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,




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.


Miscellaneous Municipal Matters from March

March 28th, 2022

March 2022

Friends and Neighbors,

Winston Churchill once returned his dessert because “it had no theme!” Our newsletter for the month of March is also a mishmash of miscellaneous matters but, unlike the former British Prime Minister, you can’t return it because you already opened this email 😊.

So you might as well read on for multiple municipal musings: 

  • District 4: Engaging in Roosevelt, View Ridge, U District, Wallingford, Wedgwood, and more
  • Homelessness: Stats, Forum, and more
  • Public Safety: Resolution for more officers, State law fixes, and more
  • Trees: Advancing our Tree Cutter Registration Bill
  • Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities Committee: concrete update, the need for bridge bonds, a Seattle Transportation Plan, and more
  • COVID Updates: Public Health Stats, Digital Equity Grants, and more
  • Ways to Provide Input


DISTRICT 4

Wallingford: Answers for the Seniors at University House

Councilmember Pedersen answers questions from constituents at the University House retirement community in Wallingford, March 5, 2022.

Earlier this month, I met in person with nearly 100 senior constituents at the University House in Wallingford and answered their questions about public safety, homelessness, and recent developments in their neighborhood.

 

University District: Cherry Blossoms

Our newsletters often cover the many serious challenges and opportunities in the University District neighborhood and this week is no exception. But let’s start with some upbeat news from the U District Partnership nonprofit that manages the Business Improvement Area (BIA): “The historic cherry blossoms located on the University of Washington campus were a gift from Japan and attract thousands of visitors from across the region each spring. In honor of this event, local businesses have come together to present a special U District menu featuring a variety of cherry and cherry blossom-themed food, drink, and retail specials.  Explore the neighborhood and mark the first U District Cherry Blossom Festival! Find cherry blossom lattes, special cherry beers and cocktails, pastry and noodles, shopping promotions, and more!” For more info, including participating restaurants, CLICK HERE. For an interactive description of the cherry blossom magic from the University of Washington, CLICK HERE.

 

Wedgwood Community Council

Earlier this month, I attended the monthly meeting of Wedgwood Community Council. We discussed transportation and economic development issues for this Northeast Seattle neighborhood.  The group is led again by Per Johnson and meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m. To participate in the Wedgwood Community Council, CLICK HERE.  The current City Council boundaries split Wedgwood with north of NE 85th Street represented by Council President Debora Juarez (District 5). (There is a similar split in the Maple Leaf neighborhood.) The positive view is that Wedgwood has direct access to twice as many district Councilmembers! If you want to find your community council, CLICK HERE.

 

Roosevelt: Community Cleanup Crew

Councilmember Pedersen joins other volunteers cleaning up Roosevelt sidewalks and greenways, March 6, 2022.  Photo by Tom Van Bronkhorst.

I joined neighbors in District 4 for a community cleanup in the heart of the Roosevelt neighborhood, organized by the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association. Seattle Public Utilities supplied us with gloves, orange vests, trash bags, and other supplies as part of their Adopt-a-Street program. To launch a community cleanup in your neighborhood, you can email adoptastreet@seattle.gov or sign up on SPU’s Adopt-A-Street website by CLICKING HERE.

I cannot be everywhere at once with my garbage grabber, so I encourage you to use the Find It Fix It App, too. See related article below…


Find It, Fix It On Your Block

If you find trash, graffiti, pot holes, damaged street signs or other problems in your neighborhood that you believe city government should address, you can use the Find It, Fix It app on a smart phone to take a photo, record the location, and report it to City Hall. You can also call the City’s “Customer Service Bureau” at 206-684-2489 (CITY).

A recent article in the Seattle Times carefully researched by Gene Balk (“the FYI Guy”) analyzed the 230,000 submissions from residents over the past two years. District 4 residents had a relatively moderate number of requests as compared to other areas. I’m a big fan of the Find It, Fix It app, I have repeatedly confirmed that city departments use it to get things done, and I encourage you to use it. For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.

Photo by Councilmember Pedersen, March 24, 2022

Note: Although King County Metro — which operates the buses and maintains bus stops — does NOT have a “Find It, Fix It” app like Seattle’s, you can still alert King County officials about County problems as I did about this broken glass at the bus stop in the U District on The Ave at NE 43rd Street.

For phone numbers, email addresses, and comment forms for various King County Metro bus issues, CLICK HERE.  This includes a comment form for bus stops where you can upload photos: CLICK HERE

 

Expanding Award-Winning Seattle Preschool Program in D4

The award-winning Seattle Preschool Program (SPP), which I had the honor to participate in crafting under the leadership of former City Council President Tim Burgess in 2014, continues to expand thanks to Seattle voters who increased investments in its high-quality, evidence-based approach.  This includes a new classroom in District 4 at the “Experimental Education Unit at University of Washington” which will offer “SPP Plus” (inclusive programming for children with disabilities). For more information on SPP, CLICK HERE. To apply CLICK HERE and for a list of certified SPP providers CLICK HERE.  Translated applications are available and additional language assistance is provided for those who need help by calling Seattle’s Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) at 206-386-1050 or emailing preschool@seattle.gov.


15th Avenue NE Fix Finally?

According to SDOT’s communication on March 24, “After several months of limited work on the 15th Ave NE Paving Project, crews are planning to begin completing roadway paving throughout the project area beginning as soon as next week. Crews will be demolishing and repairing portions of the roadway base panels and paving the remaining sections of 15th Ave NE: NE 73rd St to NE 70th St and Cowen Pl NE to NE 55th St. See the map below for more details.”

I want to thank cycling advocates who agreed to join me in encouraging SDOT to expedite the completion of this long-awaited multi-modal street project. Although the repaving of 15th Ave NE will benefit every mode of transportation, the project also includes bike lanes connecting travelers to schools, light rail stations, a new greenway, and across a newly retrofitted bridge that joins two neighborhoods, etc. – it checks so many boxes! For more on that project or to get email alerts about it, CLICK HERE.


View Ridge and Magnuson Park Crosswalks:

Councilmember Pedersen and new Traffic Engineer Venu Nemani met with the principal and parents at View Ridge elementary school on March 25, 2022 to discuss installation of improved lighting to alert cars to the crosswalks on NE 70th Street.  A special thanks to View Ridge parent Robert Johnson for persistently pursuing pedestrian safety improvements over the past few years.

In addition to the installation of enhanced crosswalks leading to View Ridge elementary school, we’re working with SDOT and residents of the Mercy Magnuson Low Income Housing Project to install a crosswalk across 62nd Ave NE to safely connect them to the Magnuson Park community center, which is currently under renovation to be completed this year.
 

Thank You Senator David Frockt / Revising District Maps

With the end of the Spring legislative session in Olympia, I’m reminded how much I’m going to miss State Senator David Frockt, 46th Legislative District leader and Seattle District 4 resident, who will “retire” from the State Senate at the end of this calendar year. 

As required after completing the U.S. Census every 10 years, legislative districts at all levels of government are re-evaluated and re-drawn to ensure the populations within each district are relatively the same size. Seattle City Council District 4 overlaps with two State Legislative Districts: the 46th and 43rd LD. For the changes to the congressional and State legislative district, boundaries, CLICK HERE. For example, Laurelhurst will move to the 43rd LD.  These changes will impact the elections this November 2022 and those who win those elections will represent those new districts starting January 2023. Changes to the seven City Council district boundaries are on a slower implementation timeline (elections in 2023 for the redrawn boundaries starting 2024) and are still under consideration by an ad hoc Seattle Redistricting Commission.


ADDRESSING HOMELESSNESS

Outreach Trends: Presentation at Committee on Public Assets and Homelessness

 

Approximately 50% of those living unsheltered who are offered shelter do not arrive at the shelter. Source: City Council Central Staff memo, dated February 11, 2022 presented at the March 16, 2022 Committee on Public Assets & Homelessness.

One of the key takeaways from the homelessness outreach presentation (see line graph above) on March 16, 2022 is that half of the people living unsheltered in encampments on sidewalks, greenways, and parks still do not show up at the shelter spaces or tiny home villages provided to them. See the line graph above, specifically the two lines at the bottom of the graph which compare the REFERRALS to Shelter and the ARRIVALS at shelter: only 50% or so arrive at the shelters. Our office asked our City Council Central Staff whether those experiencing homelessness needed transportation to the shelters, but we were told that is already offered and provided as needed. To reduce homelessness in Seattle, the experts in the new Harrell Administration and, especially the new Regional Homelessness Authority, must overcome this challenge of people living unsheltered who don’t arrive at the shelters or tiny home villages offered to them.  For the Central Staff memo presented at the March 16 committee, CLICK HERE. To watch the presentation, CLICK HERE (Note: I am not on that particular committee.)

 

Forum About Homelessness in Northeast Seattle and the region

Sand Point Community United Methodist Church (4710 NE 70th Street) invites District 4 residents to join them Wednesday, March 30, 2022 starting at 7:00 p.m. to hear a panel discussion on Seattle homelessness and how key organizations will be working together to address this regional challenge.
 
Panel Members:

  • Tiffany Washington – Deputy Mayor for Housing and Homelessness for Mayor Bruce Harrell
  • Marc Dones – CEO, King County Regional Homelessness Authority
  • Jenn Adams – telling her story of experiencing homelessness
  • Sharon Lee – Executive Director, Low Income Housing Institute
  • Bill Kirlin-Hackett – Interfaith Homeless Task Force

Bring your friends and neighbors to learn how these agencies are involved in addressing our region’s homelessness crisis.  This event will be both in person and via zoom (link supplied after RSVP’ing to Bill Smith at jayhawk@coastaccess.com)

Better Data Needed on Affordable Housing

I have introduced a bill to get better data on the affordable rental housing available in Seattle so that policymakers can see the location of that beneficial housing before making additional major changes to our land use policies. Having detailed, block-by-block data on Seattle’s housing inventory is especially important as the City gears up for the “Comprehensive Planning” discussions required by State law every few years. If we truly want to expand the net supply of low-income housing, we don’t want future land use policies to inadvertently throw fuel on the fire for speculative real estate development that ends up demolishing existing affordable housing and displacing lower income neighbors. The Sustainability & Renters Rights Committee will hear the bill again and consider amendments as soon as May 6, 2022.  To read Council Bill 120284, CLICK HERE. For more on the recent history of landlord-tenant legislation in Seattle, CLICK HERE.


PUBLIC SAFETY

Mayor Harrell coordinated efforts among all levels of government on March 4, 2022 to address crime concerns in the International District and downtown as part of his “Operation New Day.“

In District 4 this month, I met with leaders of the Wallingford Chamber of Commerce, and we discussed the serious concerns about rising crime in the neighborhood. This echoes concerns I have heard recently impacting Eastlake and several areas in Northeast Seattle.

Just last week there was a tragic fatal shooting at an unauthorized encampment on the western edge of the University District in the greenway adjacent to the I-5 northbound exit near NE 43rd Street. Seattle homicide detectives are still investigating and are asking anyone with information to call their Tip Line at (206) 233-5000.  

Our office and constituents have repeatedly reported concerns with encampments growing on greenways near the highway and off ramps, and so I am urging the Mayor’s Office, SDOT, and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to finalize a Memorandum of Understanding so there is better access, outreach, maintenance, and safety on WSDOT-owned greenways in Seattle. We need to bring people inside and get them the inpidualized help they need whether that’s at the Tiny Home Village we opened in the U District, other enhanced shelters throughout the region with the new Regional Homelessness Authority, or any units available in our 14,000-unit low-income housing portfolio managed by the City’s Office of Housing.

While I appreciate the Harrell Administration increasing its response to visible crime downtown, I am confident they will also ensure that other neighborhoods continue to get attention.  As we know, 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. As SPD’s hiring plan strives to replace at least some of the 350 officers Seattle lost over the past two years so that we can more quickly respond to 911 priority one calls, I’m looking forward to the day when community policing officers can once again get out of their patrol cars and walk our neighborhoods. For several other public safety ideas for neighborhood business districts including for those in District 4, CLICK HERE for an Op Ed entitled, “Seattle’s Small Businesses Need Immediate Help from City Leaders.”

 

Resolution to Allocate Police Department Savings to Replenish Number of Officers

During his State of the Union address on March 1, 2022, President Biden famously said, “We should all agree: The answer is not to Defund the police. The answer is to FUND the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities.”

To provide more context, however, the President made those remarks as part of a more comprehensive approach to community safety. He also said, “That’s why the American Rescue Plan provided $350 Billion that cities, states, and counties can use to hire more police and invest in proven strategies like community violence interruption—trusted messengers breaking the cycle of violence and trauma and giving young people hope.” He added, “…I will keep doing everything in my power to crack down on gun trafficking and ghost guns…And I ask Congress to pass proven measures to reduce gun violence. Pass universal background checks…Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”

So the President supplemented his traditional concept of police officers with other programs as well as gun safety measures. I support that holistic approach combined with deepening police reforms as part of a new contract with the police union.  When I was a Legislative Aide years ago, I helped to provide the first-ever City-funds for a gun safety study with its results still being used to help people at their bedsides at Harborview Hospital today. And what could be more upstream than programs I’ve supported such as Nurse Family Partnership (for first-time, low-income moms and their babies) and the Seattle Preschool Program. That said, our police department has lost over 350 officers and detectives in the just the past two years.

So I also strongly support Councilmember Sara Nelson’s proposed Resolution for the “development of a Seattle Police Department (SPD) staffing incentives program and stating the Council’s intent to lift a restriction on anticipated 2022 SPD salary savings to fund the program.” This effort is consistent with my public safety staffing proposal from September 10, 2021 and even more urgent as we’ve received more data demonstrating the increase in crime in Seattle.  As I said back in September, ‘We need to take swift action after losing hundreds of emergency responders including community policing officers who can help to prevent crimes and detectives needed to solve crimes. In addition to our continued investments in human services programs, I am hopeful a majority of City Councilmembers have recognized that the slowing of 9-1-1 response times, the spike in violent crime that requires investigations, and the benefits of community policing require us to keep this modest funding to retain and hire officers and detectives.” In addition, I have called for the building up of 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. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel or get distracted by half-baked half-measures – we just need to get it done.

To apply to become a Seattle police officer, CLICK HERE.

 

State Legislation Refinements: Public Safety

Photo credit: AP/Ted S. Warren

In the first few months of each year, we endure a roller coaster of activity in Olympia as our Governor, State Representatives, and State Senators work hard to introduce and debate legislation with many failing to pass prior to their tight deadlines. The state government’s legislative session ended March 10, so here are some relevant highlights of bills that would clarify public safety policies Seattle:

As reported in the Seattle Times, “Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill Thursday [March 17, 2022] rolling back part of the state’s sweeping police reform legislation from last year after law enforcement and key Democratic lawmakers agreed the original bill went too far. The measure, House Bill 2037, makes clear police can use force to stop people from fleeing temporary investigative detentions, known as Terry stops. Officers said restrictions passed by lawmakers in 2021 had left them unable to do so, meaning potential suspects could simply leave… Rep. Jesse Johnson, the Federal Way Democrat who sponsored House Bill 1310, said restricting the ability of police to detain fleeing suspects was unintentional… Earlier this month Inslee signed two other bills fixing parts of last year’s police reform package [HB 1719 and HB 1735]. One made clear officers may use force to help detain or transport people in behavioral health crisis, while the other corrected an oversight that seemed to inadvertently prohibit police departments from possessing certain less-lethal weapons.”

For more about SPD staffing and crime rates, you can view February’s newsletter by CLICKING HERE.


PROTECTING ENVIRONMENTAL INFRASTRUCTURE: SEATTLE’S TREES

Finally, Results for Trees!

Maria Batayola, speaking in District 4 in September 2021, chairs the Beacon Hill Council and serves in other environmental leadership roles. She and many other urban forest conservationists consider tree infrastructure as integral for environmental justice and have been pushing the City of Seattle for several years to do more to protect the mature trees that provide health and environmental benefits. 
Photo by Amy Radil,
KUOW.

