the time to think through the various ramifications and, because we took the time in this case, we were able to consider and approve sensible amendments to make this legislation better — and so I am able to update my vote to YES.”  While I remain concerned this bill creates a first-of-its-kind, un-quantified mandate instead of prudently being “subject to budget discussions and available appropriations,” the combination of the four amendments enabled me to update my vote to YES. The amendments (a) target the bill to those who truly cannot afford an attorney, (b) focus the tax dollars on actual legal representation in the courtroom (instead of just vague advocacy), (c) require reports, and (d) prompt the city department to conduct an open, competitive process to allocate the tax dollars to qualified attorney nonprofits.  It will be important to see how this legislation impacts not only tenants but also smaller landlords (those owning fewer than 5 units) because those smaller “mom & pop” landlords provide important housing opportunities to Seattle’s residents.


UPDATE January 28, 2021 (excerpt from newsletter):

Eviction Moratorium Extended by Feds, Governor, and Mayor (to March 31, 2021)

The risk of evictions is concerning to many as we continue to experience the ongoing economic impacts of the pandemic. In the City of Seattle, the Mayor on December 15, 2020 extended her eviction moratorium until March 31, 2021. The Governor’s State eviction moratorium was also recently extended to March 31, 2021. Proclamation 20-19.5 extends state rental assistance programs to incorporate the newly approved federal funding for rental assistance. Furthermore, the stated goal of these rental assistance programs is modified to provide a path for landlords, property owners, and property managers to initiate an application for rental assistance. The proclamation also clarifies that landlords and property owners may communicate with tenants in support of their applications for rental assistance.

However, I recognize that federal and state action must also occur to prevent foreclosures. The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will extend their moratorium evictions until February 28, 2021. The federal government has extended its moratorium protecting mortgages under jurisdiction of HUD (FHA-insured) to March 31st . Unfortunately, these foreclosure moratoriums apply only to mortgages on single-family homes. We also need a foreclosure moratorium for multifamily housing (apartment buildings), which can be done only at the state and federal levels, according to banking laws. A multifamily housing foreclosure moratorium is needed to enable apartment owners to survive which can, in turn, help renters. We have asked our Office of Intergovernmental Relations to track this possibility.


May 11, 2020 UPDATE:

Council Bill 119788: Payment Plans for Residential Tenants (COVID-related). I voted Yes. Bill Title: “AN ORDINANCE relating to residential rental agreements; allowing residential tenants to pay rent in installments when the tenant is unable to timely pay rent; declaring an emergency; and establishing an immediate effective date; all by a 3/4 vote of the City Council.”

Council Bill 119787: Preventing the use of eviction history to be considered during — and up to 6 months after — the Mayor’s Civil Emergency period I voted No. Bill Title: “AN ORDINANCE relating to the use of eviction records; regulating the use of eviction history in residential housing; prohibiting landlords from considering evictions related to COVID-19 during and after the civil emergency; amending the title of Chapter 14.09 and Sections 14.09.005, 14.09.010, 14.09.020, and 14.09.030 of, and adding a new Section 14.09.026 to, the Seattle Municipal Code; declaring an emergency; and establishing an immediate effective date; all by a 3/4 vote of the City Council.

Excerpt of my prepared remarks: “I’m becoming increasingly concerned that we are seeing bills that invoke the emergency legislative clause of our City Charter (which enables legislation to take effect immediately) for time periods that last well beyond the declared emergency. [City Charter, Title IV, Section I (i)]

I have supported the eviction restrictions in two ground-breaking bills recently adopted by this City Council. I am, however, voting No on this bill because I believe…

_its far-reaching impacts are rushed with only 7 days to consider it;

_ it does not, in my opinion, to meet the test that it is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety;

_it does not exempt smaller landlords;

_ I am in favor of fairness about eviction records during this COVID crisis. The legislation in front of us today, however, covers a longer time period well into the future. To be clear, this legislation would be not just for a few months after the Mayor’s eviction moratorium ends, but after the declared “emergency” ends. This is an important point.  The emergency as declared by the Mayor is likely to stay in place for several months — if not for more than a year — AFTER the eviction moratorium ends. The Mayor is likely to keep her emergency declaration in place long after the eviction moratorium ends because we may need it in place to maximize funding and reimbursement from the federal government.  We just do not know for how long it will last and yet today we are setting in stone a specified time frame for additional, hyper-specific regulations and top of previous regulations.”


May 4, 2020 UPDATE: Additional Defense from Eviction (COVID-related)

City Council approves additional defense from eviction for renters suffering financial hardship for one-time, 6-month “ramp down” following COVID (Council Bill 119784; I voted Yes.)

Today the Seattle City Council approved Council Bill 119784, introduced by Council President Lorena Gonzalez to provide residential renters facing financial hardship with an additional defense against eviction for 6 months after the Mayor’s eviction moratorium ends.

The Mayor extended her evictions moratorium — which is a stronger outright prohibition on evictions — to June 4, to align with the Governor’s COVID-related policies. Today’s new — and temporary — policy adopted by the City Council is not a moratorium or ban on evictions, but rather another option tenants can use as a financial defense if a landlord attempts to evict them during the following six months. Think of it as a “ramp down” or “phasing out” of the stronger protections for tenants during this extraordinary time.

What follows below is A LOT of words to explain my “Yes” vote, but my decision ultimately boils down to one thing: COVID. I believe no one wants to see vulnerable people evicted during a homelessness crisis compounded by a pandemic.

Here is additional background on the approved legislation:

  • This temporary evictions law is a time-limited (one 6-month period) option during this extraordinary public health and economic crisis for renters who also certify their financial hardship to a judge. The rent is still owed and, if not paid, that debt will accumulate and should ultimately be paid.
  • Fortunately, all levels of government are adding money to programs for eviction prevention and rental assistance, which should reduce financial hardship and the need for the eviction defense.
  • Moreover, landlords can still evict tenants for several legitimate reasons other than failure to pay rent during this period, pursuant to the City’s Housing Code (see Title 22 of the Seattle Municipal Code, Section 22.206.160).

Note: Because the legislation was introduced and approved as an “emergency” ordinance, it becomes law only if/when Mayor Jenny Durkan signs it. (Under our City Charter, a typical Council bill becomes law unless the Mayor vetoes it. In other words, if the Mayor refuses to sign a typical Council bill, it becomes law anyway. Not so with an “emergency” ordinance, which requires not only 7 votes from Council instead of 5, but also an affirmative signature from the Mayor.) According to the Seattle Times May 4 article, Mayor Durkan “‘believes people should be able to stay in place‘ and intends to sign González’s bill, spokesman Ernie Apreza said.”

My office received many e-mails in favor of the proposal and many e-mails against it. To reconcile these opposite views, I conducted additional research and proposed amendments (see below). As with the moratorium on evictions during the coldest winter months adopted by the City Council this past February, this vote on CB 119784 was a difficult policy decision for me. The vote was challenging not only because of the differing views of my own constituents, but also because the Council was again breaking new ground to go beyond what other cities have tested. While breaking new ground might sound exciting to some, I prefer a methodical approach that analyzes data along the way to make sure we are not overreaching in a way that creates unintended consequences or attracts costly lawsuits that overturn our policy.

I proposed three amendments:

  1. Exempt Small Landlords (Failed): My amendment to exempt the smallest landlords (4 or fewer units) was rejected 8-1. I have heard from many smaller landlords in my district who are suffering their own financial hardships with mortgage payments, real estate taxes, property insurance, utility bills, and repairs. Unlike the City Council’s approval of my exemption for small landlords in February 2020 for the moratorium on evictions during the winter months, today my colleagues argued that COVID makes the situation extraordinary and today’s bill is temporary (just the 6 months in 2020; not every year).
  2. Require Tenants to Certify Financial Hardship (Passed!): One of the concerns with the original bill introduced by Council President Gonzalez is that renters might be able to pay rent, but choose not to pay rent. My amendment requires tenants to certify to a judge that they cannot afford it. “The tenant has submitted a declaration or self-certification asserting the tenant has suffered a financial hardship and is therefore unable to pay rent.”
  3. Receive Reports on the Law’s Implementation (Failed): While statistics were put forward by proponents of the legislation, when I asked to amend the proposal to require the city departments to report back to us on the data and effectiveness of the proposal, my colleagues voted 8-1 to reject my amendment. Their rationale was that this law will be for only 6 months and that the city government does not already collect data on evictions. Very disappointing!

The amendment accepted by my Council colleagues (for tenants to certify their financial hardship to a judge) combined with the one-time, short-term nature of the ordinance — during the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID public health and economic crisis — led me to join my Council colleagues and vote for the amended bill.

  • For the press release from Council President Gonzalez, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Seattle Times article covering the Council’s discussion and vote, CLICK HERE.

There is more legislation on the way from my colleagues to regulate landlord-tenant relations that will attempt to supersede existing rental agreements already in place. I’m concerned that this new legislation will use a crystal ball to cover longer time periods too far into the future, will not provide corresponding relief to the housing providers (such as helping them to pay their mortgages, property taxes, property insurance, etc), and will ignore the boost in unemployment insurance payments and rental assistance programs.

It’s important for me to emphasize that, while I have supported legislation specifically targeted to reduce evictions during hard times, I absolutely oppose the irresponsible calls for a “rent strike.” For the Seattle Times article on that, CLICK HERE. Rent is still due. If you’re having trouble paying your residential rent, CLICK HERE and HERE. If you’re a housing provider (landlord), CLICK HERE.


March 3, 2020: CIVIL EMERGENCY ORDER, CITY OF SEATTLE, MORATORIUM ON RESIDENTIAL EVICTIONS

Note: This moratorium was extended several times, in concert with Governor Inslee’s moratorium, until June 30, 2021.

A. Effective immediately, a moratorium on residential evictions is hereby ordered until the earlier of the termination of the civil emergency declared in the Proclamation of Civil Emergency dated March 3, 2020 or 60 days from the effective date of this Emergency Order. The decision to extend the moratorium shall be evaluated and determined
by the Mayor based on public health necessity;
B. A residential landlord shall not initiate an unlawful detainer action, issue a notice of termination, or otherwise act on any termination notice, including any action or notice related to a rental agreement that has expired or will expire during the effective date of this Emergency Order, unless the unlawful detainer action or action on a termination notice
is due to actions by the tenant constituting an imminent threat to the health or safety of neighbors, the landlord, or the tenant’s or landlord’s household members. Further, no late fees or other charges due to late payment of rent shall accrue during the moratorium; and
C. It shall be a defense to any eviction action that the eviction of the tenant will occur during the moratorium, unless the eviction action is due to actions by the tenant constituting an imminent threat to the health or safety of neighbors, the landlord, or the tenant’s or landlord’s household members. For any pending eviction action, regardless if the tenant has appeared, a court may grant a continuance for a future hearing date in order for the eviction action to be heard after the moratorium a court may grant a continuance for a future court date in order for the matter
to heard at a time after the moratorium is terminated; and
D. Effective immediately, the Sheriff of King County is requested to cease execution of eviction orders during the moratorium.”

For the full Civil Emergency Order temporarily banning most residential evictions during the COVID emergency, CLICK HERE.


February 11, 2020 (copy of original post):

My vote to limit winter evictions during our homelessness crisis (Council Bill 119726; Ordinance 126041)

In a surprising 7-0 vote this afternoon, the City Council passed an audacious ordinance prohibiting larger landlords from evicting low and moderate income tenants in Seattle during the 3 coldest months of December, January, and February, with exceptions for criminal and unsafe activities and other just causes for eviction.

The vote was surprising because I voted in favor of it, even though I had signaled my substantial concerns.

Why? The short answer is that the original legislation was improved substantially by a slew of amendments from various Councilmembers, including me. Moreover, in the midst of our deliberations, it was clear this legislation had overwhelming support to pass — so I believe it was then my job to make the inevitable legislation better, rather than be the lone ”no” vote on worse legislation.

I was relieved that the Council approved my amendment to exempt “small landlords,” defined as those with an ownership interest in four or fewer units. Small landlords were literally excluded from the table during Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s committee, but those “mom and pop” local landlords got their message through regardless: they are able to offer rental units to the housing market only if they can collect the rent needed to pay their mortgage, utilities, insurance, taxes, and maintenance. I heard over and over in person and by email from constituents that this was their main concern, and I tailored my amendment to address this concern. I could not stop the legislation but, in a close 4-3 vote, I was able to make it more reasonable.

While the Committee rejected my amendment to apply the winter eviction moratorium just to very low-income tenants in housing that received city-government financial assistance, the Council approved an amendment to limit it to low and moderate income people (those earning the area median income or less).

What’s next? I appreciate the valid concerns raised by Mayor Durkan and her key department heads. If Mayor Durkan vetoes the legislation, it would return to the City Council, which would need to muster at least 6 votes to overturn it. I welcome further discussion, especially about the additional funding needed to prevent evictions and our mutual desire to avoid a successful legal challenge. The point, after all, is to prevent evictions to stop exacerbating our homelessness crisis during the coldest months, rather than to engage in long and expensive legal battles.

To watch the video on Seattle Channel, go to minute 57:51: https://www.seattlechannel.org/FullCouncil/?videoid=x111178

Here is a link to the Seattle Times article: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/seattle-city-council-approves-legislation-protecting-renters-from-wintertime-evictionsme-evictions/ Here’s an excerpt from that article: “Before voting 7-0, the council trimmed the period covered by the legislation from five months to three months; limited the rule to low- and moderate-income tenants; and exempted landlords with four or fewer housing units. The legislation is meant to prevent most evictions during the coldest months for people behind on their rent. Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who sponsored the legislation, expressed disappointment with the amendments, calling them loopholes…”

# # #

More Information:

For relevant City of Seattle guidance and regulations impacting renters and landlords, CLICK HERE.


Hope Springs Ahead with Day of Service

May 27th, 2022

Friends and Neighbors,

This past November delivered hope to many Seattleites by electing a new Mayor, a new citywide Councilmember, and a new City Attorney — followed in January by a new Council President. This past weekend, Mayor Harrell’s “Day of Service” transformed that hope into tangible action.

Seahawks Football head coach Pete Carroll joins Mayor Harrell and 4,000 other volunteers across the Emerald City for the Mayor’s hugely successful “One Seattle: Day of Service.” Together, we picked up litter, removed graffiti, rooted out weeds and provided much tender loving care for our city. You can continue this spirit of beautifying our city by using the “Find It, Fix It” app or organizing an “Adopt-A-Street” clean up event anytime. And, hopefully, we’ll enjoy another citywide “Day of Service” soon again.  On a side note, I will think twice before challenging the mayor to a push-up contest.

In this month’s newsletter

  • District 4: engaging in Cowen Park, the U District, Magnuson Park, Wallingford, and more
  • Homelessness: Seattle’s Customer Service Bureau and tiny homes
  • Public Safety: compromise on hiring incentives; safety stats on homicides, fires, and traffic fatalities; assessment of SPD; new Crime Prevention Coordinators; City Attorney and Seattle Municipal Court
  • Preventing Displacement: taming taxes
  • Internet for All: President Biden boosts our vision 😊
  • Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities Committee: “Ride Transit Month,” recommendations for Sound Transit, tackling utility bills, and more
  • COVID Updates: public health stats
  • Ways to Provide Input

DISTRICT 4

Day of Service May 21: Cowen Park

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

 

During the “Day of Service,” we heard a theme from the volunteers: Let’s Do This Again Soon! If not every year, how about every 3 months.  We have a program for that!  Our own Seattle Public Utilities provides “Adopt a Street” trash bags, trash grabbers, gloves, and orange vests to community groups that want to clean up streets or parks.  To get Adopt-a-Street supplies for your community, CLICK HERE or call (206) 684-7647 or email adoptastreet@seattle.gov. Legislative Aide Gabby Lacson displays the Adopt-A-Street logo and phone number while cleaning up Cowen Park in District 4 in May. As with the community clean ups I attended in Roosevelt and Wallingford a few weeks ago, you can do it anytime during the year.

 

U District Street Fair Celebrates Return with Funky Fun Flair

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

NeighborCare Re-Opens at Magnuson Apartments and New Crosswalk On Its Way

As you’ve seen in our newsletter a lot, there are more than 850 low-income families who call Magnuson Park home, both with the Solid Ground housing and Mercy Magnuson housing.  We are fortunate that the newly renovated Mercy Magnuson buildings also offer many services including health care. Neighborcare Health at Magnuson recently re-opened (only Mondays 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for now). For more info, CLICK HERE or call 206-548-5790 and press 1 for an appointment.

I am very grateful that SDOT’s new Traffic Engineer was willing to visit this location with me and agreed to install a new crosswalk there later this year. Many neighbors requested the new crosswalk to safely link the low-income apartments to the Magnuson Park Community Center that is finally undergoing a light renovation.

Wallingford Farmers Market: re-opened  Wednesday afternoons

Update After Dog Attack in Eastlake:

You may have heard about or seen on TV news earlier this month two dogs attacking a pedestrian on Fairview Ave in the Eastlake neighborhood. For an initial update from the Seattle Animal Shelter, CLICK HERE.


ADDRESSING HOMELESSNESS

Reporting Homelessness Encampments:

So that the Harrell Administration and Regional Homelessness Authority know where to go to offer help, to track trends, and to address dangerous encampments, the Mayor’s Office is asking everyone to use the “Find It, Fix It” app or the Customer Service Bureau online form:

(The Customer Service Bureau database and the “Find It, Fix It” database are linked.)

Building More Tiny Homes in D4

Even though we finished our work siting, funding, building, and occupying the Tiny Home Village in the University District, nonprofits and volunteers are still building tiny homes to make available throughout the city and region, including the Wedgwood residents shown above.

While tiny homes might not be permanent housing solutions for those experiencing homelessness, when paired with professional case management and located near transit, they can be an important temporary shelter during the homelessness crisis and are much better than tents on sidewalks and in parks. I want to thank residents of Wedgwood including the leadership of Dr. Tom G. who helped to organize efforts and “donated” his driveway for the construction of these temporary, but welcoming and life-restoring homes.


PUBLIC SAFETY

Police Hiring Compromise Just a First Step: Bold Safety Plan Needed Soon

Two recent surveys gauged concerns about public safety in Seattle.

In my newsletter last month, I detailed the alarming reduction of officers and detectives at SPD – losing approximately 25% of our in-service officers (see graph above), 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.

On Tuesday, May 24, we finally approved a Council Bill and Resolution aimed at providing hiring incentives to try to restore some of the lost officers.

  • Resolution 32050 passed 6 to 3. I supported it. (Morales, Mosqueda, Sawant voted No.)
  • Council Bill 120320 passed 6 to 3. I supported it. (Morales, Mosqueda, Sawant voted No.)