Thanks to the ongoing advocacy from urban forest conservationists and other environmentalists, the City Council’s Land Use Committee unanimously recommended the bill I drafted to increase the accountability and transparency needed to protect Seattle’s trees by requiring anyone seeking to cut down or heavily prune mature trees to register beforehand with the city government.

Council Bill 120207 Council Bill 120207 requires “tree service providers” (such as arborists and tree removal companies) to be on Seattle’s new public registry by no later than November 10, 2022. To get on the new public registry, tree service providers must be not only licensed and insured contractors but also have credentials and expertise grounded in the International Society of Arboriculture (either on staff or on retainer). Until they are approved for the public registry by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI), contractors will be prohibited from removing or heavily pruning trees. Repeated violations will result in removal from our list, penalties, and prohibitions from conducting tree service activities. This increased transparency will enable government officials and the general public to hold companies and inpiduals accountable who violate the City’s current and future tree protection ordinances.

This legislation finally ends the ‘wild west’ of tree cutting in Seattle and is a small but mighty step toward protecting the health and environmental benefits of mature trees in our Emerald City,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4 Northeast Seattle, Wallingford, Eastlake).As heat waves and flooding increase with the climate crisis, we need to get serious about protecting our priceless tree infrastructure, and Council Bill 120207 delivers the foundational accountability and transparency needed as we work to deliver a more comprehensive tree protection ordinance later this year.

My office originally crafted the bill which was co-sponsored at introduction by Land Use Chair Dan Strauss, whose support was vital to facilitate passage through the Council’s committee system.  

In addition to widespread support from dedicated urban forest conservationists, a statistically significant survey conducted by the Northwest Progressive Institute in 2021 showed that 75% of Seattle voters support “requiring tree care providers (arborists) to meet minimum certification and training and register with the city.”

Council Bill 120207 was originally introduced October 18, 2021, heard in the Land Use Committee February 9, 2022, amended at Land Use Committee March 23, 2022, and will ideally be adopted by the full City Council, March 29.  At the March 23 Committee, Councilmembers adopted Substitute Bill 1 from Strauss and Pedersen, adopted Amendment 4 by Strauss, rejected Amendment 3 by Pedersen, and unanimously adopted the bill as amended. (There was no Amendment 2.)

Note: Council Bill 120207 is separate from the wider-ranging proposal crafted by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI). We have heard several concerns about that other department-generated proposal, which my office is still reviewing. SDCI’s proposed materials, including their proposed ordinance (which is not yet formally introduced) can be viewed by CLICKING HERE. But, in the meantime, we are eager to pass Council Bill 120207.

For the ongoing saga of trying to enact stronger tree protections, CLICK HERE.

To encourage Mayor Harrell to sign the registration bill into law, click the button below:

Email Mayor Harrell’s Office: Sign the Tree Service Providers Bill


TRANSPORTATION & SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMITTEE


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


Thank You, Concrete Drivers, for Returning to the West Seattle Bridge

An ongoing contract renewal dispute between 300+ drivers of concrete mixing trucks and their employers has 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.

I want to echo this week’s remarks from West Seattle Councilmember Lisa Herbold with whom I have been working closely to fund and monitor the restoration of this vital regional bridge: “Earlier this week—March 23rd—marked just over two years since the closure of the West Seattle Bridge. I want to take a moment to acknowledge how difficult this has been for residents and businesses on the peninsula and Duwamish communities.  Getting the bridge open as soon as possible remains a high priority for all of us.  The need to obtain the specialized concrete that can hold more than 20 million pounds of force and sustain that strength for decades, has been the key issue impacting the schedule. The return of concrete mixer drivers to work at some companies has provided an opportunity to source concrete needed to guide and anchor steel cables needed for the West Seattle Bridge repair. I appreciate the willingness of concrete mixer drivers to return to work [on the West Seattle High Bridge], despite the strike not being resolved.”

For the latest on SDOT’s repairs of the West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE.

 

Time is Wasting Away to Issue the Bonds to Fund Bridge Safety

The aging University Bridge stuck in the upright position November 12 and 13, 2021 blocking ALL modes of travel (buses, bikes, cars, pedestrians) and preventing North Seattle residents from their jobs in South Lake Union / downtown, and cutting off Eastlake from North Seattle and the University of Washington. (photo by Councilmember Pedersen)

As Chair of the City’s Transportation Committee, restoring the West Seattle Bridge is just the beginning.  I would like the new Mayor’s Office to confirm that it shares my priority to take concrete action (pardon the  pun) to ensure Seattle’s fragile bridge network is safe and open to connect our communities and keep our economy moving. Rather than words, I want to see the Harrell Administration issue up to $100 million in bonds authorized by the City Council in November, so we can tackle the bridge projects from the list SDOT produced in 2021, complete the Ballard Bridge and Fremont Bridge seismic upgrades promised to voters who narrowly approved the Move Seattle levy in 2015, AND strengthen the University Bridge, 2nd Avenue South extension bridge, and other bridges ranked poorly by the citywide bridge audit I ordered. So far, it seems to be business as usual which means more neglected infrastructure and lost opportunities to create construction jobs, all while interest rates and the cost to the taxpayer will increase. 

To encourage Mayor Harrell to issue the bridge safety bonds, click the button below:

Email Mayor Harrell’s Office: Issue Bonds Soon for Bridge Safety


Hasty Repeal of Bike Helmet Law?

Earlier this month, the Board of Health repealed King County’s Bike Helmet law (which repeals it from Seattle) without waiting for alternatives to be implemented first, such as maintaining the requirement for children. Several Board of Health members said they wanted to end the law because data showed that people of color were disproportionately more likely to be confronted by law enforcement about a bike helmet violation. At the same time, other public health officials are concerned because helmets are proven to increase safety and bike lanes are no substitute for head protection. “This rollback weakens our ability to make that clear message to families and riders,” said Dr. Beth Ebel, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “This is the critical safety measure, the most important safety measure that can be done to protect you.” I’d like to commend King County Councilmember Jeannie Kohl-Welles for voting against the repeal, in part, because safety alternatives should have been implemented first. For the Seattle Times editorial entitled, “Dropping Bike Helmet Law Is a Wrongheaded Decision,” CLICK HERE. The ed board stated, “Public health demands both a law that can reinforce safety measures and the ability for everyone in the community to ride without worry they will be unfairly targeted. Getting rid of the law is easy, working on ways to guarantee equitable enforcement is hard.” For where to find free or low-cost helmets in King County, CLICK HERE.


Making Electric Vehicles More Affordable

I really appreciated the recent column by Naomi Ishisaka entitled, “Electric Vehicles Shouldn’t Be Just For Rich Folks.” Here are some excerpts: “Transportation is the largest source of climate pollution in the state, so I was encouraged to learn about Gov. Inslee’s December proposal to provide incentives up to $7,500 for the purchase of EVs. It would have provided $5,000 for a used zero-emission vehicle as well…There was also an additional $5,000 rebate for low-income people. But once again, the Legislature was unable or unwilling to get it done…Expensive EVs like Teslas will continue to dominate until we can make owning an EV comparable in cost to owning a gas-powered car, which means we have to stop punting the problem to the next Legislature and stop the half measures that won’t get us close to meeting the climate goals we desperately need to meet — for the sake of our long-term survival… We should not be the only state on the West Coast with no EV rebate to make more moderately priced EVs like Bolts or Leafs accessible — even Texas has one. As a state that is supposedly a national climate leader, we can and should do better.”

I highlight this not to criticize our Washington State Legislature — which had its hands full this year and actually accomplished an impressive amount in a short legislative session — but rather to emphasize the need to make electric vehicles more affordable even as our region expands affordable public transit with more buses and light rail.  In addition to ample rebates to make electric vehicles affordable, I’d also like to see more electric vehicle charging stations — why not require at least one electric charging area at every gas station?

For Naomi Ishisaka’s entire column in the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.


An Integrated “Seattle Transportation Plan,” Transit, Bridges, and More

Photo credit: King County government

Seattle Transportation Plan: Earlier this month, my Transportation Committee heard from the Seattle Department Transportation (SDOT) regarding their outreach and engagement strategy to forge a “Seattle Transportation Plan” (STP) that will finally integrate the separate plans for various modes of travel (such as transit, freight, car, bike, walking). This should build upon that past work rather than discard it, but also update it and makes sure we are connecting with sufficient numbers of lower income and other marginalized populations.  According to SDOT, it will be a renewed vision for the future of Seattle’s streets and public spaces. Working together and listening to what Seattle residents and businesses need, we can improve how people and freight move safely around the city. For the Seattle Transportation Plan webpage, CLICK HERE. People who live, work, and visit Seattle are encouraged to fill out a brief online survey, sign up for email updates about the plan, and learn more.  Online surveys can, unfortunately, sometimes attract organized interest groups that flood it with their favored responses. I have asked SDOT to make sure they conduct a statistically significant survey so that we know not only what the majority of residents actually want with their transportation dollars, but also the transportation needs of marginalized residents.

Transit: Although a recent article in the Seattle Times highlighted the pandemic-related decline of transit ridership in the region, I am still confident this is temporary and public transit will rebound and increase, even as many area workers convert to a hybrid schedule with some working at home. I believe our shared goals are to reduce carbon emissions for our environment and to reduce hours stuck in traffic away from our families, so a combination of encouraging both transit ridership and hybrid schedules can be a win-win. We can make smart investments in bus ridership with our Seattle Transportation Benefit District, renewed by voters in November 2020.

Bridges:  Ideally, the outreach and analysis for the Seattle Transportation Plan will also consider the importance of multi-modal bridges that connect our communities and economy – when bridges are stuck or shut down due to lack of attention and maintenance from the Mayor’s Office / SDOT, they strand everyone, as we saw with the 2-year saga of the West Seattle Bridge. Last November, Council gave to the new Mayor the authority to issue up to $100 million in bonds to address safety issues with Seattle’s network of bridges and we await their decision on how to address this in light of the 2020 bridge audit showing major problems with our bridge infrastructure.

For the presentation at my Committee, CLICK HERE. For questions about the development of the Seattle Transportation Plan, please email SDOT at STP@seattle.gov.

 

Volunteer Opportunities

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) asked us to circulate this opportunity: Are you passionate about transportation issues facing Seattle? Do you want to help shape the future of transportation in the city? SDOT is seeking volunteer community members for the following advisory boards and committees:

  • Move Seattle Levy Oversight Committee
  • School Traffic Safety Committee
  • Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board
  • Seattle Freight Advisory Board
  • Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board
  • Transit Advisory Board

Applications for volunteer positions are being accepted until Sunday, April 10. Apply through the City Clerk’s website by CLICKING HERE. You can apply to multiple boards at the same time.  For more information, please visit SDOT’s blog post, by CLICKING HERE.

 

Parking Rates Updated

Our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is applying its thorough ongoing analysis to adjust on-street parking rates on Monday, March 28, 2022 to help keep parking spots available for customers in commercial areas and in neighborhoods throughout Seattle. Overall, on-street parking rates in Seattle are remaining at or below $2 per hour at 95% of locations and times. Parking rates are remaining unchanged or decreasing in over half of the neighborhoods and times of day. For SDOT’s blog post detailing the changes and locations, CLICK HERE. As compared to the parking rates since June 2021, the afternoon rates in Roosevelt and the U District starting this week will increase by 50 cents and $1.00 per hour, respectively.

 

Plastic Bags: Another Option for Recycling

While Seattle Public Utilities made the tough, but prudent decision a long time ago to stop accepting plastic bags that clog and damage their recycling machines, another option is being piloted at 10 grocery stores throughout King County. The grocery store accepting the plastic bags closest to District 4 is just west of Wallingford at Marketime Foods, 4416 Fremont Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98103. For a Seattle Times article with more information, CLICK HERE.


COMBATING COVID

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 March 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.


Capital Access Program

The Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED) is investing $8 million of economic recovery funding to connect small businesses – including those in District 4 — to operating capital. The new Capital Access Program will lower the cost of Washington State Small Business Flex Fund loans for eligible small businesses by paying down 25% of the loan principal. 

  • Small businesses can borrow up to $150,000 with 4% interest to use on business expenses such as payroll, rent and utilities through community lenders.
  • Application closes on 4/8/2022 at 5:00 p.m.
  • For the website to apply, CLICK HERE.
  • Information and application assistance is available in multiple languages, including Amharic, Chinese, Korean, Somali, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese.

 

Digital Equity Grant Funding Opportunities 

Here is a summary from the Mayor’s press release: On March 14, 2022, we announced more digital equity funding opportunities for non-profits who work to close the digital pide in our community. Applications are now being accepted for the 2022 Technology Matching Fund (TMF) grant cycle as well as for the newly created Digital Navigator Cohort that I helped to launch as part of last year’s budget decisions. 

This year, $620,000 will be available to community organization’s digital equity projects through Technology Matching Fund grants of up to $25,000 for qualifying non-profit organizations in Seattle.

The new Digital Navigator Cohort Grant program responds to the inequities brought about by the pandemic. Through community conversations, digital navigators emerged locally and nationally as trusted guides to assist in technology support and foundational digital skills.  $250,000 has been funded into a cohort of community organizations to be able to offer the digital navigator program through grants of up to $50,000.  Unlike the Technology Matching Fund, the Digital Navigator Cohort does not require a community match. 

“The Technology Matching Funds and the new Digital Navigator Cohort grants allow our community to continue to flourish with their creativity and innovation. Digital equity is central to my vision for One Seattle where everyone can access the tools and opportunities that ensure no one is left behind,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell.

“We must do more to address the disparities the COVID crisis laid bare in our communities and that includes bridging the digital pide, as called for by our City’s bold Internet for All Action Plan,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who led efforts to have City Hall increase funding for internet access for low-income residents. “Thanks to the groundwork of community groups and Seattle’s IT Department, we can leverage additional funding so that more vulnerable residents have reliable and affordable technology that connects them to education, jobs, health care, and hope.”

The deadline to apply for both funding opportunities is May 13, 2022. To learn more about the Technology Matching Fund, Digital Navigator Cohort, or the new applications system, visit the City of Seattle Digital Equity Funding Opportunities site by CLICKING 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 in May 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


The State of Our City

February 25th, 2022

Friends and Neighbors,

After working with colleagues to elect a new Council President and update our Council committees last month — and then welcoming a new Mayor who hit the ground running — I was able to spend more time in our district during the month of February.  I continue to be humbled and honored to serve the 100,000 people residing in the more than 15 neighborhoods of Seattle’s District 4, and I’m grateful you are investing the time to read these updates. Let’s jump into the contents of our February 2022 newsletter:

  • Mayor’s Annual “State of the City”
  • District 4: Crime Prevention, Potholes, and More
  • Public Safety Stats
  • Trees, Zoning, Low-Income Housing
  • Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities Committee: Concrete Strike, Storm Report and Sound Transit EIS, and BRIDGES!
  • COVID Updates
  • Ways to Provide Input

[While City Hall should continue to focus on local government and the challenges we face in our city, I know many in Seattle share concerns about challenges around the globe, including Russia’s invasion this week of Ukraine. For a Seattle Times article on ways to help there, CLICK HERE.]

“State of the City” from our New Mayor Bruce Harrell

During his first annual State of the City address, Mayor Harrell said, “I would like to be clear on a point: I believe in GOING BACK TO THE BASICS. That’s where good governance begins. The basics include efforts like our housing first policy. Fixing a pothole. Making sure our sidewalks and parks are safe for children and families to use. Making sure we enforce our criminal laws against those who are harming others.” I agree.

Our new Mayor’s focus is consistent with what many constituents have told me they expect from their representatives at City Hall. It remains to be seen, however, whether a majority of City Council will join the mayor in focusing on delivering basic local government services well.

With the public electing us to be stewards of $6.6 billion guided by our City Charter, I believe we have a fiscal, legal, and moral responsibility to stay focused on delivering those basic services to the best of our ability. The good news is there is a lot of common ground to keep us busy solving problems and providing the best results for Seattle.

To view the video of Mayor Harrell’s remarks on the “State of the City” from February 15, 2022 CLICK HERE and to read his speech, CLICK HERE.