My remarks at Committee:

“I want to thank both Chair Herbold and Councilmember Nelson for putting forward both legislative measures and I want to thank Mayor Bruce Harrell for his leadership to coordinate today’s collaboration and compromise. Mayor Harrell once again demonstrated his skill at unifying perse viewpoints and finding common ground. This was a timely, healthy, and necessary process for good governance of our perse City. 

This amended Resolution and this amended Council Bill for moving expenses and enhanced recruitment can serve as an acceptable first step – a sturdy shovel to start to dig ourselves out of the severe staffing shortage hole in public safety created over the previous two years.

The exit interviews of SPD officers revealed the theme about a perceived lack of support from City Hall. I hope this action today indicates our renewed support for our City government employees who serve as our front-line emergency responders. 

We must also acknowledge that Summer is Coming. Summer is coming – it will be here in just days.  We know that, historically, summer brings a spike in crime and gun violence. This spike coincides with the warmer months when hundreds of thousands of Seattle residents deserve to feel safe to enjoy ALL their City parks, such as Gas Works Park in Wallingford where the City hopes to host a large July 4th celebration.

Yes, we must reform the police union contract and, yes, City Hall is overdue in launching alternative emergency responses to many lower risk 9-1-1 calls. At the same time, the staffing shortage at SPD is so severe that we’ll need more than a shovel to dig ourselves out; we’ll need a high-speed elevator and we’ll need it soon. So, I look forward to us all receiving from the Mayor’s Office and SPD a bigger and bolder recruitment and retention plan – with details — ready to implement for achieving success to hire and keep our frontline public safety workers here in Seattle before the summer crime spike is upon us. Thank you.

— Councilmember Alex Pedersen

Hiring incentives are not spent until the person is hired, so if they don’t work, the funds are still available for other issues. Let’s give them at least 9 months to work.

  • 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.

Seattle safety statistics: a grim start to 2022

Homicides and Shootings: As of May 19, 2022, homicide events are up 73% (+8) with 19 incidents (2 pending coding) year-to-date compared to 11 during the same time last year. Shootings & Shots Fired events are up 76% (+118) with 273 events year-to-date compared to 155 events during the same time last year. Shootings are up 72% (+31) with 74 events year-to-date compared to 43 during the same time last year. (Source: Seattle Police Department.) Highly trained detectives leaving the department make it harder to investigate these crimes, including last week’s stabbings outside the U District light rail station.

Fires:  While emergency calls increased by “only” 13% from 2020 to 2021, our fire fighters have had to deal with an overall 33% increase in fires from 2020 to 2021.  This includes 854 encampment fires in 2020 increasing to 1,446 encampment fires in 2021 (a 69% increase in encampment fires). The trend for 2022 is off to a dangerous start, too:  during the 4-month period from January through April 2022, there have been 580 encampment fires already (as compared to “only” 393 for the same period in 2020 and 202 for the same period in 2019). To reduce fire risk for those living outside, for our neighborhoods, and for our firefighters, we need to bring more people inside, faster.

(Source: Seattle Fire Department 2021 Annual Report)

Traffic Fatalities:  Seattle’s official policy is “Vision Zero” which strives to have zero traffic deaths by 2030. I have asked SDOT’s Vision Zero team to return to our Transportation Committee soon to discuss their strategies for reducing fatalities and injuries on Seattle’s streets. Pedestrians are, by far, the greatest percentage of victims of traffic-related deaths in Seattle. While people driving cars or motorcycles comprised 23% of fatalities in 2021, pedestrians comprised a whopping 63% in 2021, which is up from the average of 52% over the past 7 years.

(Source: Seattle Department of Transportation, Vision Zero team)

Notes: *2022 is just through March 31, 2022 (1st quarter). If figures from the first 3 months were annualized (i.e. if the early 2022 trend continues), it would total 16 fatalities, but it is likely to be a higher figure.

Another key metric:  the # of victims of traffic fatalities experiencing homelessness. Since 2016 (2015 is not known), an average of 13% of the victims were experiencing homelessness, but in 2021 (and for the first quarter of 2022) that percentage doubles to 26% on average. To reduce traffic fatalities, we need to bring more people inside, faster.

For a Seattle Times article on the first few months of 2022, CLICK HERE.  For the Vision Zero website, CLICK HERE.

Judges Agree with City Attorney Davison to Exempt “High Utilizers” from Release Through Community Court; King County’s Booking Restrictions Still an Issue

Seattle’s new City Attorney noted on April 27, 2022, “many inpiduals who repeatedly commit serious crimes or have dozens of police referrals are automatically sent to Community Court even though data shows that this type of intervention fails to address their activity or deter them from reoffending.” On May 9, the Seattle Municipal Court judges announced that they “agreed to the Seattle City Attorney’s proposed changes to Seattle Community Court. The City Attorney requested that certain inpiduals they have identified as ‘high utilizers’ be excluded from participating in the program...”

The Seattle Municipal Court pointed to King County jail booking policies as a cause of the problems, stating, “As a pandemic response, the King County Jail implemented booking restrictions, and inpiduals accused of low-level crimes are no longer booked into the jail. Instead, they are cited by the police and then released, many times without a future court date. When a court date is set for these cases, many cannot be reached…” It’s unclear whether the King County Executive has updated their booking restrictions at the jail. To encourage updated booking policies at our shared jail to allow those eligible and in need to be held there for an official handoff to services, you can contact the King County Executive at Dow.Constantine@kingcounty.gov

  • For CAO Davison’s request to the Seattle Municipal Court, CLICK HERE.
  • For the May 9, 2022 press release from the Seattle Municipal Court, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Seattle Times article on this issue, CLICK HERE.

Two New Crime Prevention Coordinators On Board in North Seattle!

I was proud to secure the funding to add a Crime Prevention Coordinator to the largest geographic area of our city: North Seattle. Both new experts are on board now. As stated on SPD’s website, “Crime Prevention Coordinators (CPCs) are experts in crime prevention techniques. You can contact your CPC to inquire about general crime prevention tips, get involved or start a Block Watch group, request their presence at an upcoming community meeting and to discuss ongoing crime concerns in your neighborhood.”  Crime Prevention Coordinators are civilians who work for SPD and who use their expertise to help anyone (businesses, homeowners, renters) with crime prevention tips such as adding lights, securing doors, trimming bushes to increase visibility, and getting to know your neighbors. While the City Council has the power to fund things, we need the executive departments to implement them and the Harrell Administration got it done. For more about Crime Prevention Coordinators, CLICK HERE.

Police Reform Update

 

The federal monitor of the consent decree over the police department reported good news on May 19: “Seattle has accomplished a great deal under the consent decree,” Dr. Antonio M. Oftelie wrote in a foreword to his 150-page assessment. “The vast majority of SPD officers have embraced a new mission and values; worked to create a service-oriented culture; expanded knowledge and skills on crisis intervention, de-escalation and less-lethal tactics; and committed to new policies and practices.”

In reaction to this positive report, I could not say it better or with more authority than Mayor Harrell who said,

My administration is committed to ensuring that SPD is an effective public safety department – centered on good police work, accountability, innovation, and true community engagement. Every day I speak with officers who share my vision for a police service defined by a culture of helping others and keeping all people in Seattle safe.

“The results of this comprehensive assessment make clear that SPD has made – and continues to make – meaningful strides since the implementation of the consent decree. I’m grateful for our officers – their dedicated work has driven a significant 48% reduction in the use of force, led to better handling of crisis events, and shown consistent improvement through difficult circumstances.

“There remains work to be done, but I believe our department can deliver on my administration’s commitment – and our community’s demands – to stamp out racial disparities in policing and eliminate unwarranted use of force.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Department of Justice and the monitoring team as we move into a final phase of the consent decree. From a period of sustained compliance to one of institutionalized reform, we will work together with these partners and our community to ensure the City and its accountability entities are equipped to deliver perpetual police oversight.”

I would only add that one of the keys to more sustainable and durable reform is to ensure such reform is embedded in the police union contract. This contract expired December 31, 2020. While I have been talking about the need for a better contract that everyone can be proud of – from frequent protesters to longtime officers – I was appointed to serve on the Labor Relations Committee only a few month ago. I look forward to negotiating a just employment contract, which is vital for an accountable, affordable, and effective police department.  In 2017, City Council passed a stronger, more detailed accountability ordinance, but not all those reforms were embedded in the employment contract with police officers.

For more about the connection between the federal monitor’s assessment and the police union contract, you can read a recent Seattle Times article by CLICKING HERE. Here’s a key excerpt:

“[Federal Judge] Robart three years ago ruled SPD had fallen partly out of compliance with the decree over the city’s decision to accept a guild contract that protected officers from discipline.

The incident that brought the issue to a head was the reinstatement through arbitration of a fired officer, Adley Shepherd, who had punched a handcuffed suspect in the face, breaking her cheekbone. Shepherd was eventually terminated but has sued the department to get his job back.

Robart has said the city must address the guild contract, which will almost certainly be a topic during ongoing collective-bargaining talks between the city and SPD which has been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2020.

In his report, Oftelie said the monitoring team “will be tracking progress on collective bargaining agreements and advising the court on progress and challenges to upholding accountability.”

He said in an interview that accountability “remains a huge red-flag area” for SPD when it comes to convincing Robart to release the agency from the consent decree.”

To read the full May 2022 Comprehensive Assessment of the Seattle Police Department by the Federal Monitor,  CLICK HERE.