DISTRICT 4

Addressing Crime in the University District

Joined by Bruce Harrell’s Deputy Mayor Kendee Yamaguchi along with community policing officers and the mayor’s Director of Public Safety Andrew Myerberg to brainstorm solutions with small businesses and nonprofits impacted by crime in the U District.

A few weeks ago here in District 4, I welcomed several other City officials to the University District to hear firsthand about crimes against small neighborhood businesses and their customers. This crime prevention walking tour was organized by my office and the University District Partnership, which is the nonprofit manager of the Business Improvement Area. I very much appreciate being joined by our new citywide Councilmember Sara Nelson and new City Attorney Ann Davison. I was also impressed that Mayor Bruce Harrell’s new administration is taking seriously this disturbing spike in crime by bringing together public safety and economic development experts to expedite solutions. I hope this includes community policing targeted where it can be the most impactful in preventing crime. I believe solutions must include responding proactively and compassionately to mental health challenges before they become a harmful crisis and making available more enhanced shelter and low-income housing with case management throughout our region. The U District offers so many assets that require community safety to thrive, including a word-class university, light rail stations, a global persity of restaurants and shops, and residents who all deserve to feel safe.

I want to thank our Seattle Police Department officers in our North Precinct who leveraged their extensive training and professionalism to apprehend suspects involved in violent assaults and robberies over the past few weeks in the University District. We rely on the hard work of these officers and detectives to solve these violent crimes throughout Seattle.

The U District Partnership announced the availability of funding to restore damaged storefronts.

“Over the past month, we have seen increased vandalism and property damage in the U District. To support our community, the U District Partnership (UDP) is launching a U District Damaged Facade Grant. These funds will be available to business and property owners within the U District BIA to help offset the cost of repairs for broken windows, doors, locks, and damaged storefront facades that occurred in 2022. While this doesn’t include graffiti damage, we have other programs to address vandalism from paint.

Grants will be awarded to reimburse stakeholders for damaged storefront repairs up to $1,000. If an applicant is awarded, funds will be disbursed once the project is complete and receipts are submitted. If you have any questions, or would like to apply, please contact Economic Development Manager Daniel Lokic at daniel@udistrictpartnership.org.

 

Neighborhood Spotlight: ROOSEVELT

Roosevelt Alumni for Racial Equity (R.A.R.E.)

I had the opportunity to listen and learn from the premier of the documentary by Roosevelt Alumni for Racial Equity on January 31, 2022 and you can view it, too.

From RARE’s website: “Race is one of the burning issues of the day, but does your family talk about it? The topic is uncomfortable and complicated. Yet the conversations need to happen. Young people are entering an increasingly perse world. To thrive, they must be prepared to work with people who look different or come from different backgrounds. The film Roosevelt High School: Beyond Black & White is a production of Roosevelt Alumni for Racial Equity (RARE), a Seattle non-profit formed to promote racial equity, with a focus on schools and their communities. RARE offers scholarships, this film, and monthly Open Discussions. Its newest initiative is Connections, a program to bring together students of different backgrounds for fun, meaningful experiences outside of school.”

To view their film, CLICK HERE.

To view the January 31, 2022 panel discussion including several students, CLICK HERE.

For their website to learn more and how to engage, CLICK HERE.

 

Supporting Roosevelt’s Small Businesses

Last month we featured Fuel Coffee for its grand re-opening and nearby Wallingford businesses including Pam’s Kitchen and Murphy’s Pub. This month we’re in the Roosevelt neighborhood to highlight Teddy’s Tavern, which is nearby other cherished establishments such as Rain City Burgers, Spex in the City, Steele Barber, and The Westy. Many of these small, local businesses rent their space from building owners. Property developers might seek to demolish those buildings to increase density as the neighborhood rapidly changes with the previously approved upzone and the newly opened light rail station. It’s tough to predict how each small business could afford to survive during construction and return. Please continue to support your favorite neighborhood businesses.

 

Roosevelt Jazz Band!

The Roosevelt Jazz Band does it again: they’ve made it to the finals of the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival. For more info on this amazing musical tradition, CLICK HERE. (photo from Roosevelt Jazz Boosters)

 

Filling Potholes in our District

After hearing the report from our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) about the challenges they faced filling thousands of new potholes after the winter storms, I visited the Pothole Rangers in District 4.  Potholes can increase risks for all modes of transportation.  The crew was generous to provide me with a hands-on demonstration of how hard their work is. While it was initially more fun that sitting at a desk in City Hall, I was grateful to return the machines to the experts and thanked them for serving the public where the rubber meets the road.

To report potholes, you can call 206-684-ROAD (7623) or the Customer Service Bureau 206-684-CITY (2489), send an email to 684-road@seattle.gov,  use the Find It, Fix It app on a smart phone, or CLICK HERE. To view a map of recent potholes, CLICK HERE.

 

Wallingford Community Council

Earlier this month, I attended the Wallingford Community Council’s monthly meeting.  We discussed public safety, homelessness, transportation, and land use.

In addition to the emails and phone calls my office receives, it’s often through these community council meetings that I hear of priorities and trends in the over 15 neighborhoods of District 4. At the Wallingford meeting, for example, some expressed concern that former City leaders imposed onto Wallingford a substantial upzone causing disruptive demolitions and profit-driven construction in several areas with overcrowded schools and without robust transit.  However, they left loopholes enabling developers to avoid building the needed low-income housing there — all the disruptive downside with none of the affordable housing upside. This points to the ongoing shortcomings of the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program many believe is overdue for an update. I believe we should encourage more immediate onsite production of low-income housing instead of letting for-profit developers write a check for different projects years away. If you’d like to get involved in your neighborhood, attending community council meetings is a great way to start. For more information on community councils in your neighborhood, CLICK HERE.  I’ll be attending more of these meetings in February.

 

Neighborhood Matching Fund Workshops

Funding opportunity alert for neighborhood projects!  The City of Seattle Neighborhood Matching Fund (NMF) provides matching dollars for neighborhood improvement, organizing, or projects developed and implemented by community members. Central to NMF is the community match which requires awardees to match their award with contributions from the community whether as volunteer time, donated materials, donated professional services, or cash. Seattle Department of Neighborhoods is hosting virtual workshops to assist community organizations and neighborhood groups interested in getting funding for their ideas: March 9th, 2022 – 6:00 to 7:30pm. Neighborhood groups, community organizations, and business groups who want to do a project to build stronger community connections are encouraged to apply (CLICK HERE). To visit the NMF website for more info, CLICK HERE.


PUBLIC SAFETY

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

In 2020 a majority of City Council colleagues, unfortunately, pledged to pursue the 50% defunding of our police department’s budget.  Due to a variety of factors, including low morale, over 300 SPD officers have left the department. I opposed the defunding pledge and, while I support effective alternatives to traditional emergency responses, I believe they need to be put in place first. I also believe the focus should be not on funding, but rather on embedding reforms into the overdue renewal of the police union contract.

Source: City Council Central Staff presentation, 2/22/2022.

It makes sense that many of the public officials most recently elected – who most recently heard the complaints directly from Seattle voters during their campaigns — are eager to take action to address public safety. I look forward to working with them to hire more community policing officers and  implement actual plans to stand up effective alternatives for emergency responses to behavioral health crises.

On February 4, 2022, Mayor Bruce Harrell held a press conference devoted to calls for public safety. On February 9, 2022 our new citywide City Councilmember Sara Nelson invited small businesses to her Committee on Economic Development to express their frustration over the increase in crime and the negative impact on their customers. It’s difficult for any business, especially single location small businesses without economies of scale, to retain and grow customers and jobs when they are constantly dealing with the fear and costs of crime spilling into their stores and restaurants. This includes many small businesses in District 4.

And the people expressing concerns are right — according to the public SPD dashboard, there were more reports of total crime in 2021 than in 2019 and 2020 in both our North Precinct and throughout Seattle:

To access SPD’s Crime Dashboard to create your own reports, CLICK HERE.

For SPD’s 2021 Year End Crime Report, CLICK HERE.

 

Seattle Misdemeanors and the Jail:  Historical Context from New City Attorney

At this week’s Public Safety & Human Services Committee, SPD provided its 2021 crime report (documenting an increase in crime) and an update on its “Retail Theft” program. SPD’s presentation noted, “Due to Covid related booking restrictions [imposed by King County Jail], we were unable to book misdemeanor level theft offenses, even frequent and prolific violators.” Partially funded by the City of Seattle, the jail is used by both Seattle and wider King County and is located downtown near City Hall. The jail is run by the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention which reports to Dow Constantine who has been King County Executive since 2010.

Earlier this month the City Attorney’s Office, led by newly elected Ann Davison, circulated this  graph showing the historical trend of misdemeanor bookings at King County Jail before she assumed office. Our City Attorney’s Office handles ”misdemeanors“ (which can include crimes such as assault, shoplifting, domestic violence, and DUI) whereas the King County Prosecutor handles ”felonies“ (such as gun violence). City Attorney Davison wrote, “As historical context, Seattle’s misdemeanor incarceration rate is at an all-time record low. Per the chart below, in 1997 Seattle had an average daily jail population (ADP) of 457 defendants. In 2021, that ADP had fallen to 67, a drop of 85 percent. During the first two years of COVID (2020-21), the ADP has fallen 63 percent as compared to 2019.” One of the reported reasons for the lower average daily population (ADP) at the jail in 2020 and 2021 was the public health-related decision to increase social distancing inside the facility during the COVID pandemic.

 

Community Police Commission Partners with Federal Monitor to Engage Community

The Community Police Commission and Consent Decree Monitor are collaborating on a series of community engagement meetings regarding preliminary assessments of the Seattle Police Department. The goal of these meetings is to inform the public on overall progress of the Consent Decree as well as to get community input on what comes next in Seattle for police reform and how the City proceeds after the Consent Decree.

These sessions will occur on the following dates, on the following subjects:

  • Crisis Intervention: January 11, 2022 (already occurred; for the report, CLICK HERE)
  • Stops and Detentions: February 8, 2022 (already occurred; for the report, CLICK HERE)
  • Use of Force: March 8, 2022

TREES, ZONING, AND LOW-INCOME HOUSING

Trees:

Source: Pennsylvania Parks & Forest Foundation, 2020

As we have discussed often in our newsletters, mature trees provide numerous environmental and health benefits. After many months of delay, the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI) released their proposed tree protection bill for consideration by the general public and the City Council.

The department decided that their proposed policy change to protect trees is subject to the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). Their review, per the SEPA requirements, concluded with a “determination of non-significance” (DNS) which is now subject to a comment and appeal period. Members of the public can provide feedback to Gordon Clowers, SDCI Senior Planner, at gordon.clowers@seattle.gov until March 3, 2022. The City Council will formally consider SDCI”s proposed legislation once all comment windows close and any SEPA appeals are resolved. For SDCI’s proposed legislation and SEPA materials, CLICK HERE.

I’m grateful the department finally released their overdue comprehensive proposal to protect trees and, yet, the devil is in the details as to whether their proposal does enough to protect our dwindling tree canopy vital during the climate crisis.

In the meantime, I’m excited that our other Council Bill 120207 can be part of these overall efforts because it can quickly deliver accountability and transparency by finally requiring the registration of all arborist professionals in Seattle. (SDCI’s bigger bill does NOT include a registration system for tree cutters.) Here’s the title of Council Bill 120207: AN ORDINANCE relating to land use and urban forestry; adding a tree service provider registration procedure and requirement. On February 9, 2022 the Council’s Land Use Committee had the first hearing of Council Bill 120207, which, when adopted, will be a small step toward greater tree protections in Seattle. Ideally the bill could be voted out of Committee by March 23.

For a Seattle Times editorial reinforcing the importance of the City Council adopting stronger tree protections, CLICK HERE.

For the ongoing saga of trying to enact stronger tree protections, CLICK HERE.

 

State Bills to Preempt Cities and Impose Upzones Failed

I support increasing affordable housing for low-income residents and direct assistance to those experiencing homelessness in all areas of Seattle. Recent proposals in the State Legislature to enable for-profit developers to build expensive new townhomes, however, would not have accomplished either goal and they failed to advance. House Bill 1782 (and Senate Bill 5670) would have imposed upzones in Seattle and other cities within ½ mile of “frequent” transit. Many saw Governor Jay Inslee’s “middle housing” zoning proposal as an ill-conceived, distracting, and rushed pre-emption of local decision-making.  While the proposed increase in the number housing units could be considered modest (allowing 4-plexes or 6-plexes) and more cities should consider increasing density near reliable frequent transit, the bills had bigger problems:  they lacked low-income requirements, allowed demolitions of family-sized naturally occurring affordable housing, failed to prevent displacement, ignored the fact that bus routes can change, failed to protect our dwindling tree canopy, and provided no compensation for impacts to our City’s infrastructure including storm water and sewer lines – especially problematic for the outlier cities like Seattle that still fail to charge impact fees to developers.  Moreover, by pre-empting Seattle, the Governor’s bills would have not only removed our local input, but also missed the opportunity to leverage financial benefit for the public in exchange for granting additional building capacity to the for-profit townhome developers.

In his role as Chair of the Local Government Committee for us in Olympia, I appreciated State Representative Gerry Pollet (of the 46th legislative district that includes Northeast Seattle) for his leadership in persistently raising concerns about these top-down bills.

Any such broad proposals should be handled as part of Seattle’s comprehensive planning process, so they can be properly planned for and coordinated with existing communities and other City systems such as infrastructure (sewer/stormwater, tree canopy, schools, fire stations) — in addition to obtaining reasonable public benefits (low-income housing) in exchange for granting new opportunities to for-profit developers.

The Seattle Times editorial board also shared our concerns with these bills:

  • For a Seattle Times editorials explaining why State legislators should reject the Governor’s land use bills preempting cities, CLICK HERE and HERE.
  • For an editorial cartoon by David Horsey that sums up one of the negative aspects of the Governor’s proposal, CLICK HERE.

On the other hand, for arguments in favor of those bills, CLICK HERE and HERE.

Thinking outside the box for new practical solutions to make housing more affordable, CLICK HERE for an innovative financing tool from Microsoft Philanthropies and an update on their $750 million commitment to affordable housing in the region.

 

Regional Homelessness Authority Update:

I’d like to thank the businesses and philanthropic organizations for establishing “Partnership for Zero” to increase and coordinate their financial contributions to the new Regional Homelessness Authority (which is also funded by Seattle and King County local governments). Because RHA is a regional solution to the regional problem of homelessness and because RHA creates trust in its approach by using best practices shown to work (such as a By-Name List to tailor solutions for each inpidual), RHA is able to attract private funding to supplement our tax dollars.  The goal of Partnership Zero is to bring more people inside quickly, especially those living on sidewalks and under the highway in downtown Seattle. For a Seattle Times article about this new effort, CLICK HERE.

The RHA regularly updates their information on cold weather shelters and for the current info, CLICK HERE.


TRANSPORTATION & SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMITTEE

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

Labor Dispute Stalls Vital Projects That Need Concrete:

An ongoing contract renewal dispute between over 300 drivers of concrete mixing trucks and their employers is causing work to stop on vital projects that rely on concrete, including the West Seattle Bridge, new Sound Transit light rail stations, UW’s new Behavioral Health Facility in Northgate, and numerous construction projects for low-income housing.

At a February 9 press conference, Mayor Harrell said, “the most effective solution for all parties is simply for business and labor to reach a just agreement and for the strike to end.”

Sharing our Mayor’s concerns about the concrete strike, I added, “Vital transportation projects needed for our safety and mobility — as well as the scarce tax dollars allocated to fund them — are sitting idle and becoming at risk due to this excessively long concrete strike and so I believe all of Seattle would benefit if everyone got back to the negotiating table to resolve this labor dispute as soon as possible.”

For a Seattle Times article on how the concrete strike will delay the planned summer re-opening of the West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE. For the latest on SDOT’s repairs of the West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE.  There is some hope that a federal mediator could help to resolve the dispute.

 

Seattle’s Fragile Future – More Support for Bridge Safety Bonds

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

One of the few large cities with as many bridges as Seattle is Pittsburgh, PA and the sudden bridge collapse there is a cautionary tale for our city. As reported by CNN on January 28, 2022, “Ten people were injured when a snow-covered bridge in Pittsburgh collapsed Friday morning, hours ahead of a previously scheduled visit to the city by President Joe Biden to discuss infrastructure.”

For a related article in Politico entitled, “Infrastructure bonanza might not head off future bridge collapses,” CLICK HERE.

What is Pittsburgh doing next? An audit of all their bridges. The good news is that Seattle already has an audit of all its bridges, which I obtained in early 2020 after SDOT found the West Seattle Bridge cracked and requiring an emergency, long-term closure. But that also means Seattle doesn’t have same excuse as Pittsburgh. Seattle already knows exactly which bridges are the most vulnerable. So now the question is what are we doing about it? So far, not much.

Call to Action: Please email the office of our new Mayor Bruce.Harrell@seattle.gov and the Seattle Department of Transportation dot_directors_office@seattle.gov to implore the Executive to use the budget and legislative authority the City Council granted them to issue $100 million in City bonds for bridge safety.  We already learned the hard way from the West Seattle Bridge closure and the disturbing audit of all Seattle bridges that repairs and retrofits are long overdue. Unfortunately, neither the federal government nor the State government are able to fund what our city needs now for bridge safety.

Email Mayor Harrell’s Office: Issue Bonds Soon for Bridge Safety

Our city departments can — and must — step up to issue the bridge bonds this spring to ensure bridge safety in Seattle.  For more on the ongoing saga to get City Hall to care about Seattle’s fragile bridges, CLICK HERE.

 

Stalled Sound Transit Train Near Husky Stadium Explained:

Earlier this month, Sound Transit made public the 52-page investigative report it obtained after one of its trains stalled in the tunnel just northwest of Husky Stadium after the November 26, 2021 Apple Cup.  I appreciate Sound Transit leadership getting to the bottom of this incident, sharing with the public what Sound Transit learned, and putting in place the mechanical and communication fixes to prevent such incidents in the future.  For Sound Transit’s thorough blog post explaining the incident with a link to the audit report, CLICK HERE.  For the Seattle Times story about the audit, CLICK HERE.

Winter Storm Assessment and Plague of Potholes

Both the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) accepted my invitation to our Committee on February 1 to describe and assess the executive’s response to the winter storms that hit our area between December 26, 2021 and January 5, 2022. SDOT also discussed their ongoing response to the post-storm plague of potholes.

I heard the frustration from residents throughout the city because that week of heavy snow/rain created dangerous conditions that delayed pick up of their trash/recycling and produced a plague of potholes  negatively impacting cars, buses, freight, and bikes.

The presentation from the two key City departments confirmed that this was, so to speak, “a perfect storm” with fewer crewmembers initially available during the holidays combined with challenging weather conditions that alternatively froze, thawed, and froze the roads after neighborhoods produced extra solid waste from holiday gift purchases.

I agree with what I heard from many residents throughout Seattle — we saw key arterial roads cleared relatively fast, but we would like to see additional attention for side streets, especially when that impacts other City services such as trash pickup. I was pleased to see our Seattle Department of Transportation coordinating well with other city departments and King County Metro to prioritize the clearing of bus routes and safe routes to schools, COVID testing sites, and hospitals.

Overall, I think the Durkan Administration did a reasonable job in responding to at least three major snow events during the past four years and I know everyone is eager to see the Harrell Administration make sure crews quickly fill the new plague of potholes. I know the Harrell Administration prioritizes taking care of the basics for Seattle and we agree that keeping our roadways safe for all modes of travel and handling recycling and waste are core functions of City government. I look forward to that priority being reflected in the Mayor’s budget proposal this September.

I’d also like to thank our city government’s frontline workers and the solid waste truck drivers who all braved the rough winter weather and street conditions to serve the public.  SDOT crews worked 24/7 for several days in a row, during the holidays, as well as coordinating with several departments.

For the winter storm action assessment from SDOT, which discussed removing snow and fixing potholes CLICK HERE.

For the winter storm action assessment from SPU, including catching up after interruptions in solid waste collection as well as their work preventing floods and landslides, CLICK HERE.

To report potholes, you can call 206-684-ROAD (7623) or the Customer Service Bureau 206-684-CITY (2489), send an email to 684-road@seattle.gov,  use the Find It, Fix It app on a smart phone, or CLICK HERE. To view a map of recent potholes, CLICK HERE.

 

Sound Transit Seeks Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) Jan 28 to April 28, 2022

At our February 15 Committee on Transportation & Seattle Public Utilities, Sound Transit discussed the draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the next big phase of implementing the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions. The voluminous DEIS is on Sound Transit’s website and public comments are due by April 28.  Sound Transit encompasses King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties and is governed by a 19-member board with Seattle ably represented by Council President Debora Juarez and new Mayor Bruce Harrell.  In addition to multiple community advisory groups, our Council’s Transportation Committee is making itself available at key junctures to serve as an additional venue to communicate and receive information on these regional transit issues impacting Seattle. The draft EIS is a massive collection of documents, including a 40-page cover letter and a 58-page Executive summary followed by six chapters, 30 appendices, and many more tables and figures, so this overview at Committee will be helpful. Our discussion also included our Seattle Department of Transportation as well as the highly experienced Marshall Foster, who is our City’s new Designated Representative for the Executive.

For Sound Transit’s presentation at our Committee on Seattle Channel, CLICK HERE. For Sound Transit’s excellent PowerPoint presentation summarizing the DEIS, CLICK HERE.

To learn more about the project and how to comment on the Draft EIS by April 28, 2022, Sound Transit asks that you visit the online open house at https://wsblink.participate.online/


COMBATING COVID

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 decrease sharply.

In November 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) approved vaccine boosters for everyone over 18 years of age. For more info, CLICK HERE.

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

 

Ongoing Renter Protections / Ending the Eviction Moratorium

By a vote of 5 to 3, the City Council supported Mayor Harrell’s decision to end on February 28, 2022 the moratorium on residential evictions that had been in place for nearly two years.

For the many reasons I supported our Mayor’s decision and voted against Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s resolution, CLICK HERE (and scroll down to the February 22, 2022 update).

For Mayor Harrell’s announcement that he is ending the eviction moratorium February 28, CLICK HERE.

For the extensive list of remaining tenant protections and rental assistance, CLICK HERE and 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 enable more people to visit us, but the technological upgrades to enable calling in we 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 into the meeting to speak directly to the Council live. For the instructions on how to register and call in, CLICK HERE. Sign up begins two hours prior to the meeting start time.
Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

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

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

We are getting through this together, Seattle!

With gratitude,

 

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

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


Strengthening Seattle’s Tree Ordinance

February 25th, 2022
Let’s not allow efforts to update Seattle’s Tree ordinance delay into a never-ending story!

INTRODUCTION:

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

After the City adopted Resolution 31902 in 2019, we waited for all of 2020 and 2021 for the Durkan Administration’s Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) to deliver an updated tree ordinance to the City Council as required by the resolution. Finally, on February 25, 2022, the Harrell Administration forwarded to the City Council a bill crafted by SDCI, which appears to have several shortcomings. (See below for updates.) Meanwhile, many constituents have been contacting my office with legitimate concerns about numerous “exceptional trees” being ripped out across our District 4 and our city. My staff and I will be carefully monitoring our City government’s efforts on these important environmental and equity issues – and may take legislative action sooner if we continue to see excuses instead of progress. We will update this ongoing blog post to provide new information as it becomes available in what seems to be a never-ending story.

To view our Council Bill 120207 to register tree cutters for better transparency and accountability, CLICK HERE.  This registration bill is a small, but might step forward while we consider how best to adopt a more comprehensive tree protection bill. Councilmember Dan Strauss, who chairs the relevant Land Use Committee, co-sponsored CB 120207.




March 29, 2022 UPDATE: City Council adopts our Council Bill 120207 to finally register tree cutters; looming ahead is a larger discussion for more tree protections.

This legislation finally ends the ‘wild west’ of tree cutting in Seattle and is a small but mighty step toward protecting the health and environmental benefits of mature trees in our Emerald City,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4 Northeast Seattle, Wallingford, Eastlake). “As heat waves and flooding increase with the climate crisis, we need to get serious about protecting our priceless tree infrastructure, and Council Bill 120207 delivers the foundational accountability and transparency needed as we work to deliver a more comprehensive tree protection ordinance later this year.” 

For a link to our press release, CLICK HERE. Thanks to all the urban forest conservationists who have called into public comment periods at Council committee meetings and sent emails of support over the past several months!

March 23, 2022 UPDATE: Land Use Committee unanimously approves Council Bill 120207, as amended, to register tree cutters.

Council Bill 120207 was originally introduced October 18, 2021, heard in the Land Use Committee February 9, 2022, and amended at Land Use Committee March 23, 2022.  At the March 23 Committee, Councilmembers adopted Substitute Bill 1 from Strauss and Pedersen, adopted Amendment 4 by Strauss, rejected Amendment 3 by Pedersen, and unanimously adopted the bill as amended. (There was no Amendment 2.) The bill is scheduled for a vote by the full City Council Tuesday, March 29.


February 25, 2022 UPDATE: SDCI releases initial draft of tree protection ordinance (Our Council Bill 120207 to register tree cutters can move more quickly on separate track)

After many months of delay, the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI) released their proposed tree protection bill for consideration by the general public and the City Council.

The department decided that their proposed policy change to protect trees is subject to the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). Their review, per the SEPA requirements, concluded with a “determination of non-significance” (DNS) which is now subject to a comment and appeal period. Members of the public can provide feedback to Gordon Clowers, SDCI Senior Planner, at gordon.clowers@seattle.gov until March 3, 2022. The City Council will formally consider SDCI”s proposed legislation once all comment windows close and any SEPA appeals are resolved. For SDCI’s proposed legislation and SEPA materials, CLICK HERE.

While I was initially grateful the department finally released their overdue comprehensive proposal to protect trees and, the devil is in the details as to whether their proposal does enough to protect our dwindling tree canopy vital during the climate crisis. I’ve already heard many concerns raised by urban forestry conservationists who understand the health and environmental benefits of protecting our dwindling tree canopy in Seattle. If the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) produced a tree protection proposal that does not clearly protect trees, it again raises an important question: Can a City department that is paid to approve real estate developments be relied upon to protect our City’s dwindling tree canopy? (Hence my proposal for Chief Arborist.)

In the meantime, I’m excited that our other Council Bill 120207 can be part of these overall efforts on a separate, faster track because it can quickly deliver accountability and transparency by finally requiring the registration of all arborist professionals in Seattle. (SDCI’s bigger bill does NOT include a registration system for tree cutters.) Here’s the title of Council Bill 120207: AN ORDINANCE relating to land use and urban forestry; adding a tree service provider registration procedure and requirement. On February 9, 2022 the Council’s Land Use Committee had the first hearing of Council Bill 120207, which, when adopted, will be a small step toward greater tree protections in Seattle. Ideally the bill could be voted out of Committee by March 23.

For a Seattle Times editorial reinforcing the importance of the City Council adopting stronger tree protections, CLICK HERE.


February 9, 2022 UPDATE: Committee hears our tree-cutter registration bill: a small, but necessary step toward finally protecting our urban canopy

A small, but necessary step toward greater tree protections is a bill my office introduced to register arborists and others who cut down/remove trees in Seattle, Council Bill 120207. Land Use Committee Chair Dan Strauss is a vital co-sponsor. It is tentatively scheduled to be heard at his Land Use Committee on February 9 and 23.

We could benefit from public support to pass this bill, so please send an email to Council@seattle.gov with a message to all 9 Councilmembers:  Please start to save Seattle’s trees by adopting Council Bill 120207, “AN ORDINANCE relating to land use and urban forestry; adding a tree service provider registration procedure and requirement.” Then let’s make substantial progress by completing and advancing a comprehensive tree protection ordinance to save our city’s dwindling urban canopy which is necessary for public health and the environment in the midst of the climate crisis — especially Seattle’s larger exceptional trees.

Key Points to Support CB 120207:

  • Don’t Delay: We have waited years to save Seattle’s trees, so please don’t delay adoption of Council Bill 120207, “AN ORDINANCE relating to land use and urban forestry; adding a tree service provider registration procedure and requirement.” Ideally the bill is heard again Feb 23 at Committee and approved by full City Council March 1, 2022.
  • Fulfill a Piece of the Promise: The simple standards in Council Bill 120207 were promised over two years ago by Resolution 31902 which called for “requiring all tree service providers operating in Seattle to meet minimum certification and training requirements and register with the City.” Even if the new Harrell Administration finally releases the more comprehensive tree protection bill that we all seek, let’s at least move ahead with CB 120207 so we no longer have a gap in this basic registration requirement for tree cutters.
  • Adopt All 3 Amendments from Councilmember Pedersen:  One amendment codifies requirements concerning documentation of why an Exceptional Tree has been identified as “hazardous.” Another amendment codifies existing guidance that developments should “maximize conservation of existing trees” by requiring related reports during subdivisions be prepared by qualified professionals (tree service providers or landscape architects). 

To watch the February 9, 2022 Committee meeting recorded on Seattle Channel, CLICK HERE. Thanks to the over 100 people who sent emails supporting CB 120207 and my 3 initial amendments — and for everyone who took the time to call during the Committee’s public comment period! We appreciate your steadfast support for Seattle’s trees and this initial legislation!

For more on the multi-year saga to try to get your city government to save Seattle’s trees with a more comprehensive update to our existing tree protection ordinance, keep reading…


December 28, 2021 Update: Press Release

Mayor Durkan Breaks Commitment to Protect Trees

SEATTLE – Councilmember Dan Strauss (District 6 – Northwest Seattle), Chair of the Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee issued the following statement today in response to news that Mayor Durkan will not complete promised work on tree protections:

“I am deeply disappointed that Mayor Durkan has chosen to delay action to protect trees in Seattle once again,” said Councilmember Strauss. “For the past two years I have worked to strengthen tree protections despite repeated delays. Just two weeks ago, Mayor’s Office staff and City departments reiterated their promise to publish new tree protections this year. Last week I learned that Mayor Durkan will not make good on these promises, meaning another year will pass before Seattle takes meaningful action to grow and prevent loss of our tree canopy.”

Before taking office, Councilmember Strauss led the effort in late 2019 to pass Resolution 31902, by which the Mayor and Council jointly committed to considering stronger tree protections in 2020. The resolution included a commitment from the Mayor to “submit legislation in 2020 for consideration by the Council.” While the COVID-19 pandemic delayed work on tree protections, City departments pledged to complete this work in 2021.

Throughout 2021, City departments repeatedly committed publicly before the Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee that a proposal for stronger tree protections would be published before the end of the year. Earlier this month Mayor’s Office staff told Councilmembers that the proposal was on track to be completed in December. At the December 8th meeting of the Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections reiterated their commitment to “develop draft recommendations and make a draft proposal available with environmental (SEPA) review for public comment.” Unfortunately, Mayor Durkan’s administration broke this promise just one week later.

“Sadly, Mayor Durkan is ending her administration failing to deliver a tree protection proposal, even though it was promised both in October 2019 when she signed Resolution 31902 and as recently as December 2021 when her appointees appeared before our Land Use Committee,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4 – Northeast Seattle.) “In the ‘Emerald City’ within the ‘Evergreen State’ — where the health and environmental benefits of trees are well known as are the disparities of heat islands exacerbated by climate change — we cannot afford to wait any longer to protect Seattle’s dwindling tree canopy. As Council President in 2019, Mayor-Elect Bruce Harrell also signed Resolution 31902, so we are eager to have his team deliver the already drafted bill to our Land Use Committee for Council action in January 2022.”

“The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission is extremely disappointed with the Durkan administration’s unwillingness to act to protect and adequately manage our city’s trees and forests. After nearly 13 years of working on this issue the time for Seattle to have even a satisfactory tree code has long passed,” said Weston Brinkley, Chair of the Urban Forestry Commission. “We have had conceptual agreement on the issues amongst the Forestry Commission, the City Council and the administration; inaction is simply inexcusable. Hopefully, with the Harrell Administration we can finally enact meaningful policy to aid our trees and forests and the support they provide our public health and the environment.”