PREVENTING DISPLACEMENT: TAMING TAXES

The Seattle Times recently reported what you might already expect about tax increases: “Property tax bills arriving soon will deliver tax hikes for King County homeowners…Seattle homeowners will see an average increase of about 7%…[V]oter-approved tax measures, such as school levies, are a bigger driver of property tax increases than rising values.” While not widely discussed, many renters will also feel the increase in property taxes because landlords can pass along those same increases to their tenants. That’s why it’s a myth that property tax increases impact only homeowners.

The economic displacement of existing Seattle residents happens for a variety of reasons and increased taxes can be one of the causes of displacement, especially for people on small, fixed incomes such as Social Security for seniors. When I knocked on doors throughout our District 4, I listened to many seniors concerned about their financial vulnerability to increasing property tax bills.

For Seattle residents, the impact to your household budget is much bigger than for most other jurisdictions in King County. As the pie charts below indicate, countywide cities take 15% on average, but in Seattle, our city comprises 25% of your property tax bill. That’s due, in large part, to politicians asking you to “lift the lid” on the property tax levy for a different program each year or so.

After voters increased the Seattle library levy in 2019, we are starting another round of property tax increases – just last week King County Executive Dow Constantine proposed increasing property taxes for open space elsewhere in King County for which Seattle residents will have to pay. Then we’ll see proposed increases for Seattle Parks, the Seattle Housing Levy, and other important City programs.

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

For the average homeowner within all of King County, their city property taxes are only 15% of their tax bill as shown in the pie chart above.

What can be done? Encourage local government to manage costs better. Could they implement something in a more cost-effective manner? How much of the spending plan is going to pay for overhead / administration rather than for direct services to communities in need? Even for programs you love, be sure to ask policymakers to consider the CUMULATIVE impact on your property tax bills and especially for those on fixed low-incomes such as many seniors.

Also, consider the other things City Hall does to increase your tax bill – not just your tax rate for the programs mentioned above, but also the assessed value. Over time, upzoned areas can lead to property tax increases, especially when neighboring parcels sell after maxing out the upzone changes. This is relevant as City Hall discusses updating its “Comprehensive Plan” for zoning. Targeted upzones to create low-income housing quickly can be beneficial, but some blanket upzones requested by real estate developers could lead to more widespread increases in property tax bills without corresponding public benefits.

Previously, some politicians paid lip service to concerns over displacement, but plowed ahead to enact widespread upzones without putting in place displacement preventions beforehand. Some “naturally occurring affordable housing” has been demolished for higher-priced developments and City policymakers failed to track the losses.  To rectify this going forward is one of the reasons I introduced Council Bill 120325 — let’s have a research university finally collect the data we need to learn from past mistakes and not inadvertently incentivize demolitions of low- and moderate-income housing that still exists.

Council Bill 120325:  “AN ORDINANCE relating to housing and displacement mitigation; expanding the information required for submission under the Rental Registration Inspection Ordinance for rental housing units; requiring submission of rental housing-related information; and amending Chapter 22.214 of the Seattle Municipal Code


INTERNET FOR ALL

Want a discount on high-speed internet service? If your household earns an annual income of less than 200% of the federal poverty level [ranging from $27,000 for a person living alone to $55,000 for a family of four] or if a member of your household participates in another federal program, such as Medicaid, federal public housing, a veteran’s pension, or a Pell Grant, you can receive a $30 discount per month on your internet bills. To apply, CLICK HERE or go to https://www.whitehouse.gov/getinternet/

During May of 2020, in the midst of the COVID pandemic where the inequities of the digital pide were exacerbated as families had to work and study from home, I crafted the “Internet for All” resolution “establishing the City Council’s goal to implement Internet for All Seattle, a vision of making broadband internet service accessible, reliable, and affordable to all residents in Seattle.

During that tumultuous year, support for this Resolution was one of the moments of common ground. It called for a Gap Analysis and Action Plan which Seattle’s information Technology Department completed.

Since then, the Biden Administration has adopted a similar approach and then even adopted our vision calling it “Internet for All.” (California also started an “Internet for All” effort in December 2020.)

Much of the infrastructure funding is appropriately for rural areas where there is no internet capability. In addition to that connectivity and reliability, there needs to be affordability. So the Biden Administration is also expanding an earlier pilot program that lowers the cost for low-income households everywhere, including Seattle: the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). I have written about this program in previous newsletters, but it was then just an interim pilot program. Now the White House has extended it and branded their overall effort as we did two years ago as “Internet for All.”

  • For an excellent summary from the Seattle Times on how to access these benefits, CLICK HERE.
  • For the “Fact Sheet” on Biden’s new “Internet for All” programs, CLICK HERE.
  • For more specifics on the Affordable Connectivity Program that directly benefits low-income households, CLICK HERE.
  • For my original Resolution from May 2020, CLICK HERE. For the final adopted version of Resolution 31956, CLICK HERE.

TRANSPORTATION & SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMITTEE

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

West Seattle Bridge:  All Concrete Poured!

We have exciting news about the progress on West Seattle Bridge final repairs:  Yesterday (May 26, 2022) our construction contractor finished pouring structural concrete inside the bridge, forming the structures that will hold new steel cables essential to strengthening the bridge. Completing this crucial project milestone marks the end of a challenging process that affected our reopening schedule.

We still expect to reopen the bridge in mid-2022 and can now work with our construction contractor to finalize the sequence of the remaining work. For the announcement from our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), CLICK HERE.

“Ride Transit Month” = June

Councilmember Pedersen (trying his best to look natural and relaxed 🙂 tapping to finalize payment when exiting Sound Transit’s Roosevelt station on NE 65th Street at 12th Ave NE. (disclaimer: Seattle city government – your tax dollars — generously provide our government employees with an ORCA card. More employers should do that, right?)

This column is not for preaching to the choir of transit lovers or to persuade parents whose childcare situation makes transit infeasible, or to exhort workers who need a car for their jobs. This column is for everyone else who has thought about taking the bus or light rail, but hasn’t tried it yet. Or it’s for those who took transit before the pandemic and are hesitating to start again perhaps because the transit agency changed your favorite route. (I miss the old #74 Express!)

You already know transit is going to be better for Mother Earth and more affordable (especially with today’s high prices for gasoline).  So how about a doable goal for June: take transit just 5 times next month. That’s “The Pledge” encouraged by the advocacy groups Transportation Choices Coalition (TCC) and Commute Seattle.

To take the pledge with them or to see events sponsored by Commute Seattle and TCC during Transit Month, CLICK HERE.

As Transportation Chair, I even set aside my infamous eschewing of symbolic proclamations and resolutions to work with the Mayor’s Office on the Proclamation designating June as “Ride Transit Month.” June is traditionally Ride Transit Month across the nation, but it was not widely celebrated during the pandemic. As we emerge from the pandemic, we are eager to have mass public transit once again serve as a cornerstone of getting around the Seattle and the region in a way that is safe, affordable, and good for our planet. Here’s an excerpt from the proclamation:

“WHEREAS, public transportation is critical to expanding equitable and affordable access to greater opportunities including better paying jobs, educational opportunities; healthcare treatments; social and cultural opportunities; and

WHEREAS, a just and sustainable recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic requires transit and we are proud that Seattle residents, workers, and students are leading the way in returning to transit as pandemic restrictions are gradually lifted; and

WHEREAS, Commute Seattle, Disability Rights Washington, Transportation Choices Coalition, City of Seattle employees and departments, and local schools, hospitals, companies, and civic groups throughout Seattle will be promoting transit ridership as a cleaner, healthier, more equitable, affordable and sustainable means of travel through the month of June 2022;

NOW, THEREFORE, the Mayor and the Seattle City Council proclaim the month of June 2022 is:  ‘Ride Transit Month.’”

Sound Transit is acutely aware it needs to improve the experiences of their riders by ensuring cleaner, safer, more functional stations, especially as they work so hard to expand the regional light rail system. Those who ride transit today typically need to ride it or they are extremely dedicated to transit’s environmental benefits. To attract additional new paying riders, though, Sound Transit needs to fix its escalators and improve the perception that riding can be unpleasant at times. On the bright side, once you get into a rhythm of riding transit, you may wonder why you previously paid for gas and hurled your single metal box down the road to get stuck in traffic.  I realize transit does not work for everyone all the time, but go ahead and try it in June.

Sound Transit Expansion in 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 to strongly voice our Seattle consensus and support Mayor Harrell and Council President Juarez who serve on the Sound Transit board.

For the initial draft of that Resolution being published on our proposed Introduction & Referral Calendar as early as today, CLICK HERE.

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) which will help the entire regional transportation system come online faster. Here are some principles to inform the Resolution:

  • “District” City Councilmember Knowledge:  Tap their on-the-ground expertise as accountable resources for their 1/7 of the city (100,000 people).
  • Boost Transit Riders: Locate and design stations to maximize ridership and access to the Sound Transit system. Provide for safe access and circulation that minimizes pedestrian risk.
  • Equity and Community: Promote equitable benefits and avoid disparate impacts. Minimize residential and business displacement and impacts to existing neighborhood assets; ensure compatibility with housing, employment, and industrial land uses; and maximize opportunities to further equitable TOD and other community-identified priorities.
  • Environmental Protection: Minimize impacts to sensitive environmental areas.
  • Financial Stewardship: Facilitate responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars by seeking highest benefit for dollars spent, helping maintain the project schedule and budget, and optimizing future expansion opportunities in planning and design. Third Party funding – if needed after costs are refined – should be decided later and could include support from the federal government, private sector, and land leases.