“As record temperatures in the Northwest this year showed, the climate crisis is real. It’s important that Seattle move forward now to increase protection for our existing trees and to plant more trees to address tree equity and climate resiliency,” said Steve Zemke, Chair of TreePAC. “Trees are essential to healthy communities. We look forward to the Seattle City Council and Mayor-Elect Bruce Harrell enacting a strong Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance in 2022.”

“I remain committed to adopting stronger tree protections, passing arborist registration legislation, and working collaboratively with Mayor Harrell to finish this important work,” said Councilmember Strauss.

###


Dec 20, 2021: Polls Re-Affirm Overwhelming Support for Seattle Trees and Registering Tree Cutters

Following their statistically significant survey regarding trees published September 15, 2021 (with results from their poll of 617 likely Seattle primary election voters conducted July 12-17, 2021), the nonprofit Change Research published on December 20, 2021 another survey regarding trees (with results from their poll of 617 likely Seattle general election voters conducted October 12-15, 2021). The newer poll published December 20, 2021 found, among other things, 77% of likely Seattle voters want to “Increase building setbacks to allow larger, street-facing trees to be planted.”

The poll released September 15, 2021 showed, among other things, 75% of likely Seattle voters supported “requiring tree care providers (arborists) to meet minimum certification and training and register with the city.” The registration of tree cutters is exactly what Council Bill 120207 would accomplish — if adopted by City Council.


December 8, 2021 UPDATE: Possible to See a Tree Protection Bill by December 31, 2021!

During today’s Land Use & Neighborhoods Committee, the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI) announced that — despite their PowerPoint presentation indicating we would not see a proposed bill until next year –they intend to make public a draft bill by December 31, 2021. We will look forward to reviewing the details because we want to make sure the bill actually does MORE to protect trees in Seattle than the current Seattle Municipal Code and Director’s Rules. While I’m eager to see us expand the definition of “Exceptional Trees” to protect, I’m deeply concerned about then allowing real estate developers or homeowners selling their properties to pay a small “in lieu” fee that allows them to rip out those same trees.


December 1, 2021 UPDATE: Tree Protections Delayed Again

At the Urban Forestry Commission meeting on December 1, 2021, the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI) and the Office of Sustainability & Environment (OSE) revealed yet another delay. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say, but this disappointing update indicates that we probably should have made a second attempt to convince our Council colleagues in November 2021 to proviso (hold back) a portion of 2022 funds from SDCI in order to guarantee delivery of the ordinance under the next mayoral administration. As the PowerPoint slide shows, the Durkan Administration is acknowledging that they will NOT deliver an ordinance this year as they had repeatedly promised but is giving the departments at least another 3 months (through the first quarter of 2022).

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

See the timeline getting pushed back with each quarterly update:

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

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

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


September 23, 2021 (Update from our newsletter):

Tree Protection Legislation


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


August 23, 2021 (Update from our newsletter):

Supporting Trees at Yesler Terrace

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

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

illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Recent evidence about the importance of trees:

  • Environmental Justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Climate Mitigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


April 27, 2021 (from our newsletter):

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

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

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


March 24, 2021 (Land Use Committee):

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

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

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

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


December 18, 2020 (from our newsletter):

Prodded bureaucracy to speed protections of trees.

Source: Seattle’s Urban Forestry Commission

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


November 23, 2020 (from our newsletter):

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


December 20, 2019 (original post and newsletter):

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Briefing on overdue Tree Protection Ordinance, December 18, 2019 Planning, Land Use, and Zoning (PLUZ) Committee

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

Additional Resources:

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


West Seattle Bridge Updates

February 10th, 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 is to complete substantial repairs (“rehab”) in time to restore access to the West Seattle “high bridge” mid-2022. The Spokane Street Swing Bridge (West Seattle “low bridge”) has very limited access. Alternate routes can be found on the website of our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

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

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

phase 2 stabilization graphic

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.

# # #

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.


New Mayor, New Council, New Committees, New Hope

January 27th, 2022

Friends and Neighbors,

Starting this January of 2022, Seattle has a new Mayor (Bruce Harrell), new City Councilmember (Sara Nelson), new City Council President (Debora Juarez), new assignments to City Council committees, and new City Attorney (Ann Davison). I am hopeful this resetting of the political climate at your City Hall will produce positive results for Seattle. Our new mayor Bruce Harrell highlighted our common ground with his inaugural speech about “One Seattle.”

To view the video of Mayor Harrell’s speech, CLICK HERE and to read his speech, CLICK HERE.

Overseeing nearly 40 city departments, 12,000 employees, and a combined budget of $6.6 billion, our city’s “chief executive” has a massive responsibility to implement budgets and policies already approved by City Council to address safety, homelessness, parks (including many in District 4), utilities, transportation (including bridges and pedestrian safety), and much more.

It’s hard enough to deploy tax dollars to accomplish improvements when we agree on goals and priorities — and it’s nearly impossible when public officials instead push pisive personal agendas. So I welcome the collaborative approaches of both Mayor Harrell and Council President Juarez.  As we strive to emerge from the worst of the COVID pandemic and homelessness crisis, I will continue to support action from the executive (the Mayor’s Office and their departments) to implement sensible solutions to these and many other Seattle challenges.


DISTRICT 4

Inspired by a recent article in the Wallyhood neighborhood blog, I visited the grand re-opening of Fuel Coffee in Wallingford on January 22 and visited nearby stores and restaurants including Pam’s Kitchen. Wallingford’s entire neighborhood business district is a fun destination from Archie McPhee’s to Pam’s Kitchen to Murphy’s Pub to Ezelle’s Famous Chicken.

Earlier this month, I attended the Northeast District Council (NEDC) which has representatives from several community councils in District 4.  I also attended the University District Community Council.  We discussed public safety, homelessness, transportation, and land use.

In addition to the emails and phone calls my office receives, it’s often through these community council meetings that I hear of priorities and trends in the over 15 neighborhoods of District 4. For example, I know all the construction occurring in the U District has had the unintended downside of temporarily restricting access to many sidewalks. In response, my office worked with our Seattle Department of Transportation to dedicate a single point of contact (a “hub coordinator”) to ensure better coordination and access for residents, small businesses, and civic organizations such as the U District Partnership.

My office also arranged an urgent walking tour of the U District this week with the Mayor’s Office and public safety officials to see the challenges we face from repeated crime sprees that damage storefronts and harm small businesses, especially on The Ave (where 65% of small businesses are owned by women or people of color, per the study completed by Peter Steinbrueck).

If you’d like to get involved in your neighborhood, attending community council meetings is a great way to start. For more information on community councils in your neighborhood, CLICK HERE.  I’ll be attending more of these meetings in February.


SAFETY

Whether you support hiring more police officers and/or you want to re-allocate substantial sums to stand up alternatives to traditional public safety, many are concerned that City Hall has moved too slowly over the past year to produce positive results.  Nearly everyone I’ve heard from is dissatisfied with safety in their community. Many police officers who have dedicated their careers to serving the public in a high-risk profession remain demoralized by the negativity they believe several elected officials directed toward the department during the past two years. There are high expectations on the shoulders of the new Mayor Bruce Harrell and his team to implement positive change based on common ground for improved safety.  Before I launch into a lot of words to provide updates on various public safety topics, I just wanted to let you know, I get it; I understand City Hall needs to deliver positive results. I also believe we can and should do BOTH: hire more community policing officers now AND stand up effective emergency response alternatives for the subset of 9-1-1 calls that don’t warrant an armed response. To do both will cost MORE, not less money (at least initially) and we are behind schedule.

Federal Consent Decree Continues

2022 is the 10-Year anniversary of the Federal “Consent Decree” for our Seattle Police Department. Here’s the introduction to this key police reform document from 2012: “The United States and the City of Seattle (collectively “the Parties”) enter into a Settlement Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) (collectively, “Agreements”) with the goal of ensuring that police services are delivered to the people of Seattle in a manner that fully complies with the Constitution and laws of the United States, effectively ensures public and officer safety, and promotes public confidence in the Seattle Police Department (“SPD”) and its officers. The United States recognizes that SPD is also committed to these goals and has already taken steps to better effectuate them. The Parties also recognize that the City’s police officers often work under difficult circumstances, risking their physical safety and well-being for the public good.”

For the latest presentations to our Public Safety Committee by the federal monitor of the consent decree, Dr. Antonio Oftelie, CLICK HERE for an overview and CLICK HERE for their report on “crisis intervention.”

The federal consent decree, while innovative a decade ago and requiring many adjustments and advances by officers, has become just a baseline for constitutional policing. We also have new organizations to hold the department accountable:  the Community Police Commission, Office of Police Accountability, and the Office of Inspector General. In 2017, City Council passed a stronger, more detailed accountability ordinance, but not all those reforms were embedded into the employment contract with police officers. Outside of budgeting and contracts, City Hall has also adopted several policies in hopes of reducing negative outcomes that have disproportionately impacted people of color.  While the term of that labor contract ended December 31, 2020, it is still in effect until City leaders negotiate a new contract. Frustrated with lack of progress on updating that contract, I’m joining City Hall’s Labor Relations Policy Committee. Once that newly constituted labor committee starts its negotiations, my ability to comment publicly on the contract negotiations will be restricted, as required by federal labor laws. But my previous comments make clear that a just employment contract is vital for an accountable, affordable, and effective police department. While I collaborate with colleagues at City Hall to research, and ultimately fund, effective alternatives to traditional emergency responses (such as the S.T.A.R. response system in Denver, Colorado), I will continue to advocate to hire new officers so the department is sufficiently staffed. In addition to needing effective alternatives to respond to some situations, we still need a sufficient number of highly trained police officers for several reasons: we need to replace departing officers to fulfill our duty under the City Charter Article VI, Section 1 (“There shall be maintained adequate police protection in each district of the City”), we currently have no community policing officers to track/prevent crime trends, there’s a shortage of detectives to solve violent crimes, and implementing reforms (sufficient supervision, reviewing body camera footage, responding to charges of police misconduct, etc.) requires a lot of people.  Any money “saved” within SPD in 2022 should, I believe, be used to hire more police officers for the reasons stated above.

 

Community Police Commission partners with Federal Monitor to Engage Community

The Community Police Commission and Consent Decree Monitor are collaborating on a series of community engagement meetings regarding preliminary assessments of the Seattle Police Department. The goal of these meetings is to inform the public on overall progress of the Consent Decree as well as to get community input on what comes next in Seattle for police reform and how the City proceeds after the Consent Decree.

These sessions will occur on the following dates, on the following subjects:

  • Crisis Intervention: January 11, 2022 (already occurred, so for the report, CLICK HERE)
  • Stops and Detentions: February 8, 2022
  • Use of Force: March 8, 2022

For information on these sessions, CLICK HERE.

 

Reforming the SPOG Contract:

I am grateful for the good work police officers do and their willingness to continue to serve Seattle. Our department is understaffed and so we need to encourage good officers to stay here. The officers I have met in the community or at their roll calls to start their shifts have reiterated they want the reputation of their department to be stellar without misconduct.  This requires ongoing assessment of performance, which includes several independent reports made available to the public.  At our recent Public Safety Committee, the Office of Inspector General presented the findings of their audit of discipline at SPD. The purpose of this audit was to assess a key provision of the 2017 Accountability Ordinance which states, “SPD disciplinary, grievance, and appeal policies and processes shall be timely, fair, consistent, and transparent.” [section 3.29.420 (A)].

For the OIG’s audit, CLICK HERE.

Here is the important conclusion from the OIG’s audit (Note: “SPOG” stands for Seattle Police Officers Guild which is the police officer’s union, “SPMA” stands for Seattle Police Management Association which is the union for lieutenants and captains, and “CBA” stands for collective bargaining agreement, also known as a labor contract):

This audit found that current processes and practices, alongside SPOG and SPMA CBA provisions, have created gaps in the discipline system. These collectively impact the timeliness, fairness, consistency, and transparency of discipline for inpidual officers, and diminish transparency and fairness for community members affected by police misconduct. Observed examples of this included opaque application and recording of Not Sustained Training Referrals, inconsistent and untimely service of suspensions, inconsistent retention of disciplinary documents in personnel folders, and untimely resolution of cases filed for arbitration. Additionally, complainants were not consistently being identified in OPA cases or receiving timely notification of case status.

“This report also noted that Chiefs have demonstrated a clear preference for lower levels of discipline when presented with a proposed range by the Discipline Committee, and notably so when that range included termination. This trend may be in part because the relevant employees are entitled to a Loudermill hearing with the Chief, while complainants have not been presented an equivalent opportunity to have their perspectives heard.

“The disciplinary system appears to generally account for, and escalate disciplinary penalties according to, an officer’s disciplinary history. Appeals remain an area of great potential impact on inpidual officer accountability, and OIG notes no significant disciplinary actions were overturned or reduced in the period reviewed by this audit, though few appeals were actually heard.

“Further work should be done to assess the impacts of appeals once the backlog of cases is cleared and more robust conclusions can be drawn. Findings discussed in this audit may be topics for future follow-up review, along with as facets of the disciplinary system that were outside the scope of this audit, including the application of Rapid Adjudication and Mediation to resolve OPA cases, SPD compliance with SB 5051, classification and effectiveness of Supervisor Actions, discipline for EEO cases, and complainant communication for Not-Sustained cases.”

My take away from the OIG’s audit is that the police managers could use these audit findings to make some positive changes now in how they implement discipline for that small subset of officers who warrant it AND that implementing the audit’s remaining suggestions for improvement are more reason to be sure we update the existing labor contracts with both police unions.


TRANSPORTATION & UTILITIES COMMITTEE

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

Committee Updates for City Council

The City Council updated its committee assignments for 2022-23 under the leadership of new City Council President Debora Juarez.  I will continue to chair the committee that monitors the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) & Seattle Public Utilities (SPU). Per my request to enable my committee to give more attention to those important issues, Seattle City Light and Seattle Information Technology shifted to a different committee. Also, with the conclusion of Lorena Gonzalez’s term on the City Council, I’d like to welcome Councilmember Kshama Sawant to our important Committee. For the Council Resolution with the updated committee assignments, CLICK HERE (see “version 2” for the adopted version). For our assignments to regional committees, CLICK HERE.

 

Winter Storm Assessment: Discussing Improvements and Plague of Potholes

Both SDOT and SPU have accepted my invitation to present a joint “after action” winter storm report to our committee on Tuesday, February 1 at 9:30 a.m.  We received strong feedback from constituents as well as critical media reports about potholes and other road/sidewalk challenges exacerbated by the recent winter storms (December 26, 2021 through Monday, January 3, 2022). I feel the frustration of people throughout the city because the icy streets and freezing rain created dangerous conditions that delayed pick up of solid waste and the new plague of potholes continues to negatively impact cars, buses, freight, and bikes. This warrants City departments coming to our committee to provide a more detailed explanation of efforts taken to address these recent events and the plans and resources needed to address future storms.  Our committee can be viewed on Seattle Channel either live or after the recording is published a day later.

To report potholes, you can call 206-684-ROAD (7623) or the Customer Service Bureau 206-684-CITY (2489), send an email to 684-road@seattle.gov,  use the Find It, Fix It app on a smart phone, or CLICK HERE. To view a map of recent potholes, CLICK HERE.

State Government Action (or Inaction) on Transportation

Last year, the State government was not able to deliver additional funding for transportation needs. If our State leaders are able to pass a transportation funding package this year, it is likely to be relatively small, with little impact on clearing the growing backlog of road and bridge maintenance and safety projects. For Seattle Times coverage, CLICK HERE and HERE. While we are thankful to have all the funds we need to repair/restore the West Seattle high bridge, State leaders should continue to prioritize bridge safety to prevent their I-5 bridge from deteriorating further and to catch up on the seismic rebuild of State Highway 520 connecting the portion from the Montlake Bridge to I-5. To reduce costs for the western portion of the 520 project (photo above), I support having the State use federal dollars, deferring State taxes, and prioritizing just the parts of the project needed for seismic safety.  The lack of action on bridges from the State is further support for the Harrell Administration issuing bonds for bridge safety later this year, as finally authorized by a unanimous City Council after a year of debate.

 

Sound Transit Seeks Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) Jan 28 to April 28, 2022

Sound Transit encompasses King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties and is governed by a 19-member board with Seattle ably represented by Council President Debora Juarez and new Mayor Bruce Harrell. Sound Transit is releasing their draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on the next major phase of their expansion of light rail service in our region as part of the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure approved by 54% of the region’s voters in 2016 (with a much higher percentage in Seattle): the West Seattle-Ballard Link Extensions, which will include additional construction in the Chinatown-International District.  The DEIS is a large collection of documents, including a 40-page cover letter/Fact Sheet/Table of Contents and 58-page Executive summary followed by six chapters, 30 appendices, and many more tables and figures.

DEIS COVER LETTER:

The cover letter for the DEIS sets the table for this massive and vital construction to expand transit:  “The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Sound Transit (the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority) have prepared this Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions Project. Sound Transit is the project proponent. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement has been prepared pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (42 United States Code 4321 to 4370e) and the State Environmental Policy Act (Chapter 43.21C Revised Code of Washington) to inform the public, agencies, and decision makers about the environmental consequences of building and operating the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions in the city of Seattle…The major choices for the project involve the route of the light rail line and station locations. The Sound Transit Board will consider the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, public and agency comments, and other information before confirming or modifying the preferred route and station locations. FTA and Sound Transit will prepare a Final Environmental Impact Statement, which will respond to comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and include an evaluation of impacts and mitigation for the preferred alternative and other alternatives considered. After completion of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, the Sound Transit Board will select the project to be built. FTA will also issue a Record of Decision, which will state FTA’s decision on the project and list Sound Transit’s mitigation commitments to reduce or avoid impacts.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Here are excerpts from the 58-page Executive Summary of the draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS):

“The Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) proposes to expand Link light rail transit service from Downtown Seattle to West Seattle and Ballard. The West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions (WSBLE) Project is an 11.8-mile corridor in the city of Seattle in King County, Washington, the most densely populated county of the Puget Sound region (Figure ES-1). The WSBLE Project consists of two extensions: the West Seattle Link Extension and the Ballard Link Extension. The West Seattle Link Extension would be about 4.7 miles and include stations in the following areas: SODO, Delridge, Avalon, and Alaska Junction. The Ballard Link Extension would be about 7.1 miles. It would include a new 3.3- mile light rail-only tunnel from Chinatown-International District to South Lake Union and Seattle Center/Uptown. Stations would be in the following areas: Chinatown-International District, Midtown, Westlake, Denny, South Lake Union, Seattle Center, Smith Cove, Interbay, and Ballard. While both extensions are evaluated in this Draft Environmental Impact Statement, they are standalone projects that have independent utility from each other.

The WSBLE Project is part of the Sound Transit 3 Plan of regional transit system investments (Sound Transit 2016), funding for which was approved by voters in the region in 2016. Sound Transit and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are preparing this Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the WSBLE Project….”

The West Seattle Link Extension is scheduled to open in 2032, initially providing service between an Alaska Junction Station and a new SODO Station as the interim terminus. The Ballard Link Extension is scheduled to begin service in 2037….”

“In 2019, the Board identified preferred alternatives for the majority of the West Seattle Link Extension and the Ballard Link Extension. The Board did not identify a preferred alternative in the Chinatown/ International District Segment. The Board is not bound by its identification of a preferred alternative. After completion of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and public comment, the Board will confirm or modify the preferred alternative for evaluation in the Final Environmental Impact Statement. However, the Board will not make a final decision on the WSBLE Project to be built until after completion of the Final Environmental Impact Statement. At that time, the Board can select from any of the alternatives in the Environmental Impact Statement. When the Sound Transit Board identified alternatives for study in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, early cost estimates indicated that some alternatives could require additional funding; that is, funding beyond what was assumed in the Sound Transit 3 financing plan. Alternatives requiring additional funding incorporate enhancements to the scope of the Sound Transit 3 Representative Project identified in the Sound Transit 3 Plan, such as tunnels in West Seattle and alternatives in the Chinatown/ International District that require replacement of the 4th Avenue South Viaduct. The additional funding for these alternatives would need to come from contributions from partner agencies outside of Sound Transit, such as the City of Seattle, the FTA, or others. These alternatives anticipated to require “third-party” funding are identified with an asterisk (*) throughout the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.”

THIRD PARTY FUNDING CONCERNS:  At first glance, the draft EIS is making it clear that Sound Transit may need additional dollars to complete their promised projects, especially if local officials prefer the most expensive alternatives. But these alternatives may be the best to provide a user-friendly transit experience (which encourages more people to use transit) AND to mitigate harmful construction impacts to communities. Here are my initial thoughts on Sound Transit raising the potential need for “third party funding”:  The debt service on bonds issued to fund Sound Transit 3 planning and projects is currently paid in large part from sales taxes and property taxes. (1) If Sound Transit needs more money to complete these projects, they could also consider having large successful employers benefiting from the new light rail to make financial contributions. This was my major concern with Sound Transit 3’s funding formula years ago: corporations directly benefiting should pay more than taxpayers who may never be able to use the system. (2) Moreover, Sound Transit should consider that the connections to be built within Seattle’s International District and downtown are regional, systemwide regional necessities and should be funded regionally rather than just by Seattleites who already have stations there.  While, several years ago, I expressed concerns about how Sound Transit was being paid for, I support the expansion of light rail in Seattle and regionally and I will do my part to make ST3 successful. We are already seeing the enormous benefits of Sound Transit 2 opening the new stations in the U District, Roosevelt, and Northgate. However, I don’t want to see Seattle residents paying more than they need to, especially by increasing regressive taxes. Due to Tim Eyman’s harmful efforts with I-976, we already had to increase our sales tax to renew the vital Seattle Transportation Benefit District for added bus service.

To learn more about the project and how to comment on the Draft EIS by April 28, 2022, Sound Transit asks that you visit the online open house at https://wsblink.participate.online/.

SEATTLE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE DISCUSSIONS: Several of the City Councilmembers whose districts will be impacted by the locations and construction projects for the expanded transit service are members of our Seattle Transportation & Public Utilities Committee, which I continue to chair.  Sound Transit has accepted my invitation to return to our Transportation Committee starting Tuesday, February 15 at 9:30 a.m. to provide an overview of the draft EIS. Later this year, our Committee will hear from various City departments (including SDOT and SPU) on how they will coordinate efforts with Sound Transit to increase the likelihood of successful new light rail stations in Seattle. This is consistent with the Resolution creating our Council Committee and with Mayor Durkan’s Executive Order from December 2021. Our discussions will likely focus on the following questions: What are the most important parts of the voluminous draft EIS, especially regarding routes and station locations? How can the general public engage? How can we enable both City departments and Sound Transit to continue to collaborate effectively for successful implementation of Sound Transit 3? Learning lessons from Sound Transit 2, how can we ensure maximum accessibility to the new stations, create a delightful user experience so more people choose transit, and obtain ample local input regarding the “built environment” (including the station design and surrounding uses). Our committee is NOT planning to discuss funding.

In addition to the official comments that can be provided via the draft EIS process (due April 28) and the presentations our Seattle Transportation Committee will receive, the public can engage by attending the community advisory groups recently formed for each section of the new lines. For more on the advisory groups including their February 2022 meeting schedule as well as other ways to engage this process, CLICK HERE.

 

PSRC Regional Transportation Plan released for comments

(the Northgate regional transit hub in Council President Debora Juarez’s District 5)

The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) has a major impact on large-scale regional plans and is an official conduit for the influx of federal dollars, including transportation. Seattle City Council members serve on the PSRC’s various committees but are outnumbered by elected officials from other jurisdictions in our region. Nonetheless, Seattle officials have a good track record of making sure Seattle gets a share of this funding. Much of this funding is based on planning documents agreed to by the PSRC officials.

“PSRC is developing the draft Regional Transportation Plan, which will respond to the priorities of VISION 2050 and describe how the region will meet transportation needs into the future, addressing existing needs and expected growth.  The plan outlines investments the region is making to improve all aspects of the transportation system – from transit, rail, ferry, streets and highways, freight and bicycle and pedestrian systems – and ensure the safe and efficient movement of people and goods. We want to hear from you!

“The draft plan has been released for public comment through February 28, 2022. Visit our online open house to learn more about the plan, watch short videos on the elements of the plan, view the full text of the document and make a comment. PSRC will host three public webinars with a live presentation and question and answer session:

Wednesday, February 2, 8-9 am
Tuesday, February 8, 12-1 pm
Wednesday, February 9, 5:30-6:30 pm”

You can also comment via email: transportation@psrc.org

 

Join the Seattle Freight Advisory Board!

Photo source: Port of Seattle

There is still an opportunity to apply to the Seattle Freight Advisory Board. For the application, click the following link to apply: https://seattle.granicus.com/boards/forms/34/apply/

The Seattle Freight Advisory Board was formed in 2010 by Resolution 31243:

“Section 7. Board members should, to the extent possible, live in Seattle and/or represent a business, organization or agency that has a significant presence in Seattle, and have an interest in improving the movement of freight in the City.”

“Section 8. Board members should be, to the extent possible, representative of:

  • Different modes and types of freight;
  • Different geographic areas of the City, including the Duwamish Manufacturing Industrial Center and the Ballard/Interbay Northend Manufacturing Center;
  • Businesses, organizations and public agencies that depend on the efficient movement of freight; and,
  • Seattle residents with an interest in improving the movement of freight and have experience with freight issues.”

 

Seattle Public Utilities

As one of his first acts as our new mayor, Bruce Harrell issued on January 12, 2022 an executive order extending an eviction moratorium for 30 days (to February 14). According to the Mayor’s Office, “Mayor Harrell’s extension also directs Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities to continue to maintain flexible payment plan policies and halt utility shut offs for 90 days until April 15.” To enroll in the Utility Discount Program for lower income households CLICK HERE for SPU/SCL or CLICK HERE to enroll through Seattle’s new “CiviForm” which provides access to multiple discounts/relief programs.


TREES: New Legislation as a Small but Necessary Step to Protecting our Urban Canopy

A small, but necessary step toward greater tree protections is a bill my office introduced to register arborists and others who cut down/remove trees in Seattle, Council Bill 120207. Land Use Committee Chair Dan Strauss is a co-sponsor. It is tentatively scheduled to be heard at his Land Use Committee on February 9 and 23.

We could benefit from public support to pass this bill, so please send an email to Council@seattle.gov with a message to all 9 Councilmembers:  Please start to save Seattle’s trees by adopting Council Bill 120207, “AN ORDINANCE relating to land use and urban forestry; adding a tree service provider registration procedure and requirement.” Then let’s make substantial progress by completing and advancing a comprehensive tree protection ordinance to save our city’s dwindling urban canopy which is necessary for public health and the environment in the midst of the climate crisis, especially Seattle’s larger exceptional trees.

For more on the multi-year saga to try to get your city government to save Seattle’s trees with a more comprehensive update to our existing tree protection ordinance, CLICK HERE.


COMBATING COVID

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, cases in Seattle have decreased by 47% and hospitalizations have decreased by 30% as of the official data through 1/25/2022.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for King County, warned that people without vaccine protection continue to have a much higher risk for hospitalization and death from COVID as demonstrated by this local data comparing those who are fully vaccinated and those who are not:

In November 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) approved vaccine boosters for everyone over 18 years of age. For more info, CLICK HERE.

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

Deploying COVID Relief $$$:  Update from Budget Office

For the latest update from our City Budget Office on how your city government has been deploying COVID relief dollars, CLICK HERE for their PowerPoint Presentation from January 19, 2022. Seattle has received national recognition not only for its success in achieving high vaccination rates quickly but also in how it deployed its resources. The Brookings Institution noted, “Cities that got out of the gate with comprehensive plans bridging high -level goals with project level details—such as Boston, Buffalo, St. Louis, and Seattle—offer models for how other cities can approach this historic opportunity.” The good government organization “Results for America” analyzed 150 counties and cities and found Seattle to be among 8 jurisdictions with a 10/10 on “Data, Evidence & Outcomes Provision Assessment.”

 

Hazard Pay for Grocery Workers: Another Vote

As many of you know, I represent a City Council district with perse opinions and — whether or not you agree with every vote I take on inpidual pieces of legislation or budgets — I hope you’ll find that I at least try to explain some key votes, especially when I’m on the minority side of the vote. (And whenever you still disagree, hopefully there is some solace in the fact that we have a hybrid system – you also have two citywide Councilmembers who represent you: Teresa Mosqueda and Sara Nelson.)

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 the uncertain future of the coronavirus.

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.

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, 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. (Budget officials may want us to keep the civil emergency orders in place even after the public health concerns have subsided to ensure maximum reimbursement from the federal government on virus-related programs.)

My original vote in January 2021 to support grocery workers received criticism from several constituents when 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, when the Council initially tried to end the hazard pay in December 2021, Kroger/QFC declined to reopen that store anyway.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 this out for the reasons outlined above.

For the Seattle Times story on this vote, CLICK HERE.


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

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

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 enable more people to visit us, but the technological upgrades to enable calling in we 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 into the meeting to speak directly to the Council live. For the instructions on how to register and call in, CLICK HERE. Sign up begins two hours prior to the meeting start time.

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

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

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

We are getting through this together, Seattle!

With gratitude,

 

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

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


Track Record: Councilmember Alex Pedersen

January 26th, 2022

Elected in November 2019 to serve the over 100,000 residents of Seattle’s District 4, City Councilmember Alex Pedersen has worked hard to honor and synthesize the diverse views of his constituents, to bring accountability to city government, and to improve the quality of life in all neighborhoods — despite the challenges of the COVID pandemic, racial reckoning, economic disruptions, and long-neglected infrastructure.

For Alex Pedersen’s bio, CLICK HERE.

For Alex Pedersen’s blog as a Seattle City Councilmember, CLICK HERE.

For Councilmember Pedersen’s Op Ed (co-authored with a local economist) expressing concerns about a local business tax during the 2020 recession, CLICK HERE. For his Op Ed about the positives — and negatives — of the budget adopted in November 2020 for the calendar year 2021, CLICK HERE. For his Op Ed about Seattle’s economic recovery for 2021 and beyond CLICK HERE.

For Alex Pedersen’s main website for City Council, CLICK HERE.

For highlights from his public service as a Seattle City Councilmember, please keep reading…

Councilmember Pedersen in October 2021 joined the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), Sound Transit, Seattle’s Human Services Department, the University District business community, and neighbors to celebrated the Open House of “Rosie’s” Tiny House Village to provide safe and supported living spaces for unsheltered neighbors. Councilmember Pedersen personally found the location, secured the funding, passed the legislation, and negotiated the details to get it done as quickly as possible.
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2020 Details:

Here’s an excerpt from our December 2020 newsletter with highlight from 2020, Councilmember Pedersen’s first year in office:

Addressing Homelessness

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

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

Photo from nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute

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

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

Supporting District 4 Neighbors

Renewed the Business Improvement Area. This year the City Council unanimously approved the legislation which I co-sponsored to reauthorize the Business Improvement Area (BIA) in the University District, which is the heart of District 4. BIAs are positive, community-driven economic development tools that help keep neighborhood business districts clean and safe throughout our city. The legislation I crafted with the Mayor incorporates many key principles sought by smaller businesses, including better representation, good governance, and as well as a more formal focus on preserving existing shops and restaurants. During and after the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to give our small neighborhood businesses the support they need to thrive. For a link to the Council Bill 119779 and related docs, CLICK HERE. For a link to the map of the proposed BIA, CLICK HERE.