Tentative Schedule for our Seattle Resolution:

  • Tuesday, May 31: Mayor draft onto introduction calendar
  • Tuesday, June 7: 1st reading at Committee
  • Tuesday, July 5 or 19: 2nd reading & vote at Committee
  • Tuesday, July 19 or 26: adoption by full City Council

For Sound Transit expansion info, CLICK HERE.

Vision Zero: Traffic Safety

Seattle’s official policy is “Vision Zero,” which strives to have zero traffic deaths by 2030. I have asked SDOT’s Vision Zero team to return to our Transportation Committee soon to discuss their strategies for reducing fatalities and injuries on Seattle’s streets. For the latest statistics, please see above for the “Public Safety” section of this newsletter.  For Vision Zero’s updated SDOT website, CLICK HERE.

Utility Bill Relief:

The Council unanimously adopted three bills Councilmember Sara Nelson and I co-sponsored from the Executive to help Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities customers still struggling with their utility bills. Council Bill 120327 extends the waiver of interest fees on customer bills for both City Light and Seattle Public Utilities.  Council Bill 120328 extends the additional flexibility for the Emergency Assistance Program for City Light and Council Bill 120329 extends it for Seattle Public Utilities. For the press release on this utility relief with more information, CLICK HERE:

Wastewater Bills from King County:

Utility bills are regressive because the poor pay more — specifically, lower income households pay a bigger percentage of their income for the same utility bill when compared to higher income households. Regardless of each customer’s financial situation, utility companies have an obligation to be fiscally responsible. I’m proud that both of our City-owned utilities have worked hard to manage their costs and have successfully reduce the planned rise in rates for electricity, solid waste, and drinking water. Seattle City Light (SCL) and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) also offer Flexible Payment Plans, a Utility Discount Program, an Emergency Assistance Program, and a Low Income Housing Water Assistance Program. (Conversely, if you want to donate $$ to help low-income neighbors pay their Seattle utility bills, CLICK HERE for the Community Donation Fund.)

But there is a huge wild card cost-driver impacting your utility bills: wastewater charges. Why? Because Seattle does not decide. Instead, the King County Executive and King County Councilmembers passthrough to your SPU bill whatever rate increase they decide they need for wastewater — and the wastewater charge can comprise nearly half of our SPU bill!

King County is making their decisions now on how much they will increase your SPU bill next year and for the next several years. Tell them what you think about your wastewater rates before it’s too late.  I have already implored the King County officials to control their rate increases for wastewater treatment. But they need to hear from you directly. Click on the button below to ask King County elected officials not to raise rates excessively.

Email King County officials: Don’t Raise Our Wastewater Rates!


COMBATING COVID

Still Waiting for “Normal”

For a reflection on the rollercoaster of COVID case trends and the multiple impacts, CLICK HERE to read local columnist Derrick Nunnally’s piece in the Seattle Times entitled, “No return to ‘normalcy’ for me after visit to cardiologist.’”

Cases and Hospitalizations Rose in May

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 May 25, 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.

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 in July 2022.  You can also just send an e-mail to alex.pedersen@seattle.gov.

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

We are getting through this together, Seattle!

With gratitude,

         

Councilmember Alex Pedersen

Seattle City Council, District 4

Email: Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov

Find It, Fix It

Copyright © 2022 Seattle City Council, All rights reserved


Homelessness, Safety, Bridges Top Issues from Seattle Survey

April 28th, 2022

Friends and Neighbors,

Thank you for the ongoing feedback I receive from many of you about our work at City Hall and in District 4!  Based on your feedback, this month’s newsletter explores several of your key priorities:

  • District 4: engaging in Eastlake, U District, Wallingford, and more
  • Homelessness: public concerns, community forum, and more
  • Public Safety: public concerns, recruitment challenges, Police Chief search, alternatives
  • City Budget: a revenue problem or a spending problem?
  • Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities Committee: West Seattle Bridge, Sound Transit, leadership updates for SDOT and SPU, tackling utility bills, and more
  • COVID Updates: unmasking and public health stats
  • Ways to Provide Input
 

President Biden visits Seattle on Earth Day; It’s Time to Save Seattle’s Trees, Too

Mayor Bruce Harrell holds a pen that President Joe Biden used to sign his Executive Order addressing old growth forests, flanked by Senator Maria Cantwell, Governor Jay Inslee, Senator Patty Murray, and other leaders on Earth Day, April 22, 2022 in Seward Park.  Proud to have our President visit the Evergreen State on such an important day for the environment. We have much work to do in Seattle to protect our own dwindling urban forest, as we hope to see our City’s executive departments embrace stronger tree protections. In the meantime, the City Council passed CB 120207 to increase the transparency and accountability required to discourage and penalize rogue tree cutting.


DISTRICT 4

Wallingford: Earth Day Clean Up

I enjoyed joining over 20 other volunteers to clean up Wallingford’s business district last week, focusing on N. 45th Street between Stone Way and I-5. With the robust turnout, the proactive community organizer Colleen is inspired to make this a quarterly event!  Look for more information about this community effort in the future. I also appreciate our own Seattle Public Utilities providing the “Adopt a Street” trash bags, trash grabbers, gloves, and orange vests. To get Adopt-a-Street supplies for your community, CLICK HERE or call (206) 684-7647 or email adoptastreet@seattle.gov. As with the community clean up in Roosevelt I attended a few weeks ago, you can do it anytime during the year.

 

Bryant and Wedgwood:  Book It! Restoring More Hours to Northeast Branch of Seattle Public Library

The Northeast Branch of the Seattle Public Library is now open 7 days a week! For more info about this branch in District 4, CLICK HERE.

For 50+ free things to do at your local library, CLICK HERE.

 

Eastlake:  Steps in the Bright Direction

At the East Howe Steps with Eastlake Community Council leader Detra Segar on April 12, 2022, the same day we passed the legislation enabling a public plaza while saving a large conifer tree. Thanks to the collaboration with SDOT, Eastlake residents, and the property owner.  In April, I also attended the community council meetings in Eastlake (and Laurelhurst).

U District: Construction Hub Coordinator

I want to thank the Harrell Administration, including the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), for their responsiveness in dedicating a “Construction Hub Coordinator” for the entire University District in the heart of our Council District 4.  This request originated with the business improvement area’s nonprofit manager, the U District Partnership, and I’m glad my office was able to successfully advocate for this increased attention and coordination within this Urban Center that has been undergoing substantial re-development.

Construction Hub Coordinators are based in SDOT and they work with private developers, public agencies, and utility companies to minimize disruptions caused by construction, so that people can access destinations and move past work zones safely and efficiently. For example, they ensure that at least one sidewalk remains open per block and they avoid closing major streets or sidewalks when other nearby streets are closed due to construction or during large sports events.

After the robust upzone approved by a previous City Council to allow bigger buildings in the University District — and the recent opening of the popular new light rail station — the U District is seeing many construction projects causing temporary growing pains with sidewalk detours and street disruptions for the increasingly vibrant neighborhood. A construction coordinator dedicated to this hub of increased activity will help to smooth out any conflicts so we can maximize access and mobility during this period of transition in the neighborhood.

For more info from SDOT’s blog, CLICK HERE.

U District:  Boba Fest!

This Saturday, April 30, 2022 from 12:00 noon to 6:00 pm, come to the University District to celebrate National Bubble Tea Day with the first-ever Seattle Boba Fest! The U District, in the heart of Seattle’s District 4 and now accessible by light rail, is quickly becoming the heart of the boba scene in our city. Learn more about this smooth & creative beverage — learn HOW TO BOBA — by checking out the U District Partnership website:  https://udistrictseattle.com/bobafest


ADDRESSING HOMELESSNESS

A recent survey confirmed that “Homelessness continues to be the top concern of Seattle voters…”

To view the entire poll conducted by EMC Research (and funded by the Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce), CLICK HERE.

The bottom line is that people are counting on their government at all levels and their nonprofit partners to produce better results and to bring more people inside.

 

Homelessness Forum in Northeast Seattle

The Sand Point Community Church in the View Ridge neighborhood organized a forum on homelessness in the region on March 30, 2022.  I was honored to join the panelists to help answer the full crowd’s many questions about the ongoing crisis of homelessness in our region.  One key point was that most of the city and county government functions have been transferred to the new Regional Homelessness Authority and that new organization is already making sure other Puget Sound cities do more to address homelessness in the region.

Panel Members:

  • Jenn Adams, telling her powerful story of experiencing homelessness
  • Alex Pedersen, Seattle City Councilmember (District 4)
  • Anne Martens, Director of External Affairs & Communications, Regional Homelessness Authority
  • Sharon Lee, Executive Director, Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI)
  • Bill Kirlin-Hackett, Interfaith Homeless Task Force

For the TV news coverage of the event, CLICK HERE.

 

Groundbreaking for Sand Point Cottages

Following up on the Rosie’s Tiny Home Village we opened in the University District, the 254 permanent affordable housing units of Cedar Crossing opening above the new light rail station, and the many other new affordable housing projects in Northeast Seattle, there was a celebratory groundbreaking April 12, 2022 for new cottages on the eastern edge (NE 65th Street) of Magnuson Park. According to the press release from the nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), “This 22-cottage development will serve singles, couples and families exiting homelessness…Six of the cottages were built in part by students in construction trade pre-apprenticeship programs…Each cottage features one-bedroom, a living room, kitchen, bathroom, a loft and a front porch.  The Community House features community living space and community kitchen, property management office, a bathroom and a laundry room. Extensive landscaping, gardens, children’s play space, pathways and parking complete the design.” The city government provided the long-term lease to make this cottage housing possible and State Representative Frank Chopp was instrumental in securing State government support.

Funding sources include the Washington State Housing Trust Fund, KeyBank, Enterprise, NeighborWorks America, Federal Home Loan Bank, and Lucky 7 Foundation.

For a brief TV news story about it from KIRO-7, CLICK HERE.


PUBLIC SAFETY

Public Safety Surveys

Two recent surveys gauged concerns about public safety in Seattle.

The survey by EMC Research found that, “Homelessness continues to be the top concern of Seattle voters, but there has been a dramatic increase in concerns about public safety.” For that EMC poll which surveyed Seattle voters in March 2022, CLICK HERE.

I appreciate the Harrell Administration increasing their response to visible crime downtown and I am confident they will also ensure that other neighborhoods continue to get attention.  Our City Charter Article VI, Section 1 states, “There shall be maintained adequate police protection in each district of the City.” Neighborhoods in District 4 continue to lack community policing officers who used to meet with neighbors and small businesses, identify crime trends, and build trust in the communities to which they were assigned. For District 4, restoring community policing officers will be particularly important in Eastlake, University District, and Wallingford.

Since 2015, the Seattle University Crime & Justice Research Center has conducted an annual survey on public safety. Their 2021 survey, conducted October 15 through November 30, 2021, found that the fear of crime varies across city neighborhoods.  For that 2021 public safety survey, CLICK HERE. For a Seattle Times article by the “FYI Guy” about the annual survey, CLICK HERE.

Mayor Harrell Announces Process for Hiring Permanent Police Chief

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced his national search process for the next permanent chief of the Seattle Police Department (SPD). Here are excerpts from the Mayor’s March 31, 2022 press release:

“Facing increasing crime, gun violence, and public safety issues, our next permanent chief must be able to respond to these challenges with urgency and innovation. This comprehensive search will determine the leader best equipped to fill this challenging role and move our department forward,’ said Mayor Harrell. ‘…Although I expect to conduct a robust search process, I encourage Interim Chief [Adrian] Diaz to apply.’

“…The Mayor’s Office will hire an independent third-party firm to assist in identifying candidates nationwide for the position. The Mayor’s Office will also announce the members of the search committee tasked with selecting the candidates who will proceed to the competitive examination phase. The committee will be made up of local leaders including law enforcement experts, Community Police Commission members, and representatives from small businesses, communities of color, and other key voices.

“In the upcoming weeks, the Mayor’s Office will roll out a website providing an overview of the search process and launch an online community survey to collect feedback from Seattle residents, ensuring community voices from every neighborhood are heard. Through the survey, community members can list what they are looking for in the next chief and survey information will be made publicly available as part of the search process.

Too often, our neighbors and businesses are feeling the impacts of crime and public safety issues while at the same time our police officers face long hours, tough working conditions and serious morale challenges,” said Mayor Harrell. “They deserve permanency and support – a chief who shares my vision for One Seattle where every person has the absolute right to safety and where our police department is inspired and trusted.”

For the Mayor’s March 31, 2022 press release, CLICK HERE.

Loss of SPD Officers Continues at Alarming Pace

At this past week’s Public Safety Committee, I was alarmed to see the “candle burning on both ends”: higher than expected loss of police officers and detectives (attrition) AND lower than expected hiring. SPD now predicts only 98 new hires rather than 125. SPD also assumes 113 separations for a net loss of officers this year on top of the 350+ who have already left since the start of the pandemic.  Meanwhile we have no community policing, the specialty units are down from 119 in 2020 to 33 in 2022, and detectives down from 214 in 2020 to 161 in 2022.

Fortunately, there are at least two ideas on how to the lift restrictions on SPD’s budget to enable the Mayor and Chief to provide hiring incentives.

  • Chair Lisa Herbold discussed her Council Bill to allow just $650,000 to hire a fulltime recruiter and to pay for some moving expenses for “lateral” hires (i.e. police officers from other cities).
  • Councilmember Sara Nelson is converting her Resolution to a Council Bill to allow a substantially larger sum for flexible hiring incentives at SPD.

I support both of my colleagues because other jurisdictions are offering financial incentives (including moving expenses), AND I believe we also need a high-quality marketing campaign with both the Mayor and Councilmembers to attract recruits to Seattle to counteract the lagging reputation that City Council did not support police officers.  Yes, to deepening accountability, modernizing the police union contract, and launching alternative emergency responses for many mental health calls. I believe we also need to restore the vast majority of the 375 officers and detectives we have lost over the past two years. 

We will also benefit from a clear indication from the Executive on what they truly need this year to turn things in a positive direction on staffing. Do they need and want all $4 million in savings and, if so, for what exactly? Time is of the essence: the Public Safety Committee will vote on this in about 10 days (May 10).

At the Public Safety Committee, an important question was asked: If the number of active patrol officers deployed for 911 response has continued to be approximately 550 patrol officers each year since 2016 and we still have that figure deployed in 2022 AND, if we believe a percentage of 911 calls could be handled by non-police responders, then what’s the problem?

Here are the problems:

_ Many of the current officers on 911 patrol are working overtime (that’s not just expensive, but consider officer fatigue and wellness).

_The Seattle population has grown substantially since 2016, so the same number of officers is actually a drop in officers per the city’s population.

_ We have moved detectives, community policing officers, and other vital specialty units into 911 patrol, so that investigations, community policing, and responses requiring specialized skills are not happening. In other words, we are draining other vital functions of the department to respond only to 911 priority calls instead of preventing and solving crimes (see table below from the memo from our City Council’s Central Staff)

Hiring incentives are not spent until the person is hired, so if they don’t work, the funds are still available. Let’s give them at least 9 months to work.

  • For the committee agenda with links to the PowerPoints and memos, CLICK HERE.
  • To watch the Seattle Channel’s recording of the committee, CLICK HERE.
 

New National Number Coming for Behavioral Health: 988

In addition to updating the police union contract to deepen reforms, continuing investments in upstream programs such as early childhood education, and striving to restore many of the 375 police officers who left over the past two years, I have called for citywide effective alternatives to traditional emergency responses for certain behavioral health cases and requested implementation specifics from the Executive departments due later this year. For the specifics of that request, approved already by the City Council and seeking to incorporate the best practices proven to work in other jurisdictions, CLICK HERE.  I have received assurances that the Harrell Administration is systematically researching the best models to use in responding to behavioral health crises and other emergency events and I look forward to their specifics, which I suspect will blend the best approaches from other systems such as the STAR response in Denver, the CAHOOTS in Eugene, OR, our City government’s small scale Health One program, and our local nonprofit emergency responses.

Another boost to spurring alternative responses and consolidating a fragmented system will be a new phone number: 988.

As detailed in a recent Seattle Times article, “Every day at this inconspicuous office a couple of blocks from the Space Needle, dozens of volunteers and staff answer crisis calls and monitor the suicide hotline for King County and large parts of Washington state. In less than 100 days, this place will add dozens of new staffers for the rollout of 988, a nationwide crisis phone line that’s set to debut in mid-July…The challenge is this: consolidating a patchwork of crisis response systems across police, fire and mobile crisis teams, and across state agencies, county and tribal lines. Those building the hotline hope it will eventually connect to a robust behavioral health system that can provide next-day crisis appointments and support families with resources and treatment options. That system doesn’t fully exist today — and won’t for years, if ever — but those implementing 988 see the hotline as the first milestone…[A nonprofit called] Crisis Connections serves King County, the most populous and busiest part of the state for crisis calls. …While Crisis Connections has a volunteer program for its other hotlines, the 988 line will rely on 35 paid staff counselors who can provide crisis intervention and crisis counseling services around the clock, as well as referrals to local resources and a mobile crisis team when needed.” For the full Seattle Times article on 988, CLICK HERE.


CITY BUDGET: NEED TO GET COSTS UNDER CONTROL

Revenues and Expenditures

 

At our April 20, 2022 Finance Committee meeting we confirmed an increase in revenues from taxes and fees. In 2019 (pre-pandemic), the City’s General Fund was $1.4 billion (not shown above).  For 2023, we estimate $1.5 billion PLUS nearly $300 million more from the new payroll tax.  At the meeting I noted, “Seattle does not have a revenue problem, but we potentially have an expenditure problem.” I believe Seattle city government will need to better manage its spending going forward to navigate a crest in upcoming expenditures so that we avoid a budget deficit. Unlike the federal government, cities are required to balance their budgets.  Much of the spending challenge is driven by the rising costs of salaries (averaging $100,000), benefits, and pensions of the nearly 12,000 city government employees. Rising inflation could exacerbate this challenge.

To watch the Finance Committee presentation from April 20, 2022 on Seattle Channel, CLICK HERE.

For the PowerPoint presentation from the City Budget Office (CBO), CLICK HERE. (Note that the 2021 figures from page 9 of the online PowerPoint are incorrect with a $1,762,946 total whereas the correct figure for 2021 is $1,816,367, as shown above.)

 

INCREASING BUDGET FOR PARKS DISTRICT?

A dramatic Magnuson Park view of Lake Washington and Mt. Rainier.

If you reside in District 4 and love your parks and community centers, but believe they need more funding, this is a good time to provide your input because the City is updating the 6-year spending plan of Seattle’s Parks District (dubbed “Cycle 2”).  To pay for new investments in parks and recreation, however, it is likely that the Board of Parks & Recreation Commission (BPRC) will ask the Mayor and City Council to raise property taxes. The next meetings of the BPRC are:

  • April 28, 2022 at 6:30 p.m.
  • May 12, 2022 at 6:30 p.m.