Preserved funds for sidewalk projects benefiting Magnuson Park. We preserved the vital funding to build and enhance sorely needed sidewalks and crosswalks to safely connect Magnuson Park to the surrounding communities along Sand Point Way NE and to the bus stops and Burke-Gilman Trail across from the park. These sidewalks and crosswalks are needed now to meet the goals of three city government initiatives: Vision Zero, our Pedestrian Master Plan, and our Safe Routes to School program helping to safely connect dozens of children to Sand Point Way elementary school.   This is about safety for pedestrians, it’s about safety for cyclists, it’s about connecting 850 low-income and BIPOC Magnuson Park residents to their neighbors, and it’s about safely enhancing access to the regional asset that is Magnuson Park. Funded feasibility study for a new pool at Magnuson Community Center. We secured funding to study the feasibility of a new pool at Magnuson Community Center. Frankly, a new pool there might not be feasible, but the vision of hundreds of low-income kids who call Magnuson Park home taking swimming lessons within a city surrounded by water and having fun year-round in a pool they can walk to is too irresistible not to study the possibilities. Data reveal children of color have less access to parks and recreational programming that enhance self-confidence, maintain health, foster creative expression, and increase social and emotional bonds that strengthen community cohesion.

Funded pedestrian safety improvements on I-5 overpass to connect Wallingford with U District. There are only two east-west crossings of I-5 between 65th/Green Lake and North 40th Street:  NE 45th and NE 50th Streets. Both are heavily traveled by cars, and 45th by many buses, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Both 45th and 50th are very difficult and dangerous for non-motorized users. As a result, the University and Wallingford communities have advocated for improvements for many years. Unfortunately, the bridge itself is a Washington State DOT asset, making it difficult for our Seattle DOT to implement fixes. Solving the problem has become more urgent as the new Sound Transit Link station in the U District prepares to open in 2021. SDOT completed some initial design work in coordination with WSDOT, but it lacked funding to implement. Community leaders and transportation safety advocates worked with my office to insert $400,000 into the 2021 budget, so that construction of the improvements on the I-5 overpass are possible now. To see the official budget action, CLICK HERE.

Supported additional funding for litter cleanup under the Mayor’s Clean City Initiative. CLICK HERE to read an overview of this $3 million dollar initiative to surge the clean-up of litter and illegal dumping. The City will stand up a rapid response team within Seattle Parks and Recreation to address trash in parks, and make infrastructure improvements in key parks to improve overall cleanliness. The proposal increases the purple bag program, the number of needle disposal boxes in the city and would expand the graffiti ranger program. Funding would also be directed to business districts throughout the city to increase contracted cleaning in their neighborhoods such as the University District. In addition, SPU would more than double the number of trash pickup routes which provide twice weekly collection of trash and bulky items in public rights of way which should greatly benefit District 4. I also took the simple, yet unprecedented step directly imploring the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to pick up the trash along the I-5 greenways they own. WSDOT replied to say they will strive to do a better job to make their I-5 greenways cleaner.

Delivering COVID Relief
Supported funding for food vouchers, small business support, and rent relief.  City Council and Mayor Durkan have been working to mitigate the economic impacts of the COVID pandemic. This work has included relief for people who could not access federal aid, food support, small business grants, internet and computer access, and assistance with rent, utilities, and other bills. CLICK HERE to learn more.

Reduced utility bills by removing COVID-era late fees. When the COVID pandemic struck early in the year and the economy went south, many utility customers have had difficulties keeping up with their bill payments. Working with both Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities, I sponsored a bill to eliminate late fees and interest on both SCL and SPU bills during the crisis. The period of relief under that bill is expiring at the end of 2020, so I led the passage of another bill extending the relief at least through the first half of 2021 (or until the City/State emergency declarations are lifted). The first bill is HERE, and the new one is HERE.

More COVID relief: For more about specific COVID relief programs in Seattle, scroll down to the end of this newsletter for links to key city government and other helpful websites.

Prioritizing Equity

Initiated Action Plan for Internet for All. We reaffirmed our commitment to our ambitious Internet for All initiative in the budget document to increase accountability to follow through on the Internet for All Action Plan’s eight strategies. The next report from Seattle’s Information Technology Department to my Transportation & Utilities Committee will be in the first quarter of 2021. The report will summarize progress to increase access and adoption of affordable and reliable internet service, including setting up accountability dashboards to track results.

Requested new relief program for small businesses impacted by transportation construction. During this year’s budget process, in order to address concerns of businesses in the U District and other neighborhood business districts, I advanced a “Statement of Legislative Intent” to have the Office of Economic Development (OED) collaborate with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to propose a strategy for funding and distributing financial assistance to small businesses that are adversely impacted during the construction of City-led transportation projects. This is easier said than done due to constraints of State law, but it’s important to pursue this because vulnerable small businesses are too often impacted by our government’s own construction projects.

Required improved data collection to prevent economic displacement. When adopting major new land use changes or moving ahead with new construction projects, we need to ensure we have a detailed and accurate system to track the potential loss or demolition of existing naturally occurring affordable housing—and the displacement of low-income households. The data on displacement of low-income households needs to include rent levels and supply of naturally occurring affordable housing. We need to better understand the NET impacts. This information will enable us to better quantify our new and existing stock of affordable housing. The Council included in the 2021 budget my request that the City actually obtain the data we need to implement Resolution 31870, section 2.G. and Executive Order 2019.02.  Getting this information will provide a more comprehensive picture of our City’s affordable housing stock, so that we can do more to prevent economic displacement in Seattle. To read the official budget action, CLICK HERE.

Introduced and passed Justice for George Floyd Act Resolution to support police reform at the federal level, too. Despite disagreements on various public safety issues, City Council unanimously passed my Resolution 31963 which I drafted to voice our support for the national legislation entitled “The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.” That federal bill is H.R. 7120, introduced by Congresswoman Karen Bass, Democrat from California and supported by Seattle’s congressional delegation Pramila Jayapal and Adam Smith. It passed the U.S. House of Representatives but has yet to advance in the U.S. Senate.  This federal bill addresses many concerns raised by protesters that are authorized by federal law, such as the need to restrict qualified immunity for police officers across the nation.

Getting Back to Basics

Requested analysis of City Government Employees’ Retirement System expenses. While we want city government employees to have access to retirement benefits from a sustainable retirement system, my concern is that Seattle taxpayers continue to pay an increasing amount to support the pension program of our City government employees. My colleagues agreed to my budget request to have the city government clearly quantify and shine a light on these expenses paid by Seattle’s taxpayers, so that the general public and media are more aware of these costs and the upward trend. We want a sustainable retirement system for our employees.  At the same time, we are conscious that every extra dollar paid by City taxpayers to support a government employee lifetime pension is a dollar not provided for other urgent needs, such as housing those experiencing homelessness.  While we cannot change current pensions, we may want to consider providing more sustainable retirement options for FUTURE new city government employees, so that these retirement programs available only to government employees do not unnecessarily drain money from external-facing programs serving our city’s most vulnerable populations and communities. The next generation of younger, new employees who have a more mobile and versatile career path might appreciate other options that do not rely on decades of local government service to provide the most retirement benefits.

Obtained funding for transportation priorities from Vehicle License Fees. After the Supreme Court overturned Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976 as unconstitutional, the City of Seattle is able to tap again the vehicle license fees (VLF) as a source for transportation projects and programs, including bridge maintenance. Currently we pay $80 to the City and that was going to drop to only $20 because a $60 VLF approved by voters in 2014 is expiring. As allowed by State law, the Council adjusted it to $40. That incremental $20 VLF will raise $3.6 million in 2021 and $7.6 million per year when there is a full year of funding starting in 2022. We could have immediately dedicated the funds for bridge maintenance (see article below), but a majority of the Council decided to do a public process to decide how to spend the revenue; described in the legislation HERE (last two “Whereas” clauses). Despite the disappointing delay, I am hopeful the additional process will lead to a robust increase in funding for bridge safety from several sources, which was called for by the audit of bridges I initiated and would benefit all modes of travel and keep our economy moving. For a Seattle Times article explaining the renewed VLF fee, CLICK HERE.

Councilmember Pedersen inspecting underneath West Seattle Bridge

Initiated safety audit of Seattle’s bridges and secured additional funding for bridge maintenance. After the Mayor had to close the West Seattle Bridge suddenly in March, I initiated an audit by the City Auditor to review the status of the bridges across Seattle and their ongoing maintenance needs. The audit report concluded that the City should be spending at least $34 million per year on bridge maintenance, but spent about $10 million in 2020 and less in earlier years. This underspending results in deterioration of the City’s infrastructure over time. As I had requested, this audit was delivered to the Council in time to inform the 2021 budget. I worked hard on a number of fronts to increase the City’s commitment to bridge monitoring and maintenance, and succeeded in raising the 2021 figure to about $14 million. While that’s a step in the right direction, we need a larger and longer source of stable revenue. Frankly, I’m disappointed that some of my colleagues did not use this budget as an opportunity to take infrastructure safety more seriously by providing more dollars. My blog posts discussing the bridge audit and related budget items are HERE and HERE. For an editorial by the Seattle Times on this topic, CLICK HERE.

Protecting our Environment

Renewed Transportation Benefit District for transit. We are thankful to Seattle voters for approving Seattle Proposition 1 in November 2020 to authorize a six-year 0.15% sales tax for the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD), which focuses on supplementing the bus service from King County Metro as well as providing free transit passes for those most in need. Exactly how to spend renewed STBD funds as well as other transportation infrastructure dollars in 2021 will be a major topic for discussion in my Transportation & Utilities Committee — and for many Seattle residents.

Crafted Climate Note policy to consider climate change and resiliency with new legislation. The Seattle City Council unanimously approved Resolution 31933, which I crafted. The Resolution will, for the first time, require the City Council to formally consider the crisis of climate change when reviewing new legislation. For more about climate change and the new Biden Administration, see below.

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

Source: Seattle’s Urban Forestry Commission


Photos from 2020:

January: sworn into office as your City Councilmember by a public servant hero, Ron Sims

January: Eastlake Town Hall

January: Kicking off weekly Office Hours at Magnuson Park

February: District 4 Restaurant Roundtable

February: Touring the new Roosevelt Light Rail Station

March: Supporting local business with take-out in our district as pandemic led to restrictions on indoor dining

April 2020 Earth Day: touring Transfer Station in Wallingford, as Chair of Transportation & Utilities Committee

May: visiting Murphy’s Pub in Wallingford and other small businesses to listen to what they need (and to get a growler).

May: joining an early peaceful march in North Seattle with Nathan Hale students, shortly after Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd.

August: On a ride-along with Harbor Patrol to see District 4 and its bridges from Lake Union and Lake Washington

October: another D4 Town Hall; this one focused on our City budget

November: Picking up litter in our district with Seattle Public Utilities employees


2021 Details:

Here’s an excerpt from our November 2021 newsletter that explains some of the highlights from 2021, Councilmember Pedersen’s 2nd year in office:

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

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

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

– Councilmember Alex Pedersen, November 22, 2021.

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

Community Health and Safety Amendments:

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

Additional Thoughts on Police Budget:

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

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

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

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

Bridge and Infrastructure Safety Amendments

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

Good Government and Fiscal Responsibility Amendments

Equity and Environment Amendments

More For District 4

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

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

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

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

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

$38,000 to University Heights Center for Elevator Installation

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

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


Photos from 2021:

January 2021
February 2021
February 2021
March 2021
March 2021
April 2021
April 2021
April 2021
April 2021
May 2021
June 2021
May 2021
July 2021
July 2021
July 2021
August 2021
August 2021
August 2021
September 2021
September 2021
October 2021
November 2021
November 2021
Thanksgiving week, 2021
December 2021

# # #


Winter Storms: Help from your Seattle Government

December 24th, 2021

A big storm is hitting Seattle again and your city government is working hard to keep you safe.

For the latest info from the Mayor’s Office (Dec 2021), CLICK HERE. For a summary of advice and help, please keep also reading this blog post…Please be safe out there!

COORDINATION and COMMUNICATION:

City of Seattle Office of Emergency Management (OEM): OEM typically activates its Emergency Operations Center to facilitate the Mayor’s ability to coordinate all relevant city government departments during a major event, such as a winter storm. For example, the Mayor activated the center for the February 12, 2021 snow storm after several days of monitoring weather forecasts and preparing various crews of city government workers and their equipment (such as snow plows).

Sign up for “AlertSeattle” for emergency alerts by CLICKING HERE. For the National Weather Service, CLICK HERE.

Tips: For general safety tips during a major storm, CLICK HERE. For example, beware of sidewalks and roads thawing and then re-freezing into more slippery conditions.

TRANSPORTATION:

Buses striving to operate on limited “Snow Routes” (photo from Seattle Times, Feb 13, 2021)

Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT): If road conditions seem unsafe, consider staying home or limiting travel, if possible. Drivers from SDOT are plowing and salting the roads. For SDOT’s winter weather info, CLICK HERE. For transportation tips from SDOT (2021), CLICK HERE. For a map (2021) of roads/routes SDOT plans to plow/salt, CLICK HERE. SDOT drivers are often supplemented by drivers from our two city-owned utilities: Seattle City Light (SCL) and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), discussed more below.

King County Metro (buses): For alerts and descriptions of limited bus service such as “Snow Routes,” CLICK HERE.

Sound Transit: For service alerts for light rail and Sound Transit buses, CLICK HERE.

UTILITIES

Seattle Public Utilities: Pick up for garbage, recycling, and yard waste are often delayed when there is a major storm. For more info on SPU’s blog, CLICK HERE.

Seattle City Light: To report or view electrical power outages, CLICK HERE. For general advice from Seattle City Light on being prepared in case the power goes out temporarily, CLICK HERE. If someone in your home is dependent on life support equipment, sign up for SCL’s Life Support Equipment Program for assistance during planned and unplanned outages.   

Homeowners taking responsibility for the safety of their sidewalks in front of their homes (photo from Seattle Times, Feb 13, 2021)

PUBLIC SAFETY

Seattle Police Department: During major storms, police officers will focus on Priority 1 calls as well as “welfare checks” for seniors and other vulnerable populations. Call 9-1-1 for serious traffic collisions. The non-priority phone is 206-625-5011 For other contact numbers, CLICK HERE.

Tips: For safety tips during a major storm, CLICK HERE. For example, beware of sidewalks and roads thawing and then re-freezing into more slippery conditions.

HEALTH and SHELTER:

For University of Washington Medicine during major storms, CLICK HERE.

Emergency Shelter: For the most recent information on severe weather shelters being opened by your city government and other places to get warm, CLICK HERE. If that link doesn’t have what you need, consider these additional options:

  • People, including youth, in need of shelter should call 2-1-1 or 1-877-211-9274. We recently opened a new Tiny Home Village in District 4 called “Rosie’s Village” at Roosevelt Way and NE 45th Street.
  • Parents or guardians caring for one or more child 18 years or younger can get emergency shelter help by calling the King County Coordinated Family Intake Line at 206-245-1026, 8am – 11:30pm, 365-days a year.  
  • The YWCA’s women and family shelter intake line can be reached at 206-461-4882. 

QUALITY TIME:

If it’s snowing and you are willing and able, try to carve out some fun time with loved ones, too.

Sledding at Gas Works Park in our District 4. Head to the parks rather than the streets.
(photo from Seattle Times, Feb 13, 2021)

University District Farmers Market in our District 4 plows on during the snowstorm (photo by Councilmember Pedersen, February 13, 2021)


Year-End Results & Happy Holidays!

December 22nd, 2021

Friends and Neighbors,

As we all look forward to the new year of 2022, this December newsletter looks back at this past year of 2021.

As the COVID pandemic persists, I will continue to communicate with my constituents to understand their priorities while hopefully navigating a less pisive political climate.  I will continue to offer sensible solutions for progress on key challenges such as community safety, the homelessness crisis, and our aging infrastructure — while being accountable to neighborhoods with a wide range of viewpoints.  Like many of my constituents, I look forward to a political reset next year when I hope the City Council collaborates effectively with our new Mayor and new City Attorney so that, together, we focus on meaningful points of unity to solve problems for Seattle.

YEAR-END HIGHLIGHTS (2021)

Thanks to the small, but mighty communications team at City Hall for designing this summary of my highlights from 2021.

For highlights from my first year in office (2020), CLICK HERE.