For Parks Board meeting calendar, CLICK HERE.

For the initial draft funding plan for the Parks District, CLICK HERE. Within that, you can search for some benefits to Northeast Seattle and Eastlake.  For example, you can click on “Restoring Clean, Safe, and Welcoming Parks and Facilities” and see some funds already contemplated for Magnuson Park Major Maintenance.


TRANSPORTATION & SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMITTEE

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

West Seattle Bridge Restoration Solidifying

An ongoing contract renewal dispute between 300+ drivers of concrete mixing trucks and their employers had stopped work on many large projects that rely on concrete, but truck drivers thankfully agreed to return to the West Seattle high bridge this month.

Concrete trucks arrived early the morning of April 5, 2022 on the West Seattle Bridge. The first pours of concrete (photo above) were for new expansion joints. Then a special grade of concrete was poured to create the blocks inside the bridge (photo below) for an improved post-tensioning system vital for the success of a long-term restoration of the cracked high bridge that has impeded the travel of 100,000 residents for more than two long years.

The $175 million question is, “Exactly when will the West Seattle High Bridge re-open?” SDOT is still saying “the summer.” To meet the July 1, 2022 completion date, SDOT said concrete needed to start pouring by Feb 20, 2022. Instead, concrete started pouring during the first half of April 2022.  The specialized concrete for the internal anchor blocks that hold the post-tension cables takes 28 days to cure. Stay tuned. For the latest on SDOT’s repairs of the West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE.

 

SDOT Turns Down Council’s Bridge Funding — For Now

If you’re an avid reader of my newsletter, you know I’ve been calling for faster action to improve the safety of our bridges in the wake of the West Seattle bridge closure and the audit I requested that showed the poor condition of several key bridges. A recent survey of Seattle voters ranked “maintaining bridges and infrastructure” as a key way to improve the quality of life in our city (just behind the top two issues of addressing crime and homelessness). After a year of research and debate, the City Council (in November 2021) authorized the Executive departments to issue up to $100 million in bonds for bridge safety. Unfortunately, they declined to use these funds in 2022.  I am confident the Harrell Administration appreciates the importance of our bridges and their connections for our communities and economy. We look forward to specifics on how and when SDOT will refocus their transportation programs to prioritize multimodal bridges and make the necessary upgrades.  For my April 4, 2022 statement about this issue, CLICK HERE.

 

Sound Transit’s Expansion Plans

On April 19, our Transportation Committee heard from Sound Transit staff, our City Council Central Staff, SDOT, and our City’s Designated (staff) Representative with more specifics on the forthcoming Sound Transit 3 expansion in Seattle. While this mega project is called the “West Seattle & Ballard Link Extension” (WSBLE), it will also impact the International District, SODO, South Lake Union, Interbay, and much of downtown.

While April 28 is last day for public comment on Sound Transit’s draft Environmental Impact Statement, your City’s executive departments and City Council plan to collaborate with the goal of adopting a Resolution that forges as much Seattle consensus as possible about the various alternative routes and station locations. The City of Seattle is ably represented on Sound Transit’s board by our own Council President Juarez and Mayor Harrell and that perse board will make the ultimate decisions. As the board has 19 members from across the three-county region, we are hopeful the Resolution will send a unified message from Seattle.  I believe the benefits of our District system of representation will shine because District City Councilmembers are likely to know best what their constituents and businesses want.  We’ll discuss such a Resolution at both the May 17 and June 7 committee meetings. All Councilmembers are invited to attend for consideration of that Resolution.

Link to materials from our April 19, 2022 committee:

  • For the April 19 presentation from the Executive staff team, CLICK HERE.
  • For the presentation from Sound Transit, CLICK HERE.
  • For Sound Transit’s main website for this mega project and to submit comments, CLICK HERE.
 

Scooter Evaluation Raises Concerns About Injuries

Back in September 2020, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) asked City Council to allow for-profit companies to put thousands of e-scooters on certain parts of Seattle’s sidewalks so those companies could then charge people who ride the scooters on Seattle’s streets. While interested in alternative, environmentally friendly modes of short-distance transportation, I shared the concerns expressed by experts from Harborview’s Injury Prevention and Research Center about not only safety, but also about the lack of data from other jurisdictions who had reported problems with scooters. After much consideration, I was the lone vote on the City Council against this new program.

SDOT recently finalized its evaluation of the first year of its e-scooter pilot program. To read SDOT’s 54-page evaluation of their scooter share program’s first year, CLICK HERE and, for their appendix about their customer survey, CLICK HERE. (Note: SDOT’s appendix about their customer survey does not provide the full comments made by people injured while using a scooter.) To read SDOT’s summary of their evaluation on SDOT’s blog, CLICK HERE.

I remain concerned that SDOT has not collected complete data on injuries and the data collected thus far seems to show a large percentage of injuries that SDOT and the private scooter companies will need to address.  From page 6 of SDOT’s evaluation: “Of the 5,189 respondents who had used scooters, 11% reported experiencing an injury.” That’s 570 reported injuries just from those who received the survey and chose to respond (5,189 x 0.11 = 570.7 injuries / 12 months = 47.5 injuries per month.) This excludes the police report data and hospital data.

The Seattle Times asked me for comments about SDOT’s scooter evaluation and I provided the following statement:

“I’m concerned that SDOT’s evaluation of their scooter program’s first year did not fully assess the safety questions raised at my Transportation Committee in December 2021,” said Seattle Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4, Northeast Seattle). “I was the lone vote against authorizing the scooter program in September 2020 due to safety concerns expressed by officials at Harborview’s Injury and Prevention Center, so I want to be cautious in my assessment. But SDOT’s own evaluation shows that at least 570 people suffered injuries while riding scooters which averages to 47 injuries per month — and that does not even include data from Seattle’s hospitals or police reports.  Their evaluation says safety is SDOT’s top priority, but we still need answers to our questions about hospital injury stats and how the quantity and type of scooter injuries in Seattle compare to scooter injuries in other cities, so that we can learn more from other cities before allowing the private companies from expanding this risky program in Seattle.”

The 2020 legislation from SDOT that I opposed said it was a “pilot program,” but authorized SDOT to extend the program on its own. I am hopeful SDOT will be able to improve its data collection on injuries and put safety measures in place learned from other cities.

For the news stories from KIRO 7 TV, CLICK HERE, and for KOMO TV, CLICK HERE. For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.

 

Searching the Nation for a New SDOT Director:

On April 8, Mayor Bruce Harrell named an advisory group of transportation leaders and community partners to assist in his national search for a new permanent director for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). I agree with the mayor’s sentiments from their press release which said, “Seattle deserves a transportation system that is safe, reliable, and equitable, and our SDOT Director is instrumental in implementing that vision. We have an opportunity to appoint a champion for innovative thinking and back-to-basics fixes, a collaborator who builds bridges – and repairs them.”  As stated in the Executive’s press release, Kristen Simpson will continue to serve as Interim Director until a new Director is nominated and approved. Ultimately the candidate selected by the Mayor will go through a confirmation process at the City Council pursuant to Resolution 31868.  For the Mayor’s press release with more information, CLICK HERE.

 

Wastewater Bills from King County:

Utility bills are regressive because the poor pay more — specifically, lower income households pay a bigger percentage of their income for the same utility bill when compared to higher income households. Regardless of each customer’s financial situation, utility companies have an obligation to be fiscally responsible. I’m proud that both of our City-owned utilities have worked hard to manage their costs and have successfully reduce the planned rise in rates for electricity, solid waste, and drinking water. Seattle City Light (SCL) and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) also offer Flexible Payment Plans, a Utility Discount Program, an Emergency Assistance Program, and a Low Income Housing Water Assistance Program. (Conversely, if you want to donate $$ to help low-income neighbors pay their Seattle utility bills, CLICK HERE for the Community Donation Fund.) For more information on recent efforts by the Harrell Administration to expand these utility relief programs, CLICK HERE.

But there is a huge wild card cost-driver impacting your utility bills: wastewater charges. Why? Because Seattle does not decide. Instead, the King County Executive and King County Councilmembers passthrough to your SPU bill whatever rate increase they decide they need for wastewater — and the wastewater charge can comprise nearly half of our SPU bill!

King County is making their decisions now on how much they will increase your SPU bill next year and for the next several years. Tell them what you think about your wastewater rates before it’s too late.  I have already implored the King County officials to control their rate increases for wastewater treatment. But they need to hear from you directly. Click on the button below to ask King County elected officials not to raise rates excessively.

Email King County officials: Don’t Raise Our Wastewater Rates!  

Mayor Nominates Andrew Lee as General Manager/CEO of Seattle Public Utilities

On April 26, Mayor Bruce Harrell nominated Andrew Lee, currently the interim head of Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), to become the permanent General Manager / Chief Executive Officer.  SPU is a $1 billion enterprise that delivers our drinking water, handles recycling, removes waste, and handles many other vital functions of your city government.  It is the City Council’s purview to consider and confirm such nominations. Because the committee I chair monitors SPU (along with transportation), we will discuss and vote on his nomination at a June meeting. The City Council already has an organized confirmation process based on Resolution 31868.

Because I have had the opportunity to see Andrew Lee’s leadership in his role as Interim Director after Mami Hara left with the previous Durkan Administration, I have already formed a preliminary positive opinion: I support Andrew Lee to become the next permanent head of SPU (subject, of course, to public input and my committee’s discussions in June).

To review the Mayor’s nomination packet for Andrew Lee, CLICK HERE. People can submit public comment to me about this nomination by sending an email to Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov.

Here are excerpts from Mayor Harrell’s glowing transmittal letter from April 26:

“Andrew Lee has served as Interim General Manager/CEO of SPU for the last six months, and after review of his remarkably well-regarded performance, it is with total confidence that I recommend him for you and your colleagues’ consideration today. He has the right combination of compassionate managerial skills, inspirational leadership ability, strong personal integrity, and technical know how to run our publicly-owned utility with distinction.

“Andrew has over a decade of experience at Seattle Public Utilities, working his way up the ranks as a Program Manager, Deputy Director, and now as Interim General Manager/CEO. He has spent his entire 20-year career working on water, wastewater, and stormwater issues, including as Deputy Director of the City of Bellevue’s Utilities Department. Andrew has maintained a dedicated focus in implementing the SPU Strategic Business Plan and consistently stays attuned to costs, maintaining the utility’s stellar bond rating, and providing a positive customer experience. He is quick to absorb and understand highly complex issues and consults with his team to develop practical strategies to address new challenges.

“…I trust that after reviewing Mr. Lee’s application materials, meeting with him, and following Councilmember Pedersen’s diligent Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities Committee review, you will find that Andrew is beyond capable and the right choice to serve as permanent General Manager/CEO of Seattle Public Utilities. When I heard that Andrew was out in his boots wading in the flooding South Park neighborhood earlier this year, I knew how fortunate I was to have someone who was on the ground and solving problems with our impacted residents.”

— Mayor Bruce Harrell

For more about the current leadership team at SPU, CLICK HERE.


COMBATING COVID

Public Transportation: Unmasking?

Airlines across the nation and transit agencies across Puget Sound lifted mask mandates. For April 19, 2022 articles on this topic from the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE and HERE.  When taking the bus and light rail to City Hall, I notice that most people are still wearing their masks anyway, as am I.  Other cities have gone back and forth on mask mandates in the past few days, so we should not be surprised if local transportation agencies change their policies again.  Let’s show each other grace and space as we strive to emerge from the pandemic, being mindful of vulnerable neighbors and the fluid statistics on hospitalizations.

Cautious Optimism: Cases and Hospitalizations Remain Relatively Low

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 low. (This snapshot was as of April 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.

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 in July 2022.  You can also just send an e-mail to alex.pedersen@seattle.gov.

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

We are getting through this together, Seattle!

With gratitude,

     

Councilmember Alex Pedersen

Seattle City Council, District 4

Email: Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov

Find It, Fix It


Concerns about Scooters

April 13th, 2022
photo from SDOT blog

INTRODUCTION: In September 2020, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) asked City Council to allow for-profit companies to put thousands of e-scooters on certain parts of Seattle’s sidewalks so those companies could then charge people who ride the scooters on Seattle’s streets. While interested in another alternative, environmentally friendly mode of short-distance transportation, I shared the concerns not only about safety expressed by experts from Harborview’s Injury Prevention and Research Center but also about the lack of data from other jurisdictions who had reported problems with scooters programs. After much consideration, I was the lone vote on the City Council against this new program. This blog post tracks some of the history of the scooter program.



APRIL 8-21, 2022 UPDATE: SDOT finalizes its first-year evaluation of its e-scooter share program

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) recently finalized its evaluation of the first year of its e-scooter pilot program. To read SDOT’s 54-page evaluation of their scooter share program’s first year, CLICK HERE and, for their appendix about their customer survey, CLICK HERE (Note: SDOT’s appendix about their customer survey does not provide the full comments made by people injured while using a scooter.) To read SDOT’s summary of their evaluation on SDOT’s blog, CLICK HERE.

I remain concerned that SDOT has not collected complete data on injuries and the data collected thus far seems to show a large percentage of injuries that SDOT and the private scooter companies will need to address. This concern is shared by experts at Harborview’s Injury Prevention and Research Center. From page 6 of SDOT’s evaluation: “Of the 5,189 respondents who had used scooters, 11% reported experiencing an injury.” That’s 570 reported injuries just from those who received the survey and chose to respond (5,189 x 0.11 = 570.7 injuries / 12 months = 47.5 injuries per month.) This excludes the police report data and hospital data.

The Seattle Times asked me for comments about SDOT’s scooter evaluation and I provided the following statement:

I’m concerned that SDOT’s evaluation of their scooter program’s first year did not fully assess the safety questions raised at my Transportation Committee in December 2021,” said Seattle Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4, Northeast Seattle). “I was the lone vote against authorizing the scooter program in September 2020 due to safety concerns expressed by officials at Harborview’s Injury and Prevention Center, so I want to be cautious in my assessment. But SDOT’s own evaluation shows that at least 570 people suffered injuries while riding scooters which averages to 47 injuries per month — and that does not even include data from Seattle’s hospitals or police reports.  Their evaluation says safety is SDOT’s top priority but we still need answers to our questions about hospital injury stats and how the quantity and type of scooter injuries in Seattle compare to scooter injuries in other cities, so that we can learn more from other cities before allowing the private companies from expanding this risky program in Seattle.”

For the news stories from KIRO 7 TV, CLICK HERE and for KOMO TV, CLICK HERE. For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.


DECEMBER 15, 2021 UPDATE: First annual review by SDOT

I had asked our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to return to our City Council Committee on Transportation & Utilities to provide their first annual report on their new scooter pilot program.

In the Fall of 2020, SDOT convinced a majority of the City Council to approve the new program; as explained below I voted against that initial authorization. SDOT’s report this week was upbeat, but it was missing vital hospital data on injuries, even after SDOT failed to follow through on an independent UW safety study it had promised when convincing City Council to authorize the new program. I am asking SDOT to follow up with injury data from hospitals.

I’m relieved that SDOT continues to view this program as a “pilot” rather than a permanent program because scooters are certainly under scrutiny. For an incisive and relatively critical analysis by SCC Insight (Kevin Schofield) of SDOT’s first year of this program, CLICK HERE. At the same time, I’m hopeful scooters — if properly regulated for safety — can be successful by serving a subset of Seattleites as a viable and clean “first-last mile” transportation solution without taxpayer subsidies (other than providing our public streets for travel and sidewalks for storage).

For a copy of SDOT’s annual report presentation, CLICK HERE. To view the December 15, 2021 meeting of the Transportation Committee, CLICK HERE.

For an incisive and relatively critical analysis by SCC Insight (Kevin Schofield) of SDOT’s first year of this program, CLICK HERE.


ORIGINAL POST: September 8, 2020

On September 8, 2020, I voted against scooters in Seattle and here’s why:

I support improved mobility options by encouraging environmentally friendly alternatives to gas-powered, single occupancy vehicles.  Ideally, electric scooters (e-scooters) would provide an alternative for some trips for some travelers. At the same time, the City government is essentially authorizing a new mode of transportation — thousands of scooters traveling within our streets and other rights of way. This is big change that warrants a careful tracking of the results.

I had been looking forward to a standard ‘pilot project’ on scooters that would measure results as we are seeing elsewhere in King County but, unfortunately, this SDOT legislation is not a real pilot project,” said City Councilmember Alex Pedersen, Chair of the Transportation & Utilities Committee. “The proposed legislation transmitted by SDOT to the City Council did not explicitly and fully address safety, financial liability, infrastructure costs, or measures for success.”

SDOT, however, said this legislation was time-sensitive, so I fulfilled my role as Transportation Committee Chair to facilitate discussion, ask questions, and enable my fellow Councilmembers to vote on it. While a majority of my colleagues approved it at my Committee on August 19 and at the full City Council on September 8, I was personally not willing to vote yes for something that, in my opinion, lacked details.

Both Council Bill 119867 and Council Bill 119868 totaled only 2 pages in length. The legislation essentially cedes ALL details of the program to the Executive branch. To retain some oversight role and to encourage a more standard pilot program that evaluates initial results, as Chair of the Transportation Committee, I sent a letter asking our SDOT Director to return to our Committee by next June and next December to report on specific metrics from the first 6 months and 12 months of the new program.  To view my letter to the SDOT Director, CLICK HERE.

https://pedersen.seattle.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/CM-Pedersen-letter-to-SDOT-Director-on-scooter-pilot-metrics-2020.09.08-FINAL.pdf

Having SDOT report back to the Council Committee on specific metrics of success – that would be standard with a pilot program — will enable SDOT to report consistently and thoroughly to the Councilmembers and to the general public on the pertinent details and results so that, together, we can evaluate this new program. In my conversations with Director Zimbabwe, I have been assured the Durkan Administration also wants to measure the results of this new scooter program.

I believe we need to measure the results so that we can truly assess whether the program is safe, equitable, and effective in getting people out of their cars—all without requiring tax dollars to cover injury lawsuits or to build special infrastructure that would subsidize the profits of private companies headquartered outside of Seattle.

I want to thank Dr. Fred Rivara, founding director of the Harborview Injury and Prevention Center,  for his compelling letter in August expressing his concerns about the scooter safety by providing several studies from around the country showing scooters to be dangerous. To view his letter, CLICK HERE. To view an interview with Dr. Rivara, CLICK HERE.

I’d also like to thank the City Council blogger Kevin Schofield of SCC Insight.com  for providing such comprehensive coverage of the scooter proposal on his website.

For one of the many news articles about the Council adopting SDOT’s scooter program, CLICK HERE.

For SDOT’s September 11, 2020 blog post about the 3 vendors they quickly selected, CLICK HERE. For SDOT’s scooter website, CLICK HERE.


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