2022: Lots to Do

I acknowledge we at City Hall have a lot of unfinished business for 2022.

The homelessness crisis persists even as we encourage the new Regional Homelessness Authority to produce the results we know it can.

Our police department enters 2022 struggling with a lack of community policing officers and detectives while their expired employment contract is still awaiting long overdue reforms and our City remains without proven alternatives in place to address emergencies.

We look forward to re-opening the West Seattle high bridge in the summer of 2022 and ensuring the massive environmental Ship Canal Water Quality project stays on time and on budget.

As we celebrate the renewal of our Seattle transit measure and the opening of new light rail stations, we are eager for our Seattle Department of Transportation to accelerate concrete improvements for Seattle’s bridges, sidewalks, and crosswalks.

We also need to re-open both the Magnuson Park and Laurelhurst community centers to the public.

Another year has passed without new regulations to protect our shrinking tree canopy that we need for public health and our environment.

Without first addressing the shortcomings of the Mandatory Housing Affordability program, I’m concerned that speculative real estate investors and interest groups are attempting to convince policymakers to provide another profitable phase of supply-side, trickle-down, blanket approaches to zoning, rather than directly addressing the actual needs:  require the construction of very low-income housing (under 50% of area median income); prevent displacement of people on fixed incomes; and make sure the transit, school capacity, sewer lines, and fire stations are paid for by the for-profit private sector before it benefits from City and State government giveaways.

I’m hopeful that 2022 will have City Hall acknowledging the need to manage the escalating costs of government personnel, so that we can deploy more resources into the most vulnerable communities.

And much more to do!

DISTRICT 4 Holiday Spirit

Presents for Rosie’s Village

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As promised after the pies he served up for Thanksgiving to residents of Rosie’s Tiny Home Village, Councilmember Alex Pedersen handed out warm hats featuring Seattle teams for the December holidays. The Kraken hats were the most popular, but we still have loyal Seahawks fans. In collaboration with many colleagues, Councilmember Pedersen obtained the site, the legislative authorization, and the ongoing funding for this Tiny Home Village in the heart of our University District. Anyone can help out the residents of Rosie’s by contacting the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI). To volunteer, email volunteer.program@lihi.org or visit https://lihi.org/get-involved/. To donate, email community.outreach@lihi.org.

Annual Decorations Along Candy Cane Lane

Once the sun sets, a fun outdoor activity for neighbors in District 4 and beyond is strolling or rolling through “Candy Cane Lane” to see the holiday lights aglow on nearly every home.  You can make canned food donations at the end of the road.  (Enter at Park Road NE a.k.a. 21st Ave NE off NE Ravenna Blvd.)

Holiday Stars Gleaming Bright in U District

From the University District Partnership: “You may have noticed, things are looking brighter in the neighborhood these days! Last week, our holiday shooting stars were installed to mark the winter season! Additionally, UDP was awarded a Department of Neighborhoods grant to install year-round tree lights on the south section of the Ave from 41st to 45th. We’re excited to see more activations in the future – stay tuned!”

The University District Partnership (UDP) is the “program manager” for the Business Improvement Area (BIA) in our University District. With legislation in 2020, we extended this BIA to provide its traditional cleaning, marketing, and outreach services and added to its scope the prevention of displacement.  Thank goodness for the hard work of all Seattle BIAs during the pandemic! Our neighborhood business districts are the heart and soul of many neighborhoods and they can benefit from your shopping locally during the holiday season. For the U District Partnership’s latest e-newsletter, CLICK HERE.  Small businesses in District 4 may also be interested in the news from our City’s Office of Economic Development (OED): CLICK HERE.

The Arts are Open During the Holidays

Join us in celebrating the holiday season with The Arts Are Open Holiday Gift Guide, a list of gift ideas that support our local arts organizations and artists!

TRANSPORTATION & UTILITIES COMMITTEE

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

New Director for Seattle’s Dept of Transportation (SDOT)

On Friday, December 17, Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell announced SDOT leadership changes:

“Today, I am announcing that when I take office in January, I will be making a change in Seattle Department of Transportation leadership. We will embark on a robust national search for a new director who is aligned with my vision for this critical department. As we embark on that search, I will appoint SDOT Chief of Staff Kristen Simpson to serve as interim director. Kristen has let me know that she will not be applying for the permanent position.

“Going forward, my vision is for a Seattle Department of Transportation that centers equity throughout our transportation network across every street and sidewalk, in every neighborhood and community. We must create a balanced transportation ecosystem – increasing safety and decreasing travel times by bolstering transit, improving sidewalks, protecting bike lanes, and recognizing the role of cars and new electric vehicles.

“From Vision Zero to net zero, we will prioritize climate resilience and lead at the intersections of accessibility, reliability, safety, and sustainability.

“I want to thank Director Zimbabwe for his service and dedication to the City of Seattle. His leadership and quick action closing the West Seattle Bridge no doubt saved lives and has put the bridge on track to open in mid-2022. His response to the pandemic – thoughtful and meaningful efforts like Stay Healthy Streets and oupoor dining permits – should be celebrated. I wish him all the best in the future.”

As Chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee, I issued the following statement praising the outgoing SDOT Director:

“Sam Zimbabwe is that rare leader who not only has it all, but also gives it his all. Sam Zimbabwe is a strategic visionary as well as a problem-solver. He’s a compassionate, tireless, and effective manager who kept organized a 1,000-person department that invests $700 million a year on over 6,000 miles of roads and sidewalks in our State’s largest city. He can zoom up to a high-level to articulate a compelling vision of increased mobility and decarbonization and then zoom down to inform you which block recently received curb cuts. Thanks to Sam Zimbabwe as the head of Seattle’s Department of Transportation, hundreds of thousands of people can travel safer, more efficiently, and in more environmentally friendly ways.

“After he enjoys a well-deserved break from the daily deluge of transportation challenges large and small, I believe any other jurisdiction in the world would benefit greatly from Sam’s leadership at the helm of their organization just as our City of Seattle has for several years. It has been a humbling honor to work with Sam Zimbabwe and I wish him the very best in what I’m certain will continue to be an impressive and impactful career.

“I look forward to working with Mayor-Elect Harrell’s appointment for interim Director of SDOT, Kristen Simpson, and I look forward to a thorough confirmation process for a permanent director of SDOT consistent with City Council Resolution 31868.”

Here are some initial thoughts for this important department for 2022:

  • I believe that our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will want to focus on the basics that increase safety and mobility for the most people in equitable and environmentally friendly ways.
  • SDOT will want to deliver projects on time and on budget such as fully restoring the West Seattle high bridge by mid-2022.
  • If SDOT wants City Hall to ask voters in 2024 to renew the Move Seattle property tax , they need to make more progress on projects promised to voters in 2015 such as bridge seismic repairs, better connections to light rail including improvements to enable safe walking and biking across the NE 45th Street overpass, and more sidewalks / crosswalks in south Seattle and Lake City along with stronger rules to require sidewalk repairs throughout Seattle.
  • SDOT needs to go beyond just acknowledging Seattle’s urgent needs for our aging bridges from the 2020 audit by fast-tracking designs and construction contracts for bridge safety upgrades and to lock in low interest rates for the bridge bonds Council authorized for May 2022.
  • SDOT needs to deploy dollars from the Seattle Transportation Benefit District strategically to encourage more people to ride transit. SDOT should embrace the City Charter district system of representation because district Councilmembers have their ears to the ground and know where the transportation pain points are that many of their constituents want addressed, including Vision Zero pedestrian safety projects.
  • Centering equity should include rigorous statistical analysis of direct input from marginalized people rather than just vocal interest groups or selected focus groups, and it likely means dropping expensive, disruptive, and redundant transportation projects that most low-income residents aren’t actually asking SDOT to prioritize.

 

Power Solution for Wastewater Treatment

I’m pleased the City Council last week approved legislation I supported to provide an expedited solution to prevent harmful discharges of untreated wastewater into Puget Sound. Many thanks to our Land Use Committee Chair Dan Strauss for making time in his committee to ensure Council Bill 120215 would get approved before the end of the year.

 

Federal Broadband Support: a small piece of Internet for All

In addition to providing funds to expand internet connections in rural areas throughout our country, new legislation adopted by Congress during the Biden Administration will reduce the digital divide by extend subsidies that lower internet costs for consumers. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is seeking input on how to implement the new Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), the low-income broadband program created by the infrastructure bill signed into law November 2021. The new program replaces the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program that we reported on in a previous newsletter. Over 8 million households nationally and over 13,000 households in Seattle are utilizing the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) to afford essential internet connectivity for participating remote learning, remote work, telemedicine, and social connections

While the EBB paid up to $50 monthly toward the cost of broadband service, the ACP will pay $30 a month toward broadband (with $75 a month in high-cost areas if the broadband provider can demonstrate that the $30 rate would cause economic hardship for the provider). To review the letter your Seattle city government provided to the FCC regarding implementation of the new ACP, CLICK HERE. While initial comments to the FCC were due December 8, the public may reply to comments it sees as late as December 28. For the FCC invitation to comment, CLICK HERE.

ADDRESSING HOMELESSNESS

ICYMI: Seattle Times Columnist Researches Programs to Address Substance Use Disorder

Accomplished public servant and journalist Alex Fryer published two important pieces on substance use disorder in the Seattle Times last week:

  • For “ A generational opportunity to invest in substance use services in Washington state,” CLICK HERE.
  • For “Managing the meth crisis: Paying users to go clean could change lives and communities,” CLICK HERE.

 

City Report on 2020: The City’s Human Services Department (HSD) finally released their Annual Report to the Community for 2020:

  • 18,823 households received homeless services and 3,414 households either moved from homelessness to housing or prevented from becoming homeless, including those in District 4.
  • In District 4, Mercy Magnuson’s low-income housing project had received $2 million in capital funding in 2020 for the current childcare center there —and it won a national tax credit excellence award for outstanding affordable housing developments and organizations. The childcare center is operated by Denise Louie Education Center and at least 20% of the spaces in the center are reserved for children of low-income families.
  • In District 4, $1.5 million helped with the rehabilitation of a new space for the ROOTS youth shelter that we displaced after the U District was upzoned by the previous City Council.
  • For more on Rosie’s Tiny Home Village in the U District, CLICK HERE. I helped to secure its funding in 2020.

By the Numbers: City of Seattle Emergency Rental Assistance Funds

Between July and October 2021, the City of Seattle, in partnership with United Way of King County, Urban League, Wellspring, and numerous community-based organizations, provided over $23 million in Emergency Rental Assistance to over 5,000 households. This assistance is one of many ongoing City-led measures supporting residents impacted by COVID-19, which include the $16 million Seattle Relief Fund announced last month.

Rental Assistance funds can be access through United Way of King County’s Rent Help Program by visiting Get Help with Rent | United Way of King County (uwkc.org)

Regional Homelessness Authority: The new King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA), led by Marc Dones, is ready to unify and coordinate what was previously a fragmented and ineffective approach and to use relevant data and best practices to bring more people inside faster. For more on KCRHA, CLICK HERE.

COMBATING COVID: Omicron

CM Pedersen visiting Katterman’s Pharmacy on Sand Point Way earlier this month to get his booster.

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

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

From the Mayor’s Office, December 20, 2021:

As Omicron Spreads, Mayor Durkan Highlights Expanded Testing and Vaccination Resources for Seattle Residents

SEATTLE (December 20, 2021) – As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads around the country and in King County, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan urged Seattle residents to get boosted, wear masks, and get tested at the first sign of possible exposure. At our partner sites, hours and locations have been expanded to meet testing demand…

Seattle – we know how to make it through the latest wave of the pandemic: get vaccinated and boosted, wear a mask, limit indoor gatherings, and get tested. Over the holidays and into 2022, Seattle has free, easy and accessible testing available and Seattle has been leading the way with nearly 50% of eligible inpiduals boosted. During this latest surge, we can limit the spread and help keep our loved ones and community safe,” said Mayor Durkan. “Thanks to the collective action of our residents and our health care partners Seattle continues to have the lowest cases, hospitalizations, and deaths of any major city in the country.”

City of Seattle vaccination clinics have administered over 320,000 doses of life-saving vaccines including 54,000 booster doses. In Seattle, 90% of residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and nearly 50% of eligible residents who have been fully vaccinated also have received boosters. Clinics included the largest civilian-led site in the country at Lumen Field for initial vaccines, the Amazon Meeting Center clinic in South Lake Union which provided an initial surge for boosters, and smaller neighborhood clinics throughout the city which ensured an equitable vaccine distribution. The Rainier Beach clinic will be open as normal December 21 from 1 – 7 p.m., closed on December 23, open on December 30 from 1 – 5 p.m., and will resume operations on January 4, 2022. The West Seattle clinic will re-open January 7, 2022. The South Lake Union clinic administered its final vaccines on December 19.

I know this news of a new surge of cases is coming after two long and exhausting years of our community working so hard to protect one another. As we reconnect with family and loved ones over the holidays, now is an important time to take steps to reduce our risk to get through this unprecedented surge as safely and healthy as possible,” said Dennis Worsham, Interim Director, Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Testing sites include fixed locations with UW Medicine in Aurora, SODO, Rainier Beach, and West Seattle, as well as seven Curative kiosks placed throughout the city. In partnership with the City, UW Medicine has also opened a site at City Hall that is now open to the public. Appointments are encouraged at all locations and sites will only be closed on Christmas Day. Curative has also extended hours at their Northgate, Gas Works, and Mount Baker testing sites for additional hours December 21-23. Over 1.3 million tests have been administered at City of Seattle, UW, and Curative sites since their launch in 2020 and approximately 60% of all Seattle residents have used the test sites at least once. For more information about any of the sites, including UW Medicine, please visit: www.seattle.gov/covid-19-testing.

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

Even as more residents get vaccinated, public health measures like social distancing, wearing a mask, and washing hands remain critical. Please continue to follow all public health guidance, and visit this website from Public Health – Seattle & King County for more information.

 

Holiday Tips for COVID Safety

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Public Health – Seattle & King County both have tips for a safer holiday season:

  • Protect those not yet eligible for vaccination such as young children by getting yourself and other eligible people around them vaccinated.
  • Wear well-fitting masks over your nose and mouth if you are in public indoor settings if you are not fully vaccinated.
  • Even those who are fully vaccinated should wear a mask in public indoor settings in communities with substantial to high transmission. Oupoors is safer than indoors.
  • Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.
  • If you are sick or have symptoms, don’t host or attend a gathering.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have a close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

If you are considering traveling for a holiday or event, visit the CDC’s Travel page to help you decide what is best for you and your family. CDC still recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated. Everyone, even people who are fully vaccinated, is required to wear a mask on public transportation and follow international travel recommendations

Thank you Jenny Durkan and Welcome Back Bruce Harrell!

I am very grateful to Mayor Jenny Durkan for her steadfast leadership and her generous public service for Seattle. Being a big city Mayor is automatically among the most difficult jobs in America and she led our dynamic city during some of our most difficult times. In addition to her many accomplishments, she assembled and inspired great teams of city government leaders who cared about Seattle and gave it their all. It has been an honor to serve at City Hall with her, and I look forward to staying in touch and seeking her wisdom during the next adventures of her distinguished career. We also welcome back to City Hall Bruce Harrell as Seattle’s new mayor.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

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

NEW IN 2022:  Our City Council meetings moved to Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. Even after we return to in-person meetings at City Hall, the public will still be able to call in their comments at City Council meetings – this is an important permanent upgrade for public input. I would have supported moving our main Council meeting to the evenings to enable more people to visit us, but the technological upgrades will enable public commenters either to travel downtown to City Hall or to call in — typically a more convenient option for those who work during the day. We also updated our City Council rules & parliamentary procedures in hopes of improving the efficiency of the City Council, which includes a new option to enable Councilmembers to “abstain” (not vote) on items unrelated to actual city government business (such as 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 into the meeting to speak directly to the Council live. For the instructions on how to register and call in, CLICK HERE. Sign up begins two hours prior to the meeting start time.
Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

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

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

We are getting through this together, Seattle!

With gratitude,

 

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

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


